by Patrick Finch, Featured Writer, The Record
Rockabilly icons Reverend Horton Heat are about to celebrate a quarter century in the business of rock ’n’ roll. To mark the occasion, they are releasing 25 To Life, a live documentary/greatest hits CD/DVD box set, the centrepiece of which is a live performance filmed at San Francisco’s venerated Fillmore. The band is on the road (they hardly ever leave it), tearing through their back catalogue with the same menace, volume, and velocity that has fuelled their career. Frontman Jim Heath wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Even when I was younger, I wanted music that was musically big,” he explains over the phone, in his southern gentleman’s drawl. “I wanted some killer guitar solos; killer songwriting. I also wanted it to be aggressive and fast and in your face rock ’n’ roll. You gotta also remember where I’m coming from, with the rockabilly thing and the ’50s rock ’n’ roll stuff… Jerry Lee Lewis pounding out straight eighths on the piano, Great Balls Of Fire, Little Richard… it’s high energy music. Once the Beatles started going kind of psychedelic in the late ’60s, rock ’n’ roll wasn’t really as fast and hard and energetic as it (had been), even in the ’50s. So it really wasn’t until the punk rock movement hit; to me it seemed like that was a way to revive that mid-century, ’50s wild rock ’n’ roll that I like.”
Despite their Nudie suits and acrobatic guitar heroics, Reverend Horton Heat’s blistering, raucous shows have always found kindred spirits with punk rock and rock ’n’ roll audiences alike. Their singular dedication to their genre is still deeply fulfilling for Heath, whose prodigious guitar talents could get him a gig in just about anyone’s band. But he enjoys being a master of his own music, rather than a jack-of-all-genres.
“If I’m practicing jazz licks, I know that Reverend Horton Heat isn’t going to become a jazz band,” he says. “I just kinda do it like my hobby. When I really get serious about what Reverend Horton Heat is about, we’re still going to be doing the fast, aggressive stuff. Hopefully what I learn from trying the jazz stuff, or the more difficult country guitar techniques will seep in a little bit, and it definitely helps me. But I know not to suddenly say “Oh wow, it’s such a shame that we can’t be more jazzy!
“I impose the limitations on myself anyway. I hang around artists and painters, and I started to see that the best artists actually limited themselves. That’s the way they found their own voice, their own style.”
Reverend Horton Heat may limit themselves to a specific genre of music, but their touring schedule is an entirely different animal. This band loves what they do and they love working their audiences into a frenzy. Heath and his rhythm section are excited to mark their 25th year with a slew of shows and their new box set, but he’s got a lot of songs in his pocket, and the next record is probably just around the corner.
Source: The Record