If you are a great guitar player, some might call you a wizard or a master. If your music whips people up into an insane sweaty frenzy of Southern Baptist-like proportions, well you just might be The Reverend. Enter Reverend Horton Heat, whose first Psychobilly Trio album Smoke ‘Em if You Got 'Em was gifted to the world by the ultimate tastemaker label, Subpop Records. His song “Psychobilly Freakout” took old ‘50s southern fried rock n’ roll and made it fry like it was on acid.
Twenty-five years later, The Reverend is the elder statesman to the Rockabilly movement, a way of life for many people that involves vintage cars, tattooed women and the kind of California cool that is imitated all over the world. In the words of Social Distortion’s Jonny Two Bags, “[His music is] very refreshing. He has such incredible harmonic intuition. He’s literally a chord chemist. And the band always puts on a fantastic show. I dig watching the interaction with Scott and Jimbo. They’ve been at it for a long time and they’ve got it down.”
Rockabilly has become a staple of Americana, although it still hangs out in the fringes of pop culture. The Reverend’s new endeavor is to throw parties, and this year, Horton’s Hayride (click here for tickets) is featuring bands like the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and is happening August 22 on a fully operational World War II cargo ship. Yes, you will be able to get his new record on vinyl and yes, there will be a pin up contest.
What was your first encounter with Playboy?
Some older kids had hid some Playboy magazines in some bushes out behind this hot rod shop. We went and got em and looked at em. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the female breasts were. It was like, wow. I’ll never forget that. Man. That was it.
What’s your pop culture blind spot?
That’s a weird question because if I knew what my blind spot was it wouldn’t be a blind spot. I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a lot of things I don’t know about. I like vintage music and I’m into that a lot so there’s so many things that passed me by. Especially in the 80s. In the 80s I got rid of my television, I didn’t listen to the radio, I just listened to vinyl and cassette tapes and played guitar and it was all about rockabilly. It was all 50s music, it wasn’t anything 80s. So now some 80s song will come on the radio and I’ll go wow, I’ve never heard that song before and people will go what? You’ve never heard that song before?
I guess my blind spot is probably the 80s. There’s still a lot of stuff I got, but yeah.
What did you spend your first big paycheck on?
We were getting fairly well paid. When we signed with Interscope Records we got a pretty nice deal with that, so I did the right thing and got an investment guy and put it in the stock market and after about 15 or 20 years that money was gone. That’s what I did with it. I should have been stupid. At least if I’d got some hookers and blow or something it’d have something to show for it.
Let’s pretend you’re on death row. What’s your last meal?
I think it would have to be a filet mignon from Bob’s Steak House in Dallas. With creamed spinach. For dessert I would have to have Blue Bell Cookies n Cream ice cream.
If you could get rid of one state which would it be?
I’m almost like a politician, I can’t really answer that.
That would be a hard question to answer for a touring musician.
Yeah. Because we go to all of them.
What website do you visit most?
Well, there’s a website called Zero Hedge. It’s these financial guys that have to write anonymously because they would lose their jobs with Goldman Sachs or whatever the rip off company they work for is. Because they’re telling the truth on that website. They’ve gotta keep their jobs. It’s got a lot of financial charts and stuff that are really scary. It’s kind of gloom and doom, but it’s a lot of financial stuff. I’m starting to see their news stories getting mentioned in the mainstream a little bit. But they’re way off the mainstream. Zero Hedge. It’s kind of crazy.
If you could get away with one crime what would it be?
The best one is like George Sorrell’s. You go in there, and you buy up a bunch of currencies because you have 500 million already, then you start rigging the market because you have so much money. He rigged the market and did some fishy trades to completely tank the British pound. Made a billion dollars in one day. That’s gotta be the best crime you could do. I don’t know about any other crime you could pull off. He’s real good at it though. He dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into starting riots and that. But see, morally I couldn’t do that.
If you’re gonna be immoral, go big.