Thrash Hits stumbled upon Honkeyfinger while drunk in a rather questionable drinking establishment. Yeah, it happens. And his bluesman-gone-bad, one-man-band act got us wet. Juicy wet.
From: London via Birmingham, UK
Sounds like: Tom Waits, Black Sabbath, homebrew voodoo
What made you want to start playing music?
Everyone’s got a creative thing when they’re born I truly believe – it just gets crushed out of most people before they’re old enough to even realise it, by those who have a vested interest in the conformity of our adult lives. You gotta have a creative and emotional outlet right? Rock and Roll Music is one such conduit of these passions. When you’re getting to grips with growing up as a teenager and expressing yourself as an individual entity, you start experimenting with music to conjur up some magic about yourself for appealing to the opposite sex. It’s a ancient Shamanic thing – except in our digital age where few of us directly feel the heat of the fire, icons like Jimi Hendrix, and Howlin’ Wolf are the closest we get to the primal heat within. You gotta learn to conjur.
Where did you grow up? Did it influence your musical direction in any way?
Grew up in Birmingham which was a great place to be back in the 70s – and I still like playing and seeing gigs there (Supersonic Festival!) even though I now live in London. Birmingham obviously has excellent musical pedigree with Black Sabbath, Led Zep etc. – So yes! The Black Country’s history of greasy, heavy, hairy perversion of blues music is certainly something which runs deep in the Honkeyfinger lifeblood. . . Although getting dragged away to the parochial outskirts of Peterborough, a soulless mediocre shit hole – mid teens – just as things were about to get interesting, builds up a certain frustration and lust for the possibilities in artistic and musical excitement like nothing else I know. You’ve got to be getting away from somewhere to make the art of an outsider.
When we saw you play live, you were by far the heaviest player of a lap guitar we’ve ever seen. Why aren’t there more people playing like you?
Lapsteel. Yeah – I dont know – I guess most people would just use a regular 6 string. They’re normally used on country and western records – perfect for that really dreamy woozy, too many whiskeys melancholy feeling. I got one about 4 years ago to use for that very reason on something I was doing in a band. Then got asked to help a friend put some music down for a TV documentary on Hells Angels – so I put it through the Bigmuff and big old Bass Amp and blew myself away with how it sounded – Honkeyfinger was born. I left my band and started playing on my own pretty soon. There’s plenty of guys in the states doing the heavy blues thing like The Immortal Lee County Killers, PW Long, etc. – but none I know using Lapsteel.
Who do you consider as part of your scene or as your peers?
Well, as a one man band you get lumped in with pretty much every guy who plays blues guitar and stamps on a bass drum. I aspire to make bigger, heavier, more freeked out music than stick within those relatively traditional parameters. I like a lot Stoner stuff – Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard, Comets on Fire. Big fan of PW Long and the legendary Mule. Lords from Nottingham do a good heavy Blues thing too I really dig. I’m doing some shows with The Jim Jones Revue in the summer who have an awesome back to basics, roots Rock&Roll sound. Primitive Freekout Heaviosity brothers and Sisters…
According to your MySpace page, the Honkeyfinger band will premiere at your album launch show – is this going to be a permanent fixture from now on, or are you still (mostly) going to perform solo?
Honkeyfinger will always be a one man band – there’s no going back once you’ve tasted the potency of what you can do alone – The intoxication of the noise you can conjur up and take wherever you want at an instant. That’s pretty powerful spontaneity. So – for that reason – it’ll be a hard one to kick. Can’t see it happening. Getting together a band is recognising the desire to push the physical limitations, the boundaries of the sound without getting lost in the technicalities. I wanted to get a drummer and keyboard player to cover the parts i’d normally do with live beatvox and harmonica looping – So it should become heavier and probably even messier I hope . Basically I want a foot free to use a wah-pedal and not have the drums stop – or roll around on the floor when playing harmonica!! Man gotta know his limitatons. Unfortunately financial limitations dictate the ability to run a band – whereas a one-man-band can pretty much cover costs at any show. I’m no young kid anymore just eager to play a stage – so i’m not gonna pay to play – losing money to do a show is just giving in to the man – so for me that’s where one man bands come in. It’s not some novelty performing monkey thing – this is guerilla warfare motherfuckers!!
Do you think British audiences will ever take the concept of a one-man-band seriously?
British audiences are pretty demanding I think – London particularly – like New York – very fashion led. Most people spend perhaps too much time checking each other out to see what the next person is digging rather than figuring out what means something to them as an individual. Like any band you’ve got to deliver more than you’re physically capable of – overstretching yourself, going beyond any comfortable limits is where truly creatively inspiring music is made. I find that a lot of people respect the intent, ambition, and delivery more than what they actually hear – and that’s where hopefully people will question what it takes to make an emotive piece of music or art. It’s conviction and desire and taking yourself seriously which moves people.
Watch Honkeyfinger tearing it up live
What’s the best/funniest show you’ve played?
Usually the ones where you get away to somewhere outside your comfort zone. Deep Blues Festival last July was great. Like some Bluegrass Bikers Country Fete in Minneapolis – perfect sunshine until the second day when I came on. First act from England to play there – my first song brought the rains – half way through the tornado warning sirens were going off – and by then end of my set there was a storm blowing and torrential rain which stopped everything for a few hours. Very dramatic, very start of Black Sabbath debut album. . . and very nearly death by electrocution. Top slapstick moment was probably at Sinister Noise in Rome, where I tried to finish a set by slipping off my stool to end with some on the knees lapsteel mayhem – but feel and landed full force, knees-first on the concrete. Hobbled offstage thinking I’d broken my knee-caps and rather embarrassed!! Very Spinal Tap. Even more embarrassed when they demanded and encore. Couldn’t walk properly for about 3 days.
What have you got planned for the future?
I did some instrumentals for the album which I intended as interludes between the tracks – but got into making pieces which weren’t influenced by a vocal and became a lot more freeform with layered guitar sounds and drones and heavily effected harmonicas. I put the shorter ones on the album, but the longer tracks sounded more like the beginning of another project – so hopefully that’ll materialise this year sometime. I played on a track (‘Beginners Guide to Suicide’) on the last Orange Goblin album – and Ben [Ward, vocals] asked me to do some more on the new one – which I’m looking forward to – aswell as playing some live shows with them.
What new band should everyone find out about?
Your own dream band – get off your fat sofa-fed arses and make it happen.
Honkeyfinger releases his Running On Empty EP on May 18. For more info, why not point your browser over to his official website?
Honkeyfinger Summer 2009 tourdates
14 London Bethnal Green Working Mens’ Club
22 London Boston Arms
13 Brussels Les Ateliers Claus
04 London 100 Club (supporting The Jim Jones Revue)
28 Glastonbury Festival
11 Denver International One-Man Band Festival
18 Minneapolis Deep Blues Festival at The Cabooze
20 Chicago The Darkroom