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Reverend Horton Heat returns to Vail

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
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The Reverend Horton Heat has earned a reputation as a booze-pounding, guitar-playing madman who, even at age 49, puts on a hell of a show. The Rev returns to Vail to kickoff the Hot Summer Nights free concert series Tuesday night at the Ford Amphitheater.

Now a family man, the Rev sounded much calmer than a guy who gets on stage to play country-fed punkabilly 120 days of the year. He’s working hard to release a new CD before the end of the year” his first studio release in three years. We got to speak with Jim Heath, aka Reverend Horton Heat, while he was in New Mexico with a few hours to kill before another blistering performance.

Reverend Horton Heat: Well, right now I’m typing a long e-mail to our accountant about social security administration forms … I spend a lot of time complying with what the U.S government forces me to comply with because I am the bad guy. I’m the guy that makes profits as a small business owner. It’s screwed up. It’s really screwed up. Our government is too big, there’s too many taxes and the tax system is too complicated. It’s ridiculous. I wanna play music man, I’m for freedom, I’m not for this bullshit, I’m for freedom … but anyway, that’s what I do. Every now and then I get to watch Chet Atkins play guitar on YouTube.

RHH: Yeah, no more bouncing floor … It’s a little bit different. Outdoors can be really good ’cause everything is really clear and you can hear things really good … Because indoors, you know, a lot of times it … kind of depends on the acoustics of the place. It can be hard. It kind of sounds like a big washing machine. But you get outdoors, man, and everything is really crystal clear. I do know one thing that’s different up there at those altitudes is that my amps sound really bright and really brittle so I have to turn the treble down a little bit when I get up there.

RHH: It’s good that my family is kind of used to it, they don’t necessarily like it … but they’re used to it. But it’s not too bad you know … We’re successful so I’m able to provide them with a place to live and food on the table. I’ve had worse jobs, you know.

RHH: I do remember the song “Bails of Cocaine” came from (when) I was out working, cutting down brush out on this little piece of land my dad had way out in East Texas and it was just not developed, it was just over-run land. We we’re out there cuttin’ brush and it was just really, really hard work. And I was poor and … out there helpin’ my dad wondering how I was going to make a life for myself and wishin’ I had money and right then and there a jet airplane … just comes screaming out of nowhere … less than 200 feet off the ground … Then I started thinking, man, wouldn’t that be great if a plane would fly over that low and drop like about 30 bails of cocaine down here and I could take it to Dallas and sell it so I wouldn’t have to work.

RHH: One reason that I’m in this is because music as an art is a way for people ” not only the artist but the people that are viewing or listening to the art ” can get away, can rise above and away from their normal, mundane life. For me, writing a song is a way to get up and out and away. I don’t want to write a song that describes my normal life … because then it would be about taking out the trash, writing a letter to the social security administration … picking up the kids from school … see what I’m saying, there’s nothing in there to write a good song about.

RHH: The idea that I’m bringing at least some kind of happiness to people is really a great feeling. That’s kind of what I try to focus on and hopefully the people think that they got to see something a little special.

RHH: Who works harder? You know what, it’s different, it’s the same thing, it’s just as hard. It’s just that now it’s just different. In 1985 it was all about getting in the van and going to play a gig every night and now I’m in a bus. I don’t have to drive us but I have to sit here and write all these crazy e-mails and do all this book keeping, accounting stuff … it used to be a lot simpler. I really, honestly think that because of that, I think I work harder now.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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