home listen a- z back next
Bill Kirchen

Puremusic: So, Bill, finally we have this conversation we've been getting around to for some time. We go back a long way, but this new record of yours, The Hammer Of The Honky-Tonk Gods, is the right occasion. Although I enjoy every record of yours, something just feels different about this one, don't you think?

Bill Kirchen: Absolutely, Frank, and thanks for having this conversation with me. On this record, I think we dig a little deeper, in order to take better advantage of this great recording opportunity and the fantastic band we had in place. Also, Proper American Recordings is a great outfit that's making the whole effort feel new, and different. [They are an outstanding company that's also put out great records by The Hacienda Brothers, Bobby Purify, Andy Fairweather Low, and Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham.]

PM: On this new album, there are two great outside songs, and songwriters you've covered before, in particular, that I'd like to talk about. The first is Blackie Farrell, and that great song, "Skid Row in My Mind."

BK: Right.

PM: Let's talk about Blackie a little. I don't really know much about him. You've covered a lot his great songs in your career.

BK: Well, he's a friend of mine from northern California that I met early on when I got to California. Actually, let's see, it was serial--how would you put this? I was moving out of this woman's house, and he was moving in. And I had come back for my record collection, and he was eyeballing all my Hank Williams records.


BK: And we became fast friends. The first song that he ever wrote that I recorded was "Mama Hated Diesels," on our second album. [Bill is referring here to the second album of Commander Cody and The Lost Planet Airmen.]

PM: A classic.

BK: I've realized lately that I've been basically recording one per album at least of his material ever since then, with very few exceptions.

PM: Wow.

BK: He's just a very good friend, and I think a very wonderful songwriter.

PM: You've done, what, "Sonora's Death Row," "Trying to Turn Her Memory Off," "One More Hour of the Blues," and others. Right?

BK: That's exactly right. The opening act just last night did a song he wrote called "Connie"; Connie worked at the New Highway Cafe.

PM: So is Blackie Farrell making his own great records somewhere?

BK: Well, it's funny you should say that, because that is finally about to happen. I was talking to Blackie recently, I said, "Man, we've got to hurry up and get you in a studio, so this can be your first record, not your only one."

PM: Right. Yeah, because I'm going to have to get with him when that comes out and try to spread the word around, because he is just an outstanding songwriter.

BK: Did you know him when you were in California?

PM: I've never met the man. I can't believe it. But I certainly do know very well another rare gentlemen and great songwriter we both like a lot, and that's Joe New.

BK: Oh, yeah. And Joe and Blackie were good buds for quite a while; still are, I'm sure, although Joe has moved, I understand, to Oregon. Right?

PM: Yeah, he lives in Portland now, or thereabouts.

BK: Wow.

PM: And you've also covered Joe's great songs before, who contributed "Soul Cruising" to this record.

BK: Right. I certainly have. And "Soul Cruising" is a song that actually I recorded on that Moonlighters album with Tony singing it, back when I went to England, the Nick Lowe and The  Moonlighters album, and Paul Riley engineered.

PM: Wow.

BK: And a lot of those English guys heard it then. I've heard Paul Carrack sing this song.

PM: I thought I'd heard a Carrack version.

BK: That's right, although it isn't on record, to my knowledge. It only exists like on live cuts of his.

PM: Right. But I've heard it somewhere. Yeah, on the Internet or something.

BK: Yeah, exactly. So a lot of people had their shot at that song, and I thought, well, it's my turn. [laughs]

PM: Definitely. And Joe New--I know, probably you feel the same way--is one of my favorite songwriters, and just a really soulful dude.

BK: He really is, yeah. He's just a classic fella. He wrote "The Heart is a Muscle," that we covered. [Joe New also penned the John Mellencamp song, "China Girl."]

PM: Did you cover it with your band or--

BK: Yeah, I covered it on a record on--oh, shoot, I think--I can't remember if it was a Hightone or a Black Top record, but one of my records.

PM: Now, what's the second line--"the heart is a muscle, you got to"--what?

BK: "You've got to exercise it every day."

PM: Right. [laughs]

BK: That's a good song, right?

PM: Fantastic.   continue

print (pdf)     listen to clips      puremusic home