Dan Baird - Drunken Hillbilly Legends - Exclusive Interview
By Buckshot George
Anyone remember owning the self-titled debut from The Georgia Satellites on cassette back in the 1980s? If not, then you at least heard ‘Keep Your Hands to Yourself‘ a zillion times back then and chances are great that to this day, you’ll hear the song at just about any neighborhood bar that hosts cover bands. Yeah, it was actually a decent song with a cool video that not only played on MTV and FM radio a little too often but even crossed over and aired on CMT (Country Music Television). If that tune or their second minor hit ‘Battleship Chains‘ is all you’ve heard from Dan Baird, then you’ve missed out on a good career in roots rock n roll. The Georgia Satellites went through the sophomore slump with the second album ‘Open All Night‘ but returned with a third album called ‘In the Land of Salvation and Sin‘ that is widely considered their best record although it tanked commercially. After Dan Baird ‘fired himself’ from The Satellites, he made two really nice solo albums, ‘Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired‘ and ‘Buffalo Nickel‘. Both albums have since been remastered and re-issued. These days Dan Baird is a busy indie artist and performer as a solo artist, with The Yayhoos and other projects. Southern rock, country rock, roots rock… Whatever you want to call it, it’s all just good rock n roll played on old guitars.
DH: Whenever we get a chance to interview artists, one thing we like to discuss is making and releasing records. We need the basic information. What label (or labels) are you recording for these days? What studios have you been using to record your albums?
DB: Well, I’m working in the context of two web-based labels. The Yayhoos are on Lakeside Records (Eric Ambel at the helm), and Jerkin Crokus (Mick Brown) for my stuff and Homemade Sin. Using Eric’s Cowboy Technical studio for The Yayhoos, and so far, live stuff for Homemade Sin.
DH: Do you have a home studio? If so, what kind of setup and gear do you have?
DB: I got a piece o’ crap 4 track at the house. Unless someone wants to donate a running rig, that’s all I’m gonna have for a while.
DH: One of the coolest things about your post-Satellites career that has been the really cool vintage tones on your solo records. Seems like you were into that stuff way before the market went nuts on old guitars and retro reissues. What kind of cool stuff do you have, both guitars and amps? What do you like to record with?
DB: Well thanks. Modern tones are for younger guys and gals. I really hate when you can tell which year (and month) a record was made because they were using the “hot new thing”. Plus I want to not have the focus on strange guitars, but on songs and vibe. I mainly use my ‘57 Esquire that has had everything on it replaced that wore out or broke, which means the wood, ferrules and neck plate are original. Got a ‘58 J-50 that sounds like God. A ‘53 Deluxe, an early 100watt Hi-Watt, and an early Marshall JMP45. Eric’s got a couple of Dr. Z 18 watters that the Yayhoos use live that are bad ass
and very reliable, plus we don’t have volume issues between the 2 guitars, and we still sound very different.
DH: You’re playing with some guys in a band called The Yayhoos which seems to be getting rave reviews. Tell us about the Yayhoos.
DB: Well, that’s a long story that you can get from the official site. We do have a blast. 4 very creative people, all with a different strong suit. I really try to keep the yayhoos and homemade sin seperate so they are both fun.
DH: You’re leaving home pretty soon to do some shows in Norway and Denmark later in the month with quite a few Europe dates in the fall 2006 as well. Are these Dan Baird solo gigs or will The Yayhoos be with you for that? Do you have a bigger fanbase overseas than you have in the US?
DB: Solo (Homemade Sin) gigs. Yep, bigger fanbase over the pond. They got memories over there. Adults still go to shows.
DH: What is the craziest thing that has happened at one of your shows?
DB: I ain’t tellin’.
DH: You’ve mentioned in interviews that you don’t like Hard Rock Cafes and you even made reference to that in your tune “Cumberland River” on the Buffalo Nickel album. What’s the story behind that? Why exactly do you not like the Hard Rock Cafe?
DB: That was back when they were first having an impact on the popular culture and I HAD to go to one for an “event”. I turned to Rick Richards [Georgia Satellites guitarist -ed.] and said “It’s just like a Denny’s, only a lot louder”. Didn’t like the “I got a t-shirt, now i’m hip” aspect of it. Nowadays I don’t care one way or the other.
DH: Some of your commentary was featured in the book “12 Days on the Road: Sex Pistols and America” by Noel Monk about the Sex Pistols’ disaster tour in 1978. You were at the Atlanta show. Were you a big fan of punk rock music at the time?
DB: Yes I was at the show (messy, but fun), and yes, i was a fan. Looking back, the really good bands from the era were just good rock bands with funny clothes and hair. I know they had a stance, but in retrospect the music lasted and the stance is now like rockabilly or surf music with a good bit of personal politics added. I mean you can do the look, but it’s a commitment that not many people are willing to keep up. I never got pierced, tatooed or had a mohawk but I dug the tunes.
DH: This question is kinda personal for me. I read that after you left the Georgia Satellites, you lived in my home state of Kentucky for a spell. What town did you live in? What was the reason for the move there? Any good memories of life in Kentucky?
DB: For a brief two years I lived in Adolphus, near Scottsville. Sixty acres and a new-ish log house. Drove wife crazy and moved back to Nashville. It was the “watch out what you wish for” syndrome. Writing Love Songs for the Hearing Impaired. [Debut solo album from Dan Baird on American Recordings -ed.]
DH: So what’s going on? What projects are you working on? Are you making a new album?
DB: The Yayhoos have just released “Put the Hammer Down” Homemade Sin has a live record (www.greatbigisland.com) and The Sinners are gonna make a studio recording soon, I swear. I play with Trent Summar and Stacy Collins when I can.
DH: What’s your take on the music business in the so-called ‘Information Age’? Many of us musicians have discovered some wonderful networking possibilities with the web and sites like MySpace.com. At the same time, we’re finding that draws at
our shows are not what they were ten years ago, clubs seem less willing to pay as much as they used to and people don’t seem to be buying as much music either. Are you feeling it too? Any advice you might have for aspiring musicians?
DB: Well, it’s a double edged sword indeed. You can get your recording done cheap, but so can everyone else. You can get your info out the easy but so can everyone else. If 50 starbucks open where there were ten, each one is gonna sell a lot less coffee per store. We all feel it.
Advice… Oh boy. If you go runnin’ around the mall trying to find your mom, you’ll just stay lost. Stand in your spot and wait until you see your chance. If you stay true to yourself at least you pleased somebody (yourself). Bigger strings stay in tune longer. And for God’s sake, don’t go to school for this.
Visit www.danbaird.net for all the details and whatnot.