06 September 2008
Cookin' with THE TEN FOOT POLE CATS
Ten Foot PoleCats are just another badass Deep Blues band outta Massachusetts.
They have just released their first ep- a fine little five track affair of covers and I'm just in love with the thing. Drawing heavy influence from the low down,hard and creepy aspects of deep blues heroes like Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside, Hound Dog Taylor, Howlin' Wolf and others Ten Foot PoleCats bring the best elements of North Mississippi, Texas, Detroit, Memphis and elsewhere and channel it thru the dirty back bays and alley ways and side street bar holes of bad'assachusetts.
Here's a little gets to know yas e-interview we did:
Any idea what's in the dirty water y'all are drinking up there? I mean how the hell can anyone explain the Massachusetts thing for the blues? J.Geils, Aerosmith, Tarbox Ramblers, Whoa Man Jesus, Ten Foot Pole cats. Whats the deal?
Yeah and don't forget The Scissormen as well (even though I think they are in Nashville now). Anyways, we don't know actually, it is either water or the taxes.......unfortunately there are a ton of good bands doing all sorts of styles of blues but the number of places to play are dwindling, so it is getting tough out there....especially when competing against clubs that used to exclusively have Blues & Roots music but now have changed over to top 40 cover bands & DJs/Karaoke. It's funny, every time we hit a room with young college students they love it....they have no idea what it is, but they love it. However, it seems like a lot of places are scared to stay away from cover bands/DJs etc.
Jim plays a five string diddley bow? wtf? Tell me about this thing. Homemade or...?
Nothing homemade as Jim isn't that smart or good mechanically to create something like that.....Shit, it's odd enough he plays guitar so well...but I guess everyone is good at something! Basically Jim is almost playing like a cross between a banjo player and a bass player, but on a semi-hollow body electric guitar. He primarily uses an open F tuning but he removed the very bottom string (C string in this case). Jim really hits that F string hard to keep rhythm and a thumping bass and the sixth string seemed to always get in the way, so he just removed the sixth string as he hardly ever used it. If you use five strings the bottom string (bass string) is now an F. However, this could be wrong.....it could be possible that Jim has run out of 6th string and is just too cheap to buy ALL 6 strings or too lazy to head to the music store.
I recall reading in a book about the old blues guys straining shoe polish for the alcohol or drinking sterno. Is this how the cd title "Sterno Soup" came about?
That is exactly how it came about....in fact, drinking sterno (in excess I assume) was rumored to be the cause of death of Tommy Johnson. It popped into our heads when we found an old can of Sterno behind some old roach motels in the basement. So we figured let's dress it up and advertise "Sterno Soup" as it was a special at a roadside diner. So we included a spoon and a sign and that was it. In case you are wondering if you add a little sugar the Sterno goes down much better.
How long have you guys been playing together?
Is this the original configuration?
Before The Ten Foot Polecats we were part of a five piece band called Hoodoo Revelator. That group played blues as well but more of a mix between Chicago/Texas Style Blues. We have been together since Fall 2004. The Ten Foot Polecats actually spawned from a duo which was a side project when we were still in Hoodoo Revelator. Jay Scheffler (vocals/harp) asked Jim Chilson (guitar) to join him for a local restaurant gig where they played acoustically as basically "background music". But our background music was pretty cryptic for a restaurant crowd...like "Nobody's Fault But Mine", and "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was the Ground", and some Skip James stuff, etc. Frankly we didn't do it that well but the restaurant liked it. We kept doing that for a while - mainly because the food and booze were great and FREE!
However, one night when playing we said to each other we need a drummer to fill this out. Out of that The Ten Foot Polecats were formed when our drummer from Hoodoo Revelator, Dave Darling, was asked to join.
How come everybody hates bass players these days? Is it from helping to haul those heavyass bass cabinets upstairs? I mean, personality-wise, it's not like they are keyboard players.
Ha! Those cabinets are heavy as all hell but that wasn't the reason....well partly the reason but not completely. Basically we wanted the freedom of just taking any particular song anywhere without an reason. For instance changing song keys at a whim and such....it made it easier to do so without another person trying to follow along the randomness. It is funny,John Lee Hooker used to do that all the time and if you ever talk to a musician who has played with Hooker you will probably see them shaking their heads at the thought because they never knew what he was going to do. So instead of confusing another band member we just formed the band as is.
Did you really record this ep live with no overdubs? And you really only spent two hundred bucks on the recording? Cause it sounds great! I know a few bands who should/could take a hint by listening to your recording.
We really did.....it's a true live recording. No overdubs, no individual mixing. It really helped the vibe of the CD, however of course it had some drawbacks. We had 2 other songs we would have liked to put on the CD but volume level wise it couldn't be done. If we just could have tweaked those songs after the fact we could have put covers of "Dryspell Blues" by Son House and "Spoonful" by Willie Dixon on Sterno Soup. But if you are curious to hear those songs we do throw them on our myspace site from time to time.
You guys obviously have a deep love of Howlin' Wolf.
How did y'all happen to come across Junior Kimbrough?
Oh yeah, we love The Wolf and JL Hooker too...and the intensity and rawness of Hound Dog Taylor. I think what we were trying to do was build our sound based off The Wolf, Hooker, Hound Dog and the sound of the Hill Country and mix it all together, and hopefully creating our own sound and style. I mean we never talked about that specifically but you can hear it in our sound. We all knew about the Hill Country sound/artists like Junior, RL, Jesse Mae Hemphill, Robert Belfour, T-Model Ford and back to Mississippi Fred McDowell but really never delved into it musically until a few years ago. Basically we wanted to add this sound into our previous band but it just didn't take because that band was going to more towards more of a rock-blues sound.....not a raw gut-bucket type sound that we desired.
You play really well together. It sounds like you have played together a long time. Really tight but with the looseness that comes from being familiar with what the other guys are gonna do. It's got that hard deep blues sound with what sounds to me like almost a psychedelic element thrown in, which could be taken as variation on the north Mississippi hill country trance vibe
done Massachusetts style. Care to comment on how you think the hill country sound has informed what you all do?
Oh Man, the Hill Country Sound was the main reason why we created The Ten Foot Polecats. Granted, like we mentioned before we love the Wolf, Hooker, etc but what really got our juices flowing was that hard groove and trance sounds of the North Mississippi Hill Country. The sound, in our opinion, is probably the most original of all the Blues styles because it felt so freeing and loose. We felt we could take the music anywhere, while still maintaining the vibe/groove yet playing crazy and wild at the same time. It is almost like a controlled chaos that has no limits or boundaries.
Did any of you ever have the opportunity to see R.L. or Junior or any of the other North Mississippi guys live?
Unfortunately, the only one who got to see them live was Jay. In around 1996 or 1997 a few of the Fat Possum artists played the old House of Blues in Cambridge Mass. The artists who played that show were Junior Kimbrough, T-Model Ford, and Hasil Adkins. It is not really known, but we think T-Model had Jack Daniels to drink that night...however, it was rumored he did not spend any time in jail that night. Although neither can be confirmed or denied.
Looking at your setlist on Sonicbids shows me that you guys are, shall we say, interpreters of other peoples songs. Do you do any originals? It seems to me that the versions you do are unique enough that you don't have to.
Oh yeah...thanks for reminding us....we probably have to update that list. But we have incorporated originals into our sets, and we plan to move more into that when we get some time freed up from our real jobs! The covers have come to us relatively easy because we do them our own way, so we are not too particular on how it sounded originally. Basically, Jay has thousands of lyrics in his head, and Jim and Dave have a lot of rhythms up their sleeves....so basically Jim & Dave will hit a rhythm and Jay will get some lyrics on top of it and there you have it.
How was your western tour this summer? Any particularly memorable gigs? Any places you played that other bands show check out besides the always awesome Ax and Fiddle in Cottage Grove Oregon?
Put it to you like this.... 8000 miles, 11 days, approximately 40 hours of sleep for each person (224 hours awake each!). But even though we were ultra tired by the end , the tour out west was great. We only had a chance to play a few gigs, due to work schedules and what not, so it ended up more of a cross country vacation than anything The Ax and Fiddle was a great venue where the crowd got into in a hurry. Actually the Ax and Fiddle was the basis of the whole trip, Stacy DeHart heard our music and said you got to play here......and considering she is suburban Bostonian native, like we are, it took little convincing! Stacy is fantastic....hopefully we can get out there again on a weekend this time! We just need these gas prices to keep going in the downward direction! Besides that, the Skylark Cafe was fun - very funky place - more into the punk/rock scenes. But we gave them a dose of the deep blues sound and they really dug it. Very friendly people out in the Northwest. Considering we are just a bunch of Mass-Holes we almost felt out of place! (just kidding). And then we played in Taos, New Mexico at a brew pub called Eske's. It was there first outdoor show of the year and it might have been the only day where it didn't rain on that vacation. Big thanks to Marv and Althea as they were very hospitable to us. Our most fun of the trip might have been, not sleeping for 44 hours and then coming up on Beale Street in Memphis...and say "we can't go to bed now...it's Beale Street"....so we go get some 5 dollar 40 ounce beers and grab a meal of alligator and craw daddies...and head out on Beale and that is where we ran upon Richard Johnston playing on the street...and I should say playing the street because he had the entire street in the palm of his hand.....what a great time it was seeing him perform live!.....one of most memorable portions of our tour!
Best live show The TFPC has played so far?
Wow, that's a tough one...because we just opened up for Bob Margolin. As well as just touring throughout the country - which was a new experience for Dave and Jim. We don't know if we have a particular favorite, that's hard to say. It is probably best left to say the best shows we have played so far are shows where we are playing with other bands in a different genre. The reason why we say that is because we get so many people, both other bands and their fans, coming up to us and asking us about the music we play, or even about the unique set-up of the band. These people have not been too familiar with this particular type of Blues - so it is like we are helping them get turned on to a whole new genre of music. Between sets we will tell them about RL, Junior, and current artists such as Richard Johnston, Bob Log, and more...
If you could open for any band living or dead who would it be?
Well, last month we opened for Bob Margolin, and we were thrilled about that....not only because he himself is fantastic artist, but opening for the Muddy Waters' guitar player.....that is one step away from playing with a musical legend. But considering our influences think opening for Howlin' Wolf or John Lee Hooker would have been amazing. Currently, we would love to open for artists like Richard Johnston, Hillstomp, Rollie Tussing, Left Lane Cruiser, etc. There are some really great blues artists out there that are really taking the music to new areas, we would love to be a part of that too.
If you could back up any artist living or dead who would fit best with what you guys do?
I think backing up RL Burnside would be great.....however when you have Cedric and Kenny Brown in tow, that's a tough rhythm section to compare to. Actually, with Jay's gruff vocals - pinning him (and us as a backing band) behind Jesse Mae Hemphill would be interesting, as you would have an interesting variation of vocals.
Any up and coming bands in your area we should know about?
The Delta Generators are a great Deep Blues band that just won the Boston Blues Challenge (we hope to participate in that competition next year). For an acoustic Duo - there is a band called Whalebone Farmhouse who do some very interesting interpretations of songs from Skip James to Blind Willie Johnson, as well as originals. Jon Short and TJ Wheeler do some fantastic solo delta & hill country material as well.
Ten Foot PoleCats on MySpace
Steal These MP3s from The Ten Foot PoleCats!
Nobody's Fault But Mine MP3
Dead Shrimp MP3
Work Me MP3
Labels: The Ten Foot Pole Cats