With a new LP in tow and plenty of gigs on the horizon, Bloodshot Bill shows no signs of slowing down
There’s a strong Elvis Presley quality to Bloodshot Bill, both on record and on stage. I’m talking about the early, sexy, dangerous Elvis, the one who was accused of perverting youth in the 1950s, back when rock’n'roll was still considered to be the devil’s music.
As such, when you read on his website (www.bloodshotbill.com) that he’ll soon be playing his "first show in the USA in over five years" during the Norton Records 25th anniversary bash, which will be happening in New York this November, you wonder what kind of unholy antics he got himself into to get banned from the U.S. Turns out it was just "silly work permit stuff," he tells us. All the same, the Canadian rocker can’t wait to go back down south. What better place to play his brand of trashy, greasy rockabilly than in the States, right? "I guess… But it goes over well everywhere. Not to brag, but yeah!"
Indeed, not only is Bloodshot Bill able to tour pretty much non-stop throughout Canada and Europe, he also regularly releases records on various international labels – Squoodge Records (Austria), Ghost Highway Recordings (Spain), Hog Maw Records (France), etc. "A lot of the time, they just ask me if I want to put something out and, since I do a lot of recording, I’m always ready to put something out. At home, I’ve got, like, four albums’ worth of unreleased stuff at least."
His latest LP, Thunder & Lightning, was launched by Norton Records earlier in 2011. "I think it’s my best album yet. [Before] I was never happy with the sound I got, but now I think I’ve found a good way of recording myself," says Bloodshot Bill. "What I shoot for is the sound I like from the old records, the old way they used to do things." Yet to recreate that distinctive reverb sound characteristic of 1950s rock records, he uses not just vintage equipment but also modern technology. "Some old equipment, some new equipment," he concurs. "I’m usually one of those purist types, but if it sounds good, you can’t beat it."
ALL OVER THE MAP
If you’ve ever heard Bloodshot Bill singing, especially live, you’ve undoubtedly been impressed by all the crazy things he does with his voice, crooning smoothly then throwing in all kinds of high- and low-pitched growls, squeals, whoops, snarls and roars. How did he develop this unique singing style? "I don’t know, I don’t think about it too much. It must be the stuff I listen to… You grab all your influences and you end up sounding like all of them instead of just one thing, you know?"
Perhaps best known for his one-man-band performances, the singer and guitar slinger also likes to collaborate with other musicians. He notably has side projects going on with members of The King Khan & BBQ Show: The Ding-Dongs with Mark "BBQ" Sultan (look for them during the next Pop Montreal) and Tandoori Knights with King Khan (they’re set to hit Il Motore on November 30). And then there’s The Handcuffs, his current backing band. "When I travel, I usually go alone or I end up playing with a band wherever I’m travelling," explains Bloodshot Bill. "[The Handcuffs] started out because I wanted to play with people when I’m back home – I missed it."
"There’s Eric Sandmark on drums, he used to be in Ray Condo & His Hardrock Goners; Eddy Blake on the bass, he’s in the Cockroaches and a bunch of bands all over town; Cadillac Al’s blowing the sax; and then we just got our buddy Guillaume [Ozoux] to join us on guitar recently."
RED HOT & BLUE
Taking place over Labour Day weekend, the seventh annual Red Hot & Blue Rockabilly festival will feature, among other things, a hot rod exhibition, a jive dance contest, a tiki cocktail and dinner, a vintage fashion show and, of course, a whole lotta rockabilly music courtesy of acts like Levi Dexter, The Shakedown Combo, Filly & the Flops, The Kingmakers and Hellbound Hepcats.
Bloodshot Bill, who’ll be playing at the fest with The Handcuffs, is particularly excited about the legendary musicians who are also part of this year’s lineup. "Huelyn Duvall, Sonny Burgess… They’re the original rockers from the 50s. I’ve had their records for years!"
Asked about how he fits within the scene, the rocker admits that even though he loves the music and looks the part, he doesn’t strictly follow the greaser lifestyle. He doesn’t drive a hot rod ("I travel a lot so I’ve got a station wagon that I can set all my stuff in…"), he isn’t much of a jive dancer ("I just kind of shake whatever way I want to the music!"), and unless he’s got a gig there, you won’t find him at rockabilly events all that often. "I don’t really go out much anymore; I’m kind of a hermit when I get home [from touring]. The beer’s cheaper in my basement!"
At Divan Orange, August 27
Red Hot & Blue at Lion d’Or, September 2