‘ROCKABILLY RIOT: ALL ORIGINAL’
Above: Album cover art for ROCKABILLY RIOT: ALL ORIGINAL
Congratulations on the new album, there is something gloriously uncomplicated about Rockabilly. . .it’s both badass and uplifting. How do you describe Rockabilly?
BRIAN SETZER: Rockabilly music should be up there in regards with blues music. It should be playing in arenas. And, I think, it’s better than the blues because it has a style to it, it has accomplished musicians playing it and it’s totally American. So I think it’s very underrated music that should be more in the forefront of our culture.
Can you talk about the joy you had creating this specific Rockabilly album?
SETZER: You know, when my guitar and my amp and my echo unit are playing perfectly and in tune the way they do there’s no reason to turn it off. I was on the road for two months. I had given the songs I’d written to all the band members and we hadn’t arranged them. So this record was different where we didn’t have to sit down and labor over arrangements, everything was learned, and my guitar sound sounded so good I just made the record. We didn’t need to change guitars, amps, microphones, we just cut a rockabilly record there’s no overdubs there’s no splicing there’s no auto tuning, what you hear is what you get, it’s pretty much us making live music.
Tell us about the chemistry in the studio between you, producer Peter Collins and the Rockabilly musicians who joined you on the album?
SETZER: I think the only way you can make a better rockabilly record is if you get Elvis to sing…because Mark Winchester Kevin McKendree and Noah Levy are the best in their craft. Nobody plays a better slap bass than Mark. Kevin McKendree calls himself a “rockabilly piano player,” I’ve never heard anybody say that. And Noah just has a very swampy groovy feel, which makes the whole thing sound kinda loose. Peter Collins…it’s funny how English people seem to have a more sensibility about what rockabilly music is, even though it was invented in the South…they seem to know what it should sound like. Peter Collins is experienced and an accomplished producer, he’s done a lot of records, but he loves rockabilly music and he knows what it should sound like.
What do you feel ultimately separates this album from your previous ones?
SETZER: Boy, I’ve made a lot of records. I think this album is pretty similar to two albums I’ve cut in the past. It sounds to me a little be like “Ignition: Part 2” and also like the first Stray Cats record. It’s rockabilly songs. It’s not just blues songs in the rockabilly style. People like to call it “neo-billy” I suppose which is some invented word that somebody came up with, but if that’s the word they want to use, I’d like to go with that because it sounds to me like it’s very modern and fresh sounding rockabilly.
“Let’s Shake” is a burning up-tempo tune…a perfect setup for the rest of the album and a terrific single. Can you talk about this song’s special mojo?
SETZER: Yeah, “Let’s Shake,” how come no one has thought of that title yet? We’ve been making rock ‘n roll now for 60 years and no one has come up with “Let’s Shake”? And I came up with it and I went “wow…Let’s Shake!” You know, oh god, it’s just so simple it’s magic. It’s got a really great guitar solo in it, just rock ‘n roll sounding…it’s not really “billy” sounding it’s more rock and roll. And, you know, there’s a difference. The rockabilly has a more of a slap back hillbilly sound and the rock and roll is more tough. Oh god, it’s got that great, I think it’s from 1928 piano it’s a Steinway. Again, it’s the simplest songs that are the hardest to write.
Another highlight of the album is “Vinyl Records.” Speaking of which, what are your three favorite vinyl records you own or once owned?
SETZER: Gene Vincent – Blue Jean Bop, Eddie Cochran – Greatest Hits and Elvis Presley – The Sun Sessions.
3-time Grammy-award-winner, Brian Setzer is a “Musician’s Musician” credited with continually taking chances with innovative and daring musical styles, while single-handedly resurrecting two forgotten genres of music (rockabilly in the ‘80’s and swing in the ’90’s). Along the way he has scored chart-topping hits throughout his decorated career as founder/leader of the Stray Cats, his 18-piece Brian Setzer Orchestra, and as a solo artist. He is consistently cited as one of the world’s greatest living guitarists, and has a best-selling, extensive line of elite Gretsch signature model guitars bearing his name. Brian made a cameo in the 1987 film, La Bamba (the biographical film written following the life and career of Chicano rock ‘n’ roll star Ritchie Valens), portraying rockabilly pioneer Eddie Cochran. In 2002, Brian earned the distinct honor of being one of the few musicians to be animated in an episode of “The Simpsons,” an episode which also featured rock ‘n’ roll legends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.