INTERVIEW: Dance Hall Pimps
By Cyrus Rhodes
I recently had the privilege of reviewing the latest CD from Southern California's own Dance Hall Pimps. It's a solid and highly entertaining CD from start to finish. Its strength – the raw song for song intensity that keeps coming at you. No doubt these guys are a total riot to check out live. The music is dirty, but rock solid, heavy and consistent. Like a heavy weight fighter this CD packs a powerful punch and goes the full 12 rounds with no sign of letting up.
- INDIE MUSIC DIGEST-
IMD (For band) Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?
DHP First, we want to thank you for your interest and kind words about the band and our debut record Beast for Love. We really appreciate it Top 5 musical influences… Shoot, there are 6 players in this band who are mostly from different musical backgrounds. Asking us to collectively agree on our top 5 musical influences is like asking 6 feral tomcats to dance the Nutcracker. But we can tell ya this: The Cramps: They play a lot slower than us, but their spooky rockabilly style never crossed over into novelty and is on all of our playlists—one night we even went to see Cramps tribute band together. Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes: Southside Johnny just nails that balance of rootsy rock & roll, blues, and New Orleans-inspired stomps. And his instrumentation really inspires us. (early) Kinks: The early Kinks on tracks like Too Much Monkey Business and their cover of Long Tall Sally give us a great example how to do familiar accessible rock music with a signature style. Louis Jordan Orchestra: Louis Jordan is big band, blues, and without question early rock and roll. Just listen to his original track of Caldonia with that stinging guitar and rippin’ beat. And that guy could play in any tempo and it still rocked. Electric Flag: Any basic blues band that could write Fine Jung Thing and the soundtrack of the psychedelic movie The Trip has got lessons to teach about genre-bending.
IMD (For Comer) What’s the main thing you want fans to take from your music?
DHP A good time… a beat the drums on your steering wheel while drivin’ good time… a smile through your troubles good time… A “hey I F-in dig that” good time… and then maybe, as the lyrics sink in, that below the good time music are some things to think about and maybe identify with. Take Wrong Guy Baby for example, it’s a guitar-layered rock song with a cool retro hook, but it’s about a guy who does not feel worthy of redemption. He rejects every form of redemption because he feels unworthy of it. That’s a hopeless horrible place, I hope no one listening to our music ever feels that way. I once did feel that way, and I reckon a few listeners have too. I think most fans now know Mommy Was a Zombie tells what it’s like to be raised by drug addict mom with an AWOL dad—the Invisible Man. And Seems Holy, at first you may think it’s the old cliché story of a girl who pretends to be chaste but is really just a slut—well, maybe not. Is the preacher who responds to the naïve flirtations of a young girl being holy? And what happens to that lecherous preacher in the end? Not every song has a serious side to it, some are just party songs, but I hope fans party their asses off and take a look a little deeper at what this band is sayin’.
IMD (For Comer) What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
DHP Wow… that’s tough… I know you asked for one, but I’m gonna give you two. First, Marylin Manson at the Wiltern in 2008. I’m a huge Manson fan, and that show was nothing less than an otherworldly experience—and for the record, I was NOT on any drugs and was not drinking. Also, I went to the show with my wife—just the two of us—not with a group of people like usual. And we ran into a bunch of our club kid and cabaret scene friends at the show—it was like we were all drawn there on that night by the same force. And I love that people dress up for a Manson show—all forms of self expression in fashion and culture is happening in the audience. It’s like Goth Bowie. Second, Joan Jett in Central Park July 4, 2000. I love Joan, she is an authentic rock and roller who came up through the Runaways and then ran away with it. She’s a rock and roll muscle car—y’know cars are always female, right? She’ll always be classic, and never be cliché.
IMD (For Comer) Is there a song that stands out on this release as being your favorite on your latest album?
DHP Y’know that’s like asking me to pick a favorite child, right? Not that I have children… And I didn’t write and arrange every song on this record. Every band member wrote, co-wrote, or arranged at least one track on Beast for Love. So the songs are a collective contribution. Ok, all caveats having been appropriately mentioned… my favorite is Wrong Guy Baby. I love the musical power and hook of that song, and I’m very proud of its lyrical depth. But here’re two things I’ve never said publicly about that song: first, I don’t like playing it live. Really. To perform the song we need two guitars to get the sound right, so I play rhythm guitar on my SG. I don’t really enjoy playing guitar on-stage as much as I like playing banjo. Sure, I make it look cool, but I feel a bit stifled as a singer on the song when I’m playing guitar on it. Second, the song was dropped from the band’s repertoire and almost didn’t make the record. It was written as an acoustic singer/songwriter ballad—and it really works in that genre. But the first time around with this band it didn’t work, so I dropped it. Bruce Mann kept insisting that it can be a rock song and nagged me to bring it back for another try. I’m really glad he did, because on the second pass it somehow clicked and became my favorite song on the record.
IMD (For Comer) I really enjoyed the tracks “Mommy was a Zombie” and “Underneath Your Stone” could you tell us what inspired those pieces of music?
DHP Thanks, I appreciate that and I’m glad you clocked those tracks together. I chose the order of the songs on the Beast for Love and I dig those tracks next to each other on the record. Mommy was inspired by a young man (whom we thank in our liner notes) who told me what it was like to be raised by a drug addict mom while his dad was AWOL. He said: “Mom was a zombie, I wasn’t part of her plan.” I clocked that immediately as a lyric, and rhymed it with “Daddy, the Invisible Man” and the rest of the song wrote itself—basically telling his story of mental illness, addiction, and his lasting desire to be loved by a Mom who’s just too sick to love him. The young man is doing great today, by the way. He’s an awesome guy. Musically I was looking for a really fast tune on which Jeff Jourard could pay homage to Billy Zoom’s guitar playing for X—especially on the track Johnny Hit & Run Paulene. The Mommy was a Zombie lyric seemed suited for that kind of speed. Bruce Mann wrote Underneath Your Stone which he originally played for me on an acoustic guitar and it sounded like early Bowie on a 12-string, wearing a frock dress and flippity floppity hat. But we both recognized the potential for a ripping surf rock take on it. The song is about… well… let’s just say it’s an impossibly romantic (necromantic) encounter. Y’know Bruce being British and the quietest guy in the band, of course he writes the most macabre twisted song on the record, right?
"Not every song has a serious side to it, some are just party songs,
but I hope fans party their asses off and take a look a little deeper
at what this band is sayin’.
- Dance Hall Pimps -
IMD (For Comer) Can you remember the first song you ever wrote?
DHP Kill me now, please. Yes. I wrote a horrible love song to a girl I was crushing on in 6th or 7th Grade—Lisa Wukerpfenig (Hi Lisa, if you’re out there… this one’s for you). I wrote it on my Dad’s baritone ukulele and it went something like “Lisa, Lisa, you’re my Mona Lisa…” Egad… suffice it to say, I was not a songwriting Wunderkind. And I never told Lisa how I felt about her… until now. Happily both my songwriting and seduction techniques have improved since then.
IMD (Band) How’s the Music Business in your neck of the woods?
DHP It’s the same as everywhere else—a lot of performers of various degrees of talent all scrambling to be noticed in a Do-It-Yourself music industry, that hasn’t yet adapted successfully to new media and a music economy where artists are expected to stream their music for free. In our neck of the woods, we ask fans who like our music to please buy it—buying an indie artists’ music is the best way to support the artist. The other way to make money in this business is music licensing, publishing, placements, and synch rights. Those are the money gigs. Don’t forget that the year the Black Keys and Vampire Weekend were both up for the New Artist Grammy, they made more money from licensing than from any other single source. Which is why when we were offered record deals from two indie labels, we signed with Lakeshore Records, the music and soundtracks division of Lakeshore Entertainment. Being on Lakeshore gives us a real advantage for licensing and placements in film and television.
IMD (Band) Any touring scheduled in support?
DHP We’re booking regional gigs in the Southwest. We’ll see where pockets of support come up after the record comes out and go where the fans are. We have fans all over the U.S. and U.K. and we want to get to them. But the Dance Hall Pimps are not a group of 20 year-olds who can hop in a van and hit the road on tour. Admittedly, that presents a challenge for us. But we’re looking at one-offs in key towns, at festivals, especially in the South and in the U.K. where we have a good following. Lakeshore Records is talking about using electronic media to create a live virtual tour—stay tuned for that. One of the benefits of being signed by the company that brought you the Underworld franchise… they know how to make a screen experience exciting.
IMD (For Comer) What do you like the most about playing live?
DHP I’m a showman first and foremost. I started out on the musical theater stage when I was a kid. For me, being a performing artist is essential to being a recording artist. And we’re a show band that got together in 2009 to play live and have fun. We made our 5-song EP in 2010 for venues to listen to and hopefully book us—we didn’t make it as a demo for record labels. The record labels that offered us deals that same year first heard us live. Connecting with the audience, seeing them all dancing and having a good time, having a shared experience with the audience and with my band mates is nothing less than glorious. I especially love when we go somewhere new to open for a bigger name band and play for an audience who has not come out to see us—and then by the end of our set the house is fully engaged with us. I see surprise and delight in their faces, they crowd the band and me afterward, and I know we really gave them something they valued and enjoyed.
IMD (Band) What’s next for Dance Hall Pimps?
DHP That somewhat depends on this record. If people like Beast for Love, if we sell enough units in the first week to get some attention, then maybe some good musical festival opportunities open up, maybe a micro-tour outside the southwest. If our label does their job, some sweet licensing and placements in films and television should be happening. One thing is for sure, we want to get back into the studio and record the new music we’ve been working on. We won’t be waiting for a second record deal to do that.
interview conducted by Cyrus Rhodes. Property of Indie Music Media LLC.
Copyright © 2012
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