Jim “Rev” Heath is the lead vocalist/guitarist for the legendary Rockabilly/Punk band The Reverend Horton Heat. The band is set to release their 11th studio album titled “Rev” via Victory Records at the end of January and Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Jim recently about the creation of the album, the bands 30 years career and the trio’s tour plans for 2014.
Adam Lawton: Can you give us some info on the band upcoming album “Rev”?
Jim Heath: This was a project that helped us get back to more of the aggressive sound that Reverend Horton Heat is known for. The album kind of harkens back to the sound of the band during the mid-nineties which was during a time when my writing had started to get a little more amped up.
AL: How did the creative process work out for this album being that you were returning to your roots in a way?
JH: One thing that was really fun and different about this record is that with the change in album sales and the music industry as a whole there aren’t a lot of those big budget recording options available like there were in the 90’s. A lot of bands have gone to recording themselves in home studios so I thought that would be something that could be fun. I have a decent collection of recording gear so I got together some sponsors and some high end pro audio gear to start doing this record. In the middle of things we signed with Victory Records which allowed us to go in to a commercial studio to do some bits and pieces of the album. By in large we recorded most of the record in our rehearsal studio in Dallas, TX.
AL: Were there any reservations signing to Victory Records being they predominately work with in the metal/hardcore genre?
JH: Not really. A lot of their marketing is probably aimed towards a different crowd than ours which I thought was kind of a good thing. What bands are on a label is not really as important as it’s more about how well the machinery behind everything works. I didn’t really know how big Victory was until we started talking with them and realizing what the label was. We were super impressed with what they have and how they have a bunch of departments which all work to help promote music in various ways. At the end of the day the solid machinery is what I need to help promote our music.
AL: When you are putting together songs what type of writing approach do you take?
JH: For the most part I tend to always start with lyrics. I will find some lyrics that I like and I will start bashing around to come up with some music or sound that evokes what the lyrics are about. From there I try to come up with the melody. Sometimes things come very quickly and sometimes it doesn’t. Other times a song may come together quickly but the polishing off or finishing can take quite a bit of time for me. There is just so much to think about when doing arrangements.
AL: Do think the large gap between this album and your previous will have an effect on how it is perceived by fans/listeners?
JH: We found out something a long time ago about that as we are a band that has a lot of cd’s out. We also tour a lot. When fans come to our shows they come wanting to hear certain songs so when you put out a new album it can be hard sometimes to get them to accept that new material. People remember the old stuff and that’s what they want to here. Frankly you never really can do that as you are always doing new material so there is going to be something different about them. That’s actually the desired thing as I don’t want to just keep re-writing or rearranging old songs and passing them off as something new. We were putting out an album every two years but it got to where our fans weren’t really accepting those new songs until about 2 years later just as we were about to put out another new album. It got to the point where new albums were almost pissing off our fans so putting out an album every two years got to be where it wasn’t working very well for us. I also find it really frustrating when you put out an album and then you don’t have enough time to go out and play it live as not only do you have to play all the old stuff people know but you only have time to throw in 2 or 3 new tracks. That’s just the nature of the beast not only for us but for a lot of bands.
AL: With a career spanning almost 30 years now what do you feel has been the bands biggest change?
JH: For me the biggest change was the musical direction. This was something that happened early on. We started out as an authentic rockabilly band that played original songs. We were a little more 50’s sounding in the early goings. As time went on we got a little bit more turned up and aggressive. I think in the early 90’s when we decided to take that more turned up approach is what I think helped define our sound. With that said however we still have our rockabilly songs on every album along with some country songs. Sometimes things aren’t planned they just happen. I write songs not albums. I will write one song then a bunch more songs which all end up on an album. That’s just how I work and those things end up being something I never really thought of. I did an album titled “Spend a Night in the Box” which is a little more bluesy and with our last album “Laughin’ and Cryin’ with the Reverend Horton Heat” things lean towards a country sound. Initially that album was going to be a straight country album rather than one that sort of leans towards that style.
AL: Thinking back a ways can you tell us about the bands appearance on “The Drew Carey Show” and how that opportunity came about?
JH: Working with those guys was really fun. Between Drew Carey, Ryan Styles and Diedrich Bader those guys are really funny. The people who worked around them and with them on the show were just hilarious. Just about all of them are stand-up comics. What was funny about that show was that they could barely get it done. It was an ultra-professional set up but then you had these guys all cracking jokes between takes. It made it hard to get everything done. (Laughs) I think how we ended up on the show was that Drew Carey is a big music fan. Drew and his manager took a cross country drive at one point and one of the cd’s they had was “It’s Martini Time”. They liked it and asked us to be on an HBO special called “Mr.Vegas All-Night Party”. We were on there with Wayne Newton, David Cassidy and a bunch of other great musicians and players. From there they asked us to be on the episode. I got to have a couple lines which was really fun.
AL: What other plans do you and the band have for 2014?
JH: We will be doing some more videos for a couple other songs off the new album. We have one out now for the song “Let Me Teach You How to Eat” and we are knocking around ideas for the others. We will be out on the road playing gigs throughout the year as well. We are also going to be a part of some really cool festivals. We always do festivals but we will be on some really high profile ones this year. We are going to be doing Coachella and Punk Rock Bowling so it’s going to be a fun year. I also have my own festival which I put on with my friend Oliver Peck. We are looking to do this year’s in June on the weekend of Friday the 13th. It’s called “The Elm St. Music and Tattoo Festival”. This will be our second year of putting this on and I am pretty excited for it as I think it is something that will continue to grow and be pretty cool.