Jason and the Scorchers 30th Anniversary Tour

Legendary Cow Punk / Country Rock band Jason and the Scorchers are currently on a tour of Europe celebrating 30 years together. The tour includes includes dates in Ireland and The UK. Ray Burke caught up with Jason recently & had a nice long chat with him about things.

Jason and the Scorchers (originally Jason and the Nashville Scorchers) formed in Nashville in 1981. They blazed a trail in the 80s/90s taking the spirit of Country via Hank Williams, Rock n’ Roll via Link Wray, and blended it with Punk Rock to create their own distinctive sound. The were revered for their outstanding and energetic performances and released some ground breaking albums that influenced a whole rash of alt country bands. They are still to this day acknowledged as innovators of the genre

The band had a great deal of success in the eighties, but after poor sales for their third album ‘Thunder and Fire’ in 1989, and Perry’s severe diabetes diagnosis, they decided to call it a day in 1990. They reformed in 1993 releasing a string of albums, and then split again in 1998 with the release of the excellent live album ”ËœMidnight Roads & Stages Seen’. Original member Jeff Johnson quit music for good in 1996, and Kenny Ames filled in on bass for him. They occasionally got back together to play sporadic dates, but Perry retired from doing these shows in 2003 due to health reasons.

It wasn’t until a tour in 2008, and being awarded a prestigious Lifetime Achievement in Performance Award at the Annual Americana Music Association’s Americana Honors and Awards in September 2008 that the band officially got back together.

The current line up features Jason, and original member Warner E. Hodges, along with new recruits Al Collins on bass, and Swedish musician Pontus Snibb on drums. Original drummer Perry Baggs sadly passed away this year. RIP

The newly reformed band released the critically acclaimed ‘Halcyon Times’ in 2010, and live they are still as vital a band as ever, and their high octane performance is truly something to behold.

When the band first broke up Jason embarked on a solo career and released ‘One Foot in the Honky Tonk’. When the band broke up for a 2nd time he returned to his solo career. To date he has released four studio albums, a double album retrospective collection ,and two under the alias Farmer Jason, a moniker he put together to perform and record for children. His solo career is still an ongoing pursuit, and when he is not busying himself with the Scorchers, his energy is poured into it.

Louder than War caught up with Jason ahead of a performance in Norway a few days ago to talk about the tour & other things.

Louder Than War: So Jason, you’ve been in Europe for the last few weeks, you’ve had dates in Finland, and you’re in Norway now, how has the tour been going?

Jason: Well, right now I’m on a beautiful full fjord looking over an old 18th century church, and (I’m) seeing mountains, so, you know, sometimes this rock n’ roll life can be pretty good (laughs)

LTW: What has the reaction been like?

J: Well you know it’s our 30th anniversary tour, which doesn’t seem possible, especially considering I was only 5 years old 30 years ago, so I don’t how this is happening really, but yeah, it’s been a lot of fun, and people are coming out to see us and to celebrate the birthday with us

LTW: This is quite an extensive European tour, and your taking in a lot of dates in the UK after your date in Dublin, does it surprise you that Europeans are so taken with this distinctive style of country punk rock?

J: Yeah, it is an interesting thing, because it’s not…you know, that type of music is not endemic to the cultures here, although, you know, country music certainly came from a lot of Irish music… for sure, a lot of celtic music, and a lot of British folk music, so that’s understandable I guess…but I don’t know how it works in places like Finland, I have no idea

LTW: In comparison, you don’t seem to play as many dates, with the Scorchers, in the US?

J: Yeah, that is the truth, um, we play…quite a bit, but not as much as Europe, that’s the truth, I think there’s a bigger audience for us here

LTW: It’s not that long since you’ve been to Ireland (Solo show 4th of July 2012), indeed you’ve been over quite a bit in the last few years, both with the Scorchers, and particularly on solo tours

J: Yeah, that’s right, sometimes once a year, but certainly every two or three years I manage to get over to Ireland, I love Ireland, I love coming to visit there, and I love to play there!

LTW: I don’t want to dwell on this too much, but just before you headed out on this tour you played a tribute night for Perry, can you tell us a little about how the tribute night went?

J: It was a mixed emotional experience that’s for sure, um, cause you know…on one hand we were honouring his memory and telling stories about Perry and singing songs he had a big part of writing, and singing on, and then was the other point of course…he had passed away, and that was incredibly sad for everybody concerned , so yeah, it was a mixed experience that’s for sure

LTW: When ye got awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance back in 2008, you did get to play together with Perry and Jeff again, that must have been quite a cathartic experience after all those years?

J: Well…yeah, that’s one word for it I suppose, it was an unusual experience, that’s for certain, by 2008 Perry really could hardly even play drums, you know, so the fact that he could even go on stage and get through two songs was definitely a gift that we were happy – happened, you know, we had to take it minute by minute, we had another drummer standing by in case he couldn’t play

LTW: Getting back to the tour, what are the plans for the Scorchers after this tour, are you planning on a new album?

J: I don’t think we’re making any plans right now, we had a pretty busy three years, you know, we got the life time achievement award and then we did a new record, and we toured a lot for that record, and you know, the 30 year anniversary and then Perry passing, I think we probably won’t do anything for a year or two anyway

LTW: As regards your own solo material so, have you any plans to record, or are you taking a break outright, well I know you’re not taking a break touring wise (solo) but as regards recording newer solo material, are there any plans?

J: There might…but right now I’m doing the Farmer Jason thing and working really hard on that for the rest of this year, and most of next year as well

LTW: We’re aware of Farmer Jason here, but people might not realise just how big a deal it is, you’ve had a degree of success with it in America (an Emmy in 2009 and a nomination in 2010, as well as numerous other awards), you’ve been involved in some TV work, it does take up a lot of your time, and focus

J: Yeah, I work real hard at it, and like you say we have some TV stuff going on, just shows everywhere, schools, libraries, arts councils, you know, regular venues, so it does keep me busy, that’s right

LTW: One of the things I wanted to ask you about was the way the sessions and the recording took place for the album (Halcyon Times), you had an audience when you did some of the early mixes, could you tell us a little about that process? It was quite an interesting way of working

J: Yeah it was Ray, we sold seats to watch the recording sessions, that’s basically how it worked, and people paid money to watch the sessions, and it created a nice atmosphere in the studio having people there to sing to, cause we’re real performers, we’re live people you know, but some people in front of us and we always do better (laughs) …that’s just how we are…so yeah, it was really cool, we done a lot semi live and you know most of those vocals that you hear on there are one take vocals that went down when the band was playing

LTW: So, is that a process you could see yourself employing again?

J: Oh yes, I think so, absolutely. Um, you know, when ever you can get people involved with anything in music, you always do better, when there’s people around you just do better. It’s such an an artificial thing to go into the studio to sing to an empty room, that’s very strange. Yeah, I think we might do that again

LTW: It’s getting more difficult to sell albums and things, so I guess it’s kind of a novel way to fiance a record?

J: Yeah, its always a challenge nowadays, you know there’s less money in the music business than there used to be and there are a lot more bands than there used to be, so, the end result…it’s…you have to make cheaper records and be smarter about how you do it

LTW: I know you said there is no immediate plans to record solo material, and that ye haven’t thought about the next Jason and the Scorchers album, writing wise, your last solo record ‘Empire Builders’, and then ‘Halcyon Times’ were quite political, ‘Empire Builders’ maybe more overtly so, are you currently writing? is it still in the same vein? is it still quite political in comparison to some of your early songwriting?

J: That’s a good question, it remains to be seen…I’ve been writing…there is stuff on ‘Halcyon Times’ – you know ‘Land of the Free’ a little bit, not nearly what I did with my solo records. I don’t know that I’d be as political as I was then, you know they were very political times…America went to war, and there was a lot of things to sing about, more so than now I think. So, I don’t know if I’d be quite as strident about it as I was back then

LTW: I remember at the time of ‘Empire Builders’ you took quite a bit of flack from some of your long term fans, fans that had been around since the early days of the Scorchers, fans that didn’t take to your stance on the war and things like that .

J: Yeah, it was pretty weird, I didn’t really expect the level… you know, I got some hate mail as a matter of fact. So, I wasn’t expecting that…you know a lot of the old Scorchers fans are old Southern boys, and you know they didn’t really want to hear me talking about how American foreign policy might need some changes (laughs) , they didn’t want to hear about that, and they definitely didn’t want to hear about that the rebel flag may not be as universally loved …(laughing) as they think it is…you know…and that is the truth, and you know, I can’t blame them, I know where they’re coming from

LTW: So there is an election coming up, but you’d be pretty content politically as regards how the country is at the moment? You can’t see yourself pursuing that same line?

J: I don’t think so as much, no. I am…I think the Obama administration has been a real step forward for our country and I think he’s going to be reelected, and I think that’s a real good step. So, you know, yeah he hasn’t done what a lot of people thought he would, or could. But if you compare him to what we could have had…he’s done a magnificent job

LTW: I remember you said from stage in July that you’re still able to rock, quite obviously as you’ve been on tour for the last few weeks, but you also said you need more time to recuperate between shows, you’ve got a few days off after your final show in Norway and the show in Dublin on Wednesday, have you got any plans?

J: Yeah, I’m just gonna get lost here in the Norwegian wilderness basically, I’m gonna find me some Fjords and I’m gonna do some mountain climbing, that’s what I’m gonna do

LTW: Ok, so that’s something you’re into?

J: Oh yeah, I love to see the local stuff. When I’m in Ireland I always, you know, I spend a lot of time in the Dingle Peninsula…in Connemara, and the Wicklow mountains, you know I love Ireland, it’s a great place, and I’ve spent a lot of time…

LTW: Great. Well, I know you’re on a really tight schedule, so we really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. I hope the rest of the shows in Norway go well, and I can’t wait for the show on Wednesday!

J: Thank you so much Ray, we’ll see you Wednesday night, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Wed Sep 26 Whelans, Dublin, IRELAND. Tickets.

Thu Sep 27 Bootleggers , Kendal, LA9 4AB, UK

Fri Sep 28 Eric’s ,Liverpool UK, Liverpool, UK

Sat Sep 29 The Garage, London UK, London, UK

Sun Sep 30 The Cellars at Eastney, Hampshire, UK

Mon Oct 01 The Greystones, Sheffield UK, Sheffield, UK (SOLD OUT)

Wed Oct 03 Òran Mór, Glasgow, G12 8QX, UK

Fri Oct 05 The Musician, Leicester, UK

Sat Oct 06 Fibbers , York, YO1 7NP, UK

Sun Oct 07 The Cluny ,Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

Jason and the Scorchers website is here.

More news about Jason Ringenberg can be found here.

More about Farmer Jason can be found here.

All words by Ray Burke. You can read more from Ray on LTW here.

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