With Gallon Drunk about to commence a five-date UK tour (details below), lead singer, guitarist & organist James Johnston gives Louder Than War the lowdown on his ten favourite songs.
Shake it Baby – John Lee Hooker
âThis is off the Serve You Right To Suffer album from the sixties. Often Hooker with a band doesn’t really work, but this really rocks. It’s on Impulse, and he’s teamed up with jazz players. Great riff, cool hook line, what else do you need?â
Hobo Ho – Charles Mingus
âI love a lot of Mingus, but this one really stands out. It’s off a fairly obscure later album, “Let My Children Here Music.”
Wild, raunchy and unstoppable. The riff was the basis for âTwo Wings Mamboâ by Gallon Drunk. What a baseline!â
Run Run Run – The Velvet Underground
âSuperb guitar solo on this, and the crunchy sound quality is absolutely beautiful. I often listen to this before we do a gig. Sounds more like a track off White Light White Heat.â
I Just Want To See His Face – The Rolling Stones
âI adore the creepy atmosphere of this, such a great album too. Another blueprint for Gallon Drunk in the early days. Been listening it since I was about ten, my brother had the album in the 70’s. There are so many great songs on the album, âLoving Cupâ, âRocks Offâ, âShine A Lightâ, âTumbling Diceâ. âLet It Looseâ, ragged and timeless. We were listening to this record a lot before recording The Road Gets Darker From Here.â
Dambala – Exuma
âIncredible heart rending record by a Haitian singer, from 1970. Takes you to another world, moving, exotic and terrifying. The production is sublime, whispering ghost voices dry and upfront, deathly cannon-like and heavily reverbed bass drum explosions in the back, and all driven by voice and rough nylon string guitar. Sonic poetry, and bloody beautiful. Nina Simone did a great cover, but this is the one.â
Ghost Rider – Suicide
âWhat a riff. Such an unbelievably good band. If you want to read my appreciation of this seminal record, it’s here. I don’t know what else to say about this one, just perfect…chilling, spacey, raw electric music that goes straight to the subconsciousâ
Smokestack Lightening â Howlinâ Wolf
âA friend played me an old Howlinâ Wolf EP when I was at college, I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing, such mesmeric intensity.Â For me one of the most powerful records imaginable. I also really love âNo Place To Goâ off this album, relentless and hypnotic. Like âGhost Riderâ, the simple, almost impressionistic lyrics married with the music create a dreamlike place all of their own, draw you into their world.”
Spoonful -Gil Evans
âJazz version of the Willie Dixon track made supernaturally timeless by Howlinâ Wolf. Gil Evans drags it out into an enveloping sadness, drawing out all the urgency and desperation of the original and orchestrating it into full-scale cinematic tragedy. It’s off a fantastic album called The Individualism Of Gil Evans. Out Of The Cool by Gil Evans was the first jazz I heard that really struck a chord with me.â
My Angel – Archie Shepp
âAs loose as it gets, jazz and blues collide head on. Sexy and crazed, the piano never straying from the most simple of riffs, just great. I saw Archie Shepp playing with the pianist Dave Burrell in the 80’s, an incredible gig, they were playing stuff like âPoem For Malcolmâ and people in Ronnie Scott’s were aghast and walking out mid dinner. The band would stop on a signal from Shepp as people got up to leave, then start again as the door swung shut, so exciting to watch. It’s off the album BlasÃ©, the title track too is out of this world. One of the saddest songs ever. The harmonica use on this was another big influence on early Gallon Drunk.â
Voodoo Chile – Jimi Hendrix
âThe long, slow version off Electric Ladyland. Such a great groove and massive sound. Almost like all the other tracks I’ve listed rolled into one. Music as it should be, free and full on.â
Gallon Drunk UK dates
Macbeth – 22 November 2012 LONDON.
Green Door Store – 27 November 2012 BRIGHTON.
Kazimier – 29 November 2012 LIVERPOOL.
Nice N Sleazy – 30 November 2012 GLASGOW.
Georgian Theatre – 01 December 2012 STOCKTON-ON-TEES.
All words by Ian Johnston. More Louder Than War articles by Ian can be read here.