If Jimmy Martin, Leadbelly, David Allan Coe, a fire and brimstone preacher, and Gregg Ginn had their DNA combined and implanted in the womb of Janis Joplin, the baby that resulted would be the closest match to the incredible talent that is “The Dirty Old One Man Band,” Scott H. Biram. Equal parts country, blues, bluegrass, and gospel, linked together with a healthy dose of punk rock swagger, Scott H. Biram is perhaps the single most entertaining and visionary songwriter/musician in the music business today. More than that, however, he has a true love and respect for music and its history. He talked candidly with me about his influences and his plans for the future as well as his infamous run in with an 18 wheeler. Biram is a genuine and down to earth guy that also happens to be a musical genius. Lacking the arrogance of many “stars” in the music business today, Biram laughed and joked with me for far more than the interview time I was allotted by his PR agent.
Biram is starting a summer tour in June so make sure you catch him when he comes to your town. His latest album, Somethings Wrong, Lost Forever, is yet another fantastic addition to his already amazing body of work and is a must have for fans of country, blues, bluegrass, Americana, or rock music. I look forward to picking up his next album which he had just finished recording when I interviewed him on June 2, 2011. The album is set to drop in the first week of October, 2011. For more information on Biram, to buy his music, or for tour dates and locations visit him at www.Scottbiram.com.
Awaiting The Flood – Just to clear up any confusion, where were you born and where were you raised?
Scott H. Biram – “I was born in Lockhart, Texas, which is like the capital of barbecue (laughs). I grew up in a little town called Prairie Lee, Texas until I was nine or ten years old, and that was way out in the country. I went to school in a little schoolhouse that was like kindergarten through twelfth grade all in one big building. After that, I moved to San Marcos, Texas, which is where Texas State University is; It used to be Southwest Texas State University, and that’s where I went to high school and college. Now I live in Austin, Texas, which is about 30 miles from where I grew up.”
Awaiting The Flood – Your music is so diverse with country, bluegrass, and even punk rock influences. What do you feel inspired your musical diversity?
Scott H. Biram – “The first kind of guitar I learned how to play was blues guitar because that’s pretty much the simplest. It’s what I stuck with and went back to, but then in high school we were listening to Black Flag, Minor Threat, Misfits, Ministry, and old Metallica and stuff like that and learning all those covers of those bands. That’s where I learned to play power chords and rock guitar which eventually went back to blues. Then I hadn’t listened to Doc Watson in years and I bought a Doc Watson CD, and I listened to it, and the next thing you know I started playing banjo. Then after the bluegrass, I got really into the blues again, and I basically just bought every blues artists album that I heard, and then I’d look at who wrote those songs and look up that artist. I’d read biographies about all these people (musicians and songwriters) and find out about their lives. I read all the books that Woody Guthrie ever wrote, which are kinda autobiographical. So, all those styles just kinda worked their way in there and melted together. I really just like mixing the rock and the blues with punk rock and hardcore chaotic sounding stuff and blending that with the stuff I learned how to play with bluegrass. I could just tell it was going to be something special doing it that way.”
Awaiting The Flood – Who influenced your country style songs?
Scott H. Biram -“As far as who influenced me, I would have to say Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, George Jones, Lefty Frizzell, and Waylon Jennings. My two favorites are tied. They would have to be Waylon and Merle. I still like some newer country stuff like Dwight Yoakam and John Anderson, and I also like Gary Stewart. I don’t really listen to Hank Williams much anymore. It’s too depressing for me. He and Patsy Cline just kinda bring me down too much. I do like Hank Williams. I just don’t listen to him too much. It’s kinda like with the blues. I don’t listen to Robert Johnson too much. His stuff is a little too ragtime sounding to me.”
Awaiting The Flood – Who influenced your blues style songs?
Scott H. Biram – “Definitely Lightning Hopkins, you know, I say Leadbelly, but Leadbelly isn’t necessarily the blues as much as he is like a songster. Kinda like Mance Lipscomb is a songster; a troubadour. But the blues, you know, I have been influenced by several different people over the years and at times some more than others. I listen to a lot of Muddy Waters, but when I first started playing folk music and roots music, I started from the early ones in acoustic style, and then I slowly started listening to electric style. I started out playing covers of Lighting Hopkins, Leadbelly, Mance Lipscomb, Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Son House, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGhee, but then I started listening to more electric like Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, and Howlin’ Wolf. I guess there are two sides to me as far as blues. There’s the electric, and there’s the acoustic. I’ll tell you though who changed my life and its kinda cliché and everybody’s probably said it, you know. I heard Bob Dylan my whole life, but when I heard his first album (when I was about twenty years old) it changed the whole way I thought about music. I had never heard anyone play like that before like those old Bob Dylan songs. I also really got into Townes Van Zandt. So, I kinda got the singer songwriter stuff from listening to those two (Dylan and Van Zandt).”
Awaiting The Flood – Who are some of your favorite bands and/or songwriters of all time, any genre?
Scott H. Biram -“Songwriting definitely goes to Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Jimmy Martin, and Bill Monroe, who wrote some really great songs. I am trying to think of rock, but it’s hard to say because most of the really good rock songs were stolen from old blues songs. One of the people who influenced my rock guitar playing is Greg Ginn, from Black Flag. That sloppy just yankin’ the notes out way of playin’ is cool. But songwriting, I would say right there at the top are Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Woody Guthrie.”
Awaiting The Flood – Everyone who has heard of you knows that you were hit by an 18 wheeler; how has that changed you other than the metal and screws in your body?
Scott H. Biram -“(Laughs) Well you know it shook me up there for awhile, and every day I am thankful for being alive. You know, it crosses my mind pretty often. It definitely helped my career a little bit by giving me some kind of back-story, but, at the same time ,I’m always having to tell people “Look I play music. I didn’t just get hit by an 18 wheeler.” It did shake me up though. I think I have some really bad post traumatic stress. If I am ever in a car and somebody puts on the brakes at all, it really freaks me out man. I don’t trust anybody else driving anymore. Loud noises shake me up and make me feel strange inside sometimes. For the most part, I am still going. It’s just that my legs are screwed up, but I can walk so whatever ehhh.
Awaiting The Flood – What would you say is the most successful song you have written, not necessarily financially?
Scott H. Biram – I guess “Blood, Sweat, and Murder” because that’s the one that’s gotten on Television shows, and that’s the one that is the most famous. I haven’t played it very much lately. I stopped playing it. I didn’t even play it the whole last tour, but I think that’s the one that got the most well known. There’s “Wreck My Car,” ,and people like that one. Girls always like that one and say, ‘Can I ask you to play a song tonight?’ I say “Wreck My Car” and they’re like, ‘Yeah.’ So, I hardly ever play that one. Everybody, lately, has been into “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, and Still Blue,” on the last record (Somethings Wrong, Lost Forever).”
Awaiting The Flood – So you mentioned you have a new album coming out when we first started talking. What’s the name of the album, and when is it due for release?
Scott H. Biram – “Bad Ingredients, is the name of the next album. I finished it a few weeks ago and it will be released sometime around the first week of October, 2011.”
Awaiting The Flood – If you could meet any musician or songwriter from the past alive or dead who would it be and why?
Scott H. Biram – “Well, I would have to say Lightning Hopkins or Leadbelly would be really cool to talk to and see what they had to say.”
Awaiting The Flood – Do you have any other interests outside of music? Acting etc…?
Scott H. Biram – “Yeah, any opportunity is good, but there was a documentary that really wasn’t a documentary, but it has a lot of truth in it called The Folksinger that I was in. Me and Konrad Wert ( from the one man band Possessed by Paul James) were basically the stars of this movie a German director made. A German director made a movie about American music (laughs). It is more available in Europe, but I think you can get it online here. Any opportunity I get like that, I like to do it. I mean, I feel like I could act. I am sure there are some old videos that we made in high school that if somebody saw they would say, ‘ohhhhhh he should be an actor’ (laughs).”