Text by Julia Masi, 1983
© FFanzeen, 2010
Images from the Internet
The following interview originally appeared in FFanzeen Number 10, which was issued in 1983.
Never saw the Blasters play, but I have a few of their vinyl releases from that period. Rockabilly was definitely making a re-swing, despite the Blasters’ comments below, which I believe are meant respectfully tongue-in-cheek.
However, I did see Dave Alvin’s Americana-style group play at the Calgary Folk Festival during the early ’90s, and they were a blast (pun intended), though I was too far away for decent photos (hence their absence here). If you want to see them in action, though, they’re right there in the film Streets of Fire pretty much playing themselves for two great numbers (one of which is at the bottom of this page). – RBF
“You don’t really think were rockabilly, do you?” asks Jon Bazz, bass player for the Blasters, the Slash / Warner Bros. recording artists who are reviving the roots of ‘50s rock’n’roll and transplanting them into the hearts of the ‘80’s record buying public. The Blasters, which include Phil Alvin, vocals; Bill Bateman, drums; Gene Taylor, piano; and Dave Alvin, lead guitar, prefer to look upon their brand of rock’n’roll as just “American music.
“For rockabilly, you have to have a stand-up bass, and the singer’s got to croon or hiccup. Our singer thinks it’s a racist term because back in the ‘50s, their influences were black (like) Little Junior Parker and Ray Brown. Then a white guy came along and put a hillbilly – because that’s what Elvis was – to it. Sam Phillips, who created the Sun sound, wanted a white guy who could sing like a black. He knew there was something to be gained by the mix of black and white when he started out.
“One of the biggest hits Carl Perkins had, ‘Matchbox,’ was an old negro folk tune out of the cotton fields. His daddy taught it to him.”
The Blasters see their music as more R&B than rockabilly, although they admit that “Go, Go, Go” is rockabilly-ish and “Rock ‘Em Pete” is jazz, and that their first album, American Music was on a rockabilly label, Rolling Rock Records.
“I liked a lot of different types of music. I’m 30 now. When I was going up in Downey (California), surf music was popular. Later in high school, I started listening to blues – post-war Chicago blues – like Muddy Waters.” It was around this time that John met Phil Alvin, another blues fan. They’d jam together and formed a band whenever they wanted an outlet for their music.
They hadn’t decided to devote themselves to music professionally until three-and-a-half years ago, when they were asked to play at a wedding reception. Phil, who was a math teacher at the time, and Bill Bateman, who was working in an amplifier company, had heard of someone who needed a band for their reception. So, they threw together an impromptu band with David and a few friends. They enjoyed performing so much that they decide to start rehearsing regularly, and organize a band.
“We played biker bars for free drinks and $40 a night. The bikers were more into their girlfriends and playing pool than listening to a band. They used to throw beer bottles. We were horrible then. We’d break strings and have to end the set. We learned a lot in 10 gigs, about how to present ourselves to an audience.”
And in their short career, they’ve presented themselves to many different types of audiences as they opened for various acts around the Los Angeles area. “We’ve always got along with the punk audience because we’re very authentic in the way we present ourselves. We were into playing the music we liked and eventually ended up on a rockabilly label.”
While out on the road promoting their independent release, the Blasters built up a following. “People liked our shows and that’s how we got on Slash / Warner Bros. I’m really thankful that the public likes our music.”
With a successful East Coast tour under their belts and their LP, The Blasters, doing well on the charts, the group is inspired with ambition. Right now, “the battle plan for the Blasters is rehearsing and getting new material. We’ve got six songs. We’re very slow in terms of putting out an album.”
But their die-hard fans shouldn’t worry, a six-song EP, The Blasters Live at the Venue, London, is soon to be released. [Note that the EP was titled Over There by the time it was released – RBF, 2010]
They’re also planning to put out a new album in February, and then get out on the road again. In the meanwhile, however, the band is looking forward to playing their old haunts in Los Angeles. “Things have split up. There are so many things going on. If we go out on tour for a couple of months, when we get back, there is a whole new generation out here.”
[Sidebar: Please excuse the dubbed dialog, that’s all I found; and note that the woman dancing is the real dancer from the film Flashdance]