Song Of The Day 3/17/2017: Rodeo Kill – “Ol’ Hank”

The Final 13

Touching Me, Destroying You

After I got back from Chicago I was invited to join a real band. One that produced original songs, played shows, got drink tickets, did contentious interviews with the press, climbed up the scaffold at the US Festival, all that stuff and more. Or less.

Remember Scott from the second Wonder Woman show? He invited me to play some piano on his album Everything He Touched He Destroyed, recorded under the name King Dinosaur. The song was a cover of Neil Young’s “Music Arcade.” I think I did this before I left for Chicago but I’m never really positive about time frames anymore. There were a lot of great songs on that album, but my favorite was a song called “X Street.” It reminded me a lot of Teenage Fanclub, a Scottish band I was quite taken with in the beginning of the ‘90s. I’m not sure Scott had ever heard Teenage Fanclub.

King Dinosaur played a couple of shows, including one in Seattle. Scott was on guitar, and Mike was on bass. The two of them played in the Yelm band Tall Toad, who I’d played on the air during the first Shrug Festival back in ’94. I believe the song I favored was called “Viscosity and Thermal Breakdown.” Ryan played drums for King Dinosaur, and Kelsey (now Olivia) was on backup vocals and guitar. I think she played guitar.

This was a real band. I’m not saying L. Ron Shrubbery and Wonder Woman were not real bands. Actually, I take that back, that’s exactly what I’m saying. But King Dinosaur had a point. I felt like taking it seriously.

One of the supreme artistic accomplishments of my life—I realize the hyperbole is strong in that one, but it’s true—was playing in the band for King Dinosaur’s live accompaniment to a performance by the Blacken Tan Dance Company, also from Yelm, held at the State Theatre in Olympia during the summer of 2002. They were something of an avant-garde dance troupe. It was sort of like something the Flaming Lips would do if they took slightly less inhalants and showed up to dance rehearsals. It was fun trying to figure out how to shape the songs we were doing, which included covers of somethiang by Moby and “It’s All Too Much” by the Beatles.

After I’d been in King Dinosaur for a few days Ryan, who I’d just met when I joined King Dinosaur, told me about another project he wanted to get going. The basic, very general idea was to play outlaw country music at ear-splitting volume. Country was a genre I normally shied away from, but Ryan caught me during a time when I was defiantly doing whatever came my way. Kind of like Neil Young in the ‘80s. Besides, I was enjoying myself with those guys and didn’t mind spending more time with them on something else.

This band became, probably, the most successful music venture I’d ever be in. Of course your definition of “success” may vary from mine. But it’d still be true.

Before we even played a note in rehearsal we had a name: Rodeo Kill.

Good Ol' Boys

Rodeo Kill was a lot more unique than I think I even gave us credit for. Our big influences were country, metal and punk, but we weren’t cowpunk and we didn’t quite go over into metal (despite our having an Iron Maiden song in our set). I think we were simply a very loud country band.

In the beginning I think there were six people in the band. That eventually whittled down to four. If you’re talking Rodeo Kill’s “golden era” I think you’re talking the one with me, Scott, Ryan, Kelsey (now Olivia), Nerissa on violin and Rat on bass. That was the lineup that probably played the most, possibly the best, and the one that got kicked out of hotels for life.

We started off with some covers. For a long time the first song in our sets was Waylon Jennings’ theme to The Dukes of Hazzard, played extremely loud. We also took on Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound and Down,” Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mothers,” and Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper,” slowed down to a country-like tempo and featuring me playing the banjo patch on the keyboard. We made do.

We did a cover of George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” which I got to sing. We really tried to turn it into a consummately fucked-up number, mentally. At the turn after the first verse we tried to make it sound mentally unstable. I remember when Ryan was describing how he wanted this moment to sound, he specifically mentioned that part in Eminem’s “Stan” where Dr. Dre  turns the lead character into a crazed maniac. He wanted us to go for that. I don’t know if any other country artists invoked Eminem and Dr. Dre as immediate reference points, but we did. And it worked.

Our originals were really strong. Well—Scott’s and Ryan’s were really strong. I wrote one lyric for Rodeo Kill one night after I’d imbibed a few too many and sent it to the whole band. We never did it, because the next day I looked at the lyric and decided not to write while intoxicated ever again.

But their songs were really good. “Ghost Town” was one of Scott’s best songs. “Second Chance” was really good too. Ryan wrote “Pack Your Bags,” “Cattle Rustlers in the Sky” and “Ol’ Hank,” which he gave to me to sing.

I also played guitar.

No, really, I insist, I played guitar.

Look, I don’t care what the rest of Rodeo Kill tells you, I played guitar.

Well, I thought I played decent guitar in Rodeo Kill, anyway. I didn’t play anything too complicated in the chord department. On ballads I played piano, but when we did fast things like “Pack Your Bags” and “Ol’ Hank” there was no point in my trying to play piano, so I took up the guitar.

Maybe it was decent for live audiences who got lost in the noise. And I thought I came up with a really nice internal guitar riff, kind of a Roger McGuinn thing, for “Pack Your Bags.” But when we made our records, I noticed my guitar parts had been mixed way, way, way down in the mix. Like a participation ribbon! What are you guys trying to tell me?

There’s more to the Rodeo Kill story, but I’m going to mix it in with tomorrow’s entry because I’m starting this one way too late in the day. My schedule got messed up. But we’ll get to the hotel bans and some other light psychosis tomorrow.

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