Interview by Luc Brunot.
Original version of the interview published in Bands Of Dixie #76 (September - October 2010)
Having a discussion with Hogjaw, who has just released his second album, it's a bit discovering a band that begins to make itself a name but also, a way to discover an unusual musical scene, Arizona's. Echoing the collective aspect of this latter, they are three to come to enlighten us: Elvis DD, the bassist; Jonboat Jones, the singer and guitar player; Kwall, the drummer.
You come from Arizona, can you tell us about the local music scene?
Kwall The Scene here is very cool! The punk/metal/country/alt. scene is very predominant. It has been fun for us mainly because we are a unique sound yet similar to many of these bands so we play all kinds of different shows. The bands that do southern rock here do mostly cover's and although we like the great songs of the past, being in the now gives us fuel.
Jonboat It's a good community, we know folks in playing in all the genres. Kwall referred to and we play shows with all of them. It seems that our sound can mix and match well with these other bands so it keeps things fresh and changing. Phoenix, Tucson, Prescott, and Flagstaff are probably some of the biggest hot spots for bands in Arizona, and you can find a good show in those towns just about anytime.
Elvis The music scene here is very close knit, good friends. Most of the bands are friends with all the other bands and we do shows together with bands of all styles, if we have to pass, we set up someone to take the slot, if someone has a slot, they ask us to play. It's a very strong scene with good bands in all genres of music.
How old are the band members?
Kwall We are all in our 30's.
Jonboat yup, in our mid 30's - haha
How and when was Hogjaw set up?
Kwall All of us used to jam in Kreg and my folk's garage when we were in High School. We all went to do other music things and in 2006 the jamming commenced and thus the band was formed.
Jonboat Yes, after some time since the old HS days, the idea came about that it would be good to get Kreg, Kwall and myself together on the weekends for a bit of playing, BBQin, and sipping of Tennessee's finest. It didn't take long before Elvis heard about what we were up to, and then he'd set in. We were looking for a singer initially and had our friend Joe coming over to do that, but the guys kept telling me I should sing for the band. Admittedly, I was surprised at the notion having never been a vocalist before, but it's funny how things work out. At first, it was supposed to be fun, you know just some friends getting together and jamming, but we soon found the music that was happening was something we wanted to hear. Something that we hadn't really heard around. So we decided to play some shows, record a demo, and see what would happen???
Elvis Hogjaw was born 20 years ago, it just took this long for each piece to be properly heat treated, distressed, sharpened, made ready.
We all used to jam together, but we needed to get our chops seasoned before we served em up.
Can you introduce us the four players, their influences, their musical background?
Kwall There's Jonboat (vocals/guitar), Kreg (lead guitar), Elvis (Bass), Kwall (Drums/bk vocals). We all grew up listening to 70's rock & roll and 80's metal as our learning's. I would say our influences today come from many genres; Southern rock, country, hard rock, metal, it can all be heard in our songs.
Jonboat Kwall nailed it pretty spot on, in addition to 70s rock, country music was an equal part of my earlier years. Of course I revolted at country, and went and found records with names like "Ride the Lightning", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Defenders of the Faith", "Powerslave", and "Reign in Blood" etc...It wasn't too long after discovering the METAL, I picked up a guitar and knew that I wanted to play it. This may sound strange, but Metallica and Hank Williams Jr. were the first ones that got me thinking & playing, I worked hard trying to figure out how they played them songs... I am glad I started playing back then, it has given me all this time to find my path musically.
What the meaning of the band name, Hogjaw?
Kwall Well we kind of figure the name means to over do something. We seen pictures in a National Geographic magazine with a person wearing a sign that said -Hogjaw is my name and eating is my game.- We like to Hogjaw food and we like to Hogjaw our music... so it fit's - LOL
Jonboat Kwall called it there! haha
You released "Cheap Whiskey EP" in 2007 and "Devil In The Details" in 2008. Are they your first records?
Kwall Originally we went into record a demo that turned into the -Cheap Whiskey E.P-.... once we finished though it was decided to keep going and release it as a full entity, inevitably called -Devil In The Details-.
Jonboat Yep, "Cheap Whiskey" was a 5 song E.P. that we gave away at shows, we had no other recordings at the time and it was good for people to take something home to listen to. Kinda got us started, then we went back into the studio and recorded more songs that completed the full L.P. release "Devil in the Details".
Where did you record it?
Kwall So far we have recorded all our released material at Villain Recording in Phoenix, Arizona. Byron who owns and operates the place is an old friend of ours that ventured into the recording side of things and it just works. On the first record we also did a track in Jonboat's bedroom ("Cheap Whiskey") and on -Ironwood- we did a track in my living room ("Hornswogglin").
Jonboat Yes, we like to record songs ourselves at home, it's a challenge we enjoy and learn from.
So there were several sessions between 2006 and 2008, right?
Kwall We really did not start recording anything till 2007. Once we did I would say we spent a year off and on finishing "Devil In The Details". Our main problem was funds and the studios busy scheduling. Sometimes we would have to wait a month to get back in and that was frustrating. In the end we were really happy with what we came out with for a little independent release.
Jonboat Yes, I remember all that. It was a neat time for me, because until then, I had never been part of an actual record or the recording of one. I had only goofed around with my 4 tracks and stuff like that to make my little tapes to listen to.
Elvis I enjoy having slightly different tones from different sessions on the record. In an old band we were in, all the tracks were recorded on the same guitar, same drums, same mic positions, the record got boring after 3 songs, too 'packaged' sounding for me. I like these piecemeal things we have done.
Did "Devil In The Details" sell well?
Kwall When we first released this we were very excited over the record we very much believed in but we had no expectations in sales. However, it has done extremely well for an independent release with no real promotions. Just on word of mouth and our radio dj friends spinning our tracks.
Jonboat Yes, we had no idea what to expect as far as sales, and didn't really have a strategy for it either - we were just happy to have something we could call our own. I agree, the success we enjoy has come mainly through a "grass roots" kind of movement.
Elvis "Devil In The Details" is in its third printing, we never thought we'd get to this point with it! ;-)
This first record (more than the new one) made me think of a band called Target, which was released "Captured" in 1977, produced by Paul Hornsby. Do you know this LP?
Kwall Up until just now I'd never heard of them but I can hear it in a few songs. I really dig the chick on the cover of the LP. It looked more 80's when I first seen it but the music on this record is cool.
Jonboat I had never heard Target before, Thanks for the heads up, I like it too.
Your new record, "Ironwood", has just been released. How were the sessions?
Kwall The new record was so much fun to record. We really took our time on this release like the first. Difference was... being a band that's been out there playing shows and just being a band gave us a different approach to these sessions. Experimenting with amps, sounds, tones, etc. really sparked things for us.
Jonboat We had fun as Kwall stated, and we tried some new things and wrote different kinds of songs. We wanted to change it up a bit, while still retaining some of the original vibe of "Devil In The Details".
Elvis The sessions were epic. Awesome. I recall having to stand up because I wrote a song part that I couldn't play sitting down, I played it over and over and couldn't get it right. I finally said I need to stand up and play and nailed it on the next take ("Two Guns")
As for the previous record, there are some guests. Regarding the instrumentalists, are they here because they are friends or because you thought the song required the instrument?
Kwall They were there for both reasons. We get inspiration from watching our friends play every time we go out into scene. Therefore it was easy to want some of our friends to be a part of -Ironwood.- We wanted to make a celebration of sound with having certain instruments to enhance what were doing not only for us but the listener as well. This is where the experimenting thing came together.
Jonboat It was neat to bring in guest musicians to add their style to the music, it was great to watch them work. We are all friends and play shows together around town in our respective bands. By coming together on Ironwood, it has helped to grow the sense of community we have here.
Elvis All the great rock and roll albums in history have guest musicians, it is done as tribute to their skill, as much as trying to make a memorable album that will get under your skin.
One of the things I really like on your record, it's the mixture between your violent rock and the sweetness of the steel guitar of John Rickard. He is on two tracks. Will you develop it?
Kwall Initially he was only going to play on the song "Blacktop". As we were showing him some of the tracks in the studio he latched right onto the other he played on which is "Two Guns". So we did our release show and had him come up and play our entire set with us....WOW!!! He plays in a professional touring country band currently. But he did say if we get ourselves a little more established, he would join full time. We can only hope.
Jonboat Hell yes! John Rickard said to me after that show he's our third picker, our Steve Gaines, and he wanted in - And let me tell you, he can rip it up just as sweetly on a Stratocaster as that pedal steel. That will be something'...
On "Flathead", why do you have three singers, with Rob Toner and Steve Larson? What parts each one of them is singing?
Kwall "Flathead" is a story about 3 fisherman arguing over catching the Catfish. Jonboat sings fisherman #1, Steve Larson sings fisherman #2 & Rob Toner sings Fisherman #3. We wanted to make the story come to life more with the song.
Jonboat "Flathead" is intended to be a fun song about who can catch the biggest catfish, where the three people the song is about, sing they're point of view. We all are friends and we fish, so it made sense. It is one of my favorites on "Ironwood", it was fun to write, it's fun to play, it comes from the heart and is as true as we could make it.
Are you trying to make your music evolve and are there some differences between the two albums?
Kwall I think things just come out the way they do. We do not have A&R people telling us our songs should be this way or more like the first record... We just write them as they come to us. The latest songs are more rocking - We're lanning on doing a live recording for the 3rd record, so we are continuously devolving or evolving.
Elvis Hogjaw is evolving again, wait for album #3!
Jonboat I suppose the music continually evolves, that comes with making new recordings. When you try new things, or write new songs it happens. I can't say we have a plan to evolve into something, but I can say we plan to keep on recording. As of now, we are in writing mode and are enjoying some hard rocking and riffy tunes coming out during our jam sessions. We will see what all this evolves into... haha
How are the songs written?
Kwall We jam a lot, so many of the songs come from that but sometimes one of us will bring something to the table and in the end we all write, arrange & lyrics together.
Jonboat Like Kwall said, the majority comes from open jamming and finding licks, riffs and tricks - but sometimes one of us might have been "woodshedding", and drop it on everyone at once. That's fun too, it's cool to surprise with stuff like that...but we try and write as a band more and more lately, it seems to open us up more.
What do Hogjaw songs talk about?
Kwall It depends. Jonboat likes to write stories, Elvis and I do more lyrical writing where there is a subject but written more in song format versus telling a full story.
Jonboat Hogjaw songs are about life and experience. So far anyway, hehheh - as we get into this 3rd writing spell, we will see what goes on... it's gonna be neat.
Elvis Hogjaw songs are based in real life, things that happen to real people, real pain, real loss, real drunk... ;-)
In terms of sales, does it go well?
Kwall We can not complain. We're doing things our way and people seem to dig it. As long as there are people out there looking for our kind of sound we'll be around.
Jonboat Kwall's right on there...
Elvis We're not in this to make money. If you're in a band to make money, find another industry! I'd rather be famous than rich. Any day.
What is the sales distribution between CDs and downloads?
Kwall They are about equal. Everyone wants material their way, just glad we can get people what they want. We even have vinyl coming out for -Ironwood- in Nov/Dec. Real cool gatefold with transparent color wax.
Jonboat Yes, I can't wait to play the vinyl. We all have record collections and play vinyl all the time. I've had records forever, still my favorite way to play music. I just wish more artists would release that way...
How many concerts does Hogjaw play a year?
Kwall This year we have done a U.S tour and we play shows around our region of Arizona. We have been trying to get to Europe but are having a hard time hooking up with a booking Agency... that's where we really want to go and play but we'd play everyday if it were in different places.
Jonboat It depends also on our work schedule, we all still work for a living! haha, but yes, we try to play as much as we can without over saturating ourselves in any particular area.
What could you find in your set list?
Kwall We like to mix our set's up. We play 95% of our catalogue at different events. It is hard to say! A lot of the times we do not make a set list and just go onstage and call them out. Other nights we have a list because we only have a certain amount of stage time.
Jonboat We have a few cover tunes we bust out here and there too. We been known to play some Molly Hatchet, Metallica, Skynyrd, Hank Jr, etc....just for fun and getting people riled up.
What are the most important concerts that you played?
Kwall This might sound cliché but I'd like to think they all are. The first time we went onstage as a group, playing for friends, family & strangers - was a moment. Now it's a bigger family, fans and the party just goes on. We have had the opportunity to open for international bands and it is really far out to see your icons or heroes, it feels awesome!!!
Jonboat The most important shows we play are the ones where we find a new fan, or new friend. Those concerts help to build our community. We also have had some good shows where we were able to meet some other bands who are "doin the thing". It's inspirational.
Elvis We also do a lot of benefit/charity events. We don't take cash money for this, and I don't think we've ever said no to a charitable event, we like to give back and help people with music, the most powerful healing magic there is.
How would you define Southern rock?
Kwall We'll I can tell you covering Skynyrd tunes and wearing a leather biker vest with a rebel flag on it might be it if you ask some people...
I listen to the purity & intensity of the rock that was being produced in the 70's by some of the great bands we -all- know. It was a time and a place that we cannot take away... rock that was born in the southern states, a staple of americaness (if that is even a word - haha)
Elvis Southern Rock is rock and roll with a country bluegrass and sometimes delta blues influence. The songs concentrated on vocal melodies and had harmonized guitar solos, often with boogie woogie dance hall rhythms. The current 'southern sound' of down tuned guitars and noise vocals, does not appeal to me at all. If it's southern rock it's got to get you up out of your seat or put you in the trance of memory, of days gone by hearing those songs.
Jonboat Southern Rock is that pure, gritty, and memorable music that Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Allman Brothers Band and the Charlie Daniels Band had a knack for. While these bands aren't the only ones that fit into the genre, I believe they were among the most influential. I was born in North Carolina, and grew up in the south, it's what was on dads radio - and mine.
And how is Hogjaw positioned in comparison with Southern rock?
Elvis Hogjaw is taking southern rock, our roots, and desert rock, our heritage (for some of us, we also have southern heritage) and making a big old jungle juice out of it. It's southern meets southwestern.
Kwall Although we write our own songs we definitely are not the fresh sound coming out but we are taking the roots of a few good combinations of genres we think are kick ass! This is Hogjaw. Many of our reviews say we sound like this band or that band - we'll they're right... Apparently we found the rehash, recycle button! (hah hah) One thing about us is we're real, and we're approachable and like our predecessors before us in this crazy world of today's music, we are just trying to keep it pure & rocking - we do not want to be rock stars we just want to play music.
Jonboat I think we mix our drink from our favorite bands, many of which can be categorized in Southern Rock, but there are other genres in our bar...we like to pour in some classic country, with a double shot of 80s metal, and top it off with two fingers of good ole rock n roll. Haha.
What are the projects?
Kwall We're working on a Christmas record that will have Jonboat on the cover wearing a Santa outfit. Beyond that we are working on new material for a live record coming out next year. Also we may squeeze in another U.S tour before the year ends.
Jonboat Whoa! seriously? the whole Santa thing is news to me... sounds kinda funny though... hell we better get started...
What are your favorites Southern rock records?
Kwall Everything from; the Allman Brothers Band - "Eat A Peach" / Beginnings", Elvin Bishop - "Raisin' Hell", Marshall Tucker Band - "Carolina Dreams", Charlie Daniels - "High Lonesome", ZZ Top - "Fandango", Skynyrd - "Second Helping" are a few of my fave's but not limited. I really dig the live records. Cheers!!!
Elvis Lynyrd Skynyrd "Second Helping" is probably my favorite, that or their rare tracks collections.
Jonboat All and everything Skynyrd has done, they are probably my favorite band of all time, followed by "Country Tucker" by Marshall Tucker Band - Doobie Brothers have some great records - Love the Charlie Daniels Band, you know he was just as much rock/jazz as he was country. Duane Allman was in an awesome band, Molly Hatchets early stuff is cool to me - Man, I could go on, but I think you get the point. We're 70's kids here.