Bob Log III Q&A
Bob Log III’s best gimmick isn’t his flamboyant getup of sequenced jumpsuits and telephone helmets. Nor is it his extreme showmanship of rafting over the audience in a rubber dinghy and enlisting the breasts of female fans to make “Boob scotch.” Rather, it remains his lightening fast, highly percussive, slide guitar fingerpicking.
One of the most entertaining one-man-band acts ever conceived, the mysterious Log, who plays guitar and drums while singing, likens his exuberant live show to the vibe of his childhood hero Bo Diddley.
“He took the blues and turned it into a party – and it's a ridiculous party!” Log explains. “Bo Diddley is hilarious, there's so much humor or in those songs and it's also the coolest guitar you've ever heard.”
I called the former Doo Rag frontman while he was driving through the Arizona desert to talk about the tricks of his specialized trade and a recent series of Butt-anthem recordings.
Austin Chronicle: Can you tell our readers about your “Butt or Pet Songs” recordings?
Bob Log III: Anybody sends me a picture of a butt or a picture of a pet and I make an inspirational song for that butt or that pet. It's been girl butts, guy butts, and I did songs for two different cats and one for a dog. I've done about 25 of them so far. Usually somebody buys a butt song for their significant other's birthday party. Like “My husband’s turning 40,” and I get a picture of this dude in a kilt throwing a hammer, so I make a song to make him and his butt inspired to throw his hammer further than he's ever thrown it.
AC: So each of these songs is totally personalized.
BL: It's an individual song. There was this company in the Sixties, you could send them lyrics written on a paper bag or whatever you could come up with and give them $70 and tell them what kind of song you want and then these studio musicians would be sitting there waiting for the mail. Then they'd get the mail and say “Okay guys, we gotta do a soul song called ‘I Like Yellow’,” and they'd make the music. The next thing would be an ode to Richard Nixon, and it has to be a march. So these guys are just sitting there getting these crazy songs from crazy people all over the world and they wouldn't know what the song would be until the mail arrived. I became fascinated with that concept so I said, “You send me a picture of your butt and I’m gonna make it move.”
I don't know what the song is going to be until the mail arrives, then I get a picture of woman wearing a wig leaping off a table and I say “well this one's going to be easy.” Then I'll get a picture of a cat that lives with a mechanic and I'll say, “Okay, this one's going to be more difficult.” I ask for is a name, three of their favorite things, and a picture so I have something to go on then they get five CD's with pictures on the cover sent to them. It's $199.99 and on PayPal you get to choose “Butt” or “Pet.” It's a funny way to write a song. In some ways it's limiting, but in other ways it's completely liberating.
AC: No one hammers a guitar quite like you do. How did you develop the way you play?
BL: Everything I do, the guitar playing comes first. The drums come later; the helmet, the suit – even the songs come later. I treat it like a drum. When I'm playing without drums, you can still here the drumbeat because I'm hitting the acoustic so hard there's clicks and clacks and thunk sounds. I just found this out recently, and it was kick in the balls – I thought I was a original guitarist, making all these crazy sounds, then I learned I'm doing banjo tricks on a guitar.
AC: Right, we played a festival together in Montana last year. You had just brought the banjo into the set, and you told me that you found out the tuning was similar to your guitar.
BL: Right, I'd just gotten it. I've only had it for a year-and-a-half. The open G tuning is my exact guitar tuning except my guitar goes to a really low note and the banjo does the same note but high. So all my fingerpickin' tricks work on it and the banjo has changed how I approach guitar. Like I said before, I treat the guitar like a drum and what is a banjo? It's a guitar neck on a drum! Goddammit, I had to admit to myself that I’m a banjo player which means I'm never getting laid again.
Now who was that old guy who played right before me? He was in the Circle Jerks or something?
AC: That was Zander Schloss.
BL: He did one of the funniest fuckin' things! He was a little bit spacey in a cool and childlike way. When he was getting off stage, the guy who was helping him said: “Zander, why don't you set your instruments over there by Bob Log's boat." The first thing that came out of his mouth was, "Can I put my guitars in the boat?" I was like please don't man! But it's funny that's immediately where his brain went. It cracked me up for days!
AC: I was blown away by how good he was at bouzouki. That this guy with a punk rock background is so delicate on an acoustic instrument.
BL: When I was a kid I didn't like punk rock so much because I felt like no one was really playing anything. But then the Meat Puppets happened – that guy was like the most amazing guitar player in the world. They started as punk rock, but then he learned to play some real guitar stuff. I listen to guitar first on everything, if I don't like the guitar part, I don't really like the song. It's a terrible affliction sometimes. Usually it's fingerpicking that gets me. I learned from listening to Mississippi Fred McDowell when I was 16, that's when I put the pick down. Before that I was listening to AC/DC and I could just never do it right. I try to sound like at least two guitar players when I play live, sometimes I can sound like three, but that doesn't always happen.
AC: For the folks who can't understand your words through a telephone mic, what do you like to sing about?
BL: I'm singing about how good my guitar sounds. I'm singing about sticking your ass out the window, different dance moves, different ways to bring the level of fun in the room up because that's what I love about music. I'm trying to raise the level of the party. Each one of my songs is a party song. One will raise the level two notches, the next will raise it one notch, the next will be three or four notches. So, once I'm seven songs in, the party level is getting ridiculous. They're jumping on stage, knocking drinks over, unplugging me. When that happens I never get mad because, technically, it's my own damn fault.
AC: Your jumpsuits are getting covered with sweat and alcohol at shows. Do people at the dry cleaner wonder if you're a figure skater or daredevil?
BL: There's no dry cleaning going on. That's too fancy. I don’t usually put em in washing machine even, because it fucks up my mirrors. I was in England and I accidentally dried it in a combo washer and it melted all my mirrors to look like cheered up gum. I was at a fabric shop looking at new mirrors like, “These mirrors ain’t right! How much money do I got?” and I'm looking at my money and I realize that five pence piece is kind of shiny. So then I started collecting five pence pieces and glueing money to my suit and now I have a shiny money suit.
But I did learn a trick. My friends who work costumes for the opera told me when a suit gets stinky you put vodka in a bottle and spray the costume with a fine mist of vodka to remove the smell. I don't have a spray bottle so I get a big glass of vodka from the club and put it in my mouth and spit it out in a fine mist all over my suit. Sometimes that works.
AC: Are you touring on a new record right now?
BL: A lot of bands make a record then promote it and hire a lawyer and a publicist. I'm more like an unbirthday. I’m on the road promoting a guitar party that never ends. But yes, I am making a record of Butt or Pet songs and also some instrumental disco banjo thing that everyone is going to fucking hate.