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Playback: Heaven and Hell and Scott H. Biram

Scott H. Biram gets bloody, UT gets KUT's music library, and Macaulay Culkin pisses me off

By Kevin Curtin, Fri., Jan. 31, 2014

Playback: Heaven and Hell and Scott H. Biram
Photo by Sandy Carson

With his 40th birthday around the bend and his infamous truck wreck 10 years in the rearview, country/blues/metal stomper Scott H. Biram will spend 2014 on the road, taking his anarchic live show all over America and Europe. In a calm before the storm, the local one-man band discussed his fifth LP for Chicago's true grit indie Bloodshot Records – Feb. 4 extraction Nothin' but Blood.

Austin Chronicle: Does Nothin' but Blood refer to your accident?

Scott H. Biram: No, we're finished with the truck accident shit. It gave me a legend, but people focused on it too much. All the articles say, "Scott H. Biram survived a head-on collision with a big rig ... he's also a musician." I have to say, it did a lot for my career. I don't recommend it though. It hurts like a mutherfucker.

AC: Is your contrasting sin and gospel a form of repentance?

SHB: Well the sin is cut and dry, but the gospel stuff is complicated. It's about rejoicing and the uplifting feeling of the music, not preaching about God or what they taught me in church, because my spiritualism is something I make my own guidelines about. I heard "When I Die" in my head at 5am and just wrote it down. I felt like my grandmother, who passed away, gave me that song.

AC: You typically record at home, so working with producer Erik Wofford at Cacophony Recorders was a new approach for you.

SHB: I thought I could just go in and get it done and it would be badass, but it was more work than I was expecting. We got a lot of good songs, but on some of them we butted heads. The month between recording and mixing, I went into my home studio and re-recorded some of the songs on my new reel-to-reel, then Erik did a good job mixing it all down.

AC: Are you a one-man band because you're difficult to work with?

SHB: I have a vision of how I want things to be. When it goes away from that, it really takes a lot of patience for me to let go because I'm also a control freak, which is basically the same thing as a visionary. Both on the road and in the studio, it's more practical for me to work alone. I don't have to split money at shows and, when I'm recording, I can experiment as much as I want and not feel like I'm stepping on someone else's toes or running out of time.

AC: What's the best songwriting advice you've gotten?

SHB: [Cheatham Street Warehouse owner] Kent Finlay told me to write songs first thing in the morning so you're still connected to that dream state and don't have any other stimulus. This guy named Unka Will told me, "Do at least one thing for your music ever day" and I took that to heart and now I do 100 things for my music every day and it's killing me because I can't stop.

AC: What's heaven to you?

SHB: A place where my anxieties are low, my body doesn't hurt and instead feels energized, great food and drink at hand, my good friends and family all around and in harmony, good weather, and a good view.

Macaulay Culkin's Pizza Underground

Winter 1992: My 6-year-old self begs my mom to take me to see Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. On the way, our tiny two-door Omni collides with a massive buck. The car crumples, the deer hobbles off to die in the snowy Michigan woods, and I'm left to wait for Home Alone 2 on video.

That was the last time I thought about Macaulay Culkin until the recent Internet buzz over his Pizza Underground, a pie-themed Lou Reed tribute with songs like "Bite on the Wild Slice." When a local performance was announced, at the grand opening of the Unconventional Oven (2201 S. Lakeshore Blvd.), 800 RSVPs were logged in one day and a $20 VIP experience added.

I'm embarrassed for Austin.

Have Brooklyn blogs distorted our judgment to the point that 800 people are falling over themselves to snap a phone pic of a former child star, or do they really want to see five gaunt hipsters in Ray-Bans banging on pizza boxes and singing parodies so brain-dead they'd make Weird Al comatose? Anyone willing to waste eight minutes on YouTube can experience the poorly executed joke.

Lots of real bands playing Friday. Go see one of them.

Playback: Heaven and Hell and Scott H. Biram
Photo by Kevin Curtin

KUT's Music Library Lands at UT

The University of Texas' Fine Arts Department inherited a badass record collection. This winter, KUT unloaded its music library on the academics when a truck rolled up and delivered 300 mail bins full of CDs and 100 cardboard boxes of vinyl. That fills two rooms in the campus' Collections library, an overwhelming sight considering they're not organized. Who has to sort them?

"Me," laughs David Hunter, a British musicologist on the Fine Arts staff. "We're a bit like a python, taking on this huge quantity of stuff, then absorbing it over time."

Pulling records at random, I find a Lazy Cowgirls 7-inch, an ancient Bob Wills LP, and a self-released recording of a Houston Baptist minister, some marked with handwritten deejay notes.

"It's a historical treasure that contains decades of radio history and it broke my heart to see it go," reported KUTX Music Director Jeff McCord. "But I knew it was taking up more space than was justified."

KUT's vinyl went into storage in 2009, then in 2012 McCord oversaw the digitalization of the rest.

"We wore out four CD burners and a couple of computers," he sighs. "It took over a year."

Now in the hands of Hunter, the 60,000 CDs will double the Fine Arts Library's publically available collection. The 4,000 LPs head to the Collections Deposit Library's basement, a safeguarded bunker containing 100,000 LPs, reel-to-reels, wax cylinders, player piano scrolls, and 8-tracks, where they'll be available for scholarly inquiries.

Half Notes

› Arctic weather forced snow days on the Austin Music Poll Ballot so the deadline's been extended. Tear out p.65 of this week's print issue (Jan. 31) for a hard ballot, or go online at austinchronicle.com/feedback/musicpoll/13. Vote for Larry Monroe in radio, and while I'd normally suggest writing in Steven Fromholz for the Hall of Fame, he went in a dozen years ago.

Gary Clark Jr. snagged the Best Traditional R&B Performance Grammy for "Please Come Home" and thanked local blues guitar fixture and Antone's Records co-owner Eve Monsees. "I wouldn't be playing music if it weren't for her. She took me to my first gig and it all started from there," lauded Clark, who then traded guitar solos with Keith Urban on "Cop Car."

› MP3 hater Neil Young has scheduled a speech on March 11 at South by Southwest, where he'll unveil his full-frequency music service, Pono.

› Got a boss chili recipe? Put it to the test at Chili Cold Blood's 8th annual Chili Cook-Off, Feb. 8 at the White Horse, 3-8pm. The concert, benefiting HAAM, features performances from the doom-twanging hosts, plus Barfield, Woodsboss, and the Neon Hearts. Chili submissions at www.thewhitehorseaustin.com.

Tim O'Connor made it clear his Backyard at Bee Cave venue will not lose its name or identity in the proposed redevelopment of the property, which would include several fancy film studios. "Key parts of this development include enhancing the look and feel of the amphitheater, but it won't have fixed seats and I'm not cutting down the trees, so it will still look like a backyard," promised the veteran Austin music promoter.

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