Checking In: Scott H. Biram Can’t Sleep

Because, of course, rust never takes a siestesita

Another century’s groundbreakers – Grey Ghost, Hosea Hargrove, Pinetop Perkins – spring to mind when considering Scott H. Biram’s place in the pantheon of ATX bluesmen. Ancient and raw, the Texan revelator distills Doc Watson, Lead Belly, George Jones, Slayer, and perhaps even C.W. McCall into a sour mash as potent as punk and as blinding as bluegrass.

Photo by John Anderson

Austin Chronicle: Where are you sheltering and under what circumstances? Who else is there and how’s that going?

Scott H. Biram: I’m at home here in Southwest Austin with my wife and my two dogs. It’s been alright. We started with a 2,000-piece jigsaw puzzle, got all the interesting parts done in about three days, then gave up. Haha.

I was waiting a few weeks for some cables to be delivered, so I could get in the studio. I’m lucky to have my own recording studio. I’ve been able to keep busy.

My wife goes to bed at a decent hour, and gets up early, but my sleep schedule is screwed. I can’t sleep more than three, four hours straight, so I’m up until 6, 7, 8am sometimes. That’s given both of us some daily alone time.

I do my best work at 4am!

“My 13th record, Fever Dreams, was originally supposed to come out this week, but’s been postponed. It’s so weird, because I already have half of the next one done!”

AC: At what point did C-19 shut down operations for you, and what went down with the ship, so to speak, both personally & professionally?

SHB: We had actually just started a Southern tour when everything started going to shit. It wasn’t until about a day before we left that things started getting weird. The first show was in Houston, and we were still pretty optimistic. We went on to Lafayette, New Orleans, and Mobile before we finally had to call it.

Turnouts were OK, but progressively got worse. After we started getting emails that clubs were canceling, we said let’s get outta here. I had another West Coast tour booked with my friends the Supersuckers for May. We held onto hopes for about a month before we postponed that one until February 2021.

My next album was supposed to drop just before that, but it’s been postponed until further notice. I still have some dates on the books in Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma for June, but all that’s still kind of a “wait and see” situation at this point. We have a July tour with some Northeast dates and some Southern makeup dates in July, and a European tour in September/October.

That one may end up getting postponed to a whole year later.

AC: As a global culture, people employ music for every purpose imaginable, obviously spanning religion to entertainment and everything in between. What happens to communities like ours when people can no longer access it in person?

“It wasn’t until about a day before we left that things started getting weird. The first show was in Houston, and we were still pretty optimistic. We went on to Lafayette, New Orleans, and Mobile before we finally had to call it.”

SHB: Artists and fans alike have been great about participating in the livestream things. In some ways, I feel like we’ve all gotten to know each other a little better than we would with the regular old stage shows. It’s been cool to see some people’s personal spaces too. I gave a little tour of my studio online a few weeks ago to show people where I make my records.

I’m really hoping all the venues make it through this, and that it’s not impossible to book a show when they open again. I know everyone is going to be excited to get back to the shows when they can. I hope all the struggling artists who chose to go full on with music as a career don’t have to go back to regular jobs.

AC: Everyone’s had to shift or drastically alter their work situation. What does that look like for you?

SHB: Like I was saying earlier, I’m very lucky to have my own studio. I have been in there around 10-15 hours a day since this started. My 13th record, Fever Dreams, was originally supposed to come out this week, but’s been postponed. It’s so weird, because I already have half of the next one done!

I’m really lucky, and I’m very thankful for being able to keep working. I know it’s not money now, but later it will ensure that I have some income. I’ve slowly been building up a very pro studio over the years.

AC: What’s your soundtrack for the apocalypse and what role does music play for you as a fan and scholar of it in times of hardship?

SHB: Just like always, I listen to all kinds of stuff! Honestly, I’ve been so busy in the studio, I haven’t listened to a lot lately. I think I’ve listened to the old Butthole Surfers record Rembrandt Pussyhorse more than anything lately. A lot of Johnny Winter, and Muddy Waters too. Always a healthy dose of ZZ Top!

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Scott H. Biram, Supersuckers, Butthole Surfers, Johnny Winter, ZZ Top, Doc Watson, Slayer, Pinetop Perkins, Grey Ghost, Hosea Hargrove, Checking In 2020

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