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Scott H. Biram the sort of guy who welcomes both the metal crowds and the country folk to his First Church of Ultimate Fanaticism. He's also the guy who broke nearly every bone in his body in a head-on crash with an 18-wheeler at 75 mph and played his usual blistering live set while confined to a wheelchair and on an IV barely a month later. His newest and ninth full-length album, Nothin' But Blood, portrays Biram either emerging from or collapsing back into a menacing red river, which befits both his Austin roots and his knack for clashing together the spiritual and the sacrilegious with unpredictable dexterity. It's an album that finds him shouting, "Only whiskey can sleep in my bed" in his grizzled punk growl, delivering songs with titles like "Alcohol Blues" and "I'm Troubled" and putting new spins on "Back Door Man", "John the Revelator" and "Amazing Grace". I caught up with Biram over the phone ahead of his upcoming show alongside Wild Feathers this Saturday at Sun King Brewery in honor of SKB's fifth anniversary bash.
NUVO: You've always praised for having a one of a kind live show that makes believers out of people. What do you hope people take away when they come out to see you?
Scott H. Biram: I want people to have fun and have a good time. I want to play a good set and as long as I don't have any technical problems or anything, then I got my part done [laughs]. I want everybody to go away with a good time and feeling like they got their money's worth. I like it when I get some new fans, but I also like it when I might get some country fans but they don't really like metal or rock or anything, and they come out of it kind of liking metal or vice versa - like they never liked country and now they think they might like some types of country music.
NUVO: I know you've always loved Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Doc Watson, etc. and have covered many of them over the years. Was it always your intention to have so many covers in addition to originals on the new album?
Biram: That's just the way it worked out. I went into it thinking I'd do mostly originals with one or two covers on there. You know, I'm so busy these days and on the road so much, it's a little bit hard to make all these songs that are, like, concrete. I'm writing lyrics all the time and I'm playing my guitar all the time, but the part where you put the music and the lyrics together [laughs] - it takes some time. The best songs are the ones that come to me in five minutes, you know, when I wake up in the morning and have this idea in my head and record it on my phone so I don't forget it. But I don't necessarily go into a record with a theme or an idea or anything like that. I usually shape it and read it and just kind of get a feeling of what is as I go along, and I go with it and the record takes on a shape of its own without my, um, intention [laughs].
NUVO: You've said you typically play 200 shows a year and tour internationally. With doing all the writing, playing and recording your own stuff at home and keeping up with the animals, you don't strike me as someone who ever gets bored.
Biram: I'm bored all the time [laughs], but I'm always looking for something to do. You know, when I'm at home I crave being on the road, and when I'm on the road I crave being at home. I always find something to do. It is what it is. It's definitely a job and the road is so mysterious, but I'm still seeing good places so it's a lot of fun. I just got back from Scandinavia a couple of weeks ago, and I hadn't been over there but once before. That was pretty fun to explore and play for some new people and make some new fans.
NUVO: Did turning 40 recently have any effect on your music or outlook, or was it just another day for you?
Biram: It's kind of weird knowing that I'm 40 years old or whatever, but it hasn't affected my outlook on my music or my life. I'm just out here doing what I'm doing; I've got some demons to work out, I've got some chips on my shoulder, I've got some feelings to project, you know, and I'm doing what I do and it's my job, so I've got to pay my bills and everything. And I feel as a musician I have to do my best to keep on keeping on and put my best effort into it and try to put out quality music and not compromise for any real commercial reasons or anything.
NUVO: You've been with Bloodshot for about a decade now, right? Being with somebody for that long seems like a rare feat these days.
Biram: Yeah, man. I think I signed with them in 2005, so it's my ninth year. My relationship with Bloodshot has been good the whole time. You know, dealing with record companies, there's always going to be compromises and disagreements and things like that, but they've been really supportive and I work hard and I like that people appreciate it. Someone once told me, "There's nothing someone can do for me that I can't do better myself." So, I'm always a little of a control freak and always like trying to take care of everything [laughs].
NUVO: That was a nice transition. I was just getting to ask you what the best advice you've ever gotten as a musician was.
Biram: One thing that affected me a lot and drove my career was this guy they called Uncle Bill at a bar in my hometown of San Marcos, Texas. He passed away a few years ago and I didn't even know him that well, but he told me one time, "Do something for your music every day." I remember that and I do something for my music every day, but then it got a little out of control and now I do a lot of things for my music every day and throw myself into it. The other thing is an old friend of mine, Jeremiah - he works for NASA now but he is a sound engineer, but one time I asked him what should be the biggest thing bands think of when they go into the studio. What's going to keep their music doing well? He said, "Stay in tune." Tune your guitar. Just always be sure your guitar is in tune. I really do think that makes a big difference. Nothing makes a band sound worse than when they're just out of tune. Even if your talent is lacking, you'll sound a lot better if you're in tune.