Interview: Texas Hippie Coalition

Written by Lucas P. Jones

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A few months back, Gene Simmons proclaimed in an interview that rock ‘n’ roll is dead.

Well Gene, I have to disagree with you, because you need to look no further than Texas Hippie Coalition, (otherwise known as THC), if you want proof that the music and spirit of rock is alive and kicking. Originally from Denison, Texas, THC is the product of two men; John Exall, and Big Dad Ritch. The line-up is filled out by Timmy Braun, and Cord Pool. But it was Big Dad Ritch who was able to give us great insight into the raw, gritty, and groovy sound that is a hallmark of the band.

Coming off of their third album, Ride On, the band played at Mayhem Festival in the summer of 2014, and is looking forward to an upcoming tour.

I spoke with Big Dad himself about Southern Fried rock, Christianity and touring with Chris Jericho.

Photo Credit: James Bland
Photo Credit: James Bland

So I’ve been listening to your stuff, and I have to say, I’m totally blown away by how solidly rock ‘n’ roll you guys are.

That’s what we are here for — to make Gene Simmons eat those words. Rock ain’t dead.

How did the band form?

I was always in a band since I was 19 years old. I was in a band called Necromancer, a band called God Awful Mess. But I needed something else, so I became a fisherman, and started up a fishing company, started fighting, created a small UFC supply company. And I did that for a few years, but things changed. My girl asked for a divorce, so I went back to doing what I loved more than anything else in the world; music. I sold all my fishing stuff, sold all my fighting stuff. I put up the fishing and the fighting and I started fuckin’ (laughs). I went out and started looking at bands and stole all the good guys, and I knew I wanted to have a “southern fried” rock ‘n’ roll band, like a Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top type of sound. But I also wanted a power groove like Corrosion of Conformity and Pantera. I wanted all that, but to stay true to my roots with a Johnny Cash “Man in Black” type sound, where you open up your soul to the listener.

Photo Credit: Paul Bland
Photo Credit: Paul Bland

It sounds like you fuse that old school southern blues with the new trend of groove metal that’s been really popular.

That’s the great thing about rock ‘n’ roll; the rock/blues world accepts us, and the heavy metal world accepts us. We just did Mayhem Festival. We get to go out there and play with all these heavy bands, but we also get to play with guys like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company. When we are down in Texas, we get to play with some great country bands. So we get to cross genres pretty easily, and we are just so happy to be accepted by the masses. We call it “Red Dirt Metal,” others call it “Southern Fried Rock and Roll.” All we know it when we mix it up and throw it together, it sounds real good.

You were on tour quite a bit. Any crazy stories or favorite moments?

It’s funny, because while we do have some good ones, people are always looking for that crazy “Shark in the twat” kind of story [referencing the legend that after a show the members of Led Zeppelin brought a girl to their hotel room and…well…you get the idea]. A lot of that stuff happens, but no story can ever stack up to those crazy ones. But this past summer on the Mayhem tour, we gathered up before a show in what we call a “Positive Energy Circle.” We say a little prayer, and we give thanks for the Lord letting us do what we want to do. The singer from Mushroomhead comes over and says, “Man you guys have so much joy in your hearts. You can see you guys are happy, that’s something special. Where does that come from?”

I told him, it’s just positive energy. Getting those dark clouds out and letting the sunshine in. I know it sounds like a cheesy thing but you really have to let the sunshine in. You can have that religious spirit, and have that sunshine, and you can still drink whiskey and smoke weed. God chooses a different path for each person. He chose a path for me, and he chose a path for others. Sometimes the road is bad, but you have to keep going to get past the bad parts and get to the good parts. I’m a devout Christian, and I just turn myself over to Him, and it just made me feel like the weight of the world was off me when I heard that this guy wanted to borrow the idea for his own group of guys. I know it’s not one of those bringing the girl home and getting down and dirty, but it’s something that stuck with me.

So you just recorded a new album, I’m wondering what the song writing process is for THC?

Before the studio, me and Cord get together. The other guys can throw stuff in there if they have a song or a riff idea, but usually it’s me and Cord getting together and pumping out material. That’s why every song on this album is a little different. I stick to the traditional THC structure, but the other guys don’t necessarily, and so we get to explore other kinds of structure. I always carry two guns on me, so if someone send me an idea that I don’t like, I’ll shoot it down! If it’s not “THC” I’ll shoot it straight down, and if we finish a song and don’t like it, it won’t make it to the album. On this album, every single thing we wrote made it to the album. These ten songs were so strong that they all made it on, and we never had to go through the process of adding songs on the end of an album

How does this album compare to older albums? You mentioned that you get to explore different structures, so does this album have a different feel as a result?

Well we did our first album by ourselves, then our next two were done with a label. When you jump over to that you go from the four of you being involved to having other in the game. Thankfully, we have so much freedom and control you barely notice that they are even involved. They are there to help, but you get to have control. On the last two albums, I felt like I was riding in a stagecoach, you know? I could say, “turn right up here”, or “stop here”, you know? But on this one, I felt like I wanted to take the reins and take control of the speed, direction, and have my shotgun right next to me in case I needed to shoot anything down. That’s what this album is a product of, and it’s one of the reasons I think this album is the best one we’ve put out. The other reason this album is the best one we’ve put out, is because of Cord. His guitar style and level of musicianship is on a whole other level. His leads are impeccable, his playing throughout, his rhythm, I just can’t say enough about him.

Now the most important question…When and where can we get to experience you guys live? Do you have a tour planned?

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We are co-headlining with Chris Jericho from WWE. It will be a holiday run in December, all across the Midwest and southern states. Florida, Louisiana, Alabama.

Any plans to come up to New Jersey? I would love to get to see THC.

Well, here’s the thing…I did kill a few people the other day, and I usually bring the bodies either to Juarez, Mexico, or New Jersey to get rid of them. So if I’m up in New Jersey and need to get rid of a few bodies you’ll be the first one I call.

PB: Well, I’m honored. Actually I’m not sure if I should be honored or scared.

Doesn’t matter really, as long as you bring a shovel.

I’ve got a few, especially since I live in Jersey. There’s a reason we’ve popularized the idea of cement shoes.

(Laughs)

Well, this has definitely been one of the most entertaining interviews I’ve ever done. Thank you so much for your time.

Thank you man, I appreciate your interest. I can’t tell you how much this little Podunk from Texas appreciates your time and thinking that some little guys from Texas are worthy of this attention.

For more on Texas Hippie Coalition, click here.

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