The mid-nineties were an exciting time in the Columbus music scene. I'm not going to bore you with a long history lesson, except to say my favorite band from that period was the Haynes Boys. This Comfest weekend, the self-titled Haynes Boys debut record is finally being re-released on vinyl and on I-Tunes. Not being a music critic, my best description would be it sounds something like Keith Richards producing Gram Parsons in his basement at Nellcote. I LOVE THIS RECORD. Pick up a copy here or better yet catch them at Lost Weekend Records Thursday, June 25th, at 7 pm; Ace of Cups Friday, June 26th, at 10pm; or the Off Ramp Stage at 1:55 pm, Sunday, June 27th for Comfest.
Haynes Boys guitarist Freddie Free (listed as Phillip Park on HB credits) was kind enough to answer a couple of my questions.
Colin - Do you remember your first practice with the entire original line-up of the Haynes Boys? Did it click from the start or did it take a while to jell? What was the first song you worked on?
Freddie - Yes, I remember my first HBs practice because I had a huge, swollen black eye from being punched in the face the day before, while ill-advisedly riding my bike through a crowd during "Heritage" weekend on OSU campus, almost immediately post-Rodney King LA race riots. It was my first real, direct experience of racial violence, and it was a real eye-opener... pun intended. So, that would put my first practice at around May or June 1992.
Colin - Where did you guys rehearse back in the day?
Freddie - Funny you should ask, because those first practices were actually held in the basement of the place where Tim Scholl, who I was in the process of replacing on guitar at the time, was living. Luckily for all of us, Tim Scholl seemed to have a remarkably tolerant attitude about that, despite the fact that he was understandably a little disenchanted with the band that point. But my understanding was that he had chosen to leave the band, and he and I have been friends ever since. And that place is about two blocks from where I live right now.
Colin - Did you frequent a certain bar before or after practice?
Freddie - I seem to remember that we did hang out a little bit at Dow's On High, as well as at nearby Staches, of course. Both of which places we would be come to play on a fairly regular basis
Colin - What was your first gig like?
Freddie - The first gig I played with Haynes Boys was at a well-respected restaurant and music bar called The Dell in Old Town East, where Carabar is now located, I believe. One memorable feature of The Dell was that a large stuffed Blue Marlin was prominently mounted above the stage, and was always a potential hazard to anyone playing that particular venue. I always had the feeling I was going to get an eye gouged out, or a limb gored by proximity to that thing...
I remember that Dan Dow of Used Kids Records and, I believe, Don Howland, both of whom were also in The Gibson Brothers (an important early influence on our band) were both present for that show, and that I sang the lead vocal on a cover of Big Star's "Way Out West" for the first time that night. Unusual, because Tim Easton was, by that point, lead vocalist on nearly every song we would play, many of which would be his original songs.
Colin - What was your favorite cover tune to slip in the set?
Freddie - Along with the aforementioned Big Star cover, we did things like "Cigarettes and Whiskey and Wild, Wild Women" and some really odd stuff too, like Ivor Cutler's song "Bugs." (I'm going to attach a long list here of cover songs that Aaron Rice recently compiled and posted on the HBs Facebook page.)
Colin - Did you guys get along personally while touring?
Freddie - We did all generally get along pretty well on the road, at least until we did our longest and most intense tour in 1994, when we spent a good part of that summer playing just about every club, pub and/or hole in the wall that the South of England, to some degree unwittingly, had to offer. The cracks began to show there, but I should also point out that was also the tour that made us into a "real" rock 'n' roll band, a band ready to make a solid first album a year or so down the road. When we came back to Ohio off that tour, we were a completely different animal, and ready to take on just about anything that would stand in the way.
Colin - Who did most of the driving?
Freddie - Jovan did almost ALL of the driving, most notably on the gruelingly-long English tour, where he was apparently the only one capable of driving consistently on the "wrong side of the road." as you do over there. That, however, did not prevent us from being pulled over once or twice by a curious Bobby or two, who wondered aloud what the hand-rolled cigarette in Jovan's shirt-front pocket really might be. "What's all this, then...?"
Colin - What music would you guys listen to while traveling?
Freddie - We would listen to all manner of music in the touring van or car, but one memorable, if otherwise uncharacteristic, ritual we developed specifically for that English trip was that, as a way of remembering our American roots and "grounding" ourselves to some extent, we took to listening to Springsteen's Darkness on the Edge of Town and Nebraska albums back to back, and in their entirety every morning, over our usual Weetabix and tea breakfasts.
Colin - What shows/cities do you remember fondly?
Freddie - There are many memorable shows, but, among the most notable are: the first show we played at Stache's right after returning from England as, essentially, a whole "new" band compared to what we were before that tour; a show we played in Austin for SXSW in 1995 which more or less landed us a record deal; and a show we played in D.C. while on tour with Cracker, sometime around '97 or '98, which probably showed us at about the peak of our live performing capabilities.
Colin - Where did you guys stay while recording in Nashville?
Freddie - The recording studio there is Alex The Great, owned and operated by Brad Jones and Robin Eaton, who co-produced the record with the band. The studio had a large apartment attached to it, as well as, now, a large mastering facility, Club Roar, and other very useful spaces, like the big room with the ping-pong table where Club Roar is now. So we basically lived in the studio during those frantic seven days in which we recorded all the basic tracks and overdubs, and oversaw the mixing for what would become our debut record.
Colin - Did you tinker with the arrangements in the studio or pretty much lay them down as you had been performing them live?
Freddie - We had the arrangements before going in, and we worked closely with Brad Jones and Robin Eaton to see that the songs were basically recorded the way we were envisioned them, but we also incorporated some of their ideas too. It was a shotgun wedding that seemed to work.
Colin - What guitars and amps were you using to record?
Freddie - I'd fallen in love with Vox AC 30 amps, and it just so happened that they had a really sweet one at Alex The Great. I remember that Brad had a cool way of routing the Vox's amp signal back into itself in a loop from one in-jack to the other channel.
I played my trusty old 1972 Fender Telecaster and a mid-60s Fender Mustang I'd recently got. Tim, I believe, plugged his electric guitars into mostly Fender amps, or maybe a few odds and ends they had around. We may have occasionally amped an acoustic guitar as well, but Tim used a clean acoustic guitar on several songs.
Colin - Do you have an idea how many people are already familiar with the record or does it feel like a new release?
Freddie - There were a good number of people that liked the record when it first came out, and more so after we toured it for some time and were starting some radio airplay, particularly on the East Coast. Some people, like Joe Carver at Re-Vinyl records, obviously held it close enough that the record is coming out again now and is available on vinyl for first time also.
The remastering for vinyl and iTunes, plus the corrected sleeve art make it much closer to our original vision, so that does make it feel a little bit like a new record to me.
Colin Gawel's band Watershed played many shows with the Haynes Boys. He would also often show up at their gigs loaded and scream "Play Maryhaven Family!" He founded Pencilstorm.com and owns Colin's Coffee in Columbus, OH.