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Underneath the helmet

MUSIC INTERVIEW: Bob Log III 

Underneath the helmet

It ain't nothin' but a party when one-man band Bob Log III rolls into town. Dressed like one of those circus maniacs that gets fired from a canon, Log plays viciously raw Delta blues on slide guitar with his hands, while tackling the drums with his feet. The vocals are shouted through a telephone receiver mounted on the windscreen of his motorcycle helmet. It's unpredictable madness. Perhaps it's even a little bizarre, and Log's tunes — full of lust, excess, and alcohol — are there to stir things up.

Log even manages to combine several vices, like his crowd favorite "Boob Scotch," where his tumbler of scotch is passed around the audience so that young ladies can dunk a breast. Boobs, whiskey, and motorcycle helmets aside, Logs's blues are the genuine article and mirror a lot of the stripped-down, bare-bone evil of his more conventional Fat Possum label mates. His sound is brilliantly, sloppy sleazy, and rhythmically precarious, like a drunk stripper staggering in stiletto heels on loose gravel.

Originally based in Arizona, Log now resides in Melbourne, Australia, and landed in the United States last week just in time for his upcoming U.S. tour, and our phone call. An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

CITY: Where did it all start? How did it all start?

Bob Lob III: When I was 11 my grandma got me a guitar. I listened to a lot of AC/DC, Chuck Berry, Screamin' Jay Hawkins. When I got a little older I was in a two-man band called Doo Rag and drove all around the world playing guitar and my buddy played drums on the garbage can. And when he left I had a choice of either going home and shutting up, or learning a new way to play drums. I had a helmet I had bought at a thrift store the day before and I had a guitar case. So I decided to drive to Chicago and kick the guitar case with a helmet on my head. And the chicks went so crazy, some girl took me home and fucked me all night in her friend's closet. And that's how Bob Log III started.

Do you ever see yourself expanding with a helmeted band?

It ain't really about the helmet. The thing about what you do when you're a one-man band... there's a thing that happens that no other musician gets to do, I don't care who you are. But when you're playing by yourself, you get to mess with time. You can do anything you want to do with time. You can slow it down, you can speed it up, and you can't do that when you're a whole bunch of people. You've got to all know that it's coming. When you're totally alone, you are the complete master of time and you can do whatever the fuck you want to time. You can take time out to dinner, you can throw a pie in its face, you can dress it up in a horse costume and send it out to buy milk. You can do anything you want to time. That's the main reason I do what I do by myself. I think after 15 to 16 years doing this I'm completely addicted to controlling time. It's what I love about what I do the most.

You're clearly influenced by a lot of the Fat Possum cats, like R.L. Burnside and T-Model Ford. What's it like working with them? How'd they take you?

I got to tour with R.L. like four times. I've been in the car with T-Model for hours on end. Hasil Adkins came to see me play. We played a show together. It was me, Hasil, T-Model, Paul "Wine" Jones, RL... That was the first time Hasil got to see me play. This was like 1997, when I was just getting started, and I didn't know what he was going to do. "Is he going to hate me?" Well, Hasil jumped up on the tables, kicking over everybody's drink, dancing around the room. And then at the end of the night he made me give him my autograph. He was so nice to me, he was such a cool dude, and we had such a great time. But all that aside, he was totally fuckin' nuts, too.

Do the people that dig your shtick overlook the bigger picture? Are they missing out?

People can call it whatever they want, but the people that come to the show that are dancing and smiling, they get it. It's what you're doing with your music, I suppose. To me, pretty much all rock 'n' roll is a shtick, the whole thing. What's the point? Trying to make a room full of drunk people have a good time and enjoy themselves. There are other bands that want to get up there and totally complain about something — and I'm all right with that. But I don't really call that rock 'n' roll.

I grew up with Screamin' Jay Hawkins and AC/DC. Motorhead, too. They took the blues and turned it into a party, something fun, something to look at. It isn't something I invented. I'm one of many who are trying to make what I guess you could call party music. I make party music with a guitar and a thing on my head, but shit, Screamin' Jay would make party music with a bone through his nose. Angus Young puts on schoolboy pants...what the fuck does that do? Raises the party level. And I've got no problem with that.

What's an ideal show for you?

What I'm attempting to do, when I've got a room full of people, is to really make them smile so much that their faces hurt in the morning. I want them to get so sweaty that they don't care what their hair looks like. It's not about a bunch of people standing around looking good, it's about letting loose, putting the lampshade on your head, doing something they're all going to talk about tomorrow.

It's a party.

It's a guitar party, especially Rochester. I remember you guys going totally ape shit on a Tuesday. That's one of the reasons I've fallen in love with your town. And the garbage plate. I want to do it, but not sure I can do that to myself this time. We'll see how I feel.

Is there anything else in a boob scotch other than a boobs and scotch?

If you pass it around the room and everyone puts a boob in it, you can get all kinds of floaty things in there. It doesn't necessarily have to be scotch. The idea is someone puts their boob in your drink, you take a sip, you feel better. I wrote that song because I was having a real bad day. Instead of writing about what made my day bad, I wrote the song about what made my day better. I don't care who you are or what you do. Take a little sip of that and you feel better.

Bob Log III is a one-man band, playing Delta blues on slide guitar, the drums with his feet, and singing through a telephone receiver mounted onto a motorcycle helmet. PHOTOS PROVIDED

  • Underneath the helmet

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