Shooter Jennings and his new band, Hierophant, are responsible for
what might be the most left-field record of the year. Before this year,
Jennings, the son of country royals Jessi Colter and Waylon Jennings, hewed
close to the outlaw country expectations foisted upon him by fans and the
Nashville establishment.But the
release of Black Ribbons, Jennings' first album with Hierophant, marks a
radical departure from Shooter's previous "long-haired country boy" persona.
Jennings said listening to the crackpot syndicated radio show Coast to Coast AM and its regional
variants inspired the record. "After [Jennings' last record] The Wolf bombed, I left the
label, cut my agent at the time loose and kinda got out of the Nashville
scene," Jennings, who came off as warm and unpretentious during a recent
interview, explained. "I was living in New York, and I drove my family cross
country to L.A. Of course, I was listening to Coast to Coast A.M. and a bunch of other
stuff during that trip. I was such a dork about Coast to Coast that I made a list of
all the stations that carried the show along the way so I could always have it
I couldn't pick up Coast to Coast, I would pick up these little shows that
would be wailing about the national police state. I made me realize what a good
life I had in such a scary place. So, by the time I got to L.A., I had the
concept together in my mind. "
in mind, Jennings created a loose storyline concerning a conspiracy DJ named
Will O' the Wisp (voiced by novelist Stephen King) who broadcasts his last show
before the government takes over the airwaves.The lyrics cover topics ranging from alien mind control to
eugenics to San Francisco's Bohemian Club. But it's the music that really makes
you sit up and take notice, from the David Gilmore-ish guitar passage that
opens the record to the NIN-inspired "Don't Feed The Animals." The way Jennings
organically blends his influences into a singular voice is the bigger part of
what makes the record one of the year's best.
wasn't like I really wanted to change directions," he said. " It was more like
it was something I wanted to do — and suddenly it was something I could
do — and this was a direction I was interested in. I mean, there were all
these different styles of music that I was interested in and it just felt
natural that I would explore them." He paused, the noise of the highway filling
the silence. "From the first record to now I've definitely grown a lot as a
human being and that has helped me come to terms with who I am, and finding my
own foothold on life. I do feel like this record separates myself from my dad.
This record really shows who I am and my interests in the things that I get,
and people are relating to that. It's a cool thing to feel."
how are country fans and especially Daddy Waylon's fans reacting to Shooter's
new album — which includes creepy narration by King and a song called
"Fuck You I'm Famous"?
stuff is working great on the road," Jennings answered. "It's been an interesting
thing to watch. I think now people are finally getting the recording in their
hands and living with it and knowing it and coming out to see it. In the
beginning there were a lot of shocked people. We started out playing the record
top to bottom and people weren't sure what was going on. Now we've got a balls
to the wall show that includes most of this record and a bunch of our older
stuff.We are finally getting
crowds that are singing along and getting excited when we come to certain
chuckled and continued, "Maybe it wasn't the best idea to start the tour just
playing the record. We had people leaving in the middle of the show, and most
of them just did not get the Stephen King bits. I remember one guy started
yelling that we were being anti-church and he kept yelling during the show. I
was like, Oh man what have I done? I wasn't used to making audiences angry, I
mean I'm not Hank III! (laughs)But it was a reaction and I felt that that was a really cool, daring
moment in our touring career."
Jennings hung up, he added, "Y'know, the real true Waylon fans love the new
record, especially old the ones. They are like 'You're doing like your dad did
it. You're doing what you want to do and we are down with that.' That's
probably the best pat on the back I can ever get."
Promo video for "Summer of Rage" from Black Ribbons:
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