Meat Me in SLC 

Southern Culture on the Skids bring the chicken and the boogie.

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It used to be about the chicken. Southern Culture on the Skids, the band who—ahem—carved their niche servin’ up slow-roasted, reverb-basted surfabilly odes to fried chicken, banana puddin’, pork and possum, had evidently pulled the equivalent of Kiss ditching the makeup: They went veggie.

Sound AffectsTENACIOUS D Tenacious D (Epic) Jack Black and Kyle Gass’ long-awaited debut album is every bit the hysterical/acoustical heavy-metal monument to bong-wielding dungeon masters of rawk you expected … and no one else is ever, ever gonna get it. The dual acoustic guitars and harmonies of Tenacious D are augmented with a full rockin’ band, rendering the buzz all the more intense and the between-song “rock star” comedy banter priceless. Southern rock (“The Road”), arena rock (“Rock Your Socks”) and Dio rock (“Dio,” of course) rage, but the romantic moments (“Kielbasa,” “Fuck Her Gently,” “Double Team”) are strictly for the ladies.

SLAYER God Hates Us All (American) Oh, there’s no doubt now. At least Slayer deserve props for sticking with the exact same formula for 19 years—that’ll have to do, because credit for possessing an ounce of talent, creativity or humor ain’t coming. Coasting this long on an unbalanced load of the two worst guitarists in metal (Kerry King, Jeff Hanneman), two of its best drummers (originally Dave Lombardo, now Paul Bostaph) and inhumanly larynx-shredding vocals (Tom Araya) borders on self-parody, like Spinal Tap with cholesterol. Soon, Slayer may be dragging their fat asses onto state fair stages—thanks, God.

HALFCOCKED The Last Star (DreamWorks) A covert gene-splice of Guns N’ Roses and V.I.P. escaped from a Hollywood science lab, Halfcocked is every red-blooded male (and some female) rocker’s wet dream come true. Ex-Salt Laker Charlee Johnsson (one of the most ferocious rock drummers Zion has ever seen) pounds his skins into submission behind singer Sarah “Starr” Reitkopp, guitarist “Mad Dog” Jaime Richter (the band’s hot-chick Half; equally smoldering bassist Regina Zernay joined after recording) and lead guitarist Johnny Rock in a slick, hip-grinding Sunset Strip trash-rock orgy that screams 1988. Hard rock was fun back then; Halfcocked is right now.

LIVE V (Radioactive) Five albums in 10 years—seems like far too many, doesn’t it? Ed Kowalsczyk & Co. probably like to think that they’re deathless artistes on par with REM and U2, but refusal to just go away does not an expansive career make. Adding insult to inanity, V features production and instrumental contributions from members of Eleven, a vastly superior fellow ’90s band. Convenient Middle-Eastern spirituality is still Ed’s foremost annoying trait, outpacing even his squeak-thin voice, which sounds more like a castrated Paul Simon all the time. And then … he raps … the horror …

Bill Frost

The evidence was almost indisputable: In August, the band’s website (www.scots.com) featured an announcement that on Sept. 8, 2001, SCOTS would headline the 21st anniversary party of the world’s foremost animal rights champions, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). And the popular “Recipes” section of the site now contained meat-of-wheat blueprints for corn dogs, “Mamaw’s Mock Meatloaf,” and some atrocity called “Burgoo.” The ostensible betrayal—Judas’ belch?—was devastating. Even barnyard animals in line for slaughter raised middle hooves and feathers in contempt.

But despite the evidence, SCOTS fans know better. The band, singer-guitarist Rick Miller, singer-bassist Mary Huff, drummer Dave Hartman and multi-instrumentalist Chris “Cousin Crispy” Bess, encompasses a porch-perched, barbecue-scarfin’ hillbilly image and a propensity for churning country, rock, R&B and surf into a finger-lickin’ good groove. The recipes were temporary, and the show was just another gig. PETA just didn’t know who they hired.

“I don’t know why the hell they had us, to be honest with you,” drawls Miller, high on the aftertaste of his lunch, an “awesome” plate of jalapeño sausage, beef brisket and ribs.

Hartman adds, “Some of the things they were saying … they weren’t trying to toe any middle ground. We were looking at each other like, ‘Oh, my God. If they knew anything about us, they would lynch us right here.’ It was like Marilyn Manson or Slayer playing a Southern Baptist convention.”

PETA presented SCOTS with a list of dos and don’ts—no leather shoes, et al—and the band had to drastically alter their show by changing or excising songs that referenced meat or animal byproducts; no small task for the would-be poster band for Carnivore Pride Day. Gone were “Hittin’ on Nothing”—on the setlist but pulled at the last second when Miller remembered a line about a mink coat—“Too Much Pork For Just One Fork” and live staple “Eight Piece Box,” during which the band tosses fried chicken into the audience. It was the first time “Eight Piece Box” was omitted since a 1992 prison tour, where officials nixed the chicken for fear the bones would later be used as shanks. “We did open with ‘Run, Chicken, Run,’” says Hartman, “but that’s an instrumental, so they had no way of knowing.”

“If they knew how many chickens have lost their lives for us to further our careers,” says Miller, “we’d have been in big trouble. It was fun, though. We can get along with anybody.”

If SCOTS dodged certain disaster that evening, they certainly did again on Sept. 9, when they departed New York for their home state of North Carolina. “We got one of the last views of the World Trade Center,” Miller says soberly. “That was weird, to be there, to be that close to the whole terrorist situation.”

“It was kind of a weird thing,” says Hartman, “because the weekend before that, we were in Johnstown, Penn., which is less than 50 miles from where that other plane crashed. Then, we were in Texas all this last week, where they keep finding stuff out. We’re in Arizona now, and if they start finding people in Arizona, I’m really gonna start thinking this is weird.”

Since at least one hijacker is known to have lived in Arizona for a time, the weirdness might manifest as a group of cow-worshipping Sikhs bent on punishing SCOTS for their meaty transgressions—but we’ll save that theory for a future


episode of Behind the Music. The band is simply making a final round of the states supporting their sixth album, Liquored Up & Lacquered Down (TVT).

Recorded in winter ’99 at Kudzu Ranch, Miller’s “totally old school” 24-track home studio, LU&LD revisits SCOTS’ more countrified Ditch Diggin’ (Safe House, 1994) era, toning down the rock as heard on their last DGC release (1997’s Plastic Seat Sweat), dipping a toe into Tex-Mex on the title track and ’60s pop on “Just How Lonely.” “I think we were just ready for that,” explains Miller. “We did the whole thing with the major label and I think they had a little bit of an influence on us to move in a little more rock because they were just all about radio airplay. That just doesn’t work for us.”

Initially, the plan was to release the record on their own, as they did with the 1998 horror-themed EP, Zombified. But once the record was nearly complete, eMusic.com and TVT Records stepped in and offered to jointly release it online and to retail. So far, so great, says Miller, who envisions doing the same after SCOTS returns to Kudzu Ranch in November to cook up another mess of tunes. They’re stopping in Salt Lake City on the way back, for the first time since 1998, when they transformed the Zephyr Club and a capacity crowd into a veritable backwoods juke joint full of hooting hillbillies.

Incidentally, thieves lifted Miller’s “Boogie Machine” Les Paul guitar and Huff’s cherished Fender Precision Bass in the aftermath, only to anonymously return them unscathed to SCOTS’ Chicago-based management company six months later. No hard feelings from the band, and Miller says he can’t wait to get back to SLC.

“[Last time] was really amazing,” he says. “It’s been so long … I’m lookin’ forward to playin’ there again. We’ll have a good time. Oh, yeah, man. We’ll make a mess. We’ll get it messy. Tell ’em to get ready. We’re gonna do some slippery smooth and in the groove, man.”

And there’s gonna be chicken!

Southern Culture on the Skids with Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Liquid Joe’s, 1249 E. 3300 South, 467-JOES, Monday Oct. 8, 9:30 p.m.

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