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Scott H. Biram.

I SAW QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE at the Fillmore the night after I saw Scott N. Biram solo at Thee Parkside in San Francisco, CA, and I enjoyed Scott's show 10 times more. No offense to Queens, they were rad, but Scott's self-described "dirty, old one-man band" had a captivating immediacy that big rock shows rarely reach. On stage Scott is a man possessed, spitting and snarling like a Mississippi juke-joint shouter on a moonshine bender. He ended the show with a harmonica and vocal holler accompanied solely by the intoxicated claps of the audience. It was a moment of transcendence where the lines between audience and entertainer, past and present melted away. Try and get that at the next mega-rock show you go to. I dare you

Scott admits he is still amazed when everything comes together just right. "Yeah it's a trip, punk rockers down with old blues and stuff." Still, after the past few years of steady touring, he is getting used to more and more receptive audiences. "It's getting to where I know people in almost every town I go to. I can see old friends a lot of the time. They all have the CD and everything."

I was curious if, being a solo act, he ever gets lonely on the road. "Usually I take one person with me to help sell stuff. That's the most important thing," he said. "Next comes driving and loading. On the last tour it was five and half weeks up north in the snow, the whole right side of the United States. I did that all by myself. I thought I would kind of lose it and get depressed, but really it was kind of nice to be on my own the whole time, make my own decisions and everything."

I still wondered where a guy gets the cajones to head out into the night to lay his soul bare and unaccompanied at the mercy of a jaded and over-stimulated America. Obviously growing up in close proximity to Austin, Texas helped. Then again, maybe it's the fact that Scott shares the same birthday with Muddy Waters and Robert Downey Jr. In the end, I believe going solo was just a natural musical progression for Scott.

"When I was younger, my uncle turned me on to old ZZ Top and stuff like that," he recalls. "That gave me a little bit of a feel for the blues sound. Plus my dad listened to Leadbelly and Lightnin' Hopkins." While painting his way through a bachelor's degree in fine arts, Scott was in a punk band called the Thangs. "We were metal-psychedelic-punk or something. All through high school we listened to a lot of Butthole Surfers, Black Flag, and Misfits. It was kind of our version of all that."

In college Scott's roommate started making him compilations of obscure blues recordings. "He made me all these compilations with different, old blues guys, and I used to listen to it. I just loved it." Around the same time Scott got an acoustic guitar and started playing in a bluegrass band. "That was mostly because it was fast, and I was already playing fast stuff before. Then I got into listening to old field recordings--chain gang recordings and stuff like that, the Alan Lomax stuff. That was a big influence. I guess I just felt that whole part about opening your heart. They're singing from the bottom of their hearts. When they're working, that's what's getting them through the day. There's no reason to hold back out there; I related to that. Plus it's kind of a painful thing, the blues. It's a release of crap on your chest, you know? It works for me; it's like getting shit off my chest. Now that I started doing the rock with that--it's even more like that. When I was in high school and college screaming into the microphone, yelling in my band, I always said, and I still mean it, that it's like some kind of therapy. It releases this tension in my chest when I'm screaming like that. It's a stress reliever.

"The last band I was in, Bluegrass Drive-By, that's where I got my touring wings. We traveled all over the country, about three or four tours. Then we broke up because it wasn't going in the direction I wanted to. I wanted to stay with the old style, instead of this bullshit, fuckin' Grateful Dead-soundin', crap bluegrass.

"We broke up, and I was working--I mean, I had a college degree and everything--cooking in a restaurant, and that band broke up and I just said screw it. I quit on Christmas Eve three years ago. I started booking really hard all my shows. I took any gig I could get. I figured even if I just made 30 bucks, it was 30 dollars more than I would have and I would get some free beer. And all I had to do was play some music. It just grew from there. I kept taking any gig I could get. The momentum has been growing and growing, and I just keep getting more and more opportunities. Now I can pay my rent and pay off my van. I'm actually getting somewhere with it."

Scott has four self-produced albums under his belt including his latest Dirty Old One Man Band, on Bloodshot records. He should be passing through your town soon so make sure to check him out.
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Author:Sterling, Eben
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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