Brian Setzer Discusses His New Album, 'Rockabilly Riot: All Original'
Brian Setzer will release a new studio album, Rockabilly Riot: All Original — a straight-ahead rockabilly album from start to finish — August 12 via Surfdog Records.
The album is the followup to 2011's Setzer Goes Instru-Mental!
The album, which features Mark Winchester (bass), Kevin McKendree (piano) and Noah Levy (drums), was recorded in Nashville and produced by Peter Collins.
“They seem to know what it should sound like," Setzer says about the crew that worked on the new album. "Peter Collins is experienced and an accomplished producer, he’s done a lot of records, but he loves rockabilly music and he knows what it should sound like.
“I think this album sounds to me a little bit like the first Stray Cats record…it's rockabilly songs. It’s not just blues songs in the rockabilly style. People like to call it ‘neo-billy,’ I suppose, which is some invented word somebody came up with, but if that’s the word they want to use, I’d like to go with that because it sounds to me like it’s very modern and fresh-sounding rockabilly.”
Here's a quick Q&A with Setzer:
Congratulations on the new album. There's something gloriously uncomplicated about rockabilly. It’s both badass and uplifting. How do you describe rockabilly?
Rockabilly music should be up there in regards with blues music. It should be playing in arenas. And, I think, it’s better than the blues because it has a style to it, it has accomplished musicians playing it and it’s totally American. So I think it’s very underrated music that should be more in the forefront of our culture.
Can you talk about the joy you had creating this specific rockabilly album?
You know, when my guitar and my amp and my echo unit are playing perfectly and in tune the way they do there’s no reason to turn it off. I was on the road for two months. I had given the songs I’d written to all the band members and we hadn’t arranged them. So this record was different where we didn’t have to sit down and labor over arrangements, everything was learned, and my guitar sound sounded so good I just made the record. We didn’t need to change guitars, amps, microphones—we just cut a rockabilly record—there’s no overdubs there’s no splicing there’s no auto tuning; what you hear is what you get. It’s pretty much us making live music.
Tell us about the chemistry in the studio between you, producer Peter Collins and the musicians who joined you on the album.
I think the only way you can make a better rockabilly record is if you get Elvis to sing…because Mark Winchester Kevin McKendree and Noah Levy are the best in their craft. Nobody plays a better slap bass than Mark. Kevin McKendree calls himself a “rockabilly piano player,” I’ve never heard anybody say that. And Noah just has a very swampy, groovy feel, which makes the whole thing sound kinda loose. Peter Collins…it’s funny how English people seem to have a more sensibility about what rockabilly music is, even though it was invented in the South…they seem to know what it should sound like. Peter Collins is experienced and an accomplished producer, he’s done a lot of records, but he loves rockabilly music and he knows what it should sound like.
What do you feel ultimately separates this album from your previous ones?
I’ve made a lot of records. I think this album is pretty similar to two albums I’ve cut in the past. It sounds to me a little be like Ignition: Part 2 and also like the first Stray Cats record. It’s rockabilly songs. It’s not just blues songs in the rockabilly style. People like to call it “neo-billy,” I suppose, which is some invented word that somebody came up with, but if that’s the word they want to use, I’d like to go with that because it sounds to me like it’s very modern and fresh-sounding rockabilly.
“Let’s Shake” is a burning up-tempo tune, a perfect setup for the rest of the album and a terrific single. Can you talk about this song’s mojo?
Yeah, “Let’s Shake” — how come no one has thought of that title yet? We’ve been making rock ‘n roll now for 60 years and no one has come up with “Let’s Shake”? And I came up with it and I went, “Wow…Let’s Shake!” You know, oh god, it’s just so simple it’s magic. It’s got a really great guitar solo in it, just rock ‘n roll sounding…it’s not really “billy” sounding it’s more rock and roll. And, you know, there’s a difference. The rockabilly has a more of a slap back hillbilly sound and the rock and roll is more tough. Oh god, it’s got that great, I think it’s from 1928 piano. It’s a Steinway. Again, it’s the simplest songs that are the hardest to write.
Another highlight of the album is “Vinyl Records.” Speaking of which, what are your three favorite vinyl records you own or once owned?
Gene Vincent, Blue Jean Bop; Eddie Cochran, Greatest Hits, and Elvis Presley, The Sun Sessions.
Rockabilly Riot: All Original Track Listing:
01. Let’s Shake
02. Rockabilly Blues
03. Vinyl Records
04. Lemme Slide
05. Nothing Is a Sure Thing
06. What’s Her Name
07. Calamity Jane
08. The Girl With the Blues in Her Eyes
09. Stiletto Cool
10. I Should Have Had a V8
11. Blue Lights Big City
12. Cock-a-Doodle Don’t