TOM POTTER Interview! Fuck All Ya'll That Don't Read This
Bantam! Tom Potter & his 'signature licks photo: Amy Cook
By: Rich Tupica
Where is Tom Potter? Why hasn't he put out any records lately? A few years ago Bantam Rooster was touring the United States and Europe promoting albums on Crypt Records and Sympathy For The Record Industry, now Potter has all but fallen off the map of Detroit music, well, actually he did.
Potter and his wife recently packed up and moved out of the motor city to a much cleaner and less violent area of Michigan, since then there hasn't been so much as a 7" single.
From the birth of the distinct Bantam sound in 1994 to the last LP in 2000 entitled 'Fuck All Y'all', every record hauled more ass than the one before it, which is why I am demanding a new Bantam Rooster album! Fuck, I want two more.
Rather than speculate or ponder, I figured I'd better harass T. Jackson Potter and see what he's actually been up to these days. Come to find out, he's in the process of starting a new band as well as writing screenplays. Oh yeah, he also answers the question "will there ever be a new Bantam Rooster album?"
Hey Tom, I'm curious to know why you moved from Detroit to Muskegon, Michigan? That's a drastic change of location.
"I suppose it was kind of a weird move. I don’t know, there are a lot of different factors involved as to why we moved over here. I was pretty burnt out on Detroit, not that there's not still plenty of folks I love in that town, just music and life in general. I really needed a change and to get away. What better place than a town where one can buy a house cheap and live walking distance to the beach. Besides, Detroit's not that far and I'm still back there once or twice a month. I have had a few folks come and hang out here. Jim Diamond was just over and spent an evening at the horse track with me. Chicago, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and Lansing are all pretty close too in case I start feeling 'too isolated'. Hell, I can even walk from my house and grab the ferry to Milwaukee."
I see you are writing screenplays? How long have you been doing this for?
"I've been doing it for a couple years now. Still getting my foot in the door, but it's coming along great! I was a finalist in the BlueCat Competition, which is run by Gordy Hoffman, Phillip Seymour's brother and writer of the killer indie flick 'Love Liza' , so that was pretty encouraging. Just got off the phone with Gordy this afternoon and he had a lot of cool shit to say, so I feel I'm on the right track. I really can't discuss what they're about, but can say, in general, my screenplays are pretty darkly funny with a lil' grit thrown in. I've got one project that I worked with Theresa Kereakes, a punk-rock photographer, and Ed from Cobra Verde on. Theresa is currently shopping that around."
Bob Seger Liberation Army, there is some 7" singles, but will there ever be anymore Seger material coming out? If so, on what label?
"It's kind of strange that a one off project of old Seger covers has gone this far but yes, we were just in the studio recording four more tracks which Big Neck will be putting out on CD along with the other two singles. I guess it's not so strange when you consider they're all great songs."
What gave you the inspiration to record the old Seger songs?
"Well, we'd been drinking...honestly, it all came about because Fred Beldin (ex El Smasho/Clutters, current End Times) had time booked with Jim Diamond to record a band he had together. The band broke up a few days before the session so Diamond and I told Fred to come down anyway and we'd 'do something'. Jim Weber was living in Detroit at the time so we pulled him in on bass and got Pat Pantano to play drums, we still had no idea what we were going to do. The night before someone suggested doing an old Seger cover but everyone had different favorites. Rather than argue about it we decided to cut four of 'em."
What is your fondest memory of the Detroit-scene blow-up that happened a few years ago?
"To be honest, Detroit was a lot more fun, for me, before the blow-up. Bantam was already putting out records, touring the U.S. and Europe but we could still come back to Detroit and play in front of the same fifty people and have a blast. Still, it was nice to have more people turn out for shows. It was fun being in Europe and running into pals from Detroit, "Oh, we're in London and the Soledad Brothers are playing up the street" and so on. So it was kind of cool that more bands from town were getting recognition. I'm not a big fan of 'hype' and all that. It was nice while it lasted, I suppose, and I think most of us tried our best to take full advantage, but in the end I guess I don’t really care if the NME likes me or not. I’d rather hang out with my friends than chat up some 'music writer' or 'label shill' who knows nothing about good music."
Tom Potter, chain' smokin'
photo: Theresa Kereakes
Bantam Rooster, the songs you wrote in that band have "signature licks" that were catchy, spazzy and sometimes downright obnoxious, does the new material you're currently working on resemble that style at all?
"Yeah, I'm kind of gettin' back into that. The new band is pretty primal but in a more early Alice Cooper, Scientists, AC-DC kind of way. The new Bantam stuff I'm working on is definitely in that vein though because, well, it's Bantam Rooster."
How long has this new band been together? Who else is in this outfit and will the Potter-maniacs ever get to see a gig?
"Haven’t been together too long, maybe six months. I'm playing guitar and singing. We’ve got a Kalamazoo lad, Sean Barney (The Breaks, The Menthols) on guitar. Our bass player, Marc Savage, as always, yes…that’s his real name and drummer, Michael Shenighan are both from Grand Rapids and are also both in a punk band called The Bitters. They’re great guys and, for me, this band is really going a long way toward making music fun to play again. It’ll probably be a couple months yet before we play out, but we will. Still haven’t settled on a name, any suggestions?"
Over the years, on your tours with Bantam, Dirtbombs or Detroit City Council, what is a crazy-ass story that happened while on the road?
"Are you looking for a 'crazy ass story' or a 'crazy ASS story'? There’s plenty of both, maybe someday I’ll write them down but I much prefer to be drunk and have you in a lockdown monologue when sharing such tales… otherwise, I’d have to change the names to protect the not-so-innocent."
How old were you and where were you living when you first began writing songs and playing guitar? What's the story of how Potter got started in music?
"Got my first guitar at the tender age of 12 in Charlotte, Michigan. There was an old man in town that ran a combination dry cleaners/Christian book store/music store, oh, and he also sold rock-polishing equipment. He had racks of these rusted out guitars. My first was a Teisco Del Ray. It was a blue knock off of the Vox diamond-shape guitar, it cost $60. I took lessons from my friend’s older brother long enough to learn bar chords and then I was done with that. My first attempts at writing songs were in high school but I really didn’t get decent at it until later after being in a few bands."
What ever happened to the Detroit City Council? They were here one second, and then gone the next?
"Actually, the Detroit City Council started out as kind of a quasi-solo project thing. I had all these songs that weren’t Bantam songs in my head. I was listening to a lot of guitar based funk blues stuff like Bo Diddley’s Black Gladiator and Black Merda and stuff like that. So I went into Diamond’s studio and we started calling people to come in and lay down tracks. Half of Detroit is on those recordings, practically all the Dirtbombs (Diamond, Ewolf, Mick, Ben, Pat, Ko), Danny Dollrod played some killer guitar on it, Deanne from The Come Ons, as well as a lot of the guys who would eventually make up the band. From that, I got a deal with Acid Jazz Records in the U.K. so I figured it was time to put together a proper band, and it was a really fucking good one. For a while things were going pretty damn well. Went back in the studio and recorded some more, Acid Jazz released two singles, we did a very successful tour of the U.K. with The Electric Six… and then everything kind of went to shit."
So what was the begining of the end for Detroit City Council?
"I don’t want to point any fingers, let’s just say that balls were being dropped left and right. Then one of our guitar players, Danny Maister, died and that really took a lot out of all of us. Our bass player, Matt O’Brien quit. We got a couple new guys, and a new manager and carried on a while longer but, after all we’d been through, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore. It’s a shame because there’s a whole CDs worth of great stuff that’ll probably never see the light of day but, fuck it, despite all the tragedy, we had a pretty fun run of it for a while."
Jumping back, again, why did you decide to break-up Bantam Rooster back in 2002-2003, or so?
"Actually, I never really ended Bantam I suppose. I just hit a point around that time where I was busy with the Detroit City Council and The Dirtbombs and couldn’t give 100% to Bantam...and Bantam Rooster kind of requires 100%."
There is always the hope of the infamous "Last Bantam Rooster Album", will this ever be recorded and released?
"Well, let’s just say that Long Gone John (Sympathy Records) has been emailing me asking about it. I hung out with Nick Lloyd (ex Dirtys/The Moonlight and the third Bantam Rooster drummer) a few times over the summer and we’ve been talking about it and, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve been doing a bit of writing in that vein."
Dirtbombs! Tom Potter & Mick Collins at Maxwell's
Tom's NEW BAND CHROME SPIDERS
Everything Bantam Rooster
Bantam Pics NYC 2001
Bantam Pics 2000 at Fallout Records
Bantam Rooster profile at Motor City Rocks
Bantam Rooster profile at Metro Times Detroit
Tom Potter is in this film
Bantam Rooster on All Music Guide
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