Monday, May 26, 2008

The BirdDogs - Interview! Pontiac blues-punk!

photo: Daniel Throesch
The BirdDogs - stick to the roots.

By: Rich Tupica

If Led Zeppelin were in the final stages of rabies during their prime they likely would have sounded much like the Detroit-via-Pontiac band The BirdDogs. The band’s first release, 2007’s ‘The Great Baptist Witch Hunt’, is stocked with dark-blues riffs, guitar solos, shouts and lyrics that in no way paint a picture of love or understanding. Rusty sharp objects, killing people, the devil and going fucking crazy is what Robbie Buxton, 29, lead vocalist and guitarist, preaches while kicking out three chord punk, followed by Stones tinged American roots tunes.
The band is currently recording their second full length record at their home studio and are always gigging around Detroit.
Be sure to check out one of their shows before Buxton follows through with some of the demented shit he howls about.
Here is what he recently had to say, read on.

Full name, age, hometown?
Buxton, 29, born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan.

When did you first start playing music?
"I didn't pick up a guitar until after high school. I had little to no musical talent at that point. The only thing that really existed was a love for rock & roll. At a very young age I would sneak into my aunts bedroom and listen to vinyl - things like T-Rex, Zeppelin, Nugent and Beefheart. I always dreamed of playing guitar but it wasn't something I was too ambitious about. I suppose I was 19 or 20 when I really got into it. My folks had this old acoustic sitting around. The strings must have been an inch off the frets. I took it home and played the thing every night after work. I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom listening to Hendrix and The Yardbirds, trying to pluck out something that sounded right. Once i developed my knowledge of the guitar i got into
the banjo and mandolin a bit as well.

Young dude: Robbie jamming out many moons ago.

Were you in any bands before The BirdDogs?
"For the longest time I played alone. Other than picking up some chords from an instructional book I was completely self taught. I was pretty wrapped up in my own little world musically. One day I purchased a four-track cassette recorder. I started goofing around with that and it wasn't long after that I started thinking about how cool it would be to have a band to record. I put out some fliers at music stores and I formed a band called Out By Fall. We played one show. It was pretty bad. The only thing that came of that mess was our drummer Jarvis, who wasn't a drummer at the time. He played bass."

How did the BirdDogs form? How long have you been together?
"We formed in late 2005. We had two guitar players in Out By Fall. It was decided that my writing and playing were too 'bombastic' and that it just wasn't going to work out. Everybody went separate ways. I was really bummed but I went right back to work with my four-track with some new ideas. A few months later Jarvis called me out of nowhere. I invited him over and he brought me a bag of tomatoes from his garden. I showed him what I had been up to with my four-track. He wanted in on it. He was the first person who really believed in what I was doing. I remember seeing an old drum kit at his house and I asked him if he'd be interested in playing drums instead of bass. He had very minimal training on drums but we both had the patience to help one another develop. I had access to this run down carlot in Pontiac. We set up our equipment there and played just about every day over the next year. We added Ben on bass in late 2006. He is a longtime friend of mine. He was sick of the bands he was playing in. He came out to one of our first shows as a two piece. It wasn't long after that he joined the band. Recently we added a tambourine player. He deems himself as Mr. Nicely."

Where was your first show? What do you recall about it?
"Our first show was at this bar north of Clarkston called The Deer Lake Inn. It was horrible. At this point we had a handful of originals, a couple souped up Big Bill Broonzy covers and I believe we also covered something off the Soledad Brothers' self titled. There were only about seven people there. They hated us. The bartender kept coming over telling us to turn down. We sold one of our demos for a few bucks. We were both so broke. I remember taking that money, buying a couple 40s."

photo: Daniel Throesch
BirdDogs: (left-right) Jarvis Logan, Ben Littles, Robbie Buxton.

How would you describe your band's sound?
"I'm not sure what we sound like. We're still figuring that out. It's hard to pin us. We have so many different influences. Our first full length was sort of a blend of everything. You can hear blues, punk and country in there, it's quite an interesting mix. We even threw in an old hymn I remember hearing often in church as a child. These days we are much more focused in our endeavors. The next record is really shaping into something we are all very proud of. We are more comfortable with each other. I am really growing as a songwriter and we're all starting to understand the concept of recording a good record."

What are some other Detroit area bands you are digging?
"Right now I'm recording and co-producing a tripped out record for Friends of Dennis Wilson. I'm really into their music. They are so fucking intense. They put so much into what they do. I also dig stuff like Heroes and Villains as well as some of the other X! Records stuff. I've been listening to my Blanche records as well. There's too much to list really."

How many shows have you guys played so far? Any tours or records you guys have planned?
"As for shows, it would be difficult to count. We spent a lot of time playing to nobody starting off. It's nice to see folks coming out to shows now. As for a tour, it's in the air that we might head out west this fall. We're playing the Deep Blues Festival out in Wisconsin again this summer, we'll probably add a few dates to that trip. We are currently working on our second full length that we are calling 'The Satanic Troubadours Audio Almanac'. We're all very excited about our work in the studio."

Have you been following the presidential race? If so, who are you rooting for?
"I follow what's going on but it's hard for me to pick or choose. It's all so very rotten and corrupt."

photo: James Thomas
Goodnight!: BirdDogs at The Belmont

What are you doing when you're not playing music?
"I've built my own 16-track analog recording studio. I record a lot of Detroit Bands when I'm not recording my own. Aside from that I'm painfully boring. I won't burden you with details."

The BirdDogs go from minimal to bluesy rock within the same tune, what are some bands that helped to influence that sound?
"When we first started recording I remember sitting around the studio listening to a lot of Fat Possum vinyl, stuff like Junior Kimbrough, RL Burnside, Robert Belfour and T-Model Ford, whom we will have the privilege of sharing a stage with at the Deep Blues Festival this year. I fell in love with the simplicity and rawness of those recordings. That's just those guys being who they are. That's really what we want to capture with our recordings. We want you to know who we are when we're recording. We will continue recording in such a manner but we're growing. Our sound is constantly changing. The next record will be a bit more complex. We've really started studying music. Going into record this time around we've all been listening to records like 'Their Satanic Majesties Request' by the Stones and a lot of The Beatles albums. We're now adding instruments like dulcimers to our work now. We're anxious to get it out."

Who writes the songs in the band?
"I write the songs. I'll come up with a ditty on the guitar or a few chords, then comes a few lyrics that I later construct into a full song. If the idea is solid I take it to the band at rehearsal. If it feels good we go with it, if it doesn't then we move on. We used to record songs pretty quick after their conception. Nowadays we're spending more time breaking things down, trying different things, building things up and tearing them down. Ben and Jarvis have much more input with the song structure now."

Why are you called The BirdDogs? Is there a story behind the name?
" We just wanted something that sounded old. Gene Vincent has a song that I love called 'Bird Doggin'. That's where the initial idea came to me."

Are you guys going to college?
"None of us currently attend college. I went to school for a couple years studying architecture and construction technology, prior to that I attended seminary school for a short period of time. Currently I play guitar and sing in a rock'n'roll band, I also work in a junk yard - go figure."

photo: Rebecca Solano
BirdDogs: Mr. Nicely is center!

You guys self-released a record. Who recorded it and how can people get it?
"We recorded it. We have a 16-track reel to reel. Ben and I did the majority of the recording, engineering and mixing work. We sent it out to Saff Mastering down in Chicago for the final touches. We began recording immediately after adding Ben to the lineup so what you hear on the record is basically us getting to know one another. We tried a lot of different things as we had no real pressure in the comforts of our own studio. There's a minimalistic feel to it yet we did things like reversing the tape to lay down a few backwards guitar tracks. If folks are interested in obtaining a copy of 'The Great Baptist Witch Hunt' they only need to contact us on MySpace."

What is a goal the band is working on right now?
"We'd like to get out on tour more often. We always have a huge response when we play out of state. We've also just started recording a new record. We'd like to have it out by late summer."

The BirdDogs are:
Jarvis Logan - Drums
Robbie Buxton - Guitar, Vocals
Ben Littles - Bass
Mr. Nicely - Tambourine, Yelps & Howls


Upcoming BirdDogs Shows:

Jun 21 2008, 6:00pm
The Bohemian Nation Home
Detroit, Michigan

Jul 18 2008, 12:00 (noon)
Deep Blues Music & Film Festival
Lake Elmo, Minnesota

Jul 19 2008, 11:00pm
4th Street Fair
Detroit, Michigan

Jul 25 2008, 9:00pm
The Lager House
Detroit, Michigan

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