Brian Henneman, lead singer of the Bottle Rockets, isn’t the least bit concerned the potential havoc that the Y2K bug could wreak on humanity.
All that matters is that he has an acoustic guitar and he knows how to use it.
“Helpless,” a track off the group’s second Doolittle/Mercury album, “Brand New Year” (released Aug. 10), says it all for Henneman.
“That’s me kind of screaming alone in the desert,” he said recently, “because I’m the only one in the band who doesn’t own a computer. I think computers are evil. I hate them. It’s ruined the world of live music and god knows what else. It’s a good tool, but so is a hammer, and I prefer the hammer.
“I’m not intimidated by computers. I’m just turned off by the whole isolationism sect of the whole thing, passing it off as a communal thing when really it’s just locking people in their rooms all day long.”
One thing’s for sure, Henneman says, computers have been great for the ecology around the rock band’s native Festus, Mo., south of St. Louis along the Mississippi River.
“Here, in this part of the country, when I was a kid everything was worn down with trails from kids playing up and down the hillsides,” he said. “Like there’s no trails anymore. It’s all lush vegetation. I mean, what are kids going to do outside? It’s boring out there. They’re too busy with the Internet, where you can find out everything on how to bake cookies to toilet-cam shots of gay teenage she-males.”
Henneman’s sense of humor and the band’s collective cynicism fuels “Brand New Year,” a power-rock throwback to the 1970s, when ZZ Top and Foghat ruled the airwaves and musicianship was fancied over image.
“I wish it was 1969,” Henneman said. “We’d probably have airplanes and limos, that’s how out of place we feel today. The thing is, we have this built-in tendency to do like the worst thing for us. In 1988, when we were in the band before this, basically the same band, the uncoolest thing you could’ve done at the time was play country music, so that’s what we did. And now we make this classic-rock album and that’s about the uncoolest thing you can do right now. We can’t help it.”
As for the Y2K bug, Henneman says he and his band mates – singer-guitarist Tom Parr, bassist Robert Kearns and drummer Mark Ortmann – have a few conspiracy theories, all involving Microsoft ruler Bill Gates.
“It’s way too involved to get into, but these are the kinds of things we think about when we’re driving thousands of miles in a van,” Henneman said. “It involves Hardees restaurants. Like, have you ever seen a big crowd at Hardees? I never have. And every time you go in there, it’s all old people.
“We figure they’re stations that Bill Gates has set up to somehow confiscate old people, so when Y2K crashes everything, these old people are the only people left on Earth that will know how to run coal-operated things and he’ll have them run it just long enough so he can sail through here before he gets the new system up and running again. He’s abducting them through Hardees. He’s feeding them biscuits and gravy in the morning and luring them in.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: ” ‘Something’s Happening’ by Paul Revere and the Raiders. I was a little kid, and they used to sell records in grocery stores. I couldn’t decide if I wanted that one or Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, and I’m glad I got the one I did. Right after that, I bought a 45 of ‘Yummy, Yummy, Yummy,’ also at the same grocery store. The next week, I got the 45 of ‘A Boy Named Sue’ by Johnny Cash. All that in three weeks was my introduction into recorded music.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Cheap Trick and Graham Parker and the Rumour in 1979, my first regular pot-smoking concert. I saw Ricky Nelson with my mom when I was younger, but that doesn’t count. I got to see him do ‘Garden Party’ right at the peak of his comeback. I saw Cheap Trick right after they had just released ‘Budokan’ in the United States. I remember the day I bought the tickets, in fact; it was the day that Skylab was falling to Earth and it was all over the radio. Our band reminds me sometimes of Cheap Trick in that our timing with the music industry is always really bad. You can see where it leads you, you end up on the road till you’re like 70 years old. They somehow totally missed the MTV era; that band was tailor-made for MTV and they never capitalized on it at all.”
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