The Next Rig Thing

Covering the tracks of Truckers on Speed's raucous new CD

Before www.truckersonspeed.com was up and running, all routes of Truckers on Speed Web information led to P.A.T.T. Who's P.A.T.T.? Parents Against Tired Truckers, that's who!

Ever since Mothers Against Drunk Drivers realized they were M.A.D.D. (cool!), folks have been organizing under any cause, just as long as the initials spell out something catchy. Mothers Against Deadbeat Dads realized their initials also would be M.A.D.D., but what possessed them to settle on this alternative -- Mothers Against Fathers in Arrears (M.A.F.I.A.)? What's that about -- mob kingpins who enter the witness protection program and don't take the family along? Ever wonder why dads never make a decision without consulting Mom? Check out Dads Against Discrimination, which blows, since the initials just spell out D.A.D. Once united, parental units will rail against just about anything from speeding teens (P.A.S.T.) to Ritalin (P.A.R.) to childhood epilepsy (P.A.C.E.).

One listen to Somebody Somewhere, the sophomore effort from Truckers, and you can bet Tempe will have a chapter of P.A.T.H.O.S (Parents Against Truckers High on Speed) picketing the band's shows. Case in point, track five: "Irish Speedball." To the best of my lyric-detection abilities, the song entails some vehicular recklessness:

Truckers on Speed: Just your typical sweaty, tattooed, hillbilly grungemeisters.
Kevin Scanlon
Truckers on Speed: Just your typical sweaty, tattooed, hillbilly grungemeisters.
The band's "Irish Speedball" is an ode to vehicular recklessness.
Kevin Scanlon
The band's "Irish Speedball" is an ode to vehicular recklessness.

Glory Revival till the break of dawn

Rollin' my Jeep just to have some fun

Something something something -- makes no sense to run

Gotta thank God I didn't kill no one

Truckers on Speed's singer-songwriter David Wolfmeyer told me what the "something something something" bit was, but since he sings and talks with a twang, I can't discern it from the interview tape. But affirmative on that loco motorvating, good buddy.

"That was Chad Hines' escapades on the first show he played with us," laughs Wolfmeyer about his lead guitarist's lapse of positive driving techniques. "We played with Glory Revival at the Sail Inn. And those guys are the ultimate in 'Don't Drink and Drive.' They would move their party from one place to another in this convoy of cabs." Hines decided he would make the short drive home a memorable one.

"I fell asleep behind the wheel," recalls Hines, "and I woke up missing a curve in the road. I had a Jeep and did what you're not supposed to do with an SUV. I took it over."

"Had anyone been riding with him, they would not have lived," Wolfmeyer shakes his head. "You should've seen this fuckin' thing." Hines walked away from the wreck with a tiny scratch on his elbow and a broken headstock on a shitty Dan Electro guitar.

"Welcome to rock 'n' roll, Chad," snickers Wolfmeyer. "We just figured we'd get all our stupid shit out of the way at the start of the band. Everybody you know can be distilled into one stupid event. I got plenty of 'em myself."

We'll get back to Truckers on Speed and the stupid events behind the new album, but first a brief band history. Wolfmeyer played in various Tempe bands that went nowhere in the mid-'90s before deciding to pick up and move to Seattle. Having arrived there close to the day grunge was officially cancelled, he found a thriving acoustic scene of open mikes in coffee houses and pubs -- but few if any drummers. It was there he formed an early version of Truckers on Speed that didn't really live up to the name. It could've been called D.A.D., for all it mattered.

Flash forward to May 1998. People are no longer calling Tempe the next Seattle, but people are calling Starbucks the next Nirvana. Wolfmeyer hooked up with drummer Mike Wood, guitarist Chad Hines and bassist/cellist Theron Wall and remembered the jokey name he'd used in the rainy city. Suddenly it fit. The band self-released a first CD, No Sense In Runnin' and established its Tuesday-night residency at Long Wong's. Wall left the band about seven months ago, shortly after the completion of the new CD, and was replaced by Shelby James, a singer-songwriter who plays acoustic Monday nights at Long Wong's.

Not as staunchly roots-based as many local cowboy-hat outfits, Truckers on Speed plays an open-minded mix of cow-punk and singer-songwriterisms, allowing the band to slot on the most eclectic of bills. Truckers has played the outdoor First Friday Art Festival with belly dancers. And there was the biker jamboree in Jerome, where lightning raged in the background and the concert organizers asked the band, "You boys about ready to go on? I think it's cleared up." Truckers recently played the largely hippie Earth Mother Mind Jam in a cloud of patchouli and incense. "It's the first time I ever wanted to get inside a bar because I couldn't breathe outside," laughs Wolfmeyer.

Even local radio has been playing the new tracks in prime-time hours. The guys have been on with Tim and Mark at KDKB, Tracy Lea at KZON and Stu D. Baker's free-form Americana show on KRXS. The album falls mainly under Hines' heading of "rock with a twang," but it contains some heavier sounds as well as traditional ones. Now, as promised, is the track-by-track discussion of Somebody Somewhere, with applicably tragic Behind the Music-style anecdotes thrown in.

1. "Somebody Somewhere": Actually, it's not a song per se, just some free-form radio scanning before a brief snatch of a song about a brief snatch that inspired a piece of Long Wong's toilet graffiti: "Somebody somewhere is sick of her shit." Ironically, one of the found AM sounds mentions carpal tunnel syndrome, which Wolfmeyer was afflicted with.

"I worked at a bakery in Seattle, putting twist-ties on bread, and got carpal tunnel. The owner was Transylvanian. He was nuts, like the bread Nazi. He was all about bringing bread to the people, but he only sold it in fuckin' Costco. You gotta pay a membership price to get his bread. That was his ass-backward logic. I quit that job when I started playing guitar and couldn't feel my hand various times of the day. They kept telling me they were gonna get a twist-tie machine, but they never did."

2. "I-10": A fine slice of what used to be called alt-country.

"What's called alt-country now, there's no trace of punk in it. Uncle Tupelo, Jason & the Scorchers, it has to have that kind of edginess to it," says Wolfmeyer. "Everyone's trying to out-Hank each other." In other words, alt-country has gone to traditional country now that mainstream country sounds like Captain and Tennille. "I don't think we ever considered ourselves alt-country, but we sort of embraced it a bit. It set us apart. It's just rock 'n' roll with a twang in it."

3. "Ice Cream": After hearing Hines play the ultimate lazy Lynyrd Skynrd riff, the fellas turn this sucker into the ultimate nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah song, singing "I've got ice cream, but you ain't gonna get none."

Wolfmeyer says, "That's just what the guitar was saying. 'Ice Cream' is more about kicking back and barbecuing with your friends. You get a guy like Willie Nelson or Paul McCartney, and they can take everyday, mundane shit and make something cool out of it in a song. That's the songwriting challenge."

4. "Omaha": "Omaha" is the last word uttered by Charlie Daniels in "Uneasy Rider," so this would probably be a good place to mention that one of Hines' favorite records is Million Mile Reflections by The Charlie Daniels Band. "I worked for KNIX for six or seven years; it was still the time when Buck Owens owned it. I was an on-air jock for five years and the real country format, Waylon, Willie, Merle Haggard, Ray Price. I played the last song they broadcast from Phoenix and the legal ID before they flicked the switch. When I got in my car, they were broadcasting from Dallas."

5. "Irish Speedball": There's no sense in going over Hines' Jeepster incident again unless we can prove the SUV tires were at fault. Let's instead turn our attention to kickass drummer Mike Wood, who talked up a storm about the Web site for 10 minutes before we sat down for an interview. He then rode out the interview with the mute button on, doing every thing one can do with a ride cymbal: wearing it on his head like a Japanese sun hat, threading fishing wire through the hole and suspending it like a piñata from his outstretched arm, spinning it on his finger and running his nail across it like a phonograph needle for a good half-hour, tapping out a Morse code message on its bell and finally making it disappear in the trap case. All of this went completely unacknowledged by the rest of the band. I suspect his full-on boycott of the press has something to do with the joke, "What do you call a guy who hangs around musicians?"

6. "Parasites & Vampires": "My sordid past," fesses Wolfmeyer. "A lot of the songs are about people I've known and dumb situations I got myself into. Here's my baggage, world, I'm gonna sing it to ya. I was involved with some friends and we all got into tweaking a little too much. Their house was like party central, and you'd end up listening to Tool and Rage for 12 hours at a time. I saw a dude do rails wider and longer than your arm. Everyone in the room's eyes would water because it hurt watching it."

7. "Sunshine": It should be noted that this track, like every other on the album, does not feature Shelby James playing bass. And James, being from Toledo and all, felt like maybe he shouldn't be in the CD cover art until the guys told him to shut up and pose for the photo. He joined the band, having never really played the bass before but figuring he'd give it a shot since he couldn't work or sing after a Halloween brawl left him with his jaw wired shut.

"I was going to a party with some friends, and we were really drunk. Somebody said something to someone else. I just remember me being on the bottom of a pile of guys, with me in the fetal position, pleading that these guys quit stomping on my head. I was in the hospital for a while and, when I came out, they had to rebuild my jaw. I was in Long Wong's when I heard they were auditioning bass players, and I was sedated enough to try it."

8. "Cindy Crawford (Shell-Shocked & Woodstalked)": The song with the most cultural references -- everything from supermodels to the Supersuckers, with whom the Truckers have played and whose booking agent is now securing dates for Truckers' late-summer Northwest tour. For a song that's just a banjo jamboree, it has the unlikely chorus of "Calgon, take me away" and a dirty request to "eat some mushrooms and ditch our clothes" that has C.A.T.O.S. (Calgonites Against Truckers on Speed) hopping mad.

9. "Wastes My Time": The most Stonesy tune on the album, and we're talking the Mick Taylor era. Incidentally, the last time the ex-Stone played in Tempe, it was at a sports bar, competing for attention with 12 television monitors on the side of the stage. Maria Vassett, who manages the Truckers, got the band to stop playing sports bars early on. It's gratifying to her that Tempe's Sport Rock Café is gone.

"The owner said, 'If the audience can't pay attention to the band, the band needs to go home and practice,' so the guys stopped playing [sports bars] entirely," she explains. "And now there really aren't any left."

10. "Dandelion": "Thought I was a flower, turned out I was a weed," sings Wolfmeyer, who once was told he had to wear a short-hair wig while working at a Safeway deli to keep the corporate guys happy. "My little brother worked at Fry's, and they made him do the same thing. Meanwhile, I'm working with Mexican chicks that have hair down to their asses. You're gonna tell me it's anything health-related?"

11. "Lightnin' Speed": A cover of a Piersons tune, which is fitting since we're sitting in the old rehearsal studio shared by that group, the Beat Angels and Dead Hot Workshop.

The band gives a shout out to Dead Hot drummer Steve Larson.

"If anybody's been a big brother to us, it's been Larson the whole time," says Wolfmeyer. "He books shows for us, helped me with my acoustic sets. He kicks ass. And PC hooked us up with this studio, and now it's us and Sonic Thrills in here."

12. "1500": You loved the number; now hear its song!

Wolfmeyer: "Some of these songs I'd written a long time ago and were going to be throwaways, but something happened to 'em when we recorded them. '1500' is a big one -- and 'Dandelion.'" Large credit goes to the band's legendary producer Clarke Rigsby, who's worked with everyone from Waylon Jennings to Paul McCartney.

Hines: "The wall of fame in the bathroom is incredible. You'd see him with Bo Diddley and think that Bo used this bathroom, too. It's very humbling."

13. "Walkin'": "That was fun as hell," Wolfmeyer says. "We got nine guitars on there. I love heavy shit like Pantera." On this one, the guitars get tuned down a half-step for some heaviosity found nowhere else in the band's canon -- an intriguing future direction. But what would you call it?

"Hillbilly grunge," Wolmeyer grins. "Or just a sweaty bunch of tattooed, rocking, cowboy hat-wearin' things."

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