Music News

Shacking Up

Armed with a terrific new album, Pandelirium, Nashville's Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers are bringing their greasy, Southern-fried combo of blues, punk, polka and old-school rockabilly -- presented live, like a Pentecostal tent revival meets Theater of the Absurd -- back to town. We caught up with Shack*Shakers front man/ringleader Colonel J.D. Wilkes, who gave us the scoop on guitarist David Lee's recent bicycle accident, "Fonzie rock," and the need to soak one's balls.

New Times: How's David doing? I heard he got hit by a car while he was riding his bike and really messed up his face.

Colonel J.D. Wilkes: He's fine now. He's got his new platinum teeth in, and his face is all sewn up, and he looks tougher and meaner and leaner than ever. It's gonna take more than getting hit by an SUV to put him down.

NT: At least he didn't have to get a face transplant, like that lady from France.

Wilkes: Yeah, man, that's crazy.

NT: I know. She was on TV yesterday for the first time.

Wilkes: Is it working? I mean, how would your body reject a face? Would it just shoot across the room and land in someone's plate or something?

NT: I think it works. She can still smoke cigarettes, apparently.

Wilkes: Oh, that's great, get lip cancer on someone else's mouth. Eh, just get a new one, just cadaver after cadaver, I guess. Whatever it takes to keep you smoking!

NT: Speaking of smoking, even though you have a new album out, you're known more for your insane shows. Is performing live the best part of all of this?

Wilkes: I think recording and performing are equal in my mind. When I make these records, I get to satisfy the tinkering mad scientist in me, and then the live thing is a lot more visceral. The show is about getting people on the same page biorhythmically, and if we can't create that strange effervescence, that weird cultural, mass-hysterical catharsis, then we're not doing our job as the traveling carnival act we think we are. But people really enjoy the special moments, like when the skateboarding bulldog from Animal Planet gets up on stage and humps my leg 'til he comes. Where else are you gonna see that?!

NT: Do you think people have certain expectations when they come see you play?

Wilkes: Most people think we're just a common rockabilly band, and we love rockabilly -- but the thing is, every time you say "rockabilly," everybody thinks Happy Days and just that same old Fonzie rock. But that's not what we're doing. Most people are pleasantly surprised that we draw from a lot of different sources and traditions. I think a bluegrasser would like this band; I think a blues purist -- well, not too pure -- would like it. Or someone that likes theater could like this band, someone who digs the Southern Gothic themes that inform the band -- or if you like the way David Lee's tattoos look. There's just so much to enjoy.

NT: I was looking at your tour schedule; you guys are playing almost every single night for months. How do you keep from burning out?

Wilkes: It's the real man's way of doing things -- this is a hardworkin' outfit. But you know, we stay in our own motel rooms nowadays, so you can at least get some privacy at the end of the night, and you can go take a bath and soak your balls and do whatever you need to do to unwind. Long as I get to soak my balls every night, I can do the show a million times.

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Michael Alan Goldberg