Texas Hippie Coalition's Big Dad Ritch on Vices, BBQ, and the Money Behind the Pantera "Reunion"

There's no doubt that THC is all about making you feel good. It causes you to laugh, feel nostalgic, forget all your worries. Plus, it makes barbecue taste 10 times better.

And by THC, I'm talking about Texas Hippie Coalition.

The Texas quartet may be known for all of the above -- as well as an affliction for what lead vocalist Big Dad Ritch calls "Waylon whiskey and Willie weed" -- but their claim to fame is for something much more important: the invention of Red Dirt Metal.

Founded in 2004 by Big Dad Ritch and bassist John Exall, Texas Hippie Coalition blends Southern rock, heavy metal, and stoner rock accompanied with lyrics paying tribute to the artists' favorite things, from women to joy to just raising a glass.

The band, rounded out by guitarists Cord Pool and drummer Timmy Braun, is all about creating the ultimate soundtrack for your house party. And its fourth full-length album, Ride On (2014), surges that celebration forward, more raw and grittier than ever. It also marks the first time they worked with Nashville's Grammy Award-winning producer Skidd Mills.

Packed with searing blues riffs, bold singalong choruses, catchy verses, larger-than-life bass and chunky guitar, it's easy to hear some of the band's biggest influences, like ZZ Top, Molly Hatchet and Pantera. It's the perfect addition to the band's other three critically acclaimed albums, Pride of Texas (2008), Rollin' (2010, called "one of the greatest sophomore albums ever" That Metal Show), and Peacemaker (2012), the latter of which debuted in the Top 20 of Billboard's Top Hard Rock Albums.

Up on the Sun talked with Big Dad Ritch about the evolution of red dirt metal, what he knows about the possible Pantera reunion, his barbecue sauce brand Red River Red, and his one true vice.

Big Dad Rich: Hey sweetheart! How you doing?

Up on the Sun: Doing well. So you're at your lake house right now, in Texas?

Yes my lake cabin. It's on Lake Texoma, on the Oklahoma side. Because Texas outlaws hide out in Oklahoma.

When does your tour start?

It starts this Friday [March 20] in Dallas, Texas, at the Gas Monkey Bar and Grill. We're kicking it off right there and it runs through April 20 and ends in Denver, Colorado, for the Cannabis Cup, unfortunately.


Well whatever your angle is, I think!

So, with 2014's Ride On, I specifically love the tracks "El Diablo Rojo", "Bottom of the Bottle," and "I Am The End." I connect with the depth in those songs. What's your proudest moment on the new record?

I think "El Diablo Rojo" is my proudest moment. My new guitarist, he's one of the most talented musicians I've ever had the pleasure to make an album with, as well as take the stage with. He's multi-talented. And this is his first song he ever wrote with me. The fact that me and him could collaborate on such a great song is a real tribute to where THC comes from. I don't wanna say stupid stuff like this is the best album we've ever done! You always hope they are all good. We just want to stay true to our brand. We don't want to turn anyone on to new Coca Cola; we want to be known as the original Coke!

How do you think Red Dirt Metal has evolved from your original debut? Or do you think what's so special about it, is that it IS stuck in its original ways so it stays consistent?

Well, I think what's special about us is that we stay true to who we are. Same as Kevin Fowler, Pat Green, or Cody Canada's, Cross Canadian Ragweed. That's a good party time band. Now he's got Cody Canada and The Departed, which we all take as very endearing song writing. But it's great, because you have bands out like there like Anti Mortem, Sons of Texas that all have the red dirt metal vein running through them. And you know, you can tell people are digging it or else this little sub-genre wouldn't have started with us and branched out as fast as it did. Audiences seem to be very responsive to it.

Well it's like how you've stated in the past: there's been a hunger for this type of music from the get go.

Exactly, right from the beginning I told people there really seems to be a hunger for this type of music. Then you realize, there's a huge appetite for it! And then the crowd started growing and growing it, and we realized they're starving for it! It's a type of meat and potatoes music, with a Texas side of steak.

You describe THC as "if Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top had a child, and Pantera ended up raising it." I gotta say, Pantera is one of my favorite bands ever.

You can definitely tell that's one of our heaviest influences. Almost every time we're asked the question, if you could open for any band, or if you could tour or play with any band or band member it's always Pantera and Dimebag Darrell. That's always the answer.

I was talking with someone the other day about band reunions. People either love them or hate them. What are your thoughts on the "Pantera" reunion if the band had Zakk Wylde on guitar?

Man, you know, um, I just um, I think that Vinnie probably wants to um... I don't want to say tarnish, you know what I mean? But some football players stay a little past their prime, like Aaron Smith staying a year or two past playing for the Arizona Cardinals, that shouldn't have happened. Or Tony Dorsett left to play for the Denver Broncos. If you have great stats as a baseball player, you're hitting over .300 for your career, you don't want to go back and disappoint. And I think that's the way some of those guys look at it.

But from where I'm at, I hear a lot of rumors. I know there's humongous, gigantic money on the table for that tour. It would be bought out like crazy and would sell out. Even with Zakk in the spot, and he's a pretty great guitar player, nobody could fill Dimebag's shoes on the planet. I think if it happens, I would support all those guys. I don't think that Rex, Vinnie or Phil are in it for the money, so we know that won't be the reason they do it. It will be from their hearts.

You guys constantly talk about how rock isn't in as bad shape as the radio makes it out to be. What's your favorite new band, or a musician that's been impressing you as of late?

Man I really like, right now, the Sons of Texas quite a bit. They are really impressing me with what they're doing. You know, I can dig some of that. Upon a Burning Body on the heavier inside, another Texas band, some great music comes out of Texas. I might get stuck on that sometimes and expand beyond the great state! Laughter.

Well in Arizona you go hand in hand with that outlaw vibe; country meets metal.

Exactly! I think that there's no reason to be stuck in any one genre. That's why we put out... you know, it's weird, because I get people telling me that I went to Best Buy and our band was in the 'heavy metal' section. But in Walmart we're in "rock 'n' roll." And then someone wills ay they went to mom and pops music store and we're in the 'country music' section. I guess they see a guy in a cowboy hat and think, 'that goes in country under t!' laughter. As long as people are enjoying it, whether it's red dirt metal or southern fried rock and roll. We'll take it!

The band is pretty open about loving the things that make you feel good in life, like whiskey and weed. So what's your one true vice?

Well you know, Waylon, whiskey, and Willie weed! Laughter. You know, I just remember one time everyone was talking about how the record label wanted to know from all our band members if we had any problems and if we could be honest about it. So one band member is like, "well you know, I like pharmaceuticals," and one band member is like, "I just drink a lot.'' Another band member was like, "I'm young, so I'm experimenting with a few things I probably shouldn't talk about." I didn't say nothing, because I didn't think I had an addiction. Then they said, "Big Dad, you ain't got nothing to say anything about this?" Then at the same time -- I didn't have a chance to answer -- all the band members hollered out "Pussy!" And yes, I do like that a lot. A lot, a lot.... But we do have to have our Waylon, whiskey, and Willie weed. It helps the day go by.

Well, you can do something you love and enjoy those other things you love. Laughter.

Exactly! It's a wonderful life.

Give me one of your personal bbq tips.

You know, one thing for grilling is low heat, take your time you know? Treat it like a pretty girl, warm it up and take your time with it. Put a lot of sauce on it! Laughter.

Words of a wise man.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise