Sunday, February 20, 2011

From the Archives - 16 Horsepower Interview

Songs To Learn And Sing - David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower Interview

Secret South, 16 Horsepower’s third album was released in 2000 on Glitterhouse records and the band played their first Irish show on March 21, 2001. The gig started with the track American Wheeze and just thinking about the sound that David Eugene Edwards managed to elicit from his Chemnitzer concertina still sends shivers down my spine. I still regard this as one of the greatest gigs I've ever witnessed. Before the gig I interviewed David Eugene Edwards for the long defunct Zeitgeist magazine. The article is below.

16 Horsepower feature two Americans (David Eugene Edwards and Steven Taylor) and two Frenchmen (Jean-Yves Tola and Pascal Humbert), and the band has been fusing Appalachian folk with intelligent post-punk since 1992. The band signed to A&M in 1995 and released two albums for the label (1996’s Sackcloth & Ashes and 1998’s Low Estate). When A&M was taken over by Universal the band were let go, one imagines confused record company executives trying to figure out how to market a band that play traditional instruments (concertina, banjo, hurdy-gurdy, mandolin and upright bass) but who sound as intense as Joy Division or Nick Cave. Glitterhouse are soon to release a live album, Hoarse, that was recorded in Denver and Paris and features songs culled from the first two records together with three covers: Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising, Joy Division’s Day Of The Lords and The Gun Club’s Free Spirit. The album is nothing less then astonishing. I spoke to David Eugene Edwards and asked him about the live album and the band:


“People were always asking for it, you know, pretty much since we started people were like 'Oh, ye should make a live record', and I don’t really care for live records, to tell you the truth so I had never really thought about it but people kept talking about it so we said OK and I haven’t really heard it ‘cause I can’t even listen to it. We were just making it available for the people who came to the shows, as something special, that only they could get there, but then they started selling it through the mailing list at Glitterhouse and it did well enough so now they’re releasing it everywhere.”

16 Horsepower's sound:

“I’m a modern person, I live in the world that we live in but at the same time I’m really drawn to things that are from the past. Pretty much as far back as I can go, especially with music – I’ve always had an interest in traditional music from all over the world, primarily Appalachian music was really important to me for a long time but at the same time I like heavy music as well so I think that the music we make is a mixture of the two. I can’t really put myself fully in to one or the other so I kind of mix them I guess.”

Cover versions:

“It’s just particular songs that I really like and it doesn’t make a difference to me where they come from and what type of music it is – if it’s a good song, then it’s a good song. We don’t play cover songs that often; it’s just something that we’ve recently started to do, for fun really. We just chose songs that have some meaning to us that we think we can do it some justice to as far as playing them.”

Self-producing Secret South:

“The first three records we did were on A&M records, and they (A&M) were pretty sceptical about having us produce the records ourselves, they let us chose whoever we wanted as far as the producer was concerned and that was great – I love to work with people, when I admire what they’ve done. But no matter who it is, the sound of your music is going to change and you just have to realise that before you go into it. You have to surrender it up in a way, but if you trust these people than it can be a really good experience. The first album was produced by Warren Bruleigh, who has worked with the Violent Femmes and Lou Reed. John Parrish produced the second record. We liked both of these people and we had a great time working with them but we really, really wanted to do it ourselves, to make sure that if we had any complaints, they were our fault and nobody else’s. We were pretty confident that we could do it and we were really happy with the outcome.”


“In America there is a big resurgence in, whatever you want to call it – alternative country music and there is a lot of good music within that genre. I don’t really put our music in there, we have been associated with that in America, that’s pretty much where we get put – in the alternative country category – which is fine but I think there is a lot of really good music out there which is more roots-based, whether it’s country or gypsy-based or whatever. Irish and French music have been doing this forever – bringing traditional music into the more modern music. America has more of a separation between music. Word of mouth in Europe is a lot quicker and people travel a lot more between country to country so we end up doing so much better in Europe then America. We end up spending so much time over here, which is great. The only drawback is that I hate being away from home but at the same time I want to go where people want to hear what we have to play.”

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