Saturday Night Music
Written for X-Press Magazine
Foo Fighters guitarist, Chris Shiflett, talks about the release of his second album with The Dead Peasants, All Hat And No Cattle. JAYDE FERGUSON reports.
Best known for his heavy rock riffs with the Foo Fighters, Chris Shiflett is clearly exhilarated about the release of his side project, The Dead Peasants’, new album.
In between interviews and saying goodnight to his eldest son, Shiflett breathes a sigh of relief at knowing the album is finally done.
“It’s exciting to finally get it out there,” he says “You make a record and there’s all this stuff you gotta do to put it out into the world. It takes forever and as a musician you’re impatient; you’re just like, ‘I want this fuckin’ thing out there!’ It takes so long and then it finally comes and you’re like, ‘ahhhh… yeah finally!“
All Hat And No Cattle takes a much wilder approach than 2010’s self-titled debut; blending a rockabilly, boot stomping, foot tapping and toe twisting feel to it. Shiflett admits it was a whole heap of fun recording it too.
“I love it man! It’s such a different thing to what I’m used to doing and it’s taken a while to wrap my head around it, but now I feel like we’re really comfortable. It’s just great, it’s perfect for being in a bar and everyone’s drunk and out on the dance floor having a good time. It’s just like that… Saturday night music.”
The country vibes entwine easily and Shiflett acknowledges he didn’t have to stray too far away from the harder rock styles to bring them in. It was simply the loss of his security blanket that took the most time to grasp.
“We sort of play it like the guys who grew up listening to the Stones, there’s definitely some of that in there which isn’t too much of a stretch,” he says. “But, there’s a different discipline to it that we really had, a different dynamic than hard rock has – that was hardest thing to wrap your head around.”
“The other thing is you’re playing a twangy, single coil Telecaster through a tiny old Fender type amp and it’s just not that big wall of sound that I’m used to having. That big wall of sound, that’s comfortable, that’s my security blanket! That’s what I’ve been doing for 30 years and to not have that took a little time to get used to, but I love it now.”
The record features covers of nine classic songs from the 1950’s to 1960’s era by artists like Don Rich and Buck Owens, with the track A Women Like You, being the only original. Slotting in perfectly to the theme of the album, Shiflett says it definitely drew inspiration to release more originals in the future.
“I kind of see that song as pointing the way forward because it was the first new song we had written after starting this project. It’s definitely heavily influenced by the other songs on the record and that style of music so when we get around to making our next one, I think that this record is going to be a big influence on that.”
It’s hard to believe though, that initially The Dead Peasants weren’t even planning on making a record.
“We just learnt all these songs and wanted to get a residency somewhere and be a bar band, that was the germ of the idea. Once we went out and did a few shows we thought this is really fun we should record this! Then I thought we should make a live record, bring some gear down to one of the bars and record it – then I realised that would be a pain in the ass to actually pull off (laughs). So fuck it, I have this big beautiful studio we can just set up in that and rip through the set like it’s live and track it.“
“I’ve never made a record like that before and it was really a lot of fun doing it that way. I feel it comes across in the record, it’s not this perfect, nipped and tucked well-produced record, and it’s pretty much live. At least the music is, we overdubbed the vocals and a few things here and there, but most of it is just live.”
The country influences have undoubtedly been mastered throughout the album but still it manages to incorporate the rebellious attitude renowned in heavy rock bands.
“It slots right in, that’s what drew me to country in the first place. I mean guys like Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis they were rebels! The real deal, fuck up hard-core (laughs), it’s the same thing! There’s not much difference between those guys and Keith Richards or whoever else, they’re all kindred spirits, I guess.”
With 14-plus years of playing with the Foo Fighters and the albums Shiflett’s clocking up with the Dead Peasants, it’s not surprising that the musical impact on his children at home is impressive.
“It’s funny, I imagine my kids when they’re 35 years-old will have that moment where they go, ‘oh wait, my dad’s records were actually really good!’ My oldest son at two figured out how to work the CD player and the first record he was really obsessed on was Highway To Hell, it was so cute because he would go crazy and air guitar. Then he got really into KISS, that made me happy because I grew up with KISS, and then I turned them onto The Hives. Every time we get into the car they force me to play The Hives and I love The Hives so I’m okay with that but when I try to play country, if I try to flip on a George Jones record or something my kids all start chanting, ‘Hives! Hives! Hives!’ Then I have to give in. You can’t win when you have three rowdy boys in the back seat – you can’t fight that power!”
In between being a dad and the two bands, Shiflett has a lot in store with Foo Fighters also set to release another album next year, and hopes to tour with the Dead Peasants to Australia in the near future.
“I sure hope we get down there at some point, we don’t have plans to right now but that would be a dream come true. I say you go out and start that movement, a national cause (laughs)!”