Sunday, December 14, 2008, 05:30 PM ( 21799 views ) - Interviews - Posted by dagmarsieglindeHardy Morris, singer/guitarist/songwriter of Dead Confederate, talked with me before the band played a recent show at Chop Suey in Seattle. Dead Confederate comes from Athens, Georgia and released their first full length cd, Wrecking Ball just this year. It's a sublime cd indeed and Morris' voice is a thundering and hot living thing. Their live set was also a miracle of rock - one you'd be so lucky to experience. I wanted to know other things too but the band's breakthrough song, the Rat, compelled me to ask Morris about run-ins with actual rats.
Q: You had a band in high school - was that fun?
Hardy Morris: Walker [Howle, guitarist] and I always played together, but I played with other folks as well. I met Brantley [Senn, bassist] in high school and he was playing with different folks. He and Jason [Scarboro], our drummer played together in a band in high school. It wasn’t until after that that we all wound up together.
Q: I was reading that you studied English.
HM: Yes, I was an English major.
Q: Yeah – what was your favorite stuff?
HM: I kind of went through different phases. I had a big poetry phase. I went through a big Brit novel phase as the classes came along. I got obsessed with Bleak House for a while. It’s nuts. And then some of the more modern classes – literature and media. It was several years ago so it was when the Internet was really crashing through and taking over. I enjoyed all parts of being an English major.
Q: I just saw the new Masterpiece Theater version of Bleak House – it was brilliant.
HM: Anything involving someone spontaneously combusting is interesting. They get in the room and he’s gone, but there’s all this gooey stuff.
Hardy Morris onstage at Chop Suey, 2008
Q: Do write all the lyrics for Dead Confederate?
HM: I write the lyrics for my songs and Brantley writes the lyrics for his songs. This album [Wrecking Ball] combined by happenstance 5 songs of mine and 5 of his. We recorded even more songs and we had other songs written.
Q: You recorded it at a set of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
HM: It was a studio in Austin. You know the band And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead? It was their old practice space. Back in the ‘70s it was a soundstage where they used to do voiceovers and overdubs for movies. They put out a lot of horror films and one of them was Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It definitely gave it an extra edge. There was a little concrete room, literally – the room we recorded in was concrete and painted black. I loved it. It was loud and everything sounded off the walls – which I think the album picks up on. It sounds pretty loud. And live.
Q: Are you into horror movies?
HM: I never got too into them. I always liked horror movies for the comedic value in them. I love Freddie Krueger and the Friday the 13th movies but as far as movies go I was always more into historical characters – the Wyatt Earp movies and Tombstone.
Q: I love that movie.
HM: Braveheart. Those movies were awesome. In this day and age, being an entertainer and you think about now being a musician or an actor or something . . . I just want people to hear my music. But part of what goes on is fame and what goes into being a musician or an actor. They do interviews and have publicity companies and people writing about them but people back then, like Jesse James or Billy the Kid, they were famous just for being themselves. There was no publicity company or US Magazine and everyone knew who they were. Their personalities were that big – it’s crazy. Could you imagine that now? You’d have to shoot a president to have that now. People may know my music – but that’s famous. That’s notoriety.
Q: Who came up with the spider symbol that's on the band's drum kit?
HM: Our friend Joel Wheat. He did the ep art, which was the spider, and the album art. The spider came from an idea he had based off Soviet propaganda art. He had a whole catalog of Soviet stuff he would use for some of our posters. We thought it was really cool. We have a collection of posters that look really cool – we need to bust some of them back out and do more of those. Once you’re on the road you have a stock poster for the whole tour, whereas when we were doing a lot more local and southeastern shows we had specific posters that looked cool. I wish we could do more of that but you can’t really do all that from a van. I’d like to get back into that.
Cover art for Dead Confederate's 2008 ep
Q: What places would you like to play?
HM: I like Seattle, it’s cool. This is our third time in the vicinity. This is our first club show in Seattle. We played at the [KEXP] Yule Benefit last year, which was just a total blessing - our first time in Seattle. Then we played Sasquatch Festival. It was cool.
Q: I was reading on the Dead Confederate blog about Conan O’Brien playing guitar.
HM: He’s good. When you’re backstage at Conan O’Brien you have your own dressing room with a television set up in there. You can watch whatever want or they also have a channel that’s the dress rehearsal. In the show they’ll do, like 5 jokes but they do 25 and then cut them. So you get to hear all the jokes. He [O’Brien] had this stratocaster strapped around his neck and he played that thing the entire time – his monologue and then he’d do interview stuff. I guess it was kind of like his stress reliever. Like that squishy ball or whatever - he had the guitar. He’s really into music. He knew the record and had us sign a vinyl copy for him.
Q: What about rats. Have you had any run-ins with rats?
HM: Actually yeah. We were in New York for CMJ last year – it was me and my brother and our booking agent. We were all out after we had played. We were all out drinking and people started to make their way back to the hotel. We decided to keep going, to go to another bar. I was really drunk and needed to go back to the hotel. So I stumbled to the place we were going next and I drank about half my drink and thought I’ve gotta go back, I’m wasted. We’d been to New York before a couple times so I thought I knew how to get back. Dawson’s like, take a cab and I was like, I’m not gonna take a cab – I know how to get back. I’m not wasting any money. So I started walking, and I cut over one street and I cut over another back street and there was a pile of trash and I’m on my cell phone trying to call the hotel to figure out where the hell I was. One rat ran between my legs and I said, shit! As soon as I said shit there were hundreds of them. I was having to run for my life. They’re all ahead of me and as soon as I saw a main road I took the first cab I saw.
Q: Were they big rats?
HM: They were big. Little cats – a bunch of kittens. Want another rat story? I didn’t actually see this – my friend did it. They had this rat in their house and they were trying to get it with these traps. It would always get the food off the trap. It was smart. One night they had been out to a bar and they got all drunk. When they got home a friend turned the light on in the kitchen and the rat’s just sitting there on the counter, looking at them . My buddy had a bow and arrow for deer hunting and the rat’s sitting there, frozen by the light. He got the bow and shot the rat – arrow all the way through it – stuck it to the wall. Killed it but then they’re like, fuck, there’s rat blood all over the counter and a dead rat stuck to their wall. [They cleaned it up] and there were these rat rags. Rat blood? You don’t want to fuck with rat blood.
Q: What’s the best thing about Athens?
HM: There’s a lot good about Athens. It’s got a killer music scene, super supportive, always something going on. Great bands – no two bands sound alike. Rare egos. There’s no competition there between the bands. There’s no traffic – you do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. There’s not a lot of jobs that pay a lot of money there – if you want to be a musician and a cook at a taco place, it’s great. If you want to try to be a banker, move to Atlanta. It’s got tons of musical history and it continues everyday.
Dead Confederate will play several shows in Georgia and Florida through December 24th. You can also see more pix I took of their show at Chop Suey here.