Batusis Is No Throwback
Twin ambassadors of punk-tinged rock and roll history, Cheetah Chrome and Sylvain Sylvain intertwine rootsy soul, finger-lickin' agility and mucho attitude in their new project Batusis. It's the duo's joint devil child.
Batusis treads the familiar turf of their former bands the New York Dolls (Sylvain) and the Dead Boys (Chrome) in a fresh-faced, contemporary rave-up style. The duo at tiny Mango's is counterculture wish fulfillment, bar none.
Chatter: In some ways, Batusis feels like a soup of swaggering R&B, Link Wray and the Heartbreakers. Am I off the mark?
Cheetah Chrome: Well, throw a little MC5 in there and you'd be closer. We're by no means a throwback to any era.
C: As black music became grounded in hip-hop, did punk bands keep the legacy of Chuck Berry and Little Richard alive and well?
CC: No. I have to say the punks dropped the ball in that regard, and it really pisses me off. All of that "boring old fart" crap got taken too seriously, and bands got scared to play songs from the '50s unless they were by Eddie Cochran for some reason.
Kids today don't have the reverence for artists like Berry and Little Richard — or Motown, for that matter — that my generation did, and it's their loss. In the '60s, you'd hear Marvin Gaye and the Supremes in between the Beatles and Stones, black and white music on the same stations. After punk and rap, that don't happen anymore, and it should.
C: Were there moments of adjustment between you and Sylvain?
CC: Oh, Syl and I don't need to adjust for anything, we're on the same page. We just love to play! Our styles are very different as well, but we both come from a straight rock-and-roll sensibility. Syl and I are firmly in our comfort zone, doing what we love.
C: Both of you now live in the South, steeped in music history and culture. Does that shape your musical output at all, like putting a little molasses in your swagger?
CC: Yeah, but it isn't really a musical thing, it's just the whole vibe in the South is different. I've become a different, more relaxed person here. Obviously that has an effect on my music.
Tennessee is so full of music history. I'm surrounded by it every day. I pass Studio B, where Elvis recorded, at least twice a week. D.J. Fontana, his drummer, used to be my neighbor. Garth Brooks recorded demos in my basement when the previous owner had a studio there.
During the Civil War, this whole neighborhood was an Army camp during the Battle of Nashville. Yeah, I love the South — especially in the summer.
C: By chance, is the song "Blues Theme" at all related to the "loose regular blues" jams the two of you had in NYC awhile back?
CC: Nah, that was more stuff like "I Ain't Got You" and "Train Kept a-Rollin'" — Yardbirds stuff. We had John Spacely handling vocals and harp. It was way more primitive than that.
C: Over the last 30 years, what are some of the biggest misperceptions about the Dead Boys you'd like to see corrected?
CC: What, and dissolve the myths? Not me — no way!
3622-E Main, 713-533-9525
1. Lightnin' Hopkins, His Blues
2. Southern Culture On the Skids, The Kudzu Ranch
3. Ugly Beats, Motor! (LP)
4. Los Explosivos, Sonidos Rocanrol
5. 13th Floor Elevators, Psychedelic
Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators
6. Barbara Lynn, It Ain't Good to Be Too Good
7. Various Artists, Roots of Chicha, Vol. 2:
Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru
8. Keith Richards, Vintage Winos (CD)
9. Earl Gilliam, Texas Doghouse Blues (CD)
10. Amplified Heat, On the Hunt (LP)
The Local Show
KTRU (91.7 FM)
Selections from KirstonO's November 30 playlist
1. Geto Boys, "Still"
2. Big Boys, "We're Not In It to Lose"
3. The Judy's, "She's Got the Beat"
4. The Energy, "I'm Gonna Cut You Into Pieces"
5. Academy Black, "Dark Horse"
6. Dead Horse, "Peaceful Death"
7. Bark Hard, "Scene Ain't Dead"
8. Dead Roses, "Feeling Hostile"
9. De Schmog, "Summer"
10. Culturcide, "I Say Goodbye"
(lists compiled by Chris Gray)
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