Arts & Entertainment

Letting loose a little psychobilly

There are some musicians who might find it offensive to have their sound described as psychobilly, but not The Reverend Horton Heat -- real name Jim Heath.

And don't let the psycho part of that word fool you.

Psychobilly is a type of rock music that blends the musical elements of punk and rockabilly with references to violence, sex, horror and a plethora of other taboo topics.

You can catch The Rev, his band and their eclectic mix of music in action at 8 p.m. Aug. 28 when his national tour makes a stop at Ray's Golden Lion in the Uptown Shopping Center in Richland.

Tickets to the all-ages show are $28 in advance or $33 day of show and are available at the Ray's.

Heath has his own opinion about his band's sound.

As he puts it, trying to pigeonhole his music into one genre is futile.

"I suppose there are some who might think our music has a psychobilly edge to it, and sometimes we do," he said with a soft Texas drawl during a telephone interview with the Herald. "But it's really rock music influenced by rockabilly. We put on one helluva show, that's for sure. We sing about booze, women, cars, gambling and most of the songs I write are humorous.

"But one thing we always do at our shows is pile drive through songs with high energy, and we have a helluva lot of fun doin' it."

Heath confessed there are a lot of guitar players better than he is, but few match his stage presence and endless energy. It's that energy that earned the group a cult following with packed houses wherever they perform.

Susanne Silwa, 44, a Las Vegas attorney, wouldn't miss a Reverend Horton Heat show and plans on making the trek to the Tri-Cities for the show at Ray's.

"The Reverend is a favorite of mine, and has been for 20 years," she said via email. "I have seen the band perform many, many times and they always put on a tremendous show."

Silwa's boyfriend, Rob Garrett, has been employed at Hanford for almost a year, so she keeps tabs on what's happening around town because of her frequent visits.

"The Reverend is playing Bumbershoot in Seattle over Labor Day weekend, and luckily, all the stars aligned and Ray's was able to book them," Silwa said. "I have friends who book small shows in Las Vegas who have not had such luck."

The Rev's fellow bandmates are Jimbo Wallace, who wails on an enormous bass, and drummer Paul Simmons.

So how does a musician get tagged with the name Reverend Horton Heat?

"Well, that's kind of a funny story," said Heath, 52. "I was working as a sound guy in this club (in the mid-1980s), and one day when I was playing my guitar the owner heard me sing and let me start playing there at night.

"Then he tells me I need a catchier name so he starts introducing me as Reverend Horton Heat. It just stuck."

Heath spent a couple of decades living the typical lifestyle of a rocker, touring nonstop. But he's married and the father of three so he cut down on touring -- from 300 shows to about 120 days a year.

"I lived the life of a rocker once, pushing the 24/7 lifestyle," Heath said.

But one thing hasn't changed, and that's Heath music philosophy. If he dishes out any advice to young musicians today, he urges them to, "Learn how to play the damn guitar, really play it."

Heath also plans to release his first DVD, titled 25 to Life, in the coming months, which he hopes will earn a screening at the Sundance Film Festival.

"It's sort of like a musical documentary," he said. "The cameras followed us from gig to gig, and it includes interviews as well as live performances."

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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