banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

INTERVIEW – Warner E Hodges – Part I, October 2013

| 25 October 2013 | 1 Reply

INTERVIEW – Warner E Hodges – Part I, October 2013
By Shane Pinnegar

It’s a warm night in Nashville, Tennessee, and Warner E Hodges leans back in his chair, sans shirt and grinning widely down the Skype line to Australia as I ask how the new Dan Baird & The Homemade Sin album is sounding.

“It’s pretty incredible…” he says in his slow Western drawl, that smile never straying far from his face. “We could live with the mixes the way they are but we’ll make a few more tweaks Wednesday morning before we call it a day. Everybody’s got a few ‘I’d like to hear this’ or ‘I’d like to hear that’, but hell – I’d be fine if it left the house today!”

Warner E Hodges 01

2013 sees the celebrated guitarist as busy as he’s been in years with a bunch of projects on the go.

After the Homemade Sin record and a European tour he goes “right out of that into editing a Jason & the Scorchers show from a couple of years ago… then out of that into a new Bluefields record. So, lotta stuff [going on]”

The European tour follows a handful of rare American shows for the band. Hodges agrees that they “don’t do a lot of American dates, so that’s gonna be fun, [then] actually I think Dan [Baird] & I leave Nashville on the 30th October.”

Baird’s reluctance to tour America stems from his experiences as The Georgia Satellites came down from their flush of 1990’s success, says Hodges.

“He felt that with The Satellites, he got so big and then so tainted. They went from totally dead broke to massive for 3 or 4 years, and then he was a has been [to some] in America. And they got a lot of the reverse… they were older guys when they had their hits, they were in their early 30’s – which doesn’t normally happen. They got a whole bunch of the reverse ‘oh you sold out’ and all that… he’s like, ‘dude, I’ve been a starving musician for fifteen years, how did I sell out?’

“So for whatever reason, he didn’t work America and didn’t care to. He kept working Europe and loved it, but he just kinda quit working America. We do a little bit of it, but he could care less if he did it or not – he does it to appease us, but he’s just not a big fan of playing in America.”

Warner E Hodges 03

Europe has remained the most faithful market for Baird and The Sin, their annual tours always well attended and going a long way to keeping the band afloat. In late 2011 though, a late night border crossing from Switzerland just about sunk them.

The story goes that after a fourteen hour drive the band found the border crossing unattended, so followed the cars crossing over in order to get to their affordable accommodation a few hundred meters on. If only it were that easy…

To quote from their record company’s website, “It appears that under Swiss law, if a border is unmanned, commercial vehicles are not allowed to cross said border. Instead, the vehicle has to turn around and find a 24 hour manned hour post. The only problem with this, is that the only sign explaining the law is tiny and in German, with no international translations.

“As we have now contravened this law by bringing cd’s and t-shirts over the border, we are, in their eyes, international smugglers. All our apologies fall on deaf ears. The fact that all of our contraband is on open display cut’s no ice either. In the Border patrol’s eye’s, we have planned this, waiting for the border to become unmanned and then making our move. Oh that we were so smart!

“We are escorted back to the border and subjected to a four hour search. No one from the Border Patrol speak’s anything more than broken English and we are not offered a translator. All of our backline and merchandise is put on display and various Border personnel have their photos taken with it, a la the American police in the depression with photos of themselves and dead gangsters. Someone in Switzerland obviously thinks that rock ‘n’ roll is still dangerous.”

Dan Baird & The Homemade Sin 02

Cue sirens and guns and a jail cell, a magistrate that refused to get out of bed and slaps them with double the maximum fine, and a petty official who all but extorts the massive fine from the band by showing them an as-yet-unpublished eBay advert offering their van and equipment for grabs to the highest bidder.

“Ahhh, yeah. Switzerland can be a lotta fun,” he sighs, that smile replaced momentarily by a world weary grimace. “I don’t know if you know the show, an American 50’s show called The Andy Griffiths Show, and Don Knotts played a deputy sherrif on it, Barney Fife. Barney always was up to his eyeballs in trouble, trying to toe the law, and we ran into Barney Fife that day – this guy was gonna ruin our day no matter what, and he did.

“He thought we were the Rolling Stones or something…

“It was really horrible, actually.” He continues, “That’s okay for a working, touring big band, [but] it’s not like we’re rolling in the dough, you know. And it just made our life really miserable.”

Luckily they scraped the £9,000 together, but resolution of their appeal against the fine took over a year to come through, and even then the Swiss Court only reduced it.

“Yeah, it ended up, it wasn’t all of it, but they took a third, or a half – a sizeable chunk away.”

Dan Baird & The Homemade Sin 01

The next drama for the band was how to repay drummer Mauro Magellan, who raised the majority of the money, a dilemma which led to the release earlier this year of the Viva Nashvegas live DVD.

“The cool thing about the band is, now we’ve got the video, and between the video and [the appeal] we were able to take care of the debt!”

The DVD features a bunch of Homemade Sin tracks, a little from The Georgia Satellites and a couple of Beatles covers, and is, perhaps unintentionally, shot entirely in black & white.

“Well that was a kind of nice thing,” he chuckles, the smile firmly back in place, “because we didn’t even know that show was recorded! And the whole thing about the Viva Nashvegas thing, I mean, we joke about it that we just look better in black & white ‘cos we’re old! But it was kind’ve a really cool thing – it LOOKS great in black and white and I’m not mister technical, but I guess that all the wires weren’t hooked up on the recorder and it recorded the whole thing in black & white.

“It was a pleasant surprise – the sound guy handed us [the tape] and [my wife] came home and went ‘you really gotta check this out – we got the whole show in black & white here!’ After talking about it for a few days, it was like, ‘hell, let’s mix this and use it to help out with the Swiss debt!’. It kinda looks like the Ed Sullivan Show or something, you know?”

Warner E Hodges 02

The website blurb even declares that it has an “early 70’s Faces vibe”, prompting Hodges to laugh, “Nothin’ wrong with that!”

Silver linings, and all that. But will The Sin risk returning to the scene of the ‘crime’?

“Oh yeah!” Hodges exclaims with a chuckle. “That was actually the real cool part about it, the Swiss fans are fantastic for the band and we do a lot of work in Switzerland. Switzerland’s not a big country, but we do 4 or 5 shows a year there and quite frankly they’re some of the best paying shows we do. And, you know, it was kind of a weird thing, because we wanted people to know how crappy the Swiss border guys were, but it had nothing to do with the fans! The Swiss fans actually were really [supportive] – they bought a lot of the Viva Nashvegas DVD’s!!”

Check out the DVD or any of The Sin’s live clips on YouTube and you’ll see they embody the raw, loose spirit of early 70’s Rolling Stones. Hodges isn’t about to argue.

“It’s one of the coolest bands I’ve even been in,” he says, his Cheshire Cat grin stretching even wider. “Every night is a different night – we never play the same songs twice, we don’t use a set list. Dan is the only person in the building who knows what’s next – you can’t just go through the motions, you just can’t do it.”

Dan Baird & The Homemade Sin 03

It’s that ability to walk on the wire with such spontaneity that gives The Sin their incredible energy, and Hodges insists it’s got nothing to do with rehearsing.

“It’s chemistry between the players – we’ve never had a rehearsal!” he drawls. “Dan & I have never sat down and worked out a guitar part. The way it kinda goes down, the first show I did with ’em, I literally flew in and played. I was told we’d do a long soundcheck – which consisted of a song and a half – and we played that night.

“As a musician, it’s a fun gig, ‘cos it’s like a jazz band inside of a rock n’ roll band. Dan is the only singer/songwriter type of guy I’ve ever known who wants you to do it different tonight than you did it last night, you know. It’s almost a Miles Davis type thing – Miles Davis used to fire guys who didn’t make mistakes ‘cos they obviously weren’t tryin’ hard enough!

“Dan really… it’s okay if you wreck the song, as long as you’re trying to make it go somewhere. He really wants it to be different every night, and that makes it fun, ‘cos there’s never any rote performance of the material.

“I love the fact with Dan, we’ve NEVER sat down and said ‘you do this and I’ll do that and we’ll see if it works’. We’ve just never done that. I’ve been playing with him now 5 1/2 or 6 years and we’ve done my solo record, two Bluefields records – and we’re working on a third Bluefields record – two Homemade Sin records… and we’ve never worked any of that shit out, and that’s really fun.”

Warner E Hodges 04

The original connection with Baird and Magellan – who were in The Georgia Satellites together – came way back when Hodges was enjoying some success with Jason & The Scorchers.

“Well, I’ve known Dan and Mauro since 1984/85,” Hodges explains. “The Georgia Satellites were managed by the same people that managed the Scorchers – and their first American tour was opening up for The Scorchers’ third album. So I’ve known Mauro and Dan since 84/85, something like that, and I RE-hooked back up with Dan via Stacie Collins.”

Hodges was playing the six string in Collins’ – a self-described ‘Harmonica blowin’ hell-cat’ – band when Baird stepped in to produce their record. Next thing you know, Hodges has a new gig playing for The Sin, which seems a perfect fit seeing how influential to the alt country rock scene that both The Satellites and The Scorchers were.

“Yeah, it’s a weird thing for because you’re never a fan of the band you’re in,” Hodges muses. “I never sit around and listen to Jason & The Scorchers records, you know. I was a fan of Dan’s stuff, Dan’s Love Songs For The Hearing Impaired is one of my favourite rock records, period. I’m a big fan of the material. And I have come to find out what a Jason & The Scorchers fan Dan is – so it makes a lot of sense, playing wise.

“A lot of what we do is from the same place but done differently. Our influences are – he’s got a couple of years on me, he’s got a little bit of a different musical slant – but the stuff we love, the rock stuff [like] The Stones, The Faces, AC/DC, it’s a mutual admiration society there, so [it makes sense]”

Warner E Hodges 05

That’s not the only thing the two guitarists have in common, with them both being teetotal these days.

“September 24th [I had] 21 years without a drink!” he beams proudly.

“It was winning and I was losing!” he laughs. “Yeah, Dan doesn’t drink, I don’t drink, Mauro drinks a little bit… but you know, at this age the kind of thing that used to go on, I don’t think I could do it and play every night!”


In PART TWO, Warner talks about his career with Jason & The Scorchers and his favourite albums of all time.

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad