HORDE Interviews – Allgood, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, The Samples August 1993

horde93The H.O.R.D.E is coming! No need to be alarmed, the acronym H.O.R.D.E. stands for Horizons Of Rock Developing Everywhere, and is one of the most interesting tours of the summer. This traveling group of bands was begun by Blues Traveler, last year, including acts like the Spin Doctors, as well as many of the bands that are still in this years tour as well. We were turned onto the tour when we found out our friends Mr. Reality would be playing with this tour. We got to speak with three of the bands, Allgood, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, and The Samples. Corky Jones, the lead singer, represented Allgood. Rob Squires, the bass player from Big Head Todd and the Monsters spoke with us as well.Finally, Al Laughlin dropped us a line, representing The Samples. He plays keyboards for them. It was a pleasure speaking to each one of them, and the following is a collection of what they had to say.

Where are you from? What are your hometowns?

Corky: The band’s from Athens, Georgia. I was born actually in southeast Pennsylvania. I went to school down there and just decided that I wanted to stay.

Rob: Boulder, Colorado.

Al: Boulder, Colorado.

How did you come to join the tour?

Corky: Well, the H.O.R.D.E. is certainly under no obligation to include anybody in the bill, so that a lot that are there is their generosity, and also, it is the ones that structured H.O.R.D.E., that book us. So it helps that it is that, but mostly it’s just the generosity of those that are involved in H.O.R.D.E. and decided that they liked our record, and that they would like us to involved in what I think is one of the best concerts that is going around this summer.

Rob: We’ve kind of known some of these bands over the years, and we’ve played with Blues Traveler several times, as well as The Aquarium Rescue Unit, and we’re kind of similar, in that all of these bands are kind of road bands. They get out and travel a lot, crisscross the country, so we’ve kind of known each other from that for quite a while, and I guess our name just came up when they were putting this thing together, and it looked like a good thing so we were, “sure let’s do it.”

Al: Well, the H.O.R.D.E. tour was sort of something put together by Blues Traveler, sort of John Popper’s little baby, and they out that together last year and had some different bands like the Spin Doctors and Bella Fleck, and this year I think they were looking for someone from the West. So this tour is basically about bands that make their living by touring, obviously not by radio play; because we don’t really get it. So they picked us and Big Head Todd and the Monsters so we, sort of, represented the West. We’re both from Boulder, Colorado. And we’ve been touring for years now. We’ve built up our following, sort of, by doing that, and that’s sort of the respectable thing about all of these bands. So, that’s why we fit into the whole category.

The H.O.R.D.E is promoting environmentally conscious groups and ideas. What are your views on these messages?

Corky: Well, what’s really cool I think is you really have the opportunity, when you come to the H.O.R.D.E. festival. And that’s what it is, I think a lot of these things make it a festival. I mean, if it were not for the activities it would just be a concert, but it really is a festival, and I think they made a really big point to make the festival aspect of it important, and they’ve done this by having these festival activities like Greenpeace, and they have certain environmental groups that are there, and human rights groups, and they just have some fun, cool stuff, people are just selling some really weird clothes and people are selling stickers, which is actually very serious stuff, but the same time it’s still fun. So I think it is really neat because the day is so long, for H.O.R.D.E. It starts at like noon and runs to midnight. That’s a huge concert. So I think people really have a lot of opportunities to get involved in what’s happening in the world.

Rob: I think it’s great. It gives people something to do. The festival is anywhere from eight to ten hours long at some place. Out at the concourse they offer many different activities, whether it be educational or environmental or just entertainment things, like the velcro wall and big sumo suits you can wrestle in and such. It makes the whole event more interesting. I think it gives you a little more variety than just a rock concert.

Al: Well I don’t think it’s a sort of hop on the bandwagon sort of issue, it’s just something that everyone should be aware of, so I’m totally for Greenpeace and our band actually has a lot of environmentally oriented songs, not because we pick them to be environmental, but if you don’t have something to write about, it’s sort of in your face. It’s just something we care about, because we’re from Colorado, and you can wake up and see the smog in Denver. I support anyone who’s up for saving the stuff around us. We’ve always been very supportive of anything environmentally conscious, but at the same time we’re not the most environmental people in the world, but we do our best.

What do you hope to achieve by participating in this tour?

Corky: Well, like anything, we certainly would like to increase our fans, our fan base, but you know a lot of what we are achieving is what we achieve anytime we play, and that is that people like our music and we’re very lucky with that. And the more folks that we have played to, over the time that we’ve been a band, the more they will tend to like us, and that always helps, you know, the more folks who are into you, the easier it becomes to get in touch with them.

Rob: Basically, just to play in front of more people. We’ve been traveling for a lot of years, but when you go out on a big tour like this, hopefully you play in front of people that normally wouldn’t come out to see you. So it’s a good chance for bands to win over new fans, basically.

Al: Well, the H.O.R.D.E., I think for our band, I think we get to reach some different folks. I hate to categorize it in any way, but it’s sort of a white hippie crowd and we don’t really draw that sort of crowd, but on this tour, they are obviously there, sort of the tie-dyed dead-head deal, even though none of the bands are that oriented around that, other than improvisation. So I think that reaching those people is cool, because I think they’ve thought, in the past, our band sort of soft, because they’ve heard our CD or something. They hadn’t really known the whole deal. This tour we’ve really been stretching out all our tunes and kind of freaking people out, because they never thought we really jammed out. So I think it’s neat. Our goal is basically just to reach a lot of new people, and that’s what we’ve been doing.

How has the tour gone so far?

Corky: It started off at Red Rocks, July 4th weekend, which was an absolutely amazing couple of shows. All the bands, I think, really keyed up to play. I think you could really sense the sort of excitement. I don’t mean that anybody is any less excited now, but there is something very special about playing at Red Rocks. And then we were all meeting each other for the first time, or getting reacquainted with old friends, and of course, the people are on the scenes testing out the equipment, for the first time, and things didn’t go completely smoothly the first night, and they all had to stay up until 4 o’clock in the morning and straighten a whole bunch of things out. It was basically like a live dress rehearsal. And the second night you saw everyone totally polished, and it was just really cool. We would watch everybody come out in the whole thing, and it was just really, really great. One thing that was really wild about the second day, was that the wind was unbelievable. It was like blowing the stacks around, and the lights and stuff were swinging. And I went up to the top of Red Rocks, and the wind was whipping in over the top ledge. And everything was ready to be blown off into this ravine. I mean it was really an incredible wind, so it really added a lot of drama to the whole thing, but it was a beautiful setting, and I think if there is any place that will be special, for a long time, it will be those shows.

Rob: Well, so far it’s been great. Everybody’s been real friendly, and stuff, and it’s been selling a lot of tickets and it’s just really been a lot of fun so far.

Al: The tour has been killer. It’s been a lot of fun. All of the bands hang out and get along really well. A lot of us have guest appearances each night. One of the other band members will join us or we’ll join them. It’s been great. A few of the dates have been cancelled because of lack of ticket sales, but that’s probably just weak areas. We’ve had a lot of days off. That’s been my only sort of complaint. It’s hard to get in the groove of a tour when it’s sort of staggered like that. All of the gigs, people that go have been treated to a really good show.

Many people who see you on this tour will be unfamiliar with your music. How would you describe your own music to someone who hasn’t heard you?

Corky: Well, I would say it’s sort of a modern, aggressive sort of southern R&B, you know, because those to me seem to be it, we’re not R&B the way Otis Redding is, except that we’re both trying to come from the same very real place, playing what we feel, but at the same time we don’t have a really bluesy horn section and really slick backup singers, we don’t have a very simple arrangement, so it’s not R&B in that sense, but most of what we play was rhythm and blues based. And the time that we’re off stage, it really carries over. And to me, I think southern is so, like, K-tel presents, “Southern Fried Rock” on 8-track and we’re just not like that. But I think there is a certain sense because we are from the south, and we do have two lead guitar players, and we tend to write guitar parts that work together, like the great southern bands of the seventies, the Allman Brothers and even more, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I think folks pick up this and say well, this is southern rock. So I think that in fairness to that classification, I use southern because we are from the south, and if helps to get folks in the park where Allgood is playing, as far as just a mindset, then that works for me. I used to have a real problem,because our music is beyond description, there’s no category, well really that’s still kind of true, because we don’t really try to focus on the category and write within it, but at the same time, the music that we do write, has elements that people will recognize. And I think if we give people a handhold at which to start, because I think that’s what I do, I find something, a hook in a song, and I listen to that, and then I try to check out the lyrics, and I’m into the band. I’ve sort of dissected the song, and I like the band, and I want to hear more, but you have to have a handhold where to start.

Rob: It’s very tough to describe music, because I think it’s like art, so it’s similar to trying to describe a painting. You could use other references, but I think the best is just to encourage people to listen to it and make up their own minds. We use real vague terms like, new American music or new American rock music or rock music with country and blues roots or just real vague terms like that. It’s tough to describe music.

Al: We’re a real tough one. With six years in ths band, I still haven’t been able to pinpoint it, but for this tour I think we provide a sort of percussive groove balance, because we play real sick beats and so does Blues Traveler, but I think we’re sort of a groove, melodic oriented band. Really easy to listen to, yet you can dance to it too. It’s sort of like funk and reggae and rock fused together. Each guy in our band comes from a different sort of musical background. We sort of just fused those all into our band.

What are your plans for after the tour, such as recording, or touring on your own?

Corky: Well, the H.O.R.D.E. is great, it gets us in front of people, and I think it is a very prestigious thing, and we are very honored; but the one thing is that because it’s so big, you can’t hit all the markets you want to hit. So what Allgood’s plans are for the next six to nine months after the H.O.R.D.E., is to go back and make sure that we play everywhere that we had meant to play. It’s a disservice to people who are listening your record, as well as buying your record, if you don’t go play for them. I think that it’s very important that we take the time and the effort to make sure that they know what’s happening.

Rob: We’ll definitely be touring for quite a while longer, anyway, I think. We’ve talked about going to Europe at some point. It looks like most likely what’s happening, is probably in the fall, we’re going to go out and do a headlining tour to colleges and stuff like that, but I anticipate us being on the road for quite a while.

Al: Well, we just made a new recording in L.A., and that’s coming out first week in September, called The Last Drag. And that’s got 16 new tunes and it’s a real different album for us, because everyone sings on it. It’s sort of like everyone has a lead vocal. So we’re kind of looking forward to putting that out, and we’ll probably play a few shows in Colorado and then hit the road again, come back to the east coast.

How long did it take you to record your latest album?

Corky: We started pre-production, we did about a week of pre-production, the week before Thanksgiving, then we took a break, for Thanksgiving, and it was about a five or six week project after that, until the end of the year. And then we went back into the studio in January, to another studio in Nashville, and mixed it down, and did a few vocals there, maybe one. I would guess in all, about six weeks. And all along we were in the very capable hands of our producer Justin Niebank, he was taking great care of us. I mean, Justin, I really credit with being able to bring a singer out of me, and I don’t know if you’ve ever sung live, but it’s one of those things where I tend to borrow a lot from people I respect, and Justin said that that was great, but he said that there are some people that’s it’s cool to respect, but that your voice just isn’t cut out for, and what you needed to do was maybe focus on the people who you can do, and focus on a style. I love Robert Plant and I love Paul Rodgers, but my voice is cut out to sing a lot more like Paul Rodgers, and I don’t mean that I’m ape on all his stuff, but his style you can sort of listen to and just learn. How does Paul Rodgers communicate a message about a woman? How does Paul Rodgers communicate a message about a rock and roll band? And not so much the work, but inflection and his attitude, and you can kind of pick up on that, and because you’ll never do it just like Paul, you’re forced to incorporate what you can bring, and do what you do, and that’s where the aping is just a learning experience, and then you do what you do naturally and you use that. So Justin was able to take that, and he was also able to point out the R&B singers and say look, these guys have been making the chicks go crazy for years. It was just a great experience for me, just to make a long story long.

Rob: This last one, we were in the studio for about two and a half months, last summer. So it was, by far, the longest we’ve ever spent, recording an album.

Al: Not too long. I think like two weeks. Our philosophy is to go into the studio with the songs already done. We know exactly what we’re going to do, so we’re not just fiddling around, wasting money in the studio. So they moved pretty well.

How did you come up with the name of your band?

Corky: Allgood was Clay’s mom’s maiden name, and dad had a music store in Rockmart, Georgia, and it was called Allgood Music Co.,

and when we were young and impressionable and in college, we thought that that would be a great name for a band. Well, as it turned out, people started calling us Allgood, because it was shorter and easier to deal with than Allgood Music Co. So a year later we just dropped the Music Company, and became Allgood.

Rob: Basically, just made it up. It doesn’t mean anything or stand for anything. The idea is from Clean Head Vincent and Dave Fathead Newman and those types of monikers. It was just kind of derived from that.

Al: Some of the guys are from Vermont and they decided that it was deadly cold in Vermont, so Sean and Charles and Andy decided to move out of Burlington, Vermont, because it was so cold. Charles’ brother was in Boulder, and it was like 80 degrees, so they moved out to Boulder. And they had no money, so we ended up subsisting off of food samples from the supermarkets. We’d sneak in there and steal the whole trays, and that’s sort of how we fed ourselves for a little while. So that’s where it came from.

What is your favorite track from your album, and why?

Corky: I think “Ease On My Way” is, or “With You,” because both those tracks have the vocals very much as the featured part. When I’m singing on both those things, the times over the course of the songs that my voice is present, it’s very present. “With You,” I was forced to sing very intimately, and that was something very difficult for me. It was something we had never done; and I’m proud of the job that Justin and I did on that. And I think I like “Ease on My Way” because it is a lesson in simplicity, for the most part, on the verses. It’s very sparse, not a whole lot of screaming guitar. It really forced me to compile the emotional intensity of the song, with just my voice.

Rob: Probably “Sister Sweetly” or “Soul Forever Cowboy.” I like “Sister Sweetly” just because it’s pretty different from everything else on the album. And I like the funkiness of it. And “Soul Forever Cowboy,” I think is just a very tightly well-written song. I just like it for some reason.

Al: I like “Summertime” a lot because it sort of has an urban beat to it. I think it depicts some of our urban tastes, as well as, a real melodic vocal line from Sean. It just has a little jazz tinge to it, too. I just like kind of listening to that and it seems to get people dancing. I like “Stone Tears,” too. I’m not sure why.

Is there a particular track from your album that you would like to call attention to, like a next single?

Corky: I would think that the next single for this record would probably be, “Open It Up.” This first single is “It’s Alright.”

Rob: Probably “Bittersweet” has been our most popular song over the years, as far as crowd response, and people really seem to like that. I think the favorite ones from the label probably are, “Bittersweet,” “It’s Alright,” so those might become singles in the future, maybe.

Al: On The Last Drag, the tune “The Last Drag” is kind of neat and I guess we’ll just say that, but it’s just tough to say because on this album there are literally eight tunes that are potentially singles, if not more, and we haven’t even figured out how we’re going to market this yet. That’s the beauty in our independent record company, in that we get to pick what we want.

What do you do when you’re not on tour?

Corky: Well, Allgood plays between 200 and 220 dates every year, so anytime that we’re not on tour, we usually are practicing. There are a few occasions where we’re not. Basically, that time is involved in getting away from each other and spending time either significant others or family, but it’s funny, the one thing about being a band that’s constantly on tour is that you don’t get to see any other live music. So H.O.R.D.E. has been great for that, we get to see all these great acts play. But we basically just don’t have a lot of spare time. The thing I do, probably the most, on the days off that we have from time to time, is buy music, and check it out.

Rob: I live in the mountains, so I like to hike, and fish, and go camping and stuff like that.

Al: Personally, I go mountain biking, I go surfing. Being in the mountains, in Colorado, it’s kind of a playground up there, so I do a lot of physical stuff. And everyone else relaxes or does other stuff. When I get back, I’ll probably go camping, and go for a mountain bike ride.