The General Lee, Lynyrd Skynyrd, moonshine and monster trucks. Welcome to The South . . . and welcome to the world of Artimus Pyledriver. A combustible mix of hardcore riffing, southern guitar fireworks and down-home boogie, Artimus Pyledriver deliver stompin' odes to fast cars, faster women and the land that they call home. More substance than image, the AP boys don't just write music about the South; they live it.
Artimus Pyledriver was formed in Atlanta in 2001 by lead singer, Dave Slocum and guitarist Jimmy Hall. Both Slocum and Hall had been knocking around the local scene in various hardcore and sludge/doom metal bands for the better part of a decade before they joined forces. Michael Faulkner followed shortly thereafter on bass and second guitarist Damon Goldsmith came into the fold in '02. Drummer, Travis Owen, rounded out the five-piece in '03 when the band?s original drummer split. They gigged locally with bands like Mastodon, Stuck Mojo and Murder Junkies and hit the road for national tours with both Hank Williams III and Nashville Pussy.
Influenced in equal parts by the twin Blacks of hard music - both Flag and Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The James Gang, Melvins and Helmet, AP take these seemingly incongruous sonic ingredients and toss 'em all into a blender to create a sound that is perhaps best described as "Southern Stomp-ass". Much like fellow Atlanta noise-merchants Mastodon, AP's sound is difficult to define. Elements of stoner and traditional Southern rock abound, but to limit them to either of those monikers would not do the band justice. "Basically," explains Slocum, "We wanted to create music that bridged the gap between David Allen Coe and Black Flag. We love the Southern rock feel with the twin guitar leads and all, but then we just want to shift gears into half-time riffing."
And "switching gears" is a truly appropriate term for a band comprised of self-professed gearheads. "We're all hot rodders," explains Slocum. "We all build cars - old stuff, new stuff. Early 30's to late 60's. It's a hobby close to all our hearts. It's a whole lifestyle. We're the kind of guys that gaffe tape the muffler up to the frame just so we can get to the hot rod show. So it's not surprising that songs like Swamp Devil ("Three more stops to make, yeah - Johnny Law getting hot on tail - Lord can't save me - Burnin' up the pavement, Gotta get on outta here") and Ride On ("Panhead, rollin' toward the ocean - Loud pipes, whiskey, and a cold beer - Lord if there's a heaven, I done found it here") are rife with imagery of big Block Chevys and the open road.
Elsewhere, AP's lyrical content taps into a rich heritage of outlaws and whiskey-fueled story-telling that dates back to Johnny Cash and beyond. "We live and breathe the South!" exclaims Slocum, "Everything in our music's genuine. It's just kind of who we are. There is not a goddamn thing fake about what we do." Songs, such as Dirt Road White Girl and Natural Progression, hammer the point home; the former with it's reprise of "She's my dirt road white girl, roots and all - Come on baby doll, just gimme a call" set to buzzing guitars and a stomping backwoods beat and the latter's aggressive southern twang rolling in "Home's that stretch of road, ol' Atlanta highway - Live down South with them backwood hillbillies."
Though Southern-born and -bred, and fiercely loyal to the scene, Artimus Pyledriver's introduction to the music business did not come via Nashville or Atlanta or any other hotbed of Southern music, but rather from the unlikely locale of Santa Barbara, CA. It was Dez Fafara of Coal Chamber and DevilDriver fame that brought AP to the attention of DRT Records. "Dez came through with Coal Chamber about seven years ago," Slocum recalls, "and he told me that if I ever got anything going, to just hook him up with a CD." Seven years later Dez rolled into town with DevilDriver and Slocum did just that. "The CD laid in my suitcase for about three weeks," recounts Fafara, "and then I put it on and it became the CD I listened to before I went on stage every night. I just had to get these guys' music out there." Fafara reached out to DRT President Derek Shulman, who was President at Roadrunner when Coal Chamber was signed, and a deal was hammered out to release Artimus Pyledriver through DRT via Dez's SEVER imprint.
It's not often that a band comes along that can at once draw so generously and so genuinely from it's roots and bring to the fore a truly original sound. Artimus Pyledriver are the real deal. When they sing about moonshine it's because they drank it. When they sing about fishing in the river, it's because sometimes that was the only place they could get their next meal and when they sing about the open road, it's because that is where they feel most at home. "Music is the one thing that has gotten all of through to where we are today," Slocum explains, "When we were moving from trailer to trailer or one of our dads was hauled off to prison or whatever - we always had music to pull us through. So, we're just gonna play our asses off, and if people like it, cool, and if they don't? Well, they can kiss our ass!
Extra Notes: Artimus Pyledriver is currently touring with Fireball Ministry and Vains of Jenna as the Triple Threat Tour, sponsored by Hot Topic. The name is based on Artimus Pyle, drummer for Lynyrd Skynyrd.
EPMS: Hi, Dave. First question: are you wearing Hot Topic right now?
Dave Slocum: LOL. Right now I'm wearing a local band's shirt from Atlanta.
EPMS: Really? What's the band?
Dave Slocum: Music Hates You. Their singer was actually in an REM video. The Georgia music scene is very incestuous. Everybody knows everybody.
EPMS: OK, on to more important questions. Have you ever owned a still?
Dave Slocum: LOL. No.
EPMS: By the name of the band, you're connected with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Did Artimus Pyledriver grow up with other southern rock bands in the 70s and 80s, such as 38 Special, Molly Hatchet, and even Black Oak Arkansas?
Dave Slocum: Oh yeah, all that stuff... Southern rock went downhill about the mid to late 80s... Today it's mostly just glorified country rock. You'd be hard-pressed to find real southern rock... We're not traditional southern rock, either... There are a few, like Government Mule... They're an awesome band that's keeping the torch alive. Also, Blackberry Smoke. They're another Atlanta band. Killer band.
EPMS: You've been described as bounty hunter rock. Do you ever watch Dog, the Bounty Hunter?
Dave Slocum: LOL. I've seen it a couple of times. It's pretty funny. That guy has a mullet, doesn't he? I always thought that was a funny way to describe us.
EPMS: Is the Atlanta music scene crowded for a band like yours?
Dave Slocum: There's a lot of bands. We have five million people. All of us come from a pretty close-knit scene. Everybody gets along real well.
EPMS: I know you were looking to tour Europe. Have you been able to do that yet?
Dave Slocum: No, we haven't yet. That's the next big thing we want to do. It's expensive.
EPMS: How is Artimus Pyledriver different from the southern rock image, what people expect of a southern rock band?
Dave Slocum: Because we're a southern rock in the sense that, we're a rock band from the south... but we're definitely a metal band. We're just heavy. We try to be, like, a metal band with southern rock licks.
EPMS: I have this theory that, Jimmy Page and Van Halen's influence hardly reaches today's guitar players; not too many play like them. On the other hand, you can hear a lot of the influence of Ritchie Blackmore and Tony Iommi.
Dave Slocum: Oh, yeah. One hundred percent, I agree. I never hear people play like Zeppelin. Especially metal. Iommi started it all, the heavy metal sort of guitar sound. We're big Black Sabbath fans.
EPMS: I know Black Sabbath is an influence. So, who was better with them, Dio or Ozzy?
Dave Slocum: That's a debate we have a lot. Everybody knows that Heaven and Hell was the best Sabbath album. It's awesome they're getting back together.
EPMS: Who is going to be the singer?
Dave Slocum: Dio is. I just read it the other day. They're calling it Heaven and Hell; they're going to tour.
EPMS: Is it limiting to play an old, well-defined style of music? Does it keep you from being able to branch out too far?
Dave Slocum: I think we branch out pretty well. We take classic rock, with heavy metal influences, we kind of put them together. I don't think that's accurate. We're not limited at all.
EPMS: Are you a fan of pro wrestling?
Dave Slocum: Yeah, I grew up watching it. A lot of my friends watch it, just for the entertainment value. I don't watch it too much. I have friends who are wrestlers.
EPMS: Really? Who that El Pasoans might have heard of?
Dave Slocum: The most famous would be Lita from, I think, WWE. She'd probably kill me if I don't remember her name.
EPMS: Why are you interview-accessible? I mean, I've found that some bands are very open to give interviews, and you can find their interviews all over the internet. Other bands seem to grant very few interviews, especially to web sites.
Dave Slocum: Because, you've got to have somebody talking about you. I like talking to people. We're easy to call. We don't mind talking. We're not reclusive.
EPMS: Does anybody in the band ride skateboards?
Dave Slocum: Yeah, I do. For about twenty-four years.
EPMS: Do you do a lot of fishing?
Dave Slocum: Oh yeah, man. I like to go trout fishing. I don't do deep sea fishing or in the lakes, I mostly walk the rivers in northern Georgia. Not much any more. I used to, every other weekend. These days we're on the road so much. It's kind of depressing. I didn't bring a pole with me on the road.
EPMS: Do you use a tour bus or RV?
Dave Slocum: RV. Hell, yeah. We have a 1985 27' Chevy Mallard RV. We gutted it and re-built it; it's like a rolling home. We built bunks in it. It's really cool. We just put another motor in it; we blew the other one.
EPMS: How long has Artimus Pyledriver been a touring band?
Dave Slocum: Altogether? About three years. We did our first tour with Nashville Pussy.
EPMS: Have you toured with them again?
Dave Slocum: No. We've played with them a bunch since then, but we haven't toured with them again.
EPMS: Have you known any sheriffs like Andy Taylor (Andy Griffith), or mayors like The Duke's of Hazzard's Boss Hogg?
Dave Slocum: LOL. No, man. Actually, yeah. Out in east Georgia. When my father was arrested, there was this sheriff named Gene Smith, long dead. The crookedest guy in Oglethorpe County. One story, he pulled a guy over one time, and the guy had some pot in the car. Gene Smith asked him if he had the title to his car. The guy says, "Yeah." Gene Smith tells him, "Well, sign it over to me and start walking." So that's what happened.
EPMS: All of you are married men. Does touring cause difficulties for your relationships?
Dave Slocum: LOL. Yeah it does. It's hard to be away. You've got to tell them, I've got to go to work. We all have pretty supportive wives. You have to take the good with the bad.
EPMS: Have you started to get endorsements?
Dave Slocum: Oh yeah. We're getting a lot. Bastard on Wheels Clothing Company. Affliction Clothing Company. We're trying to get a Dean endorsement. They're coming in slowly but surely. We need them. We're poor.
EPMS: Why did you sign with Buzzville Records from Belgium?
Dave Slocum: That was probably about three years ago. They offered us a deal. We took it. They were the only ones interested at the time. Now we're with DRT Entertainment.
EPMS: I thought DRT was just a management company.
Dave Slocum: DRT is a straight up record label. They bought us out of Buzzville.
EPMS: Didn't you have your CD three years before you signed with DRT?
Dave Slocum: We recorded it in '02, released in 03 or 04, then we re-released it with an extra song on DRT this year. We're going to record another one in March.
EPMS: You're all hot-rodder, motorcycle guys, right?
Dave Slocum: Yeah.
EPMS: What was your favorite car or motorcycle you've worked on?
Dave Slocum: Man, I'm a big Dodge guy. I like cars from the late 60s. I did a '68 Dodge Coronet, hot-rodded it out. I recently sold it. I just picked up a '66 Charger last week. I'll be doing that til the day I die. If I weren't doing music, I'd probably work at a hot rod shop.
EPMS: You had a tough youth, what with your dad going to prison for life for murder, etc.. How did these things affect your music?
Dave Slocum: It's given me a lot to write about. I write songs about girl-type people. I've known some horrible white trash women. My dad went to prison when I was eight. My real mom left about the same time. It made me a little crazy. Most musicians are a little nutty. It left me wanting to get the things out. I sing about them. It definitely influenced me.
EPMS: How much has Artimus Pyledriver been influenced by hardcore?
Dave Slocum: Incredibly true. I'm a big fan of Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys, Agent Orange, Gang Green. We thought, heavy metal, punk rock, southern kind of thing. This is what we came up with.
EPMS: Hey, thanks for the interview, Dave.
Dave Slocum: Thanks, I appreciate it.
EPMS: See you Monday at the show.
Artimus Pyledriver will appear Monday, 11/13 at Chic's, with Fireball Ministry, Vains of Jenna, The Cantina Flys, and Voyeur.