BROTHER DEGE INTERVIEW at Brazil's Coluna Blues Rock

Brazil, I know you're out there. I'm working on getting out there one day. Much thx, my friends.

Entrevista | Interview | Brother Dege

1 - I think you’re a very interesting musician, because you mix psychedelic and American root music. What came first in your life, psychedelic rock bands or more roots sounds, like folk and blues?

Heavy metal, punk rock, and classic rock was the first music I responded too. I liked loud, noisey music. I didn’t get into folk music until later when I heard John Lee Hooker, Lightnin Hopkins, and Robert Johnson. Then I got into all the Delta stuff. But before that it was all metal and punk, which I still love and listen to more than blues or any kind of folk music. 

2 – Speaking of this mix of psychedelic and American traditional music, I put the Grateful Dead as the exponents of this idea. Do you agree? Was the band one of your influences? Could you talk about the Grateful Dead in American rock and American music in general?

That’s probably a pretty accurate observation, but I was never a huge fan of The Dead’s music. It wasn’t HEAVY and distorted enough. It was kind of soft and I thought it sounded like a monkey grinder box. But I respect  the incredible road culture they created over the years. With a name like Grateful Dead, I thought they were going to sound like Motorhead and be very acidic and distorted - not so folky.  So I was kind of disappointed that it wasn’t gnarly and loud. Still am. 

3 – You're from Louisiana, a state of great diversity. You yourself have ancestry, if I am not mistaken, French, Irish, and Native American. How much did this influence your music or your musical concepts?

I don’t know. I think I’m more influenced by the all-around weirdness of the Deep South than any kind of music that would be associated with my ethnicity. 

4 – You had a band called Santería, a band that you define as "psyouthern rock" or "swampedelic". Santería had a very heavy sound. How the band was born? Could you talk about the period with the band?

Santeria was my first band. It lasted 10 years. It was a great run. I love those guys. We made some really good, unique records and did our own thing, but the band was plagued with bad luck and problems from about: mental illness, car crashes, poverty, a voodoo curse, extremely difficult recording situations, and just a lot of crazy stuff. We powered through most of it, but in the end, everyone just got tired and burned out, which is understandable. 10 years for any band is a pretty damn good run. But 10 years for a damn good band with a lot of problems and no money and no label is an incredibly damn good run. And we are all still friends today. There’s no bad blood or anything. I am proud of all we accomplished. There’s still nothing out there that sounds like “Year of the Knife.” 

“Year of the Knife”|Santeria

5 – Soon after the release of House of the Dying Sun, the band entered in hiatus. From what I read on your site, you think it was something related to a voodoo curse. How serious is/was this?

Somewhat serious. We just thought the name Santeria sounded cool, so we named our band that. Also the band was multi-ethnic like the religion. The drummer was from India, and the bass player was Argentinian. So we went with it. Eventually some people associated with the Santeria religion were upset that we had appropriated the name for our band and made some weird moves to scare us off. One of which was stuffing a cow’s heart in our mailbox at the band house. It looked like a big football made of meat. We also got some harassing emails about the name from certain people associated with the religion. And we had a three-year run of bad luck that we may have mistakenly, or not mistakenly,  attributed to the the curse. So I don’t really know what the true answer is. All I can say is; it was not always a fun time. 

6 – I could not hear your first solo album, Bastard's Blues, online. What was it like moving from a rock band to a solo album? I mean, was it something natural or did you feel a bit uncomfortable at that moment?

If you go chronologically, the Bastard’s Blues album (initially released on cassette) came out in 1996 or so, before the first Santeria album, which came out in 1998. I wrote songs in my room alone for seven years before I was ever in Santeria, and I’ve always played slide and did my own thing outside of that band, so it was not a big deal. If you go back, you can see that the Brother Dege style was forged way back on that first Bastard’s Blues cassette. I just slowly got better at playing and writing those kind of songs which were also in my DNA...and the DNA of Santeria if you go back and listen. 

7 – Your album Trailerville resembles a stoner, a psychedelic trip with plenty of LSD. At that time you were financially broke and worked as a taxi driver, right? Could you talk about the record?

I lived in trailer park in Lafayette, Louisiana. My neighbor Frank, who is from Maryland, was a taper. He was really into taping live shows. He grew up in the whole Maryland doom scene and knows all those guys - Wino, Victor, Greg Turley, Sherman, Bobby Liebling, etc. Frank lived in the trailer next to mine and he would listen to me play improvised guitar riffs through a looping pedal at night. He liked it and asked if he could record some of it. So he set up a little live taping, minidisc recording rig in my living room. He told me, “Every time you play, just push record.” Five days later we had four or five hours of recordings of me improvising these sound scape, instrumental Trailerville songs. He burned them to CD and I whittled them down to the best 12 songs and that became the Trailerville record.

8 – You integrated Black Bayou Construkt and recorded Kingdoms of Folly. Could you talk about the band?

That was during the Trailerville period. That was a really good band of absolutely great players. I just tried to keep up. The only problem with the band was no one could tour. Most of them had house mortgages and kids. But that was a great band. So I took a bunch of the songs I was working on at that time (including songs that would end up on Brother Dege albums) and I made a record with them. It’s like a double album. 15 songs, which is probably too many damn songs. I just tried to get as much stuff on tape as I could at the time, because I wasn’t sure if I could afford to make another album for a while after that. And that’s partially why I ended up recording all the Brother Dege stuff alone at home with a very small recording rig and just doing it by myself. Sometimes it is all about economics. 

9 – Can we say you have the Do It Yourself spirit? With Internet and all social medias, nowadays is easier?

Yeah, sure. I guess. Here is the thing about DIY: it is not always out of choice that you have to do something yourself, but out of necessity...because you can’t afford to pay someone else to do it for you. It makes you learn how to do stuff that no one else wants to do for free. 

10 – My favorite álbum is Folk Song of the American Longhair. What an álbum! A lot of folk, blues and slide! Could you talk about the disc?

Thank you. All of the songs on American Longhair had been brewing for a while and had a nice, long gestation period. I had a lot of time to sculpt those songs. “House of the Dying Sun” goes all the way back to Santeria days. Most of the others were written while I was either living in cheap motels or in the Trailerville park. The other’s like “Too Old to Die Young” and “Girl Who Wept Stones” came to me right when I started to record all the songs in my rent house in Louisiana. I recorded everything at home and in a shed in the backyard. It was a good time. I had a lot of confidence in the quality of those songs. There is no filler on that album. I just tried do capture the vibe and keep it raw and cinematic. Almost all the songs are recorded on a cheap JT Turser resonator that I named “Buzzo.” Nothing fancy. That guitar had a mean growl that was difficult to control. I tried stuffing toothpicks and pieces of cloth into the cone to quiet it down, but nothing worked, so I just left it as it was. My thought at the time was, “I guess this is my sound.” It’s the same Dobro I’m playing in the abandoned house video for “Girl Who Wept Stones” on YouTube. 

“Girl Who Wept Stones” | Brother Dege

11 – Did you live in a homeless shelter (almost all crack users)? Wow, what a heavy experience?
No, I’ve never lived in a homeless shelter, but I worked in a men’s homeless shelter 2011-2013. I was case manager, helping homeless men get their lives together. It was a great job. I really enjoyed doing it. And I would probably be still doing it, but they couldn’t work around my touring schedule so I had to resign. However, in 2007, I wrote a cover story called “Slipping Through the Cracks” for a weekly paper where I went homeless and lived on the streets for a week. 

12 – Your last álbum is Farmer’s Almanac, great álbum! Could you talk about it?

I recorded most of it in a basement space in New Orleans. It’s a concept album about rural communities and all the difficulties of growing up and living in some of these places. Small towns in North America are no longer like apple pie America. There’s horrible poverty in the Deep South and a lot of weirdness and many of the farming communities are having to operate under the ominous control of death corporations like Monsanto with their cancer chemicals and GMOs. For any genre of music to attain the greatest heights, it’s got to go for it. Even if it fails. There are no Delta Blues / southern concept albums that I know of, so I made my own. 

13 – Your song featured in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained! How your music came to him? 

He heard it in his car on Genya Raven’s show on Little Steven’s Underground Garage, which is a satellite radio channel that plays a lot of really good unsigned bands. Genya is a seminal figure in the history of American punk rock & roll. Among many other things, she produced the Dead Boys first album Young, Loud, & Snotty. You can hear Quentin tell the story of how he discovered "Too Old to Die Young" on Soundcloud.