INTERVIEW: Dan Baird & Warner E Hodges, Homemade Sin – April 2017

INTERVIEW: Dan Baird & Warner E Hodges, Homemade Sin – April 2017
By Shane Pinnegar

Dan Baird & Homemade Sin are traversing Australia on their first visit (as a band) Down Under, and explode into Perth’s Charles Hotel this Friday, 5 April, for Western Australia’s introduction to their special brand of hard edged Southern boogie rock n’ roll. I called into their hotel room somewhere in Queensland, and had a candid chat and a few laughs with rock n’ roll legends Dan Baird (ex-Georgia Satellites) and Warner E. Hodges (Jason & the Scorchers), and tried to wrap my Aussie ears around their mutually drawling Southern accents and distinguish who was who through the speakerphone!

Shane: Lovely to talk to you again, Warner – and Dan, nice to meet you. How’s the Australian tour going?

Warner: It’s been a little rough. I don’t think quite as many people knew we were coming as we would hope. But we had to start somewhere and we’ve started somewhere.

Shane: It is difficult to build an audience in a new territory, isn’t it, without being bankrolled by a big label or something.

Warner: Well, yeah, there ain’t no big label! I mean, we’ve had three, what we would qualify as decent successes and we’ve had some near misses… to say the least.

Shane: That’s one way to put it. So have you managed to get out and see any of the country yet, or is it all business on this trip?

Warner: I have not got out much, I gotta be honest. The first time I came here, I really did get out a lot. I’ve got a new solo record I’ve been trying to write songs for on the off-days.

Shane: Things have really picked up for you guys in the last few years as Homemade Sin. Since 2012, I count something like nine or ten records between you, with Homemade Sin, both of your solo albums, and The Bluefields: that’s a lot of music to put together…

Dan: It is, it’s one of the big benefits of living in the digital age when, if you’ve bought a recorder, all of a sudden you can make that many records… if you’re writing. Writing, writing, writing is the most important thing. That’s the goal. Have you got songs? Have you got songs? If you don’t have any songs, you shouldn’t be putting out records.

Shane: Do you both write constantly, or just specifically for a project?

Warner: Dan writes way more than I do.

Dan: There’s a lot of times I work for the fun of it. You see, there’s not too many things now that I don’t write with somebody. There’s a few songs that have definitely been written by myself, but they’re rarer now than they were. I’m a sixty-three year-old man – there’s not that much to bitch about outside being old!

Shane: When either of you do write a song, do you know where it’s going? If it’s gonna be on a Dan Baird or Warner Hodges solo album, is it going to be a Homemade Sin song, or will it be saved for The Bluefields? Do you instantly know?

Warner: No, you don’t know until it’s done and then you go, ‘where does this fit?’ I guess it’s like a painting. You just make the painting and go, ‘oh, it looks like shit in the bathroom,’ [laughs] that’s basically it.

Dan: Once they’re done [where they belong] becomes pretty evident, though, in my experience.

Warner: Yeah.

Dan: I mean, for years we’ve kinda had to write for [different] piles: you get a song done and it’s like, ‘wow this is kinda Bluefields, this is Dan pure, this is Homemade Sin, and this is a bluesy thing, so Warner why don’t you cut it?’

Shane: You obviously have a very strong connection between the two of you, and your fortunes started rising almost as soon as you started playing together constantly…

Dan: We’re a good Yin-Yang the head and tail of the same coin.

Shane: Is that connection you have something that is definable, or is it something more ethereal?

Dan: Parts of it are both.

Warner: Woooooo – serious question.

Dan: Yeah, okay, so what we’ve got here is, I think both of us recognise the intent of moment – we go about it in a little bit different way, but that’s personal work ethics. But we see the thing – we see the same thing, and how to make it turn into something might be a different method on either one of us. But there’s a, like I really do mean head and tail of the same coin, and it’ll make a difference constantly.

One of the big things is, basically I produced [Homemade Sin’s record] Get Loud, and my solo record, and when we got to [the most recent Homemade Sin album] Rollercoaster, I went, ‘goddamn it, I can’t do this and be fresh at all – Warner, you’re the producer.’ So that’s why there is a return a little bit to the more traditional stuff, if you think, that me and Warner would have done in the beginning.

Shane: There’s obviously a very strong friendship and a lot of mutual respect there.

Warner: Well, I’ve got Dan Baird records. I don’t listen to a lot of music. I listen to some of Dan’s records. There’s a mutual respect society.

Dan: Yeah.

Warner: There’s also… we both allow each other to be each other. And want each other to be that guy. And it’s that way all across the board in Homemade Sin; there’s room for everybody’s personality to be who they are.

Dan: And we know each other well enough now to look at each other and go, ‘I know how good you can play – that’s not good enough.’

Warner: Yeah, yeah… we’re each others cheerleading team. It’s a good thing. We know when to push and when to let off.

Dan: We’re pretty good, both of us, at self-policing. It’s the stuff that… there’s all kinds of little things. Joe Blanton was very instrumental in this one too.

Warner: Big time.

Dan: He’d look at Warner and he had one idea of how to do the song The Other Side, and Joe was going, ‘no man, play it like Angus Young would play it’ – seriously, those were the words he used. And all of a sudden, Warner thought for a minute and tried it, and then was like, ‘alright, then I’ll do this then,’ and it ended up being the thing. We kind of know when to look at each other and go, ‘yeaaaah, you’re stepping in the wrong lane…’

Warner: It’s kind of a cool thing, because we are fans of each other. To me, when Dan sings a song, I go, ‘yeah,’ or ‘not yet.’ When it’s like, ‘yeah it’s Dan Baird!’ that’s the guy I’m looking for, right there.

Shane: The latest album of course is called Rollercoaster. Is that an analogy for the fickle nature of fame and success?

Dan: Fame and success… actually – um, how to say it without saying it… because I can’t say it… it was a little letter to an old acquaintance. If you look at it, it’s a lot about the business of being in a band…

Warner: You gotta remember too, Dan’s got a little saying, and I love it: ‘we’re about as famous as we’re gonna get!’ This is about famous as we’re gonna get.

Dan: Yup.

Shane: On that note, does it become tedious when you’re constantly being asked to play songs from thirty years ago?

Warner: We just don’t even listen to them. Dan Baird does not take requests; do not make any.

Dan: No, I don’t take requests. Oh, you know – I take that back. [to Warner] Do you remember when we were in Rhode Island – that show… we were playing, and crowd-wise, it was terrible. We got up there and got all kinda like, ‘well, let’s do the deed,’ and we got about three songs in and we were tearing the ass end out of it, musically, and some guy yelled out, ‘play Woke Up Jake’ – and Warner looked over at me, he shook his head up and down – ‘I know it,’ and I just started it off. And it was one of the best nights we’ve ever had.

Warner: For a crowd that could have gave a shit!

Dan: Yeah, it was absolutely hysterical – and you don’t get to choose. You do NOT get to choose. You can sit there and have a packed house full of adoring people that are wanting to hear you, and you lay an egg. And nobody wants to lay an egg. But there’s a certain amount you can prepare for; there’s a certain amount you can’t.

Shane: You’ve gotta go with the flow, huh?

Dan: Yeah, you just take it as it comes. Anything else and you’re kidding yourself.

Shane: I read that you guys didn’t use set lists for years when touring, but you’ve recently started using them more because there’s just so much material to choose from now.

Warner: Yeah, but Dan threw that away the other night. And we played better – that is the truth.

Dan: The thing is… we have twelve or thirteen songs we’ve done live. We’ve got the thirteenth one worked up. I couldn’t keep them all in my head…

Warner: And we added four songs off your solo record.

Dan: We had seventeen songs sitting there floating around, so it was impossible for me to plan to keep each one sounding fresh. So now I’m not worried about that anymore. We know the songs; if we screw ‘em up, we screw ‘em up. We point at the guy that dropped the ball and laugh at him. We all take turns being the guy – nobody’s walking on water around here.

Shane: That sounds like a very good attitude to take, I think.

Warner: Everybody in the band’s gonna score three touchdowns and fumble the ball twice.

Shane: That’s what playing as a team’s all about. Everybody has an off day.

Dan: Hopefully it’s just one guy – the other three guys will pick him up. Including myself. If I have an off night, and there’s been times when the other three guys look at each other and go, ‘Power Rangers to the rescue!’

Warner: Yeah.

Dan: They know that I’ll get back on as soon as I can, because hell, I don’t wanna fuck off a couple of hours. That’s just not in my DNA – I don’t leave the house if I don’t plan to do something. If that gets yanked from me by circumstance and the mood du jour, I’m hoping the guys stay on the beam and I’ll catch something.

Like with Warner, he’ll have nights where it’s just kinda like, he’s standing on top of a bass bin, and his gear’s acting up a little bit, and it’s just kinda like, ‘okay’…

Warner: I’m in hell.

Dan: The other three of us just grab the rope if we can. The thing is, if I have two guys like that, that’s when it starts turning into [hard] work.

Warner: There’s a consistency level that’s pretty good inside of this band though.

Shane: I’m constantly reading things from friends in England, that you guys are amongst the best live bands they’ve ever seen. So, are you particularly hard on yourselves? Like, if you hit a bum note are you harder on yourself than the audience, who may not even have noticed?

Dan: Nobody likes being the guy that drops the ball. You know who the Harlem Globetrotters are, right? We’re always aspiring to that. Who’s got the ball? A lot of times, we do a short, tight song. We’ll know exactly how it’s gonna go. I’m gonna be the point man but everybody’s got a job to do. Nobody wants to drop the ball. There are points in times where we hit some songs that have a lot of freedom built into them, and at that point it’s like, ‘who has to stay home and mind the fort? Who can soar?’ The guy that’s minding the fort’s looking out for the guy who’s trying to soar, and going, ‘come on guys, fucking fly.’ I’m holding down rhythm guitar, I’m the last guy holding it down – if they reach it, it’s like, ‘there, that’s why they did it,’ and they’ll do me the same favour.

Warner: It’s a weird thing. If anybody really does screw up, everybody in this band will go home and bone up on it. They do not wanna be the guy that screws up – especially in front of people.

Shane: You’re both well and truly off the booze – congratulations on many years of sobriety…

Warner: I don’t even think Dan had a problem – he just had enough sense to not be stupid!

Dan: I passed the thirty years.

Warner: I’m coming up on twenty-five years. I’m very happy about it.

Shane: That’s fantastic, it really is. Does frequently playing to bars full of drunken people disturb you, or confront you, or conflict you at all?

Dan: There’s one thing. Don’t put your drink on the stage. That’s my stage. I’m very, very protective of that. Somebody set their drink on the stage in Sydney and I just – very calmly – I didn’t kick it, just toed it off the end of the stage. And I just went, ‘this is not a bar… this is my stage!’ You know, we’re of a certain age where we’re not gonna draw a [crowd of] twenty-year-old drunks.

Warner: That’s the only thing that’s hard – the drunk person that wants to tell you how great you are over and over and over. They’re drunk, and you’re happy you made their night, but it’s like, one or two times would be cool, then move along.

Dan: That one, and the ‘take your picture with me’ for the third time, ‘it didn’t come out.’ It didn’t come out because you couldn’t hold the thing – I hope you’re not driving home…

Warner: I’m gonna tell another one on that though. As a sober guy, I talk to somebody that wants to quit drinking a time or two a week at gigs. In a weird way, I feel it’s part of my business, cause I’m out there carrying the message. You can be in a bar doing what you love doing and take your ass home sober.

Dan: Warner and I are light switch people: we’re on, we’re off. We don’t have a volume control. Our rhythm section – either one of them can have the appropriate amount of an appropriate thing and get along fine. Both of us look at them, like, ‘how do you do that?’ We know that they can. And people that come to the show are gonna wanna have a drink or two, and maybe even get a little bit in their cups, but most of them head on home fine.

It’s the pro-drunk that’s really kind of tough. I feel more sorry for him at the end of the day, but while they’re irritating me I don’t feel sorry at all. [laughs] If some guy sits there and just starts hollering, you know, I’ll talk directly to him and go, ‘buddy, you’re screwing the show up; you wanna hear me play this or that song, well it just when off the board dude; it’s not gonna happen.’ I give him a little speech that I’ve got kinda prepared and that usually does the trick, and we move along. I didn’t sing Battleship Chains [originally], so I’m not GONNA sing it. I didn’t sing Hippie Hippie Shake – [so] it’s not gonna get done either. That there, that’s the peace I made with it years ago.

INTERVIEW: Dan Baird & Warner E Hodges, Homemade Sin – April 2017

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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