Scott H. Biram Ain't a Poser When it Comes to the Blues

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Scott. H. Biram
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If you need a crash course on American rock-n-roll music, pick up or download a Scott H. Biram record. From a blues and country base, Biram, a 38-year-old Lockhart, Texas native and one of Austin's favorite stepsons, distills lo-fi lessons on everything from punk to bluegrass. He's a one-man band who sounds like your drunk, cussing, truck-driving daddy, warning you through his CB radio that he's going to open a can of whoop-ass when he gets home. The Weekly caught up with Biram by phone, as he prepared for his latest tour. He plays Sept. 8 at Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa

OC Weekly (Josh Dulaney): Can you describe what your musical journey has been like from "This is Kingsbury?" to "Bad Ingredients"?

I don't know man, I've just been making records and recording songs. Since I signed with Bloodshot in 2005, I started doing more originals. Before that I was doing a lot of obscure blues and folk covers, and once I got signed I started more original songs. You know, I've been recording my own records all this time in my house, my own studio. When I first started touring I was playing a lot smaller venues and stuff. It's come a long way. I'm playing to 200 or 500 people a night. You know, trying to make a living man, and get all this shit off my chest. (Laughs)

How much do you think your sound has evolved from those first recordings up to now?

It's really come a long way. My production skills in the studio have definitely improved. I learn something new every record. I do a lot of reading and stuff, so I learn a lot of recording techniques. You know, I've stuck to the minimal, lo-fi sound the whole time, but slowly, these stacks of amplifiers have grown up around me. I'm all tangled up in cables (laughs). I guess my songwriting has come a long way over the years. The songs I write now are not nearly as cartoonish as they used to be. Just trying to make a living and keep on keeping on. I try to take everything I know how to do and put it on a record. I've been playing guitar for 25 years. I'm still learning. I hope that never stops. 

In 2012, what separates a genuine bluesman from those that are trying to mimic a sound and write words that sound bluesy?

That's a complicated question.

You don't have to name bands.

(Laughs). Yeah, I'm not gonna do that. That's dangerous territory. I don't know man, as far as my journey through all that stuff, when I cover a blues song or when I'm trying to do something bluesy, country or going for a certain kind of sound, I hear the voice of the person that originally did that song, so there's a little bit of impersonation going on there. What sounds correct to me is what they did originally, but I've also got so much background of punk rock and heavy metal in me, it ends up bleeding through, so it ends up being my own thing.

Sometimes I'll hit some songs that are just straight-up blues or straight-up country. Then I have quite a few that are a cross section of the two, or it'll be a blues song with a metal tinge to it. I feel like you gotta feel it in your heart, in your stomach and your liver, and you just gotta have some attitude on there, whether it be a mean, aggressive attitude or a heartfelt attitude. That's something that a lot of people, like you're saying, they're just trying to sound exactly like Robert Johnson or trying to sound exactly like Son House or something like that.

I personally have to put something of myself on there, otherwise it's just like a novelty, museum thing. And I personally think that when you overdo the emulation, a lot of times it comes out sounding like the super whiteboy blues, and I can't stand that kinda shit. I feel like there's not a enough soul in it. What the blues is all about is soul and having the spirit and all that, and if it's not there, it's just going to sound contrived. 

Do you think where you grew up had an influence on your music? I know in our generation we can seek out music from all over the world, through the Internet.

Definitely. Up until I was about 10 years-old I lived in the country and ran along the riverbanks of the San Marcos River. My friends and I ran around finding any old wells and throwing rocks down there, and chasing rattlesnakes and this and that, and climbing up in old barns and stuff like that. I think it definitely had an influence on me. Also, when I was probably 7 or 8 years old, this Southern black Baptist gospel choir came to our school, and it just touched me and did something to me. I'd never heard anything quite like that before. I don't think that right then it set me on any course or anything, but when I became a musician and started playing the blues it took me back to all that definitely woke up that old memory.

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