BOOB SCOTCH BLUES: An interview with BOB LOG III

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“Last year’s touring got too crazy. I’m still trying to recuperate. I played everywhere, almost 200 shows, from a bowling alley in Oklahoma to a concert hall in Belgium. I played rock festivals, jazz festivals, blues festivals, science fiction conventions, laundromats, restaurants, and backyards….I took 22 airplanes, 15 boats, 14 trains, and drove 22,000 miles in 21 countries…I ate goose liver, reindeer, shrimp heads, kangaroo, brain and nato.”

This text opens SLIDE GUITAR RIDE, director Bernd Schoch’s 2005 documentary on one-man band Bob Log III. Like many one-man bands, Bob simultaneously plays slide guitar and drums, but his trademark is a motorcycle helmet attached a phone receiver that he sings into. Since departing from Tucson-based duo Doo Rag (and pioneering Tucson band Mondo Guano), Bob Log III has continued to tour around the world extensively, attracting die-hard fans that seem to recognize what is truly special, genuine, and authentic; a Bob Log III performance is something to witness in a lifetime. Whether he is ritualistically getting audience members to dip their boob into his scotch for his well-known song ”Boob Scotch” or crowd surfing in a plastic blow-up boat while playing, the man tours six months out of the year, playing 150 shows. We talked to Bob about some of things he’s seen, heard, and experienced throughout his touring.

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Esinam Beckley: There is an amazing stop motion sequence in SLIDE GUITAR RIDE that leads up to you getting electrocuted. How did that end up being put into the documentary?

Bob Log: Bernd wanted me to tell the story of the first time I went and stayed at his house. He was the guy directing, and making that documentary. He lived in the middle of Germany’s Black Forest, in a farmhouse where they actually keep the cows under the house. Like, there’s a room in the house basically for cows, and when you wake up his mom’s got home made butter for you. It’s amazing. So I told the story of when we drove to his house, which was a crazy drive. We stopped and I told these people about cow tipping. They’d never heard of it before. So, I attempted to show them, and got electrocuted. The girl who made the Claymation, Tinka, she did this whole thing. It was amazing, and we were going to do another one, but she asked me specifically, she said please don’t say anything big like Black Forest because I have to make it out of clay. So I said Black Forest and she ended up having to make like 50 trees and make it look like a forest. I’m not sure if she ever did another one or not.

EB: How long did it take to complete?

BL: I don’t remember. All of this would have been a blur on tour, like maybe before a show they just recorded me telling a story, and then she went away with it. I never thought they’d make the claymation. Apparently they showed it at Sundance. It’s funny, nobody tells me these things! I find out about it later. You think someone would just tell me. You don’t have to send a limo, but at least send a Volkswagen or something. Yeah, nobody tells me anything. I always find out later by somebody else.

EB: How did you end up going to Australia?

BL: I’m a resident there. I started going there just playing music, just like when I go anywhere. Then, I hooked up with a dancing duo called The Town Bikes and fell in love, got married, and had a baby. So then I moved to Australia. I think I’m the only band to ever move to Australia. All of the bands in Australia are trying to get out. There’s only five cities to play in, and then there’s like 25 little towns. So I can play like 30 shows a year maybe, but that’s why I gotta get on the airplane a lot. If there were 12 more cities there, I could probably stay there a lot longer. I love Australia, it’s great, but it’s great coming back to America, Canada, and Europe. I have a lot of fun going to all these places.

Australia’s got some really cool, trippy animals and a lot of ways to die. People actually die. I’m from Arizona, where we have scorpions, rattlesnakes, and big black widows, but nobody really ever dies. In Australia every year, someone gets eaten by a crocodile or shark. There’s poisonous worms on the beach. There’s actual beaches where you can’t even go onto the beach because there’s worms in the sand and if you step on them you die. Jellyfish right on the shore—you die. There’s crocodiles that run out of the water, and eat you while you’re on the sand. That’s really only in Darwin. Where I live there’s none of that. People don’t die… too much.

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Bob Log III at the Tote in Melbourne

EB: How many shows do you play a year?

BL: 150. I play about six months a year, not in a row. I do 40 shows, stop for 40 days. 30 shows, stop for 30 days.  So six months a year I’m sweating like a crazy sport person. It’s technically a really noisy sport I do in a lot of ways. It’s definitely music but it’s physically as demanding as any basketball player, or whatever. It’s like I’m running in place for an hour and a half. I get to take little breaks. I get three minutes stop. Three minutes stop. Three minutes stop, but it’s like this incredibly physical thing, but I get a lot of exercise.

EB: 150 shows is very demanding. Do you ever have moments where you want to give up or die?

BL: I do get tired. I’m not saying I don’t get tired. I’m real good at power naps. The thing is, even when I’m tired, I’m usually tired because I had so much damn fun yesterday. It’s not like I’m tired from digging a ditch, or paving a street, or painting a house. You know a lot of people have jobs like that, and that makes you tired too. I’m usually tired ‘cuz I bounced somebody a little too big last night. I maybe sweated a little bit too much, and I’m gonna have to drink extra orange juice this morning.  So even when I’m tired, I keep it in perspective as to what I’m doing, and to what made me tired, and I’m ready to do it again tonight. I’m doing 35 shows in a row right now. I don’t think I’ve even ever actually done that before. Usually I take a day off here or there but this time every day off I had, someone would contact me and say hey we got a club here you wanna come down? and I was like yeah. Or, hey you skipped us last time you wanna come down? then I’m like shit I just filled them all up. 35 shows in a row, but I can do it.

EB: Who is someone that you’ve wanted to meet, or actually got to meet that was particularly amazing or inspirational?

BL: There’s been a lot, but the first thing that came to my mind when you asked that is Peaches. I love the Teaches of Peaches. It’s fantastic. When she was doing that tour she came to Phoenix, and not Tucson where I live. So I drove 120 miles to the show. There was like 20 people, there was nobody there. So she’s all alone, she’s a one woman band, or at that point she was. So she did the show all alone. I sat there, and she had her mullet and lingerie on. I laughed, oh my God I had so much fun. Everyone else was kinda standing back. I wasn’t too close, but I was just laughing ’till I had tears in my eyes. Somehow, she found out who I was and invited me backstage, and was so nice to me and we had a great time. I almost got to tour with her a couple times but it didn’t happen. She was so cool, and really nice. You don’t always expect that from someone when you meet them. She was fantastic.

EB: You did a whole tour with Blowfly. What is he like?

BL: He is amazing. When that got offered, it was one of those how can I say no to this? It was only 10 days. I’m not making a huge amount of money, but 10 days with Blowfly, man. So I did that tour and he’s just the nicest guy. He was 76 at the time I think. We go out to breakfast, and I’m expecting him to be Blowfly to our waitress. He doesn’t do that. He’s Clarence. He’s very polite and very nice. He’s got fingernails out to here. They know something is up. He says yes ma’am, no ma’am, he’s very polite. Whatever he eats, he will put maple syrup over the whole thing. So there’s pancakes, bacon, eggs, and toast, but it’s just maple syrup like a bowl of soup. Then he turns to me and he’s like Bob Log you play guitar by yo self. You play drums by yo self. You drive yo self…but I betcha need help to masturbate! He was a hilarious dude. I had a lot of fun with him. I walked in on him talking to this opening band. They were like 22 year old boys. He was just looking at them. This is when he had his full suit on and everything. They were just looking at him all bug eyed and he says I just put a curse on all y’all! They were all worried like what’s gonna happen? He says your dicks gon’ fall off! And then just got on the stage.

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Blowfly

Here’s one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever seen. We played a show in Eureka, California and there was nobody there. Maybe the club got moved, I don’t think the date got changed. Everything was messed up. There was like 20 people there. I played my show despite the turnout. He’s an old man you know. Well, he puts on his suit. He puts on his cape, and his hood. Then he went out, and did the whole show all the way. He didn’t hold back nothin’. He did four encores for these 20 people. There was this small older lady, kind of a large old lady in the corner, sitting down. During the songs he was just like dance! C’mon dance! Everyone else was dancing except this one lady. He could have just stopped but he didn’t. He took his bad leg off the stage, limps over to this big lady, gets right in her face and goes dance!….bitch! She leaps out of her chair and starts doing this wavy armed, old lady, California Eureka dance! Which still is today one of the greatest moments in rock and roll I have ever witnessed in my life. It was just fantastic. If ever I’m playing some tiny town, and there’s not that many people there, it’s not hard. I just think Blowfly Eureka mother fuckers! I just turn it all on. It doesn’t matter where you are. I knew that before Blowfly, but he just reaffirmed it for me. Especially for someone being that old, and not handicapped, but well, somewhat handicapped. Trying that hard, for that few amount of people. I really appreciate that. I still get to see him once in a while. He’ll come to Australia, and I’ll play with him again, or for some reason we’re playing together in Miami. So every once in a while I get to run into him again. But that was one of those things that was really like how can I say no to this? It’s just gotta happen.

I’ve had that with a few people. There’s a folk-singing girl Ani DiFranco. She asked me to tour with her about 15, 16 years ago, something like that. I didn’t know who she was, I was like what?  Then the talking people were saying it’s the folk singing girl! Then I was like but this doesn’t make any sense… why would I do that? And I was told she plays for like 3000 lesbians a night, and I was like fuck yeah! We gotta do this! But it actually didn’t work out so good. I would play for 3000 of her fans, and I’d sell 10 CDs. The next night I thought, well, maybe I’ll sell 12. It started to beat me down a little bit, but she was so nice to me. Her whole crew were so helpful, and I think it was the most amount of money I’ve ever seen a band make touring and playing music she loves. That many people coming to see her. That many people buying her shirts. It was absolutely incredible. That girl is very smart. A very smart lady. One of the days off I had was near Buffalo. She’s got a club in Buffalo, and contacted my booking agent to come play her club. I haven’t seen her in like 15 years but that was just like well I could take the day off or, Ani’s asked me to play her club. I think I better say yes to this one. But she was very nice to me. Occasionally, I get to play or tour with some pretty different, or dream style people. With the Fat Possum guys R.L Burnside, Hasil Adkins…These guys just have a totally different attitude then any young band touring today. They’d show up and it wasn’t like where’s my rider? Where’s my this? They’d just show up and be like is the amp on? And if the amp was on, they were set. That is the only question I ever heard R.L. ask from anybody of anything. He couldn’t turn the amp on himself. He wasn’t sure how to work the buttons.

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R.L. Burnside (1926-2005)

EB: How did you end up playing at the McKittrick Hotel in New York?

BL: They’ve got everyone. The guy who books that particular bar just has free reign to do whatever he wants. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Sleep No More thing. You’re basically in the bar that people walk through on their way out. He gets to fill it with all kinds of cool bands that he likes. He’s a really cool guy. He’s just picking the bands he loves and giving them money to play this amazing thing.  It was a pretty neat experience. It was different then a lot of shows I’ve played. It was a lot of people seeing me play that had no idea who I am, or why I’m there. They’re coming out of this 3 hour groping session or whatever the hell is going on in that building. They were just like what the hell is that? I’m gonna have 1 drink and then I’m gonna go. So it didn’t really feel like my show, and my crowd but I had a lot of fun with it anyway. It’s such a beautiful building. Beautiful room to play in. The staff sure loved me. I’m real good at riling up the staff. Even if my crowd ain’t there. Whatever the crowd is, the staff’s on my side.

EB: Before you started touring what were you doing?

BL: I was a film projectionist at a movie theater in Tucson. We would show art films, foreign films, strange films, sometimes film festivals, and the ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. I would thread the projector, turn off the lights, start the movie… and then play guitar for two hours! It was the greatest job I ever fuckin’ had. I’d watch the movies too. Some of them I’d watch once or twice. I had lots of accidents with films. The first theater we were at was this very old theater. It had a reel system. You know in films when there’s that little white dot? You have to do the changeover, where one projector is going, the white dot happens, and so you start the other projector, and now they’re both going and then the second dot happens, and this projector shuts the gate, and that projector opens the gate. So you’ve got to work the two projectors at once, and no one in the theater knows that it’s switched if you do it right. So, with reels like that there was a little thing called a failsafe. If for some reason the take up reel stops, it would stop the movie, but ours was broken.

freeze

FREEZE DIE COME TO LIFE (1989)

We had this Russian movie called ‘FREEZE DIE COME TO LIFE.’ It was a weird movie about these orphans. I don’t know what I was doing. I wasn’t in the booth. I come back in the booth and the take up reel had stopped. Now, there is just a mountain of film on the ground. The movie’s only got five minutes left. So I have a choice. I could stop the movie, and try and fix it, which I can’t. Or, I just let the rest of the fuckin’ film run to the ground. So that’s what I did. Everyone got to watch the rest of the movie. Now, I’ve got to put all this back together. I’ve got to find the end of this mountain of film. I had to stretch it through all the aisles of the movie theater. It took me like four hours. It was so fucked up. The next day they showed it and just had scratches all through it, parts of it were backwards. I had to basically spend another two days putting that thing back together till they finally shipped it to the next theater and they didn’t say anything. It was a crazy job but I really liked it. I didn’t have to wear pants. When you’re in the booth there’s no boss, and you get free popcorn, coffee, no pants, and a guitar. I don’t know how I’m gonna ever work anywhere else.

EB: In the doc LET ME BE YOUR BAND you mentioned you drove a school bus, is that true?

BL: I drove a school bus very, very briefly, but I had the buckle from before that. Driving a school bus is not a good job to have. You work an hour in the morning. One hour at night. Like an hour and a half. Then you’ve got eight hours off. I didn’t last very long.

EB: How much longer do you plan to tour?

BL: I don’t have any plans on stopping. I love it, I really do. I know I have limits on how many shows I can do per year. What happens is if I play nine months a year, I won’t remember anything. If I keep it to six months a year, I remember mostly everything. That’s the way I like to keep it. I know I’m not gonna remember everything, but I don’t wanna remember nothing. So I keep it to where I’m still physically able to remember things. Eventually, I will probably need more help. If I ever do go actually blind, I would need someone to get me to where my shit is. Once they sit me down, I’ll be fine. I don’t need to see when I’m playing, I would need help plugging my stuff in. If I ever go blind, like the doctors’ say I might someday, I will be fine as long as someone puts me on the stool. I don’t think it’s gonna slow me down, I might need someone else to drive.

EB: What is your favourite thing about touring?

BL:  I do like adventure. I enjoy being confused. I think when I’m confused, I’m paying the most attention. Whether it’s music, movies, books, anything. When you don’t understand something, you focus on it, to try to understand it. This happens on tour, especially in Europe, where I don’t speak the language. Like yesterday, suddenly I’m sleeping in a nun’s house, with two heavy metal bands. That was a confusing day! I enjoyed the hell out of that. There is no normal on tour. Every day is a completely different adventure. Some days are a little bit crazier than others. Throwing yourself out there into every strip bar, into every state, or city, you’re pretty much likely to get confused at some point by something somebody’s doing. Especially since I’m trying to rile them all up. I try and make the crowd do something they wouldn’t normally do. Occasionally they do stuff I wouldn’t normally do, or they wouldn’t do ever. Then, I’m confused too, and they’re doing it because they’re confused. So it’s sort of like this mass confusion that we are all trying to create. It’s a happy confusion. It’s not really a scary one. Like okay now we’re all gonna blow up these balloons and I’m gonna pop these balloons with these drums. That’s been my new thing, popping balloons with the drums. Someone will just throw the balloons at me so then I just stomp around and try and make a beat popping balloons. So that’s what’s been happening lately. I’ve been talking about making a video with this. I’m like I just want a long red carpet, and a balloon highway. I get to walk down it, and somehow they’re contained, so they’re not flying out of the way. When I get back to Tucson, hopefully someone will help me make it. The balloon highway song.

boglieEB: What is the history of ”Boob Scotch?” How was it born?

BL: ”Boob Scotch” was a solution to a problem. I had a terrible day. It was one of the worst days ever. I didn’t think I could play. I had a show out in Denver. I was laying down in the parking lot beside my car. I was just laying there like fuck it I’m done. An ambulance pulled up they asked me are you alright man? I was like no! They asked me again if I was alright I just said yeah and they drove away.  I finally got up, and went inside the bar. The barmaid was like what’s with you? I told her I don’t know if I can do it tonight. I had a scotch. She just said here, gimme that! Grabbed it the scotch, and stuck her boob in it. I took a sip and said hmm and immediately felt better. So I played that night. Instead of making a song about what made my day bad, I made a song about what made my day better.  For about a year, I would say I really needed that. I played a song, people put their boob in my drink, I felt better. That was all a long time ago. Now, when I play that song, it’s not for me. It’s for everyone in the room. So what I’m hoping is that everybody puts their boob in someone’s drink, and everybody takes a sip. I’m not thinking that it makes my day better. It ain’t about me getting a sip of boob scotch anymore. It’s about everyone in the room getting one. Or, if they can’t get it in the room, when they go home. If the boyfriend does it for their girlfriend. If the girlfriend does for the boyfriend. Somebody just sharing somethin’. I swear to God if someone puts their boob in your drink, and you take a sip, you will smile this much more then you were smiling before. It just works. It’s one of those things that works. If it doesn’t work something’s wrong with you.

About the author:

Esinam Beckley

Esinam Beckley is a student at the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies.

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