WW: First off, I’d like to offer my heartfelt condolences to you for the loss of the inimitable Davy Jones. How have you been holding up? What made you decided to keep the Hickoids together?
Smitty: Well, it’s been two and a half years now so the sting is a little less present. In addition to Davy I lost my dad, three aunts and a cousin as well as literally dozens of old friends in the space of only 18 months or two years. It was a rough time. When Davy first got sick I made the decision that I was going to help make him comfortable no matter the outcome. So, it might sound pretty trite but I decided that I was going to try and help other folks however I could rather than allowing myself the luxury of self-pity, which can be deadly for someone who likes to drink and use drugs the way I do.
As far as continuing the Hickoids…Jukebox and I started the band when I was 19. I’ve been the only original member since Jukebox left in 1987. Davy had been my long running partner in the band, he and I probably played 600+ consecutive shows together as the Hickoids…when he first became ill he and I spoke about it at length and he gave me his blessing.
I’m sure there are a percentage of folks out there who feel like it’s not the Hickoids without him. I can’t make them go see the band and I’m not going to beg them. That’s their opinion and they’re entitled to it.
I think myself and the rest of the band all recognize our duty to maintain “the continuum of the corn”, that is, present a show that anyone who’s ever been in the band would say “Yeah, that’s cool. That’s Hickoid.” There isn’t really any financial motivation other than not having to start over from absolute rock bottom. LMAO.
But, in short, no one should ever think that it’s an obligation I take lightly. And we normally dedicate at least one song to Davy every time we play.
WW: Secondly, it was great seeing you guys the other night. It’s been years…literally! And you guys blew Deadbolt off the stage! What is the current lineup? Where did you find the keyboard player?
Smitty: Thanks, it always good to see you. I hadn’t been checking my attendance records…I’m going to have to call your parents!
The lineup since Davy became ill has been myself on vocals and some guitar, Rice Moorehead on bass (he was out of the country the night you saw us but has been in the band 8 or 9 years now), Lance Farley on drums, Tom Trusnovic on guitar (I believe Tom and Lance have both been in the band going on 6 years now) and Cody Richardson filled in for Davy on a month long tour we had booked almost exactly four years ago and has remained since. Tom was playing bass the night you saw us. Odie Cole and Hunter Darby have filled in on bass with us on recent tours. And, the keyboardist at the show was Harvey McLaughlin, he’s from San Antonio, I put out his debut album on my Saustex label. He’s a great musician and an old soul despite being much younger than the rest of us. His band was already on the bill so we asked him to sit in to round out the sound in the absence of a second guitar.
Smitty: I don’t remember a tremendous lot about it even though I also promoted the show. It was at the Villa Fontana in San Antonio, a beautiful old dance hall in downtown. Seems like there were five or six hundred people there. We had previously played a few parties at the O.A.F. House, sort of a punk collective in West Campus in Austin where we rehearsed early on. Anticipation was high, as were we. I doubt we had more than about 25 minutes worth of material and I imagine it was even more chaotic than usual with us being on a big stage for the first time.
WW: How did you and Jukebox hook up? What inspired you guys to start the Hickoids in the first place?
Smitty: Jukebox and I were drinking and ‘shrooming buddies and he was a fan of my band The Bang Gang. We met in 1982…while we were both part of the punk scene, hardcore was beginning to dominate the expressiveness of the whole deal. He kept bugging me about wanting to start a band with me even though I had never heard him play…but when I did, I was blown away. He had a really unique style that was inspired by Hendrix but also incorporated the hard pull sounds of country pedal steel guitar. So, we initially started writing songs in mid-1983 with the concept being “hardcore country meets hardcore punk”. He was real hot to call the band “The Wang Dang Weiner Dog Gang” which I had reservations about. Then one afternoon while buying some pot from Davy at his apartment (before he was in the band) we saw a fella in a crumpled-up cowboy hat digging through the dumpster down below. Davy remarked “There’s a real Hickoid looking son of a bitch.” We knew instantly that Hickoids would be our name. It would also prove to be oddly prophetic financially speaking.
WW: You recorded Waltz Across-Dress-Texas with Spot of SST Records. What was it like working with him? Did you ever work with him again?
Smitty: Spot is a great and funny guy. It was a pleasure to work with him. We didn’t have the budget to waste any time and he made the magic happen, really just allowing us to do what we were doing at the time and capturing it true to form. It’s a shame that he got stiffed by the one main label he worked for on all of his rightfully earned back-end percentages for the sale of literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of records. That was the only session we did with him. He basically quit the producing end of things in disgust around fifteen years ago.
WW: Why did it take almost twenty years to record Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit?
Smitty: Here’s a pretty convoluted answer to a fairly simple question…not long after coming up with the album title we broke up for about 15 years. Davy and I began writing songs for it around 2005/6…it seemed like we were trying too hard and threw away a lot of songs. Then we actually began recording in maybe 2008 and finished that version in 2011. I had actually sent it off to be manufactured and then put the brakes on it, fortunately. It was lacking on a number of levels. We then decided to record Kicking It with the Twits, a collection of covers by British artists as a sort of palate cleansing exercise. We then recorded Hairy Chafin’ Ape Suit for a second time and finally released it in late 2013 or early 2014. We even submitted the album to The Guinness Book of World Records under the made up category Longest Gestation Period for a Rock’n’Roll Album, noting in our submission that it took almost a decade longer than GNR’s Chinese Democracy but still came in about $16,996,000 cheaper even though it was fully recorded twice. We were denied, of course.
WW: When did you create Saustex Media and what do you guys do (or is it just you)? What bands are involved and in what capacity?
Smitty: Saustex Media (now legally renamed as Saustex Records & Entertainment, LLC and known simply as Saustex Records) is a label I started in 2003. I guess I’ve done sixty or more releases by a couple of dozen artists, notably: Piñata Protest, The Beaumonts, The Grannies, The Upper Crust, PONG, Pocket FishRmen, Count Vaseline, Blowfly, Javier Escovedo, Eric Hisaw, Hickoids, T. Tex Edwards, Churchwood, Stevie Tombstone, Loco Gringos and the list goes on. Your readers should quit reading this interview right now and visit http://Saustex.com where they should then spend some money, immediately. It’s essentially a one-man operation and more a labor of love than a business proposition. I just try to get music out there that I believe needs to be heard.
You can check out the latest Saustex Records update at
WW: I know you guys toured Europe with The Grannies and did a small Alaskan tour in the last couple of years. Any tour plans in the future?
Smitty: We’ve got a tour of the Rockies and West Coast coming up in August, aside from some fly dates we did in Seattle and Portland it’s our first time back that way in five or six years. Here are the dates:
Thursday August 9th Ft. Worth, TX – Lola’s w/ Blood of the Sun
Friday August 10th New Madrid, NM – The Mineshaft Tavern w/ Imperial Rooster
Saturday August 11th Denver, CO – Streets of London Pub
Sunday August 12th Salt Lake City, UT – The Metro
Tuesday August 14th Boise, ID – The Shredder
Wednesday August 15th Vancouver, B.C. – Pub 340
Thursday August 16th Victoria, B.C. – TBA
Friday August 17th Seattle, WA – Slim’s Last Chance Saloon w/ The Accused
Saturday August 18th Portland, OR – Dante’s
Sunday August 19th Bend, OR – Volcanic Theatre Pub
Tuesday August 21st San Francisco, CA – The Elbo Room
Wednesday August 22nd Santa Cruz, CA – The Blue Lagoon w/Fang
Thursday August 23rd Ventura, CA – The Red Cove
Friday August 24th Los Angeles – Cafe NELA w/ Pat Todd
Saturday August 25th Tucson, AZ Club Congress w/Pork Torta
Sunday August 26th Marfa, TX – The Lost Horse
WW: How did your reception in Europe differ from the States? Favorite places to play in both?
Smitty: It’s a little bit of apples and oranges – we never made it to Europe “in the day” even though we had labels over there issuing our records. So here we’re more of a legacy act and were pretty much an unknown quantity over there. We really love playing Amsterdam and Berlin, we’ve probably played 8 or 10 shows in each city over the course of three tours in the past five years. And of course, the same holds true here – we love playing Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas – where folks are most familiar with us. But we enjoy playing really out of the way places on either continent. It’s hard to explain…in the absence of big bucks it’s about the ride and camaraderie.
WW: Can you tell me a fond memory or funny anecdote about Jukebox? Davy? I’m sure you have tons of them but is there something that particularly stands out?
Smitty: I’ve got a pretty funny story that involves both of them:
On one of our earliest tours we played in Little Rock (Davy went to school in nearby Conway, Arkansas). It was a big show at some fancy oyster bar and everyone was thrilled to see Davy. Davy ended up going home with some woman that Jukebox had been talking to. Jukebox was stewing all night and furious when she dropped Davy off where we were staying the next morning.
He said something to Davy like “Well, thanks a whole hell of a lot buddy. I’m broken-hearted and haven’t been laid in four months and you run off and go home with a girl that I saw first…”
Now, many folks don’t remember Davy as the heavy drinker that he was in the 80’s, but let’s just say his gift for understatement at the time was non-existent. He comes back with “What are you talking about you fucking moron? I fucked her in college! I just fucked her last night and I fucked her again this morning! I first saw her fifteen years ago!”
We didn’t have to pull them apart but it was a quiet drive that day.
WW: Are the Gay Sportscasters still a thing?
Smitty: The ‘Casters have been on hiatus since $3 Bill Wise relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. I imagine we’ll be back at some point.
WW: Can you tell us about the idea behind the Austin Corn Lover’s Fiesta? Do you book the bands? Will it be happening in 2018?
Smitty: We were on our way back from California in 2010 and someone was looking at their phone and listing off the headliners for the Austin City Limits Festival. There were like three or four Austin acts out of the 80 or so acts listed and none of them anywhere in the large print. So, we decided we would throw our own similarly acronymed festival, The Austin Corn Lovers Fiesta, during the same weekend as a sort of a snarky low-rent alternative. It would be inexpensive and feature mostly local bands and Saustex label acts. I do book the bands. It WILL happen October 5th, 6th, 12th and 13th this year.
WW: Can you tell us about the Out of Towners?
Smitty: That’s the title of the last recordings/mini-album we were able to do with Davy – a collection of songs by Texas folks: Terry Allen, Rich Minus, Willie Nelson, Roky Erickson, The Dicks, Doug Sahm. We literally rehearsed the songs once or twice to check the arrangement and chord changes and then rolled tape. Davy was already gravely ill. It was a real struggle to get his parts done. But he was a trooper – playing through incredible pain and really foggy and disoriented from being highly medicated. It was intended primarily to raise his spirits…
WW: When were the Hickoids inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame? I read that Davy Jones was inducted multiple times with different bands.
Smitty: In 2014…Davy had previously been inducted as a member of The Dicks and was posthumously inducted under his own name in 2016.
WW: Did you guys ever drop off Davey’s outfits to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville?
Smitty: We did, around this time last year. I hope that his guitar and outfit eventually get displayed…it was pretty cool when I was leaving the stuff with our friend Mick Buck who is one of the curators there (and also an old friend and band mate of both Davy and myself)…I have a picture of Davy’s psychedelic hand-painted boots and (crumpled!) hat next to Shania Twain’s hot pink boots and gloves in the collection sorting area of the museum.
WW: How would you describe the Hickoids (in 5 words or less) to the uninitiated out there?
Smitty: WE WILL BRING THE CORN.
WW: You have probably been in Austin longer than I have (1986)…what do you miss the most about the 80’s Austin music scene? What, if anything, do you like about the scene present day? Do you think that Austin still holds the title of the Live Music Capitol of the World?
Smitty: I moved to Austin straight out of high school in 1982. It seemed pretty wide open then…there weren’t really any uber-successful punk bands around so people weren’t trying to make it. We inspired and encouraged each other and carved out our own niches. There was an almost total lack of self-consciousness to the music. We were making it up on shitty gear and sub-genres were being born.
What do I miss? I’m not saying that I haven’t ever tried to do anything contrived, but, a lot of what I see and hear today I look at and say “They’re trying to be this, this and this with a little side of that…” As great as a tool as the internet and computers can be I think they have sucked some of the joy (and all of the money) out of many areas of life including music. The indie pop movement spawned all these people who claimed to idolize Brian Wilson. Nothing wrong with that. But many of them churned out extremely poor attempts to make their own ‘Pet Sounds’ – you can add all the instruments in the world to your recording, the technology makes mimicking the form easy, but if your song and your melody suck, it’s just overblown suck with too many instruments, made in an attempt to imitate the work of an extraordinarily talented individual who was really having a tough time mentally and spiritually while trying to challenge the limitations of the recording gear of the day. The technology can cheat the sound but cannot channel the four-way stop sign of one person’s pain, anguish, talent and imagination. Punk is a simpler proposition musically but you see the same thing happening to lesser degrees. So, while we all had our heroes it wasn’t like any of us started a band and someone would say “Wow, you guys sound just like Green Day!” or whatever because 1) real musicians rarely wanted to be associated with the punk scene, 2) just about everyone’s gear sucked, and 3) what you had to say and how you said it was more important than trying to fit into some genre defined by a few successful acts…okay, maybe I’m just the grumpy old guy answering a question you didn’t really ask.
I guess the main thing I like about present day Austin is that there are a real wide variety of venues with good production for almost any genre. We had maybe one or two clubs max at any given time to play at sporadically through most of the 80’s in Austin.
As far as the slogan “Live Music Capitol of The World”, it’s kind of like the “Keep Austin Weird” bumper sticker…if you’ve got to say it out loud the moment is gone.
WW: Who were some of your greatest influences starting out? Who are you listening to these days?
Influences: The Sex Pistols, The Stooges, Alice Cooper, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground.
Listening to: The Sex Pistols, The Stooges, Alice Cooper, The Who, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground and a few more, LMAO.
WW: When did you move down to San Antonio? How would you describe the music scene there?
Smitty: About fifteen years ago. There’s a lot of good stuff going on here and more rock clubs than there have ever been. Unfortunately I don’t get out to see as many young bands as I would like to/should. But this town is full of great players across all genres.
WW: Are you guys planning to record any time soon?
Smitty: I’ve been working for a while on the next batch of songs. It takes time. It will happen when it happens. I’d rather tell a ridiculous lie about something fun than make a promise I might not keep.
WW: What’s your definition of success in rock-n-roll?
Smitty: It really depends on what stage of your life you’re in. I never really had any hard goals when I started out. Initially I was happy enough just to be driving around getting loaded and meeting girls in new and different places while being paid pretty marginally to play in front of people. I made friends that have lasted a lifetime and got to see this country end-to-end prior to its makeover to “Generica”, and I will be forever glad I had that opportunity. I left a lot of people smiling and a few really pissed off.
I work hard to hopefully leave people feeling like they’ve seen something special. So, now it’s about the same as it was thirty-five years ago, minus the drinking, drugs and multiple girlfriends. I still have a good time and hope the audience does too. I wish the money were a little better, but being a “rock star” was never really my goal or prerogative. I have gotten better at my craft and people still show up to see my band. Not having expected to live this long when I started out, that’s all the success I’m looking for.
WW: Final words of wisdom to fans/ aspiring musicians?
To aspiring musicians: It’s work and there are lot of easier ways to make money that won’t destroy your mental and physical health while prolonging your adolescence… If you are trying to make it, take your shot while you’re young because every obligation you take on in the form of marriage, children, mortgage, straight job, etc. takes you dimensionally farther away from your goal if you’re not already established. And as relates to my comments regarding Brian Wilson above: Be yourself. You can steal someone else’s jokes but you can’t borrow anyone else’s passion or pain.
To fans: Thank you. We will keep showing up whether or not you want us to.