Jesus Evil Highway: The Ghostwood Recordings

Posted by Dee-Ann On May - 8 - 20171,947 views

In the past few months I heard a lot of people mention the bluegrass band Jesus Evil Highway. The name is all across social media too, so I had to see what the fuss is all about. I visited their vinyl album release party at Posse Bar Rotterdam on May 4th and got the chance to ask them a few questions.

Where did you guys meet?

Most of us knew each other for years, being family (brothers), high school friends or from playing together in other bands, before we ended up playing with Jesus Evil Highway. The last one to join us was ‘Uncle Paulie’ as we like to call him, but that’s already a couple of years back, and it feels like we know him for years.

You can easily say we are longtime friends. Probably the best foundation for a band is when you start being friends, or family. It makes everything more personal and intimate, and you have this natural blending in harmony and rhythm. And if you all share a love for a certain style of music then it’s an even stronger bound.

What’s the story behind your bandname?

Humper: Some year back I was over at my brother Stoney’s place to take a look at his Fender Dual 8 Lap Steel guitar from 1952 that he had bought on Ebay. A beautiful instrument, with an old homemade wooden flightcase that had the initials of the previous owner on it in big metal spikes: ‘J.E.H.’ Reading it for the first time the words: Jesus Evil Highway came out of my mouth, and then we decided it was time to start a band.

When was the band formed?

Some six years back. We all had been playing in other bands, but never without drums and just acoustic stringed instruments, so it felt like a brand new start. Most of us picked up instruments they’d never played before. I don’t think it all sounded very pretty, but we had a great time from the start. It was a revelation not to depend on high volume and electricity. Suddenly we could play and rehearse everywhere!

Tell us about your album

The Ghostwood Recordings album is the first true record we made with Jesus Evil Highway. We made some CD’s but they don’t mean much to us. We always wanted to go for the real deal: vinyl! If you take a vinyl record out of it’s sleeve a hundred years from now it still playable. Try doing that with with a round piece of plastic crap or some rusty hard disk… Then we like the tactility of the classic vinyl album and the artwork you can put on a 12” sleeve. Most of us are artists, such things tickle our pickle.

How many original songs and who writes the songs?

On the record there are 15 Jesus Evil Highway originals. Our music is deeply rooted in american folk, old-time hillbilly country and bluegrass music. We really love to listen and play old traditionals and great classics. But we decided that it would be better not to rehash all these great recordings already out there. Instead we figured we could make a record full of music and stories of our own and show that this kind of music is not just nostalgic, a thing from the past. It’s still alive and in motion at this presents day. Although making new songs is a group process most were written by D. Humper. Stoney The Lonely and Peewee Flatfoot came up with many of the musical themes. Uncle Paulie wrote a song and J.P. Cojones composed an instrumental.

Tell us about the recording process.

We made the recordings at PAF! Studio in Rotterdam run by Dave Von Raven (The Kik) and sound engineer Marcel Fakkers. They are really into vintage recordings techniques and equipment. We wanted them to record us directly on tape, single track, with the band standing around one single microphone. We had three recording sessions and did a maximum of three takes for each song. For that we had to practice really hard as we couldn’t improvise in handing out solos as we do in live performances, we had to stick to fixed arrangements.

Where did you play?

Jesus Evil Highway has performed all over the Netherlands and also in Belgium, France, Germany and in Budapest. We played the Bluegrass Festival in Rotterdam several times, the Car Art Festival, the Whiskey Gathering and at the Hongerige Wolf Festival just to name a few. We play a lot open air gigs being mainly an acoustic band: whiskey and wine around the campfire situations. Summer is our high season. We travel in the band camper: the Golden Tabbert. We spend a lot of time on the road, the Tabbert is our hotel and dressing room.

What are your future plans or wishes for the future?

The summer we will be performing almost all weekends. We have already a bunch of new songs that will easily fill a new album. We have a lot of songs about animals and wildlife, mostly in a suggestive way, haha, so it might be an animal themed album. We are planning to go to the USA for some time … hoping to play local gigs and meet fellow musicians.

Tell us a funny story about one of your gigs

Uncle Paulie: There are many. Most weekends in summer we have three or four gigs, mini camper tours, each an adventure in itself. Last year we went on our way for one of those gig filled weekend tours across the country. Before we had turned the corner in our Golden Tabbert a car crashed into us. Still arranging stuff in the camper I bruised my ribs, leg and most notably my upper arm being hurled against the kitchenette. On the second night Wanko had to go out of the Tabbert for a wee but passed out in the gravel driveway and bruised his face heavily. (Stoney had to put the other two bandmembers to bed, without any recollection from both of them. The endless stream of ice-cold Jagermeister shots served at the wedding party might be blamed for all of that.) That morning we woke up to the sound of hundreds squealing pigs of the farm next door. The next morning we woke up with an ostrich peeking through the camper window. The ostrich belonged to the newly weds whose wedding party we had played that night. The last day of the mini tour we played Café De Stad in Utrecht bruised, battered and dazed. (Stoney came up with a story that involved a disabled smoke detector, cannabis, the fire departement and angry janitors at the Rotterdam Schouwburg but it gets a bit complicated if we don’t want to incriminate ourselves.)


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