Scott H. Biram (b. April 4, 1974) is a blues, punk, and country musician from San Marcos, Texas. Born and raised in Texas, Biram began playing music at an early age after being inspired by early blues/American roots music, punk, and country. His setup includes a '59 Gibson guitar, and well-worn amplifiers and microphones. Before starting his career as a one-man band in the 1990s, Biram was a member of a punk band called The Thangs, and several bluegrass bands. Alongside his career as a musician, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Texas State University in 1997. He released several albums (including his 2000 debut, This Is Kingsbury?) on his own record label, KnuckleSandwich Records. Just one month after the release of his third album, Lo-fi Mojo, Biram was hit by an 18-wheeler truck. He suffered from a number of broken bones, severe internal injuries, and had to go through extensive surgeries. A month later, he was back on stage playing a show from a wheelchair, with an I.V still attached to one arm. While recovering at his parent's home, he also recorded and released the Rehabilitation Blues EP. Since that time, he's signed to Chicago's Bloodshot Records, which has released four of his albums. Biram's latest album, Bad Ingredients, was released in October 2011, which is supported by an extensive North American tour.
Scott H. Biram is a self-proclaimed “dirty old one-man band,” and one of the most badass musicians we've ever come across. Case in point: just one month after being hit by an 18-wheeler truck, which resulted in a number of broken bones and severe internal injuries, he was back onstage playing a show from a wheelchair, with an I.V. still attached to one arm. Gone is the I.V., but he's kept up his fiery combination of blues, punk, and country music with his latest album, 2011's Bad Ingredients. We recently had a chance to speak with Biram while en route to Vancouver, just one day after he drove through a blizzard in Idaho. Want to know his secret to making a killer batch of chilli, the origin of his fried chicken leg tattoo, and what a mojo bag is? Read on to find out, straight from the legend-in-the-making himself.
Band of the Day:
Band of the Day: Hi, Scott! How's your tour going so far? I saw that you posted a picture on your Twitter account of the blizzard in Idaho. What keeps the energy up when you're going through those hard stretches on the road?
Scott H. Biram: Uhh, beef jerky [laughs]!
Band of the Day: Any particular brands of jerky?
Scott: There’s a few of them, but they’re all from Texas and Oklahoma.
Band of the Day: You grew up in a pretty small town in Texas, so how did you initially get into music?
Scott: Well, I have several relatives that played in bands when I was a little kid. They all played in the same band, really, and so there were always guitars around. My dad used to play me a lot of different kinds of music, a lot of Lead Belly and Doc Watson. I guess whenever I first wanted an instrument I was about 9 or 10. I heard a Stevie Wonder song on the radio and I asked my mom, “What's that noise?” because there was some keyboards on there. And she said, “That's a synthesizer,” and I was like, “I want one of those!” and I got myself a little keyboard and that's how I first started playing music.
Band of the Day: What song was it?
Scott: I think it was “Superstitious.” Also, we always had music class in elementary school and I remember when I was in the third or fourth grade this Baptist church gospel choir came and sang at our school, and I had never seen anything quite like that before and it made an impression on me.
Band of the Day: What was your last full-time job before doing music full-time?
Scott: 2001 was my last real job before I kept on touring full time, and I was a cook for a year!
Band of the Day: I heard you make a mean chilli!
Scott: [laughs] Yeah! I’ve perfected it!
Band of the Day: You’ve perfected it? Do you have a name for the chilli or any special tips?
Scott: Hardcore beer chilli!
Band of the Day: Hardcore beer? What type of beer is best?
Scott: Oh, Lone Star or maybe Carta Blanca or something like that.
Band of the Day: So if you had to pick a song from [your latest album] Bad Ingredients to listen to while making your chilli, what song would that be?
Scott: Oh, I don’t know, I try not to listen to myself if I can help it [laughs]. I don’t picture myself listening to myself while I’m cooking, but “Open Road” might be a pretty good one from that record.
Band of the Day: Working as a solo artist, do you think you're naturally forced to be more observant as a songwriter, because you're often working alone instead of being around other people all the time?
Scott: I'm stuck in my head all the time, yeah, so I don’t know if it makes my songwriting better, being alone. It might make my songwriting more depressing. I do my best songwriting when I’m by myself, or when I’m driving along the road around by myself, or when no one else is around I start singing by myself. Or in the shower, the toilet [laughs], the swing on my front porch...I’ll stay out there and start making up songs. Y’know I’ve been doing it so long by myself, I really can’t say whether my songwriting would be better if I was working with other people or not. I’ve been doing it a long time alone.
Band of the Day: Do you think you would ever want to be in a full band again, or do you like doing the solo act?
Scott: I consider it sometimes. My roommate plays drums and we jam out together, we’ve got a little jam room in one part of my studio. It would be fun to put a 10 inch record out and just like, never play again, y'know like a project band.
Band of the Day: I noticed that you've seemed to embrace social media to connect with your fans. How important is it for you as an artist to maintain that online connection?
Scott: Oh, I think it’s really important! It depends on what you want to get out of it. If you want to get to be well-known, and really get the word out to get a lot of people at your shows and start playing really big shows and build a real following, I think its important to let people know where you are going to be and what’s going on. I also think it adds a personal level to it that lets your fans feel more involved with you and your life as a person, and not just somebody on the stage. But, if you’re somebody that’s satisfied with playing small shows and kind of going along with the flow, then it’s not necessary. But I’m trying to conquer, so I think it’s important! But it’s fun, and I just get bored so I’m kind of addicted to it!
Band of the Day: Have you made any good friends from that? Or is it more just keep-it-on-a-fan level?
Scott: For sure, I’ve made lots of friends that I’ve met online, and then have become good friends with. Like, I have friends in France that have come to America to visit me and, you know, I give them a “Texas Tour”. But I’ve also connected with a lot of old high school friends, and stuff like that. My fourth grade teacher is on there--she’s like ninety years old!--and she was my mom’s fourth grade teacher, too!
Band of the Day: So you said one of your goals is to conquer and dominate with your music. What is the one thing for you where you’ll be like, “I have made it, this is exactly where I want to be right now”?
Scott: I don’t think there’s a place where that happens, where you’re just like, “Oh, I’ve made it!” That’s like the same with guitar. You don’t ever want to say, “Oh, I have completely learned how to play guitar!” Because then why would you want to play it anymore? The fun part is learning. No, I don’t know. I enjoy meeting people that I always looked up to, and having them at my shows. That’s always a big deal to me. Like when a singer or somebody from some band comes to see me, that means a lot to me. And you know, I have my art professor from college doing my album covers now, and stuff like that, so that's cool!
Band of the Day: What’s been one of your most surreal moments so far?
Scott: Standing outside of the Tractor Tavern in Seattle last year when it was sold out to 450 people. Standing outside in the cold with dead quiet, by myself, trying to psych myself up for the show. And then opening the door, and just hearing the roar of the people in there, and then walking out onto the stage. It felt like something from some rock and roll documentary!
Band of the Day: I noticed in one of your music videos that you have a fried chicken tattoo on your arm. How did that come about?
Scott: Oh, when I had my big wreck in 2003 my forearm--whatever bone that is--came out of my arm and was sticking out. It made this place on my arm where there’s like this...uh...it looks like a piece of chicken fat. And if I push on my arm, I can make this thing pop out of my arm...it’s pretty gross-looking. It looked like a piece of chicken fat to me, and reminded me of that little piece of gristle that grows along the bone on a chicken leg.
Band of the Day: So you just got it tattooed?
Scott: I thought I oughta get a little tiny chicken leg tattoo right next to it, but the tattoo artist said he couldn’t draw it that small, so I had to get it a little bigger.
Band of the Day: It’s pretty unique, I have to say!
Scott: A guy just sent me a text message about half an hour ago of a tattoo he got of a chicken leg on his leg with a moustache like mine and my hat on!
Band of the Day: Nice! So you’re like fried chicken tattoo buddies for life!
Band of the Day: I read that you're a fan of CB radio [a system mostly used by truckers to communicate]. Do you still use it from time to time?
Scott: Yeah, yeah! They always break on me, because I don’t ever hook them up under the dash like you’re supposed to. I always have them floating around on the floor of my van. And so mine’s out right now, but yeah, I love having a CB! Especially on tour, you know? If you can hear the truckers start to say, “Oh, there’s traffic up ahead,” then you can follow the trucks in the round-about way to get around the traffic. Plus, they say some funny sh*t, too!
Band of the Day: Have you ever sung for anyone over CB radio?
Scott: Oh no, I don’t think so...I yodel every once in a while, and someone will yell, “Keep your day job!” And it’s like, “This IS my day job!” [laughs]
Band of the Day: And finally, one of your songs on Bad Ingredients is called “I Want My Mojo Back.” Did you ever get it back?
Scott: I never actually lost my mojo! I just wrote that song. It’s third person, it’s not really about me. Well, it’s actually written in first person, but it’s really about someone else.
Band of the Day: Did that someone else get their mojo back, or are they still searching?
Scott: It’s about my friend who lost his coon dick bone.
Band of the Day: Who lost his WHAT?
Scott: His coon dick bone! You know what that is? That’s what the song’s about. It’s uh...Raccoons have a bone in their penis that’s an actual bone, and old cowboys sharpen the ends of them and keep ‘em stuck in their cowboy hat, so they can pick their teeth with it. I have four of them...er, I have three of them now. I had four, but I traded one of them for a Carl Perkins [an American rockabilly musician from the 50s] pick.
Band of the Day: So this is like a legit form of currency for you, trading coon dick bones?
Scott: Yeah, sure! I keep them in my mojo hand...my little mojo handbag [a bag of good luck charms used in hoodoo]. And I guess I always thought that if you really like something, it should go in a mojo hand. Like, usually it’d be something like black cat bone, John the Conqueror root, and, uh, other things. But in my mojo hand I've got a piece of Muddy Waters' shack, a Carl Perkins pick, three coon dick bones, a painting by the city of New Orleans train, and some Guatemalan love dolls.
Band of the Day: So do you carry this around with you everywhere you go?
Scott: No, I keep it in a drawer next to my bed. Close to my dip jar!