It’s all about a making one hell of a pounding, primal, amped-up and skronked out blues racket. Honkeyfinger is the one man band from the bowels of the earth, erupting molten fuzz lapsteel, screaming harmonica riffs, and desperate bestial howling in a scorching hot cocktail of heavy raw blues power. The Honkeyfinger sound hotwires the electric freak rock of vintage Beefheart, Blue Cheer, ZZ Top, and Black Sabbath into a jumping, lurching monster. Boiling up the ghosts of Bukka White, Leadbelly, and John Lee Hooker with the bones of the country blues, laced with the acid fried heaviosity of the Buttholes Surfers — this is the thick stinking soup that Mr. Honkeyfinger serves hot …
Geeks of Doom: Hello Honkeyfinger! For the record, please state your full name and profession.
Honkyfinger: That’ll be Mr. H. Finger, but you can call me Honkey.
G.o.D.: Tell us about your artistic background.
HF: Started drawing everything from the beginning. Pens, pencils, paper — putting down whatever pops into your head — beautiful — loved it. I got into playing instruments in teens — followed by countless bands on the garage/rock/psychedelic themes. Then the adults tried to get me into being an architect which didn’t work out, but it introduced me to computers; graphic design, animation, and from there to film.
So these two creative disciplines co-exist sometimes happily, sometimes not, for a decade or so until the recent birth of Honkeyfinger. A bit of a moment of revelation — a kind of return to that early omnipotent creative drive. What I do now incorporates playing, making, and recording all my own music, doing all the sleeve art, and making (with the help of a few very talented others) my videos. Kind of a Don Van Vliet control freak type thing. Which at the moment suits me just fine.
G.o.D.: So tell me, why do you choose to play stronking balls-out blues music?
HF: I call it skronk (thanks Lester Bangs!), stronk is good too — describes it well.
It’s good and basic the blues (talking John lee Hooker, RL Burnside, Bukka White trance blues here — not the jazzed up plank spankery the term has now come to mean) has a grit to it when done well. The riff is king, and you can go anywhere from it.
The last band I was in SchwaB (playing Fuzz Bass) was a great mix up of MC5 testifying with huge fat breakbeats and fiddly percussion, layered guitars, and keyboards — like one of those early 70’s bands with about 8 guys — funkadelic type thing. But kinda got too much for me, too much of a lumbering beast to do anything dynamic or spontaneous with.
Honkeyfinger was a back to basics, stripped back, and amp-ed up need to revisit the no frills grit of early blues I first started playing on harmonica as a teenager — but never knew how to put it in a band format. I’d always been into much heavier stuff than fellow bandmates and never really found the folk to put a Sabbath/Blue Cheer inspired type thing together. I learnt to play lapsteel as a way of avoiding the need to learn guitar chord patterns, and hit upon a great fuzzed out heavy blues sound — and all it needed was a thick stomping kick drum to drive it along and I hit upon a kind of Motorhead meets John Lee Hooker primal blues racket that pushed all the right buttons for me.
G.o.D.: How and where do you seek inspiration? (especially living in London…!!)
HF: Well living in a city where every band will pretty much play at some point there’s plenty of inspiration there. So musically I can always get my fix of heavy bands from the states and Europe, and there’s also some great promoters in the city like Not The Same Old Blues Crap, Dirty Water Club, The Cornrocket, who get lots of old guys over from Mississippi, Texas, Detroit, and the latest in innovative European punk blues — so plenty of ideas to nick there. Lyrically just being in a big dirty city and all that goes with it is subject enough, add the self constructed emotional complications flying round your head and it’s hard not to spit out something which doesn’t try to make sense of it all.
G.o.D.: Name and shame the artists you have collaborated with and why those vagrants in particular?
HF: I’ve played and recorded with a few people in the short time I’ve been doing this did some stuff with Andy Weatherall’s Two Lone Swordsmen and a brief live thing with Daniel Johnson weirdly, but for me the best, and most recent collaboration was playing on the new Orange Goblin album. I’ve been a fan of their stuff since I first saw them play with Fu Manchu in 97/98 and got most of their albums, so when Ben came up to me after seeing me open for Scott Birham last December that was a point where I finally thought I’d started to reach some of the people I’d wanted to from the outset. He asked if I’d play harmonica on their new album and of course I said yes, then spent the rest of the night drinking beer and watching Scott Birham tear it up. I played on the closing track “Beginners Guide to Suicide” on their new album. We rehearsed the harmonica which worked, and then I pulled out my lapsteel and pedals and played along — which then became the opening of the song.
Big credit to Joe for then playing his line around my a-tonal fret sliding! It’s weird hearing it — sort of doesn’t sound like OG, or me for that matter — so I reckon that’s a good collaboration that we both shifted from what we’re used to doing for a track. Sure we’ll do stuff in the future. Opening one of their shows would be cool too.
G.o.D.: What music do you listen to and why? Answer shall not include “because it makes me feel good.”
HF: Black Sabbath and those big early 70s bands; Blue Cheer; The Who (I often do a cover of “The Seeker” live); Grand Funk Railroad because they just sound enormous, so powerful and macho I guess on one level, but then with Sabbath and the Cheer I just love the way the tracks are on the verge of falling apart and getting lost in the middle — great energy of musical exploration coming from the blues formula. The Stooges do that too especially on Funhouse — I like the way you get saxophone on the second side when it shouldn’t really work, but makes it sound more freaked out. I sometimes touch on some free jazz like Pharaoh Sanders and Albert Ayler for that reason — just pure custard brained freak out stuff — the original Skronk. Love vintage 60’s garage punk — Shadows of Knight and The Pretty Things are a big fav there — the grittiest blues — grinding sex-beat stuff played by kids that just need to flap it about. Captain Beefheart has a very special place in my heart because Don is just the Don — Howlin Wolf with the best psych nutter backing band ever — hard work to listen sometime, but I got Orange Goblin, Nebula, Ye Olde Monster Magnet, Electric Wizard — when the uncomplicated heaviosity fix is needed and some steam needs to blow. Partial to a bit of folky artrock with Six Organs of Admittance, and Comets On Fire who are probably my live favourites after the sad departure of Zen Guerilla – a million miles more MC5 than the sadly lame MC3!!!! Oh and not forgetting PW Long for the most gut and heart-wrenching vocal deliveries ever. Earth and Sun 0))) for when bowels need loosening. And Thrones for the sound of the future … shall I stop now?
G.o.D.: [Random Question generator] What do you think of the film Airheads?
HF: Errr … don’t think I’ve seen it. Is that the one with a Lemmy cameo in it? Dunno. I’m guessing it fits in the Wayne’s World, Bill and Ted’s excellent Adventure genre — which I think are legendary. My taste in film is pretty random. My favourite movie is OC and Stiggs by Robert Altman, closely followed by Jodoworsky’s Holy Mountain by a hair.
G.o.D.: And after the previous question: Who would play you in a film of your life?
HF: Johnny Depp of course!!! If he says no — then Keanu Reeves circa Bill & Teds.
G.o.D.: Back to music: In the song “Got this Rage,” what is it that is making you angry?
HF: That was written (and recorded I think) in the heat of the moment fury of a relationship break up. It’s a song about being unable to think straight because you’re blinded by what I heard a psychologist on TV call “red mist.”
The moment when you lose the capacity for rational thought — when you turn into a bit of a caveman and just have to break stuff. I think girls get that too, it’s not just a testosterone thing. I must admit to ‘borrowing’ a bit of music from Mr. Dave Wyndorf here –I needed some help with my first Honkey tune — the red mist had fallen …
G.o.D.: Where do your music alliances lie? Would you fall into the Rock camp, Blues camp, Aphex Twin camp, etc… Explain.
HF: No real hard and fast allegiances for me really. I’ve never really been at the heart of any one scene — I did it with the 60’s Garage rock thing years back and to an extent with the blues thing now, but I feel uncomfortable being purist about music because for me that limits what’s possible and I get bored pretty quick too. So I feel most comfortable skipping round styles and mixing them up. I think Boomkat.com reviewed my last single and said it was like ‘Captain Beefheart meets John Lee Hooker produced by Alec Empire’. That was pretty affirming that someone got it so well — especially the Alec Empire/Digital Hardcore bit as that’s not so obvious. What I really get off on is any form of music that is really pushing boundaries, in some way extreme. Having said all that — I would count myself as part of the current rock, blues, and garage scenes.
G.o.D.: Do you have an album in the works? A UK tour?
HF: Yes, an album which I’m recording tracks as and when I get the chance — sure takes longer when you do it all yourself, but I’m always happy with the results. I hope to have that finished by the end of the year — maybe put out a CD start 2008. Meanwhile my 3rd single “True Believers b/w Fat Bottom Blues” will be out on Hoarse [Records — UK] by the end of July. Just finishing the artwork now. Have no plans for a UK tour, but am trying to get more gigs outside of London. I have gigs in Manchester and Norwich in September. Open to offers — have amps will trave …
G.o.D.: To our American cousins, do you want or expect to break America, and when you do, what do you think will be their reaction?
HF: That’ll be interesting — I get people all the time thinking I’m from America. I don’t sing in the queen’s English, play what sounds like fuzzrock from the swamps, and have been known to look a bit like a garage mechanic.
So I guess America should feel comfortable with Honkeyfinger — I’ve not really tried to push it over there yet, although I am up for seeing the world through the eyes of a one man band! When I get a CD out I’ll look into U.S. distribution and go from there. Had a few U.S. DJs get my singles so all signs are good so far.
G.o.D.: Tell me in one short sentence why the Geeks of Doom and the world should sit up and take notice of Honkeyfinger?
HF: Because I’m a geek and I’m doomed as we all are — no get outs.
G.o.D.: Finally; in a pub, what pint/shot would I get in for you? Make mine a Guinness.
HF: Mine’d be a Guinness, too. Shot of fine rum (son of a sailor y’see) or a whisky.
Find Honkeyfinger now! Click these links and immerse yourself in skronking balls-out blues… get your gonads going!
Official Honkeyfinger Website
Honkeyfinger on Myspace