Written by James Killen
Aug 28, 2013 at 02:04 PM
ImageI had the good fortune to have Bill Kirchen, former Lost Planet Airman and still reigning King of Dieselbilly, dedicate a few minutes of his time to answer some questions for me before his Thursday night show at the duck. We talked about his music, the people that he’s met and the road in general.

HMR – Who coined the term “Dieselbilly”?

BK – I did. I needed a term where I had no competition. I mean truck driving music used to be a legitimate genre of country music, but not so much now. So I call it dieselbilly. It was a lot of fun when I was touring with Nick Lowe, because he would introduce me as DEE-sul Billy Kirchen, in his aristocratic British accent.

HMR – That would have been fun. Nick Lowe’s an interesting character. I’ve always liked his music, even though he seems like the songwriter’s songwriter.

BK – He’s wonderful. He’s a great guy. A great musician, too, a great writer. Good guy, big hearted guy.

HMR – Do you ever run into any of the Lost Planet Airmen, anymore?

BK – Yeah, sure. I just talked to Buffalo Bruce on the phone. We just played a gig with Bobby Black, the steel player. Buffalo Bruce was the bass player. I haven’t seen Billy C. in a couple of years, although I owe him a phone call. I tried him recently. I used to play one gig a year with the old Commander. I don’t think we’re playing this year, but for a number of years we did in his hometown in Bayshore, Long Island. Andy Stein, I see if I’m in New York. John Tishy, I always stay in touch with. He just stepped down as chair of the Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Department at Rensselaer Polytech. That’s about it for the Airmen. One guy’s gone, Lance Dickerson’s gone. Everyone else is still kicking around and I’m in touch with them all.

HMR – And still playing a little bit here and there?

BK – Them or me?

HMR – I know that you’re playing all the time, it’s more a hobby for the rest of the guys?

BK – Well, George is still a full time musician and so is Andy Stein.

HMR – How about new up and coming guitar players? Has anybody caught your eye lately?

BK – I was just at Guitar Town Festival in Copper Mountain, Colorado, that’s put on every year. John Jorgenson is there every year. I did it this year and two years ago with this band, with Jack O’Dell, that’s sitting in this room, but being very quiet. There was a guy named Rory (Hoffman) and he’s blind, plays with the guitar on his lap, with it not restrung, but with the headstock pointed to the right. He’s plays it on his lap like Thumbs Carlo(?), except backwards. He was stunning. He was just a stunning guitar player. Apparently I met him before when he played accordion with Carolyn Martin. Carolyn Martin is a singer, she and her husband Dave. Carolyn was in the Time Jumpers, the Nashville based Western Swing band, which has now got Vince Gill and the world’s most famous steel player, Paul Franklin. So Rory is unbelievable, I hope that’s his name. You know, I don’t know about up and coming. I’ve got some secret weapon guys that you don’t hear that much about. My friend, George Bedard, from Ann Arbor, Michigan has put out some records on the Blind Pig label. He’s just a great player. I have played with him in my home town Ann Arbor. There’s the Jerry Miller from the East Coast who plays with Eilan Jewell, who is one of my favorite players. Man that guy, Jerry Miller, he’s great. There’s a bunch of great players.

HMR – Yeah, there are. As a matter of fact, you’ve just named off a bunch of them that I’ve not heard of and you’re going to send me straight to the internet to look them up.

BK – Then there are the guys that almost everybody knows, like Kenny Vaughan. He’s just great. I love him.

HMR – I just reviewed your last record. I thought that it was great. It was a lot of fun to go back and revisit a lot of the old songs and get a studio version of that. I really enjoyed the last one on there with Jorma Kaukonen playing acoustic.

BK – “Talking About Chicken”

HMR – Yeah, that was fun. Did you write that?

BK – Yeah, I wrote that with Sarah Brown and my wife, Louise. Sarah Brown is a bass player from Austin…

HMR – I’ve seen here, she’s amazing.

BK – She’s great. We were writing songs. I was living in Maryland at the time. We’d written some songs for a couple of the prior albums.  She’d flown up to write with us. We’d been writing all day and had written a couple of songs and some not so successful attempts. After about eleven hours, we’re all going to bed and she’s scratching my dog, Rufus. It just so happened that my wife who is a vegetarian had bought us a cooked chicken to eat while we were writing. Sarah was saying “Rufus this is your lucky day” while she was scratching Rufus and I said “Yeah, he doesn’t usually get chicken.” Sarah says “Well, I was talking about the love” and I said “I was talking about the chicken”, so boom. We were like were you talking about love or were you talking about chicken, and we were off to the races. We wrote the song in about fifteen minutes, laughing hysterically. Then I woke up the next morning and we said can we actually use this? And so it was like absolutely, and I wrote the bridge the next day to tie it all together. And there you go. We got Jorma to play and there it was.

HMR – It’s a fun song. We were listening to it on the way over here. Well, have you got anything that you want to tell the world?

BK – Well, I’d like to tell them first off, to rock on. I’d say rock on and I’d say don’t be afraid to go out and listen to music and make your own music if you want to. It’s a big, wild world. I like all kinds of stuff. I play a little narrower than my taste include, but not much. I play a pretty wide spectrum, but we love it all. If you come to one of our shows, it’s gonna be fun. I write songs and I’m a singer-songwriter, but we are also rock and rollers and we try not to leave it too precious. We try to have a good time. I wrote, “I Ain’t Never Had Too Much Fun” years ago and that’s on the new album and I still think those are good words to live by.

HMR – That’s good advice. Our main objective at Houston Music Review is to get people to get up and go out to listen to live music. We’re all amateurs. We don’t make any money at it. We don’t do any advertising. I’m a purchasing agent. Another guy is a lawyer. All that we are trying to do is to get people out and listen to live music.

BK – God bless you for it, too, because with all of the choices for people today, they forget that the only way to catch music coming through the air was to be there. There is something special about making music live as opposed to having all of the ones and zeros coming through the computer speakers. Really, God bless you.

HMR – Thank you for that. Live music is different and we have to get out there and support those guys that are coming up, or they won’t be there. What if all of the starving artists starved?

BK – OOOOh, ouch. That’s no good. I’m not starving, but I feel lucky that nobody has slapped the guitar out of my hands and made me get a job.