Don Howland has been in a long list of bands thatíll light up a Terminal Boredom and Goner Records forum search, if not many mainstream music sites. Like most artists creating music that (actually) matters, heís on the peripheryóbut that doesnít diminish Howlandís impressive and prodigious body of work to those paying attention.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Don started out as a rock writer for local mag The Offense before briefly joining Great Plains as a bassist. In 1983, Howland moved to New York City where he contributed articles to the New York Rocker, as well as writing under the mentorship of Robert Christgau for the Village Voice. Don moved back to Columbus in 1985 and joined Jeffrey Evans and Dan Dow in the Gibson Bros. Influenced by The Cramps and The Panther Burns, The Gibson Bros. lowered standards for everyone, pissing off Americana purists (as well as club patrons who appreciated tuned instruments) with early rockabilly and Alice Cooper covers so raw and off-kilter they bordered on art-rock. Forced Exposure and Gerard Cosloy at Homestead got it, as did other musicians whoíd tweak the formula a bit and achieve slightly greater commercial success. The original lineup (including Ellen Hoover on drums) imploded after arguably their best record, 1989ís 'Dedicated Fool'. Jeffrey Evans and Don Howland subsequently reinvented the band as a more rocking and competent outfit, with a slew of semi-permanent and guest musiciansóguitarists Jack Taylor and Jon Spencer; drummers Rich Lillash, Cristina Martinez and Ross Johnson. An unfortunate lawsuit from Norton Records ended their time with Homestead. The Gibson Bros. released their last album, 'Memphis Sol Today!', on Sympathy For The Record Industry in 1993.
Just before the Gibson Bros.í implosion, Don started what would become his longest-running project, the Bassholes, with drummer Rich Lillash. Releasing much of their output with In the Red, the Bassholes were a fan favorite; however, Donís regular and laudable job as a teacher prevented prolonged touring. Lamont ďBimĒ Thomas took over for Lillash, starting with 1997ís 'Deaf Mix Vol. 3'. Howland played in a brief yet notable project, Ego Summit, in 1997 with fellow Columbus heavyweights Ron House, Michael Hummel, Tommy Jay and the late Jim Shepard.
Lately, Don Howland has been releasing records under his own name. 2015ís 'Life Is a Nightmare' is one of Howlandís best records. Another solo full-length, as well as a long-awaited Burning Bus LP, will be available soon from In the Red. The Bassholes are still playing when time is available. 2013ís 'Boogieman Stew' on venerable Columbus Discount was, like most of Howlandís output, excellent and overlooked.
TB: Youíre originally from Columbus, Ohio, correct?
Don: Thatís right./p>
TB: What were you interested in growing up?
Don: My childhood was super bland. My parents moved to a very white suburb of Columbus because they wanted me to go to good schools. My school years were basically ones of total alienation. I didnít fit in; I didnít join anything. It was miserable. I ran long distance as a way to beat down depression. I got into rock music. I had one friend who was into Creem magazine. We were into Lester Bangs and all that. I got the Ramones (self-titled) album the first day it came out.
TB: Were you in high school when punk hit?
Don: Yeah. I was a senior in the spring of í76 when the first Ramones record came out. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. The Ramones record had a sense of humor and a way of looking at the world that was similar to my own. It was just someone else doing it, and it sounded really, really good. The simplicity of their music appealed to me. I'd been into metal before. Music really grabbed me then.
TB: Were you playing music then?
Don: I didnít play music for a while. I started writing about music first. I did a punk fanzine. It was modeled after Xerox sheets like Sniffiní Glue, which I ordered through Bomp!. I did a couple issues of that, but it was terrible.
TB: What was your zine called?
Don: It was called Shake It. It was the name of a Human Switchboard song. They were sort of Columbus royalty at the time. Columbus really didnít have a punk scene. Columbus was a Quaalude and whiskey town.
TB: Sounds a lot like Memphis at the time: Ďludes and alcohol.
Don: Columbus was probably a lot like Memphis. You donít really think of Memphis and punk rock until Tav Falco came along. There wasnít a lot going on in Columbus at the time.
TB: Was Used Kids Records around when you were in high school?
Don: Yeah, but back then it was called Moleís Record Exchange. It was in a walk-up office building, in a small office, maybe thirty-by-twenty feet. I remember the first time I went there in high schoolóit was like the store had a force field surrounding it; like I wasnít cool enough to go in. Eventually, I started hanging out there. Everything fell into place. Used Kids started when Moles had to move and the owner quit. Dan Dow kind of attached himself to School Kids Records a couple blocks north. School Kids wasnít a chain but there was one in Columbus and one in Ann Arbor. School Kids sold all new records.
TB: So Used Kids was a play on School Kids because the former sold used vinyl?
Don: Right. I never liked that name: Used Kids. Itís like a lot of bad band names I hear today. ďReally? You couldnít come up with anything better?Ē
TB: ďHas the list been exhausted?Ē
Don: Exactly. Used Kids was sort of the center of the Columbus scene, much more so than any band or venue. In the mid Ď80s, I started playing bass in Ron Houseís band.
TB: How did joining Great Plains come about? Did you learn bass to play in the band?
Don: I did. I bought a bass from a kid in a trailer who needed money to buy a gun. Bass isnít hard to learn. I was good enough to play pretty quick. There were only ten or fifteen people in the Columbus scene. Ron and I knew each other from the record store. Amrep (Michael Hummel) and Jim Shepard were aroundóall the Ego Summit guys. In a bigger city we wouldíve likely been acquaintances, but in a city the size of Columbus we all became compadres I guess. I was the youngest in the group. I was an outsider, being from a white flight suburb, but it was no big deal. Tim Anstaett of The Offense went to my high school, so when he moved back to Columbus from Florida there were two of us.
TB: You wrote for The Offense and contributed to some of the last issues of New York Rocker.
Don: That was thanks to Tim Anstaett from The Offense. He gave people free reign. Tim had an insane work ethic. Whatever his passions were at the time, heíd devote thirty-six hours a day to them. He wrote a telephone book-sized tome on bass fishing in Florida. Andy Schwartz and Ira Kaplan at the New York Rocker were very open to the fanzine vibe. Through New York Rocker ó I also sent some of my work with The Offense to him ó I got to know Robert Christgau at the Village Voice. I started writing for the Voice. Christgau was a super nice guy. I probably learned more about writing and English from him than from anyone else, and Iíve taught English for twenty-one years. Christgau would spend two-and-a-half hours editing a two-hundred-fifty-word piece. That was a great experience. I started with the Voice in í81 and wrote for them until the early Ď90s. There wasnít a whole lot of great music going on then. The early Ď80s were rough. When punk diedóand you could tell it diedóhardcore came along and itís like, ďShit. This is not the same. There are no girls here anymore. Itís just like a football game.Ē I wrote for Spin as well.
TB: New York Rocker was a great magazine.
Don: It was.
TB: What was your brief tenure in Great Plains like? You played on an EP ('The Mark, Don and Mel E.P.'). Did you tour at all?
Don: We played in Louisville with the Dancing Cigarettes. That was the highlight of the band for me. I didnít like the music (of Great Plains). That was the bottom line. I donít like pop music played by rock bands. I do like pure sugar pop; I can handle that a lot better. Thatís why I didnít use my name on the record.
TB: I always wondered why you used that pseudonym (Hank OíHare).
Don: I just didnít want that record to be on my resume.
TB: How did Ron and the rest of the band take it?
Don: Not well. I came up with the name Great Plains. Itís not like Iím a super genius or anything. But later on, some other band that signed to a big labelÖ
TB: Right. Thereís always that disambiguation with the band name ďGreat Plains.Ē The other Great Plains (from Nashville) labeled themselves as ďprogressive country.Ē
Don: Really? Great. I think their record company ended up giving Ron and the band five or ten-thousand dollars to use the name. That was the first and maybe only big payday for Great Plains. They ended up giving me, I think, twenty-five dollars for it.
TB: Signed to Homestead and not selling a ton of records, that was likely Great Plainsí biggest payday by far.
Don: I know. It was a big deal. I recall being at the Used Kids counter, talking about it. It was like a board meeting. I wasnít really in on it. I was an expat. I was clear about not liking the music from the get-go. But I wasnít bitter about it or anything.
TB: That goes back to what you were saying earlier. You were all working together due to a sheer lack of numbers. A similar ethos with slightly different tastes seemed to be the glue. You clearly got along together as people.
Don: We got along well. I was into Redd Kross and they were into the Replacements. Itís not like parallel universes. There was some overlap. I think Ron Houseís stuff with Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments is fantastic. He was trying to sing with Great Plains and Ron doesnít have a great singing voice in terms of carrying a melody. Ron has an expressive voice. Thereís no hard feelings or anything like that.
TB: Did you go to Ohio State University?
Don: For part of the time, yeah. I ended up getting my Masterís in Education so I could teach. I went to Ohio Wesleyan as an undergraduate. Itís a Methodist school. I met Tom Shannon there. I was a senior in college when Tom was either a sophomore or freshman.
TB: Jeffrey Evans went to Ohio State for an MFA in photography. Where did you first meet him?
Don: After Great Plains, I followed a girlfriend out to New York. This was the old days. Iíd drop off my articles to the Village Voice that I'd written on a manual typewriter to the person at the counter of their offices. Iím claustrophobic; I felt really pinned in there. Iíd go to Central Park a lot and lay down on the grass so I wouldnít have to stare at the buildings...
TB: Did you visit New York City frequently or did you move there?
Don: I lived there for two and a half or three years. I got burned out on New York. I wasnít particularly interested in the New York scene. Swans were starting out. I wasnít into those bands. I loved the no-wave bands. They were going the first time I visited New York in í78. Punk rock was over, but you had the Contortions and Teenage Jesus around. Things moved really fast back then ó at least compared to today. I went to a lot of hardcore matinees at CBGB. I donít know why. There was interesting stuff coming from England at the time. Good shows at Danceteria or Hurrah. I got into country-blues in New York. Record stores there were so good. And I went to Nick Perls' house ó the guy who ran Yazoo Records ó in the Village and talked with him. I got into roots music because there was nothing else going on. When I moved back to Columbus in í85óI had been friends with Dan Dow because he had work at Moleís (record store). Dan was playing Charlie Feathers songs with Jeff. A lot of country songs too.
TB: I never knew the exact origins of the Gibson Bros. So it was Dan and Jeffrey at the beginning?
Don: Right. They started out as a two piece.
TB: You were the original drummer of the Gibson Bros., correct?
Don: Yeah. They just wanted someone to play a snare drum with some brushes, so I said, ďOkay.Ē It was the same Gibson Bros. in a lot of ways when they were still just a two piece. Completely out of tune. Jeffís voice wasnít any better or worse. He still had the same distinctive voice. Dan had his weird sense of timing. I remember people telling me, ďYouíve got to check these guys out.Ē I was super depressed at the time. I didnít know what I was going to do with my life at all. I had broken up with my girlfriend who in retrospect I should have married. The Gibson Bros. kind of cheered me up.
TB: Being Jeffís girlfriend, it seemed natural that Ellen Hoover joined the Gibson Bros. on drums. How long were you going as a three piece before she joined? Did you coach her initially on drums?
Don: When we were recording 'Build a Raft', I couldnít keep a beat no matter how hard I tried. I just said, ďFuck it. Ellen could do this.Ē To that extent I was her mentor. But the Gibson Bros. didnít ask a whole lot from drummers. When we added Rich Lillash for those later years it was almost like a different band.
TB: I was talking with Ross Johnson a while back. Although the Panther Burns preceded the Gibson Bros. by several years, he mentioned that you could still get beat up in the mid Ď80s for playing roots music in an unconventional manner. Thereís great footage of early Gibson Bros. playing ComFest í87. You didnít seem to go over well with the general audience.
Don: Thatís the one thing about the Gibson Bros. It was so bad it was almost like John Cage. It was confrontational. It seemed like art rock because nobody would do that on purpose. We never got beat up or threatened. Thatís a bit of an embellishment, I suspect. Iím not sure why people liked the Gibson Bros. so much. The shows were a crapshoot. You didnít know what was going to happen. We were so bad that we had no idea when the set would fall apart. We only knew that it would. There were elements of the band that appealed to some people. Whatever they liked was completely accidental on our part.
TB: Was it through the Great Plains connection that you got on Homestead? I imagine your point of contact was Gerard (Cosloy).
Don: I had known Gerard from the days of The Offense. Gerard used to write for it. I knew him before Great Plains. But he was our point of contact with Homestead. There wasnít a whole lot going on in í85. It felt like a musical void.
TB: Iím sure Homestead encouraged you to tour more.
Don: That was my fault. I always kept the Gibson Bros. from touring and that was a big source of frustration for Jeff. By í87 I had a kid and I was married. I just wasnít able to tour. Jeff really wanted to tour.
TB: You and Jeffrey had similar sensibilities; a shared sense of humor and approach to music. Unlike the Panther Burns and Gun Club, you sort of decontextualized music. You werenít opposed to putting a traditional song and an Alice Cooper cover on the same album. Jeffrey likened it to, ďWearing all the right clothes with the wrong shoes.Ē
Don: Thatís a pretty good way of putting it! While the Gibson Bros. were going on we were all into different kinds of music. Dan (Dow) was, and I still think is, really into country. Jeff was into rockabilly, especially crazy rockabilly. I was into blues and hip-hop. Hip-hop was going on in New York when I was there, and I really liked Run-D.M.C. and Eric B. and Rakim. We all liked the Butthole Surfers. We didnít really have an agenda. We just liked a bunch of different music, and because we were so limited it all came out sounding the same.
TB: Did you ever leave the Midwest with the original lineup?
Don: We played in Canada. We did a lot of East Coast stuff. Week-long tours. We played Boston. Maxwellís. I donít think we played CBGB until Jon (Spencer) joined. I donít think the original lineup did a West Coast tour.
TB: Iím not sure if you want to discuss the breakup of the original Gibson Bros. The story is pretty well spelled out by Jeffrey in the liner notes to (í68 Comebackís) 'A Bridge Too Fuckiní Far' (1998).
Don: Right. That was pretty explicit. Jeff really had an aversion to working a forty-hour work week. He was blindsided by what happened. Ellen wanted him to have a job. Dan quit before Ellen left, for the record.
TB: Thereís a single (ďMy Huckleberry FriendĒ) sheís on that Dan isnít.
Don: Right. We played a ComFest show with Jack Taylor on guitar and Ellen drumming, so she was around for another six or eight months after Dan left.
TB: I really liked Jack Taylorís (1965-1997) guitar playing. Of course, he played with Jeffrey later on in í68 Comeback. Was he slotted to replace Dan permanently in the Gibson Bros.?
Don: Thatís definitely the case. Unfortunately, Jack had a drug problem. We had a practice where he was way too messed up to play. He was a super nice guy. His girlfriend ó I never knew if they got married or not ó was nice too. That was tragic.
TB: Everyone Iíve spoken with who knew Jack liked him.
Don: Jack was a little, cherubic kind of guy. Really sweet. He was kind of like a shorter, chubbier version of John Cusack in The Grifters. He had a wiseass aspect to him that kept you on your toes.
TB: Jeff told me a great í68 Comeback-era story about Jack Taylor. They were playing a show in Tucson, Arizona. Within thirty minutes of getting to the club, Jack pulls around in a brand new Mercedes. Jeff asked him where he got it; Jack told him, ďI met a girl. She loaned me her car. I canít help it if sheís rich.Ē
Don: (laughs) í68 Comeback was Jeffís way of touring more. He got a band together with a bunch of drug addicts. Jeff was like the cub scout leader, and he had a bunch of bad cub scouts. He released a lot of really good records with í68 Comeback.
TB: You mentioned your love of hip-hop earlier. Was it your idea to include all those samples on 'The Man Who Loved Couch Dancing' LP (1990)?
Don: Yeah. But Jeff did some stuff that bordered on hip-hop too, like all those scenarios at the beginning of N.W.A. records he pulled from. ďIs Desiree ready to service me?Ē (From Jeffís opening to Gibson Bros.í 1989 LP, 'Dedicated Fool')
TB: Twenty-six years later and itís still hard to believe Norton sued Homestead over the A-Bones sample on 'The Man Who Loved Couch Dancing'
Don: I know! (laughs) That was all Miriam Linna. I donít think Billy Miller would have done anything. I think he would have taken it as a joke. She got it stuck in her craw. We were just cracking up. It was a joke.
TB: Jeffrey told me Homestead got in contact with him on the road and instructed you guys not to sell any more records. To which Jeffrey replied, ďTough shit. We need money for gas.Ē
Don: And that probably amounted to eight more record sales (laughs). I bet Jeff has a much better memory of that stuff than I do.
TB: Did the Norton lawsuit take the wind out of the Gibson Bros.í sails? Of course, you did record 'Memphis Sol Today!' (1993) three years later just before the group ended.
Don: It was just a shame. The timing was terrible. 'The Man Who Loved Couch Dancing' had been out for maybe two weeks. Not long at all. But that record is super weird at the same time. Jeff was determined to leave Columbus after his breakup with Ellen, and I was going to go with him to Memphis. We were going to open up a record store. My wife had gotten pregnant by that point, and I started to panic. In retrospect, staying in Columbus was the right decision. I donít regret it. I would have never made enough money running a used record store in Memphis to support a family on. Thatís what broke the Gibson Bros. up. But Jeff wanted to be the front man anyway. He wanted to call more of the shots. I had stuff I wanted to do, so things worked out fine.
TB: 'Memphis Sol Today!' was recorded at Sun Studios right after a horrendous tour. Jeff told me a great story where, with all of these amazing amplifiers available to use, you chose to play through your cheap solid-state Crate amp. You said something like, ďNo. Iím cool. Iíve got my tone.Ē
Don: (laughs) I think we were pretty drunk by the time that decision was made. When we went in there, they recorded only at night because itís a tourist attraction during the day. We went in at six or something. We got hammered before we even started. Thatís always been my approach though. Iím not a fancy equipment guy. I donít have any problem with digital recording. To me, the easier and cheaper the better.
TB: The Gibson Bros. started to get some coverage near the end. You were in Spin and some of the bigger magazines.
Don: That was because of Homestead. They had Dinosaur and Sebadoh and all that. At the time, there werenít very many labels that werenít hardcore labels that had any sort of integrity. People paid attention to Homestead bands for that reason. We got reviewed and our picture in Spin. We got in the Village Voice. But that was as far as it went. When you listen to those Gibson Bros. records theyíre so rank. Again, it sounded so bad it was like art rock. But at the same time Jeffís got his Masterís. We werenít pretentious in any way at all, but we liked the weird aspects of it. We didnít have any control over it. The music just came out that way. People like Byron Coley liked it. It must have been weird to see someone up on stage with the amount of chutzpah we had.
TB: Jeffís stage performance and banter and some of the things heíd wear in the early days were outlandishly great.
Don: Oh, man! They were. He was great. I didnít know what I was doing with an instrument at all. When the Gibsons started I couldnít really do much so I stood pretty still. Jeff was the focal point of the Gibson Bros. He had that huge rockabilly quiff at the outset. Heíd wear cool clothes. The Gibson Bros. were a fun band to see. Ellen was and still is pretty. That counted for a lot.
TB: There was a little bit of an overlap with the Bassholes and Gibson Bros.
Don: Rich (Lillash) and I would practice up in Columbus for the Gibsons shows. The Memphis session (for 'Memphis Sol Today!') sort of solidified the fact that we couldnít have part of the band in Memphis, the other part in Columbus. We realized we had to wrap it up. But Rich and I kept practicing anyways. Those first Bassholes songs were songs I would have done with the Gibson Bros.
TB: What was the deal with the Bassholes and the Archive Series (of record titles) that sort of drops in and out?
Don: The first record was a close-as-possible copy of the blues series of records that the Kent label put out. Thatís where the Archive Series comes from.
TB: I heard a great early Bassholes story where you were asked to open up for Sebadoh. Apparently in the Ď70s you had gone to a Sly and the Family Stone concert that Sly Stone had cancelled in Columbus. It left a big impression on you. Do you know what Iím talking about?
Don: Thatís a true story. After Woodstock, Sly and the Family Stone got super popular. They had these big concert tours and Sly Stone would blow off shows all the time. He cancelled the show I went to in Columbus. I was really impressed by the idea that by not showing up you could make an even greater statement. When I was supposed to open up that Sebadoh show, I didnít even call to let them know I wasnít showing up. We were supposed to drive to Chicago which is about an eight-hour drive. I just didnít feel like making it. We cancelled that tour with Cheater Slicks and í68 Comeback as well. People thought the Bassholes were completely irresponsible, and that didnít help anything.
TB: (laughs) Itís a very peculiar take on career advancement.
Don: It was a matter of not giving a shit. I donít regret not showing up. I didnít think of the Bassholes in the terms of Sly and the Family Stone, obviously. Nevertheless, Sly Stone not showing up left a big impression on me. I never cared at all about being well known, let alone famous. From the start. I was talking with Bela Koe Krompecher, a great guy who runs Anyway Records, recently and he reminded me that in the late Ď80s the Gibson Bros. were already old. We started the band in our mid-twenties. When the Gibsons started we never anticipated doing anything outside of town or ever making a 45, let alone an album. And afterwards, we never thought, ďWell, if we had done things differently, we could have been successful.Ē It was never anything like that. I think Jeff went through that briefly with í68 Comeback.
TB: Jeffrey had the distinction with í68 Comeback of fronting the band that acted as a launching pad for other groups that achieved a modicum of success.
Don: Yeah. People definitely took their cues from Jeffrey. Itís a shame he didnít start í68 Comeback earlier I suppose.
TB: 'When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again' (1998) was markedly different from your other records. Itís one of my favorite Bassholes albums. The songwriting is great and the production is outstanding.
Don: Oh, yeah.
TB: Larry (Hardy) told me the record, although spread out over different sessions, took two years to finish.
Don: It took two weeks to record, but it was one week of recording and then another week of recording two years later. Larry was adamant about doing a double album. He loved the idea. That album would have been unbelievably good, assuming you liked that kind of music, had we done a single album. The record had a lot to do with Larry. There are twenty Bassholes fans in the world. Ten of them like the hi-fi stuff, the other ten like the lo-fi stuff.
TB: I like the hi-fi stuff.
Don: The self-titled (2005) album on Dead Canary is another high-fidelity record. That one is well produced. The songs are weird because the musicians on it are really accomplished, yet itís far from professional. Itís the record my son said, ďIf you were ever going to get famous, that record would have been the one.Ē The Matador album ('Long Way Blues/1996-1998')óI wanted Matador to put out 'When My Blue Moon Turns Red Again', but Larry had put too much time into it. Had Matador put it out (as opposed to 'Long Way Blues'), maybe things would have been different. Who knows?
TB: Ego Summit seemed to come out of the blue. I admit to knowing very little about the band, other than the record and the people involved.
Don: I canít remember whose idea it was (to form the project), but it was an idea that was floating around; there was no big impetus. Somehow one of the other guys got the ball rolling.
It was kind of a weird project in retrospect. I went to Columbus last Thanksgiving and I saw Ron and the Counter Intuits. Mike Rep and Tommy Jay were there and I was feeling good. So I said to Tommy Jay, ďHey, we should do another session.Ē He said, ďI canít believe thatís coming from you.Ē Those guys have big egos. Tommy Jay doesnít. Ron and Rep do. The best part of that record was getting to work with (Jim) Shepard. Iím so grateful for that, seeing as he killed himself not too long afterwards. I had known him for a really long time but just as an acquaintance. Recording with him was a blast. His death precluded ever doing it again anyway, really.
TB: You moved to Asheville, North Carolina, shortly after the Ego Summit record, right?
Don: Yeah. I was in a rental, waiting to move into a house (in Asheville), when Ron called me with the news that Jim Shepard died. The Matador record and the double (In the Red) record came out in í98, and I moved to Asheville a month before. There was no chance to tour behind those records. It was not a career rock move at all.
TB: What inspired you to move to Asheville?
Don:I just wanted to find a place that was a small city. I wanted my kids to go to a school where everyone went to the same school. Itís super pretty here. Unfortunately, itís completely fucked now. Rich people are moving here in droves, jacking the prices up. There are pluses and minuses to that. Itís so white here. Iím getting out of here. Iím selling my house.
TB: You were teaching in Asheville?
Don: Iíve had a few teaching jobs in Asheville. Right now, Iím teaching at a community college. I teach ESL and a GED program.
TB: Not only did I like The Bassholesí 'Boogieman Stew '(2013), I was happy to see Ellen Hoover on the record.
Don: She and Iíve stayed friends throughout the years. I go back to Columbus once or twice a year and I always visit Ellen and her husband. Tom Shannon too.
TB: Whatís the deal with the Bassholes? Most of your recent material has been Burning Bus or solo.
Don: A lot of that has to do with Bim (Thomas). Heís got the Obnox thing going full steam. Itís at a pace thatís Billy Childish-like. Every time I turn around thereís another album. Heís constantly touring. We talked about doing something because weíre still friends and I think next year will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Bassholes, whatever that means. We talked about playing some shows, going to Europe. I also played some Bassholes shows with the drummer (James Owens) of Wooden Tit.
TB: Any chance of another Gibson Bros. show? There was the 2010 reunion show for the 'Build a Raft' reissue that took a few people by surprise.
Don: I canít believe it happened. Ellen, Dan and I would do it automatically. Jeff was the one who wouldnít. He has a lot of baggage with Ellen. He worked for Dan too when Dan ran Used Kids. That didnít go so well. Iíd like to get that í91 Gibson Bros. lineup together for something next year ó Rich Lillash, Jon Spencer, me and Jeff. Weíll have to talk with Jeff about that one.
TB: I was really pleased by your 12XU record, 'Life Is a Nightmare' (2015). Thatís one of the better records youíve done.
Don: I like the one Larry Hardyís about to put out as well. That record is just totally distilled down. I was listening to a lot of í76 punk. It always sounds so good. Itís music that turned my life around. Thatís what was going on with 'Life Is a Nightmare'. My no-holds-barred view on the world really came through. Pretty abysmal. Itís really pure Iíd guess you say. Itís not great playing or anything. But itís genuineógenuine depression and anger from an old person.
TB: Thereís some atmospheric stuff on there. ďPope InnocentĒ for example. Your records keep evolving.
Don: Thank you. I really started reading heavily about ten years ago. I got a job working out on a vineyard. And when I was teaching I had to constantly read. Iíve been thinking a lot more the last decade or so.
TB: Larry mentioned the solo record youíve got coming out on In the Red. Rich asked me about the Burning Bus LP thatís been in the can for a while. Larry is releasing the Burning Bus record as well, correct?
Don: Burning BusóLarry wants to put it out. People whoíve heard the record seem to really like it. When I hear it, and forget what it is, I like it. It was just a band that had personnel I wasnít crazy about. I didnít really enjoy the band part of it. Burning Bus basically turned into Wooden Tit. Iíve always liked metal and heavier stuff. It just comes with growing up in the Midwest. We do a version of ďFaith HealerĒ by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band. That songís a big favorite of mine. We played Goner Fest twice and that was about it. Itís a lot like the Wooden Tit record. Itís angry, loud with three guitars. Iím glad itís coming out. Itís about the only time anyoneís had to try to convince me to put a record out.
TB: Whatís in the future beyond leaving Asheville?
Don: Iím not sure. And I donít know where Iím going. Iíve just got to get out. It reminds me of when I left Columbus. When you have to leave, you have to leave. I want to do another record after those two come out on In the Red. If Bim and I could get one-thousand bucks to play a show, Iíd do it. But after the next album, I think Iím done. I mostly just listen to classical music now. Eastern European music. The absence of a driving beatóitís like being untethered, cut off, like floating in space. I listen to that all the time. I think thatís how I want to ride it out. Some people end up in jazz. Classical music just hits the spot. I read a lot of history. The more I read, the less I like humanity. When you put it all together, the world really is a nightmare (laughs).
Don is on bandcamp HERE.
Live B&W photos of Don by Mor Fleisher-Leach.
Purchase a copy of 'Life Is A Nightmare' via 12XU HERE.
Browse Don's extensive discography HERE.
A Burning Bus live at Gonerfest 6 HERE.
Don live at Beerland HERE.
Bassholes video for "Microscope Feeling" HERE.
All other photos/images borrowed from the internet.
Interview by Ryan Leach, 2016.
To purchase Bored Out, Ryan's collection of interviews, go here.
To read other TB interviews, go here.
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