Hell, Texas: Taz Bentley On Cheap Trick, Judas Priest, Guns N' Roses...
Patrick "Taz" Bentley, the powerful drummer behind Rev. Horton Heat, Burden Brothers, and Tenderloin, will be back in action this week with his latest band, 76. Since their sound owes a lot to the sonic messiah that is mid-'70s arena rock, it's no surprise to hear Bentley saw some of rock's heavyweights back in the day. And not only did he share about his first shows with the bands he's best known for, he also shared about playing with ex-members of Guns N' Roses.
What was the first show you remember seeing?
I remember going to see Willie Nelson with my dad at the Sportatorium. It was all rednecks and bikers. I guess they did a makeshift Friday night gig. I remember I had to pee and there were a couple of girls in our group who I loved because they were cool women. And they said, "We'll take him." So they took me into the girl's bathroom and I saw pussy and I was in heaven. I don't even know if had reached puberty yet, but I already knew, "OK, that's what I'm into. I want that."
What was the first show you remember paying to see?
It was probably, I don't know, maybe Cheap Trick on the Dream Police tour? I saw Judas Priest at McFarlin Auditorium with Humble Pie and Iron Maiden in '79 or '80. I didn't know any Judas Priest, Iron Maiden or Humble Pie songs, but a friend of mine had a car and was really into them, so I went. The production Judas Priest had when they came out was something I had never seen before. That kind of solidified playing rock n' roll, period.
So we're talking motorcycles and everything else?
Yeah, mainly for me, it was the light show and the theatrics of what they were doing. Everything was choreographed: throwing their guitars up in the air. I was like, what the fuck just hit me? This was way before LED lights, these were all par-64s. They had a square full of them, not just on the outside, and they came down and faced the audience. The crowd freaked out because they had never seen anything like that.
What do you remember about the first show you played with Rev. Horton Heat?
It was in Telluride. I had one week to learn 40 songs. I learned what I could and we stuffed in a van and just took off. Slept in the van, slept on floors until we did quite well for ourselves.
How about the first show with Tenderloin?
I don't remember the first gig. I remember the circumstances where I had just left the Rev. and Tenderloin had been on tour with us, opening for us, so I knew all their material. I knew their drummer was leaving and they had a tour and I said, "If you need me to fill in, I will." I knew they had a month-long tour. During the tour, they asked me to play on their record and I said sure.
How about the first one with The Burden Brothers?
It was in Fort Worth at The Wreck Room. It was just brilliant. As the story goes, and I've told this story a hundred times, the last thing I had really done was Loaded with Duff McKagen from Guns N' Roses and Dez Cadena from Black Flag. It was just a good rock n' roll band. Duff and I are the pretty much the same age and we grew up listening to the exact, identical music, so it was a little punk rock, attitude and kick-ass rock n' roll. Once we disbanded, I thought I was done. I was ready to move on from music and I ran into Vaden [Todd Lewis] at a Target, of all things, and he goes, "I have an idea."
He had a friend, Mike Rudnicki from Baboon, who would play bass, and I would play drums. I said sure. It was great. Initially, Vaden wanted to do something really, really heavy. Just mean, hard, heavy stuff. I remember writing "Beautiful Night" and I said I had this progression.That was the first true collaboration. Rev. Horton Heat is Jim [Heath]'s baby and I put forth about five to ten ideas to the hundreds of ideas he had. I wrote a bunch more in Tenderloin. With The Burden Brothers, I wrote half of it and Vaden wrote half of it. I had songs that were 100 percent mine, he had songs that were 100 percent his, so we had it all. It taught me the importance of being vulnerable because I had never put myself out there before.
That was liberating, to say the least. We had this ongoing revolving door of musicians playing with us, like Mark Hughes, Casey Orr, Zack Busby, Zack Blair, Josh Daughtery and Casey Hess. It was fun because it kind of took me back to that Judas Priest stuff. We could make it a spectacle and we did. Vaden and I tapped into our childhoods. We were writing Kiss songs and Foghat songs, Led Zeppelin songs, AC/DC songs. We were both children of the seventies and we grew up listening to arena rock and it was really cathartic to create and play arena rock n' roll.
Before I ask about 76, did you ever play any shows with Izzy Stradlin?
Yeah, we toured Japan once. About once every year we go out and do an album. He doesn't believe in "the machine" at all. He hates the industry, so initially he licensed the albums overseas and wouldn't tell anyone in America. He's a really big fan of the Internet. Now we'll go record and he'll slap it up on iTunes. That's been a hoot. Duff's on most of them. There was a time when Slash, Izzy, Duff and I got together a few times and recorded some stuff. I think it was Duff who called it Four Wheels, No Axl. But none of that stuff ever got released. It's kind of fun to sit around, be a fly on the wall, playing the drums with these guys and say, "How did I get here?"
Izzy has become one of my very, very best friends. When The Burden Brothers stopped touring, Zack quit because he and his wife wanted to start a family, and then Rizzo took that cue to leave as well. So the three of us had the wind taken out of our sails. Towards the end of that last album, touring was really sparse, it was hard and we weren't drawing because nothing was on the radio. What had been on the radio had run its course. That was a real stinker. We have been on hiatus for about four or five years now.
But that first phone call was to Izzy and I said, "I'm done." I was fucking furious. He goes, "No, no, no, just write it down on a guitar." I said, "You're not listening to me, I'm done." He goes, "You have a guitar?" And I go, "Yeah, I have a guitar, but I'm done, I don't want to play music. I don't want to hear music. I'm gonna throw every radio in my house out the window." But he knew exactly what was going on, and he had been through this, obviously in a much bigger arena. In that moment, I really found how close we had become. He really helped me get through this. About a week after that initial conversation, I come home and there's a brand new acoustic guitar on my front porch with a note that says, "Write it down." I started writing and that's the music you heard at my show at the Single Wide.
How did you feel about that show?
I have a band called Hell, Texas where I sing and play guitar. But that was the first time with just me on guitar and getting up and doing it. I felt very small. I felt like I was bothering people. I wasn't comfortable, but about halfway through it, I decided, "Ah, this is fun."
Usually, something like that is audio wallpaper, but with this show, your friends were in the audience and they were encouraging you. When you talked on the mic, there was silence. It was different than hearing a singer/songwriter at Potbelly on an acoustic guitar.
Exactly. Liquid encouragement definitely got me there. I want to do it again.
Lastly, with 76, you had a different name before you went by 76. Did you play any shows under that name?
Yeah. We played two or three shows as Pinches Bolillos, which is very racist. Basically, it's "Fuckin' Crackers." We are fuckin' crackers, so we were like, "Let's make fun of ourselves." We had fun. Someone who had run sound for us was in charge of booking some of the local stuff for the Wildflower Festival. He said he'd like us to play, but if we change our name. I said, "Fuck no, we're not changing our name." I've had my success. This is fun for us, just dicking around. I didn't want to take it seriously. Neither did any of the other guys. We would be opening to Whitesnake but I didn't want to change our name. I guess they called back and told us they really wanted us to play the show. I got talked into it. 76, like The Burden Brothers, was the kind of shit we grew up with.