Reverend Horton Heat delivers old classics with a new twist

The Reverend Horton Heat is adept at multi-tasking.

Heat, whose real name is Jim Heath, is on tour with his longtime band, also known as the Reverend Horton Heat. They’re showcasing tracks from the act’s aptly named new album, “Whole New Life,” delivering holiday songs and backing Big Sandy.

The tour stops Dec. 18 at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro.

The vocalist-guitarist, calling from Boston, explains what it’s like to play in a quartet for the first time in his 30-plus year career. Heath, 59, also talks about how his children are afraid of his psychobilly act and how his father kept the magic of Santa Claus alive.

Q: What’s it like playing in a quartet after being part of a three-piece since Reverend Horton Heat formed in 1985?

A: It’s working out well. It’s a lot of fun to play with a piano player. Matt (Jordan) is a heck of a keyboardist. Matt does a heck of an organ solo during “Psychobilly Freakout.” A lot of our songs were built for a piano. Some of them have been screaming out for a piano for 30 years. We have a new drummer (RJ Contreras), who plays with a lot of soul. We’ll hit you with some serious rock and roll.

Q: Is it difficult not changing the old songs while performing with an additional player?

A: It’s definitely something we had to figure out. You want to make sure the old songs don’t change. They haven’t but there are times some sonic elements are added but it’s still the same song.

Q: What led to the quartet?

A: It takes me back to the first incarnation of the band. Tim Alexander, not the guy from Primus, was with the band. He played a lot of keyboards on our early recordings. But he was done with touring when we started out. We wanted to get back to that sound. We have a new sound and a new drummer. We’re good.

Q: You’ve gone through some drummers like “Spinal Tap.”

A: Just about every thing in “This Is Spinal Tap” is my everyday life. That’s the case for a lot of bands. Spinal Tap really nailed it with that movie.

Q: What’s the most Spinal Tap about this tour?

A: This is kind of the opposite of “Spinal Tap” and the Stonehenge scene in the movie. We were close to getting crushed on this tour by a giant inflatable that’s 10 feet high. Something always goes wrong on the road.

Q: Is the show half-Christmas songs?

A: It is about half Christmas songs. People really love coming out for the Christmas songs. We do a lot of those songs. We do six songs with Big Sandy and then of course, we have to play some of the new songs.

Q: Years ago you mentioned that your dad would climb up on your neighbor’s roof to convince the kids that Santa was alive and well.

A: It’s all true. We’re playing the song my dad inspired: “Santa’s on the Roof.” My dad did that because our neighbor was in Vietnam. He climbed on the roof and jingled some bells and stomped around for the benefit of his kids. When my dad was climbing down the ladder, one of the kids said, “Mr. Heath, did you see Santa Claus while you were up there?” He said, “Oh yeah, David, he knows you’re awake. Get some sleep.” That night is forever etched in my memory. My dad was sonic proof that Santa is real.

Q: What do your kids think of your psychobilly act?

A: They were kind of scared when they were really young. I look like a psycho up there. I frightened them. But they’re cool with it now.

Q: What’s one thing you would change in the music industry?

A: If it were up to me I would add a category to the Grammys called “Best Rock and Roll Album.” It seems obvious but it’s missing.


Who: Horton’s Holiday Hayride featuring Reverend Horton Heat and Junior Brown. The Blasters and Big Sandy will open.

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18

Where: Cat’s Cradle, 300 E. Main St., Carrboro

Tickets: $25 in advance and $28 day of show

Info: 919-967-9053 or catscradle.com

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer