Ace coverstory 08.03.2000: The Road to Hell is Paved With Hookers Records
BY MATT DACY
“[Local music critic] Walter Tunis and the Herald-Leader can kiss our ass,” said guitarist Noel Reucroft who went on to say that, as far as local music coverage in the Herald-Leader is concerned, “the more legitimate a local band is, the less they’re covered.”
And the bulk of Lexington’s local music scene can line up right behind Tunis with lips a-puckered, as far as this band’s concerned.
While the Hookers are arguably one of the best-known local bands outside of Lexington, here in the Bluegrass, not only are they hardly known, but they’re often reviled by those who are aware of them.
Reucroft and lead vocalist Adam Neal joined forces because, as Reucroft put it, they hated every local band – as well as the Lexington music scene in general.
To this day, the Hookers rarely have a good word for the locals.
Reucroft acknowledges that while they really don’t care about the local scene, one band that they “at least respect” is SupaFuzz.
Neal expressed appreciation for the band Filth Porn, but also confessed to being “kinda secluded” from the entire scene and doesn’t pay much attention to it, for all the professed disdain.
But there may be more “Who’re they?” than tears from local scenesters at word of the Hookers’ broad dismissals.
Just as the Hookers give Lexington the hearty blow off, the town is returning the favor.
Somewhat paradoxically, for a band that isn’t remotely shy about their unbridled contempt for everything related to the town, the music scene, and local media – the Hookers still lament the fact that although they’ve worked hard, they have thus far received very little recognition in their own hometown, and insist, local apathy is “driving us away from Lexington.”
In the beginning…
Whatever the animosity – or indifference – between the town and the band today, Lexington indisputably spawned the Hookers.
Initially, the band started as something of a joke, but as the original members practiced together, they all started taking the band more seriously. Says Reucroft “We learned to play together, to be a real band.”
Their first-ever live show was a Sunday all-ages show in 1994 at the now-defunct Wrocklage.
Local scenesters didn’t exactly embrace them, but the Hookers found audiences outside of Lexington to be more receptive to their brand of music. And like a number of other local bands whose sound veers toward the harder-edged, the Hookers generally draw larger crowds in Richmond than they do in Lexington.
Their first release came two years later as a four-song, self-titled 7″ EP on the Smut-E imprint which included one of their signature tunes, “Kiss My Fuckin’ Ass.”
This EP went on to be named one of the top ten records of the 1990s by Maximum Rock & Roll, one of the most widely circulated punk rock magazines in the U.S. The Hookers say it was that first EP which gave them name recognition.
More EPs followed, along with appearances on several compilation CDs, and within a year, the Hookers had a deal with Scooch Pooch records.
Makin’ rekkids… with Satan.
The deal with Scooch Pooch led to the release of their first full-length CD, Satan’s Highway in 1997.
In addition to the CD release, there was a limited pressing of 1000 copies on vinyl. Showing what astute students of the headbanging art form they are, the Hookers decided to put a backwards message on the record.
“If you listen to it backwards, there is no way you will not be impressed,” the band proudly proclaims although they declined to reveal just what the back-masked message on Satan’s Highway is.
The Hookers explain that, while growing up, they used to check out all of the rumored back-masked messages on various records, and were always disappointed.
Obviously, that shouldn’t happen when they get to call the shots.
Listeners should be cautious however, since the back-masked message on Satan’s Highway is said to be highly disturbing, even leading to the recent suicide of a Hookers fan from Somerset named Bubba.
Whatever psychological and moral damage the record may have caused, Satan’s Highway performed well enough to generate both national and international attention for the Hookers.
Satan’s Highway also received heavy airplay at WRFL, and a free show by the Hookers in the plaza outside of the Lexington Public Library on Main drew a sizable crowd.
With the relative success of Satan’s Highway, the Hookers took to the road. They spent a considerable portion of both 1998 and 1999 touring in both the U.S. and Europe.
March 1999 saw them perform a showcase at the prestigious music-industry conference, South By Southwest, in Austin, TX.
The Big Time
After touring extensively for Satan’s Highway with a number of different bands, including Speedealer and the Gaza Strippers, the Hookers headed back to the studio in June 1999 to record their second CD.
The band had undergone a number of lineup changes (in addition to Neal and Reucroft, who uses the stage name Stoney Tombs, the current lineup is rounded out by Dick Richards on drums, Thomas A. Foolery III on bass, and guitarist The Blizzard of Hoz), and as they entered the studio, their sound had also changed considerably.
While Satan’s Highway consisted of raw, in-your-face punk rock, the second disc, Hookers II: Black Visions of Crimson Wisdom, released in late 1999, is pure heavy metal, in the same vein as Danzig, Manowar, and W.A.S.P. In fact, one of the songs on Black Visions of Crimson Wisdom, “Ball Crusher Love Machine,” manages to incorporate the titles of two different W.A.S.P. songs in a single song title.
Peddle to the Metal (Heads)
Heavy Metal? In the year 2000? Isn’t that commercial suicide? Not by a long shot.
2000 has been a year which has seen Iron Maiden sell out Madison Square Garden in 45 minutes, and Poison has had an average attendance of 12,000 people a night on their “Power to the People” tour.
Metal may still be beneath the radar for the average Joe, but it is thriving nonetheless, and the Hookers are part of a new generation of bands eager to grab the beast by the horns, or slay the dragon, or whatever it is that metal bands do.
The metal sound of the second disc had some Hookers fans crying “sellout” and others assuming the whole thing was some sort of a joke.
But while the Hookers originally were less than serious about their music, it is readily apparent that they’re dead serious these days.
The main influence in the Hookers’ sound today is undeniably Glenn Danzig. Danzig, the former lead vocalist of punk icons the Misfits, did a similar about-face in his sound in the mid-1980s with the release of his first solo-LP, Danzig.
Both Neal and Reucroft cite Danzig as their primary influence, saying the first Danzig record changed both of their lives, even before they had met one another.
Neal goes so far to admit that he “made a conscious effort to make the vocals sound like Danzig” on Black Visions of Crimson Wisdom.
Danzig isn’t the only role model for the Hookers. When asked to name the five artists most influential to them, they named Elvis Presley, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, elfin vocalist Ronnie James Dio, and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi. Strange bedfellows, indeed.
Despite the metal trappings, the Hookers have managed to retain their punk-rock credibility.
They’re slated to perform at the Las Vegas Shakedown, which takes place at the Gold Coast Hotel from August 11-13. Other artists appearing at the Shakedown include Wayne Kramer, Nashville Pussy, the Donnas, and the Dictators.
But while the promoters bill it as “the greatest lineup of bands ever!” Neal remains nonplused. When asked about the bill, he said he felt it consisted of “mostly completely shitty bands [along with] a few good bands.” He went on to say that playing the Shakedown “is not a big deal to us.”
Big deal or no, aside from the Vans Warped Tour, the Shakedown is, from a music-industry standpoint, this summer’s most visible punk rock event.
In spite of Neal’s lack of enthusiasm for the other artists on the Shakedown bill, at least one of those bands remains firmly in the Hookers’ corner. The back cover of Nashville Pussy’s most recent CD, High as Hell, features a photo of lead guitarist Ruyter Suys and bassist Corey Parks lounging on a heart-shaped bed amongst a Bible, a can of beer, a bag of marijuana, and a Hookers record.
In addition to that, in a recent interview with Playboy, when asked to name new bands she enjoyed, Parks cited just one band, the Hookers. The Hookers also opened a number of dates for Nashville Pussy in 1999, prior to the release of Black Visions of Crimson Wisdom.
Since that time, the Hookers have been busy. Early 2000 saw them back in Austin at the South By Southwest conference playing a showcase with Antiseen, who they describe as one of their favorite bands, at Emo’s, a club where such noted Texas acts such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and ZZ Top paid their dues.
The subsequent tour, with the Bulemics and Zeke, took them through the South, up the East Coast, where they played New York’s famed Knitting Factory, then through the Midwest to Colorado. In July, they released a 7″ on Sub Pop Records, covering Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” and Krokus’ “Ready To Burn.” And after the Las Vegas Shakedown in August, they’ll be hitting both coasts for a number of shows, although the dates are still tentative.
And in addition to his duties with the Hookers, lead vocalist Neal (aka The Rock n’ Roll Outlaw) is releasing a solo record later this year.
Outlaw’s solo record, tentatively titled Livin’ Free and Ridin’ Hard, will feature seven original songs, as well as covers of songs by both Twisted Sister and David Allan Coe.
Reucroft pulls double duty on this record, having laid down guitar tracks for several songs, as well as serving as producer. Sack o’ Shit Records is releasing this project on vinyl only, most likely limited to 500 copies. Sack o’ Shit is also releasing a Hookers live record later this year, also on vinyl only, with a limited edition of 666.
Even with all the touring and the side projects, the Hookers have another studio album, Equinox Beyond Tomorrow, slated for release in November.
However, Black Visions of Crimson Wisdom is less than a year old, and many of their fans still haven’t had the chance to see them perform those songs live yet, so the fact that they don’t have a brand-spanking-new CD out isn’t likely to hinder them while on tour. And the Sub Pop Singles Club 7″ could easily draw attention to the band from listeners who were previously unfamiliar with them.
Ultimately, the Hookers are optimistic about their immediate future. While they haven’t yet quit their day jobs, they fully intend to take the Hookers as far as they possibly can. As Reucroft put it, “We live and breathe music. That’s all we care about.” And the course the Hookers have charted thus far presents pretty compelling evidence that he’s telling the truth.
The Hookers will play at 6 pm Sunday, August 6 with Ungrateful and Red Headed Stepchildren at Rockhaven. $5. Their new album, Equinox Beyond Tomorrow, is due out in November.