DEAD RIDER – Lucky 7

LUCKY 7 is the feature where we ask artists to name their 6 favourite songs by others, and a lucky 7th song of their own…

Today it’s a real honour to feature the band led by former US Maple guitarist Todd Rittmann, Chicago and Drag City’s Dead Rider. Todd is truly one of the most innovative guitarists of his generation. VS have always been massive US Maple fans – interviewing Mark Shippy back in the day of the original zine, and I truly got into Dead Rider (formerly D. Rider) circa 2014 album “Chills On Glass” (here’s my review for The Quietus.) Dead Rider are back with a new beast of a record called “Crew Licks” (out recently, 22 Sept) and I was chuffed that Todd was up for choosing some appropriately guitar scrunching tuneage.

“Crew Licks”, Dead Rider’s fourth album, is like the sound of someone being awake for their own frontal lobotomy. Terrifying and yet edifying. Just like trepanation could ease the flow of a troubled mind, as Todd’s taut guitar chimes ring out, the tension floods out, the body spasms in an uncontrollable dance until there is silence again and only a rictus grin remains. Todd’s guitar playing is somewhere between the metallic speed jazz of The Jesus Lizard’s Duane Denison and the irritable kinetics of Shellac’s Steve Albini, and his singing is reminiscent of Girls Vs Boys Scott McLoud and there is the unfathomable electronic funkiness of Prince underscoring it all. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of gen X rock crafted in the 90s but given a gen K smack in the kisser. Here’s a suitably demented video from the new LP…

And it’s Melvins meets Captain Caveman like cover art…

Here’s Todd’s explanatory and complementary intro to his choices:

I normally avoid tipping my hand at “my influences” in any direct way, but I feel this a great venue and a great time, so fuck it! The first 6
are my “favorite” (ha!) songs by artists that I will concede, are major influences….. aw hell, I fucking BITE all this shit so hard it’s truly embarrassing. This is a thank you to all the following.

1. Johnny Guitar Watson – Aint That A Bitch live circa 1977

Yeah, he helped lay the foundation of Rock and Roll in the mid ‘50s, but it was his reemergence in the 70’s as pimped out funk demigod that made him one of the eternal greats. The whole package: composer, multi instrumentalist, entertainer, singer, and one of the baddest motherfuckers to ever pick up a guitar. Johnny, I owe you. This rare and raw as hell live German TV appearance proves his swagger is the real deal.

2. Roy Buchanan  – Roy’s Bluz – live 1976

This is as good a place as any to start with Roy Buchanan. If this doesn’t do anything for ya… well maybe it’s an acquired taste. No need to go on. The whole thing is great, but the real action starts around 3:00. The sheer amount of possibilities he explores in the remaining 4 minutes, combined with a blatant disdain for showmanship, belie the fact that he is a true musical master. He is a daredevil and a poet on this instrument. He probably invented more of the modern guitar technique vocabulary than anyone except Hendrix.

Roy Buchanan – Roy’s Bluz – live 1976

3. James Blood Ulmer  – Street Bride – live 1993

This man is as mysterious to me as his music. There’s either lots to learn here or nothing that can be learned. Is it true he tunes all his guitar strings to the same note? Jazz, Blues, Funk, Rock…Whatever this is, this is IT!

4. Les Paul – Lover – 1948

When I first heard this I thought it was some contemporary electronic music someone had cut onto a 78. This is the only tune on this list that isn’t live. It never was, Thats the point. The studio is an instrument thanks to this man. He invented multitrack recording and music was, at that moment, forever changed. I get emotional imagining him reaping the fruits of his discoveries, alone, in his garage.

5. Butthole Surfers – Graveyard – live 1991

If you’re one of us that saw them perform live in the late 80’s, then you know. You know succumbing to the temptation of trying to describe an absolute life changing event will ultimately make you sound like a nostalgic lunatic dipshit. I’ve given up on that. I will tell you though, Paul Leary is a great guitar player and performer. His hands and body squeeze out equal amounts of violent clamor and tasteful melody. In inferno of ideas and emotions.

6. ZZ Top – Brown Sugar – live ?

Oh man, there’s a lot of Texas on this list. It doesn’t Get any more Texas than these fine gentlemen. Billy is bigger than life and knows everything about guitar, cars, and probably a few other things. Awesome is an overused word.

Lucky 7th – Dead Rider – 2 Nonfictional Lawyers live 2015 @30:45

So, as of this writing, there’s only a couple songs up from our new LP “Crew Licks” to share. I am honestly not trying to trick anyone into watching this whole concert, It’s just I thought it was only fair to post us doing a song live, and this is the one that relates to the above best. The song starts about 30:45 and me doing my best rip off of all the above on guitar starts around 35:22.


More about Dead Rider right here on the Drag City site.

If you’re in the US, check out the tourdates: