Archive for March, 2002

First up, apologies for some confusion regarding the April Largo dates for the Ken Bethea and Rhett Miller. Turns out that both Ken and Rhett are each playing the Largo, just not at the same time. Still, each show promises to be a great excuse to be late for work the next day. Speaking of Ken and the Scrap Hotel, Ken notes that their website should be up soon, and that Scrap Hotel t-shirts are available at shows now, and by way of Ken’s account on (A bargain at $16, which includes your S&H, so get one!) Finally, it took a note from one of the concerned parties, the Old 97’s Rhett Miller, to sort out the scheduling confusion. Nonetheless, Rhett’s timing is excellent as he’s got a bunch of other news too. To whit:

…The reason I’m writing is that Flanaghan, the owner of Club Largo, is concerned (due to the sheer volume of calls) about the way Ken’s Largo date appears on the website. Ken will be opening for Jon Brion on April 5th as a solo artist. I won’t be performing with him, nor will any of the other 97’s. He must sink or swim on his own (heh heh). Could you please have whomever controls the particulars of the site make an obvious note of this? Thanks.

I’m in the studio (even as I write this), and it’s going splendidly. We’ve got 17 songs tracked, 13 of which are on the brink of completion. We’re recording more than the 11 or 12 we intend to include on the final product obviously. As far as the actual sound of the album, about half the tracks are going to be full-on rock & roll, while the other half explore the vast, weird terrain of pretty/sparse stuff that I’ve been writing for a while which necessitated this solo record to begin with. The idea is to prove two points: 1) that I’m not wussing out like one might expect a Cali-based singer/sogwriter to do; and 2) that I’ve got a bunch of songs that wouldn’t really work within the confines of the 97’s.

I’m doing the guitar and vox of course, Josh Freese (DEVO, Perfect Circle, etc ad infinitum) is doing most of the drums, and Jon Brion (the Mad Scientist cum Producer) is playing everything under the sun as is his wont. We even had my old friend David Garza come in one day to do some overdubs – he played flamenco guitar, electric guitar, piano, and a little bass. There’s some talk that we might be joined in the studio for a day by Benmont Tench (keyboardist and recent R&R Hall of Fame inductee with his band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

The release is set for August of this year. I’m going to New York in a couple of weeks to shoot the album cover with Mark Seliger (head photog for Rolling Stone & a handful of other ritzy mags) who I befriended after discovering that he’s a big 97’s fan (obviously he has good taste).

My favorite songs so far (though all of them are blowing my mind) are “Our Love” (inspired by the love letters of Richard Wagner to his married lover Mathilde, and the (much less creepy) letters of Franz Kafka to his married and (mostly) unrequited love Milena), 4-Eyed Girl (the chorus goes “la la la I’m in love with a 4-eyed girl”), and “Lovebird”, the song I started on September 10th sitting in the courtyard at the base of the twin towers…

See you soon,


Scrap hotel

March 10, 2002

scrap hotel

The Scrap Hotel. ‘Tis the official name of Old 97’s guitarist Ken Bethea’s new four-man side-project, and a metaphor for… well… though a couple of others pop to mind, Ken insists it’s also a scientific description of the brain’s memory function. The band made it’s official debut as a four-piece ensemble on March 3 at the Barley House, and follows that up with the following dates:

Wednesday March 13, Muddy Waters solo w/ Salim Nourallah (Happiness Factor lead singer) (10pm-ish)

Saturday March 16, Muddy Waters w/ Sorta (10:30pm-ish)

Friday April 5, Largo in Los Angeles, CA

Sunday April 14, Deep Ellum Arts Festival (3:00 pm)

Friday May 17, Gypsy Tea Room

Notice that Largo date? Seem the Scrap Hotel (likely without drummer Philip Peeples, who has a baby due right about then) will be opening for another 97 in his side-project persona, Mr. Rhett Miller, who’ll be taking the stage with his solo CD collaborator Jon Brion. Look for the opening and closing acts to share the stage for a few 97’s tunes too. In any case, these ain’t bad gigs at all for my favorite new lounge band. Plus, Ken even sat in with the Deathray Davies at a February show in Dallas. Adds Zac Crain in the February 28 Dallas Observer:

Old 97’s guitarist Ken Bethea is up and running with his new solo project, The Scrap Hotel. (Apparently, it’s a metaphor for your brain. We still prefer to call ours The Jack Daniel’s Museum of Bad Ideas and Cloudy Memories. Same idea, we guess.) Haven’t heard a note yet, but we do hear it sounds a bit like Jonathan Richman, and that can’t be a bad thing. Besides Bethea, residents at The Scrap Hotel include drummer and fellow 97 Philip Peeples, multi-instrumentalist Jim Lehnert (on pedal steel, various keyboards, sax and whatever else he can fit onstage) and stand-up bassist Jay…something. May have started with a B, but it was loud, it was post-shot at the bar, it is now forgotten. Sorry. Whatever. “We’re at the still-practicing stage,” Bethea says. “That’s what the Barley House stuff is. Three of us have kids. It’s not like when you’re young and irresponsible and can practice all the time.” The full band–Bethea and Jay the bassist played as a duo a few weeks ago–will make its debut March 3 at Barley House, opening for Pleasant Grove. Should be a good time, but what do we know? That’s right. Not much. And no, Bethea says, this doesn’t mean the Old 97’s are broken up. They’ll probably play sometime later this year, when their schedules free up a bit. But they’re officially not on Elektra Records anymore, although front man Rhett Miller (recording a solo record with Jon Brion as we speak) is. So simmer down…

Wanna hear something soul-crushingly dissapointing? Murry Hammond and fiancé Grey Deslisle were back out in Texas in late February for some pre-wedding functions, and played a secret show in Nacogdoches. Dang them! Well, best wishes too of course, for a long and blessed marriage. OK, back to Rhett Miller, Billboard contributes this on his upcoming solo CD:

Old 97s’ Miller Looks To Ex-Grays For Solo Debut

Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller is recording tracks in Los Angeles for his solo debut, with former Grays principal Jon Brion producing and that group’s drummer, Dan McCarroll, lending a hand on some tracks. “The band wanted to take some downtime; they’ve got new babies and marriages happening.” Miller tells “And I sort of wanted to make a solo record, which I thought would be kinda no big deal — like a side-project-y, kind of fill-in-the-gap. But the record label [Elektra] just went ape s***, like, ‘Oh my god.'”

Backing Miller on several instruments is Brion, who has produced albums by Fiona Apple and Aimee Mann, among others. “He’s this kind of crazed mad scientist, multi-instrumentalist,” Miller says. “So he’s playing everything that I’m not playing.” Aside from McCarroll, in-demand session man Josh Freese (Vandals, A Perfect Circle) is also backing Miller on drums.

In recent years, Miller has gigged regularly at singer/songwriter showcases organized by Brion and held at Los Angeles’ Cafe Largo. While playing a series of gigs at the club two years ago, Miller wound up coming up with the bulk of Old 97s’ last album — last year’s “Satellite Rides” — in his attempts to debut a new song each night.

The set may also include a guest appearance by Ryan Adams. “Ryan is coming by the studio, but I haven’t figured out if there’s anything we can do on the record together,” Miller offers. “But he wants to, which is good. I’m just not much of a jammer. But I’ll at least play him some stuff. And maybe he’ll talk me into doing a guitar part or something.”

The album should be finished by the end of April and in stores in August or September via Elektra, says Miller, who adds that this record will actually be his second solo set — if you count the one he released while attending high school in Dallas. “Only 1,000 units came out. And that was the only pressing and hopefully there will never be another one,” he confesses. “I was listening to a lot of David Bowie and Aztec Camera, so it sounds a lot like a British dude.

Until early this year, Miller was maintaining homes in L.A. and New York. But, after seeing the World Trade Center collapse in front of him (he and his girlfriend lived two blocks south of the towers) he has since moved permanently to L.A.

“We were there that day and we had to flee in between the collapsing towers and smoking pieces of metal landing in our hair and breathing through our shirts,” he says. “We were homeless for six weeks, and when we came back, we were only able to go in to move our stuff out of the building, which is the first building outside of the frozen zone. So, technically, we could have gone back in to live — and they were half-heartedly trying to convince us to — but [for] anybody, especially anyone who was there that day, there’s just no way.”

As for HBAT Tech-Talk, my apologies for the long delay in filing an update to the site, but your webmaster was the victim of an airline furlough back on January 1, and has spent most of his time since either looking for work or, more recently, out of town in ground and flight training for a new job. Uhm, those lines down at the unemployment office were kinda slow too. In addition, several of the usual feature of the site, including lyrics, and most sound clips, have been sporadically unavailable in recent weeks. The problem?, the company which hosted was recently purchased by another hosting firm, Interland. After the buyout, all the old Icom sites were moved to Interland’s servers, and during the move, this site was down for several days. Afterwards, several bugs remained, but I wasn’t able to the upload the files needed to correct the problem, given the laptop and slow dial-up connections I use while on the road. But, everything should be up and running again.

Finally, be prepared to add a couple of new 97’s themed links to your browser’s favorites file, as Scrap Hotel looks to launch it own web presence, and (a ten year lease on that domain name was said to be given to Rhett as a birthday gift a year or two ago) would seem poiseed to roll out in conjuction with Rhett’s CD release.