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 Billboard.com. “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? Icom.com, the company which hosted old97s.com/HBAT 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 rhettmiller.com (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.