One of our favorite institutions still limpin’ along the side of the proud highway, led by the charismatic white trash poet laureate of the emergency room, Bryan Small, and Angelique Congleton, one’s of underground rock’n’roll’s hottest bass-players. For the uninitiated, my condolences, but just imagine a torn and frayed cross between the Sea Hags and Gun Club, with a severe George Jones fetish, who look like somebody’s goth girlfriend got everybody jobs at the small town gas station even though they’re all on probation. While Supersuckers superstar, Ron “Rontrose” Heathman played guitar on their latest CD here, word at the downtown Macon Greyhound station has it that Coma-Tones/Barrio Tiger/Rock City Angels gunslinger, the legendary Jimmy James has returned to reclaim his rightful place onstage, with one of America’s last enduring REAL rock’n’roll bands. Inger Lorre of the Nymphs co wrote a tune on “East Of Western”, so you know it is essential listening. Particularly, if you like Stiv Bators, Lazy Cowgirls, or Motorcycle Boy. All that praise they heap on that over-rated hack Gap pin-up, Ryan Adams ought to be goin’ to Bryan Small, if you ask me. But I’m old-fashioned. (-review by Free)
Bryan Small & The Hangmen are the Witnesses For The Defense. Still scroungy, after all these years. Hard livin’ street trash, just barely gettin’ by, in that rat’s nest apartment above the Mission.
Gettin’ high, and daydreamin’ in the A:M about all the lost loves, and dead friends, again. And you know what they say–that dreaming men are haunted men–big dreamers never sleep, no they don’t. All those old records, traded for dollar bills, outta desperation, to that greedy, smirking, yuppie prick at the “rockabilly” record-store: Sea Hags, Only Ones, Uncle Sam, Johnny Thunders, even that Coma-Tones e.p.! It’s all gone, now. Along with the red hollow body guitar ‘his ex- girlfriend gave him, traded, in a short-sighted impulse, right after the break-up, for drinks, and less than half of one month’s rent. Michael Rank-from Snatches Of Pink, was right, when he said it gets harder and harder, to come by suitable musicians to form rock groups with, as you get older. All your old cronies die-off, give up, get mercenary trying to go pro, or just drown sadly in their I-Me Ego-Shows, proudly dominating control of the channel-changer, alone. Meanwhile, the new people you encounter, most often, in emergency-rooms, bus-stations, and waiting in lines, at various government agencies, don’t always appreciate the subtler nuances of art and poetry, cos they’ve all been force-fed a false bill-of-goods, their whole lives. Desperation makes us meaner, not stronger. Old habits die hard, but dreams die harder. You can’t help but notice how all those people in the expensive cowboy shirts who liked Devil Dogs and Social Distortion so much, seem to own several souped-up automobiles, and their own homes, with all the fat cash they made off their tattoo shop, when they got out of rehab, supposedly, ten years ago. ‘You wanna come over and look at his campy collection of imported religious trinkets, velvet paintings, and vintage jukeboxes? No, me, neither.
THE HANGMEN still make music for those of us who are too broke to even THINK ABOUT paying for new tattoos. On his last album for Acetate Records, “Metallic I.O.U.”, Bryan Small covered the Lords Of The New Church classic, co-written with Tony James from Generation X, “Russian Roulette”, and none other than the Great, Brian James, endorsed this band, on the promo-sticker. This time, he covers Stiv’s “I Will Stay”, and while I’m often particularly critical of groups who all-too-frequently, just desecrate Saint Stiv’s songs; he does it justice, with as much soulful authority, as anyone, besides Michael Monroe. This e.p. was produced by the Poster-Boy Of Reformed Old Reprobates, Mike Ness, who seems a suitable sponsor for these still mangey Hangmen. Every last jack-ass who dyes their hair blue/black has a website, record deal, and hard-luck story, nowadays, but the HANGMEN still live and breathe dirty rock’n’roll. From the gutter, but more importantly, from the heart!
Legendary gutter-prince, Bryan Small, has quite a way with his unforgettably familiar storytelling, and S.T.D.-catchy melodies. If you like dirty rock’n’roll, along the lines of Cranford Nix and the Malakas, the Humpers, Stiv Bators, or the Lazy Cowgirls, this retrospective will melt your hot pants. My favorite era of the Hangmen’s long and colorful career is when blues punk guitar-god, Jimmy James, joined their rascally ranks. Jimmy James, as most of you know, was the relentlessly creative guit-sling for some of the best bands that ever slinked around the Sunset Strip, including Rock City Angels, and the under-appreciated Coma-Tones.
‘Put it this way: I absolutely love the elegantly wasted songwriting genius of the Hangmen, and being a bitter old nowhere songwriter, myself, I hate almost everyone else. He’s got a tinge of that spooky Robert Johnson/Jeffrey Lee Pierce, haunted bluesman thing goin’ on, a dash of the Deadboys/Ramones streetpunk attitude, and more than a whiff of that old outlaw-country eye for detail.
There are few bands left on the scene, who have the unspeakable essence possessed by Bryan Small’s ragged crew of torn and frayed ramblin’ men. Mike Ness produced the Hangmen’s last E.P. for Acetate Records-the essential, “In The City”, reimagining “I Will Stay”, a song I used to think Stiv Bators wrote, with the same potent soul they injected into the Tony James classic, “Russian Roulette”, from the album before that.
There are dozens of black-haired dudes imitating Iggy Pop, and Stiv Bators, but the venerable Bryan Small is a genuine songwriting talent, whose highly memorable tunes are in league with Pat Todd’s very best work. You can even compare much of his material to Tom Waits. He’s very nearly in a category all by himself. I really respect this cat for his songs, and a remarkable roll-call of underground rock’n’roll’s most important statesmen are trotted out, to testify here, on the Hangmen’s behalf, in the handsomely put-together liner notes.
If you’re a haggard old rock’n’roll animal, like myself, all your faves are here: “Bent”, “Rotten Sunday”, “I Luv You”, “Can’t Stop That Train”, “I Wanna Be Loved”, and “Desperation Town”, along with some half-forgotten, or recently unearthed, other gems, aptly-described by the title of this important retrospective.
The booklet-cover is a beautifully rendered parody of an Old Rolling Stones dust- sleeve. A perfect collection of devilishly catchy hits, flawlessly designed to win the hearts and minds, of any late-comers, or young people, who have yet to experience the exceptional punk’n’roll gutter grace of the Hangmen.
If you like the Dogs D’Amour, Keith Richards, Snatches Of Pink, Izzy Stradlin and the Juju Hounds, the NY Dolls, or anything like that, this record smokes most everything else I’ve listened to, in recent years. An instant classic from a class-act.
Lovingly customized for the Real Rock’n’roll People to have and to hold, I’m strongly urgin’ all you motorcycle-punks, sequined strippers, lonesome fugitives, culture-war casualties, street musicians, mohawked drifters, and other dapper no-goodniks, to do whatever you have to do, to track this disc down, and get it playin’ on that boombox, with the busted speaker, and all the old glam band stickers on it, as soon as possible. There is nothing else that will rock you any harder than this. The absolute nazz!!! Would I lie to you?ALSO RECOMMENDED: THE OUT OF PRINT, SELF-TITLED DEBUT, “METALLIC I.O.U.”, “WE’VE GOT BLOOD ON THE TOES OF OUR BOOTS”, “LOTERIA”, and “IN THE CITY”.
The HANGMEN are just back from a 3 week tour going from Southern to Northern Europe. The perfect time for us to hear Bryan Small talking about this tour, the past and the future of this cult band…
How was the audience reaction during this recent European tour?
It was pretty good in most countries and it keeps getting better every time we go there. We’ve been there four times before and we’ll try to come back next late summer.
Can you feel a difference about the audience reaction from one country to another?
Yes definitely, but it just depends on the country you know.
I’ve heard about a little problem in Belgium..
That was on the tour before, our drummer got into a bar fight, but things were ok on this tour.
A tour like this is probably exhausting, isn’t it? How about the conditions (food, money…)?
No, not that much. In general, the bands I know get treated better in Europe. The best thing to get good treatment in the States is to open on a tour for a band like SOCIAL DISTORTION for example.
Talking about that, Mike Ness produced your last 7 song CD ; How did that happen? Did you play with SOCIAL DISTORTION before?
Maybe like 6 or 7 years ago, Mike came to our show and he fell in love with the band. he asked me if he could produce the next record, he just wanted to do it and didn’t even want to get paid or anything. I think the result is good.
Your first album was released by Capitol records, yet it seems like they didn’t care much about promoting it outside of the US since it wasn’t easy to find when it was released. How was the situation for the band in the US at that time?
Yeah, I don’t think I even cared at that time. I was very disappointed with big record labels and didn’t like the production on the album. I liked the songs though.
In those days, you were wrongly labelled as a “hair metal band” but you seemed to have blues and punk rock roots, right?
Yeah we were definitely not part of the 90s Sunset Strip bands. The record label was just trying to get as much money as they could.
The band’s line-up has changed through the years. How did you meet Angelique, Rane and Dino?
Rane was in SMACK when they came to L.A and he stayed here. Angelique has been in the band for something like 10 years…
You’ve been working for some time with Acetate records, are you satisfied with their work?
Yes, I am. They let us do what we want to do and don’t change anything about our records. They also help with getting our music on TV and stuff like that.
There’s also a psychobilly band called The Hangmen, doesn’t it bring too much trouble?
Yeah, we own the name but we haven’t pursued any legal action… but that’s something we might do in the future. It’s just annoying for the pictures or when people are looking for information about the band online.
How do you feel about this Internet age? It has changed so much for music…
Yes, it definitely has. I think it’s all for the better. It’s giving the power and the music to the band. It’s healthy in the end. But there’s still no way to fake a good song. If it’s a good song, it’s a good song. You can play it on acoustic guitar or whatever.
You already played and recorded songs from The Flaming Groovies, The Lords Of The New Church, The Rolling Stones and The Lollipops… Any idea of who you’d like to cover on your next releases?
I’m not sure yet. When I hear a song and think that it would be the pefect song for the band to do, then I just choose this song. It has to have a great melody that fits with The HANGMEN. It’s very simple.
Do you still have blood on the toes of your boots?
Last time I’ve checked yes! That’s a funny question…
A few words for your European fans?
I just want to thank everyone that came out to the shows. We had a great time and we hope to see everyone again soon.