If I had the opportunity to embark on a bus tour akin to William Miller’s transformative journey in “Almost Famous,” the band I would want to hitch a ride with is the Texas Hippie Coalition.
Not only are they a flammable amalgamation of Pantera, ZZ Top, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I also suspect that they know how to make the most of life on the road. Big Dad Ritch commands the stage with ruthless aggression and delivers his lyrics in a way that doesn’t take no for an answer, so, regardless of how many distractions present themselves at the 2014 Mayhem Festival, everything else ceases to exist once they assume control of the grounds.
Toss in bassist John Exall, guitarist Cord Pool, and drummer Timmy Braun, and you have an undisputed force to be reckoned with on the modern metal scene.
The 10 -15 minutes I spent in their presence following their set was priceless, because I was afforded a first-hand glimpse at how down-to-earth they really are. They laughed with each other, joked with me, and never came across as anything less than the real deal, both personally and musically.
Carrying the “Red Dirt Metal” flag is a task they’ve embraced with open arms, so expect to see them continuing the storied tradition of kicking ass and taking names in every city daring enough to host them.
Their 2010 release, “Peacemaker,” is one of the most electric hard rock/metal releases in recent memory and the forthcoming “Ride On” promises to be cut from a similar mold.
Question: How has your festival experience gone so far?
THC: Frickin’ awesome, man. They don’t call it “mayhem” for nothing. Being able to go out with bands like Danzig and Clutch is amazing, because you play in front of 500 to 1000 people. With Mayhem, there’s 10,000+ out there every day, so it’s phenomenal.
Question: I know your sound has been likened to Pantera in many circles. How would you describe what you guys bring to the table?
THC: Well, it’s always cool that people recognize the powerful groove in our music. We’re from Texas and, not only are Pantera also from Texas, but some of their influences such as Kiss and Van Halen are our influences, as well. It’s always nice when someone says they hear the ZZ Top in the music or the Pantera Texas groove, because we love that outlaw Texas spirit.
Question: How do you use the festival setting to your advantage when attempting to leave your imprint on the audience?
THC: We approach it like a cage fight with three-minute rounds and try to knock everybody out. Or, like we did today, make them tap out. We’ve changed our set up a bit and kept things fresh for both us and the fans by adding a song here or there. They’re receptive, as always, and we wouldn’t exist without them. We have eight or nine songs that we’re playing on this tour, but only five or six per night.
Question: Do you find that certain cities are more hip to your band than others?
THC: Absolutely, we have chapters all over the world. We’re up to 80 chapters worldwide, so every time we go somewhere, you can definitely see them out there. Thirty-something countries total. Texas is like its own country, as well. New York seems to be the same way. Whenever we tour abroad, New York is always a little bit different from the rest, but still very receptive to us. It’s great to be here and have such great support. We’re just happy that the Yankees love us redneck’s style.
Question: Do you find yourself forming relationships with other bands on the tour?
THC: Oh yeah. We made friends with Mushroomhead and we love those guys. We have Tent City set up back there, so we’re always talking shop. We’re kind of the outlaws of the group, be we end up hanging out with Body Count, King 810, and others. It’s all about staying true and staying real.
Question: Do you guys prefer the festival experience or a headlining tour more?
THC: The festival atmosphere is what we pride ourselves on, because being able to play in front of Korn’s fans as well as our own is awesome. We steal their fans. That’s what we do. There’s a good size crowd in front of us when we start, but it’s almost double when we’re well into the set. We started this band to get laid on the weekends while still having to have a day job, but it’s exceeded our expectations all the way.
Question: Who are some of your lyrical influences?
THC: Lyrically, we’re heavily influenced by Johnny Cash, Clutch, ZZ Top, so many, really. Genre-wise, we love Waylon, Johnny Cash, Motley Crue, Van Halen, Lynyrd Skynyrd and even Rob Zombie.
Question: Where did the term “Red Dirt Metal” come from?
THC: We’re all either from Texas or Oklahoma and there’s a Red Dirt scene down there. We played with Cross Canadian Ragweed, David Allan Coe, Gary Allan and others, and they started calling us that. We’re so proud of it and we just stuck with it once they named us that.
Question: What does the future hold for you guys?
THC: We have a couple of headlining in Arkansas and Kansas coming up. Then, we have the Ride for Dime, which is Aug. 15 at the Railhead in Ft. Worth, TX. We’re championing the cause in Dimebag Darrel’s absence and happy to stay and keep that flag flying. After that, we’ll be doing some shows with Five Finger Death Punch starting Oct. 28 in Denver. People ask us all the time when we’re going back out on tour, but we’re always on tour. There’s maybe a week or two when we’re home long enough to see how much our kids have grown up and mow the lawn for a week.
Don't miss Texas Hippie Coalition on the Coldcock American Herbal Whiskey Stage as part of the 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.
See http://www.rockstarmayhemfest.com for details.
"Ride On" will be available at your local record store later this year.