Telling Jim Heath he can’t tour is like telling a kid that Christmas is canceled.
But Heath, founder and frontman of psychobilly-rockabilly-surf trio The Reverend Horton Heat, had to tidy the tour bus in the garage due to the spread of COVID-19 and the shutdown of live music.
But Heath has been in the music business since the mid-80s, and like a cat, he always lands on his feet – on stages around the world.
The Rev took part in one of the most notorious endless odyssey of the past three decades. Only the Ramones’ 2,263 shows in total can eclipse Heath’s nearly 2,000 estimated tour stops – 34 in Arizona alone since 1993. (His next local show is tomorrow night, Sunday, November 28, at The rhythm room.)
âWe had all of our concerts canceled around March 2020,â recalls Heath as he prepared for a show in Tampa, Florida. âBut then after a few months people started to want us to play. We lost all of our gigs in April and May, but in June we reported playing gigs again. Lots of outdoor gigs, and I did a lot of solo gigs because it was good to have a guy on stage instead of a whole bunch of people standing next to each other.
Heath, a healthy 62, is a modern successful rockabilly legend. The Rev has released 12 studio albums in his 26 years.
The band’s incredibly catchy, double-meaning-laden rock songs and Heath’s well-trimmed, hoarse, menacing and menacing tenor voice are unmistakable on a wide variety of Heat standards such as: American satirical tracks like “Liquor Beer and Wine” and âLet Me Teach You How to Eatâ (used in an advertisement for Subway).
In the 21st century, artists need to keep up with the times by finding ways to make their rock’n’roll life a viable business.
Heath is no newbie to diversifying his musical license beyond singles and albums – previous projects include the 2012 “25 to Life” box set with plenty of extras; TV commercials, like Subway using âTeach You How to Eatâ; and countless video games like Guitar hero and Tony Hawk’s proving ground companies using his music.
“The men in my neighborhood don’t have a clue who Reverend Horton Heat is, until their kids sing ‘Psychobilly Freakout’: ‘My kids know you from Guitar hero! ‘ they say.”
Heath also tried cryptocurrency and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) which essentially allow artists to sell one-time originals or covers of songs never recorded before. Heath adds that to provide great value to die-hard fans, music packages, guest passes, concert tickets and other merchandise could be part of the mix.
“This is the future,” said Heath, before qualifying his statement. âIt’s not really there yet because the transaction fees are too high to sell an albumâ¦ the companies trying to focus on trying to make DTV a viable way to sell music. It will happen.
But in the meantime, the group is making music in the traditional way. Pandemic live streaming sessions with the band’s longtime bassist Jimbo Wallace of Heath’s Dallas home studio have spawned Reverend Horton Heat’s next album, a mine of classic covers they hope to release at the summer 2022. (The third current member of the trio is veteran drummer Jonathan Jeter, who joined the group in 2020.)
Heath Heat’s new album, the first since 2018 A whole new life will be called Roots of the Rev. Volume One and it will be released on Heath’s vanity label Fun Guy.
Heath says he plans to do a full liner with experiments on how the songs inspired the band, and he says tunes from Carl Perkins and Willie Nelson will make the album.
âAll the songs have stories about their relationship with the band. Part of it is that we have real connections with artists, âsays Heath.
But in addition to working on the album, the group is hitting the road this year and next. There are over a dozen shows left for the band this year, and at the moment they’re slated for over 25 next year.
âIt’s in my DNA to play a lot of live shows,â says Heath. “I have a great family, so I have a kind of double life – kind of wild rock and roller, and at home I’m a dad.”
While playing live concerts makes his blood beat, cherishing the time spent at home with his family is just as important. “We’ll continue to play a lot of gigs, but I don’t think I’m going to be on that hamster wheel as hard as I’ve been most of my life.”
But there is obviously no giving up on Heath, and the road is where he makes a living and connects his music with fans around the world.
âPeople want to go out, and they want to see live music again, and they want to come together and build a music community again. I am here and I will be ready.