November 9, 2022
Hi Blind Uncle Harry, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Great! Thanks for having me back!
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Burn Down the High School?”
Sure. For those who haven’t heard it, it is straight up rock and roll and it shreds! Mainly it mocks the stupidity of the American education system. It’s an intentional anthem for anyone who never fit into the ass kissing rah rah siss boom bah jock worshiping high school bullshit.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Primarily, it’s my general disgust with craven capitalist hierarchy. The main point of education beyond the 4th grade is to indoctrinate you into getting up ridiculously early, have strangers tell you what to do and accept punishment if you don’t do it, and never being allowed to leave of your own accord, for the rest of your life. School, but especially high school, felt like prison to me. I was always like, why the fuck do I have to be here? In terms of inspiration, there’s the great John Boorman World War Two movie Hope and Glory, where this English kid arrives at his primary school and it’s been bombed overnight by the Germans. You think he’s gonna cry but instead he turns to the camera and gleefully exclaims “Thanks Adolph!”
How was the filming process and experience behind the video?
I’d been trying to get an animated video done for awhile, and then I had the great fortune of working with Andy Beargie of Blockhouse Studio here in the Hillbilly Hippie Haiku Heaven town of Bloomington Indiana. Andy also produced three of the other video singles off the album. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted for “Burn Down The High School”, but Andy took it to the next level. Adding in the video fan footage of me and the band playing, shreddin’, and screaming it out live was sheer genius. Based on the sheer number of Youtube views and comments, people get that it’s meant to be funny. It’s not like I’m advocating for somebody to burn down a high school. I’m just pointing out the significant benefits to society if somebody did.
The single comes off your new album Visualize Industrial Collapse, which is coming out on November 18th. What’s the story behind the title?
I came across an image of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin very happily hanging out next to a little creek with trees and flowers all around. Above in the sky was “VISUALIZE INDUSTRIAL COLLAPSE”. It’s now become my personal mandala and mantra. I thought it was a more positive title than Crapfest, which is my usual way of referring to the USA! USA! and western society’s manic and intentional destruction of the natural world.
How was the recording and writing process?
I’d performed most of the songs live for awhile, and I had a clear idea of how I wanted them to sound. Originally I recorded them all solo acoustic. Then started adding instruments but no drums, which worked for some songs. I released it as an earlier EP but then pulled it, it just didn’t match the hillbilly hippie shreddin’ folk rock sound I heard in my head. It wasn’t until I got to work with Andy and he added drums that we finally got the sound I wanted while still not smothering the solo acoustic numbers. One of the things I’m most proud of is that we recorded it almost exclusively in my kitchen and living room at Tecumseh House.
Besides yourself, the album features vocalists Shelby Jo Everett and Alex Burgan. How was it working with those singers and how did that relationship develop?
Man, I’m so lucky! You can hear Shelby Jo and Alex on nearly all the songs, and they also nailed the bluegrass harmonies on The Gospel According To Blind Uncle Harry album. It’s one of the things that people say makes my sound so instantly recognizable. They didn’t just sing, they came up with the parts. Working out vocal hooks with them is my favorite part of recording, and what we spent the most time on.
Do the other musicians influence the writing at all?
A big shout out to Nick Harley, Peter Doyle, Ned Joyner, and Diederik Van Wassenaer, who were all members of the best band never to be famous, the Wonderhills. Plus Joseph Klatt, Antonia “Boom Boom” Davis, Mark Edlin, Nia Carlsgaard, and the aforementioned Andy Beargie, Shelby Jo Everett, and Alex Burgan. They didn’t necessarily influence the writing but they certainly influenced and are largely responsible for the sound. Unless you think the sound sucks, then it’s all on me
What role does Bloomington play in your music?
Bloomington is a wonderful progressive safe haven, a bubble in the conservative wasteland that is the rest of the state. I’m from Fort Wayne, which I often refer to as “the armpit of the Christian Right”. That and re-naming Indianapolis “Indiacrapolis” really seems to piss off my fellow Hoosiers. Regarding this album, “American Way” and “I Just Want You To Know” are certainly inspired by Indiana, but my feelings are best highlighted by, appropriately enough, the song “Indiana” off the last album: “Of all the 50 states/ we’re the one that always rates/ dumbest fattest and least likely to fornicate/ no wonder we’re so full of hate.”
Who would you say are some of your musical influences? Somewhat related, are there any dream collaborators you’d like to work with?
My overwhelming influence is Dylan. Pretty much everything I learned about how the world works I leaned from him, especially his album Infidels and his first solo folk albums. My dream overall sound is Groom’s Still Waiting At the Altar, and the live version of “When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky”. Todd Snider is another hero, and Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables is my favorite album. Boots Riley is arguably America’s greatest songwriter, political or otherwise, and I never get tired of his/ The Coup’s Party Music album. Dragonfly by the great Kasey Chambers is another album that I never get tired of. I had the great fortune of getting to meet her when I was in Australia, although I think it was more of a thrill for me than it was for her. My dream collaboration is to have a black all female gospel choir re-record Jesus Is Comin’ In A Rat Turd.
What else is happening next in Blind Uncle Harry’s world and where can people go to find out more about your music?
The next album is recorded and ready to go, so I’m focused on making videos for the three or four singles off it that will be released in 2023. And I’m pretty excited about touring Europe again to support Visualize Industrial Collapse. By far the best place to check out all things Blind Uncle Harry is www.blinduncleharry.com, owned and managed by yours truly, with no billionaire owned social media bullshit associated, and where you can listen to both albums and watch the videos for free. In closing, I really hope these lines from Dylan’s “Union Sundown” are not true for America’s future: “Democracy don’t rule this world/ You better get that through your head/ This world is ruled by violence/ Though I guess that’s best left unsaid”