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BOETZ, ERNIE


ERNIE BOETZ



A LINE IN THE SAND

by Dr. Abner Mality
They say lost causes are the ones most worth fighting for. In these days when boy bands, girl bands, rap-oriented crap and techno-electronic knob twiddling seems to have knocked the blues and honest rock and roll off the charts, you can make the assumption that rock itself may be a lost cause. But one man says never say die. He and his band will fight for the cause of rough and ready rock until their dying day. The music is in his blood. He is Ernest Robert Boetz... and he has drawn a line in the sand.

Ernie Boetz is an extremely interesting gentleman. He is a very successful and well known graphic artist who has designed some high profile advertising art, including the artwork on the Coca-Cola Nascar vehicle. But rock and roll is his passion and he pursues it with full vigor. He has an album out "Call to Arms" which defines the Boetz mission well. It's tough, bluesy rock in the vein of AC/DC, Bad Company, Ted Nugent and others. It's not rocket science but it packs a wallop.

Ernie recently called the Good Doctor from his home base of Georgia and in his warm, southern drawl, he had a lot of interesting things to say about the state of rock and roll in the 21st century, the trials and travails of an independent artist, his meeting with Motorhead's Lemmy Kilminster and much else. He was as honest and down to earth as anybody I've spoken to and came across as a dedicated good ol' boy just itchin' to wail away...

Wormwood Chronicles: When did you first hear the call of the wild guitar, Ernie?

EB: Well, my parents were 50's kids, so the very first exposure I ever had to popular music was early R n' B... Little Richard, Chuck Berry, stuff like that. Then in the 70's, I first heard Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, bands like that. I immediately connected to that, because I could hear the similarities to what I'd heard as a toddler. The hard rock bands of the 70's were drawing very heavily from blues and early rock n' roll. Even The Beatles cited Little Richard as being one of their biggest influences. 70's rock was a natural progression of where that original rock n roll was gonna go. I'm not just a fan of the 70's stuff, which first perked my ears, but also a fan of that early rock n' roll. I'm an absolute fanatic for Chuck Berry and early blues and rock.A lot of the CD reviews I've gotten have compared me to those 70's rock bands, which is who I'm hoping to sound like in the first place. I feel my music sounds more like something that happened 20 years ago than what's going on today. Despite the aggression, despite the heaviness, despite the bombast of what we're doing, our music still has a lot of soul to it.

WC: What's your take on the hard rock scene today?

EB: It's extremely trendy. Now music, like all forms of art, should be progressive, it should move forward, but the stuff today...it's just not for me. I like what I like and I'm not gonna change ship just because the majority does. I'm not gonna listen to something just because MTV says it's cool. Like most people, I consider what happened in the past as having more quality to it. Whether it's songwriting, architecture, clothing design, you name it. Right now there seems to be a hell of a lot more emphasis on image and trends. It's about immediate sellability and the sensationalism of it all as opposed to really good songwriting, playing and singing.

WC: You mentioned Boetz as a band but when I look at the credits of "Call to Arms", it looks like you did just about everything on the album. Can you tell me a little more about the guys in your band?

EB: Hell yeah! I'm always wavin' flags for those guys. On drums is Pat Turner and he is well known in and around Atlanta as one of the best drummers breathing. He's one of the few guys who has the technical ability to play really loud, fast hard rock n' roll but who also has a great bluesy swing feel to his playing. A lot of drummers in this genre have a lot to do with establishing the mood and tempo of the music. They play very well from a technical standpoint but they just have no soul. Pat has soul and ability both. He's been with me since I first put this band together 2 years ago.

On lead guitar is a guy named Tarmon Kelling. I can't say enough good things about him. He and I are both huge AC/DC fanatics. He plays like Angus Young incarnate. Now that's not the limit of what he can do. He plays guitar with a feeling and a technical ability that you just don't see much any more. We all play really vintage gear in the band but he's got these old SG's and the oldest Marshall amps you've ever seen in your life. He really does get that old classic rock sound. Y'know, the average musician under the age of 35 today wouldn't have a clue how to get the sounds we do. We don't use any effects...we just use the right kind of gear.

WC: Tell us about your bass player.

EB: The bass player is J. C. Keever and I have been playing with him for many years. He played with me in the band I was in before Boetz. J. C. plays an old classic late 70's P bass thru an old L-tube Ampeg bass rig and it's not that tinny bullshit-sounding trebly bass, it's the real deal. Again, he's a very classic style of player, he's a great guy. The four of us now together, we sound better now than we ever have. It's the best sounding band I've ever been in. I can't say enough about the guys because I'm lucky just to have guys like this who want to play with me.


WC: I notice on your credits that you mention the album was "proudly recorded in an analog studio"...

EB: Oh yeah, absolutely.

WC: Now don't you think your music would sound better on vinyl than CD?

EB: That's a good question! That's gettin' a little out of my area. Nobody presses vinyl anymore so I haven't had the pleasure of hearing my music on vinyl.

EB: Isn't it strange that circumstances force you to put it out on CD when your music is so much more suited to vinyl?

WC: Well, CD's are the standard of the industry, that's what all the consumers are gonna use. I love vinyl but you've really got no choice. This is not speculation, this is just a fact because I've been in recording studios for a long time, but I still think it makes a huge difference when you record on 2-inch 24-track tape and then go to CD. You've still got that analog punch and the warmth from the analog recording. Straight digital recording just doesn't have that punch, I don't give a shit what anybody says. You can use all the great gear like room mikes and try and get a natural sound but if you're recording in the fuckin' MIDI suite, it's not gonna sound as good.

WC: Let me ask you about Lemmy Kilminster (Ernie starts laughing). How did you hook up with this old warhorse and what was it like to work with him?

EB: It was a dream come true. I could die tomorrow and just be happy that I did that one recording with him. I met him years ago when the band I was in was playing the same venue in Atlanta as Motorhead. To make a long story short, we met and hung out together backstage that night and we connected as kindred spirits. We had the same likes and dislikes in terms of music. We just kept in touch through the years so whenever Motorhead came to town we always hanged out. Let me say right now, he's absolutely one of the best guys you could ever hope to meet. He's everything he says he is, he's everything you'd imagine him to be. He's just a total warhorse, rock and roll god and bad ass living legend. He's a straight shooter and as down to earth a person as you'd ever want to met.

I'm a huge Motorhead fan and it was such a treat to become friends with Lemmy, because he was an influence on me. I know my music doesn't necessarily sound Motorhead-like, but as a lyricist in particular, he was a real big influence on me. I think he's one of the best lyric writers in rock n roll.

WC: He can go from the real medieval, profound type lyrics to stuff that's just down and dirty.

EB: Yeah! It's real shoot from the hip, swaggering street poet type stuff. He can say more in 2 or 3 words than most people can in an entire verse.

WC: I got a chuckle out of some of the lyrics on "Call to Arms", too. Some of the stuff on the track "Almost to Scotland" had me rolling, especially about the girl swallowing the claymore right to the hilt. Even Bon Scott would have gotten a good grin out of that!

EB: Well, thank you! That's just what I was goin' for...classic AC/DC double entendre. Now gettin' back to "Call to Arms", I had written that song almost as a tribute to Motorhead. It was kind of a rip off of Motorhead riffs and chord changes and attitude. Even the vocal phrasing, I had Lemmy in mind the whole time I wrote that. I'd actually already recorded it and then I thought, "what the fuck, I'll just call him". I called him and said, I got a couple of songs, I'd really like to see if you're interested in singing on 'em with me. He said, "SEND IT TO ME!" and sure enough, he layed it down for me. As far as I know, it's unprecedented for a guy like me who's not on a major label and has never been on a major label to get someone like him to record with me.

WC: I actually consider music like Boetz's to be the real underground these days, much more than rap metal or death metal.

EB: The most faith I have, is in the music itself. And I also have a lot of faith in the audience of this genre. The audience for this type of music is still out there and very viable. They buy records, they buy concert tickets, I see 'em every fuckin' time that AC/DC plays here in town. There's 20,000 people selling out an arena. Why doesn't the major label system decide to sign some new bands in this genre? All those people that see those shows would be into it. It's a question of access to the music. I don't understand why the major labels don't play to that market.

WC: Do you think there's any way back to the original feeling of rock, the feeling it had when it exploded in the 50's and 60's?

EB: I think there is a way back. Knowing the way the industry works now, I just don't know if it's gonna happen. Let me give you an example. One of the biggest misconceptions in the industry today is people talking about the potential of the internet. They say the internet can potentially wipe out record labels and all this kind of crap. Well, that's bullshit. The internet does have great potential. Now theoretically, I, who have my website www.boetz.com and my album out there, both of which cost thousands and thousands of dollars, can reach the people directly. Y' know, it cost over ten grand to get the website and the album out there.


Now the way people listen to music is over the television and on commercial radio stations. That's where 99% of America hears new music, especially rock and roll. Somebody might say to a friend, here's a band that's not on a label but they have a website. Go check out the website. Well, people don't sit down in front of a PC and start searching the internet for music they've never heard. What happens is, they actually hear the music somewhere and THEN they might go to the internet to buy it. That's when hopefully you become your own record label and sell directly to the public.

Unfortunately, what's played on TV and radio is pretty much dictated by the major label system. If that's the case, the only fuckin' way you're gonna get on TV and radio is if you are a part of that system and not outside of it. The idea that the internet is somehow gonna wipe out the major label system is just a complete misconception.

The biggest problem we have is that we know there is a market for our brand of rock and roll, but they are not all young teenyboppers that congregate at the mall. Without that major TV and radio exposure, I'm pretty much fucked. To answer your question the long way around, I think it's possible but it's going to take a miracle. It'll take somebody at a big label deciding to take a chance on this kind of music.

WC: If you could ever play with one band, who would it be?

EB: Oh God, if I ever had any opportunity to open for a band, it would be AC/DC. That would be the absolute perfect audience for Boetz to play for. If I were ever lucky enough to get a shot like that, oh my God, I truly feel that would be all that it would take to get us goin'. Unfortunately, hard work and talent are not absolute prerequisites for success. I've seen people that have worked very hard and were very talented and they never made it. It takes some sort of lucky break for anybody to make it in this business. If I could ever get a lucky break, that would be the one for me!

WC: Which song is it that you're most proud of ?

EB: Hmmmm, that's hard to say. "Shinin'" is one of my favorites as far as overall songwriting goes. It's the most complex song on the album. It's kind of a love song and that's something most people can relate to.

WC: What was the last CD you bought for your own enjoyment?

EB: Believe it or not, Judas Priest's "Point of Entry".

WC: Priest is my favorite band...

EB: Really?! Fuckin' A, man! I am a huge Judas Priest fan. AC/DC is first and then Priest comes right after.

WC: Well, my favorite all time album is "British Steel". That just defines heavy metal to me.

EB: It's unbelievable, isn't it? You and I are on the same fuckin' page then. I don't think it gets any better than "British Steel".

WC: Any last words, Ernie?

EB: Just keep rock and roll alive. Check out our website http://www.boetz.com and try us out if you like the real deal. To contact the writer of this article, send your email to: drmality@wormwoodchronciles.com.