I'm playing the Life Is Sh*t Festival in Las Vegas Saturday Sept 23rd. They asked me to contribute something to their zine/program. Here's what I came up with...

Thoughts and Shit.

I ain't into fecal matter. But here we are in a festival called Life is Shit. And they've asked for some stuff for a

1) I started working in a little guitar store when I was 14. I was desperate to learn my instrument and I would endlessly unabashedly hound the older experienced players for licks and tips. I met Jack Holten, an Italian American bass player who played with the all black Art 'Legs' Robbins and The Message when I overheard him talking about Tina Turner. He said, 'I'd eat through a mile of her shit to get to her asshole.' That was pretty intense for a 14 year old. Of course I loved him. His other occasional boast was that he 'smoked a joint with Sly Stone'. He gave me my first Al Green record which I thought came from Mars and would barely talk to me, me being so much younger, whiter and stoopid, but he also dismissively threw John Coltrane's A Love Supreme at me one time, (on cassette!) and said, 'Leave me alone! Go listen to this!'

2) When my Big As Life came out in '95, prior to being picked up by Universal, it was on a small indie in Austin where I was living. The record company owner heard that an up and coming white kid, (we won't mention any names), who was a 'blues rapper'(no really) was going to be playing and secured me an opening slot. What started as a packed house of 200, led to several tours and his rapid rise to packed house of 1200 kids was like nothing I had ever prior witnessed. I thought it was kinda corny really,  but I went over well, although I was constantly checking myself to make sure I wasn't playing the lowest common denominator card. Frat boys, spring break gals. Anyway, I met his manager once before hopping onstage at The Metro in Chicago and I asked him frankly, of all the acts Frat Boy Blues Rapper could pick, why me? He said, 'He thinks you're the shit .' I had never heard the expression before. Twisting the negative by adding 'the'. Of course in 20 years it has entered the vernacular. I now have Hamell Is The Shit stickers, come see my show and say hi, I'll give you one for free. Of course Carlin has the whole 'take a shit'  vs 'leaving a shit' thing.

3) Two years ago I toured extensively with The Uncluded, an amazing band comprised of Kimya Dawson of Moldy Peaches and Juno fame and Aesop Rock the hip hop artist.  A great tour, attentive warm responsive audiences, amazing wonderful extremely talented artists who I loved both musically and as people....but they talked about bowel movements WAY too much.

4) I must confess when I see certain conservative Republican fascist female pundits using their little girl charms to advance their career while spewing venomous hate, Ann Coulter and Jillian Mele immediately come to mind, I picture them pinching a loaf and my blood pressure regains normality.

5) The old adage proclaims "Life is a shit sandwich, the more bread you have the less shit you have to eat". I couldn't disagree more. In the words of the mighty Biggie Smalls: "More money more problems." I think life is pretty great, after a couple near death experiences, suicides in the family and friends dropping like flies these days, I'm a sucker for life, wish I had another 100 years to keep on playing.  I'm just doing the festival cuz I like the promoter and I need the money. Because the more bread I have the less shit I have to eat.  That's not a contradiction,  that's balance.  I'm a Libra.

6) Two heroes of mine, Lenny Bruce and Elvis died on the toilet. Shit!


As we launch the new site I thought it might best to begin blogging again. Believing, as I do, that the writing muscles are the same as any other muscle in your body, a routine will help shape, tone and strengthen. I take a long time between albums and this is going to help facilitate a faster follow up to Tackle Box.

In light of certain current political agendas it seems I might have a lot to say these days. Some days it's pretty hard to rally the spiritual troops within and begin another day of hitting the trenches with a great big smile on your face but I'm going to venture forth assuming that's the goal. And, you know, hope ultimately good wins out over evil.

I tour a lot. The good news is I love to play. As a matter of fact there isn't much about this music and art career that I don't like. The writing, editing, recording, traveling and performing I still get a great buzz from. Flying has gotten to be a bit of a pain in the ass but for the most part even that continues to fill me with a childlike sense of wonder. They say 'Find a job you like and you'll never work a day in your life'. Truth. I highly recommend finding that vocation that makes you happy. The one that you have a passion for. Cuz here's another thing that they say: 'Life is short'. Truth. Hope I can continue to do this for another 30 years. Great story: One time George Burns at the age of 90 was on Johnny Carson. He told Johnny a young photographer back stage asked if he could take his picture, and he said 'Certainly'. The young photographer said, 'Gee Mr. Burns I hope I can take your picture in 10 years'. George replied, 'You seem like a healthy kid, there should be no problem.'

Back to the touring. Every summer my 15 year old son Detroit and I do an extensive cross country trip, about 7,000 miles. We've been doing it since he was 7. He's probably now done 100,000 miles with me in the car, he has always sold merch and now he comes up and does a 10 minute comedy spot in the middle of my set. So I guess that's 9 years now. In a 30 day run I might do 22 to 25 gigs and then on days off we hit amusement and water parks, The Mall of America, The Grand Canyon, Comic Con, Hollywood, Niagara Falls etc. It's a beautiful country, I've played 49 of the United States, Hawaii being the exception, I'm thrilled I get to show my son the highways and backroads of this land.

As I writer I guess it could be said I'm a people person. I talk to the people at the airport, the cab driver, the waitress, stay away from politics, religion and, ahem, music and more often than not, 98% of the time I walk away thinking, 'That's a good person, just trying to put food on the table for their family.' This year's tour, however, was different. The tone, the vibe, the feel of the country was different. Although I never censored or toned down my stage act I walked much quieter when out on the road. At the truckstops which I typically enjoy so much, and truckers who I have so much respect for, (and like miners, with automated vehicles around the corner I fear for their jobs) I kept a low profile, I sensed agitation could happen in a flash.

A few incidents happened specifically in the Iowa and Missouri areas. In one gas station cum Dairy Queen they were selling wall size Confederate flags. I asked my son to take my picture on my phone as I gave it the finger. I didn't actually think anyone was around but the middle aged woman behind the counter observed it and wouldn't wait on my son later when he wanted a Snickers bar. Later, the same day, we parked for a nap at a stop only to see a pick up truck with a Confederate flag as a tail gate and a very professional rear window display on his truck that read: 'American By Birth, Southern By The Grace Of God'. Unfortunately Birth was spelled Brith. 'American By Brith, Southern By The Grace of God'. You couldn't make this shit up, and just to prove I wasn't making it up, I took a picture. Yes, I did have some walk outs later that evening at my show in St. Louis, and with an 11 hour drive ahead Detroit and I stopped at a Denny's to grab some rest and energy before the haul. My son has a girlfriend, a sweet African American young lady, beautiful, with a fine sense of humor. I can tell they have a cool relationship. When the waitress made a racist comment I could tell initially both my son and I were caught off guard thinking, 'Did she just say what I think she said?' She sort of sensed her faux pas and tried to cover with what turned out to be yet another racist slur. I looked at Detroit and he was red. Not from anger. I sensed he was embarrassed for humanity. I blame Fox News, I blame Mitch McConnell. I blame Trump. Among others. Making money from hate. Deplorable.

The night before last I drove 7 hours to see Henry Rollins in Utica NY. I've known Henry for close to 20 years now, I wouldn't say we are great friends but he has always been good to me and I have a lot of respect for him. In front of about 1,000 people he showed pictures of his travels and spoke about his exploits. As always with him it was riveting, inspiring, humbling and, as I told him later, weirdly spiritual. He focused primarily on Africa, China, Korea, (Yes, North!) and the Middle East. We as Americans don't travel enough. Yes, to witness how lucky we are but to see people, under incredibly debilitating conditions,being happy and joyful. What he emphasized both at the beginning of the show and what really hit home at the end of the show, 'Get a passport! Travel! Get those stamps on your passport and talk to people! Because when you do you will no longer be bigoted against other cultures.'  Truth.