The three musicians who make up Black Tusk have a lot to be thankful for this year. Their first Relapse Records album, Taste the Sin, got great reviews (Spin called the band "Mastodon's Backwater Brethren") and the road has beckoned, opened wide and given them more work than they can handle.
More than any other Savannah band, Black Tusk epitomizes all that's great about Southern metal - it's hard, and it's uncompromising, of course, but there's a swampy grit to Andrew Fidler's guitar that's more Duane Allman than Kirk Hammett; drummer James May blows hot and cold like a late-summer thunderstorm over a strident sheet of sawgrass, and Jonathan Athon wields his mighty bass like a cannon swinging wildly on a Fort Jackson rampart.
There's a lot of piledriver punk in the mix, too, and vocals like unhappy gods scrambling to hoist themselves out of hell. Black Tusk is dark and dirty and definitely Southern - that's why, when they're asked, the guys tend to call what they do "swamp metal."
Saturday's show at the Jinx is the opening salvo on a cross-country tour pairing Black Tusk with New Orleans' Crowbar, one of the longest-lived and most admired "sludge metal" bands in the country.
First things first. What are you doing for Thanksgiving?
Jonathan Athon: I'm driving to Atlanta. I think everybody still goes and sees Mom on Thanksgiving, and then a lot of people get together at the Jinx for what we call ‘Loser's Thanksgiving.' Where everybody ditches the family and goes and hangs out with all the buds. It's a big ol' potluck kind of deal - watch a movie on the big-screen TV, get full and drink some beers. It's a lot of the bands and a lot of the service industry people - the Jinx ‘Friends and Family,' I guess.
Yeah, but aren't you going to miss it?
Jonathan Athon: No, I'm driving to Atlanta the day before to see my grandmother, and then driving back Thanksgiving afternoon, so I can make it for ‘Loser's Thanksgiving.' Then do all my laundry, pack and get the van ready. Saturday's the show, and Sunday we're out on the road.
Is this tour with Crowbar a big deal for you?
Jonathan Athon: Any tour is a big deal for us; we just like getting on the road. But we've been touring with some bands recently like Pentagram, Fu Manchu and now Crowbar, where we grew up listening to these guys. It's kind of cool to sit back and go ‘I get to play shows with these dudes, after them getting me into the kind of music that I'm into.' Kirk (Windstein, singer and guitarist) is also in Down, and that's a whole ‘nother list of all-stars from heavy music.
How often are you guys home now?
Jonathan Athon: I can't actually have a real job now; I do freelance carpentry. Where when I'm home I try to pick up jobs here and there, randomly. I think this is going to be our seventh or eighth tour this year. And the shortest tour was three weeks. Longest one was about six. At the beginning of the year, we'd be home for two to three weeks and then we'd leave for another month.
Do you enjoy the lifestyle?
Jonathan Athon: Yeah! It's always something that I've wanted to do since I was a kid. It gets very, very tiresome here and there, but you can't really complain. Every night you get to go hang out with different people and they're coming to see you play music. When you sit back and think about it, it's like ‘Wow, this is actually happening. This is so cool.'
Taste the Sin got some really great press.
Jonathan Athon: Yeah, that made us feel really excellent. And we have the re-issue of our full-length Passage Through Purgatory, that was on Hyperrealist Records from here in Savannah. It just got re-mixed and mastered by Relapse. We just got the master this week. Hopefully we'll have ‘em for our European tour in February. It's with another band on Relapse called Howl, from Rhode Island.
With Crowbar and Guzik
Where: The Jinx, 127 W. Congress St.
When: At 11 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27
Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show