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15 Jan 2016

Genre Hopper: Mick Rhodes, Appearing at Pappy and Harriet's, Talks About His Move From Punk to Country

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Human Therapy was one of the bands that helped create the Los Angeles punk-rock scene. But these days, Human Therapy frontman Mick Rhodes is singing a different tune: country.

He’ll be bringing his band Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight to Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, Jan. 28.

“Back in the late ’70s when punk hit the suburbs, me and some friends started Human Therapy and put out a few records,” Rhodes said during a recent phone interview about his punk roots. “We did a couple of tours and stayed together for about six years. We sort of cut our teeth, and I cut my teeth musically as a songwriter.”

But how did he go from punk to county?

“My family is from Oklahoma, and when I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house,” he explained. “They were die-hard fans of Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Mel Tillis and those guys. There was a lot of country music in the air when I was a kid, so I didn’t even realize there was a differentiation between country music and rock. When I was young, the radio played everything, so that’s how I got exposed to my grandparents’ music at their house. It wasn’t until I sort of finished with my punk band that I opened my ears to it again, to tell you the truth.”

One night, Rhodes said, had a revelation when he stepped out for a beer.

“When I used to live down in Venice, there was this bar right around the corner from my house called the Cinema Bar,” he said. “I stumbled in there one early evening to grab a beer and stayed for about 3 1/2 hours listening to this guy called Randy Weeks, who had this amazing band and great songs. I just walked out after that one night there and thought, ‘Wow, there’s this whole new way I can write.’ It really freed me up—and that was just from being exposed to that one night.”

Rhodes said he feels there is a formula to a good country song that is often missing in today’s mainstream music.

“To me, the best country songs feel unfiltered and honest, and I don’t like a lot of production on my own country music. I like straightforward delivery and instrumentation,” he said. “To tell you the truth, most of the stuff people call country now is basically hair metal with cowboy hats. You can tell 10 seconds into a song if you’re listening to something authentic—at least I can. Music is subjective and hits people in different ways, just like paintings, food and poetry. A good country song has to be honest and unadorned, just straightforward, like George Jones.”

When Rhodes first started his band, it was a six-piece group. However, he’s trimmed down.

“Now we have five, and all that really happened is we lost our lead guitar-player, Brian Hall,” Rhodes said. “He just wanted to move on and do something else. It was all good, and I had to scramble to learn how to play lead guitar. At first when he left, I was concerned, but it changed the way we sounded—and it wasn’t a bad way at all. We miss Brian because he was a great guitar-player … but the cool thing that happened is our live sound became more about the songs and not the big noise we were making.”

Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight are touring to promote a new record, Paradise City, which will be released Jan. 22.

“It was long process. We started recording this record two months after our last one came out. That was five years ago,” Rhodes said. “We started recording it, and a lot of things happened. Our record label pays for the recording, mixing, mastering, production and promotion of all this stuff. It’s not an unlimited budget. That figured into the delay of this. We had some life things happen—health issues, divorce—and when you throw all those things into the mix, you have a big delay.”

The band also changed up the recording environment.

“The interesting thing that happened between records is we went back to the same traditional studio to record this record; we got halfway through it, and our drummer, Brian Wells, suggested we try a track in his living room where we rehearsed, because he had Pro Tools and some microphones. … ‘Don’t Remind Me,’ was the first one recorded at Brian’s. The results were so excellent that we decided that’s how we were going to record going forward. Half of the record was recorded in his living room. The cool thing about that is we didn’t have to be on the clock and could really be creative and try things.”

Rhodes said it’s a dream come true to play at Pappy and Harriet’s.

“I can’t tell you how happy we are to play there. I’ve been going there forever, and it’s my favorite venue in the world to go listen to music,” he said. “I love it up there; I love the people who work there, including Robyn (Celia), who is one of the owners. I’ve been attempting to get us a gig there for the past four years. Finally with this new record, we’ve broken through, and we finally get to play.”

Mick Rhodes and the Hard Eight will perform at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 28, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Admission is free. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

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