BOB LOG III W/ CHEAP TIME, ROBOMAN
By Timothy Finn The Kansas City Star
If he hired a drummer, ditched his helmet and requested a standard swizzle stick to stir his scotch, Bob Log III would still draw an audience. His music is that entertaining.
Instead, in more ways than one, Log is his won drummer, which goes a long way in explaining why his act is so offbeat, off-color and on target. In a music world well-populated by pretenders and poseurs, Log stands as a master of something that's as low-brow and funny as it is cunning and distinctive. For starters, he keeps time with two busy feet, kicking a cymbal and a bass drum and tow-tapping two drum machines. The first thing you'll notice about him, though, is the bubble-mask motorcycle helmet he wears, which is wired with a microphone - a masquerade that hides his face and warps his voice.
And as for the swizzle stick - the frank truth is he'd rather his drink be stirred by a bare female breast, and these days Bob Log is so popular (or persuasive) he's been getting his way.
Granted, Log could shed all those gags and novelties and still make a decent living as a working musician. He's that good a slide guitarist. A few years ago, Log was drafted to fill in on a European tour with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, who was performing with Mississippi blues-man R.L. Burnside. Log says that after the gigs, Burnside assured him he was "hanging in there like a dirty shirt."
Yes, Log could lose them all, but the helmet and kick cymbal and everything else are more than gags and novelties. They're more like icons and rituals in his liturgy - Log's way of celebrating his belief in what music is supposed to be: primal, sexual, humorous, impromptu, entertaining.
"I grew up listening to Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and AC/DC," he said Wednesday. "That's what rock'n'roll is to me. You take a guitar, turn it up and have a good time. That's where I'm from. Everyone else can go listen to Pearl Jam if they want to."
Actually, he's from Tucson, Arizona. That's where Log got his first guitar when he was 11, which was about the time he fell in love with AC/DC.
By the time he was 16, he'd become smitten with the Delta blues and the music of Mississippi Fred McDowell, so he taught himself how to play slide.
Log's first band was a four-piece metal-blues act called Mondo Guano. His first important band was Doo Rag, a grimy thrash-blues duo birthed at a party in Tucson in 1990.
"I had a snare drum with a guitar bolted onto it, and I was playing Fred McDowell songs when a friend jumped up and started banging a cheese grater with a spoon," he said. "The next day we went out on the sidewalk and played, hoping to scrounge up cigarette money."
Then we made a cassette, figuring we'd sell maybe 50 copies. We ended up selling like 20,000. Doo Rag toured the world with no record label, no promotion. Fans loved us, took us in and talked about us. It was crazy."
So crazy that percussionist Thermos Malling, weary from all the travel, left the band after about six years - right in the middle of a tour with Ween. The only thing Log was sick of was Tucson, so he forged on, alone. Somewhere between Lawrence and Chicago, he had an epiphany. Or maybe it was just a desperate, oddball notion in the muddy creek of mad ideas that gurgles through his brain. Whatever, it salvaged his music career. "
At the time, my only option was to go home and shut up, or learn a new way of playing guitar," he said. "I was on my way to Chicago, and I'd just bought a helmet at a thrift store in Lawrence, Kan., and I though, "I'll put on that helmet and kick my guitar case and see what happens."
"After the show that night, a girl took me to some other girl's house, he said. "I woke up the next day and said, "Whooaah, I wanna do this again."
A real kick
Despite the opening night reward, his solution was flawed, it turned out.
"I kicked through the guitar case the first night," he said. "I have two guitars, and the second night I used the other case and kicked right through it. Then I read up on this technology they have called a drum, and you can kick it and it won't break.
"So I got the kick drum and the cymbal - I don't remember exactly how I attached it to a kick pedal. It's a combination of Swiss technology, German technology and good old-fashioned American super-welding."
Log still wears the thrift-store helmet he bought in Lawrence, but that, to, has needed some modifying.
"I kept the original lining in it, but after awhile it started disintegrating," he said. "What happens is, the foam turns into a powder, and when you mix that with three years' worth of sweat - I grew something really funky in there. It dripped in my eye at a show in Sweden, and I got pinkeye. Ever had pinkeye? It's disgusting, Girls stopped talking to me. It was terrible.
It must have been because women are integral to Bob Log III, on stage and off. Even when none is willing to sacrifice modesty and comfort to agitate his scotch on the rocks, he invites the ladies into his live act. As if his legs weren't busy enough playing four kinds of percussion, he also asks women to sit on his knees while her performs.
His most audacious employment of women, however, is evident of his "Trike" CD, the follow-up to his Fat Possum/ Epitaph debut, "School Bus." For one cut, Log hired "professional women" - rare use of euphemism for him - to use their bosoms as percussion instruments.
"It's neither funny nor disgusting, " a salon.com reviewer wrote of the album in 1999. "It's simply the dumbest thing you've ever heard in your life. And it's absolutely wonderful."
And before you get worked up about Log's being a sexist or chauvinist or a dude with some Freudian/Oedipal complex or repressed oral fixation, he wants you to know a couple of things: Everything he promotes is done between consenting adults.
"First of all, if you come to my show knowing I've got a song called "Boob Scotch" and you get offended, I'm sorry but I've got to say just get out, " he said.
What nearly gets lost or ignored in all the raunchy stunts and crass pageantry is Log's music, which has evolved nicely during the course of five years and three albums. Log takes his guitar playing, well, not exactly seriously because he's not serious about anything. But he does practice every day, and it shows.
Early reviews of his live shows often mentioned how sloppy or out-of-sync he could sound. Not anymore. Log has benefited from practice, experience and, most valuably, he said, expertise from his esteemed labelmates at Fat Possum Records.
"R.L. - he learned how to play straight from Fred McDowell, " he said. "He used to go over to Fred's house. He learned sitting in Fred's kitchen. I learned more in those days with him than I learned my whole life.
"So when I made my first record, I was like, do I want to tour with a bunch of punk-rock guys, or get in the car with a man who is gonna school me? And at the time R.L. had T-Model Ford and Hasil Atkins with him. You can't buy a trip like that. It was perfect."
Log displays his guitar skills and his ribald sense of humor all over "Log Bomb, " his brand-new record and yet another collection of sleazy hillbilly-punk/thrash-blues tunes with titles like "Wag Your Tail Like a Dog in the Back of a Truck, " "Drunk Stripper" and "Make You Say Wow."
The CD itself is emblazoned with a portrait of Log in costume with a topless lady who looks ready to take a dip in his drink. Log loves indulging in his own myth, but he knows deep down which is the tail and which is the dog.
"I have a hard time talking about my music, and I think a lot of people have a hard time reading about it", he said. "Everyone tends to compare it to bands or guys no one knows or has heard of. So it's nice to have something else to talk about, whether it's the helmet or the scotch.
"But the main reason I do this is because I love to play guitar. Everything else is to make that look and sound better.
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