Grinder Blues Talk Self-Titled Debut Disc, Blues Influence + More
It's time to get to know Grinder Blues. The band is led by King's X frontman-bassist dUg Pinnick, who teams up with the Bihlman Brothers to show a different side of his musical palate. The band is rooted in some blistering blues rock and Pinnick gets a chance to shine with both powerful and soulful vocals. The group released their self-titled disc earlier this fall and Loudwire had a chance to chat with the trio about the effort.
You guys have been working together for a while now, but can you take me back to the introduction of how this band came about?
Scot Bihlman: One of my really good friends, I've known him for a really long time -- Ray Luzier, he plays in Korn -- he invited me to a barbecue so I came over and hung out and ran into the great dUg Pinnick and we started talking about this project. Jabo and I were looking for a new breath of fresh air, you know? It was really cool to meet Dug, then we started talking about our careers and what he had done. Dug was really open to doing a blues project and that's how it started.
dUg, what did you think about them approaching you about doing a blues project?
Dug Pinnick: When I met Scot, we talked about writing together so we started hanging out and writing, talking about blues and our love for it. What I was impressed by, was that they were the two guys that played with all these blues players and I'm going, "Dang! I've always wanted to play blues or urban type music but I just don't really know anybody that really does it." All my rock and roll friends, we want to play blues but it always turns into rock blues. I just figured these guys, we could take it way back some place.
So I suggested we try to date it, go way back in the '50s. I grew up in the '50s, I lived outside of Chicago and I remember Chess Records and Howlin' Wolf, the whole migration of black folks coming up north. My family had never lived in the south, seven generations we've been up north. So when all these folks started coming, everything started changing. All this music started happening. I remember as a kid going to my cousin's house listening to the new Howlin' Wolf or Muddy Waters. This guy would get in his car, drive down to the neighborhood and sell records.
I felt we had a common ground, so we decided to make a record and try to -- the way I look at it, it's sort of -- I love blues but I love ZZ Top 'Tres Hombres' too, because to me that record redefined old traditional blues and twisted it in a way. I was hoping this record would do the same.
Jabo, Dug mentions he wanted to have a stamp of a time period on this. But I noticed nothing is really sounding cliche. Some of your guitar lines sound like maybe how Jimi Hendrix would approach the blues. Can you talk about some of the direction of these songs?
Jabo Bihlman: Well, we started jamming blues tunes and Scot and I have such a blues background, really more traditional type. Our band is more like southern rock stuff, but the blues guys we've played with, their approach was traditional progressions and stuff. So we started jamming these things and both Dug and I have talked about doing first of all, to change it up, do super low, super heavy. So the whole record, almost, is tuned down to C so there's this huge bottom end. That's one of the things that we felt would be a really cool departure.
We didn't want to put out the same ol' lame ass blues record. I mean, they're all great but there are certainly cliche things, like you say, so we purposefully tried to stay away from that. We stayed away from the progressions for sure, there's a lot of 1-4-5 stuff but they also hit at different spots. I remember recording the record. Scot and I had our eyes glued to dUg to see for sure what the hell he was gonna go, [laughs] like the old school. You watch the front guy, when he changes, you change. That's kind of how this whole thing started with the odd sounding progressions and some of the different progressions. Kind of where dUg went at whatever time and then I just added in, filled in some stuff around it. Some different chord voicings and stay away from some of the more standard stuff.
But, for the most part I think we tried to keep the tradition of the blues in there but give it a twist and make it something new. I certainly think the low tuning is part of it, and the progressions are -- they're kind of there. You recognize them, but they throw you for a loop at some point.
Scot Bihlman: I had nothing but a white piece of paper and a tempo. So, everything was wide open. Jabo and dUg were having a blast, it was pretty stressful for me that first day. All nine songs, technically, were pretty much recorded the drum track wise. It was challenging, but it was a lot of fun.
The two of you have had quite a history of playing together over the years. Dug comes in and it looks great on paper but whenever you go into the studio there's no guarantee that it's going to work. How soon before you got into the studio did it click?
dUg Pinnick: Never even questioned it, we just dove head first. We didn't even dissect it, we made a couple of things up, talked about what we wanted to do and just went for it.
Scot Bihlman: It's kind of like it grew on it's own. When we left the studio we didn't know what we had. We were talking these guitar sounds, talking about throwing this section in there. Let's cut a section a little shorter, we really didn't want to keep it a 1-4-5, straight blues record. And obviously tune it down, these guys tunes down to C which was a huge thing. I just kept getting mixes from dUg, Jabo, Miles the producer involved and it kind of grew on its own. That's what I like about it.
'Wild One' sounded great during your soundcheck. Talk about putting that song together.
Jabo Bihlman: I guess I had the riff and the 'Wild One' thing. Actually dUg was at my house and we were listening to some ideas that I had and there's probably 3-4 of them in there and he was like, "Yeah I like that." Then we built on the riff, but I do remember ...
dUg Pinnick: I liked the vocal, "I'm a wild one." That's blues, come on.
Jabo Bihlman: I do remember when we got to the part that's not the wild one part, the part that Dug sings, we weren't sure where the hell we'd go with that because we had it and we sort of started building, four chord this and that and we moved around a little bit. Then we came up with the funkier thing with the changes that we made on it and it just set it in motion. As soon as we came up with those other changes, the rest of the tune, lyrics and melody came really fast after that. So that one was primarily the original lick and we built on it over the course of probably a few times getting together.
Lyrically, I had the 'Wild One' idea and I can remember us all sitting around at the table at my house just throwing lyrics around. I mean, thats how this whole thing was built -- we're all sitting around throwing lyrics around. We all kind of decided that we didn't want to drudge up the blood of our souls and all that with this. We wanted to have fun with the lyrics and not be too bleeding all over the page. There's some real deep stuff on it that I really like, especially the lyrics for 'Burn the Bridge,' I really dig. Those are certainly more serious and a little bit heavier, but 'Train' and stuff like that.
dUg Pinnick: 'Train,' that's a transaction about my grandfather, a true story -- there's no words in that that aren't true. Everything is exactly what happened.
Scot Bihlman: That's the blues man, real stories.
Grinder Blues, 'Burn the Bridge'