Originally created 10/13/03

Q&A with rockabilly king Brian Setzer



NEW YORK -- The rockabilly king arrives for an interview wearing his signature oversized blonde pompadour and long sideburns, an all-black Teddy Boy suit, black leather lariat tied with a silver skull, and a hoop in one ear.

Brian Setzer is at it again.

With a remake of "Luck Be a Lady" playing on the new TV series "Las Vegas," plus the new album "Nitro Burnin' Funny Daddy" out Oct. 21, Setzer, 44, is beating it out for his fans.

The Grammy-winning guitarist and former Stray Cats frontman ventures into doo-wop and country territory on his new disc, backed by Johnny Hatton on bass and Bernie Dresel on snare and cymbals. And the subject matter is Setzer's most personal to date. He spoke recently with The Associated Press about life, love and the length of his hair.

AP: Why have you put together an album with such a diversity of sounds?

Setzer: I'm from New York, I love doo-wop. I had that growin' up in my house. I play banjo and I wanted to put a little banjo in one of the songs. All of this kind of music, to me, kind of work in that framework of rockabilly. That's my base and then I just take little experiments into those different kinds of music.

There's just some good fun stuff on here too. "Drink Whiskey & Shut Up" is about all these guys in L.A. who go to a restaurant with no socks on and shorts and order Chardonnay, it just [filtered word] me off. Just drink whiskey and shut up. Put on a pair of pants and a pair of shoes, I don't want to look at your hairy legs, and order some whiskey and sit down.

AP: The song "60 Years" is about Joe Strummer and Joey Ramone?

Setzer: It was inspired ... it's just the idea that I've lost a lot of friends. It seems like we get 60 years, us rock 'n' rollers. That number clunked me over the head. Really what I'm saying is make the most of it, the time we have.

AP: In that song you talk about what others think life should be about. What do you think it's about?

Setzer: To me life is about my family, my hobbies, my children, I live basic, I live a rock 'n' roll lifestyle. Those are going to be my 60 years. I don't know past 60 how many we get.

AP: Three songs in "Nitro" are about love, or something like it.

Setzer: Getting divorced makes you write really good songs. (Laughs.)

AP: "Don't Trust a Woman (In a Black Cadillac)" is pretty fierce.

Setzer: I think my ex would laugh at that one. I don't think she'd be [filtered word] at that one.

AP: Did you get to keep the car?

Setzer: No, that's why I'm [filtered word] (laughs). She got the Cadillac.

AP: How many other cars in your collection?

Setzer: I build hot rods, so I got a couple of those. '32 Fords, coupes and roadsters. That's my favorite year car and I strip them down and build them from scratch. That's my hobby.

AP: Are you doing a music video?

Setzer: No.

AP: Have you done one in a while?

Setzer: Yeah, I did one, I had a big hit in Japan, I did one for the Japanese. But they aren't gonna play it here. MTV and VHI aren't gonna play it, they're all busy with their boy bands and their rap bands. They aren't gonna play me, so why waste the money.

AP: My sister always plays the revival swing band music on Christmas morning while opening presents because she says it's happy music and gets everyone in a good mood. What motivated you to do "Boogie Woogie Christmas"?

Setzer: What got me off my bum, I recorded "Jingle Bells" for Schwarzenegger's "Jingle All The Way." I recorded some songs for that movie and people were telling me, 'Brian why don't you make a Christmas album with the big band, it's perfect, like a Bing Crosby record, but modern, but rock n roll.' I just kept sayin', 'Yeah yeah, yeah." Then I heard they were starting to play my version of "Jingle Bells" on all these different radio stations on the alternative station, on the rock 'n' roll station. I said, 'OK now I really gotta do it. I gotta sit down and write a big band Christmas record.'

AP: You've had that hairstyle for a long time...

Setzer: As long as I have the hair I wanna do it.

AP: It resembles Eddie Cochran's style, who I know is someone you admire.

Setzer: Yeah, he's my hero. When I was growing up it was basically the leftover hippie thing and I never associated with it. I didn't associate with the music or the look. I saw a picture of Eddie Cochran and said, 'That's what I wanna look like.'

AP: Do you think you'll keep it?

Setzer: Yeah, I wouldn't know what else to do. I think it's cool. You can go fishin' with it. It's not just a rock 'n' roll look, you can grow old with this hair. ... You can do regular things with this haircut. If you're Steven Tyler with long hair that's rock 'n' roll, but it's not a good fishing look.