I can’t think of a better way to wrap up the year here at Rebel Noise than an interview with my own personal favorite discovery of ’09.  Many bands combine musical genre’s to varied degrees of success but Los Duggans do more than blend genre’s… these Los Angeles based musicians come together on the heels of their common working class roots to combine disparate musical backgrounds from across the U.S. and create something brand new and original.  Read on while Peter “Whiskey” Sheffer of Los Duggans sheds some light on ‘death folk’.

HERE’S WHAT ‘WHISKEY’ HAD TO SAY ABOUT THE HISTORY OF LOS DUGGANS.

I first met Dylan while playing drums for an alt-country band called, Old Bull.  Dylan was the rhythm guitar player.  We were both heavily into country and delta blues and wanted to start a jug band as a side project.  At the same time, Dylan was working at a local Hollywood music store with Miguel.  They had both been talking about starting a metal band with Mig’s brother, Adriel.  So, long story short, we all got together to see what kind of sound we could come up with.  I had just happened to make the gutbucket in case someone wanted to play it for the hell of it.  We didn’t have a bass player.  So, I ended up playing the bastard on every song.  It’s very tiring instrument to play.

Dylan started playing some Dock Boggs on the banjo, I came in with the washtub, and Migs and Adriel just started rockin’ the rhythm out metal style.  At first we were just fucking around, but it sounded so cool that we kept evolving the songs.  We used a lot of traditional folk, old-time, and blues songs as a template at first.  That’s why our debut album, “Calvary,” has so many covers on it.  With our new album, “Hard Ways,” we wanted to record more originals.  By this point, we know our sound and what works for us.

…AND THE BOYS IN THE BAND?

Dylan Wilkerson plays the banjo, a National resonator guitar, and sings both lead and back up vocals.  I, Peter “Whiskey” Sheffer, play the washtub bass (aka gutbucket), harmonica and sing both lead and backup vocals.  A lot of people don’t realize that Dylan and I trade off on the lead vocal parts.  Often journalists will just pick one of us to call the lead singer.  Miguel Hernandez plays electric guitar and his stage presence is almost an instrument in itself.  Adriel “Captain Moonlight” Hernandez plays drums and throws in the double kick pedal that we all love so much… ahhh… double kick.

Each member of Los Duggans has different musical backgrounds.  Migs and Adriel grew up playing metal like Iron Maiden and Slayer.  They have very eclectic taste in music, but they’re total metal heads at heart.  They’ve been blaring distorted guitars and double kick drum into their Eagle Rock neighbors’ ears since a young age.  I don’t think they ever pictured themselves playing in a band like Los Duggans.

Dylan’s background is mostly in punk.  Being from Michigan, he grew up listening to the Laughing Hyenas, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, and MC5.  He was in a punk band back in high school called the Brewts.  I think there are still some records floating around.  While working on his brother Travis’ movie, “Who Killed Cock Robin?,” he met a Duluth based musician named Charlie Parr, who got him started playing country blues and old-time folk music.

I have always been around music, because my dad was and my mom still is a minister.  I can remember when I was about 4 years old falling asleep on the pillow that muffled the bass drum during choir practice.  I grew up a good part of my life in Alabama, outside of Mobile.  At the time, I rebeled against country and old-time music, but I was always surrounded by it.  I was obsessed with Lynyrd Skynyrd and old school Metallica.  It wasn’t until my family moved to Alaska that I really gained appreciation for the old-time stuff.  Then my interest turned to Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White, and more alternative folk bands like The Bad Livers.

WHAT BAND HAVE YOU DISCOVERED RECENTLY THAT JUST BLEW YOUR MIND?

We recently had the opportunity to play a festival in Minnesota called the Deep Blues Festival.  They advertise themselves as an “Alt-Blues” festival.  It was amazing.  There were bands from all over the world that played music that is similar to what we do.  It’s probably the only festival of its kind.  There isn’t one particular band that I would point out.  I recommend going to the Deep Blues Festival Website and checking out the whole damn lineup.

CONSIDERING HOW LOS DUGGANS COMBINES SO MANY MUSICAL INFLUENCES, HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC TO PEOPLE

This has always been the big problem for us.  Because our music is such an extreme mix of country, bluegrass, old-time, rock, metal and punk, it’s hard to pin our sound to any one genre.  Since the beginning we’ve called our music Death Folk, a mix of old-time folk music and death metal.  I think we put our new album, Hard Ways, under the rock category.  We figured that was the only genre general enough to fit our style.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE INFLUENCE OF TECHNOLOGY ON THE MUSIC BUSINESS?

You know I have really mixed feelings about things like file sharing.  In a way it really has ruined the music industry.  For every 1000 records you sell there are probably 2000 people who have it.  It’s a force that can’t be stopped.  So, instead of bitching about it, we have to find ways to work around the issue like selling more of different kinds of merchandise.  The way I look at it is, if you can afford to buy our album, buy it.  If you are a poor son of a bitch and still want to rock some Los Duggans, hell, copy it from a friend.  Ultimately, we want everyone to listen to our music.  By any means necessary!

TELL US ABOUT THE PROCESS OF WRITING A LOS DUGGANS TUNE?

Dylan and I, so far, have written all the lyrics for our original songs.  When Dylan writes a song he often writes the music with Miguel like in “Proving Ground” and “Hard Ways.”  I tend to write both the music and the lyrics for my songs.  Then I bring it to practice and everyone else puts their magic on it.  Ultimately, regardless of who writes what, Los Duggans is all of us.  The building would fall without any one of us.

WHERE IS LOS DUGGANS DYING TO PLAY BUT JUST HAVEN’T HAD THE OPPORTUNITY YET?

We’d really like to open for Iron Maiden.  So, anywhere they’re playing would be cool.

WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE EVENT THAT EVER HAPPENED DURING ONE OF YOUR SHOWS, GOOD OR BAD?

I remember one moment in particular that is also one of the worst moments in Los Duggans history.  We’ll leave the name of the club anonymous…  There was this show we played where this drunk asshole kept yelling “Free Bird” over and over.  It was funny the first 100 times, but this guy was so wasted that his switch got flipped and he yelled it the entire set.  Meanwhile the sound guy was so high on meth that he was butchering the mix and the speakers kept feeding back.  Then he decided to bust out a ladder change a light bulb on the set while we were playing.  The light kept flickering off and on.  I mean, how high do you have to be?  Pretty high.  Pretty awful.

WHICH ONE OF YOU IS MOST LIKELY TO END UP IN PRISON, AND FOR WHAT?

Talk to our lawyer.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CONCEPT THAT MUSIC CAN UNIFY PEOPLE, WHO MAY HAVE DIFFERENT BELIEFS?

There’s a lot of debate as to whether a song or a band can change a person’s beliefs.  I think that during a set everyone who likes a band is unified by that sound, but if someone is leaning left or right on an social/political issue they’ll probably keep leaning in that same direction when it’s all said and done.

Interview date: Dec 22, 2009

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