Saturday, March 25, 2023

10 interesting things about Smog’s Bill Callahan

It’s hard to believe I’ve loved so many rock bands for so long. Forget the super classics like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. All these later, 90s bands have imprinted themselves on my mind - heck, my life - for 30 some years. Bill Callahan of the one-man Smog is no exception. Famed Replacements' book writer Bob Mehr interviewed him in the December 2022 issue of MOJO Magazine. Here are 10 things I learned:

1. I rank Smog as my third-favorite band ever associated with the Drag City label, behind Pavement and Silver Jews/Purple Mountains and well ahead of King Kong.

2. He once dated Cat Power. Talk about a one-person-band power couple! He eventually married a filmmaker when he was nearly 50 in 2011.

3. Iggy Pop is a huge fan. So was Lou Reed.

4. One of his sisters got him into punk and new wave as a kid and the other sister has made about 10 albums.

5. Callahan was born in Silver Spring - where I lived for eight years - and moved to England before returning to spend his teen years in Maryland outside Washington DC. He loved WHFS and going to the 9:30 Club.

6. As a kid, he started a fanzine called Willpower dedicated to The Replacements.

7. The first show he ever did was opening for Pavement on Coney Island.

8. He feels like his songwriting touchstone is Lou Reed and his playing one is John Lee Hooker. He also identified with country songs by the likes of Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash and felt - rightly - that he could sing in those storytelling, voice-up-front styles.

9. He did an early interview with the legendary and defunct Magnet Magazine and felt they totally got his quotes wrong. When he complained, the magazine said he should be grateful anyone was writing about him.

10. This was the point he made in the article that I found most profound, and it even inspired me to get the basics down on my own, in-the-works Smog-inspired new song. Callahan said he thinks people write books and songs because each one is like another life they are getting to live. He said, “I want 500 lives, but I can’t have them. But I can write 500 songs.” I really like that thought.

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