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Surviving Road Woes Thanks to Rock Therapy and Sodomy: The Forty-Fives’ Adam Renshaw Tells All

Merriam-Webster defines tribulation as “distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution; a trying experience”. Ask the decaying old man clutching his Gibson at the crossroads, and he’ll tell you that tribulation is what he eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For the Atlanta-based, rag-tag rock quartet The Forty-Fives, tribulation can be described as the gift of dysentery following a successful European jaunt. It’s the joy of abandoning your van after its fourth breakdown and having to buy a new one, all at the start of a nationwide tour with The Reverend Horton Heat. It’s the pride of sticking your middle finger up the asses of corporate rock demigods, knowing full well that shit of mythological proportions will come raining down on you as a consequence.

In short, The Forty-Fives wear tribulation as a badge of rock honor. After all, if the game were nothing but puppies, parades and Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, the world would need 20 MTVs and 5,000 Clear Channels to play all the available music. Fortunately, rock ain’t an easy road to hoe, and only those who are sick enough to make it a lifestyle are fit for the job. Thank god for the hardcores.

Okay, so perhaps we’re over-dramatizing The Forty-Fives’ plight a bit here. But we’re talking about a band whose down-and-dirty brand of rock is generally accompanied by lots of chicken wire and PBR, and extremely little sleep or reward. They don’t have a cushy contract or bottomless budget to throw around. Its members weren’t born with chic, cosmopolitan names or a designer daddy to fashion their image (á la Strokes). And drummer Adam Renshaw and bassist Mark McMurtry will tell you that explosive diarrhea wasn’t exactly the perk they had in mind when they sold their souls.

What The Forty-Fives do have is an unbreakable DIY spirit and an uncanny ability to fit in wherever they go and whomever they play with. As the group kicked off its latest tour, Renshaw spoke with Kaffeine Buzz about sodomy, the band’s new release, and The Forty-Fives’ place in the tainted gene pool of music.

Kaffeine Buzz: So how’s your health these days?

Adam Renshaw: [laughs] Our mental health?

KB: Actually, no, your physical health. I heard about what happened on the way home from Spain.

AR: Oh, no, that was a whole other thing. I don’t know if you heard about our mechanical difficulties. We actually started this tour a few days late, because our van died multiple times. We broke down four times in five days trying to get to the West Coast, which eventually culminated in us having to get rid of our van and buy another one. We actually missed the first couple of dates on this tour as a result. It’s one of those things that’s the nature of the business.

KB: Your new album High Life High Volume was just released. How has the response been thus far?

AR: Well it’s been out for about a week and a half, and we were stranded that entire time, so I don’t really know [laughs]. It came out, and we were unable to play any shows. But all the feedback I’ve gotten from the people I’ve talked to seems to be fairly positive.

KB: When you guys went in to do this album, was there anything different you were looking to accomplish this time around?

AR: We expanded our musical palate a little bit with the addition of a horn section, harmonica and female backup vocals. We tried an instrumental for the first time. And working with Jim Diamond really helped, because he’s a good friend of ours. It was nice to be able to work with someone we already knew.

KB: So would you say that it resulted in a bigger sound than what you’re used to with the addition of these elements?

AR: Well, it still sounds like we sound. It wasn’t a real radical difference. It’s not like we brought in a 40-piece orchestra or Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” or anything. I mean, I’d love to do that eventually, maybe when Phil Spector gets out of prison.

KB: You guys are coming to Colorado to play a couple of shows, including one northwest of Fort Collins at Mishawaka Amphitheatre. One thing Denver has struggled with is finding a unique identity, but it seems The Forty-Fives’ sound hits on what semblance of an identity the region has. I would imagine playing here has been good to you in the past?

AR: Yeah, we love Denver. It has always been a great town for us. We’ve probably played Denver like a dozen times, and we always have a good time. I mean, c’mon it’s the home of Neal Cassidy and The Broncos. You guys have a very broad cultural palate there.

KB: Is there anyone you guys CAN’T play with?

AR: That’s one of the things I think we enjoy, because we really can play with everybody. We play with pretty much any type of band out there. We can get up and do our thing, and people seem to be fairly receptive. We play with instrumental surf bands, country bands, punk rock bands, garage bands and rockabilly. Where we are with what we do, we can fit into pretty much anybody, so that’s one of the things that we like.

KB: The band has been together for six years now. What has that time taught you?

AR: Ooooh, Jesus that’s a hell of a question, isn’t it? I’m not sure how I can answer that without using an extreme amount of profanity. I can tell you it brought us all over the world, and we’ve played more shows than I can recollect. I know technically it has been six years, but it feels more like it has been about 20. The last week of my life has aged me five years alone.

KB: Talk a bit about your live show. You guys have been touring endlessly for a number of years now.

AR: Well, it’s really violent, profanity-riddled and very messy. Most people don’t know this, but our live show is pretty much the same act that GWAR has been using for years. We throw rotten meat in the audience; we vomit and urinate on people. There’s a lot of blood and a lot of sodomy.

KB: You can never have enough sodomy at a live show.

AR: I’ve been saying that for years. Actually, I have that tattooed [laughs]. Seriously, it’s just four guys on stage playing as hard as they possibly can, trying to do it honestly with as much soul as they can muster.

KB: And do you guys keep the set pretty tight, or do you let it roll a bit?

AR: We let it roll a bit. It just depends. Like right now with the opening slot on this tour, we’re playing 30 minutes every night, so we don’t have as much room to goof around. But yeah, we don’t play everything exactly note for note like everybody has already heard. We like to mix things up a bit. And of course there’s the sodomy.

The Forty Fives play with Reverend Horton Heat and The Detroit Cobras Friday, July 23 a the Ogden.


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