Brutal Jooks Interview

Brutal Jooks is a gritty new blues rock project helmed by Greg Reeves, who has recently worked with Hanni El Khatib and the Dead Kennedys. February saw the release of the debut album from Brutal Jooks, Believer. We caught up with Greg Reeves to discuss the album.

How did Brutal Jooks come together?

Well, you may notice a lack of band member info for Brutal Jooks, and the reason is simple: it’s all me. I have been a multi-instrumentalist almost all my life, since starting with drums at age 11, then bass, keyboards, guitar, and anything else I could pluck or hit. For the past few years the majority of my work has been as a composer, scoring for TV, film, you-name-it. Part of that job entails creating a crazy range of genres at the drop of a hat. The downside of this kind of work, is that you can really get sort of lost in terms of music that you’re really passionate about, ‘cause you’re constantly jumping from style to style.

So, I decided to go back to the things I grew up on. As a kid, my older brother Phil (who is a great guitarist) and I would go to tons of concerts–we’d see everybody who came through Virginia where I grew up. He was really into blues rock, and at a VERY early age I saw amazing shows by artists like Rory Gallagher, Roy Buchanan, and many others. I learned to play as a teen in cover bands with older guys playing everything from Allman Bros. to Mott the Hoople. I was also getting into punk, and The Clash really stood out for me at first, and then X. Those bands led me to explore early rock and roll like Link Wray, rockabilly like Charlie Feathers, the blues of Leadbelly and Howlin’ Wolf, and so on. Classic country too. I had a run in the Bay Area years ago doing Alt-country, folk, and played bass in blues and surf bands.

Then about a year or so ago, I went on tour with the Dead Kennedys, filling in for Klaus on bass, and I did an album with East Bay Ray’s new band Killer Smiles, with Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers) producing, and I got really amped up by the energy of all that.

I then got inspired to write and record a bunch of tunes merging my rock, blues, roots, and punk sensibilities, and do ’em fast, with an absolute minimum of gear, fuss, and finessing. Doing it all myself, hodgepodging it together on my own, was part of the aesthetic–I could work really quickly that way and not get caught up in anything that wasn’t essential.

How did you come up with the name “Brutal Jooks?”

I’m the worst at coming up with band names–I don’t recall but it just popped into my head and seemed to fit the vibe.

Believer is a very fast paced album with all the tracks under 3 minutes. Is this something you had in mind working on the album?

That’s the punk influence there. If a tune feels like it makes its case after 2 minutes then it’s done. I’m not much for long solos or fancy bridges anyway, especially if it only serves to make the song longer, and not really any better.

Your style is similar to artists like The Black Keys, Jack White, and Hanni El Khatib. Do you see an uprising coming for this style of music?

Hanni is a good friend of mine–I’ve known him for years. I played my guitarrón on his album and also mastered it. I’m so thrilled about what’s going on for him. He kicks ass–see him live if you haven’t yet. I think we’ll continue to see raw, rootsy rock and roll, blues and garage gain in popularity more and more. People will ultimately always respond to music that has real teeth. I think also, the gap between really raw/lo-fi type stuff–bedroom productions and whatnot–and more produced/polished recordings where instrumental prowess is a feature will narrow. For example, you’ll hear more decidedly raw productions that showcase great players. Or maybe I just don’t like stuff that sounds too slick!

Will there be any gigs or touring for Brutal Jooks in the near future?

After the next album, I will be putting together a live band—hopefully with whoever plays on the album as the next one will have other players involved. If I decide to do it sooner, I know so many killer players (much better than me!), I could whip together a live unit pretty quick.

What goals do you have for Brutal Jooks?

The immediate goal is just to get the next album together. I’ve got some projects I have to wrap up before I can really go whole-hog on it. I may track some of it live with a band, and do some with the one-man hodgepodge approach again. Either way, it’ll still be warts ‘n all, no muss no fuss.

Interview by Pete Francis

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