“This band needs another guitar player,” says Sunny Beech, drummer for the Flesh Hammers.
“You need three guitar players?” responds an incredulous interviewer.
“What’re you? The Allman Brothers?”
“Yes. I’m the black one.”
To set the record straight, Sunny Beech is unmistakably white. And the Flesh Hammers are not, in fact, the Allman Brothers. Actually they play punk rock.
Since it’s impossible to know what it means when a band is referred to as “punk"—the term now being applied to pop idols like Good Charlotte—it might be better to say that the Flesh Hammers play guitar-heavy rock that is direct, loud and (usually) fast. They are a band in the tradition of ‘70s groups like the Stooges and the Dead Boys.
In other words, this is not your daughter’s punk rock.
“We start with a ‘70s punk, old-school kind of feel and try to take that into the present,” explains lead singer and bassist Blackie Crabtree.
The band was formed two years ago by Crabtree, who was previously in the Vitriolics, and guitarist Evan Heiser, who previously didn’t play guitar.
“I played classical piano for 12 years and jazz for two. Played recitals and stuff,” says Heiser.
Later, he played keyboard in a rock band that performed the music of keyboard-heavy 1970s bands like Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, and it wasn’t until the Flesh Hammers formed that Heiser picked up the guitar. He learned the instrument as he and Crabtree worked out songs.
“He worked his ass off,” Crabtree says of Heiser’s crash course in guitar.
After only a couple of months, Heiser had become competent enough that the two decided it was time to recruit additional musicians.
Ben Renken, formerly of Jaded, was picked to play lead guitar.
“When I met him, I said, ‘What do you sound like?’ and he goes, ‘Slash,'” says Crabtree.
“I play a lot of Slash, Ozzy, Guns & Roses, Zakk Wylde, Randy Rhodes,” says Renken, whose metal-schooled lead playing is one of the more contemporary elements in this old-school punk-based band.
The Flesh Hammers recorded a 10-song CD, titled Riding Dirty, which is available at most local CD stores.
Lyrically, the songs range from the personal to the political.
“Lynchburg” (currently featured on radioactivereno.net) is about the dangers of whiskey. The line “I wish I had stuck with beer” must surely have resonated with many hung-over listeners.
“It’s 1966 Again” is about what lyricist Crabtree sees as growing political awareness and willingness to voice dissent.
“In the Gutter” is not, as one might hope, a rewrite of the similarly titled Elvis Presley song “In the Ghetto” but is instead about being drunk. And in a gutter. Surprisingly, the following track, “Inner City,” mines the same thematic vein as The King’s socially conscious hit.
But lyrics aside, it’s the guitars that make the band. Loud, dirty guitars. The Flesh Hammers are always looking for a few more—if you’re willing to learn.