by Jonathan Williams
Photos by Evil Jim
From the December 2005 issue of Prick Magazine.

Jim "Reverend Horton Heat" Heath.
Rev. Horton Heat & Jimbo.
Jimbo Wallace (bass).

The hard living themes of hot rods, pinup girls, gambling, and hard liquor that are often associated with rockabilly music have always seemed to go hand-in-hand with the tattoo lifestyle. And the Reverend Horton Heat arguably the godfather of modern rockabilly and psychobilly is no exception.

From the Sacred Hearts and martini girls that appear on the band's T-shirts to the nautical stars and angel/demon girls that adorn last year's Revival, the Reverend definitely seems to embrace the traditional artwork found on many of his fans' bodies.

"We thought [tattoos] were cool when nobody else did, man," says the Reverend, aka Jim Heath. "Now everybody thinks they're cool and they go, 'Wow! You don't have many tattoos.' It kind of pisses me off if you want to know the truth because all these fucking little idiots go get their full sleeve tattoos over the period of one year and all of a sudden now they're old pros compared to the Reverend.

"I remember one time we got interviewed for House of Style," he recalls. "It was an MTV show, and I showed them my tattoo and Jimbo showed them his he only had one or two and [former drummer] Taz [Bentley] had one or two and they were going, 'Wow! A rock 'n' roll band that has tattoos. We thought only bikers had tattoos.' Now 15 or 16 years later, you can't be in a rock 'n' roll band unless you have tattoos."

Regardless of how many (or few) tattoos the band has, their excuses for not having more are pretty valid.

"Well, I got a big cyst on my arm where my [Bettie Page] tattoo is, so I'll probably never get another tattoo again because of that," says Heath. "I've got sensitive skin."

"I really don't have time anymore," says Wallace. "I'm always traveling and I get lots of free offers, but by the time I wake up it takes me an hour or so to shake off the hangover and get down to the club and do the same thing over and over again."

As the most inked member of the band, Wallace has his own "Where's Jimbo?" T-shirt inspired by the pompadoured skull on his right arm.

"I thought it kind of looked like me," he says of the image. "When I'm dead, I guess."

The exploding speedometer on Wallace's chest represents his heart, which is "from years of going crazy" in a band that tours and records pretty much nonstop.

The band's latest endeavor is the somewhat unlikely We Three Kings, an album of Christmas classics given the Reverend's supercharged treatment.

"We did the good, the bad and the ugly twist on a couple of Christmas songs and it turned out pretty good," jokes Wallace.

"Well, you know, I'm a retro kind of guy so a lot of my musical influences from the past, all those old artists did Christmas albums," says Heath. "I kind of always knew that at some point I'd probably want to do one and the record company said they were interested in doing one so I said, 'OK.'

"Our music is basically for adults," he continues. "We've got a lot of songs about drinking, women and wild times, the devil, and everything else. We've always had adult songs and adult albums, but I really wanted to make this one G-rated so it would be good for kids and wouldn't offend the grandparents."

But just because the themes are a little more wholesome than the typical Reverend fare doesn't mean it rocks any less. With the production and piano arrangement help of Asleep at the Wheel's Tim Alexander, Heath, Wallace and little drummer boy Scott Churilla were able to turn "What Child is This?" into a cross between gospel and spaghetti western and throw in a little of the old Batman theme song on "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."

Jimbo with Jonathan Williams, PRICK Music Editor.

We Three Kings also gave Heath and Wallace an opportunity to trade instruments on their rendition of "Run Rudolph Run."

"I actually got to play Chuck Berry-style guitar on 'Run Rudolph Run' and the Rev. played [upright] bass on it," says Wallace. "He knew that I played a little guitar and all I really know is Chuck Berry licks. He asked me what Christmas song I wanted to do and I said, 'Chuck Berry, man. Come on, we've got to do it.' He said, 'You wanna play guitar?' and I said, 'Yeah.' I was nervous as hell in the studio, but I got it in the first take.

There's also an original song, "Santa on the Roof," inspired by one of Heath's childhood Christmas memories when his father got on the roof with sleigh bells to make the little sinner think Santa was up there.

"After he did that, he got down off the ladder and went next door," he says with a laugh. "There were these little boys next door and ... he got up on their roof and did the same thing and he's climbing down off the ladder and one of the boys stuck his head out the window and said, 'Mr. Heath! Mr. Heath! Did you see Santa Claus up there?' And my dad said, 'Yeah, I did. And you'd better go to sleep or he's not going to come in.' And he said, 'OK. I will. I will.' Just the power of wanting to believe caused him to completely overlook the fact that here comes Mr. Heath off the roof of the house holding sleigh bells and wearing boots."

For those who are permanently on Santa's naughty list, you can believe in the power of the Reverend's gospel to bring a new kind of Christmas cheer this year. That is if your idea of a happy holiday consists of warming yourself by the Yule muscle car engine with plenty of spiked eggnog.

The Reverend Horton Heat is currently on tour.

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