ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 9, 1997
If there’s one thing that can lift my spirits on a sombre Sunday night, it’s the driving instrumental theme song of TV’s King of the Hill. I know there’s gonna be some hilarious redneck Texas humour comin’ up, and besides, it’s a damn fine tune—even if it does only last for 30 seconds. The Refreshments were the band that won the honour of creating and performing the music that heralds good ol’ Hank Hill’s lawnmower-ridin’ antics, and lead guitarist Brian Blush says it was kind of a fluke that they got the job.
“Fox Television put out kind of a casting call to pretty much all the record labels,” says Blush, calling from a San Francisco tour stop. “We got the word from our management when we were on tour last year, and we had a coupla little things that we were messin’ around with in sound checks that we thought might work. At a show in Wichita, Kansas, we asked the crowd if they would help us out in getting a paycheque for this little thing. We said, ‘At the end of this thing, if you could possibly scream and yell as loud as you know how to, maybe we could end up getting this theme song for this television series.’ So they obliged us, and we sent it off, and lo and behold about two weeks later Fox called us back and asked us if we would like to come to Los Angeles and record it.”
Unfortunately for KOTH fans, the raucous theme song isn’t included on the Refreshments’ new CD, The Bottle & Fresh Horses. Because it was done as a work-for-hire project, Fox ended up owning the composition, but the good news is there are plenty of other fine lawnmower-ridin’ tunes on the record. The band—which plays the Starfish Room on Tuesday (October 14)—took a unique route in finding a producer to helm the disc.
“Our A&R man at the time sent us an anonymous tape of 10 songs,” explains Blush. “It didn’t have the title of the songs or the producers that did ’em. He just basically said, ‘Take a listen to this thing and see if there’s cuts on there that have the elements that you’re looking for on this record.’ One of the songs ended up being a Sublime song called ‘Santeria’, and we just thought that the recording sounded really organic, which was something we were interested in capturing on this record.”
The producer of the tune that caught the Refreshments’ interest was Paul Leary of Butthole Surfers fame, whom the band flew out to a couple of shows in its home base of Tempe, Arizona. “We were a little apprehensive,” says Blush, “because obviously the Butthole Surfers have this sorta reputation, but we discovered that his philosophy in recording was very similar to ours. And he’s just the nicest, most normal guy you’d ever want to meet.”
With good-guy Leary at the controls in studios in Texas and California, 13 spicy, southwestern-flavoured guitar-rock tunes were laid down, all of them boasting Blush’s concise and melodic playing. It’s not surprising that his biggest guitar influences are players who make every note count.
“I think Mike Campbell from Tom Petty is amazing,” he says. “The [guitar parts] that he writes are very memorable in and of themselves. Johnny Hickman from Cracker is tremendous that way too, but my all-time hero was the original guitarist from the Gin Blossoms, a guy named Douglas Hopkins. He was a friend, and just a huge influence on me. He committed suicide, which was a horrible, horrible thing, but there are times when I’m playing that I really feel that he’s in there somewhere, you know?”