Shooter Jennings On The Tarot, Stephen King, Crappy Radio And Frankenstein

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Gabrielle Geiselman

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Here at Rocks Off, we like to make sure all our bases are covered. That's why we asked Shooter Jennings, son of Waylon, a few questions about his band Hierophant's spooky, deep, spooky-deep new album Black Ribbons (right) and put them in this week's print edition of the Press. That way, in case the CIA, Al Gore or whoever is in charge of the Internet decides to throw the switch and the whole thing goes dark there's still some record of our conversation. But since it's still working, here's the rest of it...

Rocks Off: Was there something specific that gave you the concept for this album?

Shooter Jennings: Not as much as sort of the whole circumstance. I was driving cross-country - this is kind of the crux of it. We relocated, we had been in New York since before [daughter] Bama was born, while Dre [girlfriend Drea de Matteo] was pregnant and we had this plan to move to L.A. for me to start a new record, kind of planning all of it. I had written some songs. But we did this RV trip for our bulldog, Charlie Rose, who can't fly because it's too big.

So once every couple of years we drive cross-country, which is kind of an awesome moment. That's how it happened, and the economy kind of collapsed during our drive. It was kind of the whole experience of listening to late-night radio and driving cross-country and being tripped out by the entire situation. That was kind of the theme of the album. The rest of it, the music and all that stuff was kind of its own experience to go along with that.

RO: Things like Art Bell and stuff like that?

SJ: Yeah, man. When I was young I was a huge fan of that.

RO: Coast to Coast, I guess he's not on there anymore.

SJ: Yeah, it's George Nouri now.

RO: Where did the tarot come in?

SJ: The cards?

RO: Yeah, and just some of the symbolism too.

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SJ: The symbolism really began - the Hierophant thing began with this lady Ana Brava, who lives with me and Dre. She, like, raised Dre; she's a 75-year-old Nicaraguan woman. She reads cards, and has always done that. She was reading Dre's cards one day - like a lot of the cool names and ideas and stuff for this record came from her, because I would be in the studio working, and I was looking for a band name, I was looking for a name for the guy, there were a lot of details that I was needing.

During the process, while I was working on the music, I would come home and she would have a lot of ideas and have done a lot of research, and that's where a lot of the names came from. Will o' the Wisp came from that. Hierophant - she was getting her cards read and that card flipped over, and she was infatuated to know what it meant. We looked it up and at first I was kind of like, wasn't sure about that as a band name.

I was trying to figure out the perfect name for this weird band name and the album, but that one ended up sticking, because it was so confusing, and it wasn't what you would expect. It wasn't thrills or anything. It was a very odd name for a band - it basically sent me straight to Google.

RO: I was going to ask if that's a made-up word, but I guess it's not.

SJ: No, it's not. There's a Hierophant card in the tarot deck, which is also the pope card. That's basically this kind of... like a priest of some sort, but it's kind of a dude who gives up his whole life and whatnot to spread the gospels or whatever. In this case it kind of stuck and rang true, and I really liked it.

And there's a lot of the imagery in the tarot deck, a lot of stuff's going on, but it's really kind of the extent of what I got into when I started digging into like the counterculture, politics and all these different things. I've always been a big fan of - like with Art Bell. That tackles ghosts and the occult, UFOs and all kinds of aspects of this kind of subculture of America, which I've always been infatuated with, so it all kind of goes along with that.

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