The Weekly interview: Shooter Jennings talks Nine Inch Nails, Giorgio Moroder and Bob Dylan

Jennings plays Vinyl at the Hard Rock Hotel on July 14.
Annie Zaleski

It’s impossible to pigeonhole Shooter Jennings. Since releasing 2005’s Put the “O” Back in Country, he has dabbled in country, rock roll, electronic music and even video-game scores—and that’s just for starters. The multi-talented musician checked in before a recent show.

You recently opened up for the Old 97’s on a few Texas dates. I believe they opened for my dad [Waylon Jennings] back in the ’90s at one point. He really fell in love with Rhett [Miller] and the band. He ended up recording a couple songs in the studio with them, that didn’t come out for a long time until me and the Old ’97s put them online. [The band has] been in my life since I was quite a bit younger, like, 18. To finally do some shows with them after all this time is awesome.

You’ve been on the road for a couple of months now. What’s been the most gratifying thing about your latest run of shows? I did a couple years touring with my dad’s old band, Waymore’s Outlaws, and that was a lot of fun. But I’m returning to my band, my LA band. We’ve done a lot of records together, but not a lot of extensive touring. It’s really exciting to get out and play these songs on the road with these guys. It’s such a great band.

What is touring with this band allowing you to do that you haven’t ben able to do the past couple of years? We’re revisiting a lot of old material, which is really nice. A lot of the Black Ribbons material, which is more difficult but fun and adventurous. We can play the country stuff, the heavy stuff, whatever we want, to try to craft the best show.

Has doing these shows kick-started any song ideas? We’ve already recorded a record. We’re just sitting on the material, because we’re formulating a plan—when to release and how to release. And we’re doing a lot of different things on the side at the same time, other records with other people. We keep new stuff pretty close to our vest, because YouTube and things like that make that not so much fun. I’ve always been somebody who liked to spring the new stuff on people on a record first.

There’s something about going into a store, buying a record, unwrapping it and putting it in a stereo—it’s kind of a lost art. For sure, physically or digitally. When I say record, I mean both. Physically, our label [Black Country Rock] presses a lot of vinyl, and we have a product that we’re able to make and sell. We put a lot of heart and soul into the art and the design of it and everything.

I collect vinyl. It’s like having an artifact, something physical that marks a period of time. That is something that is lost in the digital age.

What have you bought recently that you’re most stoked about? Nine Inch Nails has this new vinyl store, and they’ve rereleased a lot of their old records. I was a very big Nine Inch Nails fan when I was younger. Trent Reznor’s kind of the reason why I started to do music. They’ve reprinted a bunch of old stuff on vinyl. There’s an album by a band called Prick that he produced that I loved [1995’s Prick, and they’ve rereleased that on vinyl, and they’ve rereleased the Lost Highway soundtrack on vinyl. And they rereleased the Quake soundtrack, the video game that Reznor did back then, on vinyl. I just bought all three of those.

I bought The Fragile: Deviations 1 on vinyl, the four-LP set. Me too. I bought that, I bought The Downward Spiral and I bought Broken, which I was very excited about to have on vinyl. I’m waiting for those to show up. My wife’s favorite record is The Fragile; mine’s The Downward Spiral. The Downward Spiral was the record that inspired me to play music. I couldn’t believe that record when I heard it. I was like, “This is the most aggressive, layered, cool, original record.” I was 15 when it came out, and it just spoke to me.

On the Giorgio Moroder tribute you released last year, Countach (For Giorgio), you got Marilyn Manson to cover David Bowie’s “Cat People.” I was a big fan of Marilyn Manson growing up, and then we become friends about two-and-a-half years ago—we just clicked. He was everything I hoped he would be by the time I met him. It blew my mind being able to have a hero of mine like that on a record. I was a fan of Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals and all that.

What was the impetus for doing the Giorgio Moroder record? In 2012 I started digging into Giorgio and really falling in love with his songs. They were just excellent songs and arrangements, and I was becoming obsessed with him. I had put together a George Jones tribute record called Don’t Wait Up (For George), but at the same time I wanted to do something different. It hit me to do, like, a George/Giorgio thing. Originally it was going to be two singles, like two 7-inches or something. The George one turned into an EP, and then I was like, “Well, we gotta do a Giorgio one to go with it.”

The idea was to use drum machines and synthesizers on the George record more and use more live drums and fiddle and steel and stuff on the Giorgio record. They were kind of like a pair. The Giorgio record, because the songs are so long, turned into a full record. I was really proud. To be able to get through that was like an adventure. When I did Black Ribbon, the concept record we had, that was taking on something big and seeing it through. This was another adventure, in a way. Survival. Like, “I’m doing a Giorgio record. I’m going to finish it, and it’s going to be good.”

In a way, it also teaches you things. I always heard that Hunter S. Thompson would retype Ernest Hemingway books to get his writing style down, and learn from the inside out. Doing a record like that on Giorgio taught me a lot, because I was trying to follow his arrangements pretty closely and adapt them and learn how he thought from the inside out.

You recently played the Bob Dylan tribute, Dylan Fest 2017, and you did his song “Man Gave Names to All the Animals.” What drew you to that one? I was visiting my mom in Arizona with my wife and kids. We were in the car with her, and she was playing the Slow Train Coming record. That song was on at the moment when they asked me to do Dylan Fest. And I was like, “I want to do this song!” I mean, I just love the song. It’s so simple, and it’s stage-y and vibe-y. I also knew that everybody there was going to be tackling the big hits and trying to sing like Dylan and stuff. It was like, “I’m going to do something weird, and have fun with it.”

I’ve done “Isis” a bunch on tour, and I sent a bunch of songs [over for consideration], but my first choice was always “Man Gave Names to All the Animals.” The guy who was the bandleader was like, “We’ve always wanted to do that one! Let’s do that!” I was kind of stuck, and I had to do it, but it was a lot of fun.

Do you have any memorable Las Vegas moments that stand out? I live in LA; I went to Vegas, like, every weekend for the first four years of my time there. I’ve been there 17 years. Vegas was a place you go to party for the weekend, or I’ll take my wife for her birthday. I have lots of Vegas stories.

I saw Nine Inch Nails with A Perfect Circle there when Twiggy was playing bass in Nine Inch Nails. I think that was during the With Teeth record. I was in a hotel room with Maynard [James Keenan], and he had a road case full of wine and wine glasses. I remember being like, “Wine and wine glasses in a road case—that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that.”

Shooter Jennings with Jamie Wyatt. July 14, 8 p.m., $25-$39. Vinyl, 702-693-5000.

Tags: Music
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