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By Sarah Durnil
Hooked on Southern Speed a.k.a H.O.S.S. is as badass as they sound and anyone at FoCoMX8 on Saturday night at The Whisk(e)y will tell you that. Think Johnny Cash meets Lemmy. H.O.S.S.’s sound is hard, fast, riff-heavy, and delivered with black cowboy hat attitude. Just a week earlier, I conducted a Bus Crash interview with H.O.S.S. vocalist and bassist, Tommy Ray, and drummer, Ian Webb.
An interview with Tommy Ray and Ian would have been much different had this been year one of FoCoMX, a raucous time of whiskey and beer and late night debauchery. The time I recently spent with these guys proved to be in sharp contrast to those times and to the show they would deliver the following week. We started out talking about kids. “I said from the start that I didn’t care if he was straight or gay, reggae or rock, as long as he wasn’t a drummer.” Ian just laughed. He and his love, Amanda, have seven kids between them, but he keeps going strong in H.O.S.S. I asked how that is possible. “Without Tuesday rehearsals, what else am I going to do with my time?” Ian said. Amanda chimed in, “Yeah, who’s going to make my house shake every Tuesday?” I think the true definition of a rock star lies somewhere in that attitude. Then I’ll be damned if Tommy Ray didn’t ask for the music to be turned down. This is the H.O.S.S. reality off-stage now, and is probably the biggest part of why they are still here. Adaptation – to their lives, to their music scene- has kept them riding strong since 1995.
Of the biggest adaptations H.O.S.S. has made over the years is to the relatively frequent turnover in guitarists. They changed drummers in 2002, bringing in Ian. Ian had always been in traditionally restrictive bands, so when Tommy Ray told him to do his own thing, he said, “Really? Just do what I want?” That part has been history ever since. The guitarists have been a different story. Mike Brown, the co-founder of H.O.S.S. and Tommy’s friend since the 7th grade, set the bar high with his complicated layers and unconventional style. Mike departed the band in 2006 after the birth of his second child, but H.O.S.S. stayed dedicated to keeping their music fast and hard. They’ve had guitarists who have been “almost it.” Mark Karst fit the bill for a time, but his career called him to Kansas. H.O.S.S. introduced Tony Frost (Bondurant, Looker) last FoCoMX and, based on what happened this FoCoMX, an epic new chapter is solidly in place. Tony’s not trying to emulate Mike Brown, but is clearly honoring his legacy with a healthy twist of his own pure-metal style.
The personal dynamic works, too, with plenty of banter and humor. When I gathered photos, Tommy Ray sent one of Ian and himself. I asked, “What about Tony?” Tommy messaged back, “Fuck that guy.” In a phone interview a few days later, I asked Tony about his contribution to H.O.S.S. “Those guys are amateurs. They’re lucky to have me.” With all of this, along with a ridiculous amount of stage chemistry, I think they’re doing just fine.
It’s time for H.O.S.S. to lay low for a while, but not to rest. These guys will be going hard, working on material, as they have five years worth of demos to hash out. “We’re taking a break to knead our music. Needs to rise where it needs to be. It’s part of the wising process.”