Bob Log III: Perfectly Demented Country Blues

Bob Log III: My Shit is PerfectBob Log III: “It’s the Law” (My Shit is Perfect, Birdman Records, 3/31/09)

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Right now, somewhere in Europe, there’s a roomful of people crammed elbow to elbow in a sweaty pub, watching a man in a leather jumpsuit and mirrored motorcycle helmet play a kick drum and finger-picked archtop guitar at breakneck speed with all the sweaty brimstone frenzy of a preacher at a big-tent revival. Before he’s done, he’ll undoubtedly invite an open-minded female fan up on stage to mix his scotch with her breast, making “Boob Scotch,” the performer’s favorite drink. Crowd permitting, he just might play while being passed around the room in a rubber life raft.

For Bob Log III, it’s just another night doing what he does. For the last 13 years, he’s been knocking out fucked-up, floor-stomping rhythms for adventurous show-goers, looking like a lanky, greased-up, hillbilly Darth Vader and playing with the furor of a backwater amalgam of Hasil Adkins and Animal from The Muppet Show.

When faced with the “Log Bomb” for the first time, you’re not entirely sure if he’s going to stay on stage and keep playing or race to the back of the room, lock the doors, and burn the building down with everyone inside it. And logic would dictate that any man who sells panties and reclaimed thrift-store suit jackets with his helmeted face silk-screened on them is certainly opening himself to such well-deserved scrutiny. The remarkable thing is that Log somehow manages to make all this lunacy seem like second nature without so much as a whiff of winking hipster irony. Log ably straddles the fine line between a great sense of humor and clinical insanity.

“I do what I do because that’s what I do,” Log says from his current home in Australia. “It’s that simple.” When he says that, he says it with the conviction of someone who’s never so much as thought of doing something else. Hearing it from him directly, you have to believe it, because coming from Bob Log, it’s not so much a feeling as it is a fact. He could just as easily have said “fire is hot,” and it would’ve been said with the same conviction.

For years, rumors circulated about who Bob Log III was in the first place. A guy appearing seemingly out of nowhere, playing crazy blues riffs over a drum machine while shouting garbled lyrics into a telephone receiver fastened to a motorcycle helmet will have that effect. People said that he actually was Andy Kaufmann or Frank Zappa. People said that he had escaped from an insane asylum. But the fact is that his name actually was Bob Log III, and he’d been right there in front of them all along.

“While playing solo, I won a trophy in Japan for being the ‘Strangest Band in Tokyo.’  In Japan, that’s saying something, ’cause they got a lot of strange stuff.”

Throughout the mid-’90s, Log was playing insane guitar riffs (sans jumpsuit and helmet) in Doo Rag, the Tucson, Arizona-based two-headed spastic blues-punk beast that he manned with drummer Thermos Malling (who played a constantly rotating pile of meticulously selected garbage). Together, they toured the world, made two full-length records, and garnered an international fan base. After they went their separate ways, Bob Log suited up and went solo. In lieu of a drummer, he started lugging around a homemade kick drum and a drum machine (with hand-clap presets) and set them to a frenzied double-time pace, writing songs about partying, women, and all sorts of fun general nonsense.

“While playing solo, I won a trophy in Japan for being the ‘Strangest Band in Tokyo,’” he says. “In Japan, that’s saying something, ’cause they got a lot of strange stuff.”

And all shtick aside, Log’s a wicked guitar player and can crank out a hailstorm of spastic chicken-clucking riffs. His music is rooted in blues, the focus of his three previous albums for the revered underground blues label Fat Possum. But the fact is that there’s nothing “blue” about his music. Rather, it is thoroughly jacked, upbeat party music for the freak set.

“People tell me, ‘Bob Log, everything you play sounds the same,’” he comments. “I say, ‘Of course it does, because that’s the kind of music I play. You wouldn’t go see a pole vaulter and expect him to bake a muffin. You expect him to pole vault, because that’s what he does.’”

Yet after his 2003 album Log Bomb, there was six years of silence. Thankfully, Bob Log III has now returned with My Shit is Perfect, released this spring on Birdman Records.

“When I went back and listened to this new album, I said, ‘My shit sounds perfect,’” he says. “So I called it My Shit is Perfect.”

True to form, My Shit is Perfect is quintessential Bob Log with elements of crazy stop-start timing, lighting-fast picking, and mostly incomprehensible lyrics, illustrating the sound that he has been perfecting on his own terms since his days in Doo Rag. For this go-round, he’s just had more time to practice.

“I don’t ever sit down and decide ‘I’m going to make a record,’” Log explains. “I write new songs all the time, but some of them are terrible. So I just collect the ones I like until I have enough of them to make an album. Every track I ended up with on this record is the perfect version of what I’ve wanted to do all along. I should get a trophy for this record…and a cake.”

Frantic acoustic number “Mr. Sis Boom Bah” would only sound better emanating from a Bob Log-filled rubber raft being passed overhead. “It’s The Law” represents the most genuinely blues-based and most coherent track that the Log Bomb has ever laid to tape. And Log’s particular insanity is at its purest in the exhaustingly titled “Bump Pow! Bump Bump Bump Pow! Bump Pow! Bump Bump Bump Baby! Bump Pow! Bump Bump Bump Pow! Bump Pow! Bump Bump Bump.”

“I played that track for my two-year-old daughter, and she went fucking nuts,” he says. “Then I was at the house of a show promoter in Spain. He put it on, and his two four-year-olds went totally fucking nuts and broke a lamp. That’s what this music does. It makes people go fucking nuts — but hopefully not break lamps.”

Listening to a new Bob Log III record is a lot like buying a program at the circus to remember all the crazy shit that you saw while you were there. The “live” Bob Log and the Bob Log on record are two completely inseparable elements to one nonsensical whole. And on Bob Log’s terms, this shit is perfect. You can’t ask for a higher endorsement than that.

“This stuff isn’t too complicated,” he says. “It makes people jump around and smile. Any place with a room full of people drinking beer and two outlets for me to plug in, that’s my audience. I found something I love, I’m sticking with it, and it’s fucking perfect.”

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