Scott H. Biram went head-to-head with an 18-wheeler on March 25, 2003 — and survived.
Of course, 13 surgeries later, he now has pins in his knees, screws in his foot, a titanium rod in his leg, a metal plate in his right arm, 12 inches less of his lower intestine and just for good measure, it seems that the scar tissue from an injury to his glutes makes him feel like someone is constantly goosing him.
But the punk rock hillbilly bluesman ain’t complaining about a thing. The accident did a lot more than ravage his body, it convinced him that there’s a lot more work to be done.
So just six weeks after being hit by the 40-ton truck, Biram took the stage at the Continental Club in Austin, Texas — his hometown. Propped up in a wheelchair, both legs broken and an IV hanging from his arm, he played a full set. That moment is the perfect snapshot of the 31-year-old’s “do or die” ethic: He’s barbaric, determined and vulnerable. His music is too.
“Being laid up in a bed for four months and not being able to do things for myself turned me into a workaholic; it’s like an addiction,” Biram says. “I have to talk myself into taking a break.”
From his hotel in Arlington, Va., Biram discusses the history behind his career on the rock ’n’ roll circuit. Sometimes a jaunty yodel-fest, sometimes a cacophony of hillbilly, blues, punk and hardcore metal, it’s hard to know what might come out of that smashed-up head of his.
Biram, who says he’s been playing in bands since he was 13, started out playing rock, like many of his Texas contemporaries. But he soon found himself drawn to the banjo. And it was after his outfit, Bluegrass Driveby, broke up that Biram started to book shows just for himself.
“This is what started coming out of me,” Biram says of his loose and wild foot-stomping blues.
His new album, The Dirty Old One Man Band, on Bloodshot Records recalls the days when mamas worried that secular music came from the devil. And like his musical forebears, Biram has no problems kicking today’s morality cops hard in their withered nuts. In the song “Blood, Sweat and Murder,” with Hasil Adkins-worthy growls, a foot stomp for a backbeat and the dirtiest guitar tone imaginable, Biram warbles, I can’t never hurt you/so I went downtown/found me a little woman/and wrung her neck. Two songs later, he dishes a Pete Seeger-accented love song called “Wreck My Car.” And when musings from Scott H. Biram’s First Church of the Ultimate Fanaticism Gospel Choir (a crowd of enthusiastic fans) crop up in songs like “I See the Light/What’s His Name” and “BBQ Commercial,” the listener is always left to wonder what might come next.
But there’s one thing he makes clear as Stoli. When he followed country icon Kris Kristofferson at last year’s South By Southwest festival, Biram took the mic and shouted: “They said that was a hard act to follow … I’m a hard act to follow, motherfuckers!”
Doors at 8 p.m. at Alvin’s, 5756 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-831-4577. With the Salt Miners and Bob’s Country Bunker to open. Eve Doster is the listings editor for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]