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Are The Blasters "Trouble Bound"?

By Jon Johnson, October 2002

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Today Dave Alvin simply says, "Towards the end it just wasn't fun because I was moving in a more singer/songwriter kind of vein, and the band itself felt more comfortable being a sort of R&B cover band. I just got to a point as a songwriter where I didn't want to have to write songs for him to sing. When you're writing for somebody else, you can't write about things that they can't relate to. So, as you grow older and your life changes, your songs are going to change."

Asked if he's written songs since leaving the group that he's been curious as to how his old band would have approached them, Dave replies, "Oh, sure. You're going to get some overlap. There's a song of mine called 'Museum of Heart' that my brother could sing the hell out of. It's a perfect Blasters song. And there's 'Dry River' and things like that. My brother could have nailed that. 'Romeo's Escape,' too."

Says Phil, "Once I threatened to David, 'Every time you put a record out, I'll put the same record out with me singing it.' Boy, did that piss him off."

"He's an interesting guy," says Dave of his brother. "In the same way that I - vocally - have to live in his shadow, he sort of has to live in mine as far as the songs go. He's an amazing singer. There are things he does with my songs that I don't like, but there are (also) things he does with my songs that just floor me."

For his part, Dave is thrilled with how "Trouble Bound" came out sounding and, in fact, regards it as his favorite Blasters album.

"Making the records years ago we had several problems; some of them ours, some of them not. One of the problems that really wasn't of our making was that in those days, it was very hard to find anybody that spoke the language we spoke. It was very hard to find a recording engineer that had any idea what a Sun record was. Or a Chess record. I've since found them, but it took years. So, to me, the live recording is my favorite Blasters record. It's The Blasters. There's no games, and there's no thinking. It's the band doing what we did. And the fact that it was recorded 20 years after we did it is amazing to me. There's a fear that you're not going to be as good as you were. Then about midway through the first song on the first day of rehearsal it was like, 'Oh, this is fine. We're The Blasters.'"

"Trouble Bound" is actually the Blasters' second live record, following 1982's "Over There," recorded at London's Venue.

"To be honest, it wasn't a well-recorded record," says Dave of "Over There." "It was a radio broadcast. But it was a side of the band that certain fans of ours felt wasn't on the first Slash record. (For 'Testament') we went in and mixed some of the stuff that wasn't released and did what we could. But 20 years later, we got it right."

Given the recent reunion performances and the new live album, the obvious question is whether Dave would consider recording another album with the group. Although he's been quoted a number of times as having said that there's no way he'd consider it, he now amends that by saying that it would depend on the project.

"I'd be willing to do an album of R&B covers," says Dave. "That'd be painful, but I might do that. But write 12 songs for my brother to sing and then go into the studio? No, I don't think so."

Phil Alvin realizes that at some point he'll need to pick one version of The Blasters over the other, if only to avoid confusion in the public's mind over who The Blasters are and so the band can get on with the business of capitalizing on the recent renewal of interest.

And it's the only part of a sprawling two-hour conversation in which Phil Alvin seems at a loss for words. The impression is that there's a part of Phil that would like to have his brother (and, presumably, Bill Bateman and Gene Taylor) back in the group. At the same time, there's a clear loyalty to Wyatt and Angel, both of whom have been in the band for years and are committed to the group in a way that Dave Alvin isn't.

"It's very hard," says Phil. "I wouldn't play if the people I was playing with weren't of the highest caliber. What a band is is so important to me, perhaps because I've been a bandleader since I was 14, and it's a miserably hard job. We're going to do these (East Coast) gigs, and then I'll probably have another discussion with David. To tell you the truth, I don't know the answer, man. (Both versions) are really excellent bands. I would hate to discard either of them, but I can't keep the name for both of them."

For his part, Dave Alvin appears happy to continue doing occasional reunion shows with The Blasters as his schedule permits. And if his commitment level isn't what Phil would like to see, neither is he totally ambivalent about the opportunity to play with his brother and friends again.

"We all grew up together, (but) we never play together. All of our parents are gone, and a lot of our friends are gone, and a lot's changed. So, the only way we can ever go home is if those five guys walk onstage together."

"I couldn't ask anybody to rearrange the continuing Blasters if the commitment from Dave was so nonchalant. Maybe there'll be a Phil and Dave Alvin Band (as well as) The Blasters. I can't imagine that I'm going to die without being involved with Dave in other endeavors."

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