Article By: Robert Stinson / Photos By: Jennifer Martinez
If Jessie James were still alive, he would be playing Cathouse Thursday on his iPod. This group of self-professed outlaws of alt. country/rock has sloughed off the trappings of contrived Nashville jingles in lieu of a more original sound, steeped in Americana with a tongue in cheek sensibility. Steered by veteran musician Will Farber, Cathouse Thursday has continued to delight their audiences with the release of Nashville Baby and â€˜Til Death Do Us Party, which are perfect companions for a long road trip or a night of heavy partying on the dance floor.
We caught up with Cathouse Thursday during a hemp event that was thrown in Balboa Park by activist James Stacy.
All of you are veteran musicians who are no strangers to the limelight. Could you all talk about the origins of the band?
Will Farber: In 1997, I had a hit record over in Europe, came back to the states and signed a record deal in Los Angeles. They sent me out to form a group, but we were still missing a guitar player. After hearing many, many guitar players, my drummer said to me, thereâ€™s the one other guy I know, but he plays kind of strange and a lot of people think heâ€™s way out there. So I said letâ€™s hear him. He walked in played his set and weâ€™ve been best friends ever since. Weâ€™ve recorded six albums together and have never missed a note, so weâ€™re still trying to churn the good stuff out.
What bands do you draw inspiration from?
John DePatie: As players there is one list and as writers there is another list. Definitely Steely Dan is one of them. As players I like Jimmy Hendricks and Steve Ray Vaughn.
Will: As song writers I would have to go with Jimmy Web. His album Macarthur Park really broke the mold because it was the first time somebody had released an album that was only 71/2 minutes long and it was everything from jazz to classical music blended together. It ended up becoming a big hit for Donna Summer in the late â€˜70s.
Creatively speaking what is your songwriting process like?
Will: I write most of the lyrics, but the music itself is collaboration between all of the members of the band.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced during your years of touring as a band and how did you overcome them?
Will: As a band we havenâ€™t toured that much, but I toured in Europe for three years with my previous band. The biggest problem that I find with touring is dealing with all the personalities. You always read music interviews of members talking about each other saying that yeah he is a great guitar player, but you wouldnâ€™t want to be in a tour bus with him. I certainly had that experience where I had band mates who were prima donnas. In retrospect, I would have to say that little of that has to do with musicians who are medicated. Remember, Willie Nelson has been on a bus for over 50 years and thatâ€™s probably what gets him up in the morning and keeps him going year after year.
Country music in general has been co-opted by large media corporations looking to create the next Nashville Star. What is your opinion about the state of country music? Has it lost some of its relevance?
Will: I had my first record deal in Nashville when I was 16, had another one in 1991 and moved there. In my experience, Nashville has and always will be about cookie cutter music. There are those people who are sort of the outlaws of that music industry who you donâ€™t hear that much of anymore, Willie Nelson and Wailing Jennings, who really turned out gutsy rock â€˜n roll and country music. I mean Nashville is where the whole hokey American Idol style of country was born. As they say in Nashville, there are 14 guys you have to buy new Cadillacs for in order to get your song on the radio, and itâ€™s still run like that to a degree. So many people go there thinking itâ€™s the promised land because you can buy a home for under 100k and because of the supposed thriving music scene, but itâ€™s really not like that at all.
John: Weâ€™re definitely the alternative to that. I would say weâ€™re a step further than that with our sound that is more rooted in Americana than in the Nashville sound.
What first sparked your interest in the medical marijuana community?
Will: I have always been a lifelong medicator. The first time I tried marijuana I was 13, and back then, people were getting 10-20 years in jail just for having an ounce of marijuana when they first started having busts in the 1960s. It was easy for law enforcement and politicians to get their names in the paper back then. All you had to do was go on a college campus and make a big bust. So in that respect, I started getting politically involved in cannabis reform at a very young age. So itâ€™s great to see that it has come this far. So my eventual goal is to play at an event where people can safely medicate.
What is your opinion about our district attorneyâ€™s war on all collectives operating within San Diego County?
Will: There are so many problems, especially fiscal problems that our city has to deal with that I find it ridiculous that she is wasting her time and tax payersâ€™ money with this crusade of hers. In the end, she is just jumping on the conservative bandwagon in order to get an audience from those who donâ€™t know anything about cannabis or its health benefits.
Why do you think people are so adamantly against cannabis especially when scientific research has proven it to be an effective cure for many ailments?
Will: Because Americans have no education. You have to remember that the problem with EVERYTHING in this country is that 30% of this countryâ€™s population is functionally illiterate, and a larger percentage can only operate at the 8th grade level. So the majority of people in this country only know what some talking head on the television tells them, that sound bite. They never look beyond that or read between the lines of what theyâ€™re reading.
What advice would you give budding musicians looking to follow in your footsteps?
Will: Go into the medical field instead (group laughter). We do this because we love creating music and playing for fans. Would I like to make millions of dollars doing this? Of course I would because it would facilitate our ability to play more. Iâ€™m 58 years old and still trying to churn out tunes. As Keith Richards says, â€œTheyâ€™ll have to pry this guitar from my cold dead hands.â€