Scott H. Biram makes a hell of a lot of noise for just one man with a guitar. For those who have never heard his albums or seen him live, Biram can come across like a raw, ripping combination of Lightening Hopkins and Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister performing under a religious revival tent.
“It’s a funny one,” said Biram over the phone. “It depends on the kind of people that are out there watching me do it, watching me set up, but a lot of the time some rocker dude will see me setting up and be like, ‘Ah, it’s one guy? Oh, boy.’ Then I play and afterwards they’re kissing my ass. I love it when that happens.”
The Texas-born Biram began playing in a punk band, The Thangs, and a few bluegrass bands before he developed his signature, raucous, solo style of electric and acoustic guitars wrung through beat up amplifiers, with his left foot pounding hypnotically on a stomp box. From song to song, Biram sings quietly haunting blues or emits shouts, yodels, and even death metal growls, while shredding through blues, country, hillbilly, gospel, rock n’ roll and heavy metal on six different guitars.
“I play an Explorer, but honestly, I do some of my metal songs on that, but it’s a really good blues guitar,” explained Biram. “It has a hot pick-up, so even when I’m using it clean, the clean channel on my amp and not distorted, it still has a grit to it. It’s a pretty bad ass blues guitar.”
Biram’s twisted mix of American music styles with punk and metal might seem dizzying at first, but it all seems to make sense when he puts it together. It begs the question, do all these disparate genres share a common spirit?
“Yes, it’s me. I’m the common spirit,” said Biram with a laugh. “This is all stuff I’ve been listening to for years, and different kind of music I’ve been playing for years. It all just kind of meshes together. Most American music is rooted in the blues and I’m rooted in the blues. Punk rock’s got that rebellion, hollering out about what’s wrong with the world. Punk is like that, blues is like that, and country has the musical structure of the blues underneath it a lot of the time. It all fits together.”
Much of Biram’s legend stems from a devastating accident that nearly killed him when he was hit head on by a semi-truck 17 years ago. With a lot of the subject matter in Biram’s songs touching on religion — his latest album, “I Sold My Soul to the Devil” is a collection of gospel covers —you would think that he might have had some kind of epiphany from the accident, but really, all he wanted to do was get back to what he loved.
“I was just determined to get back out there on the road,” said Biram. “Right before my wreck was when I was starting to pick up some momentum with my music and getting pretty decent crowds.”
“When I woke up in the hospital after they had flown me by helicopter and I’d gone through thirteen surgeries, I woke up with my dad asking if I knew why I was here. I had tubes stuck down my throat and pins sticking out of my legs. My dad said, ‘You got hit by an 18-wheeler.’ So I made the symbol, like I was honking a big rig horn and then flipped him the bird. Then I tried to spell the word ‘tour’ with my hands because I was worried if the tour was going to get canceled. That’s the first thing I thought of when I woke up.”
Just a month later, Biram was performing in a wheelchair with Daniel Johnston at The Hole in the Wall in Austin, and then he did a legendary gig at the Continental Club. There was nothing that could keep Biram from getting back on his feet.
“Even though I couldn’t walk, that night when I got home I got in the bed and I heard this noise above me. I looked up and there was this scorpion hanging from an air conditioner vent right above me. I said, ‘Mom, there’s a...’and I got that much of the sentence out before it fell on me. I jumped all the way across the room into a chair on the other side of the room even though I was crippled. I don’t know how I did it.”
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