Alt-country/lo-fi rocker Bill Callahan, formerly known as Smog, discusses new record Apocalypse
- Nicola Meighan
- 17 May 2011
Bill Callahan is in his woodshed. Nature is tormenting him. ‘There are some annoying wind chimes, chiming in the wind,’ he grumbles. ‘Some birds are trying too hard.’
And how is our lusty troubadour, formerly known as Smog, on this glorious spring day? ‘I’m still trying to figure that out,’ he replies. ‘It’s early. Stop yelling.’
The List would like to repudiate, once and for all, those rumours of Callahan being curmudgeonly. Any man who calls his new album Apocalypse (Drag City) and enlightens it with honey bees, cowboy romance and gardening analogies must surely be tender of sentiment.
And lest we forget, our Maryland protagonist has whiled away the last two decades breaking and mending our fragile hearts with his exquisite, down-home alt-country odes. (Have you heard ‘Rock Bottom Riser’ of late? Case in point).
Callahan’s Apocalypse conjures swarthy herdsmen and rodeo sundowns. ‘Yeah, I think the opening song, "Drover”, is kind of colouring people's feelings that it’s a Western record,’ he offers.
One can’t help but project such cowboy imagery directly onto Callahan, as we hear him croon about cattle and land; as woodwind and violins canter around him. Is he an accomplished buckaroo? ‘I've been riding since I was a kid,’ he nods. ‘My aunt and uncle had a small ranch in Montana and an old horse named Rocky that I learned on. It was really old and would just stand still, which was nice.’
What does our burnished-rock wrangler make of Scotland? ‘Lots of good,’ he says. ‘I went up to the Highlands and saw things I'll never see again anywhere.
‘Good people, the Scots,’ concludes our lovable bard. ‘I remember the first time I heard someone say “wee”. I was ordering an espresso at the time. You don't forget your first wee’.