Interview: Big Dad Ritch of Texas Hippie Coalition Talks Current Tour, New Record, Pantera Reunion and Southern Pride

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When considering the Southern style of rock music over the past fifty years, there’s no denying the tremendous impacts that artists such as Lynyrd Skynard, ZZ Top, Molly Hatchet and Pantera (to name a few) have had on the world of hard rock and heavy metal. The strong Southern blues drawl and groove-driven attitude are undeniable ingredients that have made for a rather successful recipe of mainstream longevity.

Formed in 2004 and proudly representing Denison, Texas and southern pride, one of the more recent, unique and commercially accomplished hard rock/metal acts over the past decade is without a doubt, the one, the only, Texas Hippie Coalition. As THC is currently embarked on a fully loaded U.S. Tour consisting of various notable venues and festivals, I came across the opportunity to catch up with their fired up front man, “Big Dad Ritch.”

BDRDespite having a packed schedule, he took the time to shed some light on the history, influences, experiences and overall lifestyle that makes Texas Hippie Coalition what they original set out to be: One hell-of-a bad-ass Southern hard rock band.

As Texas Hippie Coalition formed back in 2004 out of Denison, TX, along with yourself, who are some of the core founding members of THC?

Well the co-founder, John Oliver… he was the first one I called when I wanted to
put a band together and asked him if he was interested
in jamming together. There were a lot of bands around so. I just went around to most of the top musicians in the area. I actually went and watched them with their bands play. They’d come off stage, I’d tell them how badass they were and how much their band sucked and would whoop their ass if they didn’t come play for me. So, it worked out good for me.

As the your current headlining tour began on April 29th 2016, you’re set to perform live tonight at Trixie’s in Louisville, KY with Sons of Texas. How do you and THC feel to be on tour, what is your relationship like with SOT and what do you believe they bring to the table as THC’s opening act?
SonsofTexasI pretty much said it before. I’m a big ol’ boy. I like my food, so. I figure we’re the steak and they’re the potatoes. They’re good potatoes, man. They’re damn good potatoes! Our fans are really digging em’. I dig em’. They’re good guys. They’re damn good guys! They’re not on any of the festival dates with us, but they’re on all of the dates that we’re headlining.  

As lead vocalist and front man for THC, what is your mindset like just before you take the stage to perform in front of a large rock and metal crowd?

I’m pretty much like any UFC fighter or professional boxer, you know? I’m getting myself prepared to go out there and kick everybody’s ass. Kind of like a bull rider. Well, maybe more like the bull. I’m fixed to go out there and I’m gonna throw everybody. No one’s going to ride 8- seconds today. I always like to get my head right. I always like to make sure I have at least a good, little circle of energy. A lot of people call it prayer. I always get mine up to my lord and savior, but anybody’s welcome in that circle. I just try to get everybody’s energy aimed the right direction so we can take the stage and kick some ass.

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What musicians, records or any other influences inspired you to become the artist you’ve evolved to be and more specifically, the front man of THC?

Well, you as a young man, when I first heard Johnny Cash, they had the TV show, The Johnny Cash Show. I remember telling my grandmother when I grew up, I was going to be Johnny Cash. She said, “Well, you can’t be Johnny Cash. There’s already a Johnny Cash.” I knew I was going to be something like that. Later on in life, it was just good to hear so many great bands. You know, bands that my dad turned me onto. ZZ Top, Van Halen, Waylon and Willie. I just knew that music was the love of my life.

Any way that I could get over into that field, I was going to sure try. It just so happened accidentally that many years later, I take the stage and I’m wearing all black like Johnny Cash. I’m singing in front of audiences and I’m doing songs that are reminiscent of Waylon and Willie and ZZ Top. Just answering to where I came from and what I was learning.

On May 12th an official announcement was made confirming the 3-day Rock Carnival Festival with headliners, Twisted Sister in their Farewell Performance. How do you and THC feel to be sharing the stage with Twisted Sister and other hard rock & metal acts to the likes of Overkill, Ace Frehley and Monster Magnet, to name a few.

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Man, it’s always a pleasure to take the stage with a lot of these rock stars, but to be able to take the stage with some people that you idolize, you know? Dee Snider, I often refer to this thing as a One-Man-Empire, which is what I consider Dee Snider to be. As well as Vinnie Paul, Zakk Wylde, Rob Zombie. These are One-Man-Empires of all different levels of course, but I strive to one day be a One-Man-Empire myself.

It’s always cool to be there and Dee Snider, he’s great, a super nice guy, man. I played over in Poland and he was one of the first guys to come out and give us a shout, “Hey, how’s it goin’?” He’s just a super cool dude. It’s a farewell and I know I’m going to enjoy the hell out of it that night. Twisted Sister is just going to twist off into the sunset.

Within the hard rock and metal community, there have been mixed feelings and opinions on a “Pantera Reunion.” What are your thoughts on the legacy of Pantera and a recent Change.org petition to have the survived members of Pantera reunite once again with Zakk Wylde on guitar?

You know, as a Pantera fan and I mean a big fan. I’ve seen Pantera about thirty times, give or take a few. I think that the closest band is Clutch, they’re about 2-25 now. So, I really looked up to Pantera. You can tell in my music. Some of my lyrical content, you can definitely tell that we’re influenced by those guys. PanteraReunion

I know from the underbelly of this business, I’m in the music business. The music is my love and the business is something that comes with what I love. So, the business isn’t something I have to do, it’s something I’ve been rewarded with and I get to do. I have to treat it as something special. I’ve heard thoughts that would put humungous amounts of money, nightly, into every single person that would be involved. I mean Zakk, Vinnie, whoever else would be involved. They would definitely have money put into their pocket.

That says something about these guys. If it does happen, it will not be for the love of money because they’ve already turned down a lot of money to not do it. And it also says something about Vinnie Paul’s character that he’s going to stand where he’s at. He’s been standing there for many a years and if he wants to look down from that mountain and say no, then that’s his prerogative. I’ve got a lot of respect for him for that, a lot of admiration for that man. If a reunion were to ever happen, you bet your ass that I’d hope and pray that I could be the opening act or that I could at least catch more than just one show.

And I know that Zakk would do his damndest, but he would pale in comparison because there’s only one Dimebag Darrell. You could say the same if anybody tried to go out with BLS and take Zakk’s place. If it was to ever happen, I would hope that if they needed a front man, they’d call me. Tell em’ I’ll take the job for half the money.

Where were you on December 8th of 2004 when you heard the news that Dimebag Darrell had been shot? What impact has it had on you and the band?

The night of I had lucked out and got two lesbians back to my room. So, I was taking care of these two pretty girls. Way too pretty to be in bed with me. The next day, I had arrived home, around noon, sometime after checkout at the hotel. I had walked in to go visit my mom. She greeted me at the front porch. She was crying and going through some grief. It saddened me. I was worried what’s going on and she told me what had happened with Dimebag.

Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell live at Castle Donington Monsters of Rock, United Kingdom, 1994. (Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)
Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell live at Castle Donington Monsters of Rock, United Kingdom, 1994. (Photo by Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)

It just hit me in such a strange way to where I remember noticing that my fists were both clenched, hard. The way they get like fixed to fight somebody. When I know I gotta’ whip somebody’s ass. It kind of freaked me out. I knew that it had hurt me inside and my mother didn’t know Dimebag. She didn’t know the music. She just heard me speak of the Abbott family with such high admiration and she knew that I was going to be hurting and wounded by it. So, I had to start immediately calm my mom and soothe her.

Dimebag2I did get the guys together soon after and we went and wrote some music just to make ourselves feel better. It’s a great loss, man. We miss that dude. It’s exactly why Pantera may never take the stage again because he’s irreplaceable.

For those reading this interview right now, what would be THC’s overall message to its loyal fan base?

We’re lucky. I don’t know, we have nearly 100 or over 100 chapters worldwide. We have some of the greatest fans on the planet. We don’t even refer to them as fans, we refer to them as our extended family. I hope that they have a family album at their house and somewhere is a picture of them with me and my big mug. So, to all of our fans out there, they know we come from Texas. They call us the hippies and all of our fans are the coalition.

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 As everyone out there that’s not a fan, if you want to join something that’s tribal, that’s very family oriented, this is something to be a part of. We have a cause called Hippie Hollow. Where people donate money whenever they’re in a good place and then whenever people are in a bad place, they can reach out to Hippie Hollow and get a little help.

There are always people that can help that are always there for the needy to help them. I didn’t have anything to do with it. The fans started it on their own and it’s a beautiful thing.   

In terms of THC’s unique brand of southern hard rock and heavy metal, what sonic elements and musical approach do you and the band believe equates to your signature sound & image?

You know, the fact that we’re as country as country can be. Just good ol’ country boys. At least I am. I’m heavily influenced by country music, especially Johnny Cash, Waylon and Willie, as I mentioned earlier. You have the great influence of the southern rock and roll, which simply comes through: The ZZ Top, The Lynard Skynard. You definitely get that vibe. And then we’re also that party band. You know, like that of Motley Crue.

We get everybody up and going at Rock on the Range the other day. We were on stage two. We had that place in an uproar, man. It was gorgeous and beautiful. It’s just a great thing that we can move people like that. I still like when it comes to the music that’s out there today. We’re not following that basic format and sound or what everyone else is doing sonically that’s radio-friendly. We’re totally the opposite and choosing our own path. Everyone else seems to be going down the same paved highway and we’re breaking off into the woods going down a red, dirt road.
Among all of the festivals such as Rock on the Range, Rocklahoma, River City Rockfest and we mentioned Rock Carnival as Twister Sister’s farewell show earlier. What are your thoughts on the ever-increasing amount of these festivals and are there any in particular you prefer over another to be a part of?


I’m glad the festival thing is catching on, you know? We’ve done festivals overseas in South America. We’ve played Brazil. In Brazil, it was millions of people, it was crazy. It was put on by the government and I can’t even tell you how many people were there. In Amsterdam, it was ridiculous. It’s great that the festivals are now catching on in the U.S. I’ve always wondered why there weren’t more of them and why it just didn’t happen. It’s great to see it happening and Rock on the Range has really introduced us to a lot of people, so we got to give them a lot of appreciation for that.

John Reese and Mayhem 2014 for taking us out. That’s really showcasing us on a premiere stage for a lot of people. But man, Rocklahoma’s the one where we were discovered. People found out who Texas Hippie Coalition was at Rocklahoma. I know when we played there, it was THC shot heard around the world. After that, there was major discovery and so we’ve got to tip our hat off to all 3, but definitely Rocklahoma for the long-term support. I know that we’ll be playing a role and a part in all of the festivals I’ve mentioned before. As far as Rock on the Range, I know we’ll be back there again. John Reese, I know that anything he does, he’ll be thinking about THC. JohnReese

In learning of the recent passing of Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister on December 28th 2015, what does THC think about Lemmy, the impact he’s had on hard rock, heavy metal and the legacy he’s left behind?

The great thing about Lemmy is that he really let the world know that you don’t have to be pretty to make it. One thing about all these great ones that we’ve lost here recently, it’s like all of a sudden, whoever’s pulling the heavens; whoever the lord is finally decided he wanted to hear some good music because he’s reached out and taken a lot of great ones from us. I know that they’re not rocking on heaven’s door, they’re in the living room rocking out, baby.

Now your formal birth name is James Richard Anderson, although you go by the stage name of “Big Dad Ritch.” Word has it that you claimed this name upon co-founding both the “Red Dirt Metal” genre and of course, Texas Hippie Coalition. Can you tell us more about the history and origin of the name?

In my home town, I had a bunch of friends who were into IHRA and NHRA Drag Racing. There were these guys who were called like Big Daddy this or Big Daddy that. I forget the exact names right now, but one day somebody said something like “Daddy.” I said, “Don’t call me Daddy, call me Dad” and after that they’d shout out, “Big Dad” and it just stuck. Everybody started calling me “Big Dad,” so whenever I took this on, I just started calling myself, “Big Dad Ritch.” I prefer to go by my other names, like “Lord of the Hippies,” “King of Texas,” that’s my favorite. You know, “Red River Red,” it’s just crazy how this thing has worked out. 

Considering that THC’s core-sound and style has been inspired by ZZ Top, Molly Hatchet and Pantera, what aspects of any or all three of these bands do you particularly appreciate and which elements have you and THC implemented into your sound?

It definitely comes back to attitude, right there. They all have attitude, they all have swagger, but the most important thing is they all have their own sound. They’re very identifiable. If you’re listening to the radio and ZZ Top comes on, you know that’s ZZ Top. Lynard Skynard comes on, you know that’s Lynard Skynard. There’s no mistaking Pantera for anyone. So, that’s all we want to do is we just want to make sure that whenever people hear us, they know that’s the band of outlaws, that’s THC, that’s Texas Hippie Coalition. That’s Red Dirt metal right there.

As your 5th official record, “Dark Side of Black” achieves a murky, groovier feel while not straying too far from THC‘s tried and true brand of rugged outlaw rock. “Dark Side of Black” was recorded at Boot Hill Studio in Corinth, TX and Valve Studios in Dallas, TX with producer Sterling Winfield (Pantera, Hellyeah, Damageplan). Tell us your thoughts and the overall experience during the recording of this album. What did you hope to achieve with the release of this record?

This is a different deal here. We had done everything the label had asked of us from the point of signing. We had worked with a great producer, Bob Marlette, who I absolutely love and I know I’ll work again with him someday whenever both of our schedules will allow. He was just one hell of a songwriter, great producer. We just kind of wanted to do it our way, this time.  So, about a year prior, I had met with the label exec, Tim Porter.

I just told him my thought plan for this album, which I wasn’t going to push any radio. I hadn’t had any thought plan about doing a lot of things that we had done on other albums. I just kind of wanted to pick my own producer. Stay in Texas if possible and do it my way. He agreed to it, which I know a lot of labels have their way, they probably would’ve thought I was crazy for even asking. But, he agreed to it.

He allowed to make it happen. I told him I wanted to work with Sterling Winfield. Sterline WInfieldI had wanted to work with Sterling for a long time. Me and Sterling had partied together out in California in Los Angeles at the NAMM Show one year. I just dug the dude. I wanted to work with him. I liked what he’d done sonically with the stuff he’d done with us. I gave him a holler and it just ended up happening.

We got it set up so we could get in there. We rushed everything. I told him I don’t want to sit around and live with songs for a long time. I don’t really want to go back and forth. If it’s raw and dirty, let’s keep it. If we can get the sound in its true form of us, let’s capture it. He did everything I asked of him and more. Whether I was picking a producer for an album or I was picking somebody to be on my dodgeball team, I would definitely go big Sterling.

And as far as “The Dark Side of Black” goes, we wanted to have a black album like Spinal Tap, Prince, Metallica. We wanted to be more than just Black Album. We wanted it to have a dark inside. That’s where the songs kind of dwell over into the darkness. If you listen to, “Villain,” he’s saying, I’ll be the villain, but I’m going to reveal to you that although I may not be a hero in your eyes, I’m not the Villain. The person who’s saying I’m the Villain is really the Villain.

This can even be a person that you perceive as the Hero. And in the end, it just comes to light that the guy I thought was the Hero was the Villain and the Villain is not even near a Villain. It’s just kind of that counseling to where sometimes from the darkest places comes the brightest light.

THC’s drummer Timmy Braun has made it known of his physical struggles while recording the album, having just recovered from a serious infection shortly beforehand. What was his mindset like during the recording process and what was he able to do or not do when laying down drum tracks?

He was a soldier. There wasn’t anything that he couldn’t do. He pushed himself through whatever pain he had endured, he endured it. I was on top of him like a drill sergeant, of course. A lot of tracks, I would push him harder, I would tell him I wanted him to hit it harder, but he was very happy to go right back in and do it again to make sure that he gave me what I was looking for.

THCDrummer

There were times where he was just pleased himself. He wanted to go ahead and move on and make sure he knocked it out. He never gave up. He’s a soldier. I know he was in a lot of excruciating pain. He could tell, he could see that it was good. He also knew I’d kill him if he didn’t (laughs).

Considering the success of “Dark Side of Black” achieving the #8 on the iTunes Rock Album chart & #5 on the Billboard Hard Music Chart, what kind level of chart success did the you and THC anticipate?

It’s flattering, first of all and humbling, second of all. A lot of people are out there digging what I’m doing and I’m happy that they’re happy cuz’ I’m happy. When it comes to writing and playing music, the first one you have to please is yourself. So, in trying to please yourself, a lot of times, you can lose not only other people’s interest, you can lose giving them that happiness, but for us to be able to do what we love, it’s an amazing thing. And #5 on the Billboard? I mean that’s crazy. That’s friggin’ awesome! I thought that was usually set aside for like ”The Voice” or Ádele.

Can you share a crazy, interesting or unique story pertaining to life on the road or in the studio?

Just the other day while we were out there on tour, the guys are rolling in a 15-passenger van pulling a big ol’ trailer and I’m rolling in my car down the highway. I had to get about 8-hours of sleep a night, so my boys can be back to 80-90% after singing every night. So, I can’t travel with them like they travel. We were in Poughkeepsie, NY and we had a show in Flint. So, I told them, you have to go through Cleveland to get to Flint because if you just go through Flint, you’re going to drive through Canada.

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Well, I told the tour manager, but then that night, there ended up being a different driver than usual. That driver drove them straight through Canada. When they got there, nobody had passports. They got them out, searched the car and everything. While all of this is going on, they’re going through total hell praying to god they don’t find the THC and turn them back around to the United States.

Meanwhile, I’m just in my bed just snoozing away, dreaming about pretty girls, you know? It’s like that every day on the road. Every single day, there’s something nutty that happens. Something crazy that goes down. It’s never a dull moment and if you go into this ballgame with just one game plan, you’ll lose. You’ve got to be able to change on the fly, baby.

What does the future hold for Texas Hippie Coalition?

The future holds rolling on down the road to the next show, baby. We’re the rockin’ rodeo. We’ve got to get on to the next town. More bulls to ride, more cowgirls to slide. It’s just mosie on down to the next down. We’re somewhere between rodeo and party man. We’re somewhere around in there. Onto the next show, baby! We just hope we keep getting these prestigious plays. We keep getting to play great shows. We’ve got Sturgis coming up this Fall, a lot of great things in front of us. We owe a lot of gratitude to the man upstairs because he’s truly blessing us. We’re just blessed! 

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  • dakotablue

    Can’t believe the Allman Bros weren’t mentioned as Southern rock icons. Secondarily, Doobies’ “Toulouse Street” album.