Interviews Molly Hatchet

MOLLY HATCHET  by Todd Smith The Cutting Edge
Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge
SPV Records
an interview with Bobby Ingram

“Molly Hatchets has always been the toughest of the southern rock bands. I have been kicked, beat up, dragged over the coals – what more could you do to me? Bring it on.”
~ Bobby Ingram

With a career spanning nearly thirty years and 14-records, four of which going platinum plus, Molly Hatchet deserve to be called warriors. Organized in Jacksonville, Florida around 1976 by a neighborhood gang of guitar players, the band struck gold with their self titled debut two years later. Though the six-piece were categorized as a southern rock band they prided themselves on being more metal than rock. Prior to the fateful plane crash that nearly destroyed Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ronnie Van Zant was quoted as saying, “Molly Hatchet is the band I wish Skynyrd could be.”

Today Molly Hatchet is run by Bobby Ingram (guitar) who has been in the band since 1979. Originally a member of the Danny Joe Brown Band, Ingram took over the helm when none of the originals cared to keep the moniker alive. “I’m the only one that’s never quit the group,” says Ingram over the phone with TCE. “I have a strong conviction for this group. There is a fan-base world wide that appreciates this band to this day. I love these songs. I couldn’t just let that all fade away.”

Warriors of the Rainbow Bridge is the groups latest release. It represents not only the bands dedication to the road but the tragic memory of Ingram wife, Stephanie, who unexpectedly passed way in April 2004. “When I started writing this album (February 2004), I locked myself in the house and focused on what fans had been saying for years,” says Ingram. “Song’s like ‘Son of the South’ – with the chorus ‘Hell, Yeah Son of the South’ was something we had been using for years, we’d just never written a song with it. I wrote for a month solid with Stephanie by my side. In preproduction she really liked the song ‘Rainbow Bridge.’ Who knew it would become a dedication to her.”

Ingram briefly pauses. “Both my parents died a few years back, I never had children so when Stephanie passed away midway through the recording of this record I learned what being alone, really alone was all about. After I buried her, I buried myself into the music. It was all I had left. What she did for the group behind the scenes that nobody new - the countless hours she spent on the phone promoting the band - sorting out the publishing, coordinating interviews…” His voice trails off. “It hasn’t made me bitter because God has a time for everybody. But it made me acutely aware of how important family is. Phil (McCormack, vocalist) did a great job translating my feelings. So Rainbow Bridge took on a different life after that.”

Though the song closes the record it also opens hearts and minds to the spirit of Molly Hatchet in 2005 - a relentless bar band with three guitars in tow ready to rewrite history. Says Ingram, “Yeah, some compare us to The Outlaws or Skynyrd but we have built our own sound and are proud of what we do. We are a hard rock band from the south. That makes us different. You’ve got to see how they go nuts for us in Europe. During the lean years Europe gave us a home and we’ve never forgotten that. Prior to SPV we were signed with CBS and Capitol which only exported overseas. I was able to take the band and market it so it became a global attraction. It wasn’t strictly an American entity anymore.

“The Europeans are really devoted to us. Their not trendy – so to speak. We recorded Locked and Loaded (SPV, 2003) over there just to show how important the European audience is to us. They know the songs - the words and they singing right along side us. Some don’t even know English. We feel so blessed to be welcomed and embraced into their hard rock community.”

On the writing of the album Ingram prides himself on keeping it simple but with punch and visceral impact. “I sat in my house for three days playing guitar with a little mico recorder set up. I didn’t’ answer the phone – only stopped to eat and sleep. I played for 12-16 hours a day. I woke up the fourth day, went into preproduction for five days then went directly from preproduction to start recording the album. It was that spontaneous. I live life, listen to people, hear their struggles and triumphs. I try to capture that feeling the only way I know how - keeping it fresh and spontaneous. I don’t want it sterile, over produced or without soul.”

The songs that are featured on Rainbow Bridge are what Ingram considers the best of the best. “I told the engineer after we were done recording that I had given everything I could possibly give to an album. Now it was his turn.” The exhilaration can be heard in the raw blues of “Roadhouse Boogie” or the southern swag in “Moonlight Dancin’ On The Bayou.” There is also the catchy hook in “Get In The Game” and “Flames Are Burning.” Claims Ingram, “Each one of the songs have a lot of meaning to them. I wanted them to say something. Even the song ‘Rainbow Bridge’ has this kind of Layla feel to it, lots of guitars and emotion.”

Take a look at any of Molly Hatchet’s album cover and you will see a band keen to promote a warrior image. “It’s sticking by your guns,” says Ingram. “We promote what we believe in and we believe in ourselves. In Europe, especially in Scandinavia they do look at that warrior image as a positive, a role model. This record we recorded in Germany on the top of a mountain with the wind and snow blowing. It created this great vibe when I was recording my leads. There were times I felt like that warrior on the cover.”

A long line of esteemed illustrators have made their mark under the Molly Hatchet logo including Frank Frazetta, Boris Vallejo and Ezra Tucker. The last five albums have been illustrated by Paul Raymond Gregory from London, England. Having done art for The Lord of the Rings, Ingram felt a personal connection with Rainbow Bridge. “Paul and I collaborate a lot,” says Ingram. “All our covers tell a story but with Paul we have real communication. He will ask me a couple question, and what the concept of the record will be. We exchange ideas and then he’s off and running. Every time he delivers a cover I consider them hand-painted masterpieces.”

2005 has been a hard year for southern rock in general. Danny Joe Brown original singer for Molly Hatchet died in March of diabetes complicated by phonmopniea. Jackson Spires, drummer for legendary band Blackfoot died suddenly from an anyrism. Says Ingram, “I remember giving Danny his first singing job - I handed him the mic for the first time. Years later I played on his solo record. I remember the rainy Sunday night he came knocking on my door when he quite Molly Hatchet and wanted me to help him form the Danny Joe Brown Band. I miss him like a brother.”

Fans sense Ingram’s dedication to the preservation of the band. They remember when he was part of the original line up with Danny Joe Brown, Duane, Bruce, Dave Hlubek’s who incidentally is back in the band. “I hired Dave back six months ago,” says Ingram. “I had a massive heart attack three years ago – almost died on the road. I had a 14-hour heart attack. I dropped 100lbs and now I feel 21-years old again. I wanted Dave to be a part of our rejuvenation. Things have turned around for the group so much since we did Devils Canyon (SPV, 1996). It really helped when I signed a global deal with SPV ten years ago.

“This record feels fresh to me. It’s tight on the low end, it’s got guitars everywhere. ‘Get In The Game,’ ‘Son of the South’ and ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ go over extremely well live. People are singing the chorus by the second verse and the occasional tear will show up when we close the show with ‘Rainbow Bridge.’ We did the first leg of this tour in Europe and filmed a good part of it for a DVD we hope to have out by Christmas. It’s going to be part of a retrospective on the band with narration by Charlie Daniels. We really feel strongly about this album – maybe even more than any record since Devils Canyon. It has the energy and presence of a young innocent group - like we have something to prove.

Molly Hatchet, SPV Records
by Todd Smith The Cutting Edge