Formed in 1991 after David Lowery left cult icons Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker’s core consists of David and ace guitarist Johnny Hickman. The band’s relentless touring and sparkling wit have forged a guitar-driven style that incorporates blues and country with punk and rock - most recently documented in the smart and invigorating, “Sunrise in the Land of Milk and Honey.” Playing the Wisconsin State Fair August 14th, Johnny was kind enough to answer a few queries via email.
MI: Sharp writing and solid guitar work have always been stock in trade for Cracker who are your six string idols and literary heroes?
JH: Thank you. Being a songwriter as well, I have to say that I can’t stand most guitar players. Most seem more concerned with showing off than with what works for the song. The most enduring guitar riffs have 3 or 4 notes. I like guitarists who sound a little disturbed like Joey Santiago from The Pixies or Jeff Beck. As far as literary heroes go, I’m attracted to a little madness there as well. Kurt Vonnegut, Cormac McCarthy. David is fond of Thomas Pynchon and McCarthy.
MI: Cracker is like an onion many layers sending different signals till you don’t know whether to smack your lips or weep openly. Does it ever get old poking fun at society or playing that rootsy rock and roll twang?
JH: The bands we have always liked aren’t one-dimensional, aren’t stuck in one lame musical sub-genre or afraid to be a little experimental. We try to take the same approach. I think that’s part of why we have survived so long. Kick your own ass and move forward or get out. Also, it’s never NOT enjoyable to poke fun at society, individuals or yourselves for that matter. It’s cathartic. As far as the rootsy twang thing goes, that’s only a small part of what we do and if you notice, we are often poking fun of THAT when we do it.
MI: Do you ever see the day when one of your songs is adopted by a political party that totally misunderstands your subversive intent?
JH: Sure. It’s happened before. At one point we heard that Rush Limbaugh was using “Teen Angst” on his radio show. Now see, the way our minds work we took a lot of glee from the fact that it went right over his head. As David’s British cousin John once said; “You lot are living dangerously”. To which David asked; “What do you mean? The travel? The lifestyle? “No,” his cousin said, “Using irony in America.”
MI: Is there anything your fans would be surprised to find out about you?
JH: Most Cracker fans as well as our peers know me as a pretty affable guy. I am, but there’s the other side of me to which my band-mates can attest to, albeit somewhat embarrassingly. That other Johnny was once arrested for putting a concert security goon in the hospital. He started it and got what was coming to him believe me. They also might be surprised to know that I used to work in a mortuary. I’m writing a song about that. Working on the dead, not working over the security goon mind you.
MM: Excuse me for asking, but do you have a favorite cracker?
JH: You are excused. No favorite cracker although I like firecrackers, especially M80s. Not knowing how powerful they were I once blew up a sink with one in high school. Sorry, I only look like a nice guy.(2510) Page Views Cracker Online:
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CD: Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey Record Label: 429 Records
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