- Bob Log III phone home: The extraterrestrial of the blues puts on the suit and sweats.
Bob Log III is a one-man blues explosion who specializes in raucous Delta twang played through cheesy pawn-shop amps. He filters this devil's music through a primitive rock sensibility and accompanies it by singing into a telephone receiver affixed to a motorcycle helmet, which he always wears with the visor down. Log completes this ensemble with a resplendent Knievelesque homemade jumpsuit, with little mirrors glued down the sides of the legs and arms.
This costume, eye-catching as it is, is just a speck of space dust in the cosmos of weirdness that is Bob Log III. Talking on a cell phone from a rented Blazer on the road to Vancouver, Log says his stage show has its origins in Chuck Berry's duck-walking theatrics and a certain Australian hard rock band with a schoolboy-uniformed guitarist. "Everybody has to do something now; you can't just sit there and play," Log explains. "That's not rock and roll anymore. I gotta put on the suit and sweat. I grew up listening to AC/DC. It pretty much ruined me. Funny suit, lots of sweat."
You won't find any Bob Dylan or John Prine lyrical philosophizing in the zany R-rated content of his songs. It's beside the point anyway, as Log's live vocals often come spewing out of his helmet as garbled as a transmission from outer space.
That hasn't stopped another singer with indecipherable lyrics from becoming a big fan. During a recent interview with Time Out London, Tom Waits did a little Log-rolling on behalf of the weird Arizonan, who he says is something of a soul mate. "It's just the strangest stuff you've ever heard," Waits said of Log. "You don't understand one word he's saying. I like people who glue macaroni to a piece of cardboard and paint it gold. That's what I aspire to, basically." For as bent as Log's records are, though, his heated slide guitar playing and stripped-down blues are infectious, ass-quakin', and oddly appealing in all their eccentric earnest.
Log records for Fat Possum, a Mississippi label with a roster of great, decadent blues players such as R.L. Burnside, T-Model Ford, and Akron's Black Keys. These practitioners are known for the gutbucket style of northern Mississippi blues that provides the soundtrack to tiny rural juke joints, where the focus is on keeping the crowd drinking and the butts wiggling. Log's live performances do both of those things, but his blues also has a punk energy and edge more akin to Detroit's Bantam Rooster and Alabama's Immortal Lee County Killers.
Log says the early blues masters were punks in their own way. "I want to remind people that when Robert Johnson or Charlie Patton was playing in a tiny little dive bar, it wasn't a bunch of people sitting around drinking coffee, wearing berets, listening to a Fender Stratocaster with perfect tone," he says. "It was a beat-up old acoustic guitar, people kicking their tables over, spilling their drinks, and possibly putting a boob in the scotch."
A boob in the scotch? Here we enter the topic of mammalian protuberances, one of Log's favorite talking points. Granted, on his debut, School Bus, it was booty that held his fascination, as odes such as "The Land of a Thousand Swirling Asses" and "Pig Tail Swing" attest. However, his second record, Trike, found Log moving northward on the female anatomy to the area that still fascinates him. Among Trike's highlights were such titty ditties as "Booby Trap" and "Clap Your Tits," which featured a pair of "professional women" putting their breasts to use as a rhythm section. "Boob Scotch" continues the theme on his current CD, Log Bomb, which also finds him exploring horniness in more general terms on the songs "Drunk Stripper" and "F*hole Parade."
But we digress. "Boob Scotch" is, as you might expect, a lesson in mixology, but also much more than that. The BS recipe calls for a woman to dip her breast into a glass of scotch and then give it up to Log. "I've had a boob scotch every single night [on this tour], except in Tacoma," Log says with pride. "Everywhere I've been, somebody has put a tit in my drink. That's the song I wrote and the whole idea of the tour; this is the Boob Scotch Tour. That's my reason to wake up."
Before making a living intermingling breasts and the blues, Log was once half of the duo Doo Rag with percussionist Thomas Malling. When Malling quit in the middle of a tour, Log finished the dates as a solo act. The helmet dates back to his first gig alone. He didn't have a drummer and didn't know what the hell he'd do, so he hid behind the helmet and kicked his guitar case for rhythm. "It seemed to work OK, so I did it the next day," Log explains.
To hear Log tell it, he's a quintet by himself. Onstage, he introduces his band as "left foot" on cymbals, "right foot" on bass drum, "left hand" on picking, and "right hand" on strumming. In the audience-participation segment of the show, he augments this lineup by inviting women to sit on his knees, while he rips out his distorted licks and screams his rubber-room take on the blues into his telephone mic.
The contagious energy of Log's music translates across international borders. Japan, where he records for Sony, has gone whole hog for Log. He's toured the country over a dozen times and keeps up an additional website in Japanese. It's about the lyrics, you see; few Japanese care that they can't understand what he's saying. "I wouldn't say my band -- me -- centers on the lyrics," he says in an epic understatement. "I'm all rhythm and ass-shakin', no matter what's going on. You can tell what's going on without having to study the words. It's music to shake your ass to and smile so much that your face hurts."