Dax Riggs album release
10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7
One Eyed Jacks, 615 Toulouse St., 569-8361; www.oneEyedjacks.net
Dax Riggs is the best frontman in Louisiana. That he's no longer in Louisiana, having recently relocated to Austin, is beside the point. Riggs' output since disbanding the 1990s sludge-metal forebear Acid Bath and short-lived spinoff Agents of Oblivion — which includes two albums as Deadboy & the Elephantmen and, with this week's release of Say Goodnight to the World (Fat Possum), two albums under his own name — leaves little doubt as to its birthplace. Haunted songs baptizing swampy blues riffs, full-moon howls drowning blasphemous, God-smearing lyrics — Riggs may be writing in Texas, but he remains the bayou's lone rock star.
Christianity isn't the only sacred cow slaughtered on Say Goodnight. While the Houma-bred singer still hears Satan and sleeps with witches, he also has grave dirt on his blue suede shoes and a druggy cover of "Heartbreak Hotel" that could've come from the darkest corner of the Doors. Stoning Elvis? Is Riggs insane? "That would be correct," he answers to the former.
But Riggs is not insane, and his graveyard jawing is no put-on or residual metal patina. It's a rebuke of his pious upbringing in Evansville, Ind., where his mother took him door-to-door as a Jehovah's Witness. "My whole life, I've kind of believed that the world is about to end," he says. "I don't really believe it anymore as far as a religious scenario goes. I used to think, 'What does a little religion hurt?' The reality of it is, the only gods anybody wants to worship are war gods. ... I believe we should worship what actually gives us life. Starting with the sun is not a bad idea. Creative energy, what you can see — that is a good thing."
His post-Acid Bath musical direction is fed by a more tangible influence: a move to south Louisiana with his father at age 12. Its origins reach back even farther, he says. "I actually, as a very young child, played a lot of hillbilly music. Sang along with my grandfather. I believe there's a thread of Appalachian vibe in my genetic makeup ... All this roots music of different kinds, not to mention a big dose of heavy metal and punk rock."
Say Goodnight represents both a continuation and a clean break for Riggs. Guitar-stenciled advance singles "No One Will Be a Stranger" and "Gravedirt on My Blue Suede Shoes" showcased the LP's harder side, but it's outnumbered by burning dirges: the Radiohead-trip "Like Moonlight," on which Riggs' falsetto becomes a ringer for a baritonal Thom Yorke; or the opening title track, a Carlos Castaneda dreamscape set to smoldering Black Keys blues. The new set got its first real workouts in two monthlong residencies, at Austin's Lambert's in May and at One Eyed Jacks in June. "We figured a lot of things out in that month," Riggs says of the latter. "It's a little more barbaric live."
Recorded in his living room with touring members Charley Siess (drums) and Kevin Fitzsimmons (bass), the album is the first collection Riggs has written without a band handle attached; solo debut We Sing of Only Blood or Love (2007) originally was conceived as a Deadboy project. On the eve of launching a two-month tour, Riggs' comments on the subject hint at a successor in the future.
"We definitely have a good vibe with this group of people. It really does feel like a band. To me it really doesn't matter whether it's a band name or it's my name. At the same time, it's more or less just the childish fun of coming up with a name and saying, 'This is what we are, this is who we are.' There's something to that, some kind of magical protection. I'm definitely interested in that."