Alabama’s rock ‘n’ roller punks out across the South

Spinnaker

Ryan Thompson, Features Editor

Dan Sartain had plans to visit Dee Dee Ramone’s headstone and the set of “Rebel Without a Cause” in Los Angeles when he spoke on the phone with the Spinnaker Oct. 6.

He had only been to Los Angeles for a couple of days, and rain had stopped him from venturing out the previous day, he said.

Sartain, a rock ‘n’ roller from Birmingham, Ala., dreams of living in Los Angeles. He said he hates the South.

“Musically, it made everything f—–’ harder,” he said.

Sartain, 30, didn’t grow up in a twangy, off-road Birmingham mobile home, in an area populated with Southern blues influences. No, he said he grew up in the suburbs like everyone else.

No, Sartain doesn’t even have any musical influences from the South, he said. Instead, he’s a fan of Canada-born Neil Young. But, of course, Southern lifestyle influences his life in some ways.

“I know how to fry green tomatoes,” he said.

He said he knows more about cars than he would, if he hadn’t grown up in Alabama.

But he stays in Birmingham, he said, because things are cheaper in the South.

Sartain plays against-the-establishment rock ‘n’ roll. The kind of rock ‘n’ roll that would fit a 60s-themed party and that everyone unfamiliar with his music would assume it was contemporaneous with that decade.

Songs such as “Bohemian Grove” sway to the surfier side, which fits Sartain’s story. Playing around the South didn’t land Sartain anything until a representative from San Diego-based Swami Records came to the South. Sartain handed him one of his live records, and Swami Records, as he said, rescued him from the South.

Now in a for-the-most-part out-of-the-South world, Sartain listens to and tours with rockers Two Tears, who he calls his New York homies.

“It’s fun to travel with someone you like,” he said.

He also enjoys the Spits and fellow Swami-ers Beehive and the Barracudas.

He said he’s looking forward to getting more money once his new record, “Too Tough to Live,” comes out.

And while many listen to music while making meals, driving or exercising, Sartain said the bathtub creates the best music-listening situation. He said punk band Fear’s “The Record” and The Go-Gos “Return to the Valley of the Go-Gos” top all other records as best bathtub music.

Even though music tastemakers NME magazine like his punk affinity and rockabilly stylings enough to call him a rock ‘n’ roll legend, Sartain passes those compliments off as flattering.

“There’s lots of dudes doin’ s— better than me,” he said.

Email Ryan Thompson at [email protected]

WANNA HEAR MORE?
Dan Sartain will open up for Reverend Horton Heat and Supersuckers at Freebird Live Oct. 17. Tickets for the 8 p.m. cost $17 and are available at freebirdlive.com.