"I don't know who god is, I ain't never seen him. I only ever seen pictures
of Jesus and he looks like a fucking Swedish guy. He ain't a white guy for
sure, he's a safari if he's anything. But, I've seen Elvis plenty of times
and I know he was real. And I know he's still here."
Words of wisdom handed down from Alabama 3's Very Reverend Love of the first
Presleyterian Church of the UK, at our spiritual meeting in the RTE canteen,
the day after their sold-out sermon in the Olympia theatre, as they prepare
themselves for an appearance on Kenny Live (an Irish TV programme).
Alabama 3, they're not from Alabama and there's more than 3 of them. However,
there is method to the madness of their name.
"It's a kinda 2 sided tribute thing. On one side things like the Birmingham 6
and the Guildford 4, the other 5 blind boys from Alabama. Sorta like a
political prisoners gospel singing group."
According to their biog, the Rev, the band's leader, recruited the band from a
drug rehab clinic in Brixton, England on "a day of miracles, signs and portents.
A day on which birds sang, wild dogs stopped their howling and listened to the
birds." An interesting story, but is it true?
"It's horse pucky for a start. I wrote that press release because I was just
sick of opening up NME and Melody Maker, reading these interviews with these
people who just talk about the amount of drugs they ingested. So, I thought,
bugger it, lets do the druggy thing properly. I'll say I fished ye (the band)
out of rehab on it (the press release), and what happens - people take this
literally now. If you look at it, D. Wayne is a seven foot tall, naked golden
skinned man with a splendid purple afro. You'd get fucking arrested walking
about like that for a start."
However, during the first days of the band, they only had two numbers for a 45
minute set. "We had to do some pantomime on stage." This is where the naked
golden skinned man originates. The Rev used to get a gold sequined g-string
and shove his socks down the front. Then he'd paint himself gold and put on
"It wasn't purple, but the others used to put purple day-glo paint on it. This
used to fucking run into my eyes when I was doing the gigs, it was bloody
Surprisingly, these gigs didn't happen on their home turf of England, but
while touring places like Milan, Genoa and Turin. So, by the time they
returned home, "we had got it together and we had like six numbers by the time
we played in England."
The band released their first single "Ain't Goin' to Goa" earlier this year,
the band spent a lot of time working on their debut album "Exile on Coldharbour
Lane", which has just been released.
"The music is the same as we do on stage, but obviously it's not the same
kinda vibe thing, cause in the theatre it's like a big party. Two German guys
said to me that our music is listenable and danceable, which is the best
compliment anyone can pay it, really."
The band themselves describe their music as "New outlaw acid country" and they
proved their eclecticism when they released a version of country(-ish) singer
John Prine's "Speed to the Sound of Loneliness" (made famous by Nancy Griffith).
Prine himself played the song with the band at the Galway festival this summer.
Alabama 3 are described as a great live band, so they find it difficult to
capture the live feel on disc. At the same time it is difficult to make the
same sounds on stage as they can in studio. The live scene for them only
really took off for them in September, when they played with the Levellers.
"That was the first time we took out the sequencers, mixers, etc. I mean,
there are up to 27 different sequences on "Hypo Full of Love", but we still
have differentials on stage that we have to work out."
The band have been compared to Black Grape, but the Rev sees differences
between the two bands.
"Aye, a lot of people talk about the Black Grape thing. It's the same kinda
grooves, init, but they don't do the sequencing stuff, and they're a
production like group."
He prefers to point out their American influences - "..people like Terry
Allen, Robert Earl King, Texas country as opposed to Nashville. We're not
into that polycentric red-neck shite. I mean, their politics are fucking
right up their arse."
To actually see Alabama 3 live and meet them for real, you could mistakenly
think that, well, maybe they are straight out of rehab. Have they been saved,
are they now a post-narcotic experience?
"We're definitely post-ecstacy. I don't know about narcotic, but definitely
While at their gig in the Olympia Theatre one thing I could sense was the
togetherness of the band, the Reverend at the head of his strange family, the
Spiritual leader, the band as his children, his apostles and us, the crowd,
disciples, begging to be converted and hanging on his every word.
"We try to work them up a bit and there are loads of polarities in the set. I
mean, one minute I'm going on about having everyone divest themselves of
material wealth and deliver unto me, and then the next minute we're talking
about Mao (Chinese revolutionary leader), and the next we're talking about
So, having a 'Reverend' in the band means religious connotations follow them
wherever they go, but are they actually religious? Can we take the
Presleyterian Church seriously?
"Well, how religious is religious? I mean, if you're having a side-swipe at
established religion, then I suppose that somewhere it gets to a point where a
person has some sort of spiritual longings. It's a kinda soul searching thing
init! Ours is the first Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine UK, which is
the first established not in the US and yeah, it's taken fuckin' seriously.
We've got academics vying for research money in the States as we speak, to
write books on the subject. I mean, I've got 3 books by American academics
back home. We get lots of mail and e-mails from people wanting to join."
Religion and politics, as people in the know say, go hand in hand. So what did
the Reverend think about our own Dana running for the Irish presidency?
"Incredible, I mean, that is the ultimate act of fucking sanctimonious po-faced
egocentrism to think that you can actually get yourself into a position as a
pop singer where you can govern fucking millions of people's affairs, or you
have a massive say in governing their affairs on behalf of those you
administrate for, which is the big companies. 'Cause at the end of the day,
all they want to be is fucking civil servants on behalf of corporate power. I
don't really know about Dana, cause she's just a loopy away bit, isn't she?"
Obviously a man with moderate views. But it takes all kinds of everything to
make a political system, what about the point of view that Dana represents?
"That's rising fundamentalism. I think, as things become worse for people,
they tend to become reactionary, they don't become pro-active. It's just the
way things are. I think you see that by people turning to these really
ridiculous beliefs. Take for example Mormonism, I mean anybody that believes
that Jesus went to America in a fucking submarine is nuts. I don't give a
fuck who they are - that's mental."
So D Wayne leaves, destined to travel many paths, spreading the good word of
the King and trying to bring everyone together with the power of love and
music. If you embrace this power through him .... you'll get high. To finish,
a moment of divinity from the Rev:
"There ain't nothing worse than some fool lying on some third world beach in
spandex psychedelic trousers, smokin' damn dope, pretending he's getting
consciousness expansion. I want consciousness expansion, I go down to my
local tabernacle, and SING!"
by Greg Hughes