By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
The Texas Hippie Coalition is one of the most exciting new bands to emerge on the rock scene in a long time. The Denison, Texas based band, consisted of lead vocalist Big Dad Ritch, bassist John Exall, guitarists Randy Cooper and Crawfish, and drummer Ryan Bennett. The Texas Hippie Coalition released their first major label Cd “Rollin” last summer. The band has wowed fans not only here in North America, but in Europe as well with their no non-sense kick ass style of outlaw-metal and intense live performances.
Recently, we caught up with Texas Hippie Coalition lead guitarist Randy Cooper to discuss the rise of the band. During our conversation, we also touched upon the adversity that Randy faced in 1991 when he was involved in a near fatal car crash. Not only did Randy overcome his injuries, but his limitations in his left hand eventually led him to developing a unique guitar tone.
Check the interview below to see what other topics we discussed and afterwards visit the Texas Hippie Coalition at www.thcoutlaw.com
RockMusicStar: Your first major label debut CD “Rollin”, which was released on July 6, 2010, is a very solid and hard hitting release. You’ve been touring non-stop since the release of the CD. How satisfied are you with where the band is at this point?
Randy Cooper: We have big expectations and plans. When it first came out, it dropped like a bomb. We were out there doing the leg work, touring and playing. But everything we want, we want it right now and quick. But, we are learning the road of patience. Travelling out to places like Buffalo, NY and getting discovered by new people every day. We are getting a lot of new fans every day, like you. I think that if we can get on a major tour that will really help us in getting to the masses.
RMS: Before the “Rollin” Cd you had an indie release called “Pride of Texas.” How did the band’s sound change between releases?
RC: I call it a double record, because all the material from both of those Cd’s was written at the same time. When we got the band together we penned about 23 songs right away and none of them were throw away songs. They’re a few that didn’t make the cut, but we still have them in the bag and could be used in the future. “Jesus Freak” didn’t make the indie release, but then we pulled it back up and nailed it again and it’s now one of the stronger tracks on the “Rollin” record. But yeah, all of the material was written during the same time period.
RMS: One of the elements that really set Texas Hippie Coalition apart is your crushing and unique guitar tone. How did you develop it?
RC: Well, thank you. I’ve been playing the same rig, the same guitar since 1988 and the same head since 89. Although, I just got a new guitar from the custom shop, and I have tried other amps, I just keep going back to my original gear. But I’m such a fan and I’m so guitar oriented. When I hear a band, I hear the guitar. When I learned how to play guitar, I learned how to play Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Metallica. Van Halen was my favorite, I loved Randy Rhodes. Dimebag was also a favorite of mine. I gathered little pieces from all of them, but I think my sound is unique because I was involved in a car wreck and broke my neck. I was a total quadriplegic. I was in a wheel chair for a year; I had to learn to walk again.
RMS: Wow, really?
RC: Yeah, this was in 1991, it happened in Oklahoma City. When I got my legs back and my right arm, I still couldn’t move my left arm. So, I went through another whole year of rehab, just trying to retrain my hand and arm to move and work. I didn’t get any feeling in my hand. I got one finger, the index finger on my right hand which I can feel with, but with the others the sensation is just not right. So when I go to bend strings, most guys go up to get that little vibrato, I have to bend down. So, I just had to figure out ways to get around things that I couldn’t do normally. So I had a little bit of an unorthodox way of playing because of the car crash. I’m still not at 100% with my arm and hand, but its close, maybe 85% of where it should be. It still takes work to get my pinky up there, it’s just not natural. I really have to concentrate to get it to work. But, in a weird way if I didn’t break my neck, I don’t think that I would be able to play this way.
RMS: That is similar to what happen with Tony Iommi. His unique sound was created as a result of his accident with his finger tips.
RC: Yeah, your body just adapts. I just get a delayed reaction when I pick up something hot or cold. It’s still not perfect. So, I really have to rely on my ear and I know the fret broad really well.
RMS: That’s an amazing story.
RC: Yeah, I wanted to mention that because I really feel that my unique sound is a direct cause of me just having to play things differently.
RMS: Yeah… Now you had the well know veteran producer David Pratter come in and produce your Cd. How did you hook up with him?
RC: We meet him when we were demoing songs in the studio. We kind of ran into him down there in Dallas, TX. He was doing a session and we were in the same studio. We came in late at night and he was wrapping up his work. He got the hear some of our material and he instantly liked what he heard and pulled us to the side and asked if we were happy with what we were getting by producing ourselves. We struck up a relationship with him and brought him up to our hometown, Denison, TX. He started going over the material and even rearranged some. We started demoing again and really liked what we heard. But, he produced both records.
RMS: After “Pride of Texas” was put together, what was the next step to getting signed?
RC: Well, we shopped around “Pride of Texas” to labels and one of the first places I took it to was Max Baker in Oklahoma City. He is the person responsible for putting together some of the biggest show in our area. I took me 30 minutes before I could finally get him to finally listen to our Cd, but they liked my go get them attitude and the fact that I drove all the way up to Oklahoma City to get them to listen to it. We listened to it for a few hours and after I walked out of there, they were calling me on the phone and said that they wanted to manage the band. So, Brad White, who is partners with Max, was our main manager for three years. Brad was also the man responsible for Rocklahoma.
But, we have new management now with Derrick Schullman and Derrick Oliver. Schullman is our new manger. These two are Ceo’s of record labels…like basically the whole roster of Roadrunner records. Derek Schumer who is the one responsible for getting Pantera signed. He has a long history. But he is really interested in the band. We have some great things lined up. We are going to NAMM this week, then off to Europe for two weeks. We come back at the end of the month and then we should be able to get off a few good national rounds with some big acts. We are ready for everyone on our team to roll up there sleeves and get to work.
RMS: Yeah, I think that’s what it’s going to take. If you can get a good opening slot, that will break the band to the masses.
RC: There is a lot on the table right now. As soon as we nail something down, we will get it out there. But we are very excited and I agree with you. We see how this band is going and we really feel that with one good round with a national will really help break us.
RMS: It must be pretty exciting at this point to be on the brink of making it huge. The band worked very hard and you’re very close to seeing it all pay off, it’s just a matter of time.
RC: Yeah, it really is. We worked so hard at this, me and John and Big Dad Rich. We all went to school together and I remember when Motley Crue “Shout at the Devil” came out and me and Big Dad were drawing pictures of it in class. Talking about how it was going to be us someday. We didn’t know it was going to take over twenty years to get here, but here we are. It’s been a long ride, but it’s worth it. It just wasn’t meant to be for us 10-15 years ago. The time is right, right now.
RMS: I couldn’t agree more.
For more on Texas Hippie Coalition, including tour information, check out www.thcoutlaw.com