November , 1979
By David Huff
The hatchet's finally falling in Molly's favor
Their music a hard-driving, pulsating, rock n' roll. The presence of this group onstage is as awesome as the portrait of the axe-wedding warrior that graces the cover of their latest album. And the name of this group is as intriguing as the music they play -- Molly Hatchet.
With roots in Jacksonville, Florida, it has taken Molly Hatchet a long time to reach the heights they've climbed so far. Weathering the long process of personnel changes, the nucleus of Hatchett is centered around Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland and Duane Roland on lead guitars; Banner Thomas, bass; Bruce Crump, drums and Danny Joe Brown, lead vocals.
"When we first got together. I had no idea that it would stem to this at all," said Bruce Crump, about the entire Molly Hatchet experience.
I am amazed with what this group does, and that is putting it mildly. Amazed. That is an understatement, really. It is quite amazing when I think of all the bands that are out there. There are so many bands that are so good, you know, and so talented, that don't get some of the chances that even we've gotten. Ours compared to others are not even as good, and there are a lot of bands that are even doing much better than us.
"When I think of all the bands that just don't get it -- there are so many that are struggling -- and just after a while, they say, 'Well. I can't do it anymore.' They give up, break up, and everybody goes their separate ways or whatever. It is really sad. When I think of that. I really think of how lucky we are."
The group was founded in 1971 by Hlubeck and Holland. Over the next five years, the group kept changing with different musicians trickling in and out until the band finally evolved into the present Molly Hatchet.
The group has been together in its present state for four years. Despite the adjustments that the band has had to go through, they found that the key to their success didn't rest with outside influences, but the gut feeling they carried inside of them.
"You know, what distinguishes Molly Hatchet from every other group is determination, because we didn't give up," explained Crump.
"There were a lot of times where we could have -- and almost did – but something told us when we got together, we are such a family. We live together all the time on the road and everything. We had to look at each other and say, 'Man, we are all we got and we can't blow it.' It was that determination,' feel, that kept it going."
Crump says there is a sort of mysticism about the band because of its name, Molly Hatchet. And as for the origin of the name, no one knows really how it came about. One day in rehearsal, the name just popped up.
"There was a guy who sang in the band about eight years ago who's not around anymore," Crump said, "who came up with the name back at that time, the band was looking for names, and he just came to rehearsal one day and said, how about Molly Hatchet?' and everybody went, 'What? You have to be out of your mind'"
"But, for some reason it stuck. We really don't know where it came from actually. We don't know if he made it up or what. If there is such a person, that's for your own personal thing, if you want to look it up in the encyclopedia or something and see if there really was. I don't know."
One of the most fascinating things that surrounds Molly Hatchet are the sensational album covers they use by the renowned science fiction artist, Frank Frazetta.
Crump says that the band feels that Frazetta, who created the image of Conan the Barbarian, and, Edgar Rice Burroughs science fiction heroes with his spectacular drawings, also captures that same image with Molly Hatchet.
"It was everybody in the band's idea to use a Frazetta picture," said Crump. "Epic submitted an album cover for our first album. It was a drawing of some guy with headphones on getting his head cut off. We looked at it and said that will never do."
"We had all seen Frazetta's work somewhere down the line at different times and we knew of his work. He has about four or five books out, so we just went and bought a couple of them. We were thumbing through them and we saw the "DEATH DEALER," which was the one that we used for the first album cover.
"When it came time to have the second album cover, we just went and got another one of his books, and the one that we have now happened to be on the cover of one of them. It is called "DARK KINGDOM." and it seemed appropriate. So, we called Frazetta again and asked if we could use another one, and he said, 'No problem, take it away.'"
"His paintings that we use for album covers capture what Molly Hatchet is because we have that kind of image coming from the South. I mean, none of us ever had things easy, sort of a silver spoon as they say, on a silver platter. We have all had broken families and stuff like that. We have had to work for what we got, and living on the street like we have, you pick up things you wouldn't normally pick up. Sometimes it might mean having to fight for yourselves it you have to. But yah, it portrays what we are all about, with the hatchet-and everything. We have three guitarists and the nickname for a guitar is an axe, so this cover was appropriate."
There is one image that does bother the members of Molly Hatchet and that is that they are lust strictly a southern rock band.
"In this business of rock n' roll, we are trying to get away from the thing of just being a southern rock n' roll band," continued Crump. “With the second record, we are trying to get away from that. The second album has a little bit more of rock n' roll in it, hopefully."
"Some people have been saying we are a rock n' roll band that just happens to be from the South. We are proud of Florida and everything. We are proud of where we are from, but we are not just a southern rock n' roll band. There is a little bit more to that in our music, I think. We think."
"We have already been categorized and hopefully we will get away from it, Okay, we can't deny our roots. The influence is definitely there. We are from the South, but we are a rock n' roll band. We are not just strictly a southern blues, country rock band. We are a little bit beyond that, We have a lot of northern and British influences also."
It took Molly Hatchet over a year to put out their second LP, Flirtin’ with Disaster. The reason …? Well....
"The first one didn't take off," recalls Crump. "It didn't just skyrocket straight to the top. It never did. But, it was a gradual thing. I mean, we worked it, and the longer that we stayed out on the road, the album would keep doing just a little bit better. So we thought, 'Well, if it is taking this gradual climb, you know, why don't we keep working. Keep working,' which is what we did."
Molly Hatchet, the debut album, eventually was certified gold, it was quite an accomplishment for a group of musicians that had never been in a studio before. Crump feels the second album showed Hatchet's maturity.
"I would say that this album has more maturity and more of a relaxed feel because with the first album, none of us had ever been in the studio before, It was everybody's first effort," said Crump.
"Nobody had ever been in a band that had made a record. Nobody had ever played in a studio or anything, so this time, everything was so much more relaxed. We had been in before and we were also back in the studio with Tom Warman again, and everybody works really well with Tom.
"Tom had never heard us before we cut the first album, so this time, he knew what we needed. You see we are a live band."
"That is the whole thing about making a record for us, so that we can go out and play without a record. You can't go out and tour cities every night."
"An album doesn't do us injustice. But it is really hard for people to relate to an album. As opposed to seeing you live, because they can see that, right? But when you take the average person and you put an album on the turntable, they don't see the studio, they don't see how it all comes together. They are just hearing it on the plastic. They can't see it unless they have seen you. Which makes it all worthwhile when they do see you. Then, they can put it on and go, 'Yah, I can remember them playing that,' That is what they relate to after. They see you and they put the album on."
One thing that a band is always very conscious of when they are on stage is the crowd reactions to the music they are playing.
"You know, people have their own tastes," said Crump. "I don't know. It is kind of a rough question, really, because people are different everywhere. If there are two acts on a show, there is going to be a certain group of people that are there just to see one group. They don't give a shit about whoever else is on the show. We have been in that situation. It works both ways."
"We just try to be ourselves and let the music speak for itself. Nobody in the band wants to be a rock n' roll star. I don't think that anybody in the band wants that. It is really hard to live up to that image. And it just seems easier for me to walk around and forget about it. Why be one if you are going to have to live up to an image all the time. I would rather not. It is much easier for me to walk around and forget about it." Bands have driven themselves crazy trying to figure out which market to direct their music to. Some have succeeded. Many others have failed."
"We don't write Top 40 material," explained Crump. "We don't write hit singles. We just write the tunes the way they come out. If someone takes it that way, that is all the better for us. It's like headlining. The good thing about it is you get to play longer. We'd just as soon play all night if we could, and we have before. "We write about experiences. We don't write about fantasies or anything like that. A lot of groups write about things that are real spacey, or stuff like that. We write about experiences that have either happened to us, or what we would have liked to have happened to us."
"Growing up playing in bars all the time, most of our songs are about whiskey drinking red-necks. Most of our audiences are mainly male hell-raisers. We have played a couple of places where I saw them break a bottle over someone's head. I don't know if it is because of our music or not. We just grew up playing to those type of crowds. It's just one in the same "
Molly Hatchet was signed to a recording contract with Epic Records by Werman. As Crump pointed out, the group had never cut an album before, let alone seen the inside of a recording studio. As for their first concert date, it too was an experience to behold, opening for REO Speedwagon in Boston before a sellout crowd.
"Playing out in bars for so long and then to go out and play a concert for thousands of people, I was petrified. We all were," continued Crump.
"We were not only out of our home territory, we were like in Boston, which is far north. It was pretty spooky. We had never been that far out of town before. And a couple of us had never been out of Florida."
There is one critical aspect a group must have in order to survive in the music business and that's songwriting. Without it, a band will fold up and die.
"When we finished the first album, we said, Gosh, what are we going to do'," said Grump. "We knew we had to write a second one, but after the first one, we only had a couple of tunes left over. Thank God a couple of the guys in the band are really gifted where they can go in and within a week's time just come up with plenty of Songs."
Crump feels that the reason Molly Hatchett is going to succeed is because they have learned from the mistakes other people have made. And again, they have learned to deal with that all-important item - timing.
"We have a manager that feels we can learn off of other people's mistakes, which is true, you can," he said. "That's not saying that we take advantage of people, but there is a lot to be learned, and we have learned a lot on the road. You can learn by other people's mistakes, like I said, but not to the extent to where you take advantage of somebody else."
"I think timing also has a lot to do with it. Look at a band like Led Zeppelin. They were so far ahead of their time, when they came out in '69, their music was like...you could play their first album today and it would sound new. It does to me, anyway some of the band just bought their first one yesterday and you listen to it and it's amazing how it sounds like something that would come out today."
With most Americans greatly concerned with the skyrocketing price of gasoline, the energy crunch is one thing Molly Hatchet refuses to worry about.
"We don't pay attention to it," said Crump. “If we can't find gas, we'll push our truck. We've pushed it before. We ran out of gas one time and we pushed it for miles. We did. I remember where it was.”
"We had a gig to make down in a club in Florida and I think that we pushed it for about ten miles or so You should have seen the people looking at us. It's not a big truck: it's that big old ugly thing out there.”
“We call it Godzilla, and to see ten guys pushing it, well.. We'd do it again if we ran out of gas and we had to make a gig."