Interviewed at Jailhouse Rock Café, Montreal, September 1998
From Vol. 1 No. 5, 1999
Andre Williams wrote some of the sleaziest, greasiest rhythm and blues ever written back in his 50’s-60’s heyday. He’s responsible for such gems as Jailbait, Sweet Little Pussycat, and The Greasy Chicken, as well as much-covered bona-fide standards like Bacon Fat, a classic whose royalties alone would still keep him in gravy today, had he not sold the rights for coke money decades ago.
His new album, Silky, proves the man can still write, sliding across libidinous lines like ‘Now I know why Adam ate the apple,’ and ‘There ain’t no place I’d rather be than looking down at you, looking up at me.’ It’s a great album, although the production and arrangements sound way too much like imitiation lo-fi, Jon Spencer style. Somehow the sleaze oozes out better when covered in sweet stuff, like his melody-heavy 50’s tunes, than in the badly-mixed-cause-it-sounds-cool guitar crunch of this album. It’s just strange to hear Andre straining his voice to stay as loud as the guitars.
I have a whole new appreciation of these new songs after seeing him do them live, though, maybe because I finally heard them with his voice (and personality) up front and center in the mix. I also got to know the man and his band a little better after hanging out before, during and after the show.
He promised me ‘the best interview he ever gave’ if I helped him with some pre-show preparations, but that never really happened.
The place was packed by the time Andre went on. UVBC and The Spaceshits gave the packed house some prime rock’n’roll foreplay, after which Andre’s totally hot touring band teased us with some vamping and riffing on their own for awhile. Then, decked out in his impeccable, impressive digs, Andre came out and gave us all what we wanted. Old songs, new songs, all with attitude dripping off him onto a hyped crowd that ate it all up. He picked a good night to play, by chance it seemed most of the people in the room were drinking like fish even though it was a weeknight.
Some comments from a raucous and crowded backstage area after the show:
Andre: Well, what d’you think? Was it workin’, was it workin’?
Louis: I can’t think, man!
Andre: OK. That’s all that matters. Get our money, &.. (a girl walks in.) You like the show?
Andre: Good, OK. I’m a bad motherfucker. I’m gettin’ it. I still got to turn it up about, two more notches, and then I’ll be… then you know, I wanna get up on that Jon Spenca money, 18, 20 thousand a night.
Louis: Yeah, but you got way more street cred than Jon Spencer has, man.
Andre: Well… but, I gotta pay my dues, I’ll get there. I didn’t want to go there first, I wanted to come to all of my people that pushed me back up there first. I wanna give them a full meal, you know, before I go up to the feast. But it’s goin’ to happen. It’s gonna happen this year.
OK so you got New Year’s locked in (he says to Dom, the promoter at Jailhouse.) New Year’s night, the first. We got it locked. You know, the boss should just be countin’ the money. I seen you out there, I tell ya, I’m thinkin’ ‘This guy’s nut-so. I ain’t never seen the boss enjoying a show like that. This guy’s got all of my money in his pocket,’ (everyone laughs.) It’s a great feeling when you see the boss out there. Not just sittin’ in the back sayin (with a british accent) ‘Oh, it’s alright. It’s O.K.’ Y’all, y’all just a bunch of great, great people. Montreal, Montreal is happenin’.
Montreal came to New York, and they demanded of me, they said ‘Man, you gotta come to Montreal, I don’t give a god damn. You know, & I said to him, I don’t know, man, about Montreal, and he said, ‘Man, Andre, you got to come to Montreal.’ And I said OK, I’ll be there. Y’know, fuck the money. We’ll get that next time. Y’know, money don’t run me. No no, I run money. I ain’t gettin’ stressed out over those numbers. So long as I get a big leg girl with big breasts—
someone says: And a nice pussy!
Andre: Oh—well I can make the pussy nice. A man can take a bad pussy and turn it into a good pussy. It depends on the fella. On his attitude. On his attitude towards you (he says more smoothly to the girl in the room.) This man (points to himself) can turn pussy nobody else wants into pussy other men will kill for. Y’know, a good man can say please and he can say thank you. Y’know, a man shouldn’t complain, he say ‘May I? Have some?’ And when you get it, you say ‘Thank you,’ and (pauses): ‘How much?’ (much laughter in the room.) ‘Cause she ain’t givin’ it out for free. Ain’t no real woman gives it out without gettin’ somethin’ for it.
Andre was sure hoping to get some that night, but despite flirting with practically every girl who passed through during the backstage partying, he came up empty-handed.
I got in the van with them, after one of the Jailhouse guys gave the band a few beers to take with them out of gratitude. Despite being pretty wasted myself, I was supposed to help them find their way back onto the highway and on their way back to Detroit.
Andre suddenly turned into a very responsible, together old guy at that point, stopping off to fill up on gas at the closest dep. I gave him the best directions I could & I wandered back to Jailhouse.
Even though it was after last call, the bar was still open, and a big deal seemed to be going on because of one of the Spaceshits getting his dick cut during a scuffle with one of the bouncers. The bouncer said he was just trying to get everybody off the sidewalk area in front of Jailhouse. ‘Just go stand and talk over there,’ he’d said, motioning to the dep next door, ‘once you’re there, you’re the police’s business, you’re not my business.’ (as far as getting kicked in the groin goes, I guess.) A couple times the Spaceshit in question pulled his pants down a bit and people stood around going ‘Holy shit!’ but I didn’t want to look. (Apparently it was just a small cut, and he’s OK now.)
After locking the doors with a bunch of us still drinking inside, the bouncers went on and on about how it’s not easy being a bouncer.