The Dirty Knobs w/ Mike Campbell
The Dirty Knobs w/ Mike Campbell
While 2020’s Wreckless Abandon is their first official release and occasion to tour, The Dirty Knobs first came together 15 years ago after Mike Campbell met guitarist Jason Sinay at a session and liked the way their guitars sounded together. After adding the acclaimed rhythm section of bassist Lance Morrison (Don Henley) and drummer Matt Laug (Slash, Alanis Morrisette), The Dirty Knobs became an outlet for Campbell to work on some of the other songs he was writing between Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers records and touring.
They got together when schedules permitted, playing music without an agenda, expectations or deadlines, without worrying about outcome or hits, pushing boundaries of taste, imagination, and genres and creating some of the most brutally confident yet psychically dangerous rock and roll since sonic-renegade juggernauts the Yardbirds first sauntered onto a London stage and ripped into “For Your Love.”
As the years went on the Knobs played out here and there, almost incognito, in little clubs in Southern California. Looking mysterious and a little troubled in their mirror shades, neck scarfs, black shirts and vests, they were propelled out of rock’s murky past, but born full-blown.
In a way, they were doing their own version of the Beatles’ formative, tighten-up Hamburg years: performing oddball covers but mostly original songs about bad women, complicated relationships and messy confrontations.
Finally, after all those years together, it became clear they should take what they did to the next level. Campbell’s long-time compatriot, friend and bandmate, Tom Petty, had passed away, and after the numbing grief abated some, the guitarist knew the only way to heal some of the pain was to throw himself wholeheartedly back into his music.
“Losing Tom was earth-shattering for me. It was a total shock.” says Campbell. “It had felt like we would be playing together forever. For a while it was hard to imagine playing in my own band again, let alone one where I’m the frontman. Tom was always my beacon. But everything I’ve been doing since Tom passed, including this album with The Dirty Knobs, is in the spirit of honoring what we did together.”
They recorded the album at Campbell’s home studio, Hocus Pocus Recorders, in just three weeks’ time, before the guitarist went out on the road in 2018 as a member of Fleetwood Mac. The Knobs tapped legendary producer George Drakoulias, who had also produced Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ 2002 LP The Last DJ, to co-produce. They also contacted the equally fabled Klaus Voormann -- Beatles intimate, former member of Manfred Mann, and the artist behind Revolver -- to design their album cover.
“From the very first, the Dirty Knobs just felt right,” says Campbell. “Everything just flowed. Recording the album was just an extension of that. This is a great group, there’s a chemistry here and there’s fun. You can’t underrate the importance of fun. It’s not something you can fake, but it is something you can hear in the album.”
“I’m riding on a booger in the sneeze of space. That’s my bio,” jokes singer/songwriter Jeremy Ivey. It’s a tongue-in-cheek—albeit oddly fitting—description of the the Nashville-based performer, who has operated in the background for years, initially performing in bands like Secret Handshake and country-soul group Buffalo Clover with his wife, celebrated country-rock luminary Margo Price. But now, at 40, Ivey is ready to take a much-deserved step into the spotlight with a debut LP, The Dream and the Dreamer (out on September 13 via Anti- Records).
“I want to prove that you can be in your 40s and be at the peak of your creativity,” he says. “Not a has-been, but as an ‘is-being.’”
Recorded in a “little bitty house studio” in Nashville and produced by Price, the nine-song album hosts a collection of homespun, deeply introspective tracks. Ivey, who writes prolifically and ideally wants to release an album a year, cites everyone from the Beatles to Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan as influences.
Beneath the album’s generally up-tempo exterior, though, lies a deep preoccupation with the news cycle and problematic nature of Manifest Destiny. “I wrote ‘Diamonds Back To Coal’ during a very frustrating week in America,” Ivey said. “It was the week that the Vegas shootings and the alt-right march happened. The slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ is an influence on the chorus. [Because] if anything, we're making the environment worse. When we came and infiltrated the Native Americans’ way of living, we started reversing the beauty that this land had. It has to do with modern man being a trespasser.”
Regression is admittedly a difficult notion for Ivey, who moved away from his conservative Georgia home after high school and bounced around, primarily doing prep work in kitchens. The harmonica-accented track “Story of a Fish” chronicles Ivey’s personal diaspora, specifically relating to his upbringing. “I’m adopted, and I think that I always related with the story of salmon and how they’re born,” he reveals. “The idea of being born far from your home, you know? You were born here, but you gotta get elsewhere. That's the way I always felt. I always felt that I was born in the wrong place to the wrong people at the wrong time.”
Meanwhile, Ivey is invested in his own version of the American Dream—specifically, offering up a melting pot of genres, ideas, and stories. “The best thing I could say is that I'm trying to fill the holes that I can see in the scene,” he says. “Whether it be Americana or country or rock or whatever. There's a certain type of song that isn't being written.”
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