The Blues is rooted in the universal truth of pain. As a musical form of expression, Blues was created by talented people who experienced inexorable adversity. While the average person would be incapable to survive such sorrow, Blues musicians formed a whole new musical genre conceived from their struggle. Born from the misery Blues music has connected every kind race, class, and culture. These universal emotions of pain and sadness are is the link in the musical chains that keep every single human in a type of metaphysical bondage. Although different people experience different levels of this sorrow, the feelings created by Blues music will endure as long as human beings inhabit Earth. Misery loves company. When a person is downhearted, life becomes slightly tolerable when you hear that someone else is experience similar sadness. Born from the hardship of the Deep South, the spirit of the Blues hits everyone in their soul. The Blues spirit also has haunted some White boys in Detroit named, Howling Diablos. The four members are creating their own style of Blues. As Tino Gross sings, the band moves the spirit along. Mike Smith’s addictive guitar work complements the classic sound of the harp and sax of Johnny Evans. Shannon Boone keeps the rhythm rolling with the drums. Acknowledging their influences but remaining true to themselves, Diablos sing about what they know with a respectful appreciation for the art form.
In 2005, Howling Diablos released their honestly raw “Car Wash” LP on Alive Records / Bomp Records. With thick guitar riffs and soulful singing, the album paints a gritty portrait of Detroit’s struggling working class. “Prison Train” is a brutally vivid story about a man sentenced to death row after his girlfriend died of a heroin overdose. The brutal honesty of “Dope Man” makes listener experience the daily struggle of heroin addiction. What would a Blues album be without songs about heartbreak? Their version of RL Burnside’s “Gone So Long” is an addictive gem about missing the one you love. Other true Blues sounding tracks include “Broke Down”, “A Woman (Like Mine)”, and “Easy Street”. Without playing a role or exploiting the genre, Howling Diablos pay respect to the Blues while creating their own signature sound. As an album, “Car Wash” is a bare bones musical experience. Although the stripped down sound is evident, the songs never sound weak. Once you hear “Car Wash” by Howling Diablos, you will truly have the Blues if you are without the album. Regardless of where you work or how you live, the Blues will get into you one of these days. When that day comes, listen to Howling Diablos and you will release that your misery has some company.
MVRemix: What goes on?
Tino Gross: The band is getting ready to go out for some shows.
MVRemix: The Howling Diablos just released the ‘Car Wash’ LP on Alive Records / Bomp Records. Tell us about the album.
Tino Gross: ‘Car Wash’ was recorded in 2 sessions at The White Room in downtown Detroit, last winter between 2004 and 2005. Some of it was done at my house as well. We took a pretty straight forward approach. The band played live, there were very little overdubs, and we went for a feel. I had just finished working with Fat Possum Records and produced 2 CDs for RL Burnside, who just passed last week at age 78. So, we did an RL cover, ‘Gone So Long', as well.
MVRemix: Do you have a favorite song on the ‘Car Wash’ LP?
Tino Gross: It's really hard to pick, but, I'd say ‘Prison Train’. The song, ‘Prison Train’ just seems kind of timeless.
MVRemix: The songs, ‘Dope Man’ and ‘Prison Train’ are about heroin addiction. Has the band struggled with heroin? Have you?
Tino Gross: ‘Prison Train’ does get a good response live. It is about doing smack and the perils of all that. We've had past members struggle with it. Everyone's pretty clean now. I had some trouble with it when I was a teenager.
MVRemix: What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with heroin?
Tino Gross: My advice would be to say, ‘Nobody can control it. It will control you eventually’. So, give yourself every chance to find another way to live and survive.
MVRemix: What song took the longest to finish, from conception to completion?
Tino Gross: ‘Mean Little Town’ started out more like a Springsteen kind of thing with a bridge and all. It just needed to get stripped down into more of a country Blues song.
MVRemix: What's the meaning behind the name 'Car Wash'?
Tino Gross: ‘Car Wash’ just came to us living in Detroit. If you look around, we have more car washes and bowling alleys than anywhere. The song is about working your gig and trying to get over.
MVRemix: When creating a song, do you have the lyrics pre-written or a set theme? Or, do you write the music first and then, write to the music? Describe the creative process.
Tino Gross: I usually will have some little riff or a couple of chords on the guitar that I like. I'll start free styling vocals over that until something starts sounding good. You can tell, when it sounds natural and not too forced, it's usually on the money. I'll develop it from there. Maybe I’ll re-write a verse or two. I've found my best stuff happens organically and I don't beat it up too much. Like Tom Waits says, ‘Good songs are like little friends that will come around and hang out with you if you create the right conditions. If the vibe isn't cool they don't show up.’ With the Howling Diablos, I'll bring in a song. We’ll work it over and get a good groove arrangement. Then, we try it out live. You can tell if it's going to work pretty quick. We all collaborated on some of the material.
MVRemix: Do you get any criticism for being white guys playing blues?
Tino Gross: Not that much really. think people can tell that we dig Blues and soul music, but we put our own spin on it, like The Stones or Elvis did back in the day. Nobody can sound like Muddy Waters or RL Burnside. So, why even try? Just do your own thing.
MVRemix: By the way, rest in peace to Greg Shaw of Bomp Records. How did you get involved with Bomp / Alive Records?
Tino Gross: I had friends in Detroit who did records with them. People like Wayne Kramer, John Sinclair, Bootsey X, etc. We loved Alive's vibe and had been talking to Patrick off and on for a couple years. I sent him about half the ‘Car Wash’ CD. It blew his wig back. He offered us a deal, so we went back to the White Room and finished it up. Patrick was also cool in helping us pick the right material. It has been good working with them. Greg Shaw was a visionary in starting Bomp Records.
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"I sent him about half the ‘Car Wash’ CD. It blew his wig back. He offered us a deal, so we went back to the White Room and finished it up. Patrick was also cool in helping us pick the right material."