Interview at Southern Fried Hoodoo Magazine

Here's a Brother Dege interview that came out in Southern Fried Hoodoo Magazine, a print-only underground zine that covers odd southern culture, music, magic, voodoo, weirdness, and a host of other things.

Doc Coyote:  Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Interview; we really appreciate your participation and support of Southern Fried Hoodoo Magazine!  How are you and what have you been up to lately?
Brother Dege: No problem. Just living it. Life is good. It never really ends. It only begins again. I stay pretty busy with various creative pursuits: playing, recording, writing, reading, working, and stuff. Hanging with family. Kind of living the square life at times, but that’s good, too. Life doesn’t need to be all rock & roll the time. 

DC:  How did the name “Brother Dege” and “Dege Legg” originate?  [Also, if people don’t already know…Dege Legg is pronounced like “deej leg.”]
Brother Dege: Dege Legg is my name. I’m Cajun, but the name is Scottish, I think. It comes from my step-grandpa. Various dudes gave the “Brother” to me over the years. It just kept popping – someone would always call me "Brother Dege.” It may be a bro/dude-thing or an MC5-type thing – I’m not really sure, I never asked – so when it came time to do the Slide-Dobro record (Folk Songs of the American Longhair), I just went with the flow and used it. The best stuff is always the things people give to you.

DC:  If you were to tell me that for nine consecutive nights you visited the Crossroads with your guitar and the legendary Black Man met you there, took your guitar and tuned it, played it and handed it back to you…well…I may not believe this story from most but I just may from you! Tell us a little bit about the genesis of your musical journey and how you came to be the accomplished Blues guitarist that you are today:
Brother Dege: Never sold my soul and I don't plan on it. That's a business best reserved for people who crave power or fame. My journey is pretty simple, but complex in other ways. I grew up in a small Cajun town in southern Louisiana, playing underground music – punk rock, rock & roll, metal, and some folk. All I could relate to was noise. That's all I wanted to hear as a young teenager. I know a lot of these neo-roots guys like to cite all the old time influences in order to bolster their credibility, like "my paw-paw and great granddaddy played the country banjo around the house" and all that, but I rebelled against all the that stuff in my teens. Fuck it. Gimmie noise, motherfucker. If it didn’t sound like Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Black Sabbath, or a bunch of noise, I wasn’t into it. But then in my late teens, I discovered folk, Dylan, John Lee Hooker, and the Delta blues guys and I started to dig shit that wasn't just noise and roll. It opened up my head and kind of kicked me in the ass. Just struck a chord. So as a hobby of sorts, I started playing slide guitar around ‘94 – something quiet to do, alone in my room, away from all the loud amplified guitar noise. Wasn’t trying to impress anyone, just messing around with it…almost like learning to skate a pool or meditate. It was fun and relaxing – I was pretty wild, so it calmed me down. Still does. Along the way, I wrote my own slide songs, so I’d have something to play, because I’m too impatient to learn peoples’ songs note for note, I had to write songs. Somewhere in there, my songwriting just jumped up to another level, like “akashic records overdrive” – almost like I was downloading these great slide songs from the ether. They were like gifts from the void.  I wrote songs like “House of the Dying Sun,” “Black is the Night,” “Girl Who Wept Stones,” etc…and they just kept coming. I mean, “House of the Dying Sun” is the first slide song I ever wrote - which is pretty weird. I didn’t even know what I was doing, and it popped out. I was, like, “Wow, these are pretty good!” And I don’t mean that in an egotistical way at all. I was confused and surprised and, like, “Where in the hell is this stuff coming from? Maybe some of the old Delta guys are beaming me down the songs they never got to finish or something.” Sometime around 2006, after about 10 years of wood shedding and keeping it to myself – I realized I’d gotten good enough to maybe start playing solo shows. One-man gigs like the Delta guys did years ago, but with a 21st century twist. So I did some shows and started uploading these low rent, guerilla videos to YouTube where I just played the songs live wherever I was at: in the middle of the woods, a pond, an abandoned house, a public bathroom – wherever the vibe felt right. My girlfriend videotaped them on her camera. I told her, “Just shoot the vibe of the space we’re in; don’t worry about filming me the whole time. If you see something cool that catches your eye, film that. It doesn’t need to be fancy or perfect. Screw all the useless, overblown full-production video crap. Let’s just capture the mood and the raw vibe of the song and the space vibrating in unison together.” She did and people really responded to them on our YouTube Channel. They played the shit out of them, which was another killer surprise. After the YouTube videos gained steam, I realized I should record a bunch of the songs and make an all slide-Dobro record. And that’s how Folk Songs of the American Longhair came about, which I’m really proud of. It’s like a love letter of sorts to the old Delta guys, the slide tradition, the Deep South, and rock & roll. It kind of boils the last 60 years of rock and roll back to its Delta essence. We even tried to make the album cover of Folk Songs look like a crazy, H.G. Wells time machine. And for the record, there is no Photoshopping done to that cover. That’s real tintype photography, shot on metal plates with an old stilt box camera, covered with a cape.  Shot by George Shultz.

Live Brother Dege video shot in abandoned house.

DC: What made you name one of your music projects Santeria?
Brother Dege: It’s hard to explain, but the name fit who we were – a weird, outcast crew of southern dudes from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds who didn’t really fit in with one particular scene…and never did. Santeria is a really colorful religion. There’s a beauty to the iconography. So we just went with it, which later brought its own problems and weirdness. But yeah, it worked. Also, just for the record, we formed before the Sublime song, “Santeria” came out. Bless the guy’s soul, but we were never even slightly into that music. As a group, we’ve always been all over the place – Indian sitars, metal, rock & roll, artsy stuff, hardcore punk, Delta blues, tribal drumming, junkyards, weird books, hippie folk, Bukowski, and all kinds of shit. Didn’t matter. We didn’t care about whether something was hip or not. There was always an odd man out vibe with us. Not sure why. We tried to socialize and bond with other bands, but we never completely fit in with any particular underground scene. We tried. But in the long run it worked to our advantage, because we didn’t feel obligated to conform to the unwritten rules of any scene’s orthodoxy.

DC: The song and video “Year of the Knife” depicts what appears to be a Hoodoo style/ Santerian looking altar… Is this a reflection of any experiences you have had with Hoodoo or Santeria, or was this just imagery which fits the content of the song, music, album or band at that particular time?
Brother Dege: Imagery fit the album and all the above.  We each create our own energy fields. So we created our own post-modern style voodoo-ish altar composed of the things around us: my old acoustic guitar, a cow skull with magnolia flowers in the eyes, a beat up American flag, Mardi Gras beads, Spanish moss, bunch of stuff. Even my grandparent’s wedding photo – they were incredible people – French speaking Cajuns – who worked in the fields to send my mom to college. I had the title Year of the Knife, but not the cover, then Primo (guitarist) suggested we put the shrine together and get my girlfriend to photograph it. We did. And it came out looking great.

Santeria, 2002

DC:  Living in Louisiana I am sure you are very familiar with various practices such as Hoodoo, Voodoo and the like…any experiences with these things over the years?
Brother Dege: They got everything down here. Not all of it I want to get into, but yeah, it’s been weird at times. Lot of peculiar stuff has happened over the years.  A Cajun traiteur once healed me of this problem that had been dogging me for years, so I believe there’s good energy out there. In Santeria, the band, we played with some dark energy there for a while, but eventually got away from it…because things were definitely getting strange. To the point where the guys were wrecking cars, losing their minds, hallucinating, mechanical things were breaking around us, relationships falling apart. Primo got freaked out and threw this necklace made of bones in the swamp, just to rid of the bad gris-gris. We once found a cow’s heart stuffed in my mailbox. Just a bunch of weird stuff. You could classify it as anything. Maybe we were so fried even the toaster was “voodoo.” Who knows? Reality is wild. Humans are like dogs staring at a Rubik’s Cube, trying to figure it out. It's too complex to suss out empirically, so you have to develop your psychic antenna and your gut. Awaken your instincts. There’s so many rad things out there to explore that aren’t being talked about it on the news: Kirlian photography, free energy, the Looking Glass, The Anunnaki, ancient civilizations, HAARP, and more. Lastly, I like good energy. Bad energy, I try to avoid.

Read The Intention Experiment. And check out ProjectCamelot.org. Some truly mind-blowing information that makes regular news look like the dog and pony show that it is.

DC: When you think about the spiritual roots of music, what comes to mind?
Brother Dege:  Son House. Blind Willie Johnson. Sam Cooke. Music is a spiritual transmission. This is how some people – without an orthodox religion – pray or translate their experience of this world. I don’t have any specific religion, but making music is how I sort things out or pray. I like any music where you can hear the raw soul of the person making it – music that gives you the chills. Music that is skillfully crafted in layers and/or tweaked every which way in a computer is interesting, but it’s not timeless.

DC: One description of the Black Bayou Construkt states: “a psyouthern Gypsy-Death-Blues Atmospheric sextet that plays original compositions for The People.”  What’s this project all about? I love the word/concept “psyouthern.” I’ve only seen this term associated with you. Did you coin it?
Brother Dege: I made it up…the word “psyouthern” in an attempt to describe what it’s like for some of us down here.  It’s sort of “thinking man's southern rock."  Southern music with some experimental openness. We’re kind of like freaks in the country. It’s not all Cajun fiddle and accordions down here. There are a percentage of people like myself who don’t necessarily fit the mold, musically or otherwise, so “psyouthern” is sort of our own designation of what we’re about. Factor in some psychedelic, world, punk, and experimentalism music and you’re getting close. Black Bayou Construkt is the band I started when Santeria went on hiatus (2004-06). We’re still together. The band is incredible. Killer players with great chemistry. It’s one of those bands where everything comes together effortlessly. We play things different every time. It’s kind of like if Neil Young/Crazy Horse had a baby with Pink Floyd in the Deep South.  If I could ever get that band on the road it would blow minds. They’re really powerful live: violin and piano, twin guitars & bass doing rad Sonic Youth-meets-Allman Brother stuff, and the most killer drummer in the Deep South, Hawley Joe Gary – he’s a monster. Problem is: everyone is either married, got kids, or a mortgage, so it makes touring difficult. But that’s real life.

Black Bayou Construkt

DC:  Let’s talk a little about your “Brief Interviews with Strangers” series...You have conducted many Interviews yourself…seriously interesting, seriously entertaining.  I remember thinking, “Man, I have always wanted to interview random people from various walks of life which I encountered especially under some strange circumstances. How cool is that?!” You’ve interviewed Strippers, Mexican Bikers, Drug Dealers, Cops, Vietnam Vets…just to name a few.  You’ve also videotaped interviews of other random people…just an awesome concept all together and pulled off with such stealth and style! Tell us how you got into doing these interviews and what kind of an impact they have made upon you.
Brother Dege: I just like talking to people. I like to learn new things. Depending on my moods, I’m usually pretty curious as to what people’s lives are like. Living on this planet is kind of like bring born into a flesh space suit. We’re like terrestrial astronauts, ping-ponging around the dirtearth. I want to connect with people, hear their stories, and learn something new. It’s interesting to just listen and hear what people have to say in their own words. Each person’s life is its own book. When I meet people, I always end up asking a lot of questions just to get a feel for who I'm talking to...kind of exploring what their life is like. If it’s a bricklayer, I’ll be like, “What are bricks made of?” just because I am curious. So I started bringing a tape recorder with me and documenting it. And that’s how Anatomy of a Scream was born.

DC:  You are also an accomplished writer, having published two books that I know of, one non-fiction Into the Great Unknown and one fiction The Battle Hymn of the Good'Ole Hillbilly Zatan Boys.  How would you describe these books?
Brother Dege: I describe Battle Hymn of the Good Ol’Hillbilly Zatan Boys as the filthiest book ever written. It also may have been one of the last books Hunter S. Thompson read before his death. A mutual friend gave Hunter a copy about a month before he died. It may have pushed him over the edge, but that’s just silly conjecture. The book is pretty nutty. I wrote it as a joke / creative exercise where there were no rules. I refused to censor any idea that came in my head no matter how twisted, absurd or sick. After 10 years, it hasn't aged too badly. Into the Great Unknown is a Santeria tour journal, chronicling all the crazy crap bands do, mostly in between shows. Lot of lean times, but also a lot of funny shit. We lived together in a house with the electricity and gas getting cut off for not paying the bill. Living in the dark. Skipping meals. Alcohol. Filthy house. Crazy people and roommates. The character “Elron” in Battle Hymn is based on a real guy who lived with us named Ron Viatar (photo attached), who I nicknamed “Elron.” He was twice our age, 54, but he could out do us in everything. He was tough as nails with a big old heart. It takes a real man to show some heart…and he was a man’s man as well as one of the funniest guy ever. I got a ton of great stories and anecdotes from hanging out him everyday. If he had bug bites, he’d grab a can of Raid and spray it down his arms and legs, then massage it in his skin. One time he was too wasted to drive home, so he insisted I drive him to the junkyard in his car. Ok. Let’s go. On the way, the left rear wheel of his car fell off and rolled past us in traffic as the tail of the car was grinding along the road, making hellish racket. Another time he got so drunk on homemade wine, it made him do cartwheels through a crowded yuppie bar – sneakers slapping people in their heads. Another time he misplaced his “Father’s Day bag of cocaine” and accused everybody in the house of stealing it. I was like, What the fuck??? – laughing, amused, and confused as to what he was even talking about. Turns out, it was father’s day, and feeling a little down and sorry for himself because none of his kids called, he – as a gift to himself – bought a little gram bag of cocaine. Sometime during the drunken stupor of the day, he lost it and accused us of stealing it. Hilarious. He kept screaming, “Where’s my Father’s Day cocaine?!” I tried to talk him down, but he kept getting angrier, until he blew up, threw all his belongings in the trunk of his car, and sped off down the road. Of course he found it a few hours later in some crazy place where you hide coke while you’re paranoid on coke. All these are true stories. Elron is one of a kind.

Ron "Elron" Viatar, 2000

DC: How many albums have you recorded to date?  Which is your favorite if you had to pick one?
Brother Dege: Although this life has sometimes been hard, I’ve always been lucky in song. And I’m grateful for it, because there’s many times where I just didn’t feel like living this life - where the heartbreak and sadness outweighed the benefits of sticking around and going through the motions of being a normal, functional human being - it just seemed like a pain in the ass. Like, I must have signed up for the wrong fucking planet, because I'm not vibing this shit. Cars, houses, loans, upward mobility, careerism, bills - fuck it. I just want to disappear. But then a song would pop up like a carrot on a stick – tempt me out of the void. Like, “Hey, come out and play.” So in that sense, the gods, the universe, or whoever has been really good to me. The songs just pop out of nowhere. I’ve fallen into some dark places, but I always come out of it with diamonds stuck to the bottoms of my shoes, somehow. So in that sense, they’re all my favorites. They’re all my babies. So that makes it hard to pick one song or album over another. Some grow up and make it to college. Others drop-out and fall into a black hole.

Dege Legg -Complete Discography
1993 Trash Folk Demo, Dege Legg cassette
1995 Santeria Demo, Santeria cassette
1996 Bastard’s Blues, Dege Legg cassette/CD
1998 Santeria, Santeria CD
1999 Love Letters & Suicide Notes, Dege Legg CD 
2000 Apocalypse, Louisiana, Santeria CD
2003 House of the Dying Sun, Santeria CD
2004 Trailerville, Dege Legg CD
2008 Year of the Knife, Santeria CD
2009 Kingdoms of Folly Black Bayou Construkt CD
2010 Folk Songs of the American Longhair, Brother Dege CD

DC:  How did you come up with “The Year of the Knife” as an album title?  How would you describe the overall content of this album?
Brother Dege: Just made it up. It sounded right. Felt right. Sort of like a zodiac sign for people who are tired of the bullshit being sold to them. You could take it as a concept album, but I’m not sure what it is…or if I even want to try to explain what the album means, because when an artist explains their art, it robs the listener of their part in the creative process. The listener stamps the work with their own meaning…and I don’t want to interfere with that. Their job is to fill in the gaps with their own meaning, blending it with yours to make something greater for all of us. It’s like when you hear stories about some guy who modifies a lawnmower and makes it into a remote controlled go-cart I love it when people tweak things and make them their own. I’m not proprietary about the meaning. A song shouldn’t be set it stone. It should grow and mutate and just kind of do its own thing. And it needs people to do that.

DC:  I seriously could go on and on with this interview for days…you have such a deep well of experience to draw from and so many creative outlets which allow us to vicariously experience these things through you…luckily a lot of these things have been recorded in some form or fashion.  I will now leave it up to our Readers to find the various media outlets, books, CD’s etc. which will allow us to view the various facets of this southern gem we now know as Brother Dege. Is there anything else you would like to share with our Readers? Also if you could give us a few points of contacts of how to get a hold of your Music and Books.
Brother Dege: Just keep fighting the good fight out there…it’s the only one that matters.

Brother Dege links:
Brother Dege YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/santeriaband
Official site (hasn’t been updated in a while): http://degelegg.com
Brother Dege on Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/degelegg
Brother Dege Facebook 

Brother Dege books:

Official Santeria: http://officialsanteria.com

Black Bayou Construkt

Brother Dege on CDbaby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/BrotherDege

Black Bayou Construkt / Cdbaby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/blackbayou

*Look for a Brother Dege / Santeria split vinyl album in the near future, as well as new Brother Dege and Santeria albums.

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