Banner Thomas's interview
by Philippe Archambeau - Novembre 2002
Can you tell us when and you started studying music ? What were your influences at that time ?
There was always some kind of music to listen to in my house when I was a child. Unfortunately, it was all either on the radio or on records. There were no musicians in my family. I still got exposed to a lot of good music, from Nat King Cole and Al Hirt through Elvis and Johnny Horton to Tennessee Ernie Ford. Then the Beatles came along. By the time the sixties were halfway over, I had a guitar and was learning songs by the Monkees and Donovan, the Beatles and the Stones. Then I discovered Hendrix and Cream, and by the time Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath came out, I was hopelessly addicted. By the time I graduated high school, I had already been in a few bands. I was a music major at college for about a year or so, then I dropped out and joined an early version of Molly Hatchet. Who knows where I would be now if I had finished school? Probably not talking to you now.
When did you first join Molly Htachet ? How did it happen ?
In 1973, I was playing with a guitar player named Donald Hall. We were in a music store and Don was trying out a guitar when this guy walks up and says, "You play pretty well. My name's Dave Hlubek. Want to join my band?" Don pointed at me and said, "My friend here plays bass. Can he come, too?"
Which is your Hatchet's favorite album and song ? What are your best memories with the band ?
"Beating the Odds", off the "Beating the Odds" album. We were right on the verge of some really good hard rock. We had not yet been typecast as "just another southern rock band", and we were tearing down concert halls all across America and Europe.
Can you tell us why you left ? Do you regret it today ?
We all started thinking we were stars, and that drove wedges into the cracks that started forming. I was as guilty as anybody else. I got into an argument with Dave, got mad, and quit. Do I regret it today? Yes and no. I'm sorry I quit the way I did, when I did, but it looks like I picked a good time to get out. Not long after, under pressure from management and the record company to produce more hit singles, the band started to lose its identity, and started to look like Loverboy. I'm glad I wasn't there for that.
What is your opinion regarding Bobby Ingram's version of Molly Hatchet ? Do they have any credibility to you ?
No. None whatsoever. Phil McCormick is an old friend and I love him to death, and he came in when Danny's health got too bad, and I don't even know the other members, but Bobby Ingram is a liar and a thief. Ask him why I have never recieved even so much as a royalty statement for "Rolling Thunder", off the "Devil's Canyon" album, which I co-wrote. And furthermore, just because he owns the trademark license to the name "Molly Hatchet", does he really believe that makes his band Molly Hatchet? If I obtained the rights to the name "The Beatles", would that make my band the Beatles? Bobby jumped on the bandwagon after his solo project, "China Sky", which we got for him, by the way, flopped. If Bobby really thinks his band is as good as we were, why don't they stop playing our old songs, only play songs off their new albums, and use Bobby's name "China Sky"? Ask Bobby why not.
We really appreciateed you were a part of the "Danny Joe Brown Tribute". It seems, regarding a Bobby Ingram's interview, there has been some problems with this event. What were your thoughts ?
Bobby was invited to bring his version of Hatchet to the benefit, and we would do a "passing of the torch" from the old guys to the new guys. Bobby declined ( I thought he was Danny's oldest and best friend), and he and his attorney threatened us with numerous lawsuits including having federal marshalls shut down the show if we called ourselves Molly Hatchet. If you want the full story, ask Riff West, Hatchet's bass player after I left. Rift was the one who did all the hard, back-breaking work of organizing the benefit. Riff has been a much better friend to Danny than Bobby ever was.
Do you haven any news of Danny ?
I haven't been in recent touch with Danny, but I have heard from friends and relatives that, while Danny's health is not very good, he has been getting better. Sadly, no one has said that Danny will ever be well enough to start performing again on a regular basis. Let's keep him in our prayers!
Are you still in contact with Duane, Dave, Steve, or Bruce ?
Every once in a blue moon. None of us really keeps in touch regularly, so that makes it that much more special when we run into each other at a gig.
What do you think of today's southern rock ? Is ther a future ?
I have mixed opinions about that. There's a lot of good music coming out of the south these days, in lots of different genres. That's what southern rock was, originally. As to country-flavored rock-and-roll songs about trains and alligators, well... I think we've pretty much said everything that needs to be said on those subjects a long time ago. We should leave it to the old masters like Charlie Daniels and the Allman Brothers to handle that. They still do that better than anyone else. They still make it sound real. The rest of us just sound like copycats in their shadow.
Do you like the music created by Hatchet or Skynyrd these last couple years ?
Hatchet? I'm not going to answer that one. There's too much animosity to give an objective answer. Skynyrd? I think their recent material stands on its own, but gets overshadowed by the old music from the original band. At least they have a legitimate reason for not having their original lineup!
To you, which are the best 5 or 6 southern rock albums ?
1- Allman Brothers at Fillmore East...
#2 Skynyrd- Street Survivors...
#3- Charlie Daniels- Fire on the Mountain...
#4- anything by the Atlanta Rhythm Section...
#5- the first Marshall Tucker album...
#6- a tie between the first Outlaws album and the Wet Willie album- Drippin' Wet.
It seems to us, as Dave Hlubek does with SRA, that your music evolved to a more direct music. What is your feeling about that ?
I think that, as we've gotten older, we have matured as songwriters to the point that we know what we want to say and how to say it. We're sticking to being ourselves rather than what some A&R rep thinks they can sell.
Can you tell us about Big Engine ?
Don't get me started! I can brag about Big Engine all night. Big Engine rocks! We play loud, we play hard, and when we play, it's a non-stop party! Check out our website at www.bigengine.com.
Do you have any projects ?
Yes! I'm in the pre-production stages of a little vanity project, a Banner Thomas solo album. It's a bunch of songs I've written over the last few years, and I'm almost ready to start recording, schedule and budget permitting. It'll probably suck, but if it doesn't, then I can go on another rock star ego trip. Also, we're working on another Big Engine album now. It should be out in the spring.
Did Big Engine and Molly Hatchet already share the same stage ?
No, not the original Hatchet. We've done some shows with the SRA that have been a lot of fun.?
Is there any chance we might see you in Europe ?
Big Engine would love to come to Europe and show you how we do it in Jacksonville. We've been approached by some agents about a European tour, but they're still just in the "talk-about-the-budget" stage. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
If you had to spend the rest of your life on a desert island, which albums wuld you take with you ?
Led Zeppelin II, Billy Idol "Rebel Yell", Jimi Hendrix "Electric Ladyland", Cactus "One Way or Another", and most of all- the first album by Captain Beyond. That is the greatest rock album in the history of music.
Thanks a lof Banner for answering these questions. If you wanna add something for the french fans, just feel free.
Hello! Log on to my website- www.bannerthomas.com- and sign my guestbook. Thanks again, Philippe!