Q:It's 2015 and I'm talking with Aaron Hamre, who was the singer for Lizard House here in New Mexico. I know in the 90s you guys won some awards, traveled around, got some press, you were in Metal Edge Magazine, you worked with Nik Venet, the legendary producer who developed the Beach Boys and brought the Beatles to America. You've also taught music for a long time on various instruments privately and at schools, correct?
A:Yes; I mean, I started doing that in '92, at the Prometheus School in Santa Fe, and there was the Anderson School of Music in Austin, and uh...but I'm not doing that anymore. At least not now.
Q:Why is that?
A:Tell you the truth I got tired of it. I need a different kind of student too if I'm ever gonna do that again. I also don't like mandatory curriculums that schools have. If you want to learn something that you're fired up about, or a particular song, we should be able to focus on that, period. I don't like taking heat for that. You need to learn enough so you can teach yourself. Practice practice practice! My passion is writing and playing music. Teaching about it was more of a day job. The teaching job I was passionate about for a couple years was being a docent at the Simon Weisenthal Museum of Tolerance in L.A. When you're fifty feet underground talking to groups of 30 about the darkest shadows of the human heart it does get to you after awhile though. I got to give Nikki Sixx the private 3 hour tour. John Rzeznik too. Cool days in hell!
Q:So what have you been up to more recently?
A: I haven't given up on the big time, Ziggy, I'm still goin' for it. I plan on being a living lesson in perseverance. It keeps me goin' to the gym. I gotta lotta catchy songs. I'm trying to make my whole thing more presentable as a two-piece so I don't have to worry about flakes. And I'd love to be able to have a big band like Springsteen but that's not my reality right now.
Q:Springsteen? I don't really hear him in your songs.
A:Well that's too bad. I do. Prince got me into playing all the instruments.
Q:Prince I totally hear in your dirty songs.
A:Yeah he's not doing 'em anymore. He gave up on the whole dirty thing. I don't plan on ever giving it up. I wanna be like my generation's Benny Hill or Hugh Hefner.
Q:Your goal is to be a dirty old man?
A:Fuck yeah! (laughs) In a good way. I've had... a lot of ups and downs and right now it's kinda like I'm starting over from the bottom, yet again. If I hadn't been through this so many times it might be too demoralizing, I might just give up, but as it is, for some strange reason, I actually feel more hopeful than ever.
Q:A decade ago, when you were in the Austin Music Awards as one of the top jam bands, you came home to New Mexico to be congratulated by the Legislature.That must have been surreal.
A:It's funny but nobody made a big deal about that. Politics isn't my thing.
Q:So are you Duke Rooster? Are you in Dogbats? It it Lizard House? Blood Red Rubies? Is it some other name? What's going on with that?
A:You know, lately I've been thinking about that. The whole idea of a band doesn't seem as popular anymore. I mean when I started out it was the whole blood brother thing but I'm the last one... you know? I mean it's cool to be able to call my friend Bryan and just be able to pull it off with a drummer. In some ways it sounds better. It's really informal. We don't practice that much together. We don't even talk that much. It's easy. That's how it should be. Life's hard enough. The hard part now is just making the one guitar sound full enough. It takes a lot of practice. I finally added a bass cabinet to my rig and it makes a huge difference. I'm playing baritone guitar.
Q:Alright. So when did you start playing baritone guitar?
A:It's just a baritone tuning, taking a guitar and tuning it lower, but yeah, it's very much a baritone guitar the way I use it, and you know, the tonality of it. I started using EQs to bring out the bass end a few years ago out of necessity cause a few bass players flaked out at the last minute before shows. And It sounded great but I wasn't really comfortable with it until I got into the Black Keys, their early concerts on Youtube, and realized you could go bassless and actually make it sound awesome. Even without baritone guitar. It's my favorite instrument, you can play high notes and the low notes too, more like... when I play piano.Makes you use your thumb and fingers more to create an interplay between the lows and the highs. It's a totally different technique than when you play a regular guitar.
Q:Piano. Are you still playing piano?
A:Well sure, but not as much as I used to. I mean it's tempting. There's a lot more money for me in playing piano, but I'm a rock and roll guy. If I write more rock songs on the piano I'll consider it. My favorite keyboard stuff I've done is the Forgotten Spirits CD from '99 I did with Orlando Secatero the Navajo flute player. Man, he's good. They used that CD as the music over the PA at the Gathering of Nations here in Albuquerque many times. I'm proud of that CD.
Q:Are you still playing percussion for African dance classes?
A:No. That was my focus for about 8 years, but no. My head's still spinning from that a bit, I think. It's like, "how is that experience going to translate into what I play on different instruments?" I'm still finding out.
Q:As a kid in Santa Fe you played shows like the 4th of July Fireworks in front of 10.000 screaming people. I saw it. You were awesome. What are the crowds like in Albuquerque?
A:What crowds? No.(laughs)We get a great response, of course, from the people who are there, but no. Hell no.There's a little scene here in Albuquerque but I don't fit in. Not even close. It's weird to be an outsider and still have people sing along with the songs the first time they hear 'em. It gives me confidence. It would be so cool if one day people associate these songs with the "Albuquerque sound". That would make me laugh my ass off!