5 Questions with Johnny Hickman (Cracker)

As previously mentioned, I’ve been on a Cracker binge lately, currently spinning Kerosene Hat. I had the pleasure of talking with Johnny Hickman of Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker fame for our continuing 5 Questions with Muzzle of Bees feature.

The internet has dramatically altered the way artists can reach an audience. With things like blogs/myspace/etc, what are your thoughts on the power of the internet in terms of helping (or hurting) your music?

David and I both started in the DIY days of stapling flyers all over cities to get people to come to your gigs. We’re talking all the way back to the pre Camper/Cracker days and our first bands. We’re old enough now not to worry about dating ourselves. I’m proud to be a veteran. The internet has slowly and completely flipped the music industry on it’s ear which is almost entirely a good thing. When I say ALMOST entirely good I am referring to the obvious difficulty in getting people to occasionally PAY artists for their music instead of simply taking it and giving it to each other. However, the positive overwhelmingly outweighs the negative. I mean, you have bands now building their entire careers from scratch on the internet. That is amazing and great to see. Musical careers should be directed and decided by the hands of musicians. It has been a very successful tool for Cracker worldwide.

David has said that CVB has thrived when a Republican is in the White House. Does Cracker have any similar dynamic? Any thoughts on the current race?

Hard to say on the Republican vs Democrat issue for Cracker. We made huge strides under the Clinton administration. We played for one of his biggest campaign rallies. But really, for the most part we are talking about the same fan base. CVB broke up for all those years so who knows how they would have fared in the interim? As far as the current race I am hopeful for Obama but then again I was aghast and shocked when Bush was reelected. With the obvious abysmal state of affairs we had better make some serious changes this fall. If another Republican gets elected I may move my family to Spain. So much for patriotism eh? JOHNNY THE TURNCOAT!

What bands would make up the dream bill for the Cracker/CVB Campout?

Well, we have Built To Spill this year which is very cool. My personal dream bill would have Beck, Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy), The Pixies, The White Stripes, Backyard Tire Fire and maybe a UK wild card like Quarter Pounder. I want John Doe to come back some day too. He’s a national treasure as far as I’m concerned.

There’s a new Cracker album in the works, correct? How far along in the writing and recording process are you? Do you have a timetable as far as when you’d like it to be released?

Our plan was to work on it a lot this summer but a lot of live work preempted that a bit. That’s never a bad thing though. Bands are supposed to play live. We have a big box of songs on the burner and are slowly sorting it out and coming up with more which is how we work. I just want it to be another great Cracker record so I’ll be happy to have it out when it is. You rush that shit and it sounds like it.

You’ve taken to blogging over the past couple of years providing updates of your band and travel tips. I noticed you’re taking submissions for future topics. What are some things you’ll be sharing with readers in the future?

Yeah, I became a novice columnist recently on an invite from a local Colorado entertainment paper called The Scene. I have a monthly column called “Uncle Johnny’s Tips For Musicians” which is a lot of fun for me and hopefully helpful to some younger musical brethren. I’ve also been posting blogs on my website about Cracker, CVB, many of our musical friends and my life on the road in general for the last few decades. The cyber and the paper output are beginning to meld. This months topic is about musicians getting their gear stolen which we in Cracker and CVB know a few things about. Other articles have been about flying, hotels etc. I may write one about bands STAYING TOGETHER. It’s not always easy but it’s been worth it for Cracker. We have great fans all over the world I’m happy to say. We’ve never been really huge and so owe a lot to our hard core of “crumbs” as they call themselves. With us it’s been “work out your petty differences and stay the course!”

Photo: Lynn Crounse
Myspace: Cracker
MP3: Cracker – “Something You Ain’t Got”
MP3: Cracker – “The World Is Mine” (Live in Berlin)

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