a few minutes with jason ringenberg

jason ringenberg. photo by paul needham.

jason ringenberg. photo by paul needham.

You used to need earplugs whenever Jason Ringenberg came to town. But then, those were the days of Jason and the Scorchers.

Back in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, Ringenberg used high volume roots rock anthems like Shop It Around, White Lies, Golden Ball and Chain and a crunchy reinvention of Bob Dylan’s Absolutely Sweet Marie to establish the Scorchers as the foremost cowpunk outfit of the era.

There have been many fine Scorchers shows in Lexington over the years, from a 1980 romp at the long gone punk club Café LMNOP to a 1986 concert with the Georgia Satellites at the University of Kentucky Student Center Ballroom (still one of the loudest shows ever to hit these ears) to a 1993 downtown outing at The Wrocklage that ended with Ringenberg dancing like a marionette on top of the bar.

Today, though, Ringenberg prefers quieter times with less company.

For Saturday’s Dame concert (his first Lexington performance since a 2004 show with Ollabelle at the club’s demolished West Main location), Ringenberg has prepared a solo acoustic program that will sum up the music that has defined his career over the past three decades.

There will be acoustically redrawn numbers from the Scorchers years along with songs from such recent Ringenberg solo albums as All Over Creation and the more topically minded Empire Builders. And there may just be a tune or two by Farmer Jason, the singer’s kid-friendly alter-ego.

We recently caught up with Ringenberg by phone just after his return from a tour of Scandinavia and Spain.

Who stays busier these days – Farmer Jason or Jason Ringenberg?

“In America, I’m doing much more Farmer Jason work. So this will be kind of a rare thing in Lexington. I’ll just be doing a Jason Ringenberg show.”

You still have a very strong fan base throughout Europe.

“I’ve worked real hard at that. You get out of something what you put into it, and I’ve worked hard to maintain the European audience. Interestingly enough, I’m even getting Farmer Jason work in Europe now, especially in the UK.”

What can we expect in terms of repertoire from your solo acoustic concerts?

“You know me. I’m a performance guy. So I don’t think in terms of, ‘Oh, I’m bored with this song’ or ‘I like that song better.’ To me, it’s all about the audience. Most of the fans want to hear all of the stuff. They want to go back and hear the Scorchers songs, too. So I’ll be doing stuff from the whole range of my career, the whole 30 year career.”

Do you find a greater flexibility in performing solo as opposed to band shows with the Scorchers?

“Oh, sure. The solo shows are all very spontaneous. To me, the audience is the band. You’re working off the audience. There’s an interaction there that’s quite exciting. It’s quite addictive, really.”

Are young audiences also “the band” at Farmer Jason shows?

(laughs) They’re the band, alright. They’re the cooks, the security – everything, really. You never know what a room full of kids is going to do. It’s completely unpredictable. What they’re going to say or how they’re going to react – it’s always a totally interactve experience. You never know what’s going to happen..

Is a different songwriting sensibility involved when composing Farmer Jason songs?

“Our team does sort of have a goal to make records that are also as interesting for adults as possible. The music is still for kids, of course. But we try to have that as a goal. Mostly though, I think you have to be much catchier, more rhythmic and use a lot more repetition that you would with adult music.”

You helped out Scorchers drummer Perry Baggs with a benefit concert last year.

“Yeah, Perry has not been in the best of health for a long time. Kidney failure and diabetes – issues like that. So the Scorchers did a benefit for him a year ago last June. It was a big success.

How has Perry been doing since then?

“No better, no worse, I would say.”

You still play other occasional electric dates with the Scorchers. How have they gone?

 “I enjoy them. For me, it’s stepping into a whole different world. The guitar player, Warren Hodges, still plays so brilliantly that it’s such a pleasure just to sit and listen to him. After all these years and with all the different people I’ve played with, he’s still such an exciting guitar player.

Do you hear a little of the Scorchers spirit in younger Americana bands today?

 “Yeah. And it’s always really fun when that happens. It’s quite an honor. The band, I think, was influential way beyond its commercial level. It has been a pretty big influence on a lot of people all across the music world. We’re quite proud of that.

You just celebrated a milestone birthday.

(laughs) “You’re correct. And, yes, it was a big birthday. Yes sir. I aim to reach 100, so I’m now past the half way point. You can do the math.”

Jason Ringenberg performs at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at The Dame, 367 East Main. Tickets are $10. Call (859) 231-7263.

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