Music » Music Stories & Interviews

Punk's elder statesman revels in rootsier rock



Earlier this year Mike Ness, frontman of legendary Orange County, Ca., punk band Social Distortion, released his first solo album "Cheating at Solitaire." Instead of using his solo career as a platform to be self-indulgent and/or repetitive, Ness took a chance on "Solitaire," playing songs that owe more to people like Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams than Johnny Thunders or Keith Richards.

As Ness explains it, "I had a really good time making that record and I learned a lot and a lot about myself and proved to myself that I could do more than one thing. I've only been in this band and it's been for 20 years. So I needed to prove to myself that I could do other things."

Built up by the confidence he found outside of Social Distortion, Ness hit the road for a tour of the country with a new group of musicians. The deserved success of the tour and album made Ness even more confident. He decided to keep the momentum going by recording his sophomore solo, "Under the Influences," an album of cover songs, originally done by the likes of Hank Williams, Carl Perkins and some more obscure legends of roots rock and country music. And he hit the road again, on a tour that brings his band Saturday, Dec. 11, to the House of Blues.

But if people are expecting the atmosphere of a Social Distortion show, Ness says think again. "I wanted this to be mainly 'sit down' tickets, so when people came in they would know that this wasn‘t going to be a Social D show. It doesn‘t mean that it‘s a quiet lounge, folky, quiet evening, because I assure you it‘s not. I just wanted to make sure that people knew it was different.

The atmosphere might be different, but it‘s still rewarding for Ness, "To be honest with you I‘m having a really good time. I get to really sing. I don‘t have to worry about fights in the audience or shoes flying on stage or some idiot spitting on me.

"It‘s nice to be able to show a little versatility and have it recognized. After 20 years of doing the same thing and trying something new that‘s so well received is very fulfilling."

The past year of events has given Ness a new perspective and enthusiasm. "I want to age gracefully. I want to mature gracefully. And I want my career to age gracefully. To me this solo project was a very natural progression into a future. One thing I don't want to do is be a 50-year-old man trying to sing punk rock. Another thing I learned is that I need to do both. This solo record has provided a balance in my musical career that was kind of missing. So from here on out I'm going to do both."

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