Ten Shots with Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats

By Georgetown Fats
December 2012

All things considered, this interview is long since overdue. Long before Georgetown Fats became an internationally-known pseudonym and blues critic through his work with the Boston Blues Society, capable of entertaining himself greatly by referring to himself sporadically in the 3rd person, Georgetown Fats was just a guy out with friends and family in search of a cold beer to help beat the heat of a hot and muggy summer day.

Having suffered greatly by being raised in a pro-Beatles household, I had long since embraced the sounds of Hound Dog Taylor metronome-abusive boogies, John Lee Hooker’s one chord trance-inducing shuffles and the sheer raw power of Howlin’ Wolf as my own personal musical revolution. As the microbrews began to multiply, it was hard not to notice that the band in front of me was laying down the sounds of Hound Dog, Hooker and Wolf with a punk-like fervor.

We left the microbrewery that day as fans of the Ten Foot Polecats and with copies of their self-produced EP Sterno Soup.

Over the years there have been many stories involving the band, the guys in the band, or the close-knit group of delinquent miscreants that seem to frequent a Ten Foot Polecats show - which will certainly keep a lot of us from running for public office – so, lacking a proper interview starting point which won’t jeopardize employment opportunities for any of the merry cast of characters, I will jump right into the interview with Jay Scheffler, vocalist and harp player for the Ten Foot Polecats.

Georgetown Fats - So where did it all start for you? What was the first moment or occurrence that made you want to play an instrument, and then who was the first artist who inspired you to sing?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - Getting my own car! Once I started driving myself around and singing along to the radio without the worry that someone would hear me, I knew I wanted to sing for real.

Georgetown Fats - Explain to me the evolution of your blues sound. From a guy who convincingly sang in that Chicago Blues Style with a former band, your transition to North Mississippi Hill Country/Blues Punk was equally convincing. How did you get there?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - Well, I’d always been into punk rock and the darker shades of blues, I just couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to do it until I got into a band with Jim (Chilson guitarist for Ten Foot Polecats) and Dave (Darling, original drummer for Ten Foot Polecats). Once I got to know them, I knew they could be corrupted! Jim was already a fan of The Stooges and hanging out with me; he was hearing Black Flag, Bad Brains, and a lot of other nutty stuff. At the same time, Jim and I were listening to the very different approach to electric blues that had come out of the Mississippi Hill Country and wanted to get some of that in our band. Finding this to be a hard sell, we were inspired to give up on the Chicago style and go after our own sound based on hill country blues and aggressive rock and roll. We were a little wild and wooly for the “traditional” blues crowd, but soon discovered that there was a small yet international scene that embraced what we were doing. This encouraged us to really go for it rather than tone it down to be more accepted by the regular blues crowd.

Georgetown Fats - After the release of the critically acclaimed I Get Blamed for Everything I Do on the Hillgrass Bluebilly Entertainment Label, what is next? When are you doing a full length recording with Chad Rousseau on drums?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - We just finished recording the follow-up and are having it mastered this Wednesday. Still gotta choose a title and cover art …

Georgetown Fats - Given the power of the Hillgrass Bluebilly Entertainment label and the supportiveness of “the Dirtyfoot Family”, how has HBE opened doors for The Ten Foot Polecats?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - It helped us out and gave us kind of a head start when we toured behind the first album, having the Hillgrass stamp on it. Sort of like, “If Hillgrass believes in ‘em, maybe we should check ‘em out.” Helped us get booked into shows where we met other bands and fans that we now count among our good friends. They have booked us into shows that got us a lot of exposure and helped guide us as we toured unknown regions.

Georgetown Fats - Please understand the question is meant with a great deal more respect than it may carry, but it is one I have to ask in my own words. What fuels your continued passion about country blues and the dwindling juke scene to fight mass media and a somewhat dumbed-down contemporary pop blues sound by slugging it out with the Ten Foot Polecats?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - The music we’re doing with TFPC is a very pure reflection of who we are and how we feel. I think it’s the best stuff I’ve been involved with. The love we get from fans both locally and around the country assures us that we’re doing the right thing. Having said that, If we do a show and get no reaction (has happened), we still feel exhilarated playing this stuff. If playing this style is wrong, I don’t wanna be right!

Georgetown Fats - So since my invite to the Scheffler nuptials seemed to be lost in the mail, I can’t speak from a first-hand account but it seems you had a large contingent of the Boston Blues community at your wedding. With playing music professionally being ultimately completive and sometimes a cut-throat environment, how has a band like the Ten Foot Polecats, with a unique sound to Boston, successfully worked with bands laying down Deep Blues, Pop Blues, Hard Blues Rock, Chicago Blues or the jump blues sound while also being called out to work the punk/rockabilly circuit with a mainstay like King Sasquatch at The Sick-A-Billy’s?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - I’m going to Sasquatch’s wedding next month! It seems that we appeal to a wide range of music fans, which is nice. It keeps the audience fresh! As far as being cutthroat, the musicians we spend time with are way more supportive than competitive. If anything, we like when a band plays before us and really lights it up! That inspires us to say, “damn, we better rock this shit!”. Just like we would hope to do for the band that goes on after us.

Georgetown Fats - You’re currently in the afterglow of the 2nd Annual Deep Blues Festival in Cleveland. While knowing all of the artists that participated are exemplary and unique, if you could shine your floodlight on one artist who would it be and why?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - Molly Gene- One Whoaman Band. She’s young, ferocious, and endlessly evolving. Very charismatic and dynamic on stage yet very warm and genuine off. She’s so good already and yet so eager to learn more. She’s the future of the blues.

Georgetown Fats - This used to be a recycled question, but having already rummaged through your recording collection I know there are still so many awesome artists I have yet to experience, so I will rephrase one of my favorite recycled questions. If I were to break into your CD collection, what blues artists I’ve not yet heard of, should I have heard by now?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - Bob Log III. His records are unlike anything else out there. Great live performer; perfect combination of unimpeachable musicianship and non-stop commitment to entertainment.

Georgetown Fats – In hindsight that was a loaded question to ask of you, since you had long since hipped me to the sounds of Bob Log III.

Georgetown Fats - Which artist or artist(s) are you surprised that has not yet caught the consciousness of the mainstream blues fan?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - Peter Parcek. Just pure greatness. He should be the most famous guitar player in the world right now.

Georgetown Fats – You are preaching to the choir there …I’m trying to get Riley B a part in Peter’s next video….

Georgetown Fats - What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail, and why?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - Well, if we’re gonna leave the realm of reality, I’d build a time machine and go back to the early ‘70s when there still was a music business. It would be interesting to see how the Polecats would go over in ’72 or ’73.

Georgetown Fats - Are there any tales from the road you care to share? Names can be changed to protect the guilty, but I am either looking for something that makes the lay-fan understand that playing music professionally is actual “work,” or a humorous road tale. In a pinch, a Diamond Dave Darling story or hazing of Chad Rousseau would work.

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - It’s all a blur. We’re not that zany. We get excited when we’re heading to a show where we’ll be playing with one or more of our favorite bands, or a favorite town or venue. Or when we’re heading to a region known for great BBQ like Kansas City or Texas or the Carolinas. Or when we’re gonna be put up and we know there will be beds. Or when a venue provides lodging. Drive, Eat, Play, Drink, Sleep. Although not much sleep.

Georgetown Fats - It is one of my favorite recycled questions, but it always manages to get great responses. What do you plan on putting in your contract rider once you’ve “made it?”

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - A shower, some booze, some beer (Pepsi and coconut stacks for Chad), 3 pizzas and 3 couches.

We just did a show with Bob Log III. His rider included 2 pairs of socks and 10 helium balloons; 5 red, 5 blue.

Georgetown Fats – I am sure there is an interesting follow-up question that should be asked, but I can’t get beyond the “WTF?” face from the bar owner or festival promoter when fulfilling those contractual obligations.

Georgetown Fats - Can you remember the first artist that created your “ah-ha” moment with the North Mississippi Hill Country sound?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - Fred McDowell. You can count the notes on one hand, yet only Fred could do what he did with those notes.

Georgetown Fats - So again, can you share the name of the new disk and when it will officially drop?

Jay Scheffler of Ten Foot Polecats - Official drop date is: very soon. It’ll be called either Kiss Me You Fool or Who Drank all the Bourbon?

Would you care to hear what all the buzz is about, and how all the punk kids are jamming out to the blues? Check out http://www.tenfootpolecats.com for news, tour dates and info …

By the way, since the interview transpired the official name of the second Ten Foot Polecats release has been officially announce. Expect Undertow to be available in early 2013. Having smuggled out an advanced copy after plying the Polecats Undertow is eleven tracks of Deep Blues musical goodness...

www.tenfootpolecats.com

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