Hard-Core Humor

The American Black Lung takes nothing too seriously--including itself

Philip Patrick is on lunch break from his job as a chain-store bookseller. The Tucson resident hits the ATM, a humiliating ritual that only serves to remind him of the fact that he's nearly broke.

He announces to the music writer on the cell phone's other end: "Which is why my band has taken up beard farming. We're now selling our beards for money."

Suddenly, it's real quiet. Patrick adds, almost in a whisper: "I'm getting the evil eye for taking too long at the ATM."

It's not the worst thing you can say about Patrick and his furious beard farmers, aka the American Black Lung. The Tucson hard-core band has garnered a reputation for mocking legendary rock bands and singling out audience members for verbal abuse. Patrick explains that he pokes fun at a lot of things sacred in the rock 'n' roll mythos.

"You know Stevie Ray Vaughan?" he says. "Mocked him, too. I even drank a goblet of Lynyrd Skynyrd's blood. If they want to fight collectively--them against us--we're down. We'll take their beards and get even more money for them."

Signed to Tucson label Burning House Records, which released ... And They Rode Their Weapons Into War back in August, Patrick's band is the perfect blend of garage, metal, punk and blues, spitting out instant classics like "Doc Bollywood," a slab of heavy rock action you could use to drive a post into the ground. Then there are ass-chapping tracks like "American Cowboy in London," full of the kind of lethal guitar squalling that makes you want to break something against your apartment walls--maybe even your own skull. And if you feel like getting body-slammed, just program "Dhusty Rhodes" on your iPod, and let Patrick's throat-shredding screams leave you feeling like you're barely surviving a steel-cage match.

If you don't believe that the songs on Weapons Into War will whip you senseless, be sure to catch the band's Jan. 8 show at Skrappy's with The Jonbenet, a Southern-fried hard-core group with a politically incorrect name. ("People get offended by the name," says Patrick, getting serious for a moment. "But they put a new twist on old sounds, and I'm honored to be on tour with them.") Just don't tell anyone Tucson Weekly sent you.

"You're with Tucson Weekly?" he says. "Hey, isn't that the paper that's always writing up bands like Buckwheat Zydeco? Yeah, I only read the Weekly for the comic strips, I think. But my grandmother's going to be so proud of my band, man!"

At this point, Patrick apologizes and admits he's a failed comedian. "I used to write down jokes, but what I really think is funny is watching people getting smashed in the crotch with a football."

After sharing what sounds like an unfeasible recipe for a "nacho-flavored smoothie," Patrick elaborates on his job responsibilities as a bookseller.

"I'm selling a ton of copies of this book written by a guy called Barack Obama," he explains. "Have you heard of him? I think he's a basketball player, but don't quote me on that. Anyhow, when girls come in the store looking for his book, I let them know I'm totally into Barack, and that I think he's got a real shot at taking his team all the way to the finals. And that's about the moment when she says something like: 'What's your problem?' Or: 'Are you illiterate or something?'"

As difficult as being a bookseller may be, Patrick has plenty to look forward to in 2007. His band is engaged in a three-month, coast-to-coast tour that should sail along relatively smoothly. After all, the American Black Lung already completed a grueling two-month Warped Tour last summer that generated some serious road calluses. Plus, there's a new EP titled A Sudden Departure of Vultures, courtesy of indie label Uprising. Distributed by Sony, the forthcoming release is said to be shipping to the tune of 15,000 copies--with an actual marketing campaign. It looks like the little hard-core band from Tucson with a blue-collar name and attitude is destined for a bright future.

"We want to tour Europe," Patrick offers. "We want our records there. It's the Tucson connection that'll make it happen for us because of bands like Calexico. People will be surprised by how well we'll do in Europe, and it'll be because, I think, of a band I've never heard."

Ah, to be big in Europe. But what if conquering foreign territories comes as easily--or badly--for the American Black Lung as it did for Dubya? What then?

"Well, we can always go back to beard farming. We'll turn pro at that point."

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