Tequila-fueled tunes

  • Roger Clyne

    Chadwick Fowler

Name Roger Clyne

Age 38

Vocation Front man for the Tempe, Arizona, band Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. The Peacemakers are made up of Clyne, P.H. Naffah on drums, Steve Larson on guitar, and Nick Scropos on bass. Also markets his own brand of tequila.

Known For The band’s high-energy live shows and Southwestern sound.

Influences Marty Robbins, Sex Pistols, Violent Femmes, Camper Van Beethoven, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Charles Bowden and Ed Abbey

He Says "I love the spaciousness of the West and I take it for granted until we go on tour. On the Eastern Seaboard it is an hour and 30 minutes between shows, in the Midwest four to six hours. In the West, you got to have whole travel days."

If He Wasn’t In A Band  "I love the ocean and I’d probably be into oceanography or marine biology. I’d be the Portuguese guy in The Life Aquatic, strumming a guitar on the boat playing David Bowie songs."

and while the rest of us were sleeping
she sent flowers gently creeping
and the waters slowly seeping through
the cracks in the pavement and the cracks in the dam
so now everything we steal away
we know someday she’ll take it back again


—Roger Clyne, "Sonoran Hope and Madness"

Roger Clyne sits at ease, occasionally running a hand through his long brown hair, in the cramped quarters of his band’s tour bus outside the Gothic Theatre in Denver on a cold November night.

He offers his visitor a tray of fresh vegetables with ranch dressing on the side. He and the band’s drummer, P.H. Naffah, are discussing the amount of smoking going on backstage, and debating which movie to watch tonight on the drive home: Why We Fight or a Jacques Cousteau documentary.

It’s the final show of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers’ 2006 tour, and in a few hours Clyne will jump around the stage, kick Naffah’s drum-kit cymbals with his cowboy boots, and shoot seven tequila shots as he belts out his brand of Southwestern rock ’n’ roll. The Peacemakers have released three studio and two live albums, with the next one due in March.

Although he has a cult-like following of frenzied fans, Roger Clyne’s not exactly a household name. Still, chances are you’ve heard at least one of his songs: He wrote the theme to the Fox network’s animated sitcom King of the Hill.

For the most part, however, Clyne’s music remains firmly rooted in the West, reflecting his childhood in southern Arizona, where he rode horses and fixed fences on his father’s ranch southeast of Tucson.

"I’ve never tried to limit myself to sound Southwest; it just happened naturally," he says, referring to both his songs’ lyrics and their sound. "After we listened to our last album for the first time, I couldn’t believe it; I never thought we’d sound like this surfer, mariachi, fun band. But I’m glad it comes out like that."

Clyne’s lyrics swarm with pirates, bandits, bootleggers and outlaws, characters he associates with the folklore of his Arizona childhood. But the largest member of the cast of characters is often the landscape itself; it’s explicitly or implicitly present in just about every song, he says.

Clyne has always relied on that landscape to forge his artistic identity. After the breakup of their previous band, the Refreshments, Clyne and Naffah scaled California’s Mount Shasta, twice. Then they headed out into the Arizona desert on foot for 40 days.

"We had no jobs, no kids, so we set out with cheap guitars and recording material in our 50 pound backpacks. But it was so fucking hot! We were boiling this brownish-green water at these little holes for drinking. After 17 days we stumbled into Benson (Ariz.) to resupply and hit a bar. God, it felt great to have a shower and a beer. After that, we said, ‘Screw it.’ " From that experience came the newly formed Peacemakers’ first album, Honky Tonk Union.

It saddens Clyne to see his beloved desert filling up with people, suburbs and stripmalls — the Phoenix area is one of the fastest-growing in the country. Yet he remains sanguine about it all. "Growing up, my brother and I would play cowboys and Indians when driving back with our dad from Sonora to Tempe. And we’d pray for headlights to shoot at," he says with a laugh. "You drive that now, there isn’t a moment that you don’t pass someone."

But Clyne realizes that the engine behind the growth is the same love for the landscape that inspires him. He wants to use his music to find common ground with the people with whom he now shares his home.

"I want to figure out the ‘us’ and not the ‘us/them’ dichotomy. I don’t think drawing lines between ‘cowboys’ and ‘environmentalists’ is helpful at all."

Clyne is both cowboy and environmentalist — the tour bus, emblazoned with an image of two ponies, runs on biodiesel, "when it’s available, which ain't too often." As the band tours the country, it spreads a message of environmental self-awareness by donating a portion of all its sales to environmental causes.

But he also has a realistic take on it all: "I can’t be that self-righteous until I ride up here on my horse and play my recycled driftwood guitar, with strings salvaged from a landfill."


The author is an HCN intern.

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