Ha Ha Tonka is a rock band from Missouri with a sound influenced by life in the Ozarks. We recently had guitarist and vocalist Brian Roberts on the phone for an interview, because we wanted to find out his thoughts on Bloodshot Records, the value of buying music, and getting through a personal run-in with cancer and the American healthcare system.
Here’s a transcript of our interview, along with the Soundcloud link below for your listening pleasure.
Who: Brian Roberts; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
When: Thursday July 16th, 2015
How: via phone
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
K: So Brian, how do you like being part of Bloodshot Records and that family over there?
B: Well I’m glad you used the word family. That’s basically what it is. I mean really we’ve been with Bloodshot since we started doing this professionally, since 2007. So yeah, we love all those guys. They’re the smartest people in the industry and just a great label to be a part of. We’ve been really fortunate to grow our band with them as our main supporters.
K: Are there any other bands on their client list that you’re following pretty closely?
B: Yeah, the Banditos are really having a great year. They’ve had such great acts in the past, like you know some of our favorite records, and I think can speak collectively for the band too. Ryan Adams‘ Heartbreaker came out on Bloodshot, and I wore that album out listening to it so many times. Justin Townes Earle was on the label recently and put out a couple great records. Of course the Old 97’s earlier on. They’ve had so many good acts, I could just talk about them all day. Bobby Bare, Jr. There’s some phenomenal acts on Bloodshot.
K: Cool. Well you’re in good company. You know the music business is an interesting thing, it’s always changing. I was wondering what your thoughts are on some of the recent trends in the music business, including the infinite access to music that people have.
B: Well you know I don’t…obviously it would be great if people still bought records the way they did in the 90’s or anytime prior to that. I don’t hold out any hope that that will come back. So I am thankful that we are a touring band, and the touring side of things hasn’t changed. We generate most of our income from the touring side of what we do. When it comes to the debate over streaming services or digital downloads, or any of the Napster or post-Napster stuff that’s gone on, really that’s just technology. And I don’t know if the music industry was ready for the onslaught like some of the other digital industries were, whether that be gaming or movies or the film industry. I don’t know. I don’t really know how to talk about it in a way that doesn’t make me sound like an asshole. I love that people can go online and check out a band—check out our band—and not have to pay for it right away. But the problem I think comes into the fact that people then never pay for your music. Or rarely do. Or there’s probably a whole generation that doesn’t think that music costs anything. And I think Bloodshot’s tried to educate people, Nan Warshaw has spoke on it several times about how not buying a record from a band like the Banditos or the 97’s 25 years or 20 years ago would have meant they got less money for next time they want to make a record. Less tour support. They get less of everything.
K: Yeah I agree with some of the things you pointed out, especially I believe that maybe the next generation of music consumers doesn’t even expect to pay for music.
B: Right, what does that mean?