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Incredibly Strange Music Vol. I Excerpt: Norton Records (Miriam Linna and Billy Miller)

Back to Incredibly Strange Music Vol. I

R/S: Tell me about HASIL ADKINS—

ML: Hasil, rhymes with Basil—and that’s also his brother’s name. He totally blew our minds when we first heard him. Then when you meet him, you realize he’s the genuine article.

BM: I first heard “Haze” in the ’70s when I found a copy of “She Said.” What’s wild is: that record was produced on a Brooklyn label about a mile from where we live! Then a friend showed me “Chicken Walk” and I went, “Wow—this guy made two records?” Another friend, who generally only looks for R&B groups, located Hasil in West Virginia. The great thing about him is: his personality, his vision, his talent were still intact—that’s rare; most of these guys who are really crazy fizzled out or drove off mountains. He started sending us tapes which mixed up old and new recordings—you couldn’t tell which was which. One tape sounded straight outta the ’50s—I thought he was yelling, “Hey, we’re rockin’!” but it turned out to be “Hey there, Reagan!”—it was new. Every record he does he sends to the White House—Nixon actually sent him a “thank you” letter.

ML: We went to West Virginia and brought him to New York and people went crazy over him—

BM:—much like the script of King Kong.

ML: People are hungry for that kind of emotion.

BM: Hasil doesn’t sleep; he drinks about 30-130 cups of coffee a day.

ML: He eats more meat than any other human being we’ve ever met; he carries around Vienna sausages in his pocket. “What would you like for lunch?” “Meat.” “Any special kind?” “Meat.”

BM: He’ll go to a restaurant and order three separate hamburger platters, just eat the patties and say, “Hey Billy, you want these french fries?”

ML: Just meat and coffee. He has an endless supply of girlfriends; girls are always chasing him, fighting over him—he’s really a popular guy in that respect . . . but also a really sensitive guy. His personality is like: either really up (totally up there) or so down that you can’t even get him to talk. He’s among that 1% of manic-depressives who cannot sleep—

BM: He’ll “sleep”—like all day long he’ll lay down, but he’ll get up periodically. Our sax player stayed with him and at 4 AM Hasil woke him up, saying, “Come on, Lars, let’s go out and play some music on the porch!”

ML: He was the youngest of 9 or 10 children and was born long after his nearest sibling. He grew up with his mom and lived with her until she died in 1985—that really destroyed him because he loved her so much. He had lived his entire life, including his adult life, in this house where he also did all his recording all that time; he’d never married. When his mom died, that sent him into this intense dimension of blueness.

BM: But he’s also this outgoing wild man who takes out a couple girls and drives into telephone poles for laughs—

ML:—and puts rattlesnakes in the back seat of the car just to watch girls scream!

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