Holder’s previous album, the independently released Fry Pharmacy, was a one-man affair, recorded live as he sang and played his National resonator guitar and harmonica. Photo by Bill Johnson
On “Stagger Lee,” you get a little Middle Eastern, which I like. And there’s a weird church-bell sound at the end.
It is actually church bells from YouTube. I thought, “What would it be like if we put bells on it?” And we happened to find something that lined up pretty well on YouTube, and someone held their cellphone up to the vocal mic to get it on the track.
It worked! It adds an eerie tone to the proceedings.
Well, ask not for whom the bell tolls, right?
Touché! “Stranger” is another really cool tune. It’s kind of demented. The vibe reminded me of Nick Cave. Are you a fan?
Oh absolutely. I’m a big fan of Nick Cave. And also, that darkness end of Johnny Cash. The arrangement of it is completely an homage to Johnny Cash. It’s a funny thing. The only instrument I’m playing on that is a tuned-down lap-steel guitar that’s doing that warble. The electric lead you hear is Matt Bohannon, the guy who loaned us the Bandmaster. He gets real heavy on that song.
Who were your idols as you were learning to play?
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you I definitely had stuff that I went and sought out—all the blues guys: Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson and all that stuff. But the place and time I come from, and the culture I come from, involves pretty much walking around in a crowd of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers. It’s the national music of the part of the South that I’m from. Whatever else I was listening to, that’s what was playing at me the rest of the time. You don’t have to go real far to hear that on that record.
As far as the original blues players, do you have any favorites?
One of these days I’m going to play something exactly like Fred McDowell and nobody will get to hear it, but it will make me happy. One of these days I’m going to play something that’s actually as loose and rhythmic as John Lee Hooker, and again no one will hear, but it will tickle me to death. I’m a huge Ry Cooder fan, too. I know that’s a different generation. His phrasing is really delightful.
You’ve been open about your struggles with depression and addiction. Is that something you feel was holding you back for a while?
Absolutely. It’s a funny thing. In my particular case, it all goes back to the fact that I’m mentally ill and I have medicine I have to take to control that. And when I don’t take it, I live in the woods in Northern California and I’m too paranoid to talk to anybody. I was completely off the grid in a recreational vehicle with no electricity or running water for about a year. And when I do take it, I get a record deal and go out on tour. Pretty easy to figure that out.
I’ve been walking around with a hat on that Patrick from Alive Records gave me that says “Alive” on it. You’d be amazed by how many people are like, “We wondered.”
Mark “Porkchop” Holder and his band perform “Disappearing” off his new album Let It Slide at the Wildwood Hotel in Willamina, Oregon. It’s a great opportunity to see Holder’s hybrid technique, employing both slide and traditional fretting, here in an open G tuning. And by using his ring finger for the slide, it frees him up to use his pinky to add a fourth to some of his slide chords to create a suspended chord. (You can see him employing this approach between 25 and 32 seconds.) On the outro solo, notice how he uses the open G string as a drone while fretting different notes on the B string. And check out how relaxed his right hand is as he accompanies his singing, alternately strumming and picking out notes with his acrylic nails.