Nate Hall Of US Christmas Talks Underground Music And The Power Of Indigenous Cultures
Nate Hall is one of my favorite people in the world. Not only is he in US Christmas, but he also has a killer solo acoustic act. This is a guy who embodies the power of underground music whilst never sacrificing his status as a Southern gentleman. I caught up with him at Austin Terrorfest and was able to sequester his drunk ass for a few minutes to talk about the influence of Native Americans on his work and much more.
How the fuck are you?
Is this your first SXSW?
I played before with US Christmas. It was hectic and cold. I just got here last night and it’s alright. It’s pleasant and I like this place, the people are nice.
There’s been a lot about you I’ve wanted to unpack for a long time – what drives you to make music?
I don’t know – I’ve just always wanted to do it.
Where does the Native American influence come from?
It’s geographical. I mean it’s probably a little genetic, it’s hard to know since my family has been here so long. You need to give indigenous people credit in terms of culture, language and names of places. How many mountains are named for an Amerindian thing? There are so many different languages and people there. There were just so many things that are just inherently influenced by the first people here. I pay attention to it, want to give credit to it and get people to know about it.
How do you try and do that with your music?
I try and let it speak for itself. I think it would be disrespectful to take it as my own. There’s a lot of guys who do sweat lodges where I live, but it’s just hippy dudes trying to see girls boobs is what it boils down to. I’m sure it’s purifying to sweat but we don’t really understand what that was about. They aren’t taught that by anybody. There’s a lot of fraud that goes on in terms of Native American lore. You have to know who the real people are and who is taking advantage of it for money. I don’t want to do that or claim who I am. I’m just and American dude. I understand how people got here in the first place and I understand what happened when people came here from Europe and that was awful. We have to understand all that. Even if you don’t understand exactly it’s the basic principles that matter.
Before Europeans even came west entire civilizations were wiped out. The people they found were just the survivors of an apocalypse. Europeans never realized this. They didn’t have a written language a lot of the time so we found out about it through archaeology.
What sparked your interest in this?
I grew up around it. It was always in Western movies and just where I’m from. I remember visiting the reservation when I was a kid. It was so different. The bark lodges and blow guns were really interesting. I knew right away it wasn’t as simple as what I saw on TV.
Is there a tie with that and underground music?
The ideas that run through it! The ideas of self reliance, consciousness of world history, the story of defiance of authority, all of those things run with it. I don’t want to paint it all with the same brush and I understand that the indigenous people were very different in practices from good to bad like everybody else. You can’t explain it simply, but it’s a good place to get started.
Beyond the Native American thing how has being from Asheville impacted your music?
Asheville was really just a city I only went to as a kid every now and then. Most people I grew up with were not into music. I’m from a small town in the mountains. It’s all relatively new to me. That’s bound to have some sort of impact on the art you make. I was into Neil Young. I mean Metallica and Nirvana reached me though when I was a teenager like nothing else had in that time. Anyone my age who denies that is lying. It got through when nothing else did and it brought a lot of stuff with it. Guns N Roses for example were really interesting and then you start to discover stuff like Napalm Death. Nirvana was a whole different type of music and it brought in a bunch of influences like Soundgarden and The Screaming Trees. It didn’t matter where they were form they were just doing the same kind of music at the same time.
Do you view your solo work as an extension on grunge?
I don’t think that’s a real word. It’s just a thing people put on it, it’s not really a type of music.
How do you describe it then?
I don’t. I don’t think about it. It’s not a thing to worry about for me. People develop genres to explain things and market things.
You have been part of underground music for a very long time, why do you stay involved?
If I’m going to make music that’s just what it is. What else do I do and where else do I go? I just deal with people and bands I know. I never have had any problem being able to play what I wanted to. There’s no reason to look for anything else. The people I deal with are the ones who can make things happen and treat people well. It doesn’t have to do with the bands sound, it’s just who you can meet and who you can trust. I don’t trust many people. You get burned a few times and that’ll do it.
What do you love so much about music?
It’s fun. I like to listen to it. I like guitars. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Most people I know wouldn’t do without it. They would figure out a way to make it even if they had nothing to make it with.