Tag: Fred LeBlanc

  • Interview With Drummer Fred LeBlanc: Reviving Rock and Roll (One Orgasm at a Time)

    Cowboy Mouth is like a kick-ass, New Orleans rock-and-roll orgasm,” insists drummer and lead singer Fred LeBlanc. And we’re in no shape to argue—there’s barely energy enough to lie back, light a cigarette (forget you heard that, kids), and thank the loin-shaking heavens. 

    Though destined to keep an audience weak in the knees, the Louisiana native had something of a shaky start himself. “I was born deaf,” he says, “and my folks used to put my head on the stereo speakers when I was a child so I could feel the vibrations.”

    No, we didn’t believe him either, but—incredibly—it’s all true: Baby LeBlanc entered the world with overgrown tonsils and adenoids that blocked his hearing passages. The condition was treatable, but doctors couldn’t help until he turned three years old. “My lugs were very weak—they were underdeveloped—so they [the doctors] had to wait until my lungs were strong, which is pretty funny when you see me today,” laughs LeBlanc, unleashing a bit of the vocal power that keeps Cowboy fans coming for more. “So music was like my first communication. I was always told I could sing before I could talk.”

    If that wasn’t sign enough, the subversive sway of Sesame Street soon sealed the youngster’s fate. “I started playing drums,” LeBlanc recounts, “because Oscar the Grouch was my hero. For Christmas when I was five years old, the only thing I wanted was a giant green garbage can, just like Oscar. So on Christmas morning, there was a giant garbage can that had freshly been painted green. I climbed in it, loved it, my brother and his friends used to roll me around in it, and then one day, I turned it over, and I just hit it, and I was like, ‘Oh, yeaaaaaaah.’ And it was all downhill from there.”

    Or, really, a steady climb uphill. A cheap drum set eventually replaced the garbage can, and LeBlanc quickly became the go-to drummer in his neighborhood, honing his skinsman skills on a high school production of Jesus Christ Super Star (“I brought [my kit] into the rehearsal space where they were doing this, and people looked at me like I had two heads”) as well as with the usual run of garage bands. A five-year stint with Dash Rip Rock began in 1985, and though the group successfully toured and released a few albums, LeBlanc grew tired of “the vices and the excesses and the craziness” of the lifestyle and quit to follow his own fortunes. A solo deal with EMI was over by the end of 1990, but LeBlanc—determined and dedicated as ever—was not done yet.

    During that pre-Cowboy period, he had a revelation. “I always played behind other people in other bands,” LeBlanc explains. “I played in this cover band where the lead singer was like an Elvis-type guy. He was kind of portly, and he’d jump on the drum riser and start bending over to sing to all the ladies. Whenever he did that, his pants would start to come down, and then all of a sudden in my face would be this big, fat, hairy butt crack. I remember thinking, ‘You know, I am never playing behind anybody ever again.’ So I never did.” Confident he could dominate the stage as well as any prancing, mike-wielding front man ever has, LeBlanc moved his minimalist kit front and center, thereby becoming not only drummer and lead singer but grand master of ceremonies. The combination clicked with Cowboy Mouth.

    Since forming in 1991, the raucous quartet has toured nearly non-stop, playing over 175 shows a year across the country, servicing an estimated eight million fans over the last decade and a half. The road warriors have also somehow found time to record 11 albums, including the new ruckus-raising effort, Voodoo Shoppe, which like all the discs in the Cowboy catalog stands steady on LeBlanc’s solid, foundational grooves. “My playing style is very, very simple and very, very song supportive,” LeBlanc says. “I learned a long time ago as a drummer that it’s more important, at least on my end, to serve the music and the song than to sit there and try to be flashy and show how many fills you can play. The greatest music in the world to me—whether it’s like the Beatles or Nirvana—was when the drums are very present, very powerful, but they’re not something that takes over the song. That’s what I choose to do.”

    Don’t think, though, his shred-free drumming is without excitement and energy. There have, of course, been electrifying drummer-leaders before (that Buddy Rich guy comes to mind), but you’ve never seen anything as entertaining as LeBlanc leading Cowboy Mouth. He can barely keep on his throne, hovering just long enough to wallop the bass drum or pulverize a lone crash cymbal before leaping up, flipping a stick, and whipping along his limbs, hands, and head—doing everything possible to connect with each and every sweat-soaked person in the audience. So infectious is his performance that not even hometown drum heroes are immune. “Ziggy [Zigaboo Modeliste of The Meters] came out to see us two years ago at Jazz Fest,” LeBlanc remembers. “After the show, he comes up and puts his arm around me and says, ‘Boy, you were the s**t!’ If Ziggy says it’s good, then it must be good.”

    So haul your butt off that throne of your own and hightail it to a gig, because Loud Lungs LeBlanc and the rest of the Cowboyers are not merely good: They’ll revive your faith in the regenerative power of rock and roll. “We are very conscious about wanting to put something positive forward,” LeBlanc says thoughtfully. “It’s easy to get people riled up when you sit there and bitch and moan about things. We wanted to try to approach like what the old gospel churches used to do: Instead of people leaving the show feeling worn out, I wanted them to leave our shows feeling reenergized, feeling like they could take on the world. Life is too short not to enjoy yourself.”