Josh Berwanger is no stranger to the scrapes and bruises that can come from being in a band. Before his recent stint as a solo artist he played with early 00’s band The Anniversary, who imploded during one of their tours through Japan. He then founded a country-rock group called The Only Children, releasing two records before dissolving – and subsequently began working as high school basketball coach in Lawrence, Kansas.
But musicians are rarely still for very long, and so Berwanger, rather than admit that his musical days were behind him, got together with a group of friends and began writing and recording again. “There’s this part of me that really wants music to be normal again,” he explains. “I don’t even know what I mean by that exactly, but I know what normal isn’t—designer outfits, fireworks, crazy gimmicks. I don’t know how to relate to that. I want to make rock and roll. I want to make something honest.” And on his latest record, Strange Stains (out now via Good Land), he brings along former Anniversary drummer Michael Hutcherson to create a collection of songs that harken back to the upbeat singer-songwriters of the 70’s — complete with glistening melodies and immaculate production.
We recently sat down with Berwanger to talk about some of the records which played a role in his own formative musical years. From the vast wealth of musical talent that is Hulk Hogan (?) to records by Ron Wood, The Leopards, and Mel Smith, he lays out a substantial trail of influences that blurs any line between genres or set aesthetics. Check out his full list below in the latest installment of our On Deck Series.
This record is out of control influential it has everything anyone could ever ask for on an album: Rock, Rap, Country, Heavy Metal, and a ballad. You might be thinking I’m talking about Kid Rock right now, but before that slime-ball somehow became popular Hulk and his WBTB were destroying the studio making one hell of an album. Take the ballad “Hulkster In Heaven” about a fan who passed away, Hulk sings “I use to tear my shirt, but now you tore my heart, I knew you were a Hulkamaniac right from the very start”. Phew! I need a minute. The song “Beach Patrol” could of easily been written in South Compton in the early 90’s, in this one Hulk “raps” about being the king of the beach and let’s guys know not to look at his babe “whoop there it is check it out check it in, you’ll be six feet deep if you touch my girlfriend”. Its hard not to talk about how dynamic each song is but lastly I’d like to touch on “I Want To Be A Hulkamaniac,” Hulk lays it all on the line with this one and tells you the best way to live your life “you don’t need drugs to move your feet, when the dealer tries to push on you just tell them what you’re gonna do”. Fans of this album know what I’m talking about and if you don’t already own it, rush out to your local Best Buy to purchase on cassette tape or compact disc format.
I always find it useless to mention a Stones album because they are all good and I take them out of this category of most influential records. I’ve also listened to Stones records so many times that I get tired of them and have to listen to the next best thing I’ve Got My Own Album To Do which I might honestly like more than a lot of the classic RS records. I love everything about this album from the cover art and Ron misspelling his last name by crossing out the “s” to the diversity of each of the songs. He has some of the most bad ass players on this album as well. Standout tracks are “Shirley” and “Crotch Music.”
I’m very proud to be from Kansas and to know this record was made no less than 20 minutes from where I live. KCS is one of those records I can’t believe everyone doesn’t own. To me its so honest and I can hear through the songs and the recording how much effort went into making this album.
I got this on tape as a kid and it didn’t leave my walkman for an entire summer. I still listen to it weekly. Front to back legit pop-rock n’ roll songs. The chorus to “Looking For Love” could be a hook for any rad power-pop band. I’m also a big fan of Warren D’ Martini’s guitar work. I’ve seen Stephen Pearcy solo about 5 times and Ratt 3 times, they never disappoint!
It’s hard to choose between this one and MB’s Fifth but the guitar work on “Greasy Spoon” makes me put this album over it. It’s dumb making lists like what guitar player is better than who but I think Mel does things Jimi could never do. I probably just pissed off 3 people by saying that, but there are also 4 people who know what I’m talking about.
Josh Berwanger’s latest album, Strange Stains, is out now.