Artimus PyleInterview by Jonas Mannon // February 17 2012
If we ever discover the true meaning of life, it will most likely be in a musical note.
What would you call someone who’s survived Vietnam, a fiery plane crash, being shot, various motorcycle accidents followed by various surgeries, brutal personal and public struggles, being alienated by nearly all whom he trusted and rock superstardom?
A – The Terminator
C- Neo (from The Matrix)
D – Artimus Pyle
If you chose D, you’d be correct.
Artimus Pyle, the seminal drumming force behind Lynyrd Skynyrd’s enduring musical legacy and proud member of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has a lot to say and generously shared his time to talk about a lot of things. Never one to pull punches, figuratively or otherwise, the “Wild Man” moniker from his Skynyrd days still seems fitting even as he turns 63 this July. Not that his pace has slowed much.
Artimus and his band deliver what he calls, “a vehicle for future new southern rock.” He is also adamant about giving the fans, what he calls, a presentation of Lynyrd Skynyrd music the way it’s supposed to be played, without the clown act.
The Artimus Pyle Band is Brad Durden on keyboards and vocals, Scott Raines on guitar and vocals, Jerry Liga on guitar and vocals and Tony Black on bass guitar. Their set includes original material from their back catalogue as well as songs from 2007’s Artimus Venomus disc, which served as both a scathing indictment of the music business and a cathartic journey of forgiveness and redemption from many years of anger and betrayal.
So it seems the clown act comment is more an open handed slap than a subtle jab at the many people, Ronnie’s widow, Judy Van Zant, chief among them, who Artimus feels destroyed what the late Ronnie Van Zant had envisioned for the band and for southern rock as a whole. In conversation, he often speaks of Ronnie with clear reverence and love.
“It all always comes back to, ‘thank you Ronnie’, he was more than most artists and most people will ever be.”
On Garry Rossington, the only other surviving member of the original group, Artimus offers, “Garry enlists 10 guns [hired musicians], plays under the name of Lynyrd Skynyrd and gets paid a lot of money,” he explains. “I was mad for a long time,” he now recalls with notable grace. “I was homicidal and suicidal for a couple of years. But I'm over it. If I was driving down the road and saw one of these people with a flat tire, I'd stop to help, but then I'd keep right on driving.”
It is no secret that the touring road and the long strange trips it brings are the core of a musician’s life. Artimus recently did a show in Des Moines, Iowa, which is a 20 hour drive for him, one-way.
“The way it works for me is, I get a call, I pack my drums in my truck and off I go—hopefully I earn enough to pay the band and gas money home.”
While that reality may appear grossly unjust considering the indelible mark Artimus Pyle has etched into rock’s stone, he’s come to understand that seizing the day begins now.
“There’s no bar too far, no hall too small and no gig too big for these ‘ol bones,” he jokes in a light but definitive tone.
In listening to this bona-fide legend spin yarns of musical lore, it’s difficult to remain unmoved by all he has done and seen. His manner is open and welcoming and he sometimes has a way of being downright profound.
“If we [humans] ever discover the true meaning of life, it will most likely be in a musical note.”
His views and opinions are also often funny, honest and scalpel sharp. Like when he spits venom on the Nashville, or “Trashville” music climate and particularly on Taylor Swift and her ilk.
“It’s hard to blame [Swift], entirely but she’s the epitome of pre-packaged, soulless industry garbage. You know that when tripe is served, I’ll yell ‘TRIPE!’ I will fight until the day I die against the pre-packaged, no substance crap that is merely 15 layers of machine generated vocals which are then looped and affixed to a cute, young girl’s ass.”
It’s easy to feel his distaste for industry schlock and greed is justified considering the decades of continual sleights and betrayals he has endured at the hands of “friends” and enemies alike in the business. Still, he’s let go of much of the rage and sorrow and feels it’s better to embrace what’s ahead.
“My band works very hard and I’m very proud of that”, he exclaims with potent zeal. “We are true, seasoned, road-wise musicians playing real instruments and music which endures. We’ve all dedicated our lives to this. The only buttons pushed on our stage are to turn on the amps.”
He is hopeful about the future and when asked what is next he simply says with a rich laugh, “I’m a survivor and I’m pretty sure God just doesn’t want me yet.”
Visit Artimus online www.artimuspyle.com
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About the Author
Jonas Mannon has been fortunate enough to work with people like Duff McKagen, Peter Criss and Bill Ward, among others. He still contends, however that he's still "just a knock-around drummer kid from New York." As a freelance journalist he has interviewed 13-time Grammy winner Ricky Skaggs and drumming legends, Artimus Pyle, Sandy Gennaro and Kenny Aronoff, among others.