Interview | Slim Jim Phantom @ Rewind Scotland

Slim Jim Phantom with The Stray Cats
photo taken from Stray Cats Spotify

“We’re all friends and have been for a very long time.”

Slim Jim Phantom was one of the artists I was most excited to meet. He’s performed with The Stray Cats for decades, he’s famous for standing up while playing drums, has dedicated his life to the rockabilly genre, and is one of the loveliest people in music.

Immediately after his set, Slim Jim Phantom and I discussed everything from playing new places, to underrated artists, and brand new projects.

Q: You’ve just played here [Rewind] and a whole range of shows recently, was there anywhere you hadn’t played before?

I played a gig last night in Paisley, and I haven’t been there before. I’ve been to Glasgow, Edinburgh, I’ve actually been all the way to Aberdeen before. But the actual town of Paisley, I hadn’t been there before, and here [Perth] today, I haven’t been in this town before.

Q: Have you enjoyed it though, going places that are new to you?

Oh yeah. We’ve done a bunch in Scotland this year, we did, earlier in the tour, we did Glasgow twice and Edinburgh twice, and now this one today.

Q: Do you enjoy playing newer places or do you prefer doing the same sorts of shows?

I like doing these festivals, I’ve got to be honest with you. I’ve been doing Fridays in clubs, and then Saturdays at the festivals and I like the festivals. I like the atmosphere, outside.

Q: What was it like playing to a crowd who know your music, and were around when the Stray Cats began?

It’s great, you know? The Stray Cats, we were popular in the 80s, we still tour with The Stray Cats, we still play but we made our breakthrough in the 80s. We were represented as the rockabilly kind, so even amongst this seemingly different music, it’s really where the Stray Cats come from. I don’t think you get to any of the 80s people that we love without going through music related to the original rock and rollers. So it’s like we represent that.

Q: You mentioned the rockabilly genre, and you promote that with your music. So other than, obviously, Gene Vincent, is there anyone else who inspired you to pursue that?

Oh sure. Elvis Presley was really the most influence on us. Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Bo Diddley. And a few of the pioneer rock and roll gals we love who we’re still friends with: Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee, Janis Martin who was around until a few years ago. Carl Perkins was a huge influence on us. The original American rock and rollers. It was them who influenced The Beatles and The Stones, and that’s how I came to it. I had older cousins who had the records, and you look at The Beatles or The Rolling Stones and you see ‘C Perkins’ wrote this song and ‘B Holly’. You think “who are these people?” and you dig a little deeper and I found the original rockabilly artists.”

Q: I previously asked The Farm, just with you mentioning them, do you have a preference over The Stones or The Beatles?

Oh no. They’re both awesome, I couldn’t make up my mind, to be honest.

Q: I saw you’re in a new supergroup with Jools Holland, The Barnestormers. How did that come about? There’s quite big names in there.

That came about really because we’re all friends and have been for a very long time. Jimmy Barnes, who’s the top pop/rockstar in Australia, I met him when the Stray Cats first played in Australia, this was in the 80s. And with Jools Holland, I met him when we, in the 80s, played shows with Squeeze, and we did the tour. I’ve just known Jools a very long time. [Chris] Cheney, who’s a little but younger than us, and now it doesn’t matter. But when I was 20, he was 15, his sister brought him to see the Stray Cats play in Australia. We all know that we knew each other.

The original plan was to go to Australia and to make an album and everything got changed. So, we learned a new way to do the records, to file share. We would record our parts, mail them to Kevin Shirley, the producer, he’s done everyone you could name. We sent him the file, put the drum on the tape, send that to Jools, and he would send his part back. So we managed to make the whole record through file sharing.”

Q: Did you like this new way of recording or do you prefer being in a studio?

Well I’m happy that we did it.

Q: But would you do it again?

Sure, if the situation arose. But I would go, all four of us, and go stay in a nice studio and hotel in Australia, I would do that too.”

Q: The website I write for, Discovery Music Scotland, caters for and supports smaller artists. Is there anyone you can think of that deserves more recognition than they currently have?

There’s a great rockabilly, original, British sounding rock and roll band called Furious who have been my backing band on this tour. They’ve had a couple of records out, they’re called Furious and they’re from Liverpool and they’re fantastic!