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Bloodshot Briefing

By Matt Harness

Dex Romweber's been around the block.

As one half of the seminal roots-rocking Flat Duo Jets, Romweber made his name throughout the 1980s with his axe, inspiring Jack White, among others, along the way. These days, the Chapel Hill-based guitarist/singer teams up with sister Sara as part of the Dex Romweber Duo. This year's Ruins of Berlin is the pair's first record with Bloodshot Records.

Beachwood Music caught up with Dex while he was taking a break from the road and relaxing at his North Carolina country house, not too far from the University of North Carolina campus.

Beachwood Music: How are you spending your vacation?

Dex Romweber: It's always a little strange when you're off tour. You have to discipline yourself. I try to exercise once a day. I have a pool at my house, and I try to swim. Me and my sister also are trying to make a video. We have meetings for that.
But it's mainly a lot of the free-wheeling life, and I am left to my own devices. It's just important to be up and doing things. I'm always trying to pull myself together.

Beachwood Music: How was the last tour?

Dex Romweber: Strange. We did the U.S. by ourselves and then hooked up with the Detroit Cobras for another tour. We went all the way out to Portland. We just traveled intensely. Some of the drives out West were a drag. Overall it went by without too many problems.

Beachwood Music: Your name has come up a lot in recent years as you have influenced several younger musicians out there today, most notably Jack White. Who inspired you?

Dex Romweber: Most of them aren't well known. When I was younger it was Elvis Presley. I've gotten away from that, even though I still dig him. Benny Joy, a rock-and-roll singer from Tampa is big. Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash. I don't try and copy them; I just draw inspiration.

I'm always finding obscure artists, like The Lonesome Drifter from Louisiana. A friend was playing his stuff over the phone, and it was rocking. Pretty incredible.

I like the artists that are unsung and not many people know about. I have an endless fascination with that and am always on the lookout.

Beachwood Music: Do these artists ever find their way into your work?

Dex Romweber: This new one ends with a song "It's Too Late" by a Durham honky tonk singer Ray Howell. I heard it on a 45 I found, and we decided to close with that.

Beachwood Music: Your last four titles as Dex Romweber are on four different labels. Any significance to that?

Dex Romweber: I can't explain it. Labels contact me, like Yep Roc Records and Manifesto. With Bloodshot, my manager went after them and sought them out. They agreed. Usually, I just sit and wait.

Beachwood Music: You were last in Chicago on May 6 playing at the Double Door with the Detroit Cobras. What are your impressions of the city and its music scene?

Dex Romweber: I like Chicago, but the traffic is horrendous. I always try and avoid traffic getting in and out of town. Playing in the big cities can be a drag. I prefer not to play in big cities, but I play them anyway.

But Chicago's interesting, an old town. Lots of little bars, lots of nooks and crannies. It has a certain vibe to it.

Beachwood Music: How about the music scene?

Dex Romweber: I remember a gig we did with the Squirrel Nut Zippers at the House of Blues last year. Some of the audience wasn't quite into our material. I guess I haven't always found it a welcome town in that respect. But you're always playing under different circumstances, in front of no people, in front of a lot of people. In that way, I guess it's like any other town.

Beachwood Music: How are you received in Chapel Hill, your adopted hometown?

Dex Romweber: I still play around here, doing solo gigs. Me and Sara play here once every five months or so. The reception is good, and it's been better over the years. But a lot of people have grown up and settled down. We have older fans.

Beachwood Music: Read where you spent some time in Athens, Georgia, an underground music mecca. I went to school there at University of Georgia. Good memories?

Dex Romweber: I was there for a full year in the late 1980s. Just a very wild town, lots of bands and artistic people all around. I was there for the music scene and to play some gigs. That town had some energy. I just docked there for a little while.

Beachwood Music: Time for name your tunes. Give me five songs worth your jukebox money.

Dex Romweber: There's a place in Chapel Hill with a good jukebox. Lots of North Carolina artists. A couple of my records on it. If I had to pick . . . Ace of Spades by Link Wray, Freight Train by Elizabeth Cotten, Dark Night by Flat Duo Jets, Ninth Wave by the Ventures, Rocket by George Jones.

A little taste . . .


And back in the day . . .


Bloodshot Briefing appears in this space every Friday. Matt welcomes your comments.


Posted on July 31, 2009

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