Under the Influence: Tomahawk's Duane Denison

Tomahawk's guitarist time travels back to 1972, the year glam rock broke

Feature by Duane Denison | 08 Jan 2013

1. Alice CooperSchool’s Out (1972)
I grew up in a suburb of Plymouth, Michigan, right in-between Detroit and Ann Arbor. Whether it was Motown, Bob Seger or Ted Nugent, music was always around since when I was a kid. But it really all hit me at the same time, when I was 12 or 13 – y’know, when you’re at that age where you’re just starting to become a teenager. It all happened at once: girls, drugs, cigarettes and rock’n’roll – the whole thing.

Glam was the prevalent thing, but, in America, the first rock band I really saw on TV was Alice Cooper and that album School ’s Out. That was, to me, hair-raising, and that makeup still looks great, he just looks the same! Those songs, the way those guitars sounded – really bright and sharp, but also distorted – I just thought ‘this is perfect.’ It was such a theatrical show – I thought everyone was like that, but I quickly found out otherwise…

2. West, Bruce & Laing – Why Dontcha (1972)
It’s funny – Tomahawk sometimes gets called a supergroup, which I kinda bristle at, I’ve never liked it. But when I was a kid there was a real supergroup called West, Bruce and Laing – Leslie West and Corky Laing from Mountain and Jack Bruce from Cream. They only made two studio albums and a live album, but the first studio album was called Why Dontcha – it was this amazing blue album cover. I’d say that album is totally overlooked, underrated and it really rocks. There’s this song called The Doctor where it’s just raging slide guitar.

3. T. Rex – The Slider (1972)
Then came T-Rex with The Slider – I actually stole the 8-track. Yeah, I went into the local store, bent down as if to tie my shoe and I grabbed the 8-track, stuck it in my sock and walked out of the store. I just had to have it!

4. The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St. (1972)
The Rolling Stones put out Exile on Main St. that same year. There’s so much on it – a double album with tonnes of great songs. Even the pictures on the back and in the inlay – I think a lot of bands now underestimate the power of visuals. There wasn’t MTV; there wasn’t YouTube at this point –  just these photos of them, seemingly in the studio or hanging out – it just made it look like being in a band was the greatest thing in the world. They’re always drinkin’, smokin’, there’s always girls around, they’re up late with all these cool guitars and amps laying around. I was like ‘man, that’s where it’s at!’  

5. Roxy Music – Roxy Music (1972)
In December that year I went to my first full-on rock concert. My friend’s dad drove us to downtown Detroit – the old Cobo Arena, and the headlining band was Humble Pie. But the band that blew our minds was Roxy Music – it was their first album and US tour, so they were with Brian Eno. They looked so crazy – you had Brian Ferry, a weird lounge singer; then you had Eno looking like he was dressed as a jester. Phil Manzanera looked like the human fly, then you had Andy Mackay, who was a spaceman from the 50s. They were the first band I’d ever heard use a synthesizer. But Detroit is such a lunch bucket working man’s rock’n’roll town, that I was afraid to clap in case I got beat up! So we just tucked it away in the back of our minds, but they became a lot more influential than Humble Pie! 

Oddfellows, the new album by Tomahawk, is released via Ipecac Records on 28 Jan http://www.ipecac.com/artists/tomahawk