Knoxville, TN, trio Burning Itch have only been at it for a minute yet already
have a catalogue of solid intravenously connected KBD punk songs Ė so rock-hard
it would make Fort Loudon look over its shoulder. Ian Lawrence, Mike Ellison,
and Brad Fowler are heading down a dead end street full of gun-toting rednecks
and 100 other bands trying to get their records heard. But just like there
probably was a bash before Burnside fortified Knoxville, Burning Itchís live
show seems like an all-out-ready-to-the-end war. No Confederate retreat here, no
sir. Following is a recent interview with them conducted exclusively for TB by
TB: Who the fuck are you guys and where the fuck did you come from?!
Ian: Burning Itch is currently Ian Lawrence (bass and vocals), Mike
Ellison (guitar), and Brad Fowler (drums). For only having been an
actual band for two years I've had two guitar players and three drummers, so
the whole list would be a bit long with everybody...
TB: Can you describe the Knoxville scene?
Ian: The Knoxville scene is really fun. Itís like 50 people, 100 bands; nobody is
advertising, or really putting out records though. There are a lot
of different people playing every kind of music I can think of, but
not enough people come out to see most of it. There's a lot coming out
here right now, but itís getting people to actually record it and
get it out there that seems hard.
TB: How old are you and when/what was your first band?
Ian: I'm 29. My first band was called the Malignmen, we were an 80s style
hardcore punk kinda band. We put out a couple 45s and a CD in the mid-90's but
only toured the south. We were ok, I guess, but a lot of jock redneck violent
types came out to all our shows so we got a bad rap and it wasn't that fun to
do. I played with a few other bands, like The Cheat, a kinda surf/punk/psych band, and backed up some bands playing bass. Brad and Mike are in a band called
the Chore Boys who are a really wild five or six member party band, they're
TB: What's Burning Itch's recording history?
Ian: Well the first recording, the one the single is from, was recorded live
with the first line-up. Most of it was co-written by all of us. After I
finally got the record pressed the other guys decided they didn't want
to do it anymore. I was kinda screwed so I continued sending the
records out here and there, started getting positive reactions from a
couple of people and decided I would keep it going. After an alcohol
fuelled weekend at the last Gonerfest I had given away a few records
and came back with a fly by night offer to play in London. On the way
back I called Brad and Mike and asked if they would want to learn the
songs Iíd written and go on the trip. So in six weeks, I wrote and
recorded the set and they learned the songs and we flew over there
totally broke with no plan, got ripped off, and had a blast. The tour...and I use
the term tour very loosely, because we had been offered some shows by this crazy
lady we met at Gonerfest...so we checked it out. I
found a cheap flight deal where the tickets were like 600 bucks, saved some
cash, played and worked out the songs and away we went. We played
two shows in four days, one we kinda set up at random after we went to a show.
It was in some recording studio called The Spike, I think.
Real fun show though. Everyone that saw us at the shows seemed to genuinely dig
it. The second show was at a bar, the lady we had met in
Memphis booked it, cool show, the other band, The Spivs were really fun, but after
the show, the Swedish band that I guess was headlining the show
were freaking out about how they flew over there and didnít get paid, so I had
to chase her down sneaking out the back and we got paid like
ten pounds. She let us use her apartment the whole time so it wasnít a big deal. The
Swedes were pissed though.
Those songs are the ones on the blog and the Myspace page. Since then
I still record the stuff in my apartment and teach them the songs after.
TB: Are you really into guns or is that just an artistic motif? If yes, do you hunt?
If yes, what? Whose idea was the cover on your recent EP?
Ian: Well, Ronnie, the old guitar player, the other dude in the picture, is pretty
into them. We joked around one day about doing Charlie's Angels style band
photos, and ended up doing the cover. My only stance on guns/gun control is if
they had some kind of ban, the only people who have them are the whole
who scarily enough have been stockpiling for years, or cops, for Christsakes.
Those idiots are truly frightening...the criminals are not who I worry about.
TB: What are your thoughts on "Old Rocky Top?" Kenny Chesney? UT sports?
Ian: Oh fuck, I hate all that crap. Itís not as ever prevalent as it seems like it
would be though.
TB: Are you in college? Do you have a day job?
Ian: Actually, the illustrious sales of our self-released 7" have led us
to a life of tax-free luxury and elegant uptown living. No, I never went
to college. Iím a sushi chef, of all things. Mike manages a soul food
place and brad works at Pizza Hut.
TB: Do you get many local shows? Tell me about some shouting matches, fistfights,
etc. at your shows. Do you have what could be called a local following (10 or
Ian: We get a lot of good shows here that you wouldnít expect, but a lot of people
donít think to come here. We get good crowds, though.
As far as the fights and shit, Iíd be a liar if I said I haven't got into them
at shows, but itís really rare and people are for the most part not complete
assholes. The thing with my experience with the redneck element in Knoxville is that it
wasnít like armies of John Deere clad Carhart wearing goons
coming to shows. The rednecks where the punkers, who through an unhealthy
obsession with the later career of GG Allin and the fact
that they were really closet metal jocks made a lot of shows intolerable. In the
past few years that has really declined, but theyíre
still here. Theyíve got a lot of bands now though, maybe some of them are good,
but I try to avoid those shows.
TB: What records/shows by others resulted in the formation of Burning Itch? Be
comprehensive. Do you have any Knoxville contemporaries or predecessors?
Ian: Well, originally I really wanted to play with Ronnie, the first guitar
player, and write songs with him because he was in the Skudz, an
incredible Knoxville band from '94-'00 who put out two amazing self
produced LPs you can still get. He doesnít really use e-mail but you
can order them at: PO Box 1945, Knoxville,TN 37915. Iím sure he'll send them
I always really loved the KBD stuff after I bought the Back to Front Vol. 6
compilation when I was like 15 or so, after that I spent all my time with records my older friends had and trading mixtapes. Most of my record
collection now is just me trying to get all the stuff from
those tapes on vinyl. But ordering through mailorder and traveling a whole lot,
I've been lucky to find a lot of it but I'm always finding
out about more. It amazes me that so much interesting and different stuff came
out under "punk" before hardcore came along and everybody started to sound the same. But a million people have said that.
TB: Whatís on the horizon for the Itch...Records? Shows?
Ian: We plan on touring as much as possible in September. I'm setting it
up, so anybody remotely interested should get ahold of me. As far as
releases are concerned, I've got at least an LP and a half recorded,
itís just getting it put out there. I'll post what I have online, and can
burn CDRs for cheap or your favorite record label may put it out and
save us all the hassle (hint, hint, labels). Until then we still got a
few of the first record left, but I'm almost out...
TB: Are you a partying band or are you ridin' the straight edge?
Ian: We'll do whatever youíre paying for. We have our own drug habit to worry