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 Matt Elliott.

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 awesome.

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 pry-it-out-of-my-cold-dead-finger-bomb-shelter-homeschooled-with-the-bible types 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 more people)?
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 cheap.
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 about.


Burning Itch on the web here and here.

Pics provided by the band, if anyone would like a credit please contact the editor.

Interview by Matt Elliot, June 2010.

To read other TB interviews, go here.