Bob Log III turns every gig into a party

Bob Log III – the helmet-wearing one-man band from Tucson, Arizona returns to one of his favourite places on Earth this month, having been “cooped up” in his house in Melbourne since November. 

Armed with Silvertone archtop guitars, and kick pedals rigged to a set of acoustic drum and cymbals positioned in front of each of his feet, the slide-guitar maverick is set to embark on a tour of the UK and Ireland this May followed by dates across Europe, Australia, and the US to see him through to the end of the summer. The party-loving musician performs around 120 shows a year, playing from freak bar to freak bar in every country and every state. “Everywhere is as fun as everywhere else,” Bob exclaims. “You’d think maybe Nebraska is not so much fun. Well, it’s fun if you go where I go. Come with me to North Dakota, we’ll have a good time!”

For over three decades, Bob Log III has brought his blues-inspired guitar playing across the world. He has been living in Melbourne for almost twenty years but was born in Chicago and grew up in Tucson, Arizona – a “small” city of two to three hundred thousand people where he started playing guitar out of boredom. “Being bored was the best thing that ever happened to me, honestly,” he confesses. “Not that Tucson is boring – it was just that you had to make your own fun. Some people paint, some people play guitar, some people write books. Tucson is the perfect place for that.”

His first band was with the four-piece experimental rock art punk outfit Mondo Guano. Together they recorded and released three 7 inch records on their own independent label Bloat Records. When the band parted ways, Bob set up Doo Rag with his drummer friend Thermos Malling. The two-piece were completely DIY and consisted of Log on vocals playing a homemade dobro guitar – an acoustic guitar with a metallic cone on the sound board that amplifies the sound and gives it a gnarly metallic tone, and Malling on a custom-made drumkit put together with found objects such as beer boxes for the bass drum, a tin bucket for the snare, and old film reels and shopping baskets for the cymbals and hi-hat. When the boys put out their first cassette-tape, the word got out and the release garnered interest outside of Tucson. Soon they were invited to open for mega acts across the US and beyond. “We didn’t have a label, we were just two guys in a van with a girlfriend driving around,” Bob says. “All these big bands wanted us to open for them because they loved us. Whether it was The Cramps, Beck, Coolio, Hole, or Sonic Youth! We just got to do all kinds of crazy stuff and no one could tell us what to do,” he continues. “Occasionally we got in trouble, but it was a great time!” he laughs. 

The pair released three albums and played together for six whole years, until drummer Malling walked out while on tour supporting Ween. Unfazed, Bob Log decided to finish the tour as a one-man band, purchasing a drum machine and using his guitar case as a kick drum and building a homemade kick cymbal.

It took Bob some time to figure out his one-man band set up but after thirty years of performing solo, he has it down to a T. Along with a kick drum on his right foot and a kick cymbal on his left, he wears a shiny motorcycle helmet fitted at the front with a telephone receiver so his hands are free and he can focus on his fingerpicking and slide guitar playing. Difficult to source nowadays, the telephone handsets were snatched out of payphones around Tucson with just a pair of scissors, and he accepts some kind of responsibility for payphone handset cables eventually being switched to metal. Using a soldering iron, he would poke a circle the size of the receiver into the bubble visor of the helmet, and though it worked for a while, the Eureka moment happened after a trip to the hardware shop when he found a drill bit specifically designed to make doorknob holes. “It’s a perfect fit, you almost don’t even need glue!”, he exclaims. “That was one of the best days of my life when I figured that out. And it sounds good! Telephones are designed for human voice, take out the bass. That’s what you’re supposed to do with it.”

Dressed in a human cannonball suit on stage, Bob Log III and his blues punk guitar bring the party atmosphere to each and every gig. With his feet frantically pounding away on his kick pedals, the open tuning on his wireless guitar, and his voice distorted by the telephone receiver, his act is all about having a good time. Audience participation is of utmost importance through his performances, and he encourages male and female participants to join in the fun by drinking Prosecco from an inflatable boat, stumping on balloons, and sitting on his knees while he plays. Some of Bob Log’s lyrics may raise eyebrows with the younger generation, but he insists the songs are simply good fun and not to be taken seriously. During his song ‘Boob Scotch’, his glass of whiskey is passed around for people to dip their boob into, and for ‘Clap Your Tits’, two willing participants are invited to use their breasts as percussion instruments. “It’s about being ridiculous,” he explains. “The whole idea of both those songs is to have a good time. It’s not like ‘let’s ogle somebody’, it’s like ‘Let’s turn this party up a notch and see how crazy we can get’. When you’re having a good time and you’re smiling so much your face hurts, you don’t care what your hair looks like. You don’t care what your makeup looks like, or if your jacket is on straight. This is about letting go a little bit.” He adds that it is mostly men who put their boob in his drink and sit on his lap, and that in the age of the smartphone, people are wary of their boss seeing the footage online the day after the gig. “What we do now is people have to take a piece of toast and put it in their mouth. They sit on my knee, and I bounce them up and down, and they take a selfie while they have a piece of toast in their mouth. There’s nothing to do with sex about it at all.”

Like every performing musician Bob was unable to tour during the pandemic, and he turned to recording birthday songs for his audience. “I had to come up with some kind of Plan B and I ended up making 500 birthday songs for people”. A room was turned into what he calls his ‘duck’ or his ‘boat’ office because it has a large rubber duck and an inflatable boat in it, and the songs are recorded live straight onto his phone. “I go in there and I just have to make crazy birthday songs for people every day, sometimes eight songs a day”, he says. “Sometimes it’s in Japanese, sometimes it’s in Italian, sometimes it’s in German, French, Spanish. It’s weird how many people are born on August 17, it’s just very strange”, he laughs. These days, Bob Log III will play anything: private parties, rock clubs, festivals, and even weddings. “I get grandma to sit on my knee, and there’s always a crazy aunt showing up all of a sudden!”

Ireland is one of Bob Log’s favourite places. “Everybody says that, but it’s just the funniest shit that people say all the time. One guy in Donegal just said ‘Bob Log, you’re as mad as a bag of spiders’. And they call me ‘Bob Log The Turd’, that’s pretty good!”. Bob will have some merch to sell at the gig in DeBarra’s on May 16, including vinyl, brand new T-shirts, and perhaps even some hot sauce made by “hot sauce genius” Joe Florek of Howl at the Moon. “Everybody loves it,” he says. “In Clonakilty one time, this dude bought the bottle of hot sauce, opened it up and drank the whole bottle, and it was too hot to do that. He was just ‘I gotta go’ and he ran out the door”, he chuckles. “I love Clonakilty. Tell Ray, the owner of DeBarra’s that I want his stew again. He makes delicious stew.”

Bob Log III plays DeBarra’s Folk Club on May 16.

Lauren Guillery

Lauren Guillery is a rock musician and music lover. Her album ‘Disaster in La La Land’ is available on all music platforms.

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