Russel Hayden sings backup and plays lap steel, banjo, and harmonica for local country band Nancarrow. He started playing locally in a late-’80s punk band called P.S. Your Cat Is Dead.
Having toured the world as a rock sound tech, Hayden tells the Reader the Showtime network’s move to greenlight a pilot for Cameron Crowe’s proposed series called Roadies is a great idea.
“Absolutely,” says Hayden. “But things sure have changed. Now everybody’s a vegan. And there are no drugs.”
Hayden knows that excessive partying and bad behavior gets you kicked off a tour.
“I’m not going to mention names, but I did sound for a Sex Pistols reunion tour in Australia in ’98. The Sex Pistols hated the opening band who thought they were hot shit. But both bands had the same agent, so it was a business thing. When they poured beer on the [stage] monitors, that was it. Johnny Lydon, who was all business, only put up with them to that point, then they had to go.”
Hayden says his best stretch on the road was the five years he toured with the Cramps, the L.A. psychobilly band that played New York’s CBGB shortly after forming in 1976.
“They did it the right way. [Lead singer] Lux [Interior] and [guitarist Poison] Ivy were very solid people. They didn’t let anyone on the tour who was a dick.” The Cramps stopped touring when Lux died in 2009.
Hayden stopped touring in 2003.
“I won’t mention the band, but on my last tour we flew into Missoula, Montana, which was sub-zero. Plus, they were assholes. I gave them a week’s notice. I had to stop touring and start playing again.”
Nancarrow begins recording their second album for Randm Records in December, just after a November tour of Texas. “We play straight-ahead, Bakersfield country. I’m a full-blooded, 100 percent American redneck.”
Hayden now lives in Julian with his family. “Graham [Nancarrow] moved up here a couple months ago. We write songs together. It’s better to write songs in the woods.”
The two perform most weekends as a duo called Grass, 1–4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday at the E. Barrett General Store in Julian. “It’s what we’re doing during the winter. I’m playing a 1929 National tenor dobro.”