WCO scales back cowbell in the interest of safety

When the mighty Lynyrd Skynyrd blasted onto the music scene back in '73, guitar freaks were amazed and delighted that the band featured no fewer than three lead-guitar players. Nowadays, though, three axes just doesn't cut it for White Cowbell Oklahoma. "We have four," brags Strat man and main songwriter Clem ("No last name, just Clem"), calling from the trailer-trash boogiemeisters' home base of Toronto. "At one time, we had nine guitar players, but it was just too powerful. It was comparable to a 10-megaton hydrogen bomb, so we just had to shelve the other guitar players, put them into cryogenic sleep."

The array of six-strings gets put to good use on the band's latest CD, Casa Diablo, particularly on the rifftastic "Sugar City", a profoundly rockin', three-and-a-half-minute ditty that AC/DC would pine for. "Exactly," agrees Clem, "and I hear a bit of Kiss on that song too, of course. But they work for us; we own them. We've purchased Kiss and AC/DC; they are rock stars in our employ."

If the glorious noise of four cranked guitars doesn't get ya goin', WCO has another way to perk your eardrums up. Check out the group's various YouTube clips and discover the beauty of a chain saw skillfully applied to a toilet-paper roll. "Power tools are just an integral part of White Cowbell Oklahoma," asserts Clem. "At this moment, the touring vehicle is getting attended to by power tools, right in front of me."

Also audible amid the multiple guitars and roaring chain saws is the trusty clang of that herdsman's tool so close to the band's heart. The cowbell gets put to good use on "Sugar City", but you've got to wonder if any frenzied calls for more of it might have been ignored during the recording of Casa Diablo. "We had cowbell all over that album at first," explains Clem, "but again, it was like a hydrogen bomb–it was too powerful. When we put it on with the cowbell upmixed, as we like to call it, windows were breakin', whole flocks of birds fallin' out of the sky, airplanes would fly into other airplanes. It was frightening and fantastic at the same time. So we had to throttle back the cowbell on Casa Diablo lest we cause global catastrophe."

You may have noticed by now that White Cowbell Oklahoma isn't your regular, run-of-the-mill group of musicians. "We're all secret agents from the fourth dimension of rock 'n' roll," clamours Clem. "We're reptilian in nature, but we're also made of metal. We are the nine members of the star chamber. The nine points of the star. We're a nine-pointed star, and we're coming to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, at a high rate of speed in our rock 'n' roll aero-zeppelin right now!"

White Cowbell Oklahoma plays the Plaza Club on Wednesday (October 24).