We certainly were not expecting a heavily stylized tribute to Giorgio Moroder from Waylon Jenning’s son Shooter, no sir. But it turns out the hard country outlaw has something of a soft spot for the ’80s and especially for the musician who soundtracked the music and films of that era.
So on his new album, Countach (For Giorgio), Shooter draws from The NeverEnding Story, Top Gun, and the synthy, spatial explorations that defined his childhood. “I was purely a child of the ’80s and 90’s and soaked up every inch of it,” Shooter told us via email. “I’m obsessed with the culture.”
“I was born in ’79, so it was just cartoons, toys and Guns N’ Roses for me.”
That much is clear on Shooter’s new music video for his song, “Love Kills,” which is pure ’80s sci-fi pastiche. The syrupy ballad about the treacheries of an open heart boasts visual references to Tron, Knight Rider, Blade Runner and feels like a rabbit hole down into the world’s strangest decade. For those of you who might be unsure about how ’80s this video is, there is a keytar featured in the first thirty seconds, so that should sell you.
Though ’80s nostalgia is oft-explored territory in 2016 (read: Kung Fury and Gunship), there is a surprising authenticity to Shooter’s new album. This is an artist who came of age during this decade and has the ability to provide a personal account of what it was like, rather than just offering a shallow projection. Perhaps the best example of this is his cover of David Bowie’s “Cat People,” which features guest vocals from Marilyn Manson. Rather than going for an obvious Let’s Dance track, Shooter reinterprets one that clearly means a lot to him and sees the intersection of David Bowie, Giorgio Moroder, and the sensual violence of a cult ’80s film. The depth of knowledge here is palpable.
“And we must not forget about the Rock-afire Explosion! Showbiz Pizza Place was huge for me.”
To find out more about Shooter’s latest project we chatted with him over email about his favorite ’80s icons, the renaissance in country music, and the most recent TV he has binge-watched. Check that conversation below.
Nerdist: What are some important ’80s touchstones for you?
Shooter Jennings: Man, I’m a pure child of the ’80s. MTV, He-Man, Transformers, Silverhawks, Thundercats–all that TV and the toys were huge for me. I could go on forever. BraveStarr, remember that? This is why I love Nerdist so much! You guys tackle my whole childhood. We were the children of a renaissance in entertainment. Such a world of fantasy that really doesn’t exist now. I have two small kids and I try to educate them through the same lens. They’ve seen every episode of the Muppet Babies. There’s so much ’80s pop culture in those episodes. That is a ’90s show, but it’s all the same to me. I was born in ’79, so it was just cartoons, toys and Guns N’ Roses for me.
I’ll never forget the moment I was watching Boogie Nights and Dirk goes in the studio and records “You Got The Touch.” I about shit because that was from Transformers: The Movie (The original cartoon movie that had Judd Nelson as Hot Rod and Robert Stack as Ultra Magnus). I had that soundtrack on tape and loved it. And we must not forget about the Rock-afire Explosion! Showbiz Pizza Place was huge for me, and in the recent years we’ve become friends with the creator Aaron Fechter. He gave us a tour of his warehouse with the Rock-afire in it. Now we’re working on a comeback album for the Rock-afire on my label Black Country Rock. I could go on forever!
N: What do you think of burgeoning country music acts?
SJ: I think what’s happening in country right now is so refreshing. I’ve known Sturgill [Simpson] a long time and was very excited to hear his new one, and it didn’t disappoint. I just got turned onto Margo [Price] from her SNL appearance and I loved her. She followed me back on Twitter the other day, so I’m excited to finally meet her one day. Country is ruling hard right now.
N: What is the last thing you binge watched?
SJ: My wife and I were really late to the Game of Thrones boat. We just binge watched it all the way to season six. Now we’re just a few episodes behind and we’re dying! What a great show. I just recently found out about how George RR Martin writes his stuff on an offline DOS computer running Wordstar. I love that. I’m into collecting and using old computers so that really lit me up!
N: What is your favorite song right now?
SJ: There is always a revolving door of new music that is happening with me. I have a SiriusXM radio show that I do weekly so that kinda forces me to always keep up with new music that is coming out. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, a really cool band from Australia. If I had to pick a song at this very moment, though, it would probably be “LA Freeway” by Guy Clark. Been listening to that one a lot since he died. I always return to some old shit when it’s all said and done. And what a songwriter was he!
Image: Shooter Jennings
Matt Grosinger is the music editor of Nerdist and is just as surprised as you that Shooter Jennings released an ’80s record.