Benjamin Booker turns to punk blues 

click to enlarge Benjamin Booker
  • COURTESY Max Norton
  • Southern rocker Benjamin Booker is finding inspiration — and good burgers — in New Orleans.
Florida-bred, New Orleans-based musician Benjamin Booker just turned 25, but it was only recently, after several false starts, that he found his true calling in life. He went to college for journalism, became a rock writer for several publications, but discovered he hated writing articles — he only enjoyed conducting interviews. Then he compiled an oral history for a Gainesville, Fla., anarchist library, but that didn’t suit him. Nor did the nonprofit, house-rebuilding gig he took to help pay off his student loans. Instead, he started writing brutal punk-blues anthems like “Violent Shiver” and “Have You Seen My Son” — songs so good they landed him a deal with ATO Records, which issued his self-titled debut this month.

New Orleans must suit you better than Florida, right? I love it, for lots of reasons. I live next to this place called Company Burger, which is ranked one of the top five burgers in America. And it’s literally one of the reasons I live where I live right now — it’s two blocks away from my house, which is why I rented here. The burgers are just incredible. They don’t do bacon, lettuce and tomato — they even wear these shirts that say “Bring your own BLT.” But it’s a day-ender for me — the day is over when I go to Company Burger.

What did you enjoy about interviewing? I just wanted to find out what everybody else was doing, you know? I was in Gainesville, and I had never really traveled. I mean, I left the country for the very first time only this year. So I was just living in this small town and going to school and going to shows, and I just wanted to know what was happening in the world. But I don’t think I ever wanted to be a journalist.

But journalism gave you some useful skills? After you interview hundreds of people, when you have a conversation with someone, I usually know where the conversation is going. I feel like now I can usually tell what people are thinking when we’re talking, and I’m pretty good at telling when people are lying.

And it’s true that an ATO Records exec signed you after witnessing a single show? Yeah. And I knew that he was coming, too, so it was terrifying. And I drank probably more than I should have, but it ended up being one of the most incredible shows we ever played, and the crowd was going crazy. And there was no backstage signing — we just went to the parking lot. Then we just went into the studio, turned in the songs, and that was it!

IF YOU GO

Benjamin Booker

Where: Brick & Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission St., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday Tickets: $12 to $15

Contact: (415) 800-8782, www.brickandmortarmusic.com

Note: Booker also appears at 9 p.m. Tuesday at the New Parish, 579 18th St., Oakland

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Tom Lanham

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