I've been to enough school talent shows and open mic nights to know that I'm not exactly a fan of people playing their guitars without the aid of distortion or a backing band. Pretty singing and pretty playing don't really excite me. Luckily, Almighty Do Me a Favor, a one-man band, bypasses that. It's not sensitive, weepy coffee shop fodder; it's more like the crazy era of Bob Dylan (Bringing It All Back Home/Highway 61 Revisited) coupled with throat polyps and a damn-near-unmatched level of functional alcoholism. He's dealt with a flying mattress and a flying rhombus to get to shows, he's weathered the storm of some of my finest heckles, and even though he went the corporate route and traded in his washboard for a more conventional high-hat, he makes really good music. Let's just say that there's no longer any doubt as to whether or not he can musically exist outside of Shoot 'Em Down.
First interview by Todd Taylor
Second interview and photos by Amy Adoyzie
Intro by Josh
Todd: Are you religious, Bradley?
Bradley: Uh, sometimes. Yeah, I think so.
Todd: Why "Almighty Do Me a Favor?"
Bradley: It's really not that fancy. When I moved to LA, I used to write "ADMF" on letters I'd write home, which stood for "Alabama Dirty Mother Fucker." One day I needed a name for the band, and I said, "ADMF. What can I make that stand for other than 'dirty mother fucker'?" So, ADMF became Almighty Do Me a Favor, a sort of derelict prayer to get me away from creepiness. That's about as far as the religious implications go - sort of a desperate prayer to get me away from bad things.
Todd: What's been the worst mangling of your name?
Bradley: It was at a Gossip show and one of the flyers said "Alrighty Do Me a Favor."
Todd: Tell me a story about growing up, skating.
Bradley: There was a little kid living in Ashville, Alabama. The closest neighborhood was a mile or three-quarters of a mile away, and I started riding skateboards. I didn't know what ramps were or anything, but I had this piece of plywood and I laid it up against a sawed-in-half whiskey barrel. I didn't even know what I was doing. I was just running up it and jumping off the skateboard. I was riding a Nash Executioner and I had this cool tape of the Dead Milkmen. It was awesome. Little redneck kid out in the woods putting in Big Lizard in My Backyard. I thought I was the coolest guy ever, hangin' out, got my bleached blonde mullet, tight-ass OP shorts on. Then I looked over at my mother. She was watering the flowers, staring at me. She said, "Who is this? Take it off." I had gotten it from my buddy Rat, and she proceeded after that to go through all my tapes and remove Beastie Boys License to Ill, the Dead Milkmen, and the Misfits. "Mom, where'd they go?" "I don't know, Bradley."
Todd: What made you decide to follow in the large footsteps of Hasil Adkins and Bob Log III?
Bradley: If I thought about those guys too much, I wouldn't be doing it. I really wouldn't. They're too good. Why? Probably the same reason as most people: because they don't have anybody to play with. The people that I played with out here, we kinda got into fights. This is a little less violent. Less competition.
Todd: For somebody who's never seen you, take us through your apparatus.
Bradley: Basically, it's a guitar run through an amp, or not. On my right foot, I got a bass drum, and on my left foot, I got a high hat. A harmonica occasionally. Sittin' down, playin' all at once.
Todd: Didn't you use to use bottle caps for an effects pedal?
Bradley: Yeah, I used to use a washboard instead of a high hat. It had a snare tambourine sort of sound. I was trying to have a high hat on my left, a snare drum in the middle, and the pedals for the high hat and the snare drum real close together so I could go back and forth real easy or come from the side and hit both of them at the same time. That was working pretty well, but it was too loud. My landlord got real upset. My neighbors got real upset. They told me if I did it again, I was going to get evicted. They left a note on my door and everything. "Repeat offenses on these dates." I've thought about havin' tape decks playing and all kinds of weird stuff. That's one of the things about it. When you stop, if you break a string or in between songs, it's just you, like, "Duhhh..." I'd like to have something take up some of that space.
Todd: Name some of the more unique places that you've played. I really liked the time that you played the Pioneer Market shopping center parking lot.
Bradley: Yeah, the Pioneer Market was fun. We did an alleyway show after that, which was spastic.
Todd: That was after getting kicked out of the club and not getting to play.
Bradley: Yeah, after walking on stage and being asked to get off the stage when I was listed to play to a full club. Fuck 'em. Bedpan Park is always fun.
Todd: Describe the glory of Bedpan Park.
Bradley: It's a triangle park with no real grass, just a bunch of sand and a fountain in the middle of it that's dedicated to Mildred P. Flagardly - or something like that - is her name, supposed inventor of the bedpan. Very suspicious, especially when there's glue oozing down the plaque. It's a cloverleaf fountain and it looks a lot like three stone bedpans. Bums live there, like the Puppetmaster. He likes to put on makeup and dance and twirl around sticks with pink monkeys on them.
Todd: Do you steal power for shows there?
Bradley: Yeah, we steal it. It's hidden, though. Top secret location. We've been using their power but no one's said anything. We get done before ten o'clock at night. That's pretty reasonable. The neighbors usually come out and say, "Yeah, this is awesome. I'm so glad people are doing something."
Todd: Have you ever been busted by a cop while playing?
Bradley: No, but I was playing washtub bass in Hollywood one time and Yoda got pissed off at me. I almost got assaulted by Yoda.
Todd: Was it a full-grown Yoda?
Bradley: It was like a six-foot-tall Yoda! He sits down all holed up in his white robe and we started playing and he said, "Look, you can't be here! You have to go somewhere else!" We were like, "You're fuckin' Yoda!" Apparently, they have permits for their money. So yeah, Yoda gave me some shit. But I was walking one day and out of the middle of nowhere, Superman comes up to me like, "Hey, you used to play on the street! What happened to you? Where's your band?" Only in Hollywood.
Todd: You still skateboard, correct?
Bradley: I haven't been skating as much as I'd like to.
Todd: Lead us up to the point where you last lost some teeth skating.
Bradley: Booze and skateboards at three in the morning sometimes don't mix. It was my ex-girlfriend's birthday or something and me and my buddy figured the best way to celebrate her birthday would be to start bombing hills early in the day and drinking beer in the street. Me and Fose are doing this for a while and we drink and it's fun, and we go to another house in Silverlake where these big-ass hills are. We started bombing it from halfway and we think, "This is cool. We can do this." I decided to get to the top of the hill and start pushing, way trashed. I started doing it, no speed wobbles or nothing, I'm like, "I am the king." Then I don't know what happened. I just went face first into the hill. I just laid there and Beefcat starts running down. "Bradley, get up. Get up," starts kicking me and stuff. "Shit, he ain't movin'." Kicked me some more. I rolled over and my face was just covered in blood, big gash on my forehead, my face was all scabbed up, half my teeth in the front were cracked. I had a concussion and I was out of work for a week. Lot of fun. Then I couldn't find the fuckin' emergency room in the hospital. I couldn't tell where to go, and I work right above it. I was at a service station and I had bums asking me for change with blood all over my face.
Todd: What does Bradley Williams sing about?
Bradley: I don't know. It's kinda like one of those things where you grow up wanting to play music and you grew up around music. My mother was real into Paul Revere and the Raiders and Hank Williams, Senior and Junior, and Johnny Cash and all that. Waylon. Alabama, the band, not the state. The idea was if you don't get trained in music, you don't know how to play it, you ain't supposed to do it. So I never thought about doing it. Then I go to college, where we start having house shows and seeing all these somewhat-punk bands come through. Then I started playing music. My whole life, there wasn't anything that I knew I wanted to sing about or write songs about. It's kinda like whatever's been bugging me lately. It sounds kinda lame, but a lot of them are sappy kinda love songs. Some are about other things, but it's kinda like my feeble attempt at the music that my mother listened to.
Todd: Don't you have a song about daggers?
Bradley: Daggers... I have a song about "You want love like a steak knife."
Todd: Steak knife!
Bradley: "Love Like a Cannonball," yeah. It's a love song. A mean one. I'm trying to write songs about home, 'cause I been homesick. Songs about moving out here, songs about getting too drunk out here, and just random shit.
Todd: So why'd you come to Los Angeles?
Bradley: Had to get away from Alabama. I was either going to go to New Orleans or Atlanta. Had friends in Atlanta, wanted to go to New Orleans but didn't have any friends there. Really, my buddy bought me a plane ticket and said, "Come visit," so I quit my job and came out. That's pretty much it. I just wanted to get out of Bama for a little while. "A little while" turned into almost four years.
Todd: What's the hardest part about being transplanted from Alabama to Los Angeles? There has to be some large disconnects.
Bradley: You don't get to see your family, for one. That sucks. You can't just drive two hours or three hours. It's either several hundred dollars or you do your time. What used to suck was not having any friends out here, not knowing anybody. That took time, but now we have Little Alabama. LA now stands for Little Alabama.
Todd: What's your favorite ditch to skate?
Bradley: Out here, it's got to be Bronson Canyon. Growing up, there were some pretty good ones in Montgomery. We found this one that was covered in kudzu vines, and when we started pulling the vines away, there was an arrow and these old school bubble letters that just said, "Carve." Some old skaters had put that there.
Todd: Are there any other skate places that you've discovered in LA?
Bradley: There's a ton. Paul Revere High was fun. I don't know if you can still go there.
Todd: It was jacked right after Dogtown was released and they put the fuckin' map in the movie.
Bradley: There's good ledges over by Hollywood High. There's stuff around. If I was going to do anything, I'd just go around and kick it, not try to do anything real crazy. If you want to get balls out, there's a thirteen-stair handrail by my house with plenty of runway. I'm not really wanting to kill myself.
Todd: Ever been arrested?
Bradley: Yeah, several times. I was arrested one time for saying, "Fuck, my ears are cold." Walked out of a party, said, "Fuck, my ears are cold," a cop says, "Have you been drinking?" "I had a cup of beer, officer." "You're going to jail." Meanwhile, there's all these kids running around, "WOOHOO! Party! Why you arresting him?" The second time I was arrested, I was riding a skateboard around in downtown Auburn, Alabama in a parking deck on a rainy day. There was a ten by ten spot in this parking deck that was dry and a little tiny curb. I was just goofing off. Nothing else to do. This cop comes up to me and says, "You can't skate here." He writes me a ticket for skating on the sidewalks, which you can't do in Auburn. Sidewalk, sidewalk, sidewalk, doesn't say anything about the parking deck. I go to court and tell the judge that I'm innocent and I'm not paying this $20 ticket. The judge decides he's going to read the law to me, and he omits sidewalks. I'm a cocky fuckin' kid, I'm in court, no lawyer, with a cop right next to me, and I tell the judge, "Sir, you need to repeat that because it says sidewalks in there several times." Judge just told me to sit back down, and then he recognizes that it does say sidewalks, so he can't give me that $20 ticket. Then we approach the bench and he says, "I'm dropping the charges for the skateboarding ticket. I'm also charging you with criminal trespassing. Would you like to contest this, Mr. Williams?" I couldn't argue with them anymore. They stuck me for $375 and threw me in jail for the rest of the day. My buddies knew that I was going down the street to contest a $20 ticket, and I was going to make some big point, and they fucked me. Then I tried to stay away and be good. I was almost kicked out of college for skating because I was caught so many times that I had to go in front of a disciplinary committee. Two days before I moved out here, we were having a party. My buddy was skating and he fell in the street and the skateboard rolls off. A guy in this big SUV comes by and says, "Get out of the road, faggot!" We're like, "Hey, fuck you, buddy! We're sick of you fuckin' assholes!" The dude turns around and singles me out and says, "You're gonna pay for that!" He rides down the street and turns into the police station. I said fuck it and went inside. Had a couple more cocktails, there's a knock at the gate and there's an officer standing right there. I walked outside and talked to him. "Were you out in the street skating?" I go, "No." "Have you been drinking tonight?" "I just had a cocktail." The guy in the SUV, a plainclothes police officer, was standing right there and said, "That's the one. Go ahead and do it." The other cop says, "We're arresting you for public intoxication." Threw me in jail. Went to court, paid them their money, then got in the car and drove to Los Angeles.
* * * * *
Amy: So, like, what was your most favorite-est board to skate on?
Bradley: Uh, I dunno... I had so many.
Amy: No! If you had to choose. Like, what board would you skate... if you were in HEAVEN?!
Bradley: [laughs] I guess my Tommy Guerrero board. You saw it in Bama.
Amy: I did?
Bradley: Yeah. My brother drug it behind a four-wheeler through the snow. He did it to several of 'em. It was mauled. That was the only one I saved.
Amy: Oh yeah...
Bradley: Another question!
Amy: Um... how old were you when you first skated?
Bradley: Twelve. I had a blonde mullet and OP shorts. Another question!
Amy: Hrm... Given the present state of your facial hair, how does the 'stache effect your skating?
Bradley: It doesn't. I don't skate with my mouth.
[We both laugh. Maybe this was funnier to just the two of us...]
Amy: So, when you were a kid, and you had that mullet, how did the mullet effect your skaing then?
Bradley: It was like a cape and helped me fly.