By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
It was early in January of 1995, and way too early in the morning, when Tenderloin lead singer Ernie Locke received the call. His head groggy with sleep and the irritation that someone would ring him up at 4 a.m., Locke answered the phone to discover a very drunk Patrick "Taz" Bentley on the other end of the receiver. Bentley had phoned to tell Locke he had just quit as Reverend Horton Heat's drummer, a gig he had held for five years, and he now desperately wanted to play in Tenderloin. Slurring his words slightly, Bentley rambled on for a few minutes, excited and inebriated. Locke listened patiently, then told Bentley to call back the next day--this time, sober--and they'd discuss it.
So a few hours later, Bentley called Locke again--this time, sober--and said he had heard the Lawrence, Kansas, band was looking for a drummer and was offering his services. At the very least, Bentley said, he could join the band for a tour and see how things went. That was 10 months, about 200 shows, and one recorded and released album ago.
This is the story, more or less, of how Bentley went from playing with one of Dallas' best-known musical exports to hooking up with a Kansas-based band that had often opened for the Rev and sounded less like Gene Vincent on gin and tonics and more like Tom Waits on ZZ Top. When Bentley quietly and quickly resigned from Reverend Horton Heat at the beginning of the year--surprising most everyone associated with the band, not to mention even the most casual observer--he did so with the intention to stay far, far away from anything to do with music for at least six months. He had grown "sick," as he says now, of "music and drumming and touring and everything" and didn't even want to step behind a drum kit for a long time.
"I couldn't take it anymore," Bentley says. "But then, honest to goodness, a week later I had to get into it again. I was getting fidgety. I was at the Orbit Room just hanging out and I heard a couple of songs from Tenderloin's last album [1994's Let it Leak] on the jukebox, and I thought, 'Man, why don't I just call Ernie and see if I can do a tour and record their new album with them?' After that I could do the Reverend again--at that time, we were still talking about my coming back--but we were just having such a good time in Tenderloin."
It's the oldest musicians' joke in the world, but one that will forever hold true: "What's the last thing the drummer said to his band? Hey, guys, can we try one of my songs?" To hear Bentley tell it now, a couple of weeks after Tenderloin released its gargantuan-sounding Bullseye, he did not quit the Rev because of personality conflicts with Jim "Reverend Horton Heat" Heath or bassist Jimbo Wallace; in fact, Bentley and Locke--as well as Tenderloin guitarist Kirk Moffitt, the former Atomic Rodeo singer-guitarist who resigned as the Rev's guitar tech last October to join Tenderloin--all stress they are still close with Heath. "They're friends and family to us," Locke says, and Bentley emphatically agrees.
Rather, Bentley says he left the Rev not merely because he was tired of the long tours (with White Zombie and Soundgarden, among so many other trips back and forth across the interstates), but because he was just a musician, there to play the songs as Heath wrote and arranged them. And Bentley became frustrated with his limited roll, so much so he considered giving up the drums altogether.
"When I decided to leave Reverend Horton Heat," Bentley says, "it just pretty much came to a head, and was either now or never. I just figured that was it, it was time to do it. It was at the beginning of the year and at the end of a good tour and damned near five years to the day since I joined the band, and I just found myself feeling more and more stagnant. I never had time to sit behind my kit and come up with riffs or practice."
In Tenderloin, Bentley found a band in which he could contribute not just the pounding percussion but a real sense of musicianship; Locke excitedly and repeatedly mentions how Taz arranged several of the songs on Bullseye and contributed all the music for at least one track ("Dip Your Body in Ink").
"He's done more than just drum for the band," Locke says. "I just don't think he had that freedom in the Rev. Jim had him and Jimbo on the payroll, and I think that's why Taz had to leave."
"I spend a lot of time being real nervous," Bentley says, "because for the first time in years I have a lot to do with the writing process--all of us do. In Horton I was so confident of Jim's writing I didn't have to do anything, and I didn't have to worry about the songs because I knew they'd be there, so this is a little scary. But Kirk and Ernie and [bassist] John [Cutler] and I work well together, and I'm really happy."