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MUSIC: Ventura County | ROCKTALK

A Different Bent

Rugburns' front man has turned to love songs and a solo tour with his guitar.

July 23, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Steve Poltz, who is generally Mr. Savage Social Commentary when he fronts those raunchy alcohol-drenched Rugburns, has resurfaced with a collection of sweet--and just a little bit bent--love songs on a new solo album called "One Left Shoe." Poltz will be the middleman tonight at the Coach House in Santa Barbara, following Jennifer Terran and preceding Lisa Loeb.

Poltz is also known as The Guy in the Video. He co-wrote the smash hit for Jewel "You Were Meant for Me" and appeared in the video, which still lives on MTV and VH-1. But with the Rugburns, Poltz wrote songs about speed freaks, tree huggers, gun nuts, psycho mechanics, hangovers larger than Peru and the Christmas song of all time, no more of which can be mentioned here.

Poltz, driving around on that endless tour, discussed the latest during a recent phoner.

*

What happened to the Rugburns?

I just thought it was time to do something different. I had all these songs that just weren't right for the Rugburns. I did that for 15 years. We had three albums plus six cassettes on our own little label. . . . This tour, I'm playing solo, just me and a guitar.

*

So will the Rugburns live again?

Oh yeah, I've got a lot of Rugburns songs that haven't been recorded. I know you'll like "Naked Girls No Cover"; it's a rocker.

*

Are you doing any Rugburns songs this time?

Yeah, I do a couple of Rugburns songs. The other night, I . . . did "Dick's Automotive." Sometimes, I do "Single Life" or "Lockjaw . . . ." With the Rugburns, I couldn't get away with not playing certain songs. There'd be nights when I'd like play my heart out for two hours, then some guy would come up to me and say "That sucked, man; you didn't play so-and-so."

*

Jeff Daniels was Col. Chamberlain in "Gettysburg," then he was in "Dumb & Dumber." I guess that's acting. You write songs about tweakers tweaking, then a sensitive love song--is it the same thing?

Yeah, I must be a schizo. I can do a song about a severed head in the refrigerator, then I can do this really pretty love song. I guess I'm not well. But I do always tell people that I've always done love songs.

*

When I first listened to "One Left Shoe," I thought it was terrible. Then I listened some more, and now I love it. It's not a Rugburns album.

This one is different than the Rugburns. It's one of those albums that you have to listen to a bunch of times. The Rugburns songs are very in your face, while these songs are much more subtle. Some Rugburns fans are [annoyed], while others like these songs, but you have to please yourself.

*

So are you Mr. Jewel or is she Mrs. Poltz or what's the deal?

We're just songwriters now, but we used to live together. We go back a long time. Now we're just great friends--the other day I was over at her house in the kitchen writing a song.

*

So you must be a rich rock star by now?

Oh no, not at all. I'm still driving across the country playing, playing, playing. I think I've done this hundreds of times.

*

You must've made some good dough off that Jewel song, didn't you?

You know what, I've started to see some money from that song, but I'm still the same. I still drive the same '89 Ford Ranger and I still live in the same apartment. I've made some money, but I haven't touched any of it.

*

What do you do when someone says "Hey, it's that guy in the video"?

I didn't know that song would be so big, like an explosion. I was like this skinny guy with long hair that looked like a junkie or something--I hate that guy in that video. I cut my hair off since then. When I'd be somewhere and it would come on, people would start to stare at me. When I see it now, I turn the channel to "Gilligan's Island."

*

Tell me about a memorable gig.

Oh god, I just played one recently in Charleston, South Carolina. It was this radio promotion: The fourth caller wins a concert in your home with Steve Poltz. It turned out to be some redneck who lived outside of town who was outside mowing his lawn. There were about 80 guys and three chicks, and the guy tells me to come on out to the garage and I'm feelin' real weird about this, thinking "Deliverance" thoughts and hearing that theme song. Anyway, the guy unfolds this Confederate flag next to an autographed picture of "the greatest politician of all time," George Wallace. Fortunately, there were sound problems, so I got to bow out gracefully.

BE THERE

Steve Poltz, Lisa Loeb and Jennifer Terran at the Coach House, 110 Santa Barbara St., Santa Barbara, tonight at 8. $16.50. (818) 962-8877.

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