Band of Horses, Horse The Band, Sparklehorse, Crazy Horse, Pulled Apart By Horses… This actually isn’t a renaissance monologue of someone succumbing to horse-based foul play, just a fraction of the famous horses in music. The only difference is that Petrol Hoers for all intensive purposes, is nearly 100% more equine than any of those so-called horses that picked up an instrument and played music. Sort of. The anointed half-man, half-horse, and half-biscuit has been within the same school of mischief making as Petrol Bastard and Kurt Dirt for almost a decade, but in 2017 truly broke out with his star-making debut album, Oh I Don’t Know, Just Horse Stuff I Guess, with an infamous rotation on radio airplay. The performances over the decade were no less outrageous to boot. I got the chance to sit down with the brainchild of the project, Dan Buckley, and find out just what lays beneath the (horse) mask of Petrol Hoers.
Is it true that Petrol Hoers began life as a Petrol Bastard tribute act?
Yes, that is entirely true. What actually happened is I used to work in a school, and I had school holidays off, and I was driving those guys to a gig, and I said, ‘I’ve got two weeks off and I need something to do. How about I write an album of cover songs, of your songs, and release it, and I’ll do a gig?’ Then it’ll be a band, and I have this horse mask, so that’s what it’ll be. It was supposed to be a one-off joke, and then here I am ten years later.
It’s very much taken on a life of its own.
It’s a proper thing now. I can’t seem to do anything to shake it. [laughs]
What instruments can you play?
I play all sorts. For Petrol Hoers, it’s a lot of programmed stuff and sound design, synths and drum machines. I also play guitar, I play bass, I play drums… erm… No, I think that’s actually probably it. I was setting up to give you a big, long list and no, that’s it, and obviously I shout a bit as well. Part of the whole point of this band, is carrying around equipment is a pain in the ass. Being able to do this tour with two bands and one car is just… lovely. It’s quite luxurious to not have to lug drum kits up stair and through fire escapes up the side of venues.
Do you find it difficult being a horse in a human-dominated industry?
[laughs] Yeah. It has its upsides and downsides, it gives me quite a lot of material that isn’t really covered by a lot of bands, so that’s good. But sometimes I do get odd looks when I’m setting up on stage. And of course, figuring out to use a keyboard with hooves. It took some doing.
The upside is that this is still possible with hooves?
I wouldn’t say it’s an advantage, but it’s still possible.
Is the major difference between digital hardcore and digital horsecore, only that you’re a horse? Do you feel this is an unfair comparison?
No, I think the only difference between digital hardcore and digital horsecore is that digital horsecore is still good. Digital hardcore, or at least the main driving force behind the genre no longer is, nor are they relevant really. And they’re shit live now. Sorry, that was a really, really mean thing to say about a band that are probably lovely! I think the fact it’s largely horse-themed obviously is one of the big differences, but as a genre, it doesn’t take itself so seriously. It’s the same hard beats and energy, but with the ability to have a laugh and not be so serious all the time.
What up-and-coming horse musicians should we be looking out for?
Oh wow. I’m getting this horrible sinking feeling that I can’t name a single other horse musician, either up-and-coming or established, which I feel probably reflects pretty poorly on me. No, you know what, I’m going to have to go educate myself on that one. I would like there to be some more.
So you hold the honour of being the first and the only horse to be featured in the history of BBC Introducing, and the history of BBC radio for that matter, how was that experience overall for you?
That was a land of contrasts. It was really good, really exciting. I went in through the BBC Introducing platform, where you upload your music, and your local station listens to it. I had a few songs played on there, and what I since found out has happened because I actually ended up performing a set in person for my local radio station, I got to speak to them in person. They said that they liked it so much that they sent it ‘up the chain,’ though I’m not sure if they specifically sent it to Tom Robinson, but it ended up in front of him and he loved it. He played it out on Radio 6, I think a couple of times, and it ended up on the best of that year New Year Show. Which is amazing, because it’s a song about a horse trying to masturbate. [BBC Radio] got it, but because it’s a song where I don’t swear in it, they can play it on the radio. The other side of it is, when I got the email saying, ‘Congratulations, your song is going to played on Radio 6,’ I was in hospital with a shattered ankle, and out of my mind on opiates. So I read the email and went [in a silly voice] ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ Unfortunately, I’d worked on the album release and then managed to absolutely obliterate my ankle two days after the album release show. I’d planned to do a lot of gigs to promote the album, but instead, I just had to not walk for twelve weeks. So yeah, it’s weird in my mind, it’s all mixed up in that because I wanted to be excited about it, but I was basically incapable of that. It’s cool now looking back on it, it was nice that [BBC] Radio York invited me to go in, which I ended up doing with my foot in a cast and did some live songs. They said it was the most insane thing they’d ever seen. I dragged a bunch of my backing dancers in, we all went in costume for the radio performance, you know, because it obviously adds something to that medium. But they said it was the most insane thing they’d ever seen, so it ended up being good, but at the time, it was weird.
You curate Hoersfest annually with a lot artists you admire, what was the impetus behind the festival?
It was just kind of wanting to try and get together other bands with similar energy, and [laughing] put them on somewhere I can basically walk to the venue, so that’s nice and easy. Bring them to me so I don’t have to fart around actually supporting them! No no no, it’s about the energy, and as it went on, I added in some little weird things, like pin the tail on the donkey, although it became Pin The Tail On The Donko))), which was the doom/drone band version of the popular children’s party game, and we did other stuff like that. And just bands that get ‘it,’ and if you need to ask what ‘it’ is, you can’t play.
Apart from music, you’re also an avid gamer, what would you say your favourite game is, or the best game you’ve played is?
This is going to be a really dull, non-horse answer, but I’m into my extremely nerdy [American-style role playing games]. I’m one of these hundreds and hundreds of hours in one game kind of guys. But I also played and enjoyed Red Dead Redemption, because that has a horse in it, and that was good.
Wonderful for Twitch content too.
Yes. I also played a game about a horse skiing… Snow Horse maybe? Something like that. That was interesting. I did try to do some Twitch streams playing horse-themed games, and very quickly really realised there was only a handful, and most of them were terrible. So that kind of fell by the wayside.
If Petrol Hoers wasn’t a musician, what occupation would you have instead?
I don’t know, probably a table-dancing horse, if the tables were big enough and strong enough. Something to do with performance of some kind, if it didn’t end up being music, then probably dancing and throwing some horse shapes.
I love the idea of horse shapes. What you would say has more horsepower: Petrol Hoers or Alec Empire’s Nissan Micra?
I mean, how many kilos can a Nissan Micra squat?
I haven’t asked one recently, so I don’t know.
I’m going to say probably Petrol Hoers, because a Nissan Micra is pretty small. Horses are pretty powerful, Micras are pretty small. I’ve never seen a Micra do any kind of lifting, even the technique has a lot to do with it, so the Micra would have to practice a bit. Yeah, I reckon me.
Finally, what are your plans going into the year and beyond?
I’ve got another album in the works that’s almost written, so I want to get that out. There’s another tour, maybe a couple of other tours next year… I’m trying to actually tour now, I used to just do spotty gigs here and there. I maybe want to try and get some more songs with other, similar subjects to masturbating horses played on the radio, because let’s face it, that’s what it is all about.
That’s what the people want, and I respect that. Thank you so much for your time.
A thank you to Dan, Jon and Ben from Petrol Bastard for presenting the opportunity, and The Holly Tree once again for hosting the interview.
Petrol Hoers has a few dates left on tour this year with Petrol Bastard so be sure to check their social media for when they are, or catch them in the New Year. All their music and merchandise can be purchased from their Bandcamp.
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