Ain’t No Time To Sit Down: Interview with Chris Armstrong of The Retroholics

Jody Collins Entertainment, Music 8 Comments

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A weekly peek into what makes the Knoxville music scene phe­nom­e­nal. We’ll be bring­ing you album + con­cert reviews from the Knoxville area and inter­views with local musi­cians + peo­ple behind the scenes.

JC: What made you want to start playing the guitar?

CA: My brother. He played the guitar, and I liked the loud noise. If I didn’t like playing, he’d beat me up. *laughs* No, seriously, I looked up to my brother. It just felt fun to play.

JC: Banana pancakes or crouton salad?

CA: I like ’em both.

JC: You gotta pick.

CA: OK. Crouton salad.

JC: Judges? Judges? Sorry, the correct answer is banana pancakes. How did the Retroholics form?

CA: There was a band called the Hip-Twangers. I was in a band called The Pineda Band with the keyboard player and drummer. We were thinking about making something different, an ’80s music. Kind of combined our efforts towards that.

JC: You play the guitar with your teeth. How’d that end up the first go ’round?

CA: Oh yes. *laughs* That’s the craziest story. I had braces, and a heavy Gibson.

JC: Not a good start.

CA: No, its not. *laughs* I was in seventh grade. Thank God no one was in the house but me. I put the guitar to my mouth, tried to pluck it with my front two teeth. I made a couple of notes, thought “wow, this ain’t too bad.” Did it again, and the guitar got stuck to my braces. You don’t realize how heavy a Gibson guitar is until you’ve got it stuck to the front of your mouth. It felt like I was stuck in a bear trap… with my face.

JC: I was expecting a Marty McFly type event.

CA: *laughs* Fortunately no. Then, the weight was getting heavier and heavier. The more I tried to get it off my mouth, the more it got tangled up in my braces. After struggling for half an hour, cause I was panicking, I remembered that my dad had some wire cutters in the garage. Which was a couple of rooms over. So I tried to walk through the door, in panic and shock. Instead of turning sideways to get the guitar through the door, I went “boom!” The head and guitar kind of made a trap for me. So I backed up, turned sideways, went through. Got to the garage, squatted down to my dad’s tool box. After about five minutes I found the wire cutters. I’m glad my mom didn’t walk in see me with a guitar stuck to my face, one hand on the guitar the other working the wire cutters.

JC: Any teeth loosened in this experience?

CA: Just my pride. Told myself I’d never try that again. Then it happened again two days later. This time I had wire cutters in my room. *laughs*

JC: How long did it take you to master playing the guitar with your teeth? Let me rephrase that, how many more attempts ended in you getting your braces stuck?

CA: Guess about five more times. But I kept the wire cutters in my room. *laughs*

JC: What action would you take if ever a ravenous goonch attempted to attack you?

CA: First I’d scream like a little girl and run, cause them goonches can be very vicious. The have sharp teeth.

JC: Is there anything else, as a musician, you’d like to accomplish?

CA: I’d like to write songs again… that someone else hasn’t already written. *laughs*

To see Chris and The Retroholics in all their glory, visit their webpage for a schedule of upcoming performances.

Photo nicked from the band’s MySpace page.

Comments 8

  1. Great interview. Chris is not only super talented, but incredibly humble. If you haven’t, you must go see the insane mouth-playing for yourself!

  2. Thank goodness for wire cutters, am I right? Thanks for the interview – Chris is just awesome and it’s great to hear more about his inspiration and creativity.

  3. This is fantastic. I’ve known Chris since the 2nd grade and remember this story. His teeth-playing ability has always been amazing.

  4. He can also play the guitar behind his head (but not with his teeth, that would be impossible). I’ve also seen him place his guitar on a table & play it Jeff Healey style while drinking a beer. He’s a guitar prestidigitator!

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