Exclusive Interview with Bill Hicks' Family, New Box Set Released
In my opinion, Bill Hicks is the greatest comedian America has ever produced. Period. To mark today's release of the new Ryko box set Bill Hicks' The Essential Collection, we had the unbelievable opportunity to sit down for a chat with Bill Hicks’ mother Mary and his brother Steve.
For those that don’t know, Bill Hicks’ The Essential Collection is a four-disc set that consists of two CDs and two DVDs that encompass Bill Hicks’ short but influential career as a satirist, social critic, and stand-up comedian. Bill’s brother Steve gave us some a little insight into how he put the new box set together:
Steve: From a fan’s perspective is how I approached it because I am a fan. I am of Bill’s. What I thought was extremely important with this was to put Bill’s [material] out that people haven’t seen or heard. Not just recycling things. There are some of Bill’s most famous things, but the point of that is that if you’re going to call something the "Essential Box Set," you gotta have that artists’ essential work in there. It’d be like calling The Beatles box set and not having “Hey Jude” included. For the most part, this is unreleased stuff. As a fan, if I thought I could get a box set of my favorite artist and have five hours of never-before-seen DVD video, I would be pretty excited about that.
Here's an amazing clip of Bill very early on in his career at the Comix Annex in Houston, Texas in 1981. This entire video set is featured on the new Essential Collection:
One of the most interesting aspects of the box set is a download card that contains 11 original songs recorded by Bill entitled, Lo-Fi Troubadour. Bill’s mother Mary talks about Bill’s early relationship with music:
Mary: He got a guitar when he was real little. Probably eight or nine maybe…I knew he played the guitar and when I first heard that I thought it was the radio. He was very good. Actually the song that I heard was the "The Star-Spangled Banner." Before that, my husband might have gone out one evening and I had forgot something, so we raced back home and I ran in the house and Bill was at the piano playing. That was the first time I knew he played the piano. He just liked music. The album on the box set, I hope that it’s going to be a very pleasant surprise for a lot of his fans because I don’t think they know that side of Bill.
One thing that isn’t discussed very much is Bill’s softer side. A lot of people only know Bill for his aggressive, no-holds-barred comedy style, but that wasn’t the side of Bill his family knew:
Steve: I’ll tell you too a great story about that that I haven’t told much. When I used to live in Austin with my family years ago and Bill would come there and he performed a lot around the holidays and all that, he would want me to go with him down to the main drag there in Austin, Texas and he would hand out five dollar bills to the homeless people. Just little touches like that. Just concerned for his fellow human being you know what I mean? He didn’t make a big deal about it. He just did it.
We thank Bill's family for taking the time to talk to us about this monumental release. You can buy the The Essential Collection here. Get it, people. It'll be the best money you spend all year. Seriously.
Here’s some more information about the new box set from Ryko:
The Essential Collection contains double DVD discs with over five hours of footage from Bill Hicks’ personal archives including rare, never-before-seen performances from the early '80s, the cult short film Ninja Bachelor Party (starring Bill Hicks, Kevin Booth, and David Johndrow), in-depth interviews with Hicks, and a photo gallery from his family’s keepsakes. The two CD discs offer over two hours of his best stand-up material with never-before-released performance pieces from a San Ramon, California show recorded by Bill Hicks that was found in his archives.