Fire In The Hole!

Marshall WardCategories:Music

Rock Cellar Magazine

Rock and roll and hot sauce…it’s a match made in hell!
What a distorted electric guitar is to the ears, a fiery blend of pureed chili peppers is to the tongue. Both ignite the senses, quicken the heart rate and leave you hungry for more. It should come as no surprise, then, that a growing number of rock gods are lending their names and their tongues to a new breed of strange brews.

Johnny Winter

Photo © Mark Walton (all rights reserved)

Iconic bluesman Johnny Winter is the latest rocker to spice up his repertoire with his own unique brand of Screamin’ Demon hot sauce, joining the likes of legendary Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony (Mad Anthony’s Hot Sauce) and Black Label Society guitar hero Zakk Wylde (Berserker Brand Hot Sauces).
This isn’t just a case of rock stars signing endorsement deals for random products to earn some extra bucks. These guys truly love hot sauce — and not just Tabasco, Frank’s Red Hot or other supposedly hot (but actually namby-pamby) sauces from the grocery store. They are bona fide heatseekers who crave the endorphin rush that accompanies the tastebud-torturing blast of serious sauces.
“I didn’t want it to be just for a gimmick,” Winter recently told Rock Cellar Magazine. “We really wanted it to be good, because we all eat hot sauce on the road. We love to put it on eggs, tacos, and especially pizza.”
Winter credits his manager and famed guitarist Paul Nelson with the initial idea.
Nelson elaborated: “I knew that Aerosmith’s Joe Perry had his own brand (Rock Your World), so I was thinking, we should put one out for Johnny, because everyone in the band loves hot sauce, and we wanted to have it on the road with us too.”
Joe Perry SauceJoe Perry
That’s why they partnered with Shark Attack Sauces to create Screamin’ Demon, a fiery and flavorful medley carrying a sharp red bell pepper bite, a wave of spices and a Thai chili afterburn.
Shark Attack Sauces President Bob Hallett, who has been making hot sauces brewed in small batches for the past 20 years, is overjoyed to be working alongside his musical hero Johnny Winter: “Every time I think about it, it’s such a thrill. His versions of Johnny B. Goode, It’s All Over Now, and Highway 61 are smokin’. I’ve seen him in concert many times and I love it all.”
Johnny Winter credits the Florida-based hot sauce entrepreneur with the name “Screamin’ Demon.” The original idea for the sauce, Hallett said, was to create a white pepper concoction called “White Hot,” inspired by Winter’s albino-white skin. “Johnny loved the idea, but at the time we couldn’t find white peppers, which are really hard to get,” Hallett said.
“I had just started working on a deep red Thai pepper sauce with a nice creamy flavor, when it just came to me — the lyric from Johnny Winter’s song Illustrated Man: ‘Got a screamin’ demon on my chest.’ So I asked them, ‘How about we call it Screamin’ Demon,’ and they said, ‘That’s perfect!’ And the rest is history.”

Johnny Winter “Illustrated Man”
With the input of his band, Winter settled on the final recipe for his hot sauce, after several blind taste tests. “We wanted it to be hot, but not too hot,” said Winter.
It was also Winter who came up with the idea for the logo. “For the artwork on the bottle, I wanted to use the (monster) tattoo on my chest,” he said, “flames and all.”
Interestingly, Van Halen’s Michael Anthony has a tattoo inspired by his favorite hot sauce, “Ring of Fire,” the image taken from one of their bottle labels.  “It was in the mid-’90s when I first tried ‘Ring of Fire,’” Anthony told Rock Cellar Magazine from his home in California.  “We were shooting the video for Don’t Tell Me What Love Can Do and the caterers brought it. I had never used hot sauce before, and now I like to put it on everything. I’ve even tried it on ice-cream, and it was definitely interesting.”

Michael Anthony

Michael Anthony

Putting as much emphasis on flavor as he does on heat, his Mad Anthony’s product line also includes hot mustard and barbeque sauces. Like Johnny Winter, Anthony said he uses only the finest ingredients in his hot sauces — a list that includes pimiento peppers, sweet red bell peppers, and generous helpings of fresh roasted garlic and habanero chilies, flown in fresh from the Caribbean.
Anthony said that hot sauce, for him, goes hand-in-hand with his California rock and roll lifestyle of hot rods, bass guitars and playing live music with his band, the Mad Anthony Express. “With my hot sauces, we like to kick everyone’s asses and get a full sweat going!” laughed Anthony.
Kicking ass, incidentally, is what Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne) and Blair’s Death Sauce did when they partnered three years ago in a unique hot sauce line that includes four varieties: “Original Berserker” (mild), “Sonic Brew” (moderate), “Stronger Than Death” (hot) and “Shot to Hell” (hottest).
“Blair’s the f***ing man!” Wylde said of the hot sauce magnate, Blair Lazar, who commissioned Wylde’s wild tastebuds to create the Berserker Brand. “Blair’s Death Sauce has taken first position in my rack of flavors for a while now, and it’s been my go-to sauce for anything I cook, grill, or have recently killed – that needs that extra kick.”
Wylde’s larger-than-life persona rings loud and clear as the Viking-esque axeman raved about working with Blair, famous for their variety of extreme hot sauce titles like Pure Death, After Death, and a favorite in Wylde’s refrigerator, Sudden Death.
“They’re in the Guinness Book of World Records!” Wylde said of Blair’s 16 Million Reserve, officially the hottest product ever made. “I’ve been a longtime Death Sauce fan and knew Blair was the company to work with. He goes to this one region in Mexico to bring back the hottest frikkin’ peppers on the planet.”
“And working with Blair, I wanted to introduce a recipe of flavors geared towards my fanbase, the Berserkers,” Wylde said of his worldwide cadre of loyal headbangers. “I suggest eating it with fish, tacos, fajitas, eggs, salmon, chicken…or anything that goes with beer!”
Zakk Wylde & Blair Lazar SauceZakk Wylde & Blair Lazar
Johnny Winter’s sauce brewmaster, Bob Hallett, said that loud, brash and hypercharged rock and roll goes great with hot sauce. “Rock and roll and hot sauce, it’s a perfect pairing — and there’s so much room to be creative with all the different flavors, heat levels, and artwork.”
His website enhances the story of the Screamin’ Demon hot sauce’s origins with a little creative embellishment:

Late one steamy evening, deep in the heart of Beaumont, Texas, a teenage blues guitar prodigy named Johnny Winter would grab an empty bottle of hot sauce from the dinner table.  He sat on the front porch and played.  Reaching into his pocket, young Johnny clasped between his fingers that bottle, and with the ease of a summer breeze touched it to the strings.  The original ‘Texas slider’ was born. Could Johnny’s blistering hot slide licks somehow be bottled?

The answer to that question, much to Hallett’s delight, is yes; “ Like Johnny’s music, I hope our hot sauce puts smiles on people’s faces and catches on fire.”
Johnny Winter summed it up with brevity and a chuckle: “And you don’t have to go down Highway 61 to get it.”
Winter’s new album, Roots is due out September 27, 2011.
Johnny Winter photo © Mark Walton; All Rights Reserved. He is the founder and AD of Foto:RE. You can also see more of Mark’s work at

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