‘There are two kinds of gigs. Normal gigs and weird gigs, I hate normal gigs.’
Reverend Elvis continues his interview with Carl Byron Batson:
Carl Batson: There was quite a gap between the albums ‘Punk’ and ‘Desperation’. Was there any significant reason for this?
Reverend Elvis: Punk is an Undead Syncopators album. (D. Shadow and me). The main difference is: we recorded it on one day, with one microphone and mostly one take per song. There is no “intellectual shit” in it … 1.2.3. Rock’n’Roll!
You recorded the album Death Country. Hank Ray spoke a little about labels and what they meant to him, Rockabilly, Psychobilly and Death Country etc. So having the aptly-named album, what do labels mean to you?
This is another difficult question. On the one hand I don’t care about such labels. It seems to be stupid, limiting your mind by such borders. It’s always a pleasure to listen to different kinds of music and find the gems of music history. On the other hand Rockabilly, just like Psychobilly, is a “scene” with a long underground history – they have a cultic character.
It’s important to keep the classical forms of this cult alive to give them the opportunity to stay undead. For me there is no discrepancy between saving the classical forms and finding something new! I’m proud to be a part of today’s Rockabilly/Psychobilly scene. With all its ambivalence.
Another thing is when you look at Death Country, Death Country isn’t a scene, it’s a way to make music. 100% open minded. The only commonalities are it’s no fun music, and you have to be interested in Country music [laughs].
Well, be it the mixing of styles like The Cramps or the stripping back to bare blues basics and beyond (like much of your music) it’s all healthy progressive exploration of different sounds and styles. It often gives birth to something new and exciting. Do you have any personal favourite examples, either yours or other artists’?
“Rock’n’Roll” in general should sound that way, it is one of the main differences to “Pop music” which only reproduces popular formulas. Most bands and artists I really like do it that way! My favorite examples? Definitely The Cramps. No question about that! The Misfits, Gun Club, Demented are Go, Hank III, Those Poor Bastards … there are a lot more!
As a chance to let it all out, can you let us know what’s wrong with current pop music and TV talent shows?
Nothing is wrong with today’s pop music, the people listen to the music they deserve [laughs].
The last decade changed the music market massively. When we started with Suzy Q Records, back in the 90s, we had one BIG enemy: the mainstream industry. These fuckers were almighty, arrogant and everywhere. Only a small “hardcore” underground scene could resist.
But the internet and the invention of the mp3 format changed everything. The social networks (mainly the “old” MySpace) gave every musician (bad or good) the opportunity to promote his/her own stuff worldwide. That destroyed a little bit of the major labels’ power. But you have to face the reality: they are still assholes!
Today most people find their future favorite music on the Internet and it’s easier than ever before to leave the Middle of the Road – if you want. I don’t worry about TV talent shows!
Ha-ha ok, let’s get a few snippets of trash if we can. I’ve heard some crazy ‘on the road’ stories from a whole host of people over the years. Some people get dirty underwear thrown at them, some get hookers and Champagne sent to their dressing rooms. Presley’s drug addled stage patter, Lux Interior bursting out of a coffin, Kid Congo setting his hair alight. What is the weirdest thing to ever happen on stage? The strangest thing you’ve ever been given? Any memorable rock and roll stories you can share without fear of arrest?
I can’t remember, but people say I had a wonderful time. [Laughs]
any religion or
I can think by myself.
There are two kinds of gigs. Normal gigs and weird gigs, I hate normal gigs. We always try to drive the crowd crazy, we always try to drive the girls crazy, and we always try to drive ourselves crazy. If all that works together everybody can have their orgasmic nightmare and everything! Can happen for some, you can be arrested for some you don’t. [Laughs]
Now, as we are talking about weird and wonderful, we all know Berlin to still be a magnet for artists of many different types. What is it do you think that still draws people to Germany’s kinky currywurst-munching heart, and can you recommend any other cool places to visit in Germany?
Berlin is an awesome place!
I live 2 hours away from Berlin and I spend a lot of nights and days there. Most people say the appeal is about Berlin’s strange history. I think they are right! For many reasons a real counterculture and underground established on both sides, and after the “fall of the Wall” an explosive mixture blew up. The people were searching for freedom and they took it.
Berlin is always changing. Maybe in the wrong, maybe in the right direction – we will see. But today Berlin is definitely a place to be – open minded, anarchical and in its own way beautiful.
FOLLOWING VIDEO IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK!
Talking of things to do or see, Chemnitz has that huge 7 metre high bust of Karl Marx. Has Reverend Elvis got any politics he would like to share?
I don’t follow any religion or political ideology or whatever. I can think by myself.
Maybe I follow the Rock’n’Roll culture? And like the mighty Guitar Wolf (a very wise man from the east) once said: “Rock ‘n’ Roll has no borders, nationalities, or genders!” (Lightly modified)
All this talk of Berlin with it’s open-minded culture. Everybody loves a little bit of fetish now and then. From Jerry Lott aka The Phantom to The Covered Man, David Soul, there have been a fair few mask-wearing artists. What has been the inspiration for Reverend Elvis’ masked appearance?
I’m shy ha-ha!
It’s a mixture of many reasons. We always liked the “Mask bands”: Lightning Beatman, Tijuana Bibles, Orion [laughs]. I don’t know, it’s fascinating! And it’s quite different to play with masks on than without. More aggressive, more provocative. The people can see in you what they want to see, and most of all I don’t want to be the next “Elvis guy”…
You are partly responsible for the birth of Suzy Q records, a label that seems to be a way for underground culture to have its voice heard. Hank 3 recently told us “I’ve never worked on a major label that respected what I did and if you really look one of my big lines is shooting down fame to do it my own way”. Is this the stance with Suzy Q Records? Tell us a little bit about the label?
We started it, some friends and I, as a record store in Chemnitz back in 1999. The main reason was that we were all record junkies and we wanted to listen as much music as possible. It was a big success but a commercial disaster. We closed the store and started promoting and releasing our own music and music of friends (luckily we are part of a healthy, inspired music scene). Slowly Suzy Q Rec. became a heard voice in the underground music scene. Today Suzy Q is a small but well-known label with friends all over the world.
Yes I totally agree with Hank 3! One of the main reasons, besides his music, to be a fan of his is because he never gave up and never stopped supporting the underground. Unlike Hank, I never worked with majors cause they never asked me [laughs].
Most of the bands who sell their soul to the Industry become soulless zombies – can’t remember any single band who put a good record out on a major (okay, maybe White Stripes as an exception to the rule).
Suzy Q gives me the freedom to do what I want to do, to put all the music out that is inside me and I don’t have to care if somebody likes it or not.
I mentioned a musical wish list earlier. It would be great to put on the gig of your dreams right? Which dead artist would you have liked to take the stage with and more importantly which living artist would you like to play with given the opportunity?
Sometimes I wish I had a time machine to play with my heroes: pick some Blues and Bluegrass in the 40s, help to invent modern music with the Rockabilly cats in Memphis in the 50s, become an angry teenager and play brutal Garage in the 60s … destroy everything with my punk guitar in the 70s, and so on. Every time has its musical highlights.
Today there are many artists I want to play with (and some I already have) Hank3, Glenn Danzig and Demented are Go, Hank Ray – all on one stage! Maybe it will happen someday.
With that wish list I will thank you for your time and say it’s been a pleasure as always. One last question that I ask of everyone is: when the reaper comes to finally take you down, what will be those words chiseled in your headstone?
Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.
Reverend Elvis, thank you very much.
Thank you Carl!Suzy Q Records