We’re all used to reunions, cash ins and very vague versions of classic bands coming back to have another go at reigniting their long lost youths but as come backs go, few can challenge The Sonics for sheer ability to pick up and kick back into where they left off some forty years later!
It’s impossible to over exaggerate the influence that The Sonics had when they detonated out of Tacoma, Washington in the early sixties. Their primal fuzz, distortion and garage rock grooves was so far ahead of their time they practically invented every form of rock music that’s come since.
The Sonics have had a few reunions over the years but this coming March 31st sees the release of their first new studio album since the release of Introducing back in 1967. Titled This Is The Sonics and due to be issued through their own label, Revox, the first taster from its grooves has just been released and ‘Bad Betty’ very quickly asserts itself as a comeback worth waiting for. High energy, explosive and full of fuzz, despite fast approaching their seventies, ‘Bad Betty’ sounds like no time has passed since and The Sonics have effortlessly recaptured the energy and aggression of their teenage years.
Produced by Jim Diamond (White Stripes, Dirtbombs) and featuring original members Jerry Roslie, Larry Parypa, and Rob Lind, The Sonics also now feature Freddie Dennis from The Kingsmen and Liverpool Five, plus Dusty Watson who played with Dick Dale and Agent Orange. And if ‘Bad Betty’ is anything to go by, This Is The Sonics promises to eclipse even their early material for amp-slashing, foot stomping garage rock mania. Bring it on!
Canadian bands have always delivered great underground punk music, from the recent slamming sounds of Fucked Up through to the old guard of SNFU and DOA, they just seem have a knack of digging out some classic stuff and bringing something beautiful to the scene.
Last night, Alberta rippers Fist City rolled into town for their debut London show over East and delivered an absolute treat to the lucky few who witnessed their balls-out, garage fueled surf attack. From the opening track ‘Endless Bummer‘ to their epic version of Devo’s ‘Uncontrollable Urge’, (video below) the quartet packed massive amounts energetic punk into their 30 minute set and blew the roof off.
Fronted by Keir Griffiths on guitar and vocals, Fist City’s overall sound is trashy, powerful and underlined with a surf twang that invites a feel good factor on par with the best of them. We are talking the cheekiness of the Black Lips and Fidlar, riffs that would rival Rites of Spring, all delivered with a confident presence that brings their live work directly into your face.
This is not a band that plays a show and doesn’t get involved. These guys shake and move to the banging sound of Ryan Grieve’s pounding drums. Griffiths threw his guitar onto the stage and then threw himself into the audience, pulsating and gyrating like a woman on fire in a sandpit. His mic was hurled into the open jaws of the lucky few watching, whilst bassist Lindsay Munro and guitarist Evan Van Reekum kept the rolling pace flowing from the stage. Born a girl and now a man following gender reassignment, Keir stomped the shit out of every inch of space between those surrounding walls and left the onlookers in awe.
This band are special and they don’t come around that often, so look out for them on your travels and pick up their album ‘It’s 1983, Grow Up‘ whilst there’s still vinyl available.
Headliners Cousins followed this carnage well and put on a good show. They hail from Halifax made up of guitarist/singer Aaron Mangle and drummer Leigh Dotey. The duo play rock and roll at each other with thunderous riffage. Their stripped down presence hails a sound as loud and as finely perfected to any four piece. Dotey’s rolling drum assault does a grand job of keeping Mangle’s deep garage swagger fulfilled and made this evening one of the most enjoyable this year.
Both bands are playing at the Great Escape Festival in Brighton this weekend alongside a bunch of other fine Canadian acts down there. If you find yourself on the beach, do yourself a favour and seek these two out.
When you think of the word ‘punk’ most people would probably not consider Italians to be in the top five regions famous for it. Look further though and you will find some underground treats like Wildmen here, a duo with a mission to keep the garage-rock flag flying in a country where the punk scene from old concentrated heavily on the subject matter of depression and the proletariat; the scene was politically motivated, sexually charged and fueled by that good old Italian blood found in no other country.
Made up of Giacomo Mancini (guitar) and Matteo Vallicelli (drums/vocals), Wildmen have a solid groove and can kick out a decent jam so we asked Fabiana Giovanetti to introduce them to you.
I know you have been also in some punk and hardcore bands. Which bands have you played in, what do you think you learnt from these past experiences?
I played in a couple of hardcore punk bands and still play with a band called Smart Cops. I think I learned a lot from the hardcore scene. Especially from touring. It helps you maturing the right attitude towards life in general when you have to sleep in a German squat full of rats and stuff like that.
If you had to describe your music in just three words, which ones would you pick?
Fun, fun, fun.
How much has the 60s garage-punk influenced your music? Is there any garage band in particular that you are drawing inspiration from, or are you influenced by other genres?
Of course we dig 60’s garage punk. Every band on compilations like “Nuggets” of “Back From The Grave” was a great inspiration for us but we don’t give a shit about the “garage revival” thing and don’t want to sound like them. We are very open minded and we listen to anything – even hip hop or techno…
Would you like to share with us the “legend” about how you formed the band?
There was this kind of saloon rumble in a bar in Trastevere (Roma). We were there and took part in the fight, and we became friends.
Why did you decide to record Wildmen in analog instead of digital?
We knew these friends who had this studio and decided to work with them cause we really liked their productions. It was very natural. Besides that, the tape has a warmer sound and we like it. We were very happy with the results.
You are now collaborating with Shit Music for Shit People, a label that is highly focused on the records and the artwork. How much is the product itself important, when it comes to a release?
It is very important to have records that sound but also look good, cause it’s easier to sell! Hehe… And you need to sell records when you are on tour. “Cash rules everything around me”, you know.
Was it your idea to suggest and use Francesco De Figueiredo’s art for the cover of the album?
Francesco is a good friend and we decided to work together. Again, it was very natural. We are really satisfied with the artwork he did. In fact, you couldn’t tell it’s a garage punk record. It looks more like a 90’s techno 12″ and we like this.
How much of the punk attitude you deliver when on stage? How is the chemistry between you whilst playing?
We just play really hard, trying to sound as big as we can even if we are just a duo. We need to concentrate on the show. I guess we are more “punk” while we are not playing, actually…
Do you have any interesting/embarrassing anecdote about a gig to share with us?
There are several, but since they all concern girls, drugs or faeces we prefer to keep quiet.
The apocalypse is coming and you have to put one track into a time capsule to preserve for future generations, what would it be?
“Be My Baby” by The Ronettes.
When you are not busy writing and performing with Wildmen, what do your daily lives look like?
Which are the main appointments in your agenda for the rest of 2013?
We are going on tour in Europe again in May and then start writing a new record.
Punk rock in the late 70’s was said to have come from the UK. The Sex Pistols claimed the tag at that time and propelled the image of bored, rebellious youth as we know it. Looking back to the roots of this anarchic disposition it’s easy to pick up on the fact that their influences and many other household names we know today from the punk genre such as Iggy Pop and The Ramones to name just two, took their inspiration from the garage rock scene that spread through the suburbs of American youth culture in the early 1960’s.
Back then rehearsal rooms and studios were not a luxury like in today’s cities, so setting up your gear in the family garage, shouting the odds through a microphone and making as much noise as possible was the order. That spark, that uprising brought Garage Rock (also known as Garage Punk) into the underground, ignited by a network of bands taking their pre-rehearsed tracks into local venues and releasing 7″ records to reach others in different areas and quite literally exploded as the sound of teenage rebellion.
This sonic throwback of the surf rock scene spawned one of the best bands of all time from Tacoma, Washington called The Sonics and knowing that they were in town for the Meltdown Festival curated by The Kinks frontman Ray Davies, Alex Penge hooked up with Rob Lind (saxophone and vocals) and Larry Parypa (lead guitar and vocals) before the show at the Mint Hotel in London to find out more about the band who are said to have kick started the ‘punk’ movement.
Welcome to London. Are you looking forward to your upcoming show at Meltdown with Wire?
Rob: Very much so, yes. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Have you met Wire before? Have you played any gigs with them in the past?
Rob: No, we’re aware of Wire’s great reputation, but we have not heard of them.
Larry: …which is why when we went in there (for the sound check) and adjusted all our amps for them. So it wouldn’t sound like crap!
Tell me more about the Washington garage rock scene where it all started off. Apart from The Wailers (your manager, Buck Ormsby’s band), were there any other bands that fell under the radar?
Rob: The Pacific Northwest which that area is called was a real a hotbed for rock and roll bands. There were lots of good bands. Lots of good people came out of there.
Larry: Like Jimi Hendrix?
Rob: Well The Ventures did have a great reputation and a lot of worldwide hit records when we were young guys starting out. We liked their music. There was another band called The Frantics.
Larry: Uhh ho, gee!
Rob: They were killers. They were real good. But they didn’t really get much notice outside the local area.
You were famous for your pioneering recording techniques and arguably influenced a generation of garage rock revivalists. Did you at the time think that this technique was going to catch on and influence a lot of people?
Larry: There was no choice. We didn’t have any choice at the time. There was only two-track recording available. Mono sound on the first record. We didn’t have four-track until the later albums.
So it all started off just trying to get the record out in the first place?
Larry: Well it’s a standard, you know. We played live essentially. It wasn’t like each person had their own track and if they made a mistake they could redo their bits. We just went in there and usually did the band all at once. Then the vocals would top it off later.
Rob: It was a two-step recording process. Step one would be to roll the tape. Step two would be to play.
Rob: Those recorders were in a variety of different recording facilities. We’d go in the studio and whatever was in there we’d use.
Larry: I think (the recording) of ‘The Witch’ was in a radio studio where they cut the ads and somehow gave us the room to record. It wasn’t in the real recording studio I remember?
Rob: “Go in here boys and knock yourselves out!”
Were there any other cover songs that you were thinking of covering for the ‘Here Are The Sonics’ album that eventually never made the cut?
Rob: No, I don’t think so. ‘Leave My Kitten Alone’ (by Little Willie John) wasn’t on that album but we liked that song a lot. We don’t play that song anymore. Half a dozen songs that we played regularly on those albums we don’t even play now. We also have a new record with four original songs and we’re playing those in our sets now.
What was it like sharing stages with bands such as The Beach Boys and The Shangri-Las?
Larry: It would be interesting if you asked The Shangri-Las what they thought it was like sharing the stage with us. We really screwed them over. They were doing their own tour and we were doing our own tour. Somehow an agreement was made that we were going to back them up in their songs. I don’t know why, but we didn’t learn their songs and it didn’t turn out too well! They still remember that.
Rob: We probably appeared with The Beach Boys more than any of the other big acts. We got to know them pretty well and saw them a lot when they came to the Northwest.
Larry: I think The Kinks was my favourite act to play with. I was most impressed with them.
Rob: I’d have to agree with that too.
Larry: I remember they were wearing a lot of black, they had a sinister sound and they were moving. Those guys were really something!
Rob: Back then the state of popular music in the States was really anaemic. We were up in the Northwest playing hard. I remember one day I was in my car driving down the street, I didn’t know who The Kinks were as they weren’t famous at the time and someone on the radio said, “…here’s a new record from England”. [Rob reinacts the opening of ‘You Really Got Me’]. I heard that and almost ran off the road! We all got on the phone together, “…did you hear what those guys from England are doing?! Holy cow!” After that we learnt a bunch of their songs. We loved them.
So, was it an honour meeting Ray (Davies)?
Rob: It was. We did a short tour with them when they came to the Northwest and met them at the Spokane Coliseum back in the dressing rooms. I want to choose my words carefully here. There were a numbers of large acts (and we played with most of them at one time or another) that were good in the studio but when they played live they couldn’t hold their end up like they could in the studio. The Kinks were probably even better live than they were in the studio. That’s why we liked them so much. They were great. We thought that “those English guys are just like us”!
Over the years there have been many covers of your song ‘Strychnine’ ranging from the likes of The Flaming Lips to The Cramps to The Fall. Which cover would you say is your favourite?
Rob: To be honest, I have not heard many. Actually the best version of ‘Strychnine’, the absolute best version of ‘Strychnine’ that’s out there is by this band called The Sonics! (laughs)
How was the recording process for your new EP ‘8’? Are there any plans for any more future releases? An album release maybe?
Larry: All we have to do is get together and work them out in one recording, we just haven’t done it yet and haven’t tendered to business really. We used that particular studio (Sound House studio, Seattle) and recording engineer (Jack Endino, who worked with Nirvana, Mudhoney and Soundgarden) for the EP because we wanted something that was unprocessed, by going in and getting that one-take type of song. We didn’t want to overdo it. In fact, we play the new songs differently now to how we recorded them. We wrote the songs, went in to record at the studio and now play the songs live a little differently.
Rob: The live performances have definitely adapted those new songs from the studio. We are definitely planning on making a new full length album. We’ve been on the road almost constantly during the month of June. We’ve spent three weeks in France and Belgium and then ran back across the States to Long Beach, California for the Ink & Iron Show, which was a really big show. Then we had two days to wash clothes and come back to London.
Larry: Then we come over here and the weather’s exactly the same as it is in Seattle!
Rob: If you want to know what the weather’s like in Tacoma and Seattle, it’s just like this!
Are there any tours or festival appearances planned for the future?
Rob: We actually had a tour set up this past April in Japan, starting in Tokyo, but they had that unfortunate disaster over there and the tour got pushed back. What we’re understanding now from the Japanese promoters is that we’ll be back over there for late Winter or early Spring time. We’re sad about that as we have a big fan base in Japan and are all looking forward to going over there.
Finally, what music are you guys listening to at the moment? Do you like any current British music?
Rob: I like all different kinds of music. There are bands that we play together with at these shows that we’ve never met before and become friends with. One I can name in particular is The Detroit Cobras. They’re great guys and girls and we had a great time working with them! I worked out a t-shirt swap with the bass player, so I’ve got a Detroit Cobras t-shirt and he’s running around Detroit with a Sonics t-shirt. We know The Fuzztones quite well and have performed with them in the past.
We’ve become friends with a number of different groups. In my case, most particularly The Hives from Sweden. We’re pretty good friends with them. I exchange emails with one of the guys. When we played Stockholm a year ago they surprised the crowd and came out and did the encore with us. Pelle (Almqvist) sang ‘The Witch’. Rock musicians aren’t supposed to say they like anything apart from rock music but I love Cajun music. I also love listening to Bluegrass.
When we were here the time before last, one of the groups that opened for us was The Horrors. As a matter of fact, I think they’re even more popular now than they were a couple of years ago. They had a big record out I understand? Nice lads.
Larry: Yeah, nice guys. Pete Doherty was supposed to make an appearance also. But he shunned us off! Everyone expected that though!
Further to his fantastic recent album, $, on Last Gang Records, Mark Sultan has been a significant figure in garage rock over the past decade. Whether it be his inspired collaborations with King Khan as The King Khan and BBQ show, or gospel rock supergroup The Almighty Defenders, Sultan can be relied upon to make great sounding records, and to tour them, hard. Most significantly, the three albums made with King Khan stick in our minds as perhaps his best work to date, and essential additions to any good record collection.
On the week of the release of his new solo album, we caught up with Mark to discuss his influences, playing the Sydney Opera House and what he’s got planned for the near future. We also got the low down on the making of ‘$’, which recently joined the Buzz Chart here.
Hey Mark! How’s life?
Life is great! I just moved to Toronto and I am pretty stoked.
First off, could you tell us about your new album ‘$’ and how it came together.
Well, that album was recorded a while ago – in fact the earliest recording on the CD, anyway, is the original version of ‘I’ll Be Lovin You’, which ended up being reworked as a King Khan & BBQ Show song. Most tracks were recorded in late 2008/2009, with some alterations done a bit later. I basically wanted to stretch my wings a bit after focusing more on KKBBQ and my decision to write and sing more basic and primitive rock’n’roll with that band. I wanted to write songs as ‘Mark Sultan’ and record them with more experimentation and more ‘orchestration’. It was cathartic, cuz I was pretty dark at that point. Made sense.
Why did you decide to call it ‘$’?
The name was just another in a series of bad decisions I have made in music. Nah, I dunno. Probably could argue that it’s all a joke on the fact that I never make money from my shit. But honestly, I just like the way a dollar sign looks.
I think the album really showcases your talent as a vocalist, what singers do you draw inspiration from?
Thanks. I would say it probably has been showcased more on King Khan & BBQ Show albums, as far as talking pure R&B-style howling, but I think ‘$’ is a decent showcase, if not more varied, vocally. I draw most inspiration from a long line of 50’s gospel singers, R&B vocal group singers and soul dudes. Just a bunch of remarkable talents whom you have either heard of or who have washed away with time.
What kind of music did you listen to growing up? How did you end up playing garage rock and doo-wop influenced music?
I received ‘Abbey Road’ for Christmas when I was 5 and started buying Led Zeppelin albums with saved up holiday bucks the year after, on recommendation from my cousin Steven. So, ya, lots of Classic rock and 50’s-60’s rock’n’roll stuff that I found in parents’ boxes as a kid staying home from school. That was until I was, say, 8-9. Then came metal, hardcore, punk, etc… The garage stuff was always a curiosity for me even through my hardcore days. I mean, I still had a love for the Stones, etc… and when bands like Minor Threat would cover Standells songs, I’d track down the originals. And then I started getting into all the old shit and stuff like the Mummies or Billy Childish or whatever. It all seemed punk to me! As for Doo-Wop, that also was part of growing up, on like ‘Party Rock’ albums and shit. All the novelty stuff. But my love of more ‘serious’ R&B, etc… came later, probably from researching garagebands doing old covers and going into it further. I love vocal sounds and melodies and harmonies. I love getting the chills from the ethereal sound of one person’s voice so full of soul and emotion. It makes me feel alive.
You’ve toured with some great bands in your time – are there any particular tours or stories from the road which stick out in your mind?
Man, too many stories. I’ll write a book one day. It will be funny.
What three things can you not live without when you’re on tour?
I dunno… Sometimes, when I smoke, it’s something as simple as a cigarette. Or chocolate. Mostly, I just can’t live without the love to keep going; to keep touring. Once you lose that, you should go home.
What’s your live setup like now? Have things mellowed at all since you started out?
I just toured the US as my one-man band ‘BBQ’, but which often gets billed as ‘Mark Sultan’. Weird. In any case, my performances were generally more energetic and perhaps ‘evil’ than ever. I was happy. But I also have a 4-5 piece band which I will start touring with, with me as front man. Things are not slowing down. I am never complacent.
We really love the music you’ve released as King Khan & BBQ, how would you describe your relationship with King Khan?
Well, we are brothers. We are going through a tough time at present, but we still love each other. Just gotta let time heal a few things.
Have you settled on playing under your own name now, or are there any other projects or aliases on the horizon?
Well, contrary to popular thought, that isn’t my real name, more a reliable alias so I can put one name out for now and draw less confusion. But even my real name isn’t real. I hope to use the REAL name on an upcoming release.
Of all the musical projects you’ve worked on to date, is there a record or moment that you’re most proud of?
There were a bunch of moments that could have been the proudest, but have somehow always fucked up. A good example is when me and Khan played the Sydney Opera house at the request of Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson. Disastrous. Hahahaha. Anyway, I am as proud as I can be with most shit I make, cuz I also have a good sense of self-censorship. I only put out stuff I kinda like.
Are there any plans to come back to the UK in the near future?
For a long time, the UK was on my personal blacklist, as I had nothing but horrid experiences there, but I am now willing to give it another go. More and more ‘fans’ ask and I guess I should try.
Any last words?
If music challenges your first impressions, will you shut it off or keep listening? Are you a fan of music or a fan of being a ‘fan’?
Attention reader: you are all to stop what you are doing and watch the new Grinderman video. Even if you aren’t too keen on Nick Cave’s grimey and groovey garage rock troupe you should spare five minutes of your time to enter the batshit insane world of Heathen Child, a video directed by John Hillcoat.
Imagine a topless voodoo dancer, some wolfmen, a wolf, a hair-monster, a dog composer and a gun-totting, lazer shooting Roman warrior version of Cave and his crew collectively taunting an eerie girl in a bath that’s seemingly possesed by a director with ADHD. Now try to pretend you’re not excited to watch it.