Wednesday, 11 February 2015

The Raymen......Early years.........By Darren & Hank Ray.

1987....There's a full moon tonight!
Woah folks, we got that hillbilly werewolf, The Holy Roller himself to dig deep into the memory banks for this post ! Along with The Cramps, The Vibes, The 5678's and The Gun Club...The Raymen are in my all time top five groups ever. To say I was a little flattered when Hank agreed to help me out is an understatement ! 
For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last 30 years or so, Berlin based The Raymen, have been belting out their own unique mix of Swampy, Trashed up Rockabilly since first getting together in 1983. Really guys and ghouls, if you don't run out and grab up everything you can find from these guys, you need to get your head looked at by a professional ! We're going to be taking a look at what I think is their 'golden' period if you like, from 84-90 but they haven't made a bad record ever and Hank's solo 'Death Country' releases are well worthy of snapping up too.......So onwards.

Line up. March 83-July 85.
Tell me, how did you get together initially ?

How did we hook up? Well, we all went to the same high school. A bunch of bored teenage freaks who thought forming a band would be a good idea to escape the dullness. You’ve heard that before, right? That was late ‘79 /’80. We didn’t even have a name in the beginning. After some changes in line ups – people would be droppin’ in and out and in again at that point of time - we’d become the Garbage Groupies in ’81, who after some more shifts became The Raymen in ’83.
Early 1986.
Had any of you guys been in bands before the Raymen ?
Nope! No musical background let alone any technical instrumental skills. We basically picked up some instruments and started from scratch. Early takes of “Waiting For The Man”, “I Got You Babe”, “Eve Of Destruction” or “Wooly Bully” were the worst shit you’d ever hear. Oh Gawd, did we suck. Hahaha! But then again. Here are my heroes - The Germs - doin’ this incredible cover of the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar” and it actually did come out on vinyl (“Germicide” / Mohawk Recs). Wow!! So we thought, ”well, if they can do this we can do it too”.
Yeah, I’m a huge fan of Darby and the Germs. “Manimal” – the “Tooth and Nail” version - is one of my punk faves ever! Always felt kinda sorry that he fell for this “suicide-rider: live-fast-die-young” trip and went so young…but that’s a different story.
Your approach to the sound is kind of familiar yet very distinct, what were you listening to at the time ?
Well, that’s always a tricky one for all the obvious reasons but here’s a list of must-have albums that were particularly influential during the formation period of the band. Your house is not a home without them!
Just for the record. I could list 5000 more but you know that already, right?!
Okay, here we go.
Class album you should own.
Alan Vega – “Collision Drive” - We took a great deal of inspiration from that album as far as song writing is concerned. Has the incredible version of “Ghost Rider” – great use of echo!! Well, all the tracks are hits! The first album “Alan Vega” is cool too! More hits here! “Jukebox Baby”, “Speedway”, “Bye Bye Bayou”! If you listen closely to the title track from the “Desert Drive” album you’ll hear echoes of “Ghost Rider” and “Bye Bye Bayou”.
Goes without saying !
The Cramps – “Gravest Hits”, “Songs The Lord Taught Us”, “Psychedelic Jungle” and “Smell Of Female” – Love their later albums as well but these are the REAL DEAL! In short: more than anything else, the Cramps brought raunchiness and sensuality back to rock’n’roll. The original sinister driving forces that were so sadly missed in rock'n'roll in the 70's...well, up the arrival of punk. But hey,all of a sudden the dangerous edge prevailed! The Cramps took the musical style that had been around for 20 years and turned it into this twangy ‘n’ fuzz-drenched spiritual-sex-demon-cult thing! A bottle of red wine spilled over Bela Lugosi’s grave! Yeah! I remember putting on “Human Fly” and played it maybe 5 times in a row before getting on to the next song because I simply couldn’t believe it, hahaha! Sooooooo great!
One of the all time greats.
Gun Club – “Fire Of Love” and “Miami” – Wow, another strong influence.  Nobody and I do mean “N-O-B-O-D-Y” could do the high and lonesome blues moans and yodels better than Jeffrey Lee Pierce. His high falsetto-wails in “Devil In The Woods” still give me the chills. An early version of “Mean Redhead” is kinda inspired by the “Devil” groove. The “Fire Of Love” album broke completely new ground back in ’81, so did “Miami” a year later. “Mother Of Earth” is just beautiful. One of the greatest ballads of that era. “Death Party”, “Las Vegas Story” and “Mother Juno” are essential also. Basically everything the man has done is worth listening to. So check it out! There’s a pretty cool cover of the Gun Club’s “Black Train” by LUCIFER SIDEBURNS – a new combo of mine – coming soon BTW!
Speaking of ballads. “Noone Waits Forever” by the Orson Family is a great track also. It kinda inspired “Blue Romeo”.
Their 2nd album I think.
Flesh Eaters - “A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die” - Their best effort by far! Fantastic cover, great songs. “Cyrano De Berger’s Back” is my fave, the rest is close behind. Chris Desjardins - great lyricist! Love his stuff - Flesh Eaters, Devine Horsemen and solo all way through, b ut like I said before , this is the must-have!
Mad cap Cramps producer.
Alex Chilton – “Like Flies On Sherbert” – Love it or hate it! I love it! Swamp Punk Blues at its best. Not to forget the great “Bangkok” / “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine” 7 inch. Alex’s feed-back guitar on “Can’t Seem” was a huge influence on Toulouse’s playing. I just love the guy! Production of this album, if you wanna call it 'production' in the usual sense is ground-breaking as well. Leave all the weird shit on! Btw! John Cale's "Music For A New Society" though different and a more classical /European approach to rock'n'roll has the same features. Maybe my fave among Cale's biggies"Paris 1919",  "Fear", "Slow Dazzle", "Helen Of Troy", "Sabotage", "Animal Justice", "Honi Soit".
Velvet Underground – “White Light/White Heat” - # 1 album of all time. The black bible of anti-soul! Amen!!
The Grand Daddies of Trash !
The Sonics – “Here Are The Sonics” – Oh, my Gawd! Greatest garage album ever!! Add “He’s Waiting”, “Cinderella”, “Shot Down” and “Louie Louie” from “Boom” and you’re in 7th heaven. I gave every drummer a tape with my favorite Sonics tunes and told them to copy Bob Bennett’s drum rolls. He’s my main-man in rock’n’roll. “Psycho” just makes me wanna scream and shout every time I hear it! We did a cover back in ’87 which is half Sonics, half Swamp Rats! Well, that’s what it’s supposed to be. Good deal of wishful thinking here, hahaha!
Essential !
Suicide – “First”, “Suicide” …well, let’s not forget the “Roir Tapes” by these electro-punk pioneers! The version of “Harlem” is just…aaaarrgghhh!!!!!!!!!!! “White Light/ White Heat” in reverse! “Way Of Life” is an excellent album also but these were played on heavy rotation back then, especially the first one.
Okay, hope this helps in some way. Hahaha! Other big faves were: Ramones, Hank Williams, Johnny Thunders, Joy Division, Hasil Adkins, Bad Brains, Slickee Boys, Dead Kennedys (bass player # 2 - Gary P. - was heavily inspired by "Police Truck" when he came up with "Drive My Rocket!" for the  "From The Trashcan To The Ballroom" album back in '87), Wipers, Stooges....
The mighty first album from 1985.
Your vocal style is totally unique and instantly recognisable, how did that come about ?
Thanks very much! Honestly I’d never really considered myself to be a singer at all prior to joining the band and even afterwards. Hahaha! Well, everybody had some banged-up, trashy instrument they could bring in. I didn’t have anything. Sooooo, if I wanted to be in the band I had to become the singer. Well, there you go! Then I got me this old organ that I ran through a cheap amp and that kinda helped. Cowboy singers like Tex Ritter, Bob Nolan, Jimmy Wakely, Marty Robbins and early Vaughn Monroe (“Riders in the Sky”) were a major influence on the later stuff. Never forget the moment I heard Tex singing “High Noon” in the film when I was a kid. Awesome! If I had to pick just one, it’ll be him. His version of “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie” of the “Blood On The Saddle” album…well, that’s it!
Rarer than hens teeth !
How comes that the first recordings only came out on cassette ?  It would have made a fantastic 10" release.
Well, we did six songs as a demo back in September, 1984. All in one day. Recording and mixing. I gave a copy of that tape to some friends and to the guys at Glitterhouse. They gave it to Lindsay Hutton and he did the cool “skull eyeball” cover. They made more copies of it and sold them via mail order. It wasn’t really meant to be released at all. It all kinda happened.
This tape also got us the record deal in February, ’85. A SPV guy heard the tape being played at a record store, picked up a copy (3rd generation cassette- you know what that means) and took it back to SPV. They called me and offered us the deal that led to “Going Down To Death Valley”, “Desert Drive” and “From The Trashcan To The Ballroom”.
You had covered Goo Goo Muck on your first release, was this a Cramps cover or were you aware of the Ronnie Cook version at the time ?
I heard Ronnie Cook's original on “Scum Of The Earth” volume 2 first but our version definitely is a Cramps cover.
Released as 3 different versions.
Death's Black Train is dedicated to the memory of Lux,(nice touch) did The Raymen ever play with them and just how much of an influence were The Cramps on you personally and the band in general ?
Great influence on the band and on me personally! Lux is my teenage idol! Just loved their sound and Lux’s stage antics. Ivy’s a goddess! Right up there with Debbie Harry from Blondie. Bryan Gregory, maaaaaaaan…! They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Greatest fuzz player EVER! His guitar on “Songs the Lord Taught Us” and “Gravest Hits” is just ..w-o-w!! Just listen to the breaks in “TV Set”. Congo was a cool fill-in though completely different. More twangy-cool, less fuzz. The guitarist – Toulouse – liked them too. Not as much as I did though, hahaha!
And no, we never played with them. We were offered the opening slot for their European tour back in ’85 but didn’t really feel like doing it! I mean, they were stars in those days and every opening act would die a pretty slow death on stage. I saw the Primevals doing, let’s say 'not so good' before the Cramps. I liked their “Sound Hole” album pretty much though.
2nd album, released in 86.
The Raymen wrote brilliant original material but you also did a couple of oddball covers for the did it come about that you chose and covered Little Eva, surf bands The Chantays and The Surfaris, numerous Elvis songs and Kenny Rogers during his acid period ?
Well, as far as I remember ”Locomotion” was Dee Dee’s - the bass player’s idea. When Jimmi Quidd – the producer for “Going Down To Death Valley” – heard our version in the studio he suggested that we should do Elvis’ “His Latest Flame” as well. But that was all going too fast for us right then, hahaha. We couldn’t even figure out the chords and stuff, but then we did it for the “Desert Drive” album. 
Comp with tracks from the first 3 releases.
Well, instrumentals were a pretty obvious choice in those days. Stuff like the Swanks’ “Ghost Train”, Henry Mancini’s “Peter Gunn”, Link Wray’s “Batman Theme” made up for cool show openers back then and still do. Toulouse kinda liked “Wipe out” – he dug Fenech’s version of the first Meteors live album - so we did that too. Johnny Thunders had done a pretty cool version of “Pipeline” on the “So Alone” album which we liked a lot…and then the Agent Orange version , of course. We sped it up a little and skipped the bridge for cool. “Just Dropped In”, I picked it up from the Killer - Jerry Lee Lewis. Still my fave version! Personally I prefer Mickey Newberry’s original over Kenny Rogers’ cover.....
If this has wet your appetite to delve further into the world of The Raymen you can check out a very looong interview with Hank at this here link 
And you can, of course, head on over to the websites and facebook pages here :  Online store for all things 'Raymen'

Big, big thanks to Hank.


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