Saturday, 13 February 2016

The MONSTERS......The Early Years !


Switzerlands very own masters of TRASH, easily one of the best bands of the genre and with Beatman you get a someone who is truly passionate about his music, for over 30 years these guys have been touring and playing, making records, putting on gigs and just being all round good guys, Beat-Man is also the twisted genius behind Voodoo Rhythm Records and with his buddy Bobby Pantichrist (Who was a member of Garage band The Miracle Workers), they have the Bern based record shop 'The Voodoo Rhythm & Pantichrist Hardware Store'.

Here's the story of their early years from none other than Beatman himself !
Recent but I like it.
Beat-Man, where did it all begin?   What did you do before The Monsters?
In the early 80’s, our guitar player Yves had been in a school band and our first drummer, Oli had been in the Swiss Psychobilly band ‘The Radiations who released one 12” EP called ‘John Wayne’ and I had been involved in a couple of projects, one was a new-wave band called Anti Statek, but my first show was with a local Industrial band, that was probably 1983, where I had hit an oil barrel with a chain !

When and how did you guys get together initially? What prompted you all to form a band?
Yeah, it was August 1984 when we decided to form the band, but we’d all known each other for a long time as we’d spent most of our youth together. I guess it was in 1984 that the Psychobilly wave hit Switzerland, before that we were Parka wearing Mods on scooters listening to Gene Vincent !...Hahaha, anyway, then that whole Psychobilly thing made total sense to us, The Cramps, The Meteors, King Kurt and The Sting Rays…that was a free way to express a youth style that we’d never heard of before. In Switzerland we had our first Psychobilly band, The Bates who formed in 1983 and after that we had The Radiations whose drummer became our drummer. They squatted a small house in the village where they had grown up and we all hung out in that house, there was a pinball machine and a record player, problem with the record player was that it was constantly skipping while we danced like crazy !...It was there and then that we decided to form a band, we were all way too loud and it was the guy that had the loudest voice that got to be the singer…..That was me !

There are other influences in The Monsters sound apart from Rockabilly, what other stuff were you listening to that went in to make the sound?
I liked The Crazy Cats (Swiss Rockabilly band that released the album ‘Swiss Kiss’ in 1982) a lot as well as Rockabilly in general, it was a really big thing in the 80’s like the Mersey Beat, Garage Beat scenes and the German Beat scene was very big in my town. I come from a very freaky town with a lot of open minded hippies and punks, folk like Timothy Leary, Sky Saxon , etc spent a lot of time in my town and we had the older folks who organised all their shows, bands like The Miracle Workers, The Fuzztones, The Sting Rays, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins…We had them all over here and they were treated like kings, the crowds were always completely enthusiastic . On the other side we had a huge ‘Squatter’ scene who organised illegal parties which would be announced on the day with bands and DJ’s…up to a thousand people would turn up for them and the police couldn’t do anything as there were always too many of us, out of that came the industrial and electro scenes here. Our art scene also had a big place, Minimal Man, Test Dept, Laibach and Eintuzende Neubauten and all that came through, it was amazing, this was new and fresh, rebellious!  When we started The Monsters we had all of that in our background. We were very bad musicians on our instruments but we really wanted to do the band, a Rockabilly band actually but with all stuff that I’ve mentioned, something else was born….Hahaha.

The ‘Rockin’ scene in Switzerland at the time, a few folk would know The Crazy Cats but what other bands were around when you started out? What did you guys think of them and how did people react when you lot turned up?
The Crazy Cats were from the French part of Switzerland, we knew of them because Bern is kinda half German/half French but not too many people knew them in the German part even though the Rockabilly scene was big over here.  There was the commercial crap like Terry & The Hot Sox but a lot of cool bands too like The Cats Combo, The Jive Boys (from my home town) and The Ducktails, there were good punk bands too like ‘Crazy’, ‘The Bastards’, The Reaction’ and from my home town, ‘The Hangouts’ who were amazing. When we came on the scene, it was a bit different as we weren’t exactly Rockabilly. We weren’t Punk , not Garage….we were all together in one, by then the scenes had all separated from each other…and then we came along, Hahaha…but it was fantastic, since we started we have never asked to play shows, we were lucky that they ask us but as Switzerland is a pretty small place we went playing outside of Switzerland very soon. Not many bands did that back then, today it’s normal but not back then.

1st LP.
What were your first gigs outside of Switzerland?
With The Monsters it was Germany and France, I remember a festival. They normally booked us in Psychobilly festivals but we had a fuzz guitar and were way too loud, a lot of people didn’t like that so much. We had to find our own audience. I do remember playing with The Mummies back in the days of their first tour and that was fun !

After your first 2 releases (Nightmares 7” & the LP Masks), the album ‘Hunch’ was released and the sound had changed into what most people would recognise as The Monsters ‘sound’…..A much Trashier vibe and less of the classic Rockabilly style…What had caused the change?
That was because our lead guitarist split from the band and the drummer too so we were forced into becoming a trio, I wasn’t a very good guitar player but had to play all of Yves parts….So I replaced the technical parts with a wall of fuzz (Like Bryan Gregory) and we were all happy with that, on the other hand the Psychobilly scene wasn’t all that open minded anymore, a lot of fascist and narrow minded people had joined the scene who only went to see bands if there was a stand-up bass! So, we got rid of it too. A, it was too big for the van and B, we didn’t want the band to be musically defined by an instrument!  And after that we just trashed all the gigs.

1st US release on Dionysus Records.
Was it around this time that you spent time in the US and Mexico? How did the meeting with Lee Joseph happen and the release of (The most excellent) ‘Betty Pages Of Fright’ on his Dionysus label.
Lee was one of the cats from Yard Trauma who were organised by the Bern Garage scene to play over here in the mid 80’s along with The Miracle Workers (I became best friends with Robert ‘Pantichrist’ Butler and we played in a lot of bands together). Anyway Lee is a fantastic guy and he offered to release a single on his label, it was Christmas time and there’s a X-Mas song on the flip side. We became friends and I got to visit LA many times. Bern has a big connection with LA as we’ve many friends there and visit each other often, it was in 1992 while in LA that I first saw Mexican wrestling! I went straight to a sex shop and bought a Mexican wrestling mask and started ‘Lightning Beat-Man’ my one man band!

Oh, I missed that one !
Was it also around this time that you got to meet and interview  Hasil Adkins? It’s hilarious and rather surreal meeting (It’s all available on Youtube). Did you have to track him down?
That was around 1995, I was already touring as Lightning Beat-Man, my wrestling, Rock ‘n’ Roll one man band around Europe, which was surprisingly successful ! So Rocco Klein from MTV was a big fan and he gave me a TV spot on his station…I made 3 shows for him and in one of them I went to the USA to visit people, my girlfriend back then was the camerawoman and I was just playing the clown and wanted to visit my all-time superhero…Hasil Adkins ! We knew he lived in Madison, West Virginia but this was pre-internet and so we went there and it’s a huge city with a couple of million people living there (You sure about that?), not the same as a Swiss town with just a few thousand….Hahaha. So we went to banks, post offices even supermarkets asking if someone knew Hasil Adkins, finally a postman told us the way and we went to visit him, a very, very funny experience. He was like a drunk, child genius, character.

Beat-Man, Vegas style !
Tell us a bit more about the wrestling/Lucha libre. What made you bring it back to Switzerland and did you break much furniture in the apartment?
While I was in The Monsters and we are Swiss and all democratic etc, I was much further with a few of my ideas than the rest of the band so I had to form a one man band to release my creativity. I’d been recording on my tape desk since about 1984 and actually had my first solo show in 1990 but wasn’t very good, just me and my guitar. So I went to the US and saw Lucha libre there for the first time and got blown away! Thought to myself, why not mix all that up and do a one man Lucha libre band? I convinced myself and when I got back home, I did it, the idea in my head was : A. If I fight against myself, I always win ! B. Be a superhero! C. Only have 5 songs and just make the rest up. D. never play the 5 songs the same way twice so that no-one recognises them!  While I was roadying for bands touring in Europe, I started doing the support slot and the Lightning Beat-Man show just kept getting bigger, in the end I even had a backing band made up from members of The Monsters and The Miracle Workers, then we came up with the idea when we were in a sex shop in Amsterdam for apartment wrestling, that was just such a fun idea that we started the apartment wrestling movement….Hahaha!

Ooooh !
What was happening during 91-95? It’s a long time to leave between albums although there was a fan cassette release in 93 called The Aztec Tapes, why no official release?
That period was just a crazy time of finding yourself and stuff, we still practiced as The Monsters once a week, did shows but the music was getting more intense, more Trash but I was ready to go, I’m a maker and a pusher though sometimes I push too hard….So I went on a world tour as Lightning Beat-Man, did up to 300 shows a year, split up with my girlfriend, almost lost it etc…A very intense time but The Monsters was always home, were more like a men’s club if you know what I mean? We practice, drink beer, talk about girls and troubles, that kind of thing. The Aztec Tapes isn’t anything spectacular, just a kind of compilation that we did, kind of an early Voodoo Rhythm release…I did a lot of tapes back then and The Aztec Tapes was one of them.

Hope you enjoyed the read and we'll try to get the next part of the story up at some point, this post will also appear in the great Rockin' read Mad Music For Bad People with additional photos and stuff..look them up, they're on Farcebook too !

If you're in Bern (Switzerland) take a trip to the record shop, you can find it here :
Munstergasse 76, Bern, Switzerland.

And for more info, check out The Monsters website :

Want to pick up a few bits and pieces by The Monsters ?  We got some here :

Keep it Trash folks ! 

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