Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pre-Cinco de Mayo Fiesta May 1st with Latino rockabilly/punk bands; interview with the promoter

Black Cat Entertainment is one of the most solid rockabilly/psychobilly concert promoters around. In February, thousands of psychos attended Black Cat’s Valentines Ball, which featured the legendary European psychobilly band Frantic Flintstones along with several local groups (read about it here).

Owner Rich Vreede meticulously plans out every single detail of a Black Cat event to provide guests with a multi-dimensional concert experience – amazing bands, deejays, roaming photographers, vendors, food, drinks, different patios and bars with unique moods and soundtracks, and a great social atmosphere that hums with energy. Rich makes sure that his events “have a really fun, party-like atmosphere so fans can just have a great time.” (Click here to read an interview with Rich from just before the Valentine's Ball)

Black Cat is now gearing up for Saturday’s Tenth Annual Pre-Cinco de Mayo Fiesta which promises to be yet another extraordinary event for fans of rockabilly/psychobilly. I got a chance to ask Rich some questions about the upcoming event. All the information you need is at the end of the article. Don’t miss this show!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Koffin Kats interview, part 1: the band talks about the inspiration behind their music and lyrics

I got a chance to interview the members of Koffin Kats in October 2009, just as they released their latest album, Forever For Hire. In this first part of the interview, the members of Koffin Kats  talk about the influences behind their musical style and lyrics. FYI: Tommy Koffin (guitar) has since left the band for health reasons, but they're excited about their new guitarist, Ian. Check them out on tour NOW!!

Kim: Forever For Hire is your 5th album, and you’ve just switched to the Stomp record label (that The Creepshow is also on). How was the recording and the production?
Vic: It’s bigger than any of the previous albums, and Stomp is a very professional label. We’re happy with it, and the album sounds like us.

Kim: How would you describe this album as being different from the others?
Vic: You don’t ever want to write the same album twice. Some bands do that and they just burn out with their fans. You want to keep people interested, asking what the band is going to do next. What’s the next album going to sound like? This one sounds like us, but we made something new.

Kim: Do you describe your sound as psychobilly?
Vic: Oh yeah. When people who are not so educated in the sub-genres of rock and roll ask us what type of band we are, we tell them it’s punk. That way, if they go to our show they’ll at least know what to expect. But for the more educated people, we’re a punk band with some psychobilly flavor to it. We’ve got the upright bass, but we don’t use it as a gimmick. We won’t overdo the upright or make it the only thing you hear.

Kim: How’d you all meet each other?
Vic: We all grew up, like, literally, within 15 minutes of each other, near Detroit. Eric (E-Ball) and I went to high school together. And I knew Tommy from this little punk rock coffeeshop club called Pharaoh’s. It’s the place where you’d play your first show once you had put together a little band with your friends. Eric and I had pretty much been in each other’s bands all through school, so we started playing at Pharaoh’s and then we met Tommy’s band. They were this group of drunk kids. They could barely get up on stage because they were so hammered.
Tommy, laughing: One time I think I passed out on stage.

Kim: What are some of your musical influences?
Vic: There’s no punk band that can deny that they listen to the Misfits, but The Misfits aren’t the band that made us want to do Koffin Kats. It’s just one of the bands we like. Bad Religion is one of my favorite bands. If anything, I probably had more influence of wanting to be in a band from listening to Bad Religion. We’re also influenced by Nekromantix, The Quakes, Demented Are Go, and Mad Sin – psychobilly bands that actually have a persona about them.


Koffin Kats interview, part 2: the band talks about touring and performing

I got a chance to catch up with Koffin Kats back in October 2009 when they had just released Forever For Hire (click here to buy it). In this part of the interview, they talk about touring and performing. If you missed PART 1 of this interview, click here. FYI: Tommy Koffin (guitar) has since left the band for health reasons, but they're excited about their new guitarist, Ian.

Kim: Koffin Kats are known for non-stop touring. What keeps you going?
Vic: I love being on the road. You love seeing your family and friends at home, but when you tour like we do, you start to feel restless once you’ve been home a month or two. It’s like when it’s time to write a new CD, you feel restless thinking that people are starting to forget about you. You have to keep up the momentum. That’s why people know who we are. It’s because we keep shoving it in people’s faces. Just doing it.

Kim: How about the jobs you have at home, and how does that work out with touring?
Vic: We’re very, very fortunate. The reason why this band exists as it is now is because of our jobs. Tommy and I are carpet cleaners and Eric is a cook for a guy he’s worked for since high school.
E-Ball: They’re really good to us. It gives us a lot of flexibility.
Vic: When we’re working there, we’re like the scrapers. The jobs that no one else wants to do, they’ll kick our way and we do them.
Tommy: Like cleaning a strip club at like 3 in the morning.
Vic: Oh yeah (laughing). Fortunately the carpet was black so you couldn’t see too much!

Kim: What would you say is the most important aspect of performing? What do you get out of it? What do you like about it?
Tommy: Beer (he laughs)
Vic: I think the most important thing is giving the people a good show. You go to work all day, and you make money, then you pay this band to go watch them for your entertainment, but when you watch them just stand still, it’s like ‘Oh man, I could have just gone to a bar.’
Tommy: If we’re not into it, they’re not going to get into it.

Kim: Has the size of your audience fluctuated a lot?

Vic: Yeah, we’ve had from just jelly bean size to thousands. It’s cool because we’ve had the opportunity to play at festivals to big crowds. But our saying is ‘2 people, 200 people, we’re going to put on a show.’


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Koffin Kats play Los Angeles this Friday, April 16: don't miss this unique psychobilly band

Koffin Kats’ most recent album, Forever For Hire (2009), starts off with a dark organ melody that places you in the midst of a haunted mansion and then, suddenly, there’s a ferocious punk anthem that gets you singing “ooh-eh-oh-eh-oh-eh-oh-e-ah” (it reminds me of a super fast version of the “o-ee-o-eoh-ah” chant sung by the Wicked Witch’s Winkie soldiers in Wizard of Oz).

Wait a few more seconds and you’ll hear Vic Victor’s unique voice – a little Jello Biafra and a little Greg Graffin, but also something darker, deeper, sexier, à la Dave Vanian (The Damned), Dave Gahan (Depeche Mode), or Robert Smith (The Cure). His baritone voice has an operatic quality – with full vibrato and a sound that comes from the depths of his guts - that I’ve rarely heard in psychobilly/punk bands, and it adds weight to their tone.

Koffin Kats utilize their strengths on this album. It’s chock full of vocal harmonies, anthemic bits that get the crowd moving at shows, and clear, tight melodic phrases. These are songs that wiggle into your memory banks quickly and you find yourself singing the catchy choruses in no time. Vic Victor’s bass adds that psychobilly percussive click that complements E-Ball Walls’ energetic skills on skins, and Tommy Koffin brings a So-Cal punk flavor to his guitar leads. FYI: Tommy Koffin left the band recently (for health reasons, on good terms), so Ian has stepped in as the guitarist for the current tour.

There’s also a fair amount of diversity on this album, and within the songs themselves, as well. “Nostrovia” weaves back and forth between a shouted punk chorus and Vic Victor’s chilled syncopated warble, while “Wild Ride” is a fiery, fast-paced head-bopping piece with a brilliant vocal melody. Other songs vary from slow and sultry (“Domination Final”) to hoppy ska (in “I Saw My Friend Explode Today”) to marches with vintage rock’n’roll guitar solos (the addicting “Heading Off to Battle”) to bouncy rockabilly (“Her Name Was Rock and Roll”) to the toe-tapping rawness and innovative harmonies of “Asylum.”


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Viva Las Vegas update #3: Chuck Berry, Deke Dickerson's Guitar Show, and Wanda Jackson

The 13th annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend provided a rare opportunity on Saturday, April 3, 2010 – the pleasure of seeing the 83-year-old Chuck Berry perform live. The crowd in front of the car show stage buzzed with anticipation for this once in a lifetime chance to see one of the Kings of Rock’n’Roll, and the audience greeted Berry with respectful applause when he appeared on stage, wearing his trademark skipper hat and a fancy red sequined shirt.

Not wasting any time, Berry ploughed through dozens of well-known numbers: “Roll Over Beethoven,” “School Day,” “My Ding-a-Ling” (the novelty #1 hit beloved for its double-entrendres), “Maybellene,” “You Never Can Tell” (which was re-popularized on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack), “Rock and Roll Music,” and “Little Queenie” (a B-side of which the crowd knew every word). Of course, he had to give the crowd what they wanted, so he did his famous one-legged hop, the “duck walk,” during “Johnny B. Goode.” He asked for the audience’s help with the chorus: “Come on, now, I’m getting tired. I’m almost 84. Help me out now!” and the crowd responded enthusiastically, singing along loudly.

It’s not a surprise that these live songs didn’t sound like the recordings from 50 years ago, but who really cares. It was amazing to see Chuck Berry in person, and it’s great that today’s young rockabilly crowd appreciates everything he did for music. As a pioneer of rock' n’ roll, he deserves our respect for introducing a now legendary guitar style. What an experience!


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Viva Las Vegas Update #2: Chop Tops, Marti Brom, The Teenagers, and The King’s Ransom Elvis Exhibit

From the looks of it, this year’s sold-out Viva Las Vegas is more packed than last year. So it was a little odd that The Chop Tops – who had one of the biggest audiences last year – were scheduled to play in the cozily intimate Brendan’s Irish Pub. This resulted in entrance line waiting times of more than 45 minutes, but it was definitely worth the wait. The Chop Tops, a Santa Cruz-based band with a relentless touring schedule, played one of their most energetic shows ever for the packed-in Viva crowd.

Sinner, known for his stand-up drumming/singing, made the crowd laugh, as always: “Don’t forget everyone, we play weddings and bar mitzvahs.” He also reminded folks that their special brand of “revved up rockabilly” is truly based in the roots of the genre: “The people who say we don’t play rockabilly don’t know their musical history. Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash – those were the original punks.” Playing both covers from these “original punks” and their own original pieces, Shelby proved that he’s a master of Gretsch and Brett’s upright bass skills were amazing.

If you missed them yesterday, catch The Chop Tops today (Saturday April 3, 2010) at the Car Show at 4 pm before Chuck Berry, or tomorrow (Sunday April 4, 2010) at Brendan’s at 4 pm. Make sure you arrive early, though! While you’re there, don’t forget to pick up a copy of their brand-new album, Deadly Love, which was produced by Kim Nekroman (of Nekromantix and Horrorpops) and engineered by Niedermeier (of Horrorpops). Also take a moment to talk to the guys at the merch table – they really appreciate the support of their fans.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Viva Las Vegas update #1: The Rip’em Ups and Big Sandy

The Rip’em Ups did exactly what their name promises. Starting the Viva weekend off with a bang, the Los Angeles-based band got the party started in full force, delivering exactly the type of music that everyone came hear. This is just the type of band you actually would have heard in the late 1950s, offering a dirty and distorted mix of rock’n’roll and rhythm’n’blues.

The lead singer/guitarist Javier De La Rosa entertains the crowd with his energetic performance and falsetto shouts. Rick Coronado lays down the licks on lead guitar, Edgar Villareal slaps away at the upright, and Santos DeLeon holds it down on skins. Really adding to the R&B flavor of their sound and giving the band a Little Richard quality is Marco Palos on tenor sax.

The crowd jumped and jived during the set, revving everyone up for Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys.