Sunday, May 29, 2016

DogEatRobot fanzine: a treasure trove of psychobilly interviews and reviews


This summer I’ll be running a series of articles about people who contribute to the psychobilly scene in ways other than performing music on stage (although many of them are also musicians) – the graphic artists, event promoters, podcasters, writers, label owners, and studio engineers who give so much to the scene because of their passion for the subculture.

First in this series, we get to know Mauri SixSickSix who, along with a fantastic and talented team, produces DogEatRobot fanzine out of Italy.

There are 11 issues of this high-quality glossy fanzine so far, which started back in 2011. I love the regular format of the contents: you can expect several Q&A interviews (usually about 4 or so per issue), a few short reviews of new music or video releases, and often a first-hand account of a recent festival such as Bedlam Breakout, Psychomania Rumble, or Pompey Rumble. The festival accounts are probably my favorite – what’s better than reading about dear Bracko’s sick adventures as he drinks his way through Bedlam Breakout, humorously describing what he does – and doesn’t – remember?!

The interviews usually feature bands who have just released a new album, so I enjoy the combination of a recent interview side-by-side with a contemporary review written by one of the magazine’s writers. The Q&As definitely demonstrate the interviewer’s deep base of knowledge for that band’s repertoire and history. They dig deep and ask serious (but respectful) questions about line-up changes and band breakups, or what inspired particular songs. You can tell the DogEatRobot interviewers really know their stuff and this allows the musicians to provide answers we haven’t heard before a thousand times. Based in Italy, you also get a unique perspective, as the bands are often asked about past tours or shows in Italy.

When you binge on past issues like I did – I caught up on issues 4 to 10 all at one time – you notice there are some questions that are asked regularly. I like this consistency, because you can start to compare different musicians’ opinions on one topic. For instance, the question of how bands feel about the internet and illegal downloading comes up often. It’s interesting to hear the range of responses to this one issue, with some taking a “well, what can we do about it?” approach, to those who have embraced the internet as a way of communicating with more fans, to those who urge fans to support bands by seeing them live and buying only legal downloads or tangible merch at shows.

I also appreciate the variety of bands and musicians who are interviewed by DogEatRobot. There’s a broad geographic representation, with bands from Russia, Japan, Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Germany, the U.S., France, of course England, and more. There are also conversations with people in non-band roles, like Tobe (the organizer of Bedlam Breakout) and Roy Williams (the owner of Nervous Records). And the zine doesn’t only cover psychobilly; there are neo-rockabilly and traditional rockabilly bands featured as well.

The covers deserve special recognition. Each features the work of a different artist known well to psychobilly fans. Past covers have been designed by O’Prez (known to many as the Hellacious Harmonies reviewer), Oscar Hertin (the genius who designed the unmistakable psychobilly rats on the Fury Records samplers), Geo Parkin (who created many classic Long Tall Texan album covers), Andy Poluektov (who has done artwork for Stressor, Skitzo, and The Ricochets), Paskal Millet (whose work is recognizable to every psychobilly, having created everything from Meteors album covers to famous event flyers), and Vince Ray (who was also interviewed in the issue).

I decided to turn the tables on Mauri by interviewing him:

Why did you choose the name DogEatRobot?
Mauri: Obviously we took it from The Meteors song included on their “Best Of” album Teenagers From Outer Space from 1986. I really love this album and this song in particular, a song made by The Escalators (Nigel Lewis, Mark Robertson) on their 1983 album Moving Staircases. I always thought that this song title was proper for a fanzine like ours, printed on paper in this age of robots and computers ... "we try to eat robots" haha!!

Why did you decide to start this fanzine?
Mauri: A passion for psychobilly music and for this scene. We want give our small contribution and support to the most beautiful music in the world. The fanzine was my idea and immediately from the first issue I wanted to involve my friend Toni. I knew that he was the right person - we are both "nerds" of psychobilly and rockabilly music; we spend our salaries on vinyl and cd. After that I involved my friend Stefano to help us with the graphic and printing.

Where in Italy are you based? What is the psychobilly scene like there?
Mauri: I'm from Bologna in northern Italy, but the whole team is scattered across north Italy. My fanzine partner Toni is from near Modena and we've a newcomer to the fanzine staff, Marco Saccani that helps us sometimes, from Milan. Our graphic designer is from Verona. And Craig Brackenridge has been with us since Issue #7 and he lives in England.

[Note by Kim: Readers may know Bracko’s work well, including his books on the history of psychobilly and (my personal favorite:) his pulpy sleaze novel about a teenage boy discovering psychobilly music … and girls. I learned so much filthy slang from this fun read!]

To reply to the second part of the question, the psychobilly scene in Italy is small. We've some great bands that are still active nowadays like Evil Devil, The Snakes, Generation Mongoloid (I'm the singer/guitarist), The Nuclears, The Cockroaches, to name a few bands, but I think that the "real fans" are about 50-60 people throughout all of Italy right now. I think that now the most awesome gigs in Italy are in Milan, organized by "Old Farts Promotions" (Marco Saccani is also one of them). They have brought here in the last few years big names like The Meteors, The Sharks, Blue Cats, Restless, Space Cadets, Frenzy, SPAHM to name a few. That's great for our little scene. Yes, we have to travel far to see some great gigs, but at the end this is one of the beautiful things to do.

How did the collaboration with Craig Brackenridge happen?
Mauri: I’m a maniac of all things about psychobilly, so of course I have psychobilly books. I bought Hell's Bent On Rockin': History of Psychobilly, written by Craig some years ago. I've spent whole evenings reading it; it was my bible (haha!). I don't remember well but I tripped onto his facebook page two or three years ago or he ordered a copy of the fanzine...I don't remember now. I just know that asking him to help was the obvious and right thing to do. He puts a lot of passion into this project just as we do. I was finally able to meet him in person last year when I went to Bedlam Festival and spoke with him only for a few minutes of madness during a live set. The miles between us, unfortunately, aren't few.

What was one (or more) of your favorite interviews you did for the fanzine?
Mauri: Hard question...I love all the interviews done for our issues...but if I have to choose I can say both Long Tall Texans and Skitzo interviews in Issue #6, the Blue Cats in Issue #4, The Sharks article (with the bio of the band written personally by Alan Wilson in Issue #9), Boston Rats in Issue #8 and Batmobile in Issue #10. Also the interview with Paul Roman from the Quakes in Issue #3 - it was incredibly awesome; he's great!!

You interview bands from many different countries. Is it difficult dealing in so many different languages? Do you usually use English to speak to non-Italian bands?
Mauri: We always use English with all non-Italian bands! It's international!! Fortunately we have Craig Brackenridge to help us to translate it correctly. After that we translate all the interviews into Italian to make 50 copies of the Italian version of the 'zine. It's a hell of a lot of work but we love it!! With the Italian bands we start with the questions in Italian and then we translate it for the English version of our 'zine.

How did YOU first get into psychobilly?
Mauri: I personally got in touch with psychobilly music thanks to The Meteors Wreckin' Live album in 2002. I was coming from punk-rock music, when in an old record store in my city I found this double live CD of The Meteors. I knew them already by name but, intrigued, I bought the album and after that I was immediately infected by this music genre. The story of Toni however is much more older (hahaha) - he was already a psychobilly kid at the end of the '80s.

[note by Kim: I’m not surprised at all to learn that Mauri got into psychobilly because of The Meteors. For one thing, it’s a story I’ve had people tell me over and over. But I kinda had a hunch when I saw that “F*** politics. F*** religion. Dance with a chainsaw!” is printed on the editorial / table of contents page of each issue.]

What is your favorite thing about the psychobilly scene?
Mauri: Simple, psychobilly is not only a great underground music but is also like a "big family”. Going to the festivals and gigs and meeting people with your same interest is awesome. You have the opportunity to meet new people and see "old" friends from around the world.

What are some of your favorite bands right now?
Mauri: I think there are a lot of amazing bands around currently. To name a few I can say: Sir Psyko and His Monsters, Stressor, The Test Pilots, The Moonshine Stalkers, Luna Vegas (unfortunately they are split now), The Nevrotix, As Diabatz, The Psyclocks. Psychobilly is still alive!!

A lot of the bands interviewed in DogEatRobot are bands that formed in the 1980s, took a break, and have returned to touring recently (such as Blue Cats, The Griswalds, The Sharks, Skitzo, Mad Dog Cole, Sgt. Bilko's). Why do you think so many of the bands from the ‘80s have reformed and started performing again? Do you think it has something to do with the internet?
Mauri: I wouldn't be qualified to give a correct reply to this question, and there is much to say about this. Personally I can only say that I feel lucky for this great return. This has given me the opportunity to see live some great bands that I'd never been able to see otherwise. So I think that is wonderful. At the same time I think that "the scene" should invest more on new bands. There are many new bands right now, and we should give them the chance to play more in major events to gain more experience.

What are some of your favorite festivals/weekenders in Europe (or elsewhere)? What do you like about going to those festivals?
Mauri: My first international psychobilly festival was the Satanic Stomp, Germany, in 2004. After the first one I went back almost every year until 2014. On a personal level I was very attached to this festival because it was my first psychobilly gig abroad. I went also four times to the Psychobilly Meeting in Spain, the first time when it was still in Calella. I went twice to the Psychomania Rumble in Potsdam, and unfortunately only one time to the Psychobilly Earthquake in Bremen. Last year I went for the first time to Bedlam Breakout in Northampton, England. It’s a real shame not to have gone before because I really loved the people and the atmosphere!! I think that Bedlam is now the festival that I liked most so far, and I want advise everyone to go there. It's awesome!! I'm really looking forward to back as soon as possible.

There's a big emphasis today on describing albums as having an "old-school psychobilly sound." I notice it a lot in the reviews. What does that mean to you? What is the "old-school" sound?
Mauri: "Old School Psychobilly sound" for me is when an album has the right rockabilly and rock'n'roll elements united and blended equally with the energy of punk rock. If you lose the rockabilly roots you lose the psychobilly sound, and if you lose the energy of punk-rock you lose the psychobilly sound and become a simple rockabilly band. That's my opinion!

The fanzine is really high quality with glossy pages. And the covers are fantastic! Are you able to produce it off the money you make from subscriptions and sales? Or did you find other financial support?
Mauri: To be honest, I think I'm crazy because we don't have financial support of any kind! I would never think to ask for money to finance our fanzine. It's all DIY minded. I cover the printing costs with the orders that we get. That's it and that is enough. We don't make this to make money. We made this only because of our passion and support for this scene and the bands.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions. I'm really impressed by the work you and your team have done!
Mauri: Thanks to you for your support! I'm glad that you like our little fanzine. I really enjoyed replying to your questions. Usually I'm in the opposite situation! Ciao from all DogEatRobot staff!

Order the most recent issue, #11, which features interviews and reviews with Damage Done By Worms, Smell of Kat, Stompin’ Mad Bats, The Psyclocks, The Bullet Biters, Clockwork Psycho, The Intolerants, and more! Send an email to dogeatrobot@hotmail.it to place an order. It was easy to arrange a PayPal transfer and Mauri shipped out my episodes super quickly!