The Fuzztones play 20+2 Questions
As I have been listening to The Fuzztones from a very early age, I consider myself very lucky to have shared the stage with them. Moreover , I was overwhelmed when I had the chance to interview them. Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s hear it from the Fuzztones!!!
1. Greetings beatfreaks! So who’s in the current line up of the Fuzztones?
Hi Alex! We’re still the same line-up that recorded “NYC” and “Encore,” our last two releases – Lana Loveland on organ, Marco Rivagli on drums, Eric Geevers on bass, and myself… But Lana Doesn’t play shows outside of Berlin anymore so it’ll be Nico Secondini on organ. He’s been with us now going on 7 years.
2. Are you visiting any other countries besides Greece?
Nope. This gig will be a one-off. But we will be in town the night before.
3. What do you like / hate about Greece and Greek audience?
Well you know I’m 1/4 Greek myself – my grandfather came From Athens. So it’s part of my heritage. We’ve always been treated very well in Greece. The people are very warm and welcoming. And they LOVE Rock ’n’ Roll! I can’t really think of anything negative!
4. The last record you put with original material was back in 2011.From then, the band was anything but inactive putting out loads of stuff, compilations and amazing tribute material. Are we to witness new Fuzztones tracks in the near future?
Of course. Even when the lockdown was imposed on us, we made the most of it by recording and releasing two records.
I just finished a new Fuzztones track which will probably be on YouTube by the time this interview is published. It’s called “Vaccination Generation.” But if not, it’s available on our Bandcamp page: https://thefuzztones1.bandcamp.com
5. Is Wildwood’s Plastic People a song from an upcoming album?
Nope. It’s been out for a year or so already. It appears on the 12” EP, “Encore,” our follow-up to “NYC.” The “concept” of that album, by the way, was simply to keep stuff coming out during the lockdown. The record is composed mostly of tunes we had been doing live for the last few years but had never recorded, so we thought we might as well put them down on vinyl. The record also includes “Barking Up The Wrong Tree,” a song I wrote about Gagarin’s former booker, Nicholas Triandafyllidis and our version of “Eyes In The Back of My Head” by Bevis Frond.
6. I always admired your ability to make your covers “your own” meaning that you brought the songs to your own aesthetic and it always worked.The thing about your last record NYC is that none of the songs are of the garage rock genre. How did you come up with these selections?
Well, we ARE a Garage band, so when we do cover someone else’s material, we always arrange it in our own style, which is Garage. With “NYC,” we decided to pay homage to the city of New York, where The Fuzztones were originally conceived. The music that drew us to New York originally was the music of the CBGB’s/Max’s Kansas City
scene: The N.Y. Dolls, Velvet Underground, Wayne County, Patti Smith, Richard Hell… Of course we couldn’t leave out Frank Sinatra, whose “New York, New York,” is the quintessential tribute to the Big Apple.
7. Were they difficult to bring it to the “Fuzztones side” ?
Not really. I guess we’ve been doing it for so long that it becomes natural. In the past we’ve chosen some rather unlikely artists to cover, and have always been successful in rearranging the songs to suit us. For instance, Bobby Darin’s “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” or “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul by Southern rockers Black Oak Arkansas. Or D.O.A by Bloodrock. On my (country) solo album I covered Patsy Cline, Loretty Lynn and even Pat Boone. We like to do the unexpected.
8. About your last record again, is it a sign that the Fuzztones are slowly abandoning their garage psych rock base? Or was it a yet again successful trial at something else like “Horny as Hell”?
We’ll never abandon our Garage base. Like I said, it doesn’t matter what genre we cover, we will always make it our own.
9. Being based in Europe for over a decade now, what do you love most and hate most about the old continent?
As you know, we’re based in Berlin. I was never a big fan of Germany per se, but I have always wanted to live in Europe, so when the opportunity arose to move to Berlin I took it. Basically I wanted to get out of America.George Bush was in power when I made my escape. To be honest, the political climate in America was beginning to scare me. Germany provided much more freedom at the time. Unfortunately the same fascist politics I was running from have now caught up with Germany.
10. What do you miss most and what least about the States as far as the band is concerned?
As far as the band is concerned? Nothing. As far as America, Rock ’n’ Roll has been dead for a long long time.
11. Best and worst live experience(s) please…
The worst live experience, as far as The Fuzztones go? There are a few. Maybe the night we played a mafia-run club That decided they wouldn’t pay us. Or maybe when we opened for the Damned on their 1985 tour of England and were robbed on every night by their filthy punk fans. Or maybe the night someone shot at me while we were playing a club in Lyon. The best was when we were forced to open for The Mission at a festival in Belgium. They were quite snotty and so we made it our “mission” to blow them off the stage. We did so so severely that when they went on the audience pelted them with mud, chanting “Fuzztones!” Until the were forced to leave the stage.
12. Many consider that rock n roll is dead… Please give them your bluntest answer .
That’s certainly what the record companies would like you to believe, as labels are profiting from Rap and Pop pablum. Fact is that when kids do get that rare chance to experience real Rock ’n’ Roll, they can’t resist! And as long as The Fuzztones are around, Rock ’n’ Roll will be around!
13. What can one expect from a Fuzztones gig?
Same thing as they’ve always expected. Kick ass Rock ’n’ Roll, performed by the world’s oldest teenagers!
14. Does a band have to be relevant to what goes on to the rest of the music world in order to make a living?
Unfortunately I would imagine the answer is Yes. At least as it might apply to a group starting out. That God that doesn’t apply to us – probably because we’ve been doing it now for 42 years, so we’ve attained a loyal following that insures a good turnout whenever we play. It’s funny but when we were in our prime, back in the 80s, signed to a major label (RCA) and playing for 1500 people a night, the label and the bookers were ripping us off to such an extent that none of us were able to live off what we were making. Now that we’re basically self-managed and on two indie labels, and our audience isn’t as big, we are doing better financially, than ever before!
15. What advice would you give to your children if they were into living as musicians?
If they want to rise to the top quickly I guess they should sell their souls to Satan, as most of today’s artists appear to have done. But keep in mind that when most artists rise to fame quickly they also burn out quickly. Me, I prefer to play music that I love, and hope that we do it well enough to attract loyal fans who appreciate it enough to continue to follow the band for years to come. If you choose this route it will obviously take MUCH longer to actually make a living, but the advantage is that you will be playing only the music that you love, and not crap you hate and should be embarrassed to push on an audience in the first place.
16. Best and worst record labels over the years? Did any of them rip you off? Did you rip any of them off?(would love to hear a story about that, if there is one, just for all us losers…)
God, where do I start? Almost all the labels we’ve been on have ripped us off. RCA/Beggar’s Banquet was, by far, the worst. As I mentioned earlier, we were signed at our peak – playing to 1500 people a night, 28 shows a month for 3 month stretches. We were put on per diems of 100 a week and would come home with 800 Deutschmark by the end of the tour – when in reality the band should have been raking in a quarter of a MILLION. The one-and-only royalty statement we ever received from Beggar’s was such an extreme joke that they might as well have just sent us a note saying “Fuck you.”
For instance, we’d play France for a week, at 1500 people a night – and then get a statement saying that “In Heat” (the record we had out at the time) sold SEVEN copies. Sundazed was another label that ripped us off blind. They would actually send me royalty statements that said “0” sold! That was the album “Flashbacks,” which I discovered they’d reprinted! So since the original pressing sold NONE, they had to reprint it! Figure that one out!!! I finally wised up and realised that NO label will EVER give you an honest account of records sold, so now I ask for a large enough advance that, even if I never get any royalties, I’m still satisfied.
17. Any regrets over these past 40 years ? What would you do different?
Regrets? I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention. Just kidding. Yeah, I have a few. I wish I’d never fucked my guitarist’s girlfriend, causing him to leave the band in ’85. That stunt set us back a whole year trying to find a replacement, and eventually instigating my move to Los Angeles in hopes of reforming the band there – which I was able to do, and DON’T regret.
I regret falling for label’s rip-off tactics, but then again we were new at the game and it takes years of paying dues before you learn enough to be able to avoid all that. Actually I never wanted to sign to a major in the first place but the band was so hungry for what they perceived as fame and they outvoted me . I guess I regret allowing the band to be a democracy back then.Now I run it as a benevolent dictatorship with much better results all around.
18. Any current bands we should be on the lookout for?
Not that I’m aware of. The two best rock clubs in Berlin closed down a few years back. They were my source of “new” music. Since then I haven’t really kept up.
19. What kind of music are you listening to nowadays?
I still listen to the same stuff I’ve always listened to – Garage, Blues, 50s Rock ’n’ Roll, NY punk… I am really into “moody” garage ballads lately, as well as some more “Easy listening” stuff when the mood strikes me – like Julie London, Chet Baker and Billie Holiday. Frank Sinatra’s “Only The Lonely” album is one of my all-time favourites.
20. Please tell us about your other plans(as well as from other members if any) as I know that there is a lot going on (painting , writing books, solo projects, I also heard a rumor about a documentary…
We were working on a documentary about 6 or 7 years ago. There were loads of live footage from every era in our history, as you can imagine. We filmed interviews with quite a few rather well-known artists, such as Phil May, Wally Waller and Dick Taylor (Pretty Things), James Lowe (Electric Prunes), Craig Moore (Gonn), Greg Prevost (Chesterfield Kings), Carmine Appice and Vinny Martell (Vanilla Fudge), Jim Jones (Jim Jones Review), Kid Congo (Cramps), the list goes on and on… Anyhow the guy who filmed all this stuff got himself hooked on Pot and became unreliable. Beacause of that, we missed some important interviews, so we fired him. As far as I know he is still holding the footage ransom.
As for me, personally, I have recently finished an acoustic solo album entitled “Folksinger,” which is available on our Bandcamp page and will be released on vinyl in about 4 months. It will be on the Black Gold label out of Israel. The heavy metal parody band I had with NY performance artist Ann Magnuson has reunited (online) and is beginning to record again. And finally, I am recording a NEW solo album – All original material, all GARAGE – its title will be “Female Trouble.” It will contain at least 13 tunes I’ve already written, and I hope to release it sometime next year.
21. Any words of wisdom for our readers?
Stay true to your vision. Don’t back down. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and let the chips fall where they may. We’re living in desperate times and going along with the lost crowd will bring you nothing in return.
22. And one last question for the ladies. What is your youth elixir? What keeps you going and going (and please do go on for another 40 more…)
Rock ’n’ Roll. Simple as that. Rock ’n’ Roll keeps you young at heart. Young in spirit. Young in mind. So I think the body responds to the mind. If you believe your old and washed-up, your body will respond in kind. If I’m gonna go out, I’m going out ROCKIN’!
If, for some reason you want to read this in greek, click here