What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
Hi Konstantinos! Thanks for having me!
Well, here’s the lowdown.
In the summer of 1979 some friends and I decided to put a band together. We were like 16, 17 and the motivations were suburban teenage blues, boredom and ‘not really knowing what else to do’. We had absolutely no musical background let alone any technical, instrumental skills. Just a big love for noise!
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 – doing’ 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 it we can do it too”.
Besides slaying’ covers we’d spend the hours doing one / two chord impro-jams, me screaming “just like Sister Ray says/ too busy sucking on my ding dong” over and over. This free-form combo was dubbed “The Garbage Groupies” some time in 1981 and after some line-up changes became The Raymen in 1983. The influences then ranged from Joy Divison, Buzzcocks, Clash to Ramones, Alan Vega, Cramps, Germs, Flesh Eaters, Gun Club, Wipers, Alex Chilton to C&W and 50s rockabilly with a touch of VU.
We met our first “real” drummer – prior to that we would practice with a drum box named “Dr. Rhythm” – two days before our first show on August 24th, 1984. This line-up of Toulouse, Ray, Dee Dee and Machine Perkins recorded a six track demo later in October, which saw the light of day as a cassette-only release in November 1984. The tape was distributed by Glitterhouse and somehow landed on the desks of the guys at SPV. So we got signed to their subsidiary, Rebel Records in March ’85. From then on things got a little bit more serious. We recorded the first full album “Going Down to Death Valley” in May, 1985. At this point of time we had only been together for 9 months and had only played a handful of shows. Things were just happening then!
So here we are today, almost 35 years and several albums and a couple of line-up changes later. There are my HANK RAY solo albums as well as numerous albums by THE RAYMEN / HOLY ROLLER TRASH INC. / THEE HOLY GHOST COWBOYS and my new outfit LUCIFER SIDEBURNS.
I’ve attached a discography for you and your readers or check out www.deathcountry.net It’s all there!
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
About 3 years ago soul-singer friend of mine Shazz Lee and I got together practicing some songs I had written with a “lady singer” in mind. Within a few weeks we had a couple of vocal / guitar treatments – originals and covers – that were ready to be done with a full band. I named the band LUCIFER SIDEBURNS after a song I’d recorded for the “Whispers Through the Black Veil” compilation on Wyrd War Recs. in 2013 called “(They Call Me) Lucifer Sideburns”. The whole LS character is inspired by the story of young Elvis meeting Marion Keisker (Sam Phillips’ right hand lady) at Sun Studios in ’53. She recorded him first and gave him the nickname “Timothy Sideburns” as a mnemonic for her to remember the soon-to-become “Evil One / Anti-Christ of the Bible-Belt”. I think Lucifer Sideburns also makes up for a pretty cool Stan Lee type comic character and of course, alias as well. Okay, back to the music: The first sessions with Shazz Lee on vocals, Andy Laaf on drums, Ramon X. on bass / lead guitar and me on rhythm guitar produced versions of the Gun Club’s “Black Train”, the Slickee Boys’ “The Brain That Refused to Die”, the Cramps’ “The Natives Are Restless” and the Clovers’ “Love Potion # Nine” and a soulful original called “Delta Saint”.
A couple of months later we went back in the studio to record 14 more originals for a full- length album, this time with a slightly different line-up. Tex Morton was on lead guitar, Shazz Lee on lead vocals, Andy Laaf on drums & percussions, T-Base on bass and me on vocals and rhythm guitar. Our old friend Tommy Favorite acted as production supervisor. The entire recordings for the “THE BLUES ARE BACK IN BLACK” album were done three days and were mixed by Tommy Favorite a couple of weeks later. There is still some stuff that needs to be done on artworks and layouts, but basically the album tracks are ready for release. So here we are ready to come out at full force and take over the world. Hahaha! The LUCIFER SIDEBURNS material has a great cinematic touch and would do great in films / series like “True Detective”. The track “Touch Me, Razorblade Jesus” was already used in the latest W. Bueld production “Sea of Lies”. Okay, if you run a label / games production / film company and would like to know more, we’d be more than delighted to hear from you!
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
Well, well, well…here’s a little cross-section that popped up in my head right away…I apologize for any omissions, there’re tons more, of course: Blind Lemon Jefferson, Hank Williams, Tex Ritter, Mahalia Jackson, Yma Sumac, Bob Nolan & the Sons of the Pioneers, Jimmie Rodgers, Gary Cooper, Robert Mitchum, Django Reinhard, Charlie Chaplin, W. C. Fields, The Three Stooges, Howlin’ Wolf, Billie Holiday, Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, William Burroughs, Hugo Ball, Louis Aragon, Richard Huelsenbeck, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, Charles Bukowski, Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding, John Heartfield, Elvis, Carl Barks & Donald Duck, John Cale, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Alex Chilton, The Cramps, The Germs, The Sweet, Porter Wagoner, Billy Strange, Ramones, The Doors, Sam Cooke, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bernard Hermann, Gustav Mahler, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Zora Neale Hurston, Lester Bangs, Enrico Caruso, Benjamino Gigli…
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
Country ‘n’ Western haunted by the lonesome blues of Nico.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
1. Hank Williams – 40 Greatest Hits
2. Roy Orbison – All Time Greatest Hits
3. Ramones – It’s Alive!
1. High Noon
2. The Great Dictator
3. The Big Lebowski
1. Lester Bangs – Psychotic Reactions & Carburator Dung
2. Zora Neale Hurston – Tell My Horse
3. William Burroughs – Naked Lunch
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
Two sides of the same coin – kinda 50/50. Well, maybe a mini-notch leaning more towards studio recordings. Love the creation process, you know, watching your baby grow up and become the real life version of the “thing” you had in mind.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
Okay, here’s what happened while recording our first album with Jimmi Quidd back in 1985. Not really funny, but it provides nice insight into the early days of the band: We’re in the studio – setting up, doing sound checks etc.- and were just about to do the first backing tracks for the album. So far, so good! Toulouse, the guitarist, had this beautiful Gretsch hollow-body with painted-on F-holes, just like the one Jim Duckworth from the Gun Club had. A great guitar, but she wouldn’t stay in tune; the bridge would come off, etc. So after a couple of un-usable takes, the engineer would say, “Yeah, guys, that’s it. We can’t use the Gretch. It’s time to get your spare!” Uh-huh, spare?! We’re looking at each other like, “WTF is he talking about?! Nobody ever mentioned bringing a “s-p-a-r-e.” And there was no other guitar we could have brought anyway, so…! Well, here’re the cold hard facts: no guitar, no recordings, no album. Guys, this is the pre-computer age when a record company would pay for your studio time and you better had your damn album ready when the time was up. To our rescue – in walked the bass player from the Turbo Hydramatics. Super nice, super tall, lanky guy who had brought his guitar over from N.Y.C. What a guy! Told us that he would change the strings on his bass for each show! Seriously, man?! Come on! Still not sure whether I wanna believe it or not. Sounded even weirder since Dee Dee, our bass player had never, ever changed the strings on his instrument since he had joined the band – not even prior to recording the album. I remember Toulouse putting honey on the strings one night to actually force him to buy new ones, but what did that mutherf***** do?! He took ‘em off, boiled them in hot water and put ‘em back on. No joke! And here’s the guy who’d change the strings after every show. We were stunned!! Okay, back to the actual story. He offered to lend us his Fender Stratocaster so we could move on with the album. In the end all the tracks were recorded with his Stratocaster and much to our regret there’s not a single Gretsch note on “Going Down to Death Valley”, it’s all Fender. Oh, BTW, if you wanna play along to the original album tracks you’ll have to tune your guitar to the album. We didn’t have a tuner then so the bass player would tune his bass to the dial tone of the studio phone and then Toulouse would tune his guitar to the bass. The engineer couldn’t believe it! That’s why the whole album is slightly off-key. Hahaha! One more thing: “we’re gonna fix it in the mix” is a f***** lie!! You can’t turn a pretty clean solid body sound into a fuzz-monster at the mixing stage. We learned that the hard way. That’s why Toulouse and I were never too happy with the sound of our first album. It’s way too clean! We were so pissed-off that we would run around the streets outside the studio kicking over trashcans out of pure frustration. Well, the bass player and the drummer didn’t seem to mind at all.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
Off the top of my head I’d say, “Bleeding (All Over You)” from Barbeque of Souls is pretty cool. I like the dark, somber tone and the backwards guitar. Ask me some other time and maybe I’ll give you “Overshadowed” , “Endless Plains of Delirious Lands” or “River of Tears” or…or…or…!
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
Absolutely! Here’s what we’re up to. First of all we would love to get LUCIFER SIDEBURNS off of the ground. Have the upcoming album “THE BLUES ARE BACK IN BLACK” out and play some shows. Maybe place some tracks in movies, etc. There are also offers to do cameos in two independent movies next year. So we’re looking forward to doing that.
I also have material for a new Raymen album. So I’m gonna get the gang together and do some recordings, but that probably won’t happen before 2019 / 2020 due to time restraints and other obligations. Also have tons of tracks for a new HANK RAY album. It’s gonna be very slow, very moody. More in the vein of “Countricide”. Think I’m going to called it “I, Lucfer Sideburns.” The next thing that should be out soon is a cover of The Multi-colored Shades’ “Cold Angel”. Their former bass player is putting together a long overdue Pete Barany tribute album and I’m very happy and proud to be a part of that.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Okay, Beefheart or Zappa?
Trout Mask Replica / Safe as Milk / Doc at the Radar Station / Lick My Decals off, Baby / Ice Cream for Crow / Shiny Beast / Clear Spot / Spotlight Kid / Strictly Personal
Your house is not a home without these albums!
Intellectually/ philosphically: Zappa!
Favorite quote: “Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.”
Photo credits: Ella Ardath Ray (1st one), Julian Neville (2nd one)
Curated by: Konstantinos Pamfiliss
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