Reviews „I Hate People -- Reverend Elvis and the Undead Syncopators“
„Thank you so much for this music, I’m really addicted to the new album. Simply brilliant, catchy, and raw!“ Carol Rebbel / As Diabatz
„I Hate People“ -- REVEREND ELVIS AND THE UNDEAD SYNCOPATORS serve traditional rebel music again
Review von Christoph Kutzer -- Musikjournalist und Therapeut auf der Psychocouch!
It doesn’t need complexity to create great music. When HANK WILLIAMS wrote „Ramblin‘ Man“ in 1951, he concentrated on two alternating chords. The recording from 1953 is based on a simple rhythm-guitar accompanied by some fiddle and steel guitar that keep in the background. REVEREND ELVIS AND THE UNDEAD SYNCOPATORS manage to even strip down the song a little more. Their version is built around an electric guitar with cool reverb and the Reverend’s charismatic voice. There are some guitar fills included and as well as a low rimclick-rhythm of the snare, nevertheless ist a very minimalistic attempt to concentrate on the core: an atmosphere of unrest that sometimes is like a curse. This dark interpretation is typical for „I Hate People“ (Suzy Q Records), the new album of the band from Chemnitz/Germany. Other songs are heading for different directions concerning mood and influences, but they all have in common that they prove the effectiveness of basic recordings, done by clever musicians and by heart.
If the marriage of honesty and musical talent is one of the reasons, why this album is great, the diversity within the repertoire is another one. The HANK WILLIAMS-cover „Ramblin‘ Man“ is supplemented by „Ghost Of Hank Williams“, a country ballad by DAVID ALLAN COE, telling the story of a young hitchhiker being picked up by the ghost oft he country legend. This is a great version, resigning from all the backing vocals and stuff you find in the original. The Reverend Elvis version suits the spooky subject much better in my opinion. While this is dark country, „Sam Phillips“ dignifies the founder of Sun Records with Rockabilly, while the lyrics show the connection of these roots, garage and punk. Corresponding REVEREND ELVIS AND THE UNDEAD SYNCOPATORS celebrate the noisier side of Rock’n’Roll in Songs like the title-track „I Hate People“ or in „Evil“ that reminds me of THE SONICS‘ „Strychnine“ concerning the chords and shows a great nasty vocal performance by the Reverend.
It is this voice, that also makes „Race With The Devil“ something special, as it provides some diabolic undertones to the JOHNNY DAVID classic. There’s a nice contradiction between the Reverends‘ voice and the melody line. The teenage-appeal oft he original music is gone and the bitterness oft he lyrics re-appears. All the same the track shows that the band also has a sense for humor. At least that’s as I understand it. In „She Never Done Me Wrong“, the lead guitar sounds a bit like surf, while the protagonist oft he lyrics is riding high on a wave of insanity, telling us again and again about the death of his women as if he was possessed. The following „I’d Rather Go Blind“ was actually partly written in prison by ELLINGTON JONES. Welcome to the blues…
Death Country might be the right term to describe the general artistic focus oft he band or to distinguish a certain attitude. Musically there’s more to be found here. „Shela“ for example might not sound like psychobilly, but it will propably hit the nerve of psychos as well as „Darkworld“, if they are not limited to a certain sound (for example the drums are much more acoustic and less dominant here). „I Hate People“ is hand made and underground by choice. In the end it is you who will have to choose if you like it or not. Here’s the opener „So Go Back To Whatever You Hypocrites Ever Go“ to showcase one of many facettes: laid back country with lyrics that holds up a middle-finger to society. Enjoy!
„I Hate People“ -- REVEREND ELVIS AND THE UNDEAD SYNCOPATORS kredenzen traditionsbewusste Musik für Rebellen
Es bedarf keiner hohen Komplexität, um gute Musik zu schaffen. Als HANK WILLIAMS 1951 „Ramblin‘ Man“ schrieb, konzentrierte er sich auf zwei alternierenden Akkorde. Die Aufnahme aus dem Jahr 1953 basiert auf einer schlichten Rhythmus-Gitarre, begleitet von etwas Geige und Steel-Guitar, die sich dezent im Hintergrund halten. REVEREND ELVIS AND THE UNDEAD SYNCOPATORS schaffen es, den Song noch ein Stück weiter auf seine Basis zu reduzieren. Ihre Version ist ganz um eine cool verhallte E-Gitarre und die Stimme des Reverend herum arrangiert. Es gibt einige Gitarren-Fills enthalten und einen dezenten Rimclick-Rhythmus der Snare, dennoch ist eine sehr minimalistischer Versuch, das Stück auf seine Essenz einzudampfen: auf eine Atmosphäre der Unruhe, die dazu tendiert, zum Fluch zu werden. Diese düstere Interpretation ist typisch für „I Hate People“ (Suzy Q Records). Die Songs bedienen sich unterschiedlicher Stimmungen und Einflüsse, allen ist jedoch der Ansatz gemeinsam, keine überflüssigen Noten zu spielen und Produktion wie Instrumentalbegleitung so einfach und direkt wie möglich zu halten. Das neue Album der Band aus Chemnitz belegt, wie effektiv das sein kann, wenn geschickte Musiker am Werk sind und die Musik echten Gefühlen entspringt.
Wie hier Ehrlichkeit und musikalisches Talent zusammen finden, ist einer der Gründe, warum dieses Scheibe so gelungen ist. Hinzu kommt die Vielfalt im Repertoire. Das HANK WILLIAMS-Cover „Ramblin‘ Man“ wird durch „Ghost Of Hank Williams“ quasi ergänzt – einer Country-Ballade von DAVID ALLAN COE, die die Geschichte eines jungen Trampers, erzählt, der vom die sich durch den Geist der Country-Legende aufgelesen wird. Die neue Variante der Nummer ist eine Wucht, Von allen Backing Vocals und allem anderen Krimskrams befreit, der sich im Original findet, wird die Version von Reverend Elvis dem gespenstischen Sujet meiner Meinung nach wesentlich besser gerecht. Während hier die dunkle Seite der Country-Musik den Ton angibt, ehrt „Sam Phillips“ den Gründer von Sun Records mit Rockabilly. Der Texte zeigt die Verbindung dieser Wurzeln zu jüngeren Genres wie Garage und Punk. Entsprechend feiern REVEREND ELVIS AND THE UNDEAD SYNCOPATORS auch die lautere Seite des Rock’n’Roll: mit Songs wie dem Titeltrack „I Hate People“ oder „Evil“, dessen Akkordfolge mich an „Strychnin“ von den SONICS erinnert. Hier läuft der Reverend zu einer herrlich fiesen Gesangshöchstleitung auf.
Es ist diese Stimme, die auch „Race With The Devil“ zu etwas Besonderem macht, indem sie dem JOHNNY DAVID Klassiker einen diabolischen Unterton verleiht. Sie sorgt für einen reizvollen Widerspruch zwischen Stimme und Melodielinie. Der Teenie-Charakter der Musik verdampft und die Bitterkeit des Textes kann ihre Wirkung entfalten. Nebenbei belegt dieses Stück, dass die Band Sinn für Humor hat. Zumindest verstehe die ganze Angelegenheit so. In „She Never Done Me Wrong“, klingt die Lead-Gitarre ein bisschen nach Surf, während der Protagonist der Lyrics auf einer Welle des Wahnsinns reitet und wieder und wieder vom Tod seiner Liebsten erzählt, als sei er besessen. Das nachfolgende „I’d Rather Go Blind“ wurde teilweise von ELLINGTON JORDAN geschrieben. Im Gefängnis. Willkommen im Blues.
Der Begriff Death Country taugt recht gut, um die allgemeine künstlerische Schwerpunktsetzung der Band oder ihre Haltung zu umschreiben. Musikalisch gibt es viel mehr zu entdecken. „Shela“ etwa klingt zwar nicht wirklich nach Psychobilly, dürfte aber den Nerv mancher Psychos ebenso treffen wie „Darkworld“, auch wenn es nicht unbedingt den szenetypischen Regeln folgt. Das Schlagzeug ist weniger dominant und klingt akustischer. Es ist nicht auf Durchschlagskraft hin produziert. „I Hate People“ klingt mit Bedacht handgemacht und nach Underground. Am Ende liegt es bei Euch zu entscheiden, ob Euch das liegt, oder nicht. Hier ist der Opener „So Go Back To Whatever You Hypocrites Ever Go“, um Euch eine der vielen Facetten dieses Albums vor Augen zu führen: Entspannter Country mit einem Text, der der Gesellschaft den Mittelfinger entgegenreckt. Genießt diesen Song.
Sie haben es wieder getan. REVEREND ELVIS & THE UNDEAD SYNCOPATORS, die untergründigste Undergroundband der Welt aller Zeiten ist zurück, um uns Ungläubige endgültig auf die dunkle Seite zu ziehen… zumindest die dunkle Seite der Musik. Auf ihrer sechsten Veröffentlichung setzt die Kapelle um den umtriebigen Reverend aus Chemnitz das fort, was sie seit 2003 auszeichnet: ihre ureigene Interpretation von Country, Blues, Beat, Punk und Gospel in Kombination mit schräg-schwarzem Humor und musikalischer Versiertheit. REVEREND ELVIS & seine Freunde nennen ihre Musik Death Country und beschäftigen sich mit Themen, die im klassischen Country wie auch außerhalb von Horrorfilmen oder medizinischem Kontext in den Medien gern ignoriert werden: Gewalt, Drogen, Wahnsinn, Tod. Zum Glück sind die Sachsen dennoch keine suizidal-depressiven Trauerklöße, sondern versprühen bei aller Düsternis eine Menge Spaß an dem, was sie tun.
Auf „I Hate People“ wandeln REVEREND ELVIS & THE UNDEAD SYNCOPATORS auf den Spuren ihrer Vorbilder Hank Williams, „Brakeman“ Jimmy Rodgers, Sam Phillips (dem Erfinder von Elvis Presley), der Berliner Death-Country-Legende Hank Ray, den Louvin Brothers und anderen, die sich um die wilde, nicht glatt gebügelte Seite der Musik und des Lebens an sich verdient gemacht haben. Scheppernde Trommelkessel, twangende Gitarren, knarzige Bässe und der markante Bariton von Reverend Elvis machen das Album zu einem echten Hinhörer. Die Fans des Reverend werden auch diesmal gnadenlos zuschlagen, wenn sie ihre Plattensammlung um ein Exemplar der auf 500 Stück limitierten Erstauflage des Albums in Vinyl und CD mit Poster ergänzen wollen- allen anderen sei ein gründliches Reinhören empfohlen. Auch auf die Gefahr hin, dass REVEREND ELVIS & THE UNDEAD SYNCOPATORS mehr Bekanntheit erlangen, sie sich nicht länger im Untergrund verschanzen können und vielleicht sogar mal auf Tour gehen, um auch den Rest der Republik mit ihrem Düstersound zu beunglücken!
Großer Tipp für Anhänger von Hank Ray, Rainer Hass, THOSE POOR BASTARDS, THE DAD HORSE EXPERIENCE und vielen Veröffentlichungen des Berner Labels Voodoo Rhythm!
Some Interviews & Storys from the last years
Der Kulturkritiker Georg Seeßlen über Reverend Elvis im Deutschlandfunk
Reverend Elvis delivers us a sermon based on the one true message.
The message of keeping real music alive, music that is being slowly strangled by the demons of mass-produced plastic pop, music that is having its lifeblood drained by those TV so-called talent shows. From his rock and roll pulpit he is throwing down almighty fireballs upon the puke-spewing unit shifting crap machine whilst thrusting a cold hard needle in his arm to give a blood transfusion straight into the heart of Hillbilly, 50’s Punk, Blues, Psycho Gospel, Country and Rockabilly.
As the Reverend preaches the blues and enthuses about the message of life, he refuses to let us forget the souls of those who have now departed from this world. He shakes his fist and slams it down heavily, demanding we pay homage to the energy and talent of these people who have blessed us with their gifts, people such as Hank Williams, Carl Perkins and Blind Willie McTell.
Reverend Elvis tells us he has known darkness and sin but without which he would’ve never discovered the light. As Kid Congo Powers said just recently“I think there’s beauty in the dark side, you have to know it to know the bright side and also there would be no way to compare if you didn’t have both”. The Reverend gives us a resounding “Amen!” to that and explains a passage of how he began his own musical journey with that glimmer of light, shining like a beacon through the hellish dark, pushing through adversity with the ghost of blues and the fiery spirit of punk, frantically scribbling down his own crazed Hillbilly paeans and songs along the way.
With the latest album Desperation now firmly in the Reverend’s rock and roll Gospel he gives us a no holds barred confessional.
Reverend Elvis, it’s always an absolute pleasure but I want to bat this one straight at you while you are still off guard. What gives you the right to name yourself after the Mississippi Flash?
I became an “inner circle die-hard Elvis fan” at the age of 9. Elvis is the center of my musical world. That’s why the people always liked to call me Elvis – I didn’t like it but they’ve done it till this day. He is such an extraordinary person in music history. Maybe it’s a mixture of submissive tribute and destroying my own hero’s power.
You have covered a fair amount of what are perceived to be Presley tunes. On the ‘Legend Of The Undead’ album you covered ‘Blue Moon’ (which was one of Elvis’ earliest recordings) and also ‘I’m so lonesome I could cry’, which is reported to be the last song the King ever sang. Let’s put you on the spot here and ask what your ultimate top three Presley tunes are?
“All shook up” ha! I love the Jordanaires backing choir … but No! I can’t say! The only thing I can say is that I like the SUN years most! (And some early RCA).
I listen to that Hollywood/68Comback/Las Vegas stuff but only because I’m a fan. I love the rockabilly style, the SUN studio magic, this unbelievable Scotty Moore guitar picking. The spirit, the power! Elvis did not invent Rock’n’Roll (nobody did) but without Elvis there is no Rock’n’Roll! The later songs didn’t count in that topic!
I want to check my facts here. The album Legend Of The Undead was the first Reverend Elvis album, correct? Were there any recordings before this?
Yes. Legend of the Undead is my first LP from back in 2004. Together with Shakin’ Casi, I recorded an early Demo called “6 Rockabilly Classics” – very rude and nothing you want to hear a second time ha-ha! Shakin’ Casi is also responsible for the most Slap Bass tracks on the Legend album. Great Artist!
Now this album is somewhat of a cult pressing and if any of our readers have any interest in music at all then I would recommend this one for the collection. One of the coolest tracks on that piece of vinyl is ‘Baby Bye Bye’, which comes across as a sad and haunting two-minute suicide note. What is your own take on the way that tune came out?
It’s a song about lost love. The old shit, you know? It’s about cutting your heart out at full consciousness and dying a little death. Everybody who has a heart should know this feeling. I have no suicide tendencies… .[Laughs]
Ok, well staying with Legend Of The Undead just a little longer. I know this will come across as cliché but the album is what can only be described as a real mix. All your albums have that weird randomly chosen track list feel about them: raw stripped down blues like ‘Wah Ohh Rrrrit Go’ to a down home country take on ‘Blue Moon’. Can you explain your thought processes in choosing album tracks or could it be a case of throwing all your favourite tunes in a hat and plucking them out randomly?
Hmmm? I’m always surrounded by music. I listen to music all day long and during every free minute I play guitar and sing, with friends or on my own. Many of the songs have stuck with me for years. When I record a song it has become “My song”! It didn’t matter if this tune is self-written or some classic or whatever.
Well, whatever the process it certainly seems to work. Let me tell you, when I listened to ‘People Hate Blues’ I was thinking about the end of the Jim Morrison Paris recordings where he’s high on booze and/or drugs. I half expected Morrison to come back from the grave, dancing around like a native American Indian and grabbing the mic’ to do the vocal for this track. As a man who has an obvious appreciation of the blues, have you considered covering something like ‘Roadhouse Blues’ and how do you rate Morrison as a blues man?
This is a difficult question. I will need to digress somewhat before answering this. For me (my personal point of view) the “Golden Age of Blues” ended with the success of B.B.King in the mid 60’s (don’t judge me on that, I have big respect for B.B.King. but it’s not my cup of tea!). The 60’s “British” bands changed Blues and Rhythm & Blues into Rock, and the Blues artists played the Blues more and more in a very “technical” way.
I don’t like it so much. I like it “primitive!
I’m totally with you that Jim Morrison and TheDoors played a raw, deep from the heart kind of Blues. L.A. Woman is one of the few LPs from that period I really like! Especially “Roadhouse blues” which has this hypnotic Howling Wolf/ Hooker riff that smashes your brain. But more important is the fact that Morrison was the antithesis to this flower-shit the Beatles and others did in that period.
I’m totally with you on your fondness for artists such as Blind Willie McTell who you have covered on the latest album. Artists like Blind Willie and better-known names such as John Lee Hooker really sum up that traditional old blues sound, but how about new blues? I have actually got Bruce Willis penned in on my modern day list (he’s a surprisingly good harp player too). From what you’ve told us, you clearly know your stuff. Can you turn us on to some more of the Reverend Elvis’ favourite slices of blues, old and new?
Like I said before: I like my Blues primitive!! In a positive way. I love the mystical Mississippi Blues and Delta sound, Memphis Stuff, Sun Records Blues Artists. I can listen all day long to the so-called “Guitar Evangelists” (MCtell, Willie Johnson or Utah Smith, and so on) who are torn between good and evil!!! 50’s Chicago Blues is amazing, especially the “Chess” Artists – Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf (and his undying one chord monster “ Smokestack Lightning”!!!) up to Etta James.
One of my all time favorites is Mr. Hooker! He taught me a lot about guitar playing. (He can’t play guitar and is the best guitarist ever, at the same time!) Primitive hypnotic blues – that’s punk!
The new Blues? I like the Bluespunk movement. Fat Possum Records brings a lot great artists to the table like T-Model Ford, R.L.Burnside, Hezekiah Early… On the Bluespunk meter are The Gories from Detroit, Oblivians from Memphis and Seasick Steve….
Apart from that illustrious list of names you have just mentioned, what is really bending your ear at the present time?
Ha-ha a lot! Two weeks ago I bought Guitar Evangelists I & II on vinyl (2009 re-release on Autogram). I love it. Listen to Merle Travis for his famous guitar picking. Totally awesome are “Those Poor Bastards” and the Satan is Watching album (look out for this, cats – its amazing!). I can’t stop listeneng to Hank 3. For getting drunk and angry: Psychobilly and Punk is still the best music in the world!
Every situation has its own music in my life.
With this wealth of musical information being taken into account would it be possible to pinpoint your top three biggest musical influences?
Persons? No not really. Elvis for sure. I like Glenn Danzig [Laughs]. No. Can’t say. Music in general? Definitely Rockabilly and mid 50s Rock’n’Roll. In my small world there are three types of music: pre-Rock’n’Roll that leads to the mid 50’s sound – Rockabilly- and music that is inspired by 50’s music… okay okay, that’s a massively simplified point of view but at the core I think I’m right. It’s same with guitars – all types of guitars that become accepted were invented in the 50’s, established on older models.
We’ve been talking to Mr. Hank Ray about a whole mess of things. He has hinted at you two collaborating on a project, which is quite exciting news. There are musical similarities between the Hankster and you but both still very individual sounds. What do you envisage when these two worlds collide on vinyl and when is it due to happen?
Yes! [Laughs]. It’s just an idea at the moment! We want to start a 7” collection on Suzy Q Records and yes, it’s planned to put a Hank Ray/Rev. Elvis split single out! But this is not more than a fuzzy vision at the moment. It’s always a matter of money and time, but we are really looking forward to doing this!
Could there be any possibility of you and Hank kicking each other’s arses and playing in the UK anytime soon? I have a Hank Ray, The Fuzztones, Reverend Elvis triple bill on my musical wish list.
YEAH! Sounds fantastic to me! First position on my “To Do” List! We will see what the future brings.
OX Interview 2013
‘There are two kinds of gigs. Normal gigs and weird gigs, I hate normal gigs.’
Reverend Elvis continues his interview with Carl Byron Batson:
Carl Batson:There was quite a gap between the albums ‘Punk’ and ‘Desperation’. Was there any significant reason for this?Reverend Elvis:Punk is an Undead Syncopators album. (D. Shadow and me). The main difference is: we recorded it on one day, with one microphone and mostly one take per song. There is no “intellectual shit” in it … 1.2.3. Rock’n’Roll!
You recorded the album Death Country. Hank Ray spoke a little about labels and what they meant to him, Rockabilly, Psychobilly and Death Country etc. So having the aptly-named album, what do labels mean to you?
This is another difficult question. On the one hand I don’t care about such labels. It seems to be stupid, limiting your mind by such borders. It’s always a pleasure to listen to different kinds of music and find the gems of music history. On the other hand Rockabilly, just like Psychobilly, is a “scene” with a long underground history – they have a cultic character.
It’s important to keep the classical forms of this cult alive to give them the opportunity to stay undead. For me there is no discrepancy between saving the classical forms and finding something new! I’m proud to be a part of today’s Rockabilly/Psychobilly scene. With all its ambivalence.
Another thing is when you look at Death Country, Death Country isn’t a scene, it’s a way to make music. 100% open minded. The only commonalities are it’s no fun music, and you have to be interested in Country music [laughs].
Well, be it the mixing of styles like The Cramps or the stripping back to bare blues basics and beyond (like much of your music) it’s all healthy progressive exploration of different sounds and styles. It often gives birth to something new and exciting. Do you have any personal favourite examples, either yours or other artists’?
“Rock’n’Roll” in general should sound that way, it is one of the main differences to “Pop music” which only reproduces popular formulas. Most bands and artists I really like do it that way! My favorite examples? Definitely The Cramps. No question about that! The Misfits, Gun Club, Demented are Go, Hank III, Those Poor Bastards … there are a lot more!
As a chance to let it all out, can you let us know what’s wrong with current pop music and TV talent shows?
Nothing is wrong with today’s pop music, the people listen to the music they deserve [laughs].
The last decade changed the music market massively. When we started with Suzy Q Records, back in the 90s, we had one BIG enemy: the mainstream industry. These fuckers were almighty, arrogant and everywhere. Only a small “hardcore” underground scene could resist.
But the internet and the invention of the mp3 format changed everything. The social networks (mainly the “old” MySpace) gave every musician (bad or good) the opportunity to promote his/her own stuff worldwide. That destroyed a little bit of the major labels’ power. But you have to face the reality: they are still assholes!
Today most people find their future favorite music on the Internet and it’s easier than ever before to leave the Middle of the Road – if you want. I don’t worry about TV talent shows!
Ha-ha ok, let’s get a few snippets of trash if we can. I’ve heard some crazy ‘on the road’ stories from a whole host of people over the years. Some people get dirty underwear thrown at them, some get hookers and Champagne sent to their dressing rooms. Presley’s drug addled stage patter, Lux Interior bursting out of a coffin, Kid Congo setting his hair alight. What is the weirdest thing to ever happen on stage? The strangest thing you’ve ever been given? Any memorable rock and roll stories you can share without fear of arrest?
I can’t remember, but people say I had a wonderful time. [Laughs]
There are two kinds of gigs. Normal gigs and weird gigs, I hate normal gigs. We always try to drive the crowd crazy, we always try to drive the girls crazy, and we always try to drive ourselves crazy. If all that works together everybody can have their orgasmic nightmare and everything! Can happen for some, you can be arrested for some you don’t. [Laughs]
Now, as we are talking about weird and wonderful, we all know Berlin to still be a magnet for artists of many different types. What is it do you think that still draws people to Germany’s kinky currywurst-munching heart, and can you recommend any other cool places to visit in Germany?
Berlin is an awesome place!
I live 2 hours away from Berlin and I spend a lot of nights and days there. Most people say the appeal is about Berlin’s strange history. I think they are right! For many reasons a real counterculture and underground established on both sides, and after the “fall of the Wall” an explosive mixture blew up. The people were searching for freedom and they took it.
Berlin is always changing. Maybe in the wrong, maybe in the right direction – we will see. But today Berlin is definitely a place to be – open minded, anarchical and in its own way beautiful.
Talking of things to do or see, Chemnitz has that huge 7 metre high bust of Karl Marx. Has Reverend Elvis got any politics he would like to share?
I don’t follow any religion or political ideology or whatever. I can think by myself.
Maybe I follow the Rock’n’Roll culture? And like the mighty Guitar Wolf (a very wise man from the east) once said: “Rock ‘n’ Roll has no borders, nationalities, or genders!” (Lightly modified)
All this talk of Berlin with it’s open-minded culture. Everybody loves a little bit of fetish now and then. From Jerry Lott aka The Phantom to The Covered Man, David Soul, there have been a fair few mask-wearing artists. What has been the inspiration for Reverend Elvis’ masked appearance?
I’m shy ha-ha!
It’s a mixture of many reasons. We always liked the “Mask bands”: Lightning Beatman, Tijuana Bibles, Orion [laughs]. I don’t know, it’s fascinating! And it’s quite different to play with masks on than without. More aggressive, more provocative. The people can see in you what they want to see, and most of all I don’t want to be the next “Elvis guy”…
You are partly responsible for the birth of Suzy Q records, a label that seems to be a way for underground culture to have its voice heard. Hank 3 recently told us “I’ve never worked on a major label that respected what I did and if you really look one of my big lines is shooting down fame to do it my own way”. Is this the stance with Suzy Q Records? Tell us a little bit about the label?
We started it, some friends and I, as a record store in Chemnitz back in 1999. The main reason was that we were all record junkies and we wanted to listen as much music as possible. It was a big success but a commercial disaster. We closed the store and started promoting and releasing our own music and music of friends (luckily we are part of a healthy, inspired music scene). Slowly Suzy Q Rec. became a heard voice in the underground music scene. Today Suzy Q is a small but well-known label with friends all over the world.
Yes I totally agree with Hank 3! One of the main reasons, besides his music, to be a fan of his is because he never gave up and never stopped supporting the underground. Unlike Hank, I never worked with majors cause they never asked me [laughs].
Most of the bands who sell their soul to the Industry become soulless zombies – can’t remember any single band who put a good record out on a major (okay, maybe White Stripes as an exception to the rule).
Suzy Q gives me the freedom to do what I want to do, to put all the music out that is inside me and I don’t have to care if somebody likes it or not.
I mentioned a musical wish list earlier. It would be great to put on the gig of your dreams right? Which dead artist would you have liked to take the stage with and more importantly which living artist would you like to play with given the opportunity?
Sometimes I wish I had a time machine to play with my heroes: pick some Blues and Bluegrass in the 40s, help to invent modern music with the Rockabilly cats in Memphis in the 50s, become an angry teenager and play brutal Garage in the 60s … destroy everything with my punk guitar in the 70s, and so on. Every time has its musical highlights.
Today there are many artists I want to play with (and some I already have) Hank3, Glenn Danzig and Demented are Go, Hank Ray – all on one stage! Maybe it will happen someday.
With that wish list I will thank you for your time and say it’s been a pleasure as always. One last question that I ask of everyone is: when the reaper comes to finally take you down, what will be those words chiseled in your headstone?
Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.
Reverend Elvis, thank you very much.
Thank you Carl!
An interview with Reverend Elvis and the Undead Syncopators
Picture a man sitting behind a black kick drum with the word Metronome in white lettering on the front, playing an electric hollow body six-string, wailing his scratchy vocals into a microphone, all the while made anonymous by a black ski mask, and you’ll have Reverend Elvis. Now picture a tall man dressed all in black, equally incognito in a black ski mask, standing behind a big ol‘ upright bass, and you will have the other half of Reverend Elvis & the Undead Syncopators, D. Shadow. Like a handful of other two-piece bands — Left Lane Cruiser, Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival, Restavrant, Black Diamond Heavies, Two Gallants, and The Black Keys, to name a few — Reverend Elvis & the Undead Syncopators are a musical duo that do it the right way. And with his growing repertoire of songs, along with a sound which is a combination of punk, rockabilly, death country, garage trash and hell blues, Reverend Elvis is quickly becoming not just one of the more standout artists of his homeland of Germany but of the entire international underground music scene.
Holding the opinion that music in general has been corrupted by the plastic pop phenomenon that has infected the mainstream like a plague of our time, Reverend Elvis has long since dedicated himself exclusively to the underground. And it’s in the underground, where almost all of the worthwhile bands and singer/songwriters are to be found these days, that Reverend Elvis preaches the punk rock word, writing, recording and performing his songs for two separate endeavors – his death country and dark roots solo work under his usual moniker, and a punk rock, rockabilly, garage trash and hell blues two-piece known as Reverend Elvis & the Undead Syncopators.
„Death Country,“ the Reverend’s solo debut, was released on Indiana’s Devil’s Ruin Records in 2008. A solid album, no doubt about it, with songs like „Necrobaby,“ „I Go My Way,“ and „You Were Dead Before You Died,“ along with twelve other tracks, „Death Country“ was quite an achievement for Reverend Elvis, since Devil’s Ruin is one of the best roots-based labels the world has to offer right now. Just as important an album, however, is „Punk,“ the 2010 Suzy Q Records LP release of Reverend Elvis & the Undead Syncopators‘ latest. Quite frankly, „Punk“ just may be the Reverend’s finest album to date, with songs like „I’m A Blues Punk,“ „Trouble,“ „Kill Kill Kill,“ Boppin‘ the Blues,“ „Rockabilly Riot,“ and „666.“
Just recently I had both the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Reverend Elvis. The contents of that interview have been provided here for you in their entirety.
First, in the interest of giving the readers of this piece a better understanding of the artist I am interviewing, I would like to ask you: Who is Reverend Elvis, not just as a singer/songwriter but as an individual, a human being of this mad, mad world in which we live?
First of all, I’m a music addict. I love music! Since my youngest days I’ve been impressed by the wild outlaw style of rock’n’roll. So I grew up with the strong feeling that I NEVER wanted to become a square. I quit the so-called „normal life“ and have since tried to express myself with my friends and my gang (the Undeads).
Together we make things possible – run a record label (Suzy Q) and a record shop (RIP) to support underground music, organize music and art shows, connect with likeminded people, drink, fight, f**k…you know.
Now, you play in a few different projects. Two of them are your solo project, which is just you under your usual moniker Reverend Elvis, and your two-piece setup, known as Reverend Elvis & the Undead Syncopators. If I’m not mistaken, you also perform as a one-man band on occasion. What main distinguishing factors separate these projects from one another?
Altogether there are two projects…
With the Reverend Elvis project I try to articulate „the alien to the world“ feeling a lot of people have, which you can’t name with mere words alone. Topics are loneliness, love, hate, strangeness, and being true in a world of madness. Hopefully it is in the tradition of the blues and hillbilly musicians who played straight-from-the-heart music – with all their failures and hopes, and their searches for real freedom. It’s hard to explain. I use the music I adore to say what I can’t say otherwise.
Reverend Elvis and the Undead Syncopators (together with the bass player D. Shadow) is fast driving „fight back“ music – for live shows and riots. This music is influenced by the roots and rockabilly music, and Punk as well. For me, punk, or rockabilly, is a way of life and not a way you style your hair or look good at the mall. We don’t try to fit in this world or be loved by the people; we are aggressive and full of hate. It’s for all the happy and beautiful losers out there, who are not corrupted.
The one-man band you asked about is only a fun project to show my respect for the amazing one-man band scene.
Your sound has been referred to as a mixture of death country, rockabilly, satanic gospel, dark roots, sacred blues, and punk. For the most part I would agree that those descriptions fit your sound rather well. Those styles suggest that you have an extensive and diverse list of influences behind your music. What bands and/or singer/songwriters have influenced you most over the years?
Like I said before: I’m a music junkie! The center of my music world is the ’50s rebel music – rockabilly and rhythm n‘ blues (listen to Sun or Chess Records and you’ll know what I mean). But I also love the entire true „people’s music“ before and after that period.
I belong to all this wonderful old music — the evil blues masters who sold their souls to the devil, the drunkards and hillbillies who let their guitars cry, the gospel quartets and preachers who walked more in hell than in heaven, the drug addicted hooker jazz, and all the early American music that combines all these different music traditions from America, Africa and Europe, and became music for the whole world.
On the other hand, I love rock’n’roll in all its dimensions. Rockabilly, psychobilly, punk, garage, country, soul, and metal…and all the other crazy motherfuckers who make my world go round. In general, it is not important how you name the music; it’s important if it is the real thing!
But I’m also influenced by today’s music, and I’m really proud to be a part of an amazing worldwide (underground) music scene.
Why did you choose the moniker Reverend Elvis for your musical endeavors?
Oh, it’s an official title. I’m an autonomic preacher of Reverend Beat-Man’s „Church of Blues Punk.“ Haha.
„Punk,“ your latest Reverend Elvis & the Undead Syncopator LP on Suzy Q Records is a raw, primal rockabilly and punk album in comparison to the more stripped-down roots album you released on Devil’s Ruin Records a while back. What went into the writing and recording of the „Punk“ album? And how have fans reacted to it so far?
For me, it’s the same as my solo work, only the other side of the coin. The Undead Syncopators are more orientated in playing live and driving the people crazy. The whole „Punk“ LP is recorded in only one day, with only one microphone at the studio. It’s hopefully stripped-down in a different way. We try to respect our roots and bring the full energy to the point. In my opinion, the fans and followers love both sides of the Reverend, because in the end there is no difference.
Over the course of the past few years I have come across a bunch of great bands and singer/songwriters from Germany — Rainer Hass, The Kidnappers, Junior Disorder, The Juke Joint Pimps, Elvis Pummel, and of course you. What is the music scene like there in Germeny? And…what kind of impact does your geographical location have on your sound, if any?
Europe, and especially Germany, has a big, strong music and underground scene, with thousands of small labels, clubs, a lot of self organised projects, festivals, and so on. And the Germans are fascinated in generations of Anglo-American music. A lot of people and followers fight for this freedom, and many scenes and subcultures are established…so against all trends, there is a place for obscurity, madness, and at last good music.
I don’t think that the geographical location has a big affect. Because at the end we are all a part of the western civilisation, and in all the differences there is a big hegemony in culture. (Maybe we have a little bit more connection to the east…which the USA has chosen as its favourite enemy.)
In keeping with the last question a bit, I have noticed that a lot of the bands and singer/songwriters from the non-English-speaking parts of Europe tend to sing in English rather than their native tongues, including you. Why do you think that is…or at least, why is that the case for you in particular?
This is an interesting question! I never thought about it. English is the language of the world. And it is the language of the musicians. When I meet a Norwegian Guitarist or a Japanese Drummer we speak English, that’s for sure. Most of my idols sing their songs in English. It’s a part of that cultural hegemony, I think. And I’m sure that most people in Europe/Germany speak and understand English.
What have been some of your most memorable tour/gig moments?
Oh, I can’t remember. But the people say I had a wonderful time, haha…
We always stay free and wild. Maybe a little bit too self-destructive sometimes. We try to play authentic, one-to-one shows, and for the most people appreciate that and freak out with us.
One of the greatest gigs this year, I can remember, was at one of Germany’s most important punk festivals called „Back to Future.“ We played at 4 o’clock in the morning, and the drunken crowd went so wild and insane. It’s a great feeling. The situation gives you the opportunity to open the gates to heaven and hell.
So far you have released recordings on Suzy Q, Devil’s Ruin, and Gravewax, both on compact disc and vinyl formats, as well as single tracks for compilation purposes. What has been your experience with these labels. And…is it your intention to keep your music on the independent and underground market, or do you have other plans?
I’m underground. As an artist it is great to be a part of the underground. It’s freedom. It’s a good network of people and mostly everything is possible. On the other hand, underground shouldn’t become a ghetto. We always try to pick up people where they stand. And I think its not „mainstream“ to spread the word loud as you can. The last few years the Sony/Universal & Co lost their arrogant position in the music market and the listeners are more interested in non-plastic music now. And independent/underground becomes a little bit „mainstream“ in a positive way.
Therefore, I’m really proud that I was able to release on these fine labels! The people who run these labels do it because they believe in what they are doing. Sometimes it is not easy to deal with because every label/person is an individual like the artist as well. But it’s always better to work with a real person than with a big machine.