Interview

Reverend Beat Man

Reverend Beat Man

Monday 25th July, 2011 12:16PM

Reverend Beat Man's shows, as you'd expect from his name, are meant to be a religious experience. But he preaches from the good book of rock n roll. Leader of the influential Swiss Primitive Rock n Roll movement (centred around his label Voodoo Rhythm, and featuring his brilliant band the Monsters and his solo persona Reverend Beat Man), he's gathered underground fanaticism around Europe and in the United States. The Swiss Primitive Rock n Roll movement also featured Kiwi Delaney Davidson, and Davidson has put on a series of shows with the Beat Man around the country, to showcase his now legendary live shows.

I thought I'd start off with a basic question: why music?

[Laughs] strange question. I think just like that. That's the reason. Because all of the other things are more boring than music.

You started releasing music when you were young, did you imagine as a thirteen year old still to make music?

For me, it's a lot of things for me, making music. I'm not very good at talking, so I think it's my way of expressing myself is through music. It's as strange as it gets. Every personality is strange of itself. When you hear my music, it's different I think, and that's what I like. I'm not a big mainstream guy, of course I listen to mainstream music as well like Elvis Presley, My son is ten years old, he listens to top 100, but I prefer music that's off the mainstream, 'outsider's' music; the music that comes out of me, I think that's what it is.

How did Reverend Beat Man come about?

In the mid-'80s to 1999, I was a wrestler, Lucha Libre. I had a wrestling show, and fighting on stage. I almost killed myself, it got so extreme that I lost my voice for a year and broke something in my back. It was a little bit too extreme. Then my doctor told me "you cannot go on like that or you'll die in a couple of years. You're not an Iggy Pop." So I recovered, my back went ok, and my voice came back a half year later, and then I was impressed -because I was travelling in America a lot – how the preachers there convincing their sheep to give them money and to believe in something they don't want to believe in. I wanted to use that kind of power and to do that as well. That's what I'm doing now, convince people to change their sight from the mainstream to blues-thrash.

I read you also had a dream that Robert Johnson told you to…

Yeah he totally told me to. I saw the light as well in my life, it was the same period I took a lot of drugs. It was the first time I saw the light in my life, I saw the way where to go, and I'm on that way now. It feels really good.

You're lucky Robert Johnson didn't tell you to sell your soul to the Devil…

He told me that. But I saw the Devil before, when I was thirteen. That was my first experience with the Devil. When I was thirty, I experienced the light. I had both. I found out that both ways are not my way, heaven is not my way, hell is not my way. It's better to go my own way, the Reverend Beat Man way, the blues-thrash way.

Do you like the label Swiss Primitive Rock?

Switzerland is not rock oriented, it's top 100 oriented. We have a really strong underground scene, and of course, we have a great rock scene, but it's kind of really underground oriented. Rock n roll is not very talked in Switzerland.

Did you imagine you'd become a leader of a bunch of bands doing similar things?

That's what I don't want. I want people to find their own music, I don't want to be a leader, something that they copy. My mission is that they do their own thing, if it's pop, if it's techno, if it's rock, I don't care. I think what's important is that they do their own thing. That makes the music, what we have, a little bit more bright, a little bit more colourful. What we have is the radio where everything sounds the same – Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, it's all the same crap. I think there are much more insights into those persons - why do those people not do their own music. I don't get it.

Is that why you set up Voodoo Rhythm?

That's completely the idea of that label, to find those persons, also if they're not ready to show themselves, I just grab their songs and squeeze it out of their a ssholes and show it to the people.

How do you know when a band comes to you, if it'd fit with Voodoo Rhythm?

You know, you hear that. I can hear it over the telephone, there are some people who call me up and say 'hey Beat Man, you need to listen to this band', and they put the telephone at the gig or they send me a demo tape or whatever crappy recording. But you hear when there's truth, the real gospel, you just hear that there is something to work with. I try to work with what there is, I try to find what magic stuff that they have, and try to press a record at the end and sell it.

Is it hard trying to sell your records given you're not from the United States or England, and getting your music noticed?

It is in general, the music business is dying. It's really hard to make a product. Online, there's so much stuff online. But if you have a product, it's so hard to sell a product, because there's no value in product anymore. People don't see that if you have a vinyl record or a cover or stuff like that, it costs money. It's really hard to convince people to say 'yeah, it's a lot of work and it costs a little bit, not everything is free.' It's hard for us, for Swiss labels, but it's hard for American labels, it's hard for Australian labels, New Zealand labels, it's hard for everybody who puts out a product, a proper product, it doesn't matter if you're in New Zealand or Switzerland or America. The only problem I have in Switzerland is that we are a high priced country, and to sell it to America that's a low priced country, it's really hard to do that. We have this product and we have these special bands – it doesn't matter what country it's from.

Voodoo Rhythm is well-regarded around Europe, is it nice to know that something you started has managed to get this reputation?

Thank you, I think everybody can do that. It's just you have to keep doing it, don't stop. When you are making a label or a band, you always come to this point 'it's meaningless, why do I that, there's no money coming in, why do I do that?' You have to jump over that and keep going to the next step and do it do it do it. I think a lot of labels they stop, in one or the second step. There's no money in rock n roll, that's for sure. They stop in the second step and it's really sad. I hope there are more labels that just keep going on. If you keep working on it, at the end it'll keep playing out.

You have a lot of projects (Reverend Beat Man, the Monsters, DJing) and do a lot of things, do they influence one another, or do you like to keep them separate?

I try to keep it separate, but of course it all goes into each other. They inspire each other, the projects. In my life, I get inspired by Delaney [Davidson] and Delaney gets inspired by me. With all of the other bands, I think it's a good thing. When I play the Monsters, I don't play Reverend Beat Man songs. When I play the Reverend Beat Man songs, I don't play the Monsters songs. I really try to keep that separate.

How important is playing live, and to have a good live show?

Most important. Making records is something completely different. You're working with your songs. But live, it's a conversation, you and the audience. It's boring to have a boring conversation. When there are girls in the audience, I want to fu ck them. With a boring conversation, you cannot go to the girls like that. So you try to make it interesting and powerful.

Well New Zealanders can be a little shy as audiences…

Tonight it's my first show in New Zealand, I don't know, I'll see. I hope they'll open up. Normally it works. Normally my music works, I hope it works in New Zealand as well.

What have you got planned next?

My plans are touring New Zealand – Delaney set up the shows in New Zealand and Australia. He did such a great job with the whole tour, he made the tour poster, he screen printed, he made t-shirts and all of the radio and TV, and we have a lot of shows in New Zealand and completely looking forward to it, and meeting the people.

Brannavan Gnanalingam




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