with Paul Roman by Matti Nieminen January 2005
Its now 2005 and you guys started in 1986 how have you changed in those
years? Well our music has changed of course.It would be very
boring and painful if we just put out the same formula psychobilly
album out all time.
What is formula psychobilly in your opinion?
you know...graveyards, bats, monsters,and musically its a formula also.So
many bands, even top bands have been putting out the same record for years!
How many songs can you write about monsters? What about the REAL monsters
that live among us and want to blow us up? That doesn't mean you have
to be political but use your imagination.
Psychobilly is a sound its a style-but sadly many bands have
made it into a cartoon.
There is a big market of people who love all that bats and monsters shit
but Im not writing for them.It would be too easy and I wouldn't get any
satisfaction from that- I write for myself.
You had some songs about bats and monsters on the first Quakes album--Ya
we did...(laughs) that was back in 1988 and those songs were written a
year or two before that...Hell I was still in high school when I wrote
some of those- back then it wasn't so cliche'.Its now 2005 and done too
much- I wouldn't start a punk band and write songs about anarchy in 2005....
-we wanted to be popular on the scene and we thought that's what we HAD
What do you mean you HAD to? Meaning we were trying to get
a record deal and be popular on the psycho scene so we played fast and
wrote songs about walking in the graveyard-(laughs)--Im just saying be
original--after that album we went in many new directions.
Do any of your songs have any political messages? Not directly.Its
not really politics- I just think of it as social commentary- Its easy
to write about what I see going on in front of me. Its much harder to
make up a story. Sometimes people get the wrong messages from
my lyrics and I have to explain to them the real meaning- and some songs
don't mean anything at all (laughs).
How do you write songs? well I need
to be unhappy(laughs)- most of my best stuff comes from frustration- its
a release for me to put negative energy into.
What happened to Rob Peltier?- I don't
know- he is not interested in playing in The Quakes anymore-people change...I
still see him when I visit Buffalo.
You have had several line up changes over the
years, are you hard to work with? Yes Iam....but Im misunderstood(laughs)
I expect that everyone has the same enthusiasm about this music that I
do.Im a details guy and I like to get things right.In general musicians
tend to be guys who are late, guys that drink too much, guys that take
drugs, and just plain fuck ups and I don't like that. I have been lucky
in that most of the guys that Ive played with haven't been a problem.
When I go on tour, Im there because the people want to hear the music
and I expect that the guys in the band act professional at all times-
I don't want guys all drunk acting like assholes-especially in a foreign
country where we not only represent the band but our country. Its not
a vacation for me to go to these places-its work and I like
Rob played on the first Tiger Army Cd?- ya-I was in San Francisco
and this guy who ran the coolest record shop in Buffalo was now working
at Amoeba records-so he told me there's this psychobilly guy working there
etc. etc.It was Nick 13- he said he was going to record a CD and needed
a bass player and so I gave him Robs phone number.
Do you like the cd? I didn't at first to be honest -but after
I saw Tiger army live a few times -I really liked some of the songs- Nick
is a good song writer.He takes a lot of crap from jealous people on the
scene but he's going to be around for a long time.
What about the scene in the USA with
bands like TA- Nekromantix-Horror pops?
Well what all of those bands have in common is they are all on Hellcat
records/Epitaph which is major---The reason psychobilly never caught on
before is because no bands were on a big label that had any power in the
industry. The power to put you on tour with Rancid or other bands that
have a big audience. Some other psycho bands have had major deals before
but not with the kind of push and effort that Hellcat has.-We were on
Sony/Japan but that was just for Japan there are
plenty of good bands out there and I think some of Epitaphs competition
will start to sign their own psychobilly bands.
What about The Quakes getting signed
to one of those labels?
(laughs) after years of being screwed I started my own record label-which
allows me to have total control over my art.
We don't play often enough and my line up changes often--I don't think
Im making the kind of music they (the labels) would be interested in----Im
not interested in selling it to the kids.Im 37 years old and
I don't write the same kinds of things I did when I was 20. Even if a
record company would let us do what we want- most of the contracts are
so one sided that there is no reward- only scraps from the table.Right
now I own all of my publishing and all copyrights. Sadly I don't own the
rights to the early Quakes stuff.I have a free advice section on our website
to advise bands who are getting into the biz--there is so much to learn!When
you are 20 you just want to be on a record and you don't think about publishing
rights and royalties.
You guys have had, in addition to very different sounding cds, different
looks can you talk about that? sure (laughs) At
the time of the first record we were all about bleached jeans and combat
boots and black trench coats- and bomber jackets- shaved sides--that look
suited our music at that time- when we did Voice of America we not only
wanted a different sound but a different look--it was more Peg pants-50s
styled shirts- creepers- Huge hair and make -up.
We got into the whole leather thing shortly after that because its easy
to wear Leather pants on tour .- they are rugged and they are COOL- we
took a lot of shit back then (1990) for wearing leather pants! It was
unbelievable--its the same with the make up thing--People will say- we
thought you were gay cause you wear make up and leather pants
I would answer them with....well Brian Setzer-Adam Ant- Billy Idol- Gene
Vincent,Eddie Cochran ,etc. all wear leather pants....are they gay too?
and what about MIKE NESS? Is he a fag?...he wears eyeliner.......- you
cant win with some of the idiots out there who don't get it.Ya know they
found a guy frozen in the ice in the Alps who had been there for 5000
years! He had leather pants and Tattoos!
People gave us crap for the picture of us on the New Generation cover
(Nervous cover not Sony)---but we wanted to be like Duran Duran or Depeche
mode--in the sense that we wanted an audience full of hot chicks dressed
in black etc.---The cd was kind of pop and we were trying to cross over
into that whole scene--ya know? we were into New Wave and Gothic etc.
When the Quiff Rock cd came out, you seemed to
have abandoned that style for a more of a back to the roots
of the Quakes--Ya, I thought that would be our last album so
I wanted to go out like that.
There was a long gap between Quiff Rock and your
last album Last of The Human Beings...why? Well- I moved to
Phoenix and got married for one thing- we were not having any luck finding
a drummer so it seemed like the end-this was back in 97 before the whole
scene got going in California etc.
Why haven't you put out anything since?
Im working on it! Basically since I am the record company now,that means
I have to pay for everything- so its a financial thing and not a creative
thing- I probably have about 30 songs now and some are already recorded-
I have to whittle them down to 15 or so.
Any hints as to what we might expect?--Well
of course it will be different from the others but I think I have a style
that permeates what I do regardless- so if you like the Quakes, you will
like the new album.
Will it be just you or a whole band recording
this one? I ask because on the last cd it was basically you right?
Yes I played most of the stuff- I had Chris play on most and a studio
drummer on a couple-we didn't have a bass player then .I will probably
do most of the recording myself.These days the members of The Quakes live
all over the world so its hard to get us all in one spot.
I like to play all the stuff myself but I want to try to get a few songs
done with the whole band if that can be arranged.
What do you think of the new psychobilly bands
today? Well there are some good ones out there for sure- some
are not entirely psychobilly like the Seven Shot Screamers who are kind
of in that gray area between psychobilly and neobilly---Im not a fan of
the bats and monsters style psycho bands that seem to make
up most of the scene-----There is a real lack of creativity out there-
If I hear one more cover version of tainted love Im gonna
This scene suffers from the same disease that the rockabilly scene does
in that you get all these guys trying to re create the 50s--with
all sorts of rules as to what is acceptable- basically these people are
just preaching to the choir- with the Quakes we always wanted to be big
outside of the scene.We wanted to be successful because we had good songs.
When the Stray Cats sold a million albums in the USA it wasn't all rockabilly
guys buying those records- it was a lot of different people cause those
songs were good- were they rockabilly? absolutely but it was GOOD!
I think those bands on Hellcat have the potential for that crossover and
I think that Tiger Army and Horrorpops are headed in that direction- I
think they will lose some fans but they will gain a lot more and be free
to expand on the genre.
What about this PR3 project in Finland?
Well that started as a result of me meeting my girlfriend in
Helsinki and moving over there. I put that band together so I could play
lots of gigs- not only did I want to play but it was a source of income
for me as Im not allowed to work in Finland (legally).
And you are playing Quakes songs?
ya- its not really a solo project, Im just playing my songs-
95% are Quakes songs and a few new ones that will probably be on the next
You have a new lineup now? Rumor is you had some trouble with the band
members? (laughs) ya- I did- I don't want to get into the whole
thing at this time but in a nut shell, they were arrested in Germany while
we were on tour so I fired them and canceled the rest of the shows. I
have a new line up now with Tommi Häninnen on drums and Lauri Valkonen
on slap bass. Those guys play in the band 9 Lives and are real professional.
When Lauri cant play, I got a guy from Helsinki-Aki Savolainen and he's
real good also. I have noticed that the musicianship here in Finland is
real good and its easy to find great players here.Why
do you think that is? I don't know,maybe its the water(laughs)
Do you like living in Finland? Yes-
its cool- its very different here- very peaceful and laid back- Being
the consummate complainer that I am I could tell you whats wrong with
it all day!(laughs) Because of the visa situation I have to go home every
three months for a while.
Can you speak Finnish? (laughs) a
little bit-I can understand better than I speak. I learn more all the
time-its very hard-lucky for me that most people can speak english here.
Ok lets get into some other areas here.What else do you do besides music?
Any hobbies? Well music is a hobby really cause I don't make
a living doing this but I like to go fishing and I play ice hockey when
Im in Phoenix-camping-panning for gold in the mountains...stuff like that
Where your parents supportive of your music? My father died
when I was 10, but my mom was always supportive of my music. She recently
What other types of music do you like? Im
really into 80s new wave-I was as a kid and I still am- there are
songs Im still just discovering. Kind of like the rockabilly thing where
they keep finding lost recordings. I like western swing a
lot. Heavy metal- Blues etc. there is all kinds of great stuff out there
if you look.
Most people are not "lookers"- they listen to what ever music
is placed in front of them by radio or tv- a real music fan SEARCHES to
find gems that others have missed.Nothing will ever be as exciting musically
as when I first discovered rockabilly.
How old were you?Well I was listening
to some bands that were rockabilly before I even knew that term-there
was a band called the Kingbees that played great rock n roll/rockabilly
and others at that time-this was like 1979-80- I was 12 or 13--When I
saw the Stray cats on MTV, I thought that they were some British new wave
act and the whole 50s thing was just their schtick cause
you had Adam and the ants doing the Pirate thing and Madness- Duran Duran-
everyone had a look--I remember my older brother had Built
for speed and I would hear him play it once in while- then I got it and
it just grabbed me. Then I read their interviews and went out and bought
Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.Hearing Be-Bop A lula for the first time
brought tears to my eyes- It was as though I had found what I was looking
for- I had found my true identity.
What's in the future? Im going to
continue to play and record my stuff- We just got back from The Ukraine
which was a great place and we went to Russia last summer so Im getting
to travel to new places and play for fans that really appreciate us coming
there- I will never get tired of that.
Last thoughts? Look for the new Quakes cd in May?Thanks to
all the people that have been coming to the shows and sending emails.