The Cynics: Rock’n’roll is a very jealous bitch

Pablo Gonzalez, Angel Kaplan, Gregg Kostelich and Michael Kastelic. The Cynics for 4-4

The Cynics ble dannet i Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania i 1983, og har holdt det gående mer eller mindre kontinuerlig siden den gang. Med ett bein i garasjerocken og det andre i en pøl med relaterte stilarter tilhører de en eksklusiv gruppe artister som The Cramps og Dead Moon: Standhaftige, rettroende og ikke minst sikre leverandører av pur, uforfalsket Rock. Stor R.

Sentralt i bandet står Gregg Kostelich og Michael Kastelic, førstnevnte gitarist, produsent og grunnlegger av det helt supre plateselskapet Get Hip (i tillegg til The Cynics, ansvarlig for utgivelser med blant andre A-Bones, Thee Headcoates, Gore Gore Girls, våre egne Kwyet Kings, Sloppy Seconds, Hellacopters og en drøss andre ujålete band). Vokalist Kastelic har vrengt lungene sine i tre tiår, mens rytmeseksjonen har derimot vært svært omskiftelig.

Det har ikke alltid vært like lett å bli en del av partnerskapet til Kostelich og Kastelic, forteller den omgjengelige vokalisten til meg:

– The rhythm section changes over the years are very frustrating! I guess Gregg and I are both very extreme personalities, so sometimes we just drive people nuts! I also think we’ve had some people who like the idea of being in a band but they are not really true musicians.

– Rock and roll can be a very sad and hard life sometimes and if you don’t have it in your soul, then you can’t hang for decades like we have. You find other things that take priority like families, love or real jobs. But rock’n’roll is a very jealous bitch and she won’t let anything or anyone be more important, she owns your soul. Adam and Nathan, the two brothers we have in the band playing bass and drums now, are real musicians, and live only to play. This makes them my favorites ever to play with.

Psychedelic lollipops & midnight special
Jeg ber Kastelic fortelle litt om bakgrunnen til hvordan han og Gregg startet det hele, og han kan berette om hvordan tilfeldigheter førte dem over til en viktig innflytelse: Blues Magoos:

– Gregg and I have had a very similar musical development over the years. We both have childhood memories of hearing 60’s stuff like the Stones & Paul Revere and The Raiders and especially The Blues Magoos’ Psychedelic Lollipop album. We both have that record in common big time. My grandfather was a policeman and they arrested someone who had stolen a bunch of records from a little radio station. After his trial the radio station had replaced the records so my grandfather gave the stolen booty to me. It was stuff like The Blues Magoos, The Foundations, and of course The Animals, and it really blew my mind after listening to Winnie the Pooh records until then.

– As we were children in the 70’s we of course were drawn to the Bowie/Stooges/Cooper scene. I was really into Roxy Music, Eno, Velvet Underground, John Cale, Bowie. I remember seeing The New York Dolls and The Sparks on some TV show called Rock Concert and the David Bowie 1984 Floor Show on some show called The Midnight Special when I was about 10. I had a feeling that there was something more important than music going on. This of course led us to end up in the 70’s Punk scene. We were both in lots of punk bands in the early 80’s and late 70’s. Unfortunately punk rock only really existed until 1978, so being totally disgusted that our beloved punk rock had been corporatized and homogenized, we went back to the earliest music we remembered. Well it was that primal 60’s stuff that really sounded more punk than anything! We weren’t the first to realize this, and we soon discovered there were bands like The Lyres and The Fleshtones who were doing this sound.

Revenge of the living
Dette soundet har The Cynics i stor grad holdt seg til siden de startet i 1983. Det har ikke medført den store kommersielle suksessen, men det er en skjebne Kastelich ar slått seg til ro med:

– I’ve spent my life in the world of ‘sex drugs and rock’n’roll’ but it was a decision that I made when I was just a child. Of course I had planned to be very rich and very famous, and that part of the plan never really worked out now did it? That started to become less and less important and now I’m actually grateful it never happened. If we had gotten money and fame I would probably be dead now.

Michael Kastelic har vært gjennom en ganske tøff periode. Det tok 8 år fra Get Our Way (1994) til den talende titulerte comebackplaten Living is the Best Revenge (2002). Hva skjedde egentlig?

– I find it really hard to believe. I was on drugs and a little jail time during that period. I also believe I had a nervous breakdown and was suicidal. It all seems like a dream now and in retrospect, it only felt like it was a few months, not years. At any rate there is no excuse and I cannot figure out why we don’t record more. We usually end up playing so much after a record comes out that recording a new one gets put aside…

Hvordan vil du beskrive deres hittil siste utgivelse som ble til i samarbeid med Tim Kerr?

– I really liked working with Tim Kerr. He has a fantastic attitude that puts you at ease, yet keeps you on your toes and trying your best. I think it’s a really great record. I really love the songs “Revenge”, “Making Deals”, and “I Got Time”. I also think the cover and layout are really outstanding.

– I still hope, in my mind though, that someday we can make a record that I will just love more than anybody else’s!! This could probably never happen because I can’t really look at my own work and be objective. I think I can feel it if a show is going well, but a record could be different at different times. Sometimes a record sounds great, and on a different day I don’t love it. Living is the Best Revenge is the best garage record I’ve heard in a while. It sounds best if you play it really loud and listen in a different room!!

Get hip, or get lost
– Personally, I’ve never been happier in my life. I think the band has a lot of really good fans who dig our music and that makes for really great tours and shows. I would much rather have a bunch of really cool people who know what the music is about, than to try to convert the world of assholes to garage rock. We still preach the good word, but remember, it’s Get Hip or Get Lost!!

Hvordan har bandet utviklet seg gjennom årene?

– I believe we are more focused now than in our early years. Older? Of course. Wiser? I dunno’ but I hope so. More Cynical? Maybe less cynical and more accepting of our fate. I think we’re more relaxed and comfortable in our own ugly skins, but that’s only natural. In most ways it’s still the same as the first show ever, every time we play I still get the same feeling. That feeling when Gregg’s guitar and my voice blend together to make this unique and thrilling sound. I’m really a fan of that perfect live show sound. It seems like we’re getting more of that magic lately than in some previous line-ups.

Som en av de opprinnelige garasjerockerne der ute, hva kan du si om dagens tilstand for genren?

– The state of garage rock today I think is very good. I realized this again when we put the band on MySpace and I see again how many young people are really into the sound and how many young bands are so good at it. There are of course always people who are trying to make garage rock into a commodity, and tell you that bad new wave like The Strokes is garage rock. But who cares? They can’t kill the punk spirit just by misrepresenting it. As long as there are snotty young brats, whether they have basements, or garages, or just make music alone in their rooms, then garage punk will live in the subterranean dark caves as it always has and always will. That’s where it belongs and the hip people know where to find it.

Hva kan publikum forvente av en konsert med The Cynics ?

– With Adam and Nathan in the band we like to do a straight forward ‘power set’, we call it. Just bang-bang-bang song after song without any breaks or me babbling. We try to do the songs that people like to dance to. You never know though, they can certainly play some of the ballads beautifully and we will try to throw in some different selections for each show. What can you always expect from The Cynics? The singer will be drunk and the guitar will be loud!

Kastelic kan også gi følgende eksakte beskrivelse av vårt land:

– Every time we have been to Norway it has been cold, expensive, delicious food and very beautiful. Beautiful people and beautiful scenes. The land, the air, the architecture, the fashions – I love it all! I know everyone in Norway knows how to dance and shake! I know the food is rich and filling! I know the liquor is very expensive!

Noen spesielle minner fra tidligere besøk?

– I remember going to the cool college radio station in Bergen in ’94, riding a train and seeing both moose, and the town of Hell, eating moose steak, playing in a fallout shelter, having my sinuses explode on a plane to Tromsø, hanging out with The Launderettes, Johan from Thee Mono Sapiens, Egon – the rock’n’roll mayor of Tromsø, how bad King Kahn’s body odor smelled in Moss, eating at a Chinese buffet in maybe Bergen again… In other words I have nothing but fond memories of Vikings and cavemen and cavewomen!

Sier Kastelic, som har hatt en nær-døden opplevelse også her:

– One time, we took a plane from Oslo to Bergen, and our tour manager & merch person took the van to the next place after Bergen. They almost died in a van accident in the ice & snow. If we were in the van we probably would be dead because all the backline crashed through the passenger area. So I know that Norway is lucky for us and the Nordic Gods approve!

Vi får håpe det går bra også denne gangen. Det er i hvert fall ingenting som tyder på at denne gjengen ikke gir alt når de nå igjen nærmer seg norske scener:

– As far as playing the punk garage in front of people, it’s something I can’t STOP doing. It’s an addiction worse than the smack. It is also very selfish on my part because I think I’m having a better time than the people in the audience!! Really, when I see people smiling and dancing it makes me so happy I want to cry. Sometimes I do cry…

Bjørn Hammershaug

Dette intervjuet ble først publisert i 2006.

Out of Time: Drop Out With The Barracudas (1981)

Da jeg en gang på tampen av 1980-tallet fisket fram denne i platehyllen var det mest sannsynlig på grunn av et konkret tips fra fyren bak disken. Hvorfor i all verden skulle jeg ellers ta med meg et eller annet obskurt 60-tallsband hjem? For etter det jeg husker tok det en stund før jeg faktisk innså at dette ikke var et amerikansk band fra en svunnen tid, men et britisk band out of time. Drop Out With The Barracudas spiller riktignok på soundet fra cirka 1965-66, men denne referanserike plata hever seg over noe så smålig som tidsepoker og går på tvers av geografisk opprinnelse.

Coveret framstiller fire smilende unge menn i sommerklær med surfbrett under armen, som om de er på vei til de evige bølgene som slår inn mot strendene i California. Illusjonen underbygges ytterligere av låttitler som ”Summer Fun”, ”California Lament” og ”On the Strip”. Men The Barracudas hørte ikke hjemme på solkysten, men i Londons dunkle underverden. Kort fortalt: Frontfigur Jeremy Gluck forlot hjemlandet Canada og Ottawa som 18-åring, landet midt i punkens mekka i 1977 og startet som skribent i Sounds. Under en konsert møtte han på sveitseren Robin Wills, noe som innledet et vennskap tuftet på en felles retro-romantisk interesse for Beach Boys, Flamin’ Groovies, Peebles-skiver, surfrock, garasjepunk og blomsterpop. Og det var nettopp denne uhippe cocktailen Gluck og hovedlåtskriver Wills mikset sammen i det som skulle bli The Barracudas. Bandet ble dannet i 1979, fullendt med en kortvarig rytmeseksjon bestående av David Buckley (bass) og trommis Nicky Turner.

På baksiden av omslaget til debuten (jeg sitter med den amerikanske Voxx-utgivelsen fra 1982, samme cover som over) tilkjennegir de dualiteten som var noe av bandets styrke. Two Sides of the Barracudas: Den ene halvdelen (Up Side, med låtene 1-7) er en variasjon av framsiden (knipsende surfgutter), mens den andre (Down Side) viser bandet fra en mer shady, gatesmart side (mer The Standells og The Seeds enn the Wilsons). Det er akkurat i dette spennet The Barracudas fant en nisje som viste seg å være slående effektiv, og de håndterte begge deler med lik evne for sylskarpe låter og genretro framføring uten at de endte som en novelty act, en sentimental pastisj på noe som en gang hadde vært. Snarere tvert imot, der lyden av (de fleste) andre band fra denne tiden – være seg post-punk eller New Romantics – kan tidfestes med ganske stor nøyaktighet, har The Barracudas etter over 30 vist en holdbarhet som tenderer mot det vi kan kalle tidløst.

La oss starte med sola. Semi-hiten ”Summer Fun” innledes av en morsom Plymouth Barracuda reklame-jingle, og lar bandet ba-ba-ba-ba-ba ønske oss velkommen inn i mer sorgløse tider: ”The sun is out, the feelings right, it’s all up to you, in the sun, Summer Fun”. Det er med glimt i øyet de leker med disse mytene i kjølevannet til Jan & Dean, enten de baser rundt på stranda, cruiser rundt ”On the Strip”, drar opp den obligatoriske tragedien (”His Last Summer”) – eller når de ønsker seg tilbake til 1965 og hoier ut den tidens diller (”Louie Louie, Shindig, Hullabaloo, Bandstand and where the action is too eight miles high”.)

Referansen til The Byrds er en naturlig inngangsport inn i the Down Side. Som en av de første virkelig store psykedeliske låtene viste ”Eight Miles High” veien inn mot et mørkere og mer forstyrret musikalsk uttrykk, som en motkulturell markør med en direkte gjenklang mot mer urolige tider i hjemlandet. De 7 låtene som utgjør the Down Side spiller på nettopp dette hamskiftet, da etterkrigstidens lysegrønne optimisme grunnstøtte mot ungdomsopprør, Vietnam og raseopptøyer. Og med et ekko av Roger McGuinns 12-strenger kiler en låt som ”Violent Times” seg inn som et ekko av powerpopen til The Raspberries og Flamin’ Groovies og et frampek mot jangle-popen til band som R.E.M og The db’s.

Stayed in all day
I was scared of getting killed
Didn’t pick up my pay
I know I’ll just get bills
Maybe it’s all in my frozen mind
We’re living in violent times

Den mørke versjonen av Buffy Sainte-Maries ”Cod’ine” har noe av den samme effekten av fortid møter nåtid, mens låter som ”I Can’t Pretend”, ”I Saw My Death In a Dream Last Night” (et vennlig nikk til Electric Prunes der altså) og ”This Ain’t My Time” minner om at denne skiva faktisk stammer fra en tid der band som The Clash og The Real Kids hadde sin plass, og det er i den utømmelige energien mellom surf og punk The Barracudas virkelig satte en ny standard.

Drop Out With The Barracudas preges av en inngående kjennskap til musikkhistorien laget av folk med usunt store platesamlinger. Det er ikke nødvendigvis en garanti for god musikk. Men så er tilfelle her. Dette er en klassiker fra sin tid, når enn det måtte være.

Tiden var ikke dessverre ikke på deres side hos plateselskapene heller, og karrieren gikk ganske raskt ned med badevannet. Bandet gikk i oppløsning i 1984, men de fant sammen igjen med ny besetning på tampen av tiåret. Jeremy Gluck har dessuten hatt fingrene sine borti mange andre prosjekter i årenes løp, blant annet med Eric Debris fra franske Métal Urbain og Nikki Sudden og Epic Soundtracks fra Swell Maps. Han er også en kritikerrost forfatter.

6. juni 2015 kommer bringer The Barracudas sommeren til Norge og Rypekroken Roadhouse i Lier.

Bjørn Hammershaug