Friday, 13 June 2014

TURN ME ON: An interview with Vasco of Swiss garage/beat band The Royal Hangmen!

Below is our exclusive interview with Vasco from The Royal Hangmen, enjoy!
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What is your earliest musical memory and what pushed you towards pursuing a career in the music business?
"I can recall receiving my first portable tape recorder at the age of six, together with a tape from Elvis Presley and another one with some hillbilly country and western music on it. From then on the fire was lit and it never stopped since. By watching those early seventies television shows, with chart-acts doing lip-sync, I became impressed with the idea of performing in front of people. This, and the music of the Beatles finally made me pick-up guitar lessons."
What kind of records were on around the house when you were younger and would you say that these records still influence your music today?
"Luckily, my parents had a good collection of sixties beat and rock records, and I was amazed not only by the music but also by the beautiful cover artwork. I remember hearing lots and lots of Beatles. There were also LP’s by The Who, Janis Joplin and The Rolling Stones. Apart from that they had 45’s from Jimi Hendrix ('Hey Joe'), Arthur Brown ('Fire') and some Pretty Things. This musical education definitely put me in a certain direction and has still a great impact on the music I do today."
Had you been involved in any other bands or musical ventures before The Royal Hangmen?
"I’ve played in a few bands before starting the Hangmen. The first being a Sisters Of Mercy-influenced gothic trio, then at the end the 80’s, as I was digging more and more into 60’s garage, I played guitar in The Vertical Drops, one of the few 80’s garage bands in Switzerland. But we’ve only released two tapes and never made it much further. Some years later I’ve started my first own band The Vicious Circle. With them I started singing and writing all the material for the first time. Despite releasing an album on CD, this group also didn’t make much of an impression and disbanded soon after the release. Then I took a very long break until the idea of forming a garage band came around..."
How did The Royal Hangmen begin?
"In the first place there was Roger (bass) and me. We had worked together as DJ’s for quite some time, and on one of those nights we thought it may be a good idea to play some of this stuff by our own. Our intention was just to fool around a bit, playing 60’s garage covers with no more than three chords, and having a good time. But a guitar and bass is not much of a band, so we watched out for a drummer and an organ player. Very quickly we found Christopher for the banging and completed the line up with Patrick on the organ. We spent quite a lot of time and money until we collected the right equipment together. It was clear for us that we need to have vintage gear to achieve the right sound. After our first gig, we were approached by some guys to record a demo. Strangely, when we put up that demo on MySpace, there were people from France and Greece becoming interested in our band which led to our first releases on compilations, playing abroad in France and finally to our first 7” on Greek label Lost In Tyme records."
Can you introduce us to the band and tell us what you play?
"The actual line up consists of Roger on bass, Patrick on the organ, Daniel on harmonica and percussion, Luca on drums, and me handling the vocal and guitar duties. Daniel was added to line up in 2009 after Christopher, our first drummer, left in the summer of 2011 to become our booking agent."
Where did the name The Royal Hangmen come from?
"When the British beat boom caused a stir in the USA, lots of these bands pretended to be English, just to survive. We liked the idea of being this Swiss band, doing their 'English thing'. As you know, we’ve never had it much with royals in our country but for us as a band the British music culture is, and always will be the main influence. And to have hangmen at your service, was a necessity at certain times in the past...wasn't it?"
How would you describe the sound of The Royal Hangmen?
"As I mentioned before, we are very strongly influenced by all kinds of British bands. We all love The Who, The Small Faces, The Kinks, The Troggs, The Beatles and The Stones and so on. And off course we dig The Jam, Oasis and many others. Then, there’s all the American garage stuff from the sixties, that draws us in, and we all have a strong addiction for R&B and soul, too. So, that’s all the elements you can hear to some degree in our music."
You have released one eponymous LP to date. The cover has quite a retro look to it harking back to the fifties and sixties. Was this the concept behind the artwork and why did you choose this particular shot?
"A record cover should in some way express what can be expected on the inside. And of course, we can be seen as a 'retro band', but I think we also have a contemporary element in our music. The photo of the band was meant to look like the early cover shots of those sixties beat bands."
The CD version of the LP features one cover track entitled ‘Bird Doggin’’. Where did you first hear this track and what pushed you into recording your own version?
"I discovered this track while searching for new stuff to play as a DJ. It amazed from the first listening, especially not knowing that Gene Vincent did such terrific stuff in the mid-sixties. I just knew his 50’s tunes until then. As a band, we started with just doing cover versions. There was no intention to write our own stuff. This has changed over the years, and we now play mostly our own songs. But we never stopped doing other peoples songs, because it’s fun and it is also a good exercise. When it came to choosing tracks for the album, we were working on 'Bird Doggin'', liked the way it sounded, then decided to include it."
The album also featured the two tracks from your double A-sided single, ‘Mary Jane’ / ‘You Better Tell That Girl’. What is ‘Mary Jane’ about and what influenced it?
"Musically, I wanted to do an up tempo garage rocker with a garage punk feel. The lyrics have a double meaning. You can think that it is about a wrecked love affair, or something else that has more to do with plants..."

What about ‘You Better Tell That Girl’?
"This one’s also about a love affair, which is about to end. But this time there’s a ray of hope. The guy in the song needs to be convinced to make up his mind and forgive her for being so cruel. I’m very happy with the twelve string jingle-jangle sound of this song, influenced by The Byrds and The Chesterfield Kings."
Your style of music has quite a retro edge to it but what are your views on the current music scene?
"As there is not much music in the last few years that can actually be called 'new', it seems like almost everything these days is in some ways sort of retro. Generally, everything with a good hook, nice guitars and decent songwriting turns me on. And occasionally there pops up a band here and there, that I really like."
Do you have any 'rituals' before you go on stage?
"No, we don’t. We just go out and play and beat the shit out of it."
Any live dates coming up?
"We are going to play with US-psych band The Warlocks in March, and we will come over to England for the very first time. So far, we are booked for the Trip Out Festival in Bedfordshire in September, and are now looking for other shows over there to make it a proper tour."
Any new songs in the pipeline?
"We are working on new songs, but nothing is finished yet. Since the release of the album, we’ve been playing a lot and did not have enough time to concentrate on the new stuff. Our plan is to finish the new songs in the summer, and then try them out live and eventually record them at the end of the year. We are a very slow working band and it always takes a lot of time until we have a song ready."

When can fans expect the next official release?
"The next project is already in the pipeline. We are doing an EP with cover versions of our favourite garage revival band’s of the 80’s. Recording is scheduled for March, the release will hopefully be before summer."
Who would be your dream collaboration?
"I would love to play some tunes with Noel Gallagher, one of the greatest songwriters alive."
Who would be in your dream super group?
"Otis Redding on vocals, Lou Reed on guitar, Steve Marriott on guitar and vocals, Paul McCartney on bass, Kenny Jones on drums and Booker T. Jones on the organ." 
Favourite Beatle?
Favourite band?
"Velvet Underground."
Favourite new band?
"Jake Bugg."
Favourite song?
"Pale Blue Eyes, Velvet Underground."
Favourite album?
"There are so many favourite albums, I can't decide on one."
Vinyl, CD or download?
When you press shuffle on your iPod, what is this first song that comes on?
"I don't have an iPod..."
Style icon?
"Mick Jagger."
Favourite film?
"The Big Lebowski."
Favourite TV show?
"Mad Men."
Who would play you in a film of your life?
"Robert de Niro."
Favourite food?
"Italian pasta."
Football team?
"No sports, please!"
Photography by, taken from The Royal Hangmen facebook page!
Hope you enjoyed this feature on The Royal Hangmen!
Be sure to check out our previous feature on the Stone Thieves!
You can check out The Royal Hangmen here -
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