Voodoo Shock interview (part 1)
by Hegedüs Márk / Psychedelic Fanzine #11/#12
As true Psychedelic readers are aware of, VOODOO SHOCK is the new band of Uwe Groebel, who sang and played guitar in NAEVUS, releasing a cool album entitled "Sun Meditation" on the infamous Rise Above Records. After dropping Naevus because of bad sales (?), the band members went different ways. Uwe, as the only one, remained true to Doom Metal and after some years of silence he came back with a highly recommended and well done demo that led Voodoo Shock to a recording deal with psycheDOOMelic Records. In a new line-up (Uwe - guitars/vocals, Michael - bass, Specky - drums) they're ready to conquer the world with their actual full-length album.
To say the truth, I was in quite a hard situation completing questions for this interview, as I've known Uwe for several years, he's contributing to the Zine since Issue #2, and he's also doing the WebSite… We've met several times during the years, so I know almost everything about him, I even could write a book about his whole life… Haha… Nearly the same goes for Michael Greilinger, too, he's the band's actual bass player. Michael contributes to the Zine as well, we're in daily e-mail contact; I even spent one week at his flat this summer changing minds about music and enjoying beautiful Switzerland…
Although the above, I tried to figure out some interesting questions, hope that you, dear readers, will enjoy the band's answers; all three of them contributed to the interview. (HM)
- As many of the Psychedelic readers are aware of, Michael is contributing to the Zine as well, but just a few know that he's musically active since a long time, too. Please introduce yourself in a couple of sentences, covering where/when and why you started listening and playing music.
(Michael) Well well, in the beginning there was light in the shape of a "Deepest Purple" tape which I often got to hear from my brother. I was about ten or eleven then. In the following years this plus, by the way, a Beatles compilation tape led the way into the depths of heavy music. Starting out with some wimpy poser bands I soon got into Motörhead and Iron Maiden, and at the age of about fourteen, I was lucky top discover Black Sabbath's Paranoid. One more year later, I was even luckier to hear Saint Vitus on the Rock-show on a Swiss radio program. This led the way into doom. But I didn't start playing doom back then; I ended up as the bassplayer in a really bad high-school heavy metal band, which split up after six months. Then I ended up being the bassplayer in a better heavy metal band, which also featured the drummer of now well-known Swiss Thrash/Crossover band GURD. Then I took a break from active musicianship, but not neglecting the doom. I always wanted to play in a doom band and now the time was high. After some line-up changes the next band evolved into what some people may remember as WINDFALL, probably the only Swiss doom band at that time. After about two years and a demo, we split and I ended up in a space/noiserockband called PHASED 4°F. We did a couple of releases and self organised tours and after five years I was somehow fed up. While still playing with Phased, I heard that Uwe, which I was in loose touch with for a couple of years, needed a bassplayer and a drummer. That's where VOODOOSHOCK came in.
- Your first Doom band was called Windfall that produced a demo and a live tape in its years. The demo was warmly welcomed in the doom underground, even an interview in the cult Reflections of Doom followed, and the band also played one of the "Doom in Bloom" festivals in Bietigheim, Germany... I heard the demo many years after the band folded, and to say the truth I wasn't really into the demo, so how would you value it nowadays, and please tell us your memories about the years in/with Windfall.
(Michael) Mark, I know this demo was far from being perfect and it gives me pain in my stomach if I listen to it nowadays...but, there's always a but, I guess it was one hundred percent honest. The songs were some of the first songs we did together, and they just were what we wanted to play. "Play" was another keyword, as we weren't real good players back then. This was the first band I ever played guitar in. And as for the recording, I never used such a complicated four-track machine before, hehe. But this was, in my opinion, the good point about the band. We just did it, we didn't talk and plan for hours, we just had some beers and went for it. And back when we released the demo, we got quite good reactions and sold about 150 copies of it worldwide. I still do think that people recognized that honesty and directness in the music. Many people said things like: "The vocals and the sound could be better, but I still like it." More positive memories come from the fact, that this was a time when the doom underground had started to flourish. It was so easy to get in touch with people, discover new bands, trade demos etc. Today we have the Internet and CD-R's and Psychedelic'Zine instead of Reflections...back then, this all was new and very exciting to me. On the basis of all that good feedback, also from local gigs, we planned to do another demo, which easily might have been a lot better musically. But that's the point where bad memories come in. I don't want to go into detail, but due to reasons beyond my control, the other two members more and more developed attitudes I couldn't deal with, so I left my own band, which I loved like a baby. I guess Phased was a pretty good alternative to join back then, so I optioned for that.
- Speaking yet about "Doom in Bloom", I was quite a young guy back then, so I couldn't come to the festivals, just saw a few videos later on... Please tell us which bands you did play with, and try to describe the atmosphere of such an event.
(Michael) Take it easy as I only attended the last of these festivals, the last until next February, hehe. But the "Doom in Bloom" festival back in 1997 was a great evening from start to finish. Bands we played with were Mirror Of Deception, Dreaming, Grief Of God, Jack Frost, Subversion and Naevus. Dawn Of Winter were supposed to play as well, but they couldn't make it. As in my answer before, this was relatively new to me and we were very excited about the whole thing, it was great fun to get to know all the bands in persona, that you knew from trading tapes etc. Windfall were rather new to the scene, but I guess we left an impression there, even if it's only due to our wretched equipment and our alcohol level, hehe. The only negative point was the attendance of the event, in the end it was more or less the bands playing for each other, but I don't know how this was at the events in the preceding years.
(Uwe) "Doom In Bloom" was the third (doom) festival I organised for the youth-club in Bietigheim with Oli (also NAEVUS, today SACRED STEEL and My Darkest Hate). It's been a cool time and the underground scene was very different than today. We've had about 70 or 80 visitors (but including (!) the band members). We were all friends and had an excellent time back then. Almost all involved doom bands in Germany met there.
- Phased was your next band, which had many releases and tours over Europe. Can you list us those outputs, and please tell us, why you released the last album on LP only? Don't you think that CD's could have sold better or are/were you all dedicated vinyl collectors?
(Michael) There's quite a bunch of stuff we released, first there was a 10" sampler, which Phased-mainman Chris released on his own label. It had five bands on it, including ourselves, all covering Swedish punkrockers "The Leather Nun". Then there was the next 10" on white vinyl called "Plainfield". It's still available and features four songs, but two were recorded earlier with the very first five-piece line-up, plus two with the last five-piece formation. This is available on CD as well, including a bonus track. The same line-up then did the LP "Schtomp and Decadence", which is sold out by now. Then there was a split 7" with French noise-rockers THREE GUYS. This was the first release with the revamped three-piece line-up. Then, shortly before I left, we recorded a new album, tentatively titled "Music For Gentlemen (And Assorted Ladies)". We don't know yet who will release it on which format, but I can say this was the best work the band had done. Compared to the older noisy, droning stuff, this was more rocking, yet retaining a strange twist to it.
As for the question of the format of the releases, we hardly had problems selling the LPs and 10"es. Of course we were often asked "Don't you have this on CD?" but - despite the fact that we're all vinyl freaks - it was also a question of money. All records were self released and so if we had to pay for it ourselves, we wanted to have it the way we liked best. And that was definitely vinyl....
- Talking about tours with Phased, you have given many concerts all around Europe. Talk a bit about the tours that you've done with Phased, and let us know, how many visitors you've had at the gigs. Which countries/cities were the best to play, and how could you finance the tours yourself without the promotion and support of a label.
(Michael) Imagine a couple of people cruising all around shitty towns in Europe with a case of beer in the bus...that's how the tours were. No, seriously, most tours were organized by our old bassplayer Judith, and one by me, and the last one we did even by a booking person from outside the band. Most concerts were in Germany, Aachen and Wuppertal were always great to play many connections there and enough people showing up. Belgium was good as well, we played Liege and Kortrijk every year, and we also had some stints to Denmark, Holland, France and Austria. One very good evening, by the way, was together with DREAMING in Zschopau. The attendance depended a lot on what band you played with, what reputation the club had, and if the promoter did hang up some posters that were expensively shipped to him from Switzerland. Range of visitors was between none and 200. As for the financial side, some of the shorter tours paid off a little or broke even. When you don't have to drive too far and you have a cheap bus, then it turned out like that. As for the longer tours, this was a different story. Sometimes we even had a driver and a soundman, and you need a good bus then. But we often got some support from either the cultural department of Basel, or from some private donations, which helped us to break even. I mean, these tours didn't pay off, but at least it's good to know, someone gives you a grand or two and then you're even. Usually, we made the best money at Swiss gigs that helped a lot as well...
- As we stated above, Phased played some kind of noisy rock with influences from such bands like Killdozer, Unsane and Neurosis. In many of our previous conversations you've stated Killdozer as one of your favorite bands in this musical department. Please let us know what you like on them the most, which album(s) of them you'd recommend for starters. Also, what's your mind about the Killdozer cover performed by the Teeth of the lions rule the divine project?
(Michael) Killdozer were a lot better than many of the back then prestigious AmRep and Touch & Go bands, because of many reasons. First, they wrote memorable songs with excellent lyrics, a true gem for lovers of post modern lyric! Secondly they were brilliant players with balls and a flair for rhythms different than the usual fourbeat thing, but still very, very listenable. Then they had a unique sense of humor lyrically, musically and image-wise...and their singer's got one of the most unique voices, whiskey drenched and just plain cool. As for albums, check out their masterpiece "Twelve Point Buck" or the last studio record "God hears pleas of the innocent..." or "Little Baby Buntin'". Their earlier stuff is less easy to digest, but still worth a spin or twenty. Teeth Of The Lions' version of "New pants and shirts" from "12 Point Buck" is pretty OK, guess they're the first band ever to cover Killdozer. But I'm really not sure if they got the chords of the chorus right...but definitely a good choice.
- Before going over to Voodoo Shock, please tell us, why you left Phased, and also, how do you see the future of the band? Are you still in contact with them?
(Michael) Well, I was getting to old for this shit...no; I just couldn't identify too much with it in the long run and didn't feel the same enthusiasm as some time ago. Funny enough, the music developed in a manner which I liked a lot, but still, it was just a feeling that I didn't suit me anymore. There have also been some differences concerning the next steps of the band and stuff like that, but that wasn't that important for my decision. As far as I know, they have a new bassplayer, who can play all their stuff after three practices. And the best thing is, he's not as fat and ugly as I am and he's a student as well, so Chris can continue his intellectual brabblings on somebody else...no, honestly, I'm glad they found a replacement that quick and that they will continue. Hope they can achieve something with their new record...if it's out, buy it! And indeed, we do have some beers every other week, so everybody's more or less happy.
- Let's talk a bit about Voodoo Shock's main man, Uwe Groebel. When did you get in contact with him the first, was it at the last "Doom in Bloom" festival in Germany? What's your opinion about their time with Rise Above with his former band Naevus?
(Michael) I first got in touch with him because of the Naevus demo "Autumn Sun", which up to day is a brilliant piece of work, probably the best doom-rock ever to arise out of Germany. Somebody I knew, who had it already, played it to me, so I ordered it. I kept a bit in touch with him, also because a Naevus 7" should have been released and then about a year later, of course, because of the festival. He invited WINDFALL, thanks for that again, by the way. Then we lost each other for about two years, but via my good friend Roger Kolb from TOLLWUET, I always heard what was up in the Naevus camp. I also bought their CD, which I thought was OK, but not as good as the demo...when NAEVUS split up and he came back with Voodoo Shock, we got back in touch, I have been to their first concert, and they supported PHASED at our record release party in Basel.
Anyway, I don't really know, what went wrong with their Rise Above deal. As far as I know, they got dropped because of poor sales. But that's the way things are going today... maybe they should have gotten them more promotion and touring. But this somehow all failed, don't ask me why. Maybe there have been communication problems, maybe Rise Above didn't like the band anymore, who knows.
- After Voodoo Shock recorded and released its first demo (with the old line-up), they played, besides the Mirror of deception gig, in Basel as well. How did it come, and what were the reactions?
(Michael) We needed a support band for our record release party, because everybody else we wanted to play with us, amongst them Tollwuet, couldn't make it. So, maybe a week before the gig happened, I asked Uwe if he wanted to play in Basel, and they said yes, so that was basically it. There weren't too many people showing up that night, unusual, as Phased always drew a pretty decent crowd in Basel. And even fewer people seemed to get into them, but I remember people asking me, when VS played St.Vitus' "Patra", if this was a Melvins song....but all in all most of them who saw them seemed to enjoy them.
(Uwe) From my side I would say that the second show was a lot better than the first one a week before. We still had a lot fault in playing but the feeling was right and we enjoyed it. The only problem was that my amp blew during the intro already and I've needed to change during the song into the Marshall from Chris (PHASED), but it worked out very quickly and very professional (oh yes!).
- The guys (Matze and Oliver from the band End of Green) who Uwe worked with on the first demo left the band under mysterious circumstances. Any comments on their departure?
(Uwe) They're both lazy and not reliable guys. At least in the things what I thought we needed it that way. To wait three times at a rehearsal and when no one shows up after an hour waiting, that's a shame. Also I don't have time to rehearse half an hour and talk 2 hours while drinking beer and smoke. I wanted to work. But that's the way they like it. I don't blame them, it's just not the kind of working I have in mind to be productive.
- After Michael and Specky joined Voodoo Shock there were a couple of rehearsals hold in Basel. How were they, and how long did you jam before going into the studio to record the album?
(Michael) First of all, we didn't join him, he rented us, he has to pay us huge amounts of money, that's why he and his family moved to a one-room flat now..... Basically we jammed for two weekends. The first weekend it was Friday night, Saturday and Sunday, and we did six or seven songs already. The second one we had Saturday and Sunday and did like three or four more songs and practiced the set. These two weekends were amazing as already after a few chords into the first song we did, "Fountain Of Freedom", we felt that this was just the right chemistry. Of course it was relatively easy to practice the songs, because Uwe sent demoversions beforehand, and we also had to change surprisingly few of the arrangements, but it went that well that we were left with astonishment on our faces. So for the following weekend, we were ready to record the basic tracks.
(Uwe) That's why I rent my guitars for weeks and I'm not able to play a single note, because they both were too expensive. Now I have something to eat again at home…
- When and where did you record the songs, who was the producer and what kind of best and hard parts come to your mind when remembering on the recording sessions?
(Michael) I'll start with the hardest part first, as this still gives me nightmares. Specky, the drummer, and me, recorded live together in one room. And while playing a real long song, possibly it was "Showtime", he farted that heavily, producing the ugliest stench from hell that one could ever imagine, and I just couldn't run away, because of course, the music comes first and I didn't want to interrupt the song. The best parts were many, as most of the songs didn't need more than two takes to have them recorded well. One highlight possibly was the recording of The Moody Blues' "Nights In White Satin", as this was in fact a totally spontaneous decision. Don't remember who came up with it, but we drove to a shop to get a CD with it, found out about the chords and the changes and just tried to go for a slow version of it, which materialized after two and a half takes. As for the studio, this was in a little place called Backnang, close to Stuttgart, where Voodoo Shock had recorded their demo before. Ecki, the owner of the studio, and André, a mate of Ecki, who did a fantastic drumsound, engineered the recordings and did the mix.
(Uwe) In my opinion all recording sessions went easily. After recording all guitars we've made some changes with the sound and I re-recorded some guitar tracks after two months or so because after a while we found out that some timing problems were here and there. That comes when you record the whole day through without a break, and when you're too sure that all comes easily. Or on the other hand I've been a bit nervous and then you're too fast while recording as you want it to be perfect. Some things you only hear after some weeks of listening.
- Uwe, you have experimented a lot on the album with different guitar sounds. Did you use the same effects like on the demo, or have you brought in new equipments as well? How does your (guitar) sound evolve in your opinion?
(Uwe) I used the same gear. An ENGL 50W straight amp from 1990, a Marshall 4x12 celestion and a Laney 4x12. Every guitar was recorded with one micro each in front of the speaker and was put in the right volume in the mix. I recorded first for the right or left side. Normally I use the distortion effect from the ENGL which is a bit crunchy. Sometimes I took less distortion and on some tracks I used a BIG MUFF, but always in the mix with the other sound. There are too many productions having the BIG MUFF only.
- What are your personal favorite songs on the album, please list three songs each and explain us why do you like them the most?
(Michael) First there's "Tomorrow's Bloom", which has that early Sabbath feel to it, and lots of different parts leading into a real slow and heavy ending riff. Then there's "Lady", I really like the slow beat of it, combined with a cool bridge riff and a faster, six-beat solo-part. Uwe sings excellent on this one and also I'd say "Living In Paradise", which has a floating feel to it and to me, is incredibly deep, culminating in a heavy middle section, going back into the floating main part.
(Uwe) Hard to choose from, as I wrote all the songs… I would say "Rainbow Sky", "Lady" and "Tomorrows Bloom". Those three songs have important lyrics to me.
(Specky) My personal favorite is "Tomorrow's Bloom". It just feels so good to play that song! The other songs I enjoy playing are "We cry" and "Nights in white satin".
Go to part 2...
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