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THE FUZZTONES - RUDI PROTRUDI INTERVIEW : "ROCK 'N'ROLL SAVED ME"


Il existe des groupes mythiques dans la scène rock, les Nomads, les Dictators ainsi que beaucoup d'autres. Les Fuzztones y ont une place à part... Leur chanteur Rudi Protrudi nous l'a expliqué !


Let's talk about your work as a drawer. You've created the record or cassette covers for Garage Sale / Sixties Rebellion / Best Of Pebbles for example. Can you tell us which artists inspire you or have inspired you?

As well as most of The Fuzztones and Jaymen covers. My main inspiration was the artists who illustrated the EC horror comics of the 50s, as well as Ed “Big Daddy Roth” and his creations, such as Rat Fink and various monsters driving customised hot rods.

Did you learn to draw by yourself and what is your way of working on drawings ? For example, did the drawing of the first LP take you a long time to do?


My parents were both artists. My mom put a pencil in my hand when I was two years old, and I’ve been drawing ever since. I majored in art in high school, and I did go to art school for a year after graduating, but ended up flunking out because I couldn’t keep up with the homework. They expected 8 hours of homework a night and I had a girlfriend at the time, so I ended up choosing sex over art. I went back to art school years later, but only managed one more year.

As for the album art, I assume you are referring to Lysergic Emanations and not our first album, Leave Your Mind At Home? Either way, I don’t really remember how long they took. What I do recall is that after I drew the Lysergic cover, I didn’t have the confidence in myself to color it, and therefore I had Adrienne Roy, who was colouring Batman comics at the time, do the colouring - after which I began colouring the covers myself.

Tell us what fascinates you about horror comics, who are your favourite artists and have you met them ?

I was obsessed with monsters when I was a young boy. Most likely because I was an outcast at school, and probably identified with them. Monster movies never scared me as a kid. I always loved the monster and rooted for him to win. As I was already drawing by that time,
I was, of course, very impressed when I discovered horror comics. The fact that EC comics had been banned was also a big selling point to me, as I’ve always been drawn to the forbidden. My favorite EC artists were Johnny Craig, G. Evans, Kamen… I was also into super hero comics as well. Mostly Marvel, who had the best artists in the 60s, especially Jack Kirby. I didn’t dig D.C. as much, with the exception of Gil Kane, who did Green Lantern.


Most American rock artists had their first musical shock with the Beatles at the Ed Sullivan Show, what was yours?


The Beatles as well. I was 12 when they made their debut, and it blew my mind. You have to understand that England may as well have been Mars for a 12 year old at that time in history. The accent, the look, and the music itself, was very different from the stuff we’d been listening to on the radio. Lesley Gore, Four Seasons, Beach Boys… And the fact that this music, and this band, were driving the chicks crazy was not lost on a 12 year old boy just starting puberty! I knew I had to get a guitar and from that point on I bugged my parents incessantly until they finally gave in.

You said you played in more than 40 bands. Do you still remember all of them and would you be able to play songs from all of them ? Did you feel like doing a
Fuzztones album with a song from each of them done in the Fuzztones way?


Sure, I remember each one quite vividly, as being in a band always meant everything to me.
As I said earlier, I was an outcast. Rock ’n’ Roll saved me! Could I still play the songs I used to? Sure, if I sat down and re-learned them, but a lot of what I played was top 40 radio hits, or later rock music that was popular in the 70s, like Jethro Tull, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, stuff like that. In Pennsylvania, where I grew up, the only way a band could get gigs was to play mainstream rock. And no, it was never a temptation to revisit that music through The Fuzztones.

Handsome Manitoba told us about their version of New York in the 70's, could you tell us what was your experience at the same time in this city?

Thanks for asking that, as it gives me a chance to hock my books! My autobiography, “The Fuzztone (Raisin’ A Ruckus)” goes into that in great detail. In can be ordered directly through me at info@fuzztones.net. 
But for our purposes here, I can just quickly summarise NYC at the time I lived there (1977 to 1987) as extremely dangerous (I lived in the lower east side, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village - Alphabet City to be exact). A lot of street gangs, dope addicts, murder, rape. But also a helluva lot of creativity amidst the ruins and carnage.

Which gigs from that time that you attended as a spectator do you remember the most and why?


I lived in NYC for ten years and am not exaggerating when I say that I went out every night except when I was sick. Each night I would go to at least 2 clubs and see whatever band was playing. I saw ALL of the NY punk bands from the Dolls to the Heartbreakers, Blondie, Patti, Hell - you name it. All of these bands were carrying on the Rock ’n’ Roll gospel, yet adding something new and vital to it. It was an extremely exciting time.

Did you follow the CBGB scene at that time?

Avidly! Even before we moved to New York, Deb and I would hitch to New York every weekend and go to CBGBs and catch whatever act was playing.

Tina Peel
Did you for example have contacts with
the Dictators, Blondie (...)?


Yes, we made friends with the Cramps and kept in contact before we even moved to New York. And I had auditioned for the Dead Boys while still living in Pennsylvania, so I was in touch with them as well. The others, not until we actually moved there. At one point Tina Peel, my band previous to the Fuzztones, auditioned Andy Shernoff from the Dictators, so I knew him, and Blondie’s drummer, Clem Burke, played briefly with a teen band called the Colors, who opened for Tina Peel, so I got to know him a little.
We also got to know Cherry Vanilla, Jackie Curtis, Howie Pyro, Bobby Steele (Misfits), Lenny Kaye, Syl Sylvain, Klaus Naomi, Annie Sprinkle (porn star), Lydia Lunch, Ann Magnuson, Pete Stampfel (from the Rugs and Holy Modal Rounders), Peter Jordan - who subbed for Arthur Kane in the Dolls when his girlfriend tried to cut off his thumb. Marky Ramone was with The Fuzztones for about two weeks, after Ira left. I knew the guys from Punk magazine pretty well too. And the Cramps. We used to go to each others apartments and play records.

What did you think of all these bands? Would you want to join one of them and if so, which one?

Yeah, like I said, all of these bands were carrying on the Rock ’n’ Roll gospel, yet adding something new and vital to it. We were super into the scene. And I almost did join one of the bands - the Dead Boys. I’d went to see the Dictators one night at CBGBs and the Dead Boys opened, and blew me away. Tuff Darts bass player was playing with them and I knew him from the Darts, so I went up to Stiv after the show and asked if they needed a bass player and he said they did. We arranged for me to audition, and I hitched to NY the next week and met them at CBGBs. They didn’t have their equipment there, so we all went into this tiny closet of a dressing room where Cheetah had a very small amp and, and we both plugged in. The other band members would suggest songs and we’d play them. I remember one was Eighteen by Alice Cooper. They seemed to like me so afterward they invited me to play a few songs with them THAT NIGHT at CBGBs! I had no idea who else was on the bill until we got there. It turned out to be a benefit for Punk magazine and the bill included the Paley Brothers, Blondie, Patti Smith, Richard Hell… and the Dead Boys. Oh yeah, David Johansen was the MC! I must’ve done pretty good because the drummer told me I was “in the band” and I was told to go home and pack. I was going to move to New York City. So I did. And I waited and waited. Finally, after two weeks, Jimmy Zero called and told me they’d decided to take their old bass player, Jeff Magnum… I retaliated by forming Tina Peel and moving to New York City.

Most bands learn to play by doing covers (like
the Rolling Stones). You've been in the music scene since the late 60's and still regularly fill us with covers. Why this love for them? In an interview you said that it had something to do with copyright, could you be more precise?


First of all, when I was forming The Fuzztones, there were really no musicians around who knew how to play this stuff - or were even familiar with Garage as a genre. Actually it wasn’t even called “Garage” at the time - that tag came later when journalists began to write about it. Anyhow I thought that, by learning covers of 60s garage bands, the band members could learn to play in that style, which would be necessary later, when we would write our own material. The band has gone through many line-up changes since then, and I have often found myself in the same position, trying to get musicians familiar with the style by covering bands from the 60s. The other reason we did covers was to introduce this great music an audience that was unfamiliar with it - just as the Stones did on their first two albums. I mean, without the Stones, I doubt many white teens back then would have the slightest idea who Blues artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed were. By our second album Lysergic Emanations, I had been to write originals - there are four on that album. I teamed up with Chandler, the singer for the Outta Place, and we became a writing team. We wrote Bad News Travels Fast,Brand New Man,She’s Wicked, It Came In The Mail,Me Tarzan You Jane,and Heathen Set. From then on I began writing a lot of the material by myself.
As for the copyright issue, that applied to Leave Your Mind At Home. Midnight Records released that, and they were notorious for ripping bands off, so I didn’t include any originals, saving them for when we would sign to a bigger label.

The Fuzztones opened for
the Lords Of The New Church and the Damned, what did you think of the evolution of these former punks ? Did you have a good contact with these two bands ? Do you have any anecdotes about them ?


I loved the Dead Boys but, honestly, I thought the Lords were a bunch of posers. But we had some good times on tour, since Stiv didn’t like them either, and always preferred to hang with us. The Damned? Mixed emotions about that. It took me quite awhile to appreciate their new direction (They’d just released Phantasmagoria) but basically they were good guys, except Rat Scabies, who was a pompous asshole who, at one point, sucker punched Deb and knocker her unconscious at the Hammersmith Palais.

What was your relationship with Screamin' Jay Hawkins? You describe him in interviews a bit like Ed Wood saw Bela Lugosi. Do you see parallels between these two artists?

Actually, I don’t recall ever saying he was a bit like Ed Wood or Bela Lugosi! He was a one-of-a-kind. Not like ANYONE else I ever met. A great talent and a good friend, who I miss to this day. By the way, we just re-recorded I Put A Spell On You, using a vocal track he did before he died, and will be re-recording another of his tunes, What Good Is It, again with one of his lost vocal tracks, and it will be released as a single on Cleopatra Records, so watch for it!

Can you tell us what it was like for you to record a Peel Session? Can you tell us how it happened?


I don’t really remember much about that, to be honest. We were already on tour in England, promoting Lysergic Emanations, and Peel was playing tracks off of it on the air, and I suppose he invited us to do a session. I don’t recall the reasoning at the time, but we decided to re-record three or four cuts that were on “Lysergic,” instead of doing material that hadn’t been recorded. I guess we thought we could promote “Lysergic” that way. We DID record one song, Epitaph For A Head that, luckily, hadn’t already been recorded, but in hindsight I wish we’d done more. The Peel session was unique though. All tunes were recorded live - first take. It took about an hour. Then we left and a couple weeks later the EP is out with the songs on it, all mixed, sounding great! Those guys were pros all the way!

Several musicians from The Outta Place played with you, could you tell us what the band meant to you ?

Well, they were kind of our “baby brother” band, the way the Stooges supposedly were to the MC5. Elan’s brother, Orin, was their bass player, and their organist, Shari, was Elan’s chick. I already knew their singer, Chandler, who was seeing Deb O’ Nair after we broke up, and when the Outta Place needed a singer, I recommended him. We did some shows together, and although they were all quite young, they were a great band. None of them were all that competent on their own but in the context of the band, and the simple garage stuff they covered, they did a great job. They were also really fun to be with, as they all had huge egos that made it fun to take the piss out of them. They also all had their addictions - Orin and Jordan were potheads, Chandler was an alike, as was Andrea, and Shari was a sex addict, which ended up breaking up the Fuzztones when I crossed a line that I shouldn’t have.

There have been quite a few Fuzztones bootlegs, I even read that the
Live In Europe album released in 1987 was made to counteract them. Is this true?


Yep. After spotting two or three - which all sounded like crap - we decided we oughta put a proper live album out. That album did extremely well. Music Maniac, the label we were on, gave me a gold record for that.

What is your relation to bootlegs and do you own any yourself. If yes, from which artists?

I love bootlegs if they are at least half decent quality. Especially if there’s something different and unique about the performance. I have bootlegs of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, the New York Dolls, Iggy - and what makes them cool is that they do songs that aren’t on any of their albums. I have a rare single of the Stones doing Cocksucker Blues that the shop had under the counter and was afraid to sell to me for fear they’d get busted!I’m actually thinking of releasing a FUZZTONES BOOTLEG comprised entirely of songs we only ever played out once. I actually have enough for two albums!

Why don't you like the
In Heat LP? Wouldn't Shel Talmy have understood what you wanted to achieve? 
Why do you think your first album has a special place in the hearts of Fuzztones fans?

To me, Shel took all the balls out of the In Heat tracks. More than anything I hate the drum sound - it’s that 70s rock sound. We had already recorded most of the tracks previously, and Jordan and I produced it. We gave it to Beggar’s Banquet, our label at the time, and they rejected it. They wanted a NAME producer. Several were interested, including Tony Sales from Iggy’s band. I just didn’t think any of them were familiar enough with our genre to get it right. Then Jordan saw an article on Shel Talmy in an L.A. music paper. He said he’d like to start producing if he found the right band. Considering his work with the Who and the Kinks, I agreed to compromise and allow an outside producer - Shel - to produce In Heat. When in the studio it became apparent to me that he knew very little about the studio and what it could do. Perhaps he’d been away too long, and hadn’t kept up with technology, or maybe, just maybe, he never DID know what he was doing, and had always relied on the EINGINEER to get the right sound. Either way, In Heat did not sound like the band sounded at the time. I released the original Protrudi/Tarlow mix about ten years later (Raw Heat) and the reviewers agreed with me - ours was the mix they should have gone with.

For
Braindrops, you meet another legend, the singer of LOVE, Arthur Lee. How did it happen?


He came to one of our shows. It was at the Coconut Teaser in Hollywood. I guess he dug the band, ‘cause he asked the proprietor (who was once the drummer for Love) if he could sit in with us. We just happened to know 7 and 7 Is so we brought him up, and did one helluva smoking’ version - which is on YouTube, by the way. He called me a few days later and asked if I could put a band together for him! But that was right at the height of our popularity and I didn’t have the time to do that.

Which piece would you choose as your favourite of all those you have composed?

Well, even though I’m really tired of playing it after all these years, I think Ward 81 is, perhaps, my greatest achievement, although my favorite is Invisible.

You lived in the US, Holland and Berlin. Weren't you tempted to live in France?

I always chose to live where I thought I could further my career. France never really seemed to offer the opportunities that, say, NY or Hollywood, or Berlin for that matter, did. Nevertheless I love France and miss playing there.

You are passionate about horror films, do you know the French fantastic cinema?
Georges Méliès was one of the first (if not the first) to make horror films, are you interested in silent films?


Can’t say I’m familiar. I’ll have to look into that! I DO enjoy some silent films, particularly Nosferatu, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Metropolis.

Like the Nomads, the Fuzztones have released more mini LPs, EPs or 7s than albums. There are also a lot of live shows on LP. Wouldn't you like to "sort out" all these productions and make a box set of all the studio tracks you've recorded?

We have had two box sets released already - LSD 25 and Psychomania.

I WOULD like to do a LIVE box set, featuring live sets from every line-up of the band. I have quality recordings, I just need to find a label willing.

You must have a huge collection of garage music records, does your house look like the one of the great Cramps era ? Can you tell us a story about your record collection?

I started collecting when I was 12. I have a very big collection but it’s certainly not just Garage. I have a lot of Blues, Country, Punk and 50s Rock ’n’ Roll. And Exotica! But I have to admit that the Cramps had a whole room of records - I only have a WALL.


You have been a father for a few years, did your child attend your concerts and did you show him your record sleeves or are there still many things hidden in your house?


Her. She hasn’t seen the band live, only on video. She’s not too impressed (laughs). She prefers the music of the LOL dolls and Barbie, although she did go through a phase where she was digging Bobby Darin!

How was the work with
Ann-Margret for the song Born To Be Wild ?


I’ve been an Ann Margret fan ever since I was a teen and first saw her in Viva Las Vegas, so I was thrilled to be able to work with her. She’s getting up there but still gorgeous and can still belt it out!

Could you tell us about your latest mini-LP? It's called "Encore", is it a call to the French? You know that's what the French shout for a band to come back on stage.

The French “arts,” perhaps (laughs). To be honest, it was an afterthought. We had released NYC during the lockdown, and when the lockdown went on for two years and we still couldn’t gig, we thought we’d better release something else to keep the fans interested. We were restricted because of the mandates, so not all the band members could be in Berlin to record, so we did it with just me and Lana, and our drummer, Marco. Actually that’s how we did NYC as well.

When will we have the honour to see you again in France?

When a booking agent books us there! We were working with Dark Independent Bookings for awhile and Peter was getting us good gigs, but then he stopped. Don’t know why. Maybe your readers would like to contact him and request us? We’d love to return to France!

Here’s his info:

Pieter De Clercq Dark Independent Bookings International agent | Worldwide bookings

Phone: + 32 468 27 06 1

Merci Rudi Protrudi

Interview réalisée en décembre 2022



                                  

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