Somojo Magazine

The Surf Rats

Would you mind introducing yourselves and telling us what instruments you play?
GAZ: I’m Gaz and I play guitar and sing.
THOMAS: Thomas and I play uprightbass
Gaybeul: I’m the drummer

How long has the current band line up been together?
GAZ: The current line up has been together since the end of 2008, although Thomas and I played
together in our side project The Love Cowboys back in 2002 and the first Surf Rats reunion show at the Calella Psychobilly Meeting also in 2002.

How did you get to meet each other?
GAZ: Thomas joined my side project The Love Cowboys for the band’s 4th US tour back in 2002. Thomas and Gaybeul played together in The Astro Zombies.
THOMAS: a friend told me that The Love Cowboys were looking for a bassist at the last minute for a 10 weeks US tour, I couldn’t miss that one.

Discography.
GAZ: I started the Surf Rats with my younger brother on upright bass back in the early 1980’s. We signed to Lost Moment Records and recorded 2 albums for them. The first was called Trouble, the second, Straight Between The Eyes. We also did a couple of compilation albums with Lost Moment.The Love Cowboys recorded 2 albums also, both for the US market. The first was called Thunder Road and the second was called Sex Kill A Go Go. This album was released on the American Label, Big Bender Records.
THOMAS :  I recorded several albums with various bands : Astrozombies, US band Kings of Nuthin, UK bands Frantic Flintstones and Guitar Slingers.

What music did you listen to while growing up?
GAZ: For me it was primarily my parent’s record collection which consisted of a lot of early rockabilly and rock n roll. I then got into bands like AC/DC and a lot of early punk stuff. Then bands like The Stray Cats and The Meteors and other late 70’s early 80’s rockabilly and psychobilly.
THOMAS: Same, parents collection but they were more into the soft end of r’n’r : Ricky Nelson, Paul Anka kind of stuff. I started to take it seriously around 13y. old with Stray  Cats, some New Wave stuff, the French Alternative/punk scene, Blues but I also listened to the radio so lots of bad things as well….then some rockabilly or punk bands like Buzzcocks, I fell for psychobilly when I was around 15 years old.
Gaybeul: In the 70’s, lots of Italian or Arab teenagers listened Rockabilly. I was born in the suburb of Montbéliard, a small town in the east of France. I had everything about Eddie Cochran. After, at 16, the most stuff I listened was psychobilly, from Polecats to Milwaukee wildmen, punk rock too, turbo aces to NOFX, and swing, I’m a big fan of Louie Jordan.

How long have you played your instruments?
GAZ: I have been playing for about 30 years. I should be a lot better than I am but I am lazy when it comes to practicing and now I think, “Shit, I shoulda practiced more.”
THOMAS: I started about 19 years ago, same with the practicing, I can get lazy over it.
Gaybeul: 20 years drumming now. Try to practise minimum an hour per day.

What were your first instruments?
GAZ: My first guitar was a Kay electric guitar that came from a home shopping Catalogue. I think I was about 12 years old.
THOMAS: I started late, I was 19/20years old, never played music before, so I could borrow some money to the bank for a student loan and I bought my 1st bass with it.Gaybeul: It was a california kit. The drums was ok but the cymbals were horrible. Shitty sound with no power. After, a ludwig from the 60’s. Same as Ringo star. Much better.

Are you self taught or did you have lessons?
GAZ: Completely self taught.
THOMAS: same, I tried to find some upright bass  teachers but it had to be jazz or classical and those people in Paris were all snobs so I gave up on that.Gaybeul: I had lessons for a year. Think its important when you start an instrument.

Did you always want to be in a band when you were growing up?
GAZ: Never wanted to do anything else. Ever.
Gaybeul: Same
THOMAS: I liked the idea as a fantasy before I started music but as soon as I did, I became a street busker and realize I was loving it and making money at the same time. I couldn’t do anything else.


What is your current equipment?

Gaybeul: I currently play on a DW kit with Zildjan cymbals and DW sticks 5a.
GAZ: I play a mid 1980’s reissue ’52 telecaster which has been hugely modified. I use an echo pedal and a distortion pedal as and when I need em. I use whatever amp is available to me at the time
THOMAS:  I’ve got 2 broken down Russian basses, one from 1920’s, one from 1961, really cheap stuff and I love them. For amps, I go with Ashdown.

The Surf Rats

If you had an unlimited equipment budget what would be on your shopping list?
GAZ: I love my tele so I would certainly get a couple more. I wouldn’t mind a nice early ‘50’s ES175. I played a ’53 in a guitar shop in Nashville once and it was the best playing guitar I have ever picked up. And I would replace my tape echo collection. I sold them all about a year ago and I really miss em.
THOMAS: I would fix my basses properly, I’d also buy a carbon fibre bassfrom US company Quintus (about 6000$) so I wouldn’t have to worry about touring and bass damages. Plus a higher end Ashdown amp.
Gaybeul: My kit is ok now, just maybe another bass drum and an18” floor tom.

Do you use the same equipment live as you do when in a studio?
GAZ: Yes. Just my ’52 reissue through a nice valve amp and whatever effects the song requires.
Gaybeul: Yep.
THOMAS: Yes.

Do you record at a purpose built studio or do you record at home with portable digital equipment?
GAZ:  All my previous recordings were done in pro studios. The last lot of demos for the new Surf Rats album was recorded on home equipment belonging to Gaybeul and to be honest, I think they came out great.
Gaybeul: Yep, and now, I got new mics …
THOMAS: I have tried everything from pro studios to homemade recordings and it’s mostly the guy behind the gear that makes the difference. If he knows what you want to get and got the motivation for it, then, you’re in safe hands, whatever the gear (good mikes help too)

Any new recordings planned?
GAZ: Absolutely. I have a wealth of new material for the band. We are currently trying to find a label to record the new album with.

When’s the new album released, how long has it taken?
GAZ: The songs for the new album have been around for a while. We are trying to get it recorded and released hopefully later this year.
THOMAS: Finally !! can’t wait to record those tracks.

Do you have any favourite tracks on your new album?
GAZ: Playing with Thomas and Gaybeul makes it all sound good
Gaybeul: Gaz and Thomas are the best musicians for me; I’m very lucky to be in this band
THOMAS: They all have a different feel to them, so far, no favourite.

Who are the main song writers for the band?
GAZ: I have written everything so far, but I’m not averse to collaborating.

Do you write songs only about personal experiences?
GAZ: Have you heard the Sex Kill A Go Go album?????
I think I had better not answer that on the grounds that it may incriminate me. Ha Ha.

Do you find song writing easy or difficult?
GAZ: Every song that ends up on an album or in the live set has come easy. Anything that I have to struggle with usually ends up in the bin even before it gets to rehearsals

Is there anyone who you would like to collaborate with on writing songs?
GAZ: Tom Jones. I have the perfect tune for him. Just have to figure out a way of getting it to him.

Who are your favourite song writers?
GAZ: I love the Young/Young/Scott line up from AC/DC. Musically and lyrically, that band rocked hard.
THOMAS: I also really like Rev. Horton Heat songwriting, on melodies, lyrics and sounds.
Gaybeul:  Gaz and PP Fenech, he’s a great composer. Good melodys and knows exactly how to build a song

Which countries have you gigged in?
GAZ: All over the UK and America. We did every state but Hawaii and Alaska when we toured the States. We have just done some shows in France, Belgium and Holland and are due to go out to Finland, Germany and Spain.

Which countries would be at the top of your list to tour?
GAZ: Definitely want to go back to the States. Am enjoying Europe at the moment as I never really got to travel there much back when the band first came out in the mid 80’s. I really want to go to South America, Japan and Australia. Anywhere where people want to see us.

Who would you like to tour with?
GAZ: AC/DC and Richard Cheese.
THOMAS: Good choices, I’d also add Legendary Shack Shakers.
Gaybeul: Supersuckers, my favourite drummer scott Churilla plays with them now.

How do you promote your music and get your music to new fans?
GAZ: At the moment we are primarily using Myspace.

Do you use any websites like ‘Reverbnation’ or ‘Soundclick’?
THOMAS: I don’t know these, there seems to be more and more options that it’s hard to keep up or else you’ll spend your life online, till you can pay someone to waste theirs.

Do you think such sites are good for independent and unsigned artists?
THOMAS: Anything that gets you out there to so many people and countries is good for a band.

Do you think the internet overall is a good or bad thing for new artists?
GAZ: I think the internet is great for letting people know in an instant what you are up to. Thank god the days of sending cassette tapes out in the post are long gone, Haha. You can know instantly what people are liking or not liking about your music. The downside is that the same old moans and groans that used to go on in the pub are now being done behind the safety of a computer and people can be a lot more vicious without fear of reprisal, so the bitching can get very nasty and out of hand. Bad comments can stop a new artist in their tracks if they haven’t got the cahonas to f**k what everybody else is thinking and carry on regardless.
THOMAS: I’ve discovered so many bands in so many countries thanks to it, and the same goes for us. You can build a fan base before going
somewhere.If we want to tour somewhere, we can find bands and clubs to do it with. Before, it was nearly impossible.

Would you sign with a major record company?
GAZ:  I think it comes down to whether a label is committed in pushing and supporting the band absolutely. I don’t think it matters if they are major or indie as long as they believe in the artists they sign.

How did you come up with name?
GAZ: The ‘Surf’ part was because of the boom in surf shorts and shirts back in the mid 80’s, the ‘Rats’ was a kind of anti ’Cats’ thing. Nearly every rockabilly band back then was called the ‘something’ cats and we didn’t want to be another ‘cats’ band.

What would call your style of music?
GAZ:  I suppose psychobilly or some other kind of ‘billy’. You can call it what you like.

Who do you listen to when chilling out?
GAZ: 1950’s doo wop or nothing at all.
THOMAS: lots of blues, some latin stuff, swing, americana.

Have you ever entered any ‘battle of the bands’ competitions?
GAZ: No

Where can you see yourselves in ten years?
GAZ: In a home for old, demented musicians. Drooling and wishing it was 10 years ago.
THOMAS: in a van going from dives to clubs to festivals to shitty bars….

Do you get nervous before a gig- how do you calm down?
GAZ: Don’t really get nervous before a show but a good shot of whiskey usually loosens everything up.
THOMAS: Same, adrenaline can take over for a big festival but that’s all.

What’s your best/worst experience at a gig?
GAZ: For me I think the best is yet to come.
Playing anywhere with Thomas and Gaybeul. The band sounds better than it ever has. I am excited again. The worst was either one in Albuquerque New Mexico in 2002 to a packed house who absolutely hated us and just wanted the DJ. It was a dance crowd and we had no idea why we were booked there. Motorhead were playing a block down from us and all I wanted to do was pack up my stuff and go and watch them instead. Or a really bad show in Scotland in the early 90’s when the guy who owned the place had us turn down so low that we were almost acoustic and we eventually had to stop playing because a hen party who were in couldn’t hear the music being played on a tape recorder that accompanied their stripper. I have had some very bizarre moments.
THOMAS: Oh yeah, that New Mexico show is high on my list…

What are your day jobs if you have one?
GAZ: You name it, I’ve done it
THOMAS: I try my best not to have one but sometimes I had to work on houses, sell/make food…never for long though.

Has your music been used on any film soundtracks?
GAZ: Not to my knowledge. We have had a couple of offers for our stuff to be used on some independent films and DVD’s just recently so we are waiting to see what happens with that.

Is it something you’d like to get involved in if the opportunity came along?
GAZ: Oh yeah, definitely.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
THOMAS : If the 2 companies I mentioned (Ashdown and Quintus) want to sponsor me….thank you !
Other than that, book us or/and buy our albums.
GAZ: Yeah, just keep coming to the shows and keep buying our stuff. We salute you.
Gaybeul: Wawawawaaaaaaaaaa ank you …………

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