Tendencies In The Contemporary Swiss Underground Music Scene
If I am honest, I am not really sure what I am writing about. I could go the easy road and call it garage. But what does this word imply? A few youngsters mistreating their instruments in the basement of their parents house without any real amibitions. Boh!
During the past few years some friends and I did a few things I could observe in other Swiss towns at the same time. And that’s why we want to realize this compilation: In order to make a statement that there is something undeniably happening across Switzerland even though we do not really have a clear idea of what it is.
There were a few stable lines that kept a certain weak pattern together that was not easily noticable at first sight, but when comparing concert programs and internet sites gets visible quite fast. A particular and well known characteristic of Switzerland is the diversity of different cultures. In all its language areas over the years certain initiatives linked to a particular taste of music and lifestyle evolved that can be somehow linked under the label «Garage». However, notions of the kind like stating that there is a «garage» scene in Switzerland are most of the time critical. Critical first because «garage» is quite a blurry concept and second because the word scene implies a certain unity that is simply not given in this case. What is a scene? And from which moment on can one speak of such a phenomenon? Difficult to say. We leave it to others to decide. In his introduction text below Philip Niederberger bows out the scene concept by simply stating «Garage-Punk is not a scene, because scenes are shit.» We agree on that and leave the scene thing to Turbojugend and Co. Sure, parallels in taste, clothing style and record collections are undeniable. However, it is much more a striking similarity in patterns of music and «ways of doing» that make people from different places in Switzerland stumble over each other from time to time. The felt need to organize shows, play in bands, realize records or simply not to go home before the sun rises knits the people together that in some way or another have contributed or are represented on this record.
For practical reasons we call the «thing» «garage». In Switzerland garage was linked to a handful of persons eversince. The current phenomenon can mainly be pinned down by highlighting a few geographical spots and venues. The following estimation is made of nothing more than personal impressions. I dont claim to speak thruth therewith, however doing my best to reach a decent level of accuracy.
Most probably the origins of the contemporary Swiss garage scene can be linked to the capital of Switzerland – Bern and in particular to the person of Beat Zeller. Born in the sixties he started with «The Monsters» in 1986 and set up his record label «Voodoo Rhythm» in 1992. Call him the godfather of swiss garage or whatever, like his music or not. In almost all narrations underlying this compilation you will be confronted with his name. First with Psychobilly, later with trashy and wild garage tracks all marked by Beat’s (Beatman) unique way of screaming, «The Monsters» someway kicked off a movement that was very different from the punk that had been very popular in the 90s. Rather than politics or cultural pessimism their sound was about Wrestling, Girls and a whole lot of weird stuff. Today more than 20 years later both, the band and the label are still around. Bandwise Bern is represented on this Compilation with «The Jackets», «The Budget Boozers», «The Shit» and «The Monsters»
Then, there is the Lucerne section that evolved around ominous «Memphisto Produktion». Already in the early nineties here and there a few garage bands passed by.. Among others «The Gories», «Billy Childish» or «The New Bomb Turks» played in venues in Lucerne. However, these were rather occasional concerts than the reflection of a clear vision or masterplan. Then in the late 1990s a group around Philipp Niederberger started setting up shows in the region mainly being active in the legendary «Sedel» outside the town of Lucern. Since then «Memphisto Produktion» has been responsible for some of the greates shows in the country and moreover had the luck to have a few very talented graphic artist involved who are responsible for some of the most outstanding show posters around. Bandwise on this sampler there are «Shady and The Vamp» and «Thee Heinz». However, there are more groups from Lucerne like «King Gin Club», «The Gegus» or «Brain Tilt» that keep things moving in central Switzerland.
In Zürich the garage scene has been very puzzling and undefined until recently when in June 2013 a small group started doing shows under the label «Elmo Delmo» at the Badenerstrasse in a temporary use facility. Down in the parking garage of a former office house that for a short period could be used for all kind of artsy purposes a jauntily atmosphere reigned when bands like «White Fence» or «Natural Child» played there. Knitted to «Comet Substance»’ refreshing graphic design the label «Elmo Delmo» very fast provoked attention. Sadly a few months ago Zürichs «new hope» shut its doors for the last time after a short and impressive history. Despite of the «Elmo Delmo» Zürich was a blind spot for garage music for many years. On this sampler Switzerland biggest town is represented by «Fai Baba» who does his own brand of ambitious lo-fi garage pop.
Geneva builds a sharp contrast to Zürich. As a major hotspot for garage music not least due to the initiative «Rock This Town» started by Dunja Stanic Girod it is probably the place where currently the biggest energy is around. There are the fantastic dudes from «Mama Rosin» who made their own kaleidoscopic musical universe come true with «Moi J’Connais» records and recently opened the record store «Bongo Joe» in Geneva. Being responsible for a heavy load of the most incredible shows throughout the last years «Rock This Town» keeps on moving and gives rise to younger initiatives like «What We Do». In Geneva the scene seems to be the incredibly loyal and growing fastly. Whenever I was the venues were packed and people were enthusiastic. Moreover there are new promising bands like «The Staches» made up of people that do not care about a quotidiane lifestyle and simply want to tour whenever possible and wherever they get invited to.
In the Italian speaking part of Switerland we have got Damiano Merzari from the Pussywarmers (Voodoo Rhythm Records). In his text he gives us an impression how things are going on on the south side of the alps. By the means of a dizzling listing of crucial events of his life we get invited to Damiano’s musical universe. It gets clear that often times it is more about issues of way of life than mere music – Skateboarding, poster design, friendship, drugs and simply being active. Recently I’ve seen more and more shows taking place in Lugano. It seems that future is promising down there!
Finally there is St. Gallen, the town where I am located. What shall I say about that place. The foundation for my mind to take off was a particular combination of a great record store, stunning people and places that give space for bands to make their music. A few years ago bands like «Les Chevaux Sauvages» and «The Haunted Swamp Beasts» formed. Then there came Elias Raschle with his as weird as beautiful solo-project «Augenwasser», who is now playing drums for «Roy & the Devil’s Motorcycle». Then recently new projects like «Mystery Park», «Late Late Show», «Uriella» and «The Electric Unicorns» did follow. On this compilation St. Gallen is represented by «Augenwasser», «Les Chevaux Sauvages» and «The Midnight Jerks» who actually are from the neighbouring region and even Germans. However they found there way into the Swiss garage swamp and even have their own stronghold in Kreuzlingen – the «Horst Klub» that opened its doors a few months ago.
A great deal of bands playing in the mentioned places and towns are from abroad and mostly the United States. The same holds true for the shows I organize. It is great to have all this interesting people and bands from the other side of the world here. However, a goal of this compilation is to shift perception away to what is actually happening around us. «La Suisse Primitive» is a statement for bands that are from your town, your region. What a small number of people is doing in Lucerne, Geneva, Bern, Lugano, Zürich, St. Gallen and elsewhere is proof of how solid the foundations for further development are. In the end it is up to everyone of us to get active and shape the places where we are living. Let it be your task to make sure - wherever you live - that at least good music is around.
Mama Rosin – Anatolia / Ghost Story
Midnight Jerks – Gored
Les Chevaux Sauvages – Hey Little Girl
The Shit – Asshole
Shady & the Vamp – Rock & Roll & Gin
Adieu Gary Cooper – Si je parle dans mon someil
Fai Baba – Who’s Dead
The Monsters – Bumble Bee
The Jackets – You Better
The Revox – Shilly Shally
Thee Heinz – Drive
Augenwasser – Raw Mickey Mouse Power
Black vinyl 12" (180g), gatefold packaging, every record got a unique artwork
Edition of 1000