WTM #1034: Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger

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wReck thiS meSS ~ Radio Patapoe 88.3
Amsterdam ~ Ethno-Illogical Psycho-Radiographies
27 October 2008 // 17.00-19.00
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Indian Love Call > Kenny Roberts [1]
Hochzeits Jodler > Franzl Lang [2]
My Name is Jesus [live] > Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [3]
Rock ‘n’ Roll Killed My Mother [live] > Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [4]
Shake That Thing > Hasil Adkins [5]
Hammer Hunch (The Crusher) > Hasil Adkins [5]
Reelin’ and Rockin’  > Hasil Adkins [5]
Surfin’ Bird > Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [6]
The Way I Walk [Jack Scott][live] > Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [7]
I Used To Be Bad [live] > Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [8]
Too Many Strings on my Guitar > Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [8]
LSD > Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [8a]
Two Strings Around a Stick > Bob Log III [9]
All The Rockets Go Bang > Bob Log III [9]
Fuck You Jesus Fuck You > Reverend Beat-man [10]
Oh Lord Show Me How > Reverend Beat-man [10]
Blue Yodel #8 > Jimmie Rodgers [11]
The Hills of Old Wyoming > Tex Ritter [15]
I’m an Old Cowhand > Patsy Montana [15]
Billie the Kid > Sons of the Pioneers [15]
Bloodshot Man  > Bloodshot Bill [16]
Swiss Dreams > Yodelin’ Slim Clark [12]
California Hippie Murders [live] > Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [13]
I Want To Be A Cowboy’s Sweetheart [live] > Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [13a]
Hush Money [live] > Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [13b]
The Fox Song > Burl Ives [17]
I walked with my Dream > Burl Ives [17]
Red River Valley > Bill Haley and the Four Aces of Western Swing [14]
?? > Reverend Beat-man [—]
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[1] Indian Love Call, Starday, 1997.
[2] Der Königsjodler, Phillips vinyl. Franzl Lang, despite his poppish shlager leanings is a great yodeler, a voice to be reckoned with, you just wish there was more soul, grit, pain, awe, big emotions, dirty sex or whatever in the songs but alas, we are left to separate his greatness from the mediocrity of most of the songs.
[3] Wild Rock N Roll for Bad Tasters, MAA, 2001. The original was by Selwyn Cox (“His Name is Jesus”) and is found on the Wavy Gravy compilation [on which he also yodels!]. “That song was my first approach to yodeling and I recorded it in 1995 in its first version and a second was realized in 2000 for the album “My Mother Killed Rock and Roll in 1979” with the Watzloves as backing band (courtesy of Voodoo Rhythm Records)… I have to say that all those compilations crossed my road due to the Crypt Records catalogs  I received from the crypt shop in hamburg. My musical influences come a lot from all those crazy song compilations: Sin Alley (mostly white rock 50s), Bug Out, Strummin’ Mental (surf), Big Hitch, Wavy Gravy…. a ton of others: take a look at their website.”
[4] My Mother Killed Rock & Roll, Kenrock, 2000. “The original song is from the Hi Fi Guys (recorded somewhere between 1955-1966) and appeared on the God Less America compilation…. it’s the best record on Kenrock ever.” TMAA featuring Thee Watzloves Together doing “polka Cajun bluegrass garage”. Also TMAA on the Pneumonia Sessions together with Miss Pneumonia.
[5] Look at that Caveman Go!, Norton, 1993. “He was the man. I exchanged some letters with him. Can give you some copies. Came to him via the Cramps and their cover of the song ‘She Said,’ his all-time hit, kind of like Elvis’s ‘That’s All Right Mama.’ Then Beat-Man gave me his address. Don’t forget to watch the movie about Hasil Atkins on Youtube. My first MAA guitar was named ‘Haze’ in honour of the Man.”
[6] Thee Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger plays 13 Garbage Classics, Zarghla Production. “All of my cassettes and the other auto-produced  stuff was under the name Thee Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger. I use to create a false fake label called ‘MAA – the good taste label’ – hippy sauce sauerkraut, knackashnikov sausages, MAA beer… In cool packaging and that I sold at concerts. ‘Surfin’ Bird’ is from one of my early cassettes. The Revingtones/Trashmen song revisited with an all new sound. Recorded in my living room with a beat produced by beating the back of the guitar. Some glasses filled with water and hit with a spoon were the cymbals. Really one of my first experiences in 2 tape recordings and overdubs in the old school way. Really satisfied with the sound. No digital recording of any kind can produce that kind of trash … a masterpiece to me.”
[7] “This is the all-time standard by Jack Scott. Anyway it was a cover that the Cramps also did. I originally copied the Cramps version before I discovered Jack Scott’s version.” Jack Scott [Giovanni Sacfone Jr.] was a Canadian-Italian hillbilly who grew up in Detroit, worshipped Hank Williams, and became a rock and roll success. He had many more hits than the likes of bigger names like Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. Forced to get a job at an early age, he worked pumping gas, driving a truck and messenger and life was tough. Had some local hits in the mid-1950s. Had a charted hit with “Greaseball” in 1958. Numerous hits followed.
[8] Zarghla Power EP, 1995. “That song is the archetype for the MAA style to me. Jack starr influenced me I guess. This song had 2 versions. The first one was on my first EP auto-produced in 1995, I think. Backed by the Bronchitic Smokers (Sweet NONO and Sir Clarence Abercombie on backing Vocals, Portuguese Joe on double bucket bass, and Red Wildman on what you may call drums). I don’t have any left of the 500. It sold out. I put all of these songs together on the CD compilation of my early recordings: Wild Music for Bad Tasters (38 songs !).”
[8a] Original by Wendell Austin & the Country Swings on the Wavy Gravy compilation. “I like to play that song. When played live with electric guitar, the chorus is sung with a bunch of fuzz trash guitar twice the normal volume of the guitar on the rest of the song. People usually take a step back…”
[9] School Bus, Fat Possum, 1998. “I met the guys a couple of times. Really love the way he plays. Very amazing. He initially played in a duo called Doo Rag (2 albums). This duo was really more on the MAA side. We have the mask and the one-man-band style in common. He’s more on the blues-trash side.” Bob Log III is an Arizona-born lo-fi, punk-blues performer who was in the duo band Doo Rag. He went solo in the mid-1990s and developed an elaborate persona on stage in a body suit and motorcycle helmet with a cheap microphone, which allowed this one-man band to also play guitar and drums and further developed his speed-delta-blues sound.
[10] Reverend Beat-Man and the Un-believers, Voodoo Rhythm. 2001. “Really cool guy. I think you should be interested in his work, label and history. Go to his website. This guy put me on the road.” Some of MMA’s most memorable experiences occurred during his 1996 European Tour with other bands and Lightning Beat-man, a trash-blues one-man band, and the Watzloves and with the Pits and Viloorde in Belgium, Benidorm in Spain, Lolita Bar in Kassel, l’Usine in Geneva, Tours, Bordeaux, Peripignan in France, and Bern, Switzerland… As part of a garage or punk-rock scene across Europe.
[11] 1927-1933 the Blues, Fremeaux et Associés. “One of my favorites of the yodeling stuff. I often yodel to his records. You should take a look at their website too. Main inspiration to me.”
[12] Cowboy Songs, Buckingham vinyl.
[13] “One man bands often sing about their inability to play a guitar well…. it’s a classic theme. Initially put out on a compilation from the French label Roller Asso. A second version with a more electrified sound is found on  Wild Music for Bad Tasters. When the strings are too numerous just sit in the desert and yodel… it can help.”
[13a] “Cover of the original you know the name of…”
[13b] “Originally sung by Ernie Vandergriff and Joyce Lawrence and found on the rare CD Hillbilly Rock 2 on Lenox Records, 1993.” MAA performs it on My Mother Killed Rock & Roll, Kenrock, 2000.
[14] Hillbilly Haley, Roller Coaster, 1984. Kenny Roberts [1] taught Haley how to yodel in the late 1940s ad yodel he does on 3 tracks.
[15] Western Cowboy Ballads & Songs: Anthologie 1925-1939, Fremeaux & Associes,
[16] CD Rockabilly Trash, auto-produced, 2004. “My friend Bill. He’s also a great yodeler from Canada! He does Jimmie Rodgers covers too. His live performances are incredible. Yodeling, yelling, spitting like a cat on high voltage… 2 records out, a bunch of tapes and auto-produced material…”
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Masked Avenger Claims Yodeling Cured His Asthma
Stage name or nickname: Thee Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger [1967], born in Kehl, Germany of a French father and German mother. He began yodeling in the early 1990s and considered becoming a professional performer-yodeler but this wasn’t in the cards. But, although he couldn’t find a way to earn his daily baguette at yodeling he did discover another benefit of yodeling.  “It’s funny to sing that way, and it has some physical benefits. As I’m asthmatic it helps me to control my breath…  I don’t have any real technique as I learned it by myself. It feels good to have free and clear lungs!”
~
The evening promised to be an interesting meeting between NoFi one-man band Thee Mysterious Asthmatic Avenger and LoFi radiomaker Wreck This Mess on decidedly low-fidelity radio station Radio Patapoe in Amsterdam, which broadcasts from a secret location, a station that has pretty much been tolerated for 25 years now.
*
I had been fascinated by this French rockabilly performer since I discovered his broke-down outdated Website [now renovated] while surfing around looking for unusual yodelers. The email address did not work, all my pleas for contact over the years had been rejected until I contacted Reverend Beatman at Voodoo Rhythm who quickly gave me a current email address for Monsieur Avenger. Events quickly entered a hazy period of accelerated urgency. He was coming to Amsterdam with his partner and former backing vocalist Noelle for a romantic holiday without the children. Plans were laid to have him appear live on my radio show but I had to promise to find a guitar for him to play. I asked Indonesian garage blues guitarist friend Michel to borrow his acoustic guitar but, alas, someone had dropped it out a window while playing it. But he did have a semi-acoustic hollow body imitation Gibson guitar. Great! All set.
*
I sent around a quick notice to people and several people pointed out that I looked a lot like him and wasn’t I pulling one over on them and wasn’t I the Avenger… Knowing full well from 12 years of DJing here that the studio could be a mess – beer bottles and cans everywhere, dirt, dust, grime, cables and lines in and out all tangled and rearranged from the week before – I went to the studio early to clean up and was surprised to see that, as if by magic, the studio had been cleaned [thanks Power vs Power], and the wet-dog-fart smelling and couch had been with mysterious blemishes had been replaced by a “new” Ikea one that had been rescued from the garbage.
*
So when I came to meet him and Noelle at the Vertigo Cafe in Amsterdam’s Vondelpark I was looking for someone who looked like me. Well, lucky for him, he doesn’t look much like me. At 5 PM, 27 October 2008, we did a live interview mixed with some DJing and live performances by MAA himself. We defied the unpredictability of  the DIY third-hand donated and scavenged equipment and the always chaotic mixing board and managed a reasonable show of high quality lo-fi entertainment.
*
After playing “Indian Love Call” by Kenny Roberts and a sappy-kitschy yodel by the Bavarian pop yodel legend Franzl Lang we turned to some prying questions with Lang in the background:
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WTM: How did you become interested in Lang?
MAA: The first time I listened to a record by FL it was like a revelation. The music was bad but his yodeling art was a kind of nirvana for me.
WTM: You call yourself the MAA. Where does the “Ashmatic” come from?
MAA: Because I’m asthmatic. Listen. [Wheezes into the microphone.]
WTM: You can still perform as a one-man band?
MAA: Yes, that is because I discovered the yodel. Yodeling is good for the health. It cures asthma.
WTM: It cures asthma?
MAA: Totally! It saves not only your soul, it cures your asthma!
WTM: Has it really had an effect on your breathing and asthma?
MAA: Breathing is involved in yodeling… It is everywhere if you can open your eyes and look.
WTM: Would you start a concert with a lung-clearing yodel?
MAA: No, no, no, I give some yodel lessons to the crowd. The crowd has to yodel and then I can play. And I yodel with the crowd as well. It is a kind of mystical experience.
WTM: We have a guitar. We fixed the mike stand up with tape. It may just work and you might just be able to let us hear the fusion of Franzl Lang-influenced yodeling and rockabilly.
MAA: I can’t yodel all the time. I haven’t practiced today so maybe at the beginning it may be a little messy. But I can try.
*
He sits in the old school desk and strums his guitar and launches into live versions of “My Name is Jesus” with yodeling.
*
WTM: You said that you’re half German and lived in Germany. How did you get involved in rock ‘n’ roll and psychobilly and…?
MAA: the one-man band, the yodel, the rock ‘n’ roll, the punk rock, the whole package and how it sticks together? The yodeling stuff is maybe the older part of the story, cuz when I was a child I watched German TV and in the 70s there were a lot of yodels showed up and even if it wasn’t the best stuff, that other kind of singing was very interesting for a young boy. It was like a circus, you know, making something with the voice that a human being cannot do. But those guys could do it. So I tried it and let it be. Then I was playing some harmonica when I was a boy and it was my first entrance into the world of music and I could everything. Anything I heard could copy it on the harmonica. So, mixing these together, when I get teenager, discovering rock ‘n’ roll, the Cramps and everything… in the 80s, the mix was ready because the Cramps were the first step [in introducing me] to rockabilly and country stuff. The rest is my road.
WTM: Want to play something else.
MAA: Oooh, I try my my best. I will try something with no yodel because it’s a cover song but also a very personal song. It’s called “Rock ‘n’ Roll Killed My Mother” but in fact, my mother killed rock ‘n’ roll.
*
Sings with a hiccup voicebreak and the refrain “rock ‘n’ roll killed my mother and now it’s killing me.”
*
MAA: Lyrics are not that important in yodeling songs.
WTM: In rockabilly either. But even in few words the lyrics can still be powerful, not exactly poetry maybe…
MAA: Depends on what kind of poetry. Charles Baudelaire wasn’t so… [searching]
WTM: Humorous?
MAA: Yeah.
WTM: Where does your humor come from?
MAA: You really think it’s humor? [Laughs]
WTM: Does it come with the post-rockabilly territory?
MAA: It is difficult to explain. I am not a genius guitar player and singer but for me a part of humor is what makes you warm to the public. Because if you do something bad and you have people who have paid to see you and if the people are feeling bored – even if you’re good it happens – you can if you have a lot of humor and make double entendres you can make something with the public you cannot make if you are serious.
WTM: So the humor can cover up some of the bad spots?
MAA: YEEEEAAAH!
WTM: You’ve put out a number of records and cassettes over the years but recently you haven’t produced much.
MAA: No, but I hope it’s gonna change because my actual life needs me to work on other stuff…
WTM: REALITY!
MAA: Back to reality, yea, but I want to record a lot of new songs and play them live. But, I’m back!
WTM: If you wait a couple more years you can have your children play in the band and you don’t have to pay them as much
MAA: Yeah, but it won’t be a one-man band any more.
WTM: That’s true. How did your interest in one-man bands begin? Does it have to do with a feeling of independence? You make all the decisions yourself…
MAA: I have played as a one-man band since 1993. And at that time I had another band and when you play alone you make your own choices. You make what you want even if it is a lot harder to play along with both feet and a guitar and a voice but you’re independent. When you want to do a gig or practice you don’t have to wait for the others. In history there is a lot of one-man bands and I think this is part of it – make your own music without any other ideas…
WTM: Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins plays a one-man band street musician. Is that where it started, on the street, where you have to have everything on you? You still see them on public transport…
MAA: A real one-man band doesn’t  only play the guitar. You have to play another instrument. He is a multi-instrumentalist.
WTM: How many instruments are possible? Four? Five? Mouth, two hands, two feet.
MAA: You can even play more if you’re the kind of guy who trusts electronic stuff.
WTM: Sampling and such?
MAA: Yeah.
WTM: Your interest came out of utility or necessity? Or were you already fascinated by the sound?
MAA: Yeah, in fact, the sound of a one-man band is very different from the sound you hear from a real band. When you listen Hasil Adkins or Jack Starr [1960s outsider DIY lo-fi musician from Texas and whose recordings came out on Norton]. he’s got his own sound because he is used to playing alone and recording at home using two-track tapes and do ping pong with the tapes that produces that strange sound with this echo and the first recording of the MAA were really influenced by those guys.
WTM: Should we play something by Adkins?
MAA: OOooh. I choose “Shake That Thing.”
*
[Play: “Shake That Thing,” “Hammer Hunch (The Crusher)” and “Reelin’ and Rockin’.” Followed by MAA performing “Surfin’ Bird” and “The Way I Walk” [Jack Scott]]
*
WTM: Live in the PTP studios with the man who makes not garage rock but KITCHEN rock!
MAA: Yeah, that’s a good name.
WTM: You recorded those in your kitchen, right?
MAA: I was alone in my kitchen but I had two tape recorders. Recording each two channels.
WTM: Music the old-fashioned pre-digital way. What did you then do with the recordings? Did you master them?
MAA: Oh NO! [Sounding horrified]
WTM: That’s against the religion of DIY…
MAA: No mastering and everything is good.If you have to record something more than three times, it’s no good and you shouldn’t record it.
WTM: You recorded this in Tours? And these are American classics. How did you come across these?
MAA: The Cramps was my entry into this.
WTM: And later you dug up the originals?
MAA: In France in the 60s we had the yeye musical wave and they used to do a lot of American covers but singing in French and my father had a lot of those 7 inches…
WTM: So the yeye movement was 60s pop…
MAA: When you looked a little bit deeper into this yeye stuff there were also covers of English and American garage bands and now when you cover garage bands you also cover some of the American rock ‘n’ roll stuff cuz that’s the bridge between all of these styles of music.
WTM: And that’s where the energy comes from…
MAA: Exactly.
WTM: Are you going to play some more live.
MAA: I’ll try if I’m still alive… I’ll try to play a song about parents. Its a rock ‘n’ roll song called “I Used to be Bad.”
[Sings]

MAA: That was a bad song.

WTM: So you weren’t influenced by chansons? Like Leo Ferré.

MAA: More Jacques Dutronc than Leo Ferré. More that kind of impertinent guy. More disturbing.
WTM: Less politically correct…
MAA: Or Serge Gainsbourg. In a certain way because I don’t have his class and he wasn’t such a rock ‘n’ roll sort of guy in the music I mean… He had a rock ‘n’ roll life but his music was not a reflection of rock ‘n’ roll. Jacques Dutronc was more in the rock ‘n’ roll style in the beginning.
WTM: Do you see your work ever fitting into that kind of style?
MAA: No. I just said that to be interesting, in fact. It was the kind of stuff I used to listen to when I was 14.
WTM: Was rock ‘n’ roll for you like it was in the Commmunist countries a symbol of liberation? Like a way to say no to your parents?
MAA: I think it is a matter of fact. Every guy or girl playing rock ‘n’ roll is saying something to his parents, to society, in fact.
WTM: Can you still sing teenage angst songs when you are a little bit older.
MAA: That’s a good question because when you have children you see it all differently. Yes, even though this music came when you were a teenager you can keep this or you can leave it. I think it is good to keep it. But you have to do it differently.
WTM: OK, let’s see how well you have kept it.
MAA: It’s a song about playing the guitar badly. The guitar has strings [strums], wood [knocks], but you need fingers to play… And the song is called “Too Many Strings on my Guitar.”
*
[Sings: “Too many strings to be the King…”]
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[for the rest of the interview for personal reading or publication write me here]
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