One of Germany’s finest exports, Marc & the Wild Ones look set to take their brand of wild authentic rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll to the next level
“Punk rock of the 50s, that’s what I want to call it as it’s just in your face,” explains lead vocalist Marc Valentine regarding his band’s music. “I love authentic rockabilly and that’s how we feel bringing the energy to our songs and especially live. It’s something we always talk about because you see so many musicians on stage who are perfect musicians and they play everything perfectly – guitar, bass and drums – but if you stand in the audience and look at them, they just don’t give you the feeling that they’re having fun on stage. The only reason we’re on stage is because we have fun and that’s the feedback we get from all the people who’ve seen us live. Of course we’re serious about it [music], but if you lose the fun, it’s gonna end badly!”
Having witnessed Marc & the Wild Ones live at this year’s Rockabilly Rave, the preceding words from the Wild One’s frontman certainly ring true. Wading through the hordes to take a peek at this German band up close with their blend of fiery rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly was one of the highlights at said festival. There was a sense of enjoyment from all four members of the band yet there was also an air of unpredictability and genuine tension when letting the firecrackers out of the bag with numbers such as ‘Boppin Mary Lou’ and trademark cover ‘Stutterin Cindy’; the latter of which was performed with a snarling intensity that ravaged the guitar strings and earned the band an ovation from all those present once the song reached its conclusion.
It is not only the music of the Wild Ones that compels, largely consisting of their own compositions, but the fact that the band brings something slightly different to the rockin’ scene. Such a difference is largely due to the relatively tender ages of this four piece but also one can sense that it is not only rockabilly that has been the staple of choice when it comes to listening to other genres of music and incorporating influences. Add to this mixture the dual nationality of Marc Valentine to bring a little cultural difference to the melting pot, and it is no wonder the band can pull from a variety of sources.
“We didn’t always listen to rockabilly as when we were 14 – 15 years old we listened to punk rock, which a lot of our friends liked,” comments Marc. “I listen to different styles of music once in a while if I really feel it, but after we discovered rockabilly, we tend to pretty much listen to this style now.”
With influences being cited as Johnny Cash, Johnny Burnette and Grady Martin when it comes to guitar playing (guitarist Rene Rottmann’s choice naturally), Marc & the Wild Ones definitely have their feet firmly planted in the rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll genres, even if they do bring a little bit of that punk-rock baggage from their teenage years with them. It can be assumed, however, that such a musical reference point has unconsciously guided Marc & the Wild Ones to their one and only love as the history books suggest that rockabilly was one of the earliest forms of punk-rock music. In addition, Marc Valentine’s aforementioned dual nationality certainly plays a hand due to the US introducing these genres to the world, as well as his father’s love of Johnny Cash and his music being a constant in the background as a child.
“I was born in Germany as my dad was in the army and we lived there for two years,” explains Marc. “He had to go back to the States and was based in North Carolina, so we lived there for three years when I was about four or five years old. My mum got homesick as she is German, so my dad decided to quit the army and we moved back to Germany and he started a job over there. Marc & the Wild Ones actually started in 2011, but before that we had different projects with different styles of music,” he continues. “Then we started figuring out what we actually wanted to do, which was wild 50s rockabilly. So we started listening to bands like Omar Romero and even German bands such as Spo-Dee-O-Dee.”
With Marc & the Wild Ones fully cementing their residency in Germany – naturally for the other three members considering it’s their birthplace – it remains interesting to gather if these wild rockers consider Germany a vibrant enough scene when it comes to rockabilly, considering Marc Valentine’s associations with the USA and that being the country that introduced such music to the world.
“I think we can tell from first-hand experience that the scene in Germany is certainly bigger than the US scene,” is the surprising reply from the Wild Ones frontman. “We’ve met some bad experiences with promoters and stuff as we went over in April. Even though they’ve got Viva Las Vegas, that’s probably the only thing that they have got as the whole US scene is in California or Vegas and that’s it. Compared to Germany, we’ve got the Walldorf Weekender, Let’s Get Wild and we even have a festival that started three years ago called Get Rhythm, Go Wild and that’s actually going on this year as well. If you go to Hamburg, Berlin or Stuttgart there’s tonnes of stuff going on. So the scene in Germany is pretty big as we’ve normally got shows going on every weekend.”
“The whole scene in Germany is much bigger than in the US,” reiterates bass player Andy Hummer. “Like the Rockabilly Rave [UK], so many people come from the whole of Europe and really party and go crazy.”
Why do you think the rockin’ scene in the USA is smaller considering its origins started there?
“I have no idea,” replies Mark looking somewhat bemused at the thought of this. “I talk to a lot of Americans and even they don’t know why. We have so many friends from the US who are in bands such as The Delta Bombers or Omar Romero and they love coming to Europe because the US is too quiet.”
“You have to have a name over there as well as that always works,” adds bassist Andy Hummer.
“We met some people over there that were really nice and offered to look after us if we come over [again] next year. But the experiences we had this year, for the first time being in the States, were not good,” continues Marc. “I mean, I love the States as I’m half American and I still feel American as well, and that’s what makes me kinda sad bringing my guys over and they all had a bad experience as it was their first time in the US and they probably never want to go back [laughing]! I would love to go over there because I’ve got a lot of family and I want to see them come to our shows and see us play because they haven’t seen it yet.”
Such frustrations felt by the band have also extended to the level of press coverage given to the genres of rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll music. More notably in fact, Marc & the Wild Ones are more peeved when it comes to the right exposure given as there has been, and still remains, a tendency for rockabilly, in particular, to be given a caricature makeover. Look out The Baseballs…
“Rockabilly in Germany is famous for bands such as The Baseballs and that’s a big boom in Germany right now,” offers Marc in terms of rockabilly music and press exposure. “Every store like H & M sells rockabilly clothes with pinup dresses and baseball jackets and that’s how they see rockabillies because of them [The Baseballs]. They [The Baseballs] cover new modern songs with double bass and just do their thing Stray Cats style, I guess.”
Do you feel, therefore, that the press coverage given is not taking the genre seriously enough?
“Within the scene nobody likes The Baseballs because they give a totally different picture to people outside of this scene,” replies Marc.
“There’s no soul in it, it’s only a commercial thing, only a commercial thing,” repeats Andy Hummer as if to get the message fully across.
“Money, money, money…nobody [outside of the rockabilly scene] actually knows about our scene. For example, when we say that we play 50s rock ‘n’ roll, the response is often, ‘Hey, are you playing The Baseballs?” says Marc with a look of sheer disgust.
“Like Elvis or something with the hair and stuff,” adds Andy Hummer regarding the often associated stereotypes.
“But nobody actually knows bands like Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets or Marc & the Wild Ones [outside of the scene],” finishes Marc.
Rhythm Bomb Records, home of Marc & the Wild Ones, has an eye for unearthing genuine talent and ones who can craft their own compositions to last pretty much the duration of a long player. Such a definition can be applied to Marc & the Wild Ones debut album ‘The Rockin Beat Of’ as it’s largely made up of original material with only the magnificent cover of the previously mentioned ‘Stutterin Cindy’ being a Charlie Feathers classic. It comes as a surprise, however, to discover that the band hold certain reservations about this first offering as Marc explains.
“We had two sessions and recorded seven songs with our old drummer who got married and didn’t have the time to tour with us anymore. Luckily, Stefan [Durrbeck] joined in and we’re really thankful for that because he’s busy as hell with Carolina [& her Rhythm Rockets]. But on the album you can definitely hear the change from the first session and the second session. The first session was us playing the stuff that we wanted to do but then, when we heard those [tracks], we started working more on our songwriting and how we wanted the songs to turn out. So I think at the time we were really happy about the album and we had top feedback from all over the place and we were really happy about it. We have recorded some new songs in a vintage recording studio with a totally different sound and now the old album is just like…we don’t really listen to it any more but we have our highlights with three or four songs that we still play live. We try to show the audience our new material because I think it has more power and it’s just better.”
To the outside listener such observations are negligible as ‘The Rockin Beat Of’ opens in roaring style with a drumroll set to max and pronged attack of scorching guitars and persuasive vocal complete with occasional hollers (‘Boppin Mary Lou’) that paves the way for other gems including ‘I’m Not Ready For That’, ‘Why Did You Make Me Cry’ and ‘I Aint Got No Home’. Even songs such as ‘Hey Man’ were clearly built for Marc Valentine whose stage presence amplifies such emotions as it is one full of gnarled edges and a real sense menace that penetrates deep within. It remains, however, the rockabilly delight of ‘I’m Not Ready For That’, complete with shaker, that is an FLW favourite and one that intrigues regarding its lyrical content.
“I don’t want to say too much as I’ve got a girlfriend right now!” responds Marc laughing. “I wrote the song since I have been with her, but I don’t really write songs where I always mean it. Some songs really have a meaning to them, but other songs are more where I have a melody in my head and just trying to fit something in. For example, ‘I’m Not Ready For That’ is a fictional story about a guy that gets bugged by a girl to marry her, but he’s just not ready because he’s too young and wants to have fun. A few of my buddies actually got married way too young, in my opinion [all the band laughing], as I couldn’t do it. I would love to have kids right now, and all of us feel the same, but at this moment I just don’t feel ready to leave all this behind – I couldn’t go to the Rockabilly Rave or go on tour as it would be very difficult. That’s probably the idea behind the song.”
As the conversation starts to drift towards future plans with Marc Valentine admitting that the Wild Ones have roughly “nine songs recorded but from those nine songs we probably have seven songs that we’re going to take for the next album”, it is left to FLW to ask them what exactly they’re trying to achieve as a band?
“We definitely want to play that style of music [rockabilly] that we all love,” responds Marc before continuing, “but I just want to say that you have so many bands that change their styles after their second albums – I don’t want to name any bands as I feel bad about it – but there are so many artists that we used to love and then we heard their second albums and they’d totally changed their styles! We just want to stick to our roots and do what we do best and that’s a good way to go actually, as we want to make the music we love and that’s always going to be wild 50s rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly.”
Of course we're serious about it [music], but if you lose the fun, it's gonna end badly!"
FLW - From the Tapes
Marc Valentine of Marc & the Wild Ones recalls an incident that left the band still in the black financially and their trusty musical instruments still intact after a live performance in Germany.
“The funniest story was when we played at our hometown on a Friday night and made some good money and met some good people. The next day we drove to Hamburg to play a show at the Juke Joint Jamboree where we first met Ralph [Rhythm Bomb Records]. So we drove up there with our van with all our instruments and had the money [from previous night’s gig] with us. We were in the middle of the worst part of Hamburg – St. Pauli where all the alcohol and drug addicts reside. So we parked our van behind the venue and went inside and did our sound check and then did our show. The next morning we were walking to the van to get ready to drive home and I was asking the guys for the key only to be informed that none of them had it. When we got to the van, and if you remember this was parked right in the middle of St. Pauli, the damn key was still sitting inside the van! So it was unlocked with a whole s***load of money and our instruments inside! Nothing had been touched and everything was still there and we thought…” trails off still in disbelief at the memory of this as if it happened yesterday and no doubt the good fortune that greeted the band during this incident.