High-octane San Diego garage rockers The Schizophonics will be touring New Zealand for their first time ever later this month. I rung up and chatted with guitarist, singer and main songwriter Pat Beers, who performs with his wife and drummer Lety Beers and a revolving cast of bassists. We talked about the tour, performance, the recording process, The Stooges, and his special love for a classic New Zealand album.
Thanks for doing this!
Oh no problem! Is this a live interview or is this being printed?
Oh I’ll write it out later.
Oh ok thanks. I wasn’t sure, once I had a radio interview, a guy called me up and I didn’t realise I was on the radio, I was just kinda letting it fly with the cuss words, not like I usually do anyway haha.
Haha oh god. So I was wondering, seeing as you’ve been playing live since long before you made your first full-length album, do you see your recording process as a document of your live shows?
Um, honestly we try to get as much of the live show as we can in the recording. I’m not a big fan of recording honestly. I love recording live you know, I would do it every day if I could, but I don’t know, I get very nervous in the studio like “Oh I’m gonna mess up this take”, and then, you know, you do another take and each one I progressively mess up more and more ‘cause I keep thinking about it. It’s a little hard for me to loosen up in that setting. But on the other hand, I kind of feel like you do get some sort of vibe when you record, like of what’s going on in the room in a weird way. Think of The Stooges' album Fun House, long before I even knew what Iggy Pop looked like I heard that album and I kind of pictured what The Stooges were like, and when I finally saw a video of him it was exactly what I imagined just from listening to that album. And I feel like they kind of got their live show, somehow, they got it on the record you know, they got their visual performance in audio form. So I try to still use some of the live stuff that we do, you know, but it’s definitely toned down a bit in a bit more controlled environment.
Was there anything you figured out after doing the first album that made you go differently into your next one?
We ended up going to another studio, just to try to get kind of a different sound. We weren’t unhappy with the first album, we just wanted to try something different a little bit, we were kind of going with more of a bottom-heavy sound on this one, just ‘cause it’s kinda what the songs suggested. So we ended up recording in a studio, getting the drums and guitar and bass, like the basic tracks, in a studio called 64 Sound in L.A., and we finished them here in San Diego at a studio called Singing Serpent, just basically doing vocals and a few guitar overdubs and stuff. But um, I dunno, the last album I mixed it as in-the-red as I possibly could haha, and maybe I went a little too far, so we’ve pushed it back a little bit. Basically we just kind of went for a more bass sound on this one, like bigger drums, bigger kick drums, all of that.
I was wondering about touring - considering the energy of your live sets, are there any practices or rituals you observe on tour to make sure it doesn’t get too much?
Um, in the last few years I’ve actually realised warming up is important, I try to go through the intensity of the show you know, for a couple of hours before I go on stage, I’m kind of already in that state. I mean, usually I just try to give myself as much time as I can before the show just to play guitar you know, spin around and act like an idiot, I try to be as weird as I possibly can before I go on stage haha. I don’t feel any kind of like, reservations or any self-consciousness, I just go up there and act weird. But as far as rituals I’m not sure, I guess the show is the ritual.
Can you remember, when you were a kid or whatever, when you were first really impressed with or aware of the physical performance aspect of an artist?
Oh, that’s a good question. Um, you know it’s funny... when I was little, I really wanted to be a stunt man. It’s funny, I went to see like a stunt show and I was really for a while into the daredevil and doing stupid stuff you know, basically stuff you would never want your kid doing haha. So I always liked the idea of, you know, circus performers, always defying death. It’s funny, it is sort of part of our show, maybe it’s kind of a gimmick of ours that we developed a long time ago, but someone once told me that it always looks like I’m seconds away from falling and getting hurt really bad, and um, I dunno if I do it on purpose or what but I’ve realised it’s a good gimmick to convince someone going to get a beer that they always think they’re about to see a crash and burn haha. But yeah, I remember when I was real little, I think it was a video or something, but I loved the song The Peppermint Twist, my babysitter made a tape of all these 50’s songs and there was a song called The Peppermint Twist, and I would dance around to it, and I was just like dancing and moving around, and you know, I still feel pretty much like a kid when I’m up there doing that, like I’m amazed that you can make money just doing what I was doing when I was four.
Your daytime job is as a music teacher, is that right?
Yeah yeah, I teach at a school of rock, and it’s basically like you’re teaching kids to play different instruments but all learning the same songs, so you’ll do like a set of all Led Zeppelin songs, and drums, guitar and bass and it’s all learning the same parts, so then they get together once a week and they’ll have band practice. So they kind of learn how to not only learn an instrument but kind of be a good bandmate, learn how to play with other musicians and write music as a band and all of that, everything that goes along with it. But yeah, I’ve only been doing that for about half a year now, but I’m really enjoying it.
And do you have any good stories about your students responding to your performances?
Haha, yeah it’s funny, I mean a lot of them haven’t seen us play, but one of them was like “I think I recognise you”, and his mum and dad had come to a few of our shows haha. There was one show where we played at a pool party at a hotel and I ended up climbing up onto one of the balconies, and she was like, “You’re that guy who climbed the thing”, and he was more excited that I climbed up something during a show than any of the music haha. That’s our target audience right there.
As far as a job goes, was your interest in teaching music and music education kind of a secondary thing after the band?
Yeah definitely, I mean I only really have to do it a few days a week, and it’s very rewarding, and I feel like I’ve actually become a better musician because of it, I’m constantly having to learn and pick apart songs and everything. But I mean I think of the band as the number one course, you know it’s really great because I have a guitar in my hands every day all day, and I wake up in the morning and I practice and write songs, and then I go to work and teach songs and come home and, you know, play a little bit, or do nothing involving music cause I’m kind of burned out at that point haha.
I was wondering, how did this tour come together, was it your choice to try out New Zealand for the first time?
Oh good, yeah, some of our friends regarded certain people in New Zealand really highly, one was Long Gone John, from the record industry, put out our first album. Another person was Mike Stax from Ugly Things magazine, which is like a garage rock magazine that’s been going off for thirty-five years now. Mike’s a good friend of ours and he’s one of those people that if he vouches for somebody they’re definitely, you know, a good person. One of my favourite albums, maybe like my favourite record of all time, was actually a New Zealand band called Chants R&B, from the 60’s. Have you ever heard that record?
I haven’t actually, no.
Oh, it’s probably like the record I’ve played more than any record I own, I think you can get a reissue on Norton, that’s where we got it, but yeah it’s probably my favourite record of all time. They sounded a lot like the MC5 meets Pretty Things, and they were a Christchurch band from around ’66, but one of my favourite all-time records, it’s half studio and half live, just amazing.
Well, I think we’re about to run out of time, but thanks for talking! And thanks for the album recommendation as well.
Oh, thank you so much! You can even just YouTube, yeah the whole record is amazing. There’s an early Van Morrison and Them song called One Two Brown Eyes, and they did this amazing cover of it, the guy’s voice sounds a lot like Rob Tyner from MC5 and it’s just so good. And side two of the record is live, and it’s weird because the whole thing reminds me of Kick Out The Jams, MC5, but a little bit more R’n’B and kinda Pretty Things. But I don’t even think these guys were aware of the MC5 at that point you know, those guys were just starting up at the same time, so it’s just kind of coincidence, but they probably had similar influences. Just such a great band, definitely check them out.
See The Schizophonics make their NZ debut at the following venues:
Tickets available for all shows from www.undertheradar.co.nz except where noted *
Friday 24th May Auckland at Whammy
Saturday 25th May Raglan at The Yot Club
Sunday 26th May Tauranga at Under The Tauranga Harbour Bridge *speak to Austin
Tuesday 28th May Dunedin at The Cook
Wednesday 29th May Christchurch at Space Academy *special show details forthcoming
Thursday 30th May Whanganui at Lucky
Friday 31st May Wellington at Caroline * Tix from Just The Ticket
Saturday 1st June Hastings at The Common Room
Sunday 2nd June Gisborne at Smash Palace