Rockabilly , Psychobilly and everything in between.

Eddie Angel (Planet Rockers, Los Straitjackets…)

in Interviews

eddie_angel_480Eddie Angel really don’t need no introduction. If you’re into today’s rock’n’roll you’ve already heard about him and even if you’re a rock’n’roll beginner, it’s almost impossible you haven’t heard of The Planet Rockers, The Neanderthals and Los Straitjackets yet. Eddie also owns a record label called Spinout on which he released as well as his own stuff, records by The Hi-Risers, The Stumbleweeds, Barbara Burnette, The Kaisers, Sonny George etc.
Now, enough talking, read the facts from the man himself.

by Fred “Virgil” Turgis

When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
Eddie Angel   When I was very young, probably 10 or 12… Music had a magical effect on me

Fans of rock’n’roll are aware of your stuff with Tex Rubinowitz in the early 80’s but what kind of stuff did you play before joining him?
Eddie Angel   Well my first love was rockabilly and 50’s R’n’R in general but there was no opportunity to play that in Albany, NY in the 1970’s so I did whatever I had to do in order to play music… I played in an oldies lounge band “Tino and The Revlons” for a while. Tino, the leader was later murdered in Jamaica….in the mid 70’s i played in a band called “The Star Spangled Washboard Band” which was a jug band/skiffle band but was very successful because it was very entertaining and funny. We played clubs and colleges and bluegrass festivals up and down the east coast. that indirectly got me into Tex’s band because we were very popular in Washington, DC so in 1980 when Tex was looking for a guitar player I got the gig.

What made you move to Nashville?
Eddie Angel   I was living in Albany,NY and had a rockabilly type band with a girl singer who sounded like Wanda Jackson. So we thought “lets go to Nashville” it was the only place where they still made records that featured guitars… This was in 1986. I was determined to make it in music so I wanted to go to a music center. I never thought I’d live here permanently.

How did you come with the idea of a label ?
Eddie Angel   I never really wanted a label… it was initially just an outlet for some of my recordings … we started out just putting out 45’s . I was recording with The Planet Rockers and The Neanderthals in London at Toe Rag. Barney Koumis was putting the stuff out on No Hit Records….so he just gave me some tracks to use for 45’s. it was 1994 and I started touring a lot with Los Straitjackets and surf bands were popping up everywhere so we put out a few instro comps….and then friends would ask me to put out their bands….thats how we did the first Shack Shakers cd for instance.

You once said that your holly trinity of Rock’n’roll was Elvis, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. And Spinout really seems to be a place halfway between Liverpool and the USA…
Eddie Angel   well, for my money Elvis and The Beatles are in league of their own… I hear a lot of groaning out there cos there are lots of wilder records than Elvis or The Beatles made and I agree there are lots of artists who made one or two more exciting,interesting or rockin’ record than The Beatles or Elvis but not with the consistency or overall quality. It was usually a one-off, some hillbilly capturing lightning in a bottle. I love The Sonics and Charlie Feathers and their records are wild but in the end they seem human to me… The Beatles and Elvis don’t seem human to me . The Beach Boys I like a lot, but I don’t remember putting them in the same pantheon as Elvis and The Beatles, but, I think they might be the best American “band”….again taking into account songwriting,recording quality, consistency .

Of course you have to cover fabrication costs and all that stuff, but Spinout really seems to be a labour of love, similar in a way to Deke Dickerson’s Eccofonic label…
Eddie Angel   well everything you do in music has to start as a labor of love. It doesn’t make sense to get into music to make money, there are much easier ways to do that. If you don’t believe me,ask anyone who does it for a living

In another interview you said “I definitely think rock music is way too serious. It bores me to death”
Eddie Angel   Notice I said “rock” music not rock’n’roll. I’m talking about all the crap thats been flying around for the last 20 years or so…. and yes it bores me when someone sings about themselves, I’d rather hear “Surfin’ Bird” or Chubby Checker.

Is this why you did “Young At Heart”?
Eddie Angel   I did “Young at Heart” because I wanted to do a kids record.  It features Cindy Fee, a friend of mine who has a voice like Ella Fitzgerald

Tell us about the idea behind “Meet The Beatles”…
Eddie Angel   I wanted to do songs that were in The Beatles live repertoire before they made it, not Beatles songs themselves, but what were The Beatles playing at the Cavern or the Star Club. A list exists of every song known that the Beatles ever performed, some of them i’d never heard like “One Track Mind”, it was the flip side of “Tossin and Turning” or “Nobody but Me” by The Lafayettes… again a flip side to their hit single.
It was a fun and interesting project and I came away with a few thoughts. They were genius in their choice of songs and totally unorthodox. They were a product of the twist era.

You were approximately 10 when the Beatles “conquered” the USA. Did you have the chance to see them on the Ed Sullivan Show?
Eddie Angel   Yes! I remember seeing them on their first Ed Sullivan appearance. It put me on my life’s trajectory. I actually remember the first time I heard The Beatles. I was in the record department of my local department store and they would play the new records over the PA system. I heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and I was knocked out… I thought it was a black group,like The Miracles, anyway I bought the 45 on the spot and brought it home to my sister who was strictly an Elvis fan. She looked at the cover, made a face and sneered “ooh they LOOK like beetles

Some discovered rockabilly and rock’n’roll through the versions The Beatles did of Matchbox, Rock’n’roll Music, Honey Don’t, Words Of Love etc. What about you?
Eddie Angel   Yes to a certain degree, but I also had 2 older sisters who were original rock’n’nroll fans, they had all the Elvis records, some Jerry Lee,Little Richard, Everly Bros etc. so I heard that music growing up. But I don’t think I had heard much Carl Perkins,outside of “Blue Suede Shoes”, but I think I play the guitar the way I do is because my brain was wired at an early age by the 50’s R’nR records my sisters played constantly around the house. R’n’R was the only music I heard growing up, there was no classical or pop standards played in the house.

On “Meet The Beatles” this is the first time, to my knowledge, you’re taking the lead vocal part, at least on a long distance. How did you approach that?
Eddie Angel   Well, I have sung in bands over the years, its just not something I ever gave much thought to. I never thought of myself as a singer… but I’m not bad.

A constant with Spinout’s records and this one makes no exception is the quality of the covers design. It really seems like it’s very important for you…
Eddie Angel   I’m lucky to know a few very talented graphic artists. Kaiser George does most of the covers and I think he’s a genius.

Please tell us more about Ray Wallace described as a “Psychotic Leonard Cohen on Ritalin”. Add to this, songs like “Hitler’s Gone Surfin’ with your Mother” or “When The Partridge Family Meets The Manson Family” to name but two, it’s kinda intriguing…
Eddie Angel   I first met Ray in 1980. Ray was 16 and a troubled youth,when his mother brought him to see Tex Rubinowitz and The Bad Boys… Ray flipped out, went from being a kinda Greatful Dead fan to a full blown Rockabilly and Link Wray fan. I began giving him guitar lessons. He learned every Link Wray song he could and then every Bob Dylan song and started busking.
Ray was kicked out of every school he attended for violent anti-social behavior. His mother finally had to put him in a school for nut cases. He later moved to Denver and started writing all these songs. I thought they were great and put the CD out. Ray is now back in the Washington DC area and I hope he stays out of trouble!

You also released “Eddie Angel Plays Link Wray”. How did you discover Link’s music?
Eddie Angel   I met Link in 1973. I was living in Venice Beach,CA trying to make it as a songwriter. My friend and songwriting partner Dave Bloom came home one day and told me he had gotten a gig playing piano for some guy named Link Wray. I have to admit, I had never heard of him. Link had a new record out on Polydor and was putting a band together to tour. I said “get me in the band,I’ll play rhythm!!” Next thing I know I’m jamming with Link Wray in a garage in North Hollywood. But really it was Tex Rubinowitz that got me into Link’s music. Link was Tex’s favorite guitar player and he turned me on to Link’s early stuff. We used to perform “Rawhide”, “Run, Chicken,Run” and “Jack the Ripper”. This was in 1980, Washington,DC, Link’s old stomping grounds. I took to Link’s playing like a duck to water… it was in my blood.

Do you have a special memory with him?
Eddie Angel   One of my favorite memories was doing “Rumble” onstage in Minneapolis with him and Tony Andreason of the Trashmen. Another time when he played my hometown Albany,NY, he invited my mother onstage and sang a bunch of songs to her!! I wasn’t there, but heard about it…
My fondest memories were just hanging out with him and listening to his stories. He told me how he came to write Run Chicken Run and how he and his brother first discovered R’n’R at Hank Williams’ memorial service in Montgomery, Alabama, they heard a guy doing rockabilly, he didn’t remember the guy’s name but my guess is it was Curtis Gordon. So after that he and his brothers stopped playing country music and started playing R’n’R.

How did you choose the songs? Did you intentionally make the choice from the start to avoid “big” classics like Rumble or Jack The Ripper?
Eddie Angel   Yes.I wanted to stay away from the obvious ones as much as possible.

Another connection you have with Link Wray is Robert Gordon. You produced one of his album, tell us about that…
Eddie Angel   Hakki from Jungle Records in Finland called me and proposed the idea to me. He had seen Robert and me together at Green Bay. I put the band together of guys I know in Nashville and we recorded it in Nashville. The bass player Dave Roe was Johnny Cash’s bass player. Robert has an amazing voice, like an opera singer.

Over the years you had a lot of guest on album and on tour (Dave Alvin, Deke Dickerson, Big Sandy, Peter Zaremba, Kaiser George…). As a heavy touring band is this a way to always have something new to propose to the audience and to avoid you some kind of routine?
Eddie Angel   Yes, exactly….we try to keep things fresh and entertaining for us and the audience.

One last word?
Eddie Angel   “Trust your gut,even if its a beer gut”

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