Monday, 23 August 2010

Bambi Kino Interview

The Indra Club in Hamburg, August 17th. On stage, a fresh, English speaking band working like a live jukebox, belting out favourites from the late fifties and early sixties. “Some Other Guy”, “Lend Me Your Comb”,” I'm Talking About You”,” Soldier of Love”, “Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey”. The club is filled to capacity and the crowd is as sweaty as the band. All the band members are sharing the vocals, taking turns in singing lead. Sometimes the band is throwing in old chestnuts like “’Till There Was You” and “Red Sails In The Sunset”. Teasing the German crowd with a rock version of “Falling In Love Again”. The Beatles? No, this is 2010, not 1960. And the band is a quartet, not a quintet. And they’re Americans.
I’ve been visiting the Indra Club several times over the years, and I have even played the congas on stage here, improvising with a local jazz band. But I needed to be here one more time for this. The band, “Bambi Kino”, named after the movie theatre around the corner, where the Beatles first home in Hamburg once was, has been put together especially for the occasion: the 50th anniversary of The Beatles first Hamburg gig.

A year ago, I was at the 50th anniversary of the Quarrymen’s first concert at the Casbah Club in Liverpool. The core trio of George, Paul and John had drifted apart and George had been playing with another band. When that band disbanded just before an upcoming gig at the Casbah Club opening, George reinvented the Quarrymen, featuring himself, John, Paul and Ken Brown. Ken was the only Quarryman present at the anniversary celebration and has since, sadly, passed away.

Well here I was, a year later at the Indra Club. When you get to be at two such landmark anniversaries, your body gets a real feel about the time that passed, all those years ago. And what time of year it is, what the weather was like and so on. From the reunited Quarrymen to the first professional residence concert as The Beatles, a little less than a year had passed.

A couple of days later, I had the opportunity to have an informal chat with the rhythm section of “Bambi Kino”, bass man Erik Paparozzi (38) from New Jersey and drummer  Ira Elliot (47) from New York. The other two members are Mark Rozzo and Doug Gillard. I sat down with the guys at the hotel where they were staying, the Pacific. It used to house the biggest artists who were playing at the Star Club back in the day, and the Beatles stayed at the Pacific when they were doing the string of concerts that have been preserved on the infamous “Live At the Star Club” record.

WogBlog: So whose idea was it to put a band together for this occasion?

Erik: We’re all big Beatles fans and Mark and Ira was in Hamburg last summer. They took part in a guided Beatles walk, and of course they visited the Indra Club. Upon realizing that it was 49 years since the Beatles arrived to play at the club, they came up with the idea.

Ira: Another thing that happened, was that Paul McCartney was having a string of concerts at Citi Field, and I wanted to be there badly, but couldn’t. I was in Japan at the time, but when I returned to New York I was aching to see McCartney. I found out that his tour had moved on, and he was due to play in Boston. My girlfriend really wasn’t up for the trip, so I recruited Mark and Eric and we all went to Boston, just to see McCartney.

WogBlog: Was that the first time you saw McCartney play live?

Erik: No, I’d seen him in 1990 and 1993. But at that time I was at the very back of the stadium, as far away from the stage as it was possible to be, unless you were outside. The first time I saw him, he was pulling out some of the old, well known Beatles tracks. Then in 1993 he started playing some of the lesser known ones, like “Paperback Writer”. And this time around, he’s been playing some true hidden gems like “Mrs Vandebilt”. And his new backing band is great, really fine musicians who stays out of the limelight. And the drummer sure has a fine voice, doing harmonies behind McCartney.

WogBlog: So the three of you talked about the ambition of playing in Hamburg for the anniversary. How did you know each other?

Erik: Well, Mark and Ira plays together in the band Maplewood, and I also occasionally play with them. Ira also plays in my band, Paparozzi, and Doug and Ira plays together in Nada Surf. Doug was an obvious choice as lead guitarist. Ira and Erik were also part of a band who was doing an all solo McCartney songs concert at Loser’s Lounge in New York back in 2007. Anyway, we presented the idea of “Bambi Kino” to Maplewood’s Hamburg based label, Tapete, and they were very enthusiastic about it. I think there’s a distinction between being a tribute band and a band paying tribute. I think we’d like to be seen as a band paying tribute to the Beatles.

WogBlog: When the Beatles started out at the Indra Club, they were a five man band.

Ira: Yes, we’ve discussed many aspects of these gigs, including having someone on stage with his back turned, faking bass, but we decided against it. We decided not to mike up the drums and amplifiers, as the Beatles didn’t do that and it’s a small club anyway. Also, we’ve been discussing the songs. We’ve rehearsed around 80 songs, all from the old Star Club record, the Decca Tapes and the Live at the BBC record. What we’ve said is that we’re trying to recreate what the Beatles might have played, but of course, nobody knows what their real set list at the Indra looked like.

WogBlog: Yes, the songs you played were more of a representation of the entire Hamburg era Beatles repertoire, wasn’t it. Did you rehearse much?

Erik: Not a lot. We’re all busy with our respective bands, so it’s a question of logistics. All in all, we’ve only rehearsed about four times with the full band, but we’ve rehearsed quite a bit in pairs. At my home studio, Mark and I have made the song structures and I’ve made demos of the songs for all to learn, demonstrating the parts. And I think it’s important not to play to well. After all, the Beatles were quite rough musicians at this stage of their careers, so we’re playing fewer notes and easier chords than we usually do.

WogBlog: Earlier in the day on the 17th, I met Horst Fascher. He wasn’t sure if he remembered the lyrics well enough to sing “Hallelujah I Love Her So” with you, reprising his old Star Club favourite. I saw him at the gig, but it didn’t happen.

Ira: Yes, he was going to, but he chickened out. Instead we got a friend of us, Dirk, to come on stage and do those vocals with us.

WogBlog: Which do you prefer, studio work or playing live?

Ira: I definitely prefer doing live concerts. There’s a lot of waiting involved in making a record, and as the drummer you must lay down the basic track. Everything else comes on top of that, and if the basic track’s not really good, the end result will suffer. I’ve ruined some good records in my time (chuckles). But if you’re playing live, you gotta watch the girls in the front row dancing. If they stop to dance, you’re doing something wrong and you have to adjust your playing accordingly, to try and get them on their feet again. If they’re dancing, just go on playing. Don’t mess it up.

Erik: I like both, but I’m probably enjoying the studio work the most. Like I said, I have a home studio and enjoy spending time with that.

WogBlog: You’ve recorded a single, was that live or studio?

Erik: That was live in the studio. We’ve pressed it up on vinyl and it’s “Some Other Guy” coupled with “Falling In Love Again”. The Beatles are doing a slow version of that last one at the Star Club record, but we’re doing an all out rock version.

WogBlog: Any plans for an album?

Erik: Well, we’re definitely thinking about it. After these rehearsals and concerts, we’ve sort of become a very good Beat group. So perhaps we’ll try and write some songs with that sound, you never know!

WogBlog: You sure got a lot of publicity from this event!

Erik: It’s been crazy. CNN, MTV and lots of other stations have had features on the gig. The German channel “Arte” filmed the gig on the 17th and will be broadcasting it later this month.

Ira: I got a kick out of reading Record Collector, because they mentioned us as one of the important upcoming gigs. There we were, among such artists as Ozzy Osbourne, “Bambi Kino” in Hamburg!

“Bambi Kino” played four gigs at the Indra Club in Hamburg, from the 17th to the 20th of August. On September the 2nd,they’re playing at the Bowery Electric in New York City.

A live album from the concerts at the Indra Club is being put together and will be released on Tapete records on November 19th. It will be available both on CD and as a vinyl LP.
From left to right: Erik, Doug, Ira and Mark.

Links:

Tapete Records

Bambi Kino

Paparozzi

Nada Surf

Maplewood

Photos: Bente Gullerud

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