Those of you with a good memory will remember that quite some time ago I wrote a piece in this column about a legendary Russian rockabilly / psychobilly band, the Beat Devils. That article, “Walk on the Wild Side”, touched on the history of the group. This month and next, we’re gonna focus on each of the members of the band and their fascinating rock’n’roll stories. These stories will tell you something about the three individuals, as well being another great example of Russian rock’n’roll history over the past twenty years. It’s a great history, full of heroes and sometimes (although not in the case of this group despite their name) villains !
Some of the photos you can see were taken at the Beat Devils latest concert at the Esse Café in Moscow on 13th August, which I organised. Suffice to say the band once again put on a brilliant show, which was hugely enjoyed and appreciated by those present. They called their show on 13/08/16 “Back to the Roots”, the theme being that the numbers they performed were going back to the roots of 1950s’ rock’n’roll. And it worked – it was real, authentic 50s’ style rockin’ !
Let’s start with the leader of the Beat Devils, lead vocal and guitarist Andy Loug, telling you his story: It all started for me, when I was exploring the credits of one of my favorite punk rock bands, the Sex Pistols i.e. songs that they said influenced them musically. And two of these songs “Somethin’ Else” and “C’mon Everybody” contained the name “E. Cochran”. I went on with my searchings and found a great treasury – the inheritance of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins. Later it worked itself out in my head – the understanding that the rebel roots of the first punk bands were influenced by the rebel spirit of the iconic musicians of the 1950s.
At that time, I was playing in a student band at my university, a band which was on the edge of its breakup, as nobody in it put in big efforts. So I was open also to new projects and challenges. On 3rd March 2001 I was recruited as a lead guitarist for a band and two weeks later we did our first gig under the name “The Beat Devils Band”. Time passed and the word “Band” was eliminated from the group’s name. But there were many events in our lives before the Beat Devils became what they are today.
In the beginning we were a 5-piece band. We included a bass guitarist and toyed around with different genres, including rockabilly, psychobilly, surf, blues, even hard rock. We mostly fooled around and were popular mostly amongst our close friends. Nobody took us seriously, but that early time was really great, crazy and much fun! But what we had also, beside parties and joints, was a strong desire to develop the group and we had a big passion for making music.
We always hung out together, listening to rockabilly and psychobilly records. Once at a home party at our ex-vocalist’s (Isek) house, I heard The Meteors & The Quakes for the first time – that sounded really great, and I guess it was the first injection of “rockabilly psychosis” in my brain!
I also remember our first journeys together to see shows of the local bands, in different venues like “Svalka”, “Polnolunie” – those were legendary Moscow clubs that don’t exist any more. In one of such shows, our rhythm guitarist at that time, Misha, who was nicknamed “the Healer”, handled our demo tapes and took one to the Moscow promoter Misha Palitskiy. As a result of this, we were then lucky enough to play at some festivals and as an opening act for some bigger bands.
At that time the internet was not so global, there were no social medias like there are today. But people were thirsty for music, going to every rockabilly or psycho show in the city, with many people coming from other cities. We were exchanging CDs, making compilations for each other and really digging that kind of stuff, searching for rare records & interesting new bands.
Once, me and our drummer Fedor went to Gorbushka market in Moscow and we spent all the money we had to buy a CD of Living End’s “Self Titled” album and a video cassete of the famous Batmobile Japanese show in 1991. Plus after our band rehearsals we often took a bottle and listened to the live records of the Stray Cats all night long.
We were really impressed by the concert of the Ukrainian band “Mad Heads” in Club Vermel in Moscow in March 2003 – and I can say that their “neo-rockabilly & psychobilly” period was one of the main inspirations for us, while we were searching for our own sound and band concept. We started to write our own songs and trying to use more than three rock’n’roll chords.
When Mike “Grem” Bogdanov became a member of the band and we became a trio – as we are now – we really moved to more complicated arrangements and more powerful sounds, that are now the fundamental basis of the making of our own music and of producing it on records. Our main all-time influences were Batmobile, The Blue Cats, The Long Tall Texans, Hillbilly Hellcats, The Hormonauts, The Sharks and many more. We really loved the wildness and the sincerity of the bands from 80s and that was something we always try to put into our music and live shows as well.
Our friends from Moscow Maniacs (also known as the Moscow Psychobilly Crew), who were and are a group of real psychobilly enthusiasts, invited us to play as the opening act for the German band Tony Montanos. We put on a good show and that was a crucial moment for the band, as we then became known to the Moscow rockabilly and psychobilly community and got more concert offers.
In May 2005 Fedor, Mike & me went to the Batmobile concert in St. Petersburg and in November 2005 the Space Cadets toured in Moscow. I still recall those wild emotions and the feelings, when a top band is playing live in your country. I can say that from the year of 2005 till now the Russian “Billy” scene made a bigger progress than ever before in its history and that year means a lot for me as well, ‘cause we released our first album then. Since then we’ve had three more, but I’m sure the best will be our next one.
I realise now that being in a band with the same people for a long period of time is like living in a small family. All the happy moments that you’re living through with your close friends make your life and your music worth it and all the tense moments and difficulties to overcome make you even stronger.
So now, looking back on these 15 years of rockin’, partyin’, tourin’ & recordin’, we are still able to find a new motivation and a new challenge for the three of us and our music. And that helps us a lot to carry on !
A great rock’n’roll story, Thankyou Andy !
Next month the story continues, with reminiscences and anecdotes from Fedor Nikolaev and Mike Bogdanov, the other members of the Beat Devils. Stay tuned for more great personal histories – Russian style ! In the meantime, catch some of the Beat Devils’ magic yourself – go to youtube and type in “Beat Devils – Night Falls Down” in the search engine box – it’s smokin’ stuff!