In 1996, Roy and The Devil’s Motorcycle (Roy and the DMC for short) were introduced to the underground music world when their debut EP, Good Morning Blues, was first issued by Voodoo Rhythm Records in a limited-print 10-inch.
The five tracks span nearly 35 minutes of the most dissonant psychedelic punk the label ever pressed. Roy and the DMC would refine their psychedelic sound with four more records on Voodoo Rhythm, adopting a dark blues-punk style by the time the band reached 2012’s Tell It To The People but returned to their psych beginnings with 2014’s score to the movie Tino – Frozen Angel.
Roy and The Devil’s Motorcycle are a legacy band in the Voodoo Rhythm Catalog with a 24-year working relationship. Good Morning Blues is Voodoo Rhythm’s first music release the label’s proprietor, Reverend Beat-Man, is not a part of, making the band one of the label’s first roster acts.
Hailing from the mountain town of Thun, Switzerland, Roy and The DMC were formed in 1989 by the Stähli brothers, Markus, Mätthias, and Christian. Working as a band was a completely new venture for the teenage brothers since they had no prior musical training. Before writing any music, the brothers spent the first six months learning guitar together before writing original songs.
It would not be until 1991 when the brothers performed their first show at the long-standing Thun venue, Cafe Mokka. Working at Cafe Mokka influenced the brothers when they were young kids. They saw performances by Townes Van Zandt, jazz guitarist Eugene Chadbourne, original Detroit techno DJs, and experimental saxist Peter Brötzman. One show which left a big impression on Markus was Tav Falco’s and Panther Burns’ first show at Cafe Mokka in 1990.
Then only 14, Markus remembers vividly how loud and chaotic their set was. It gave him the idea he could write and play rock music just as wild and raw. Markus recalls another show his brother Matthias saw at Cafe Mokka, which also shaped Roy and The Devil’s Motorcycle’s sound. That show was Spaceman 3’s first show at the bar in the late 1980s, which influenced the band’s sound with their overdriven, psychedelic guitar effects.
The nearest cultural hubs to Thun were an hour’s driving distance, Bern to the north and Fribourg to the west, which the Stähli brothers made regular visits to, including both town’s venues and record stores. Record Junkie, a label from Bern, would release the first two Roy and The DMC singles before Voodoo Rhythm would ink the band long term after Reverend Beat-Man’s garage punk band, The Monsters, shared a bill with the brothers at Cafe Mokka in 1993.
Beat-Man recalls watching these three teenagers on a stage play some of the most primitive and dissonant rock music he had ever experienced and made the room feel as if time stood still. He had never seen any group like that before, let alone come out of a quiet town like Thun. The experience led him to decide to sign the band to Voodoo Rhythm Records shortly afterward and start a long working relationship with the Stähli brothers.
Twenty-four years later, Voodoo Rhythm are re-releasing Good Morning Blues again on vinyl and for the first time digitally. These five recordings are of Roy and The Devil’s Motorcycle’s earliest incarnation at their most feral and, in better words, loud as hell. Good Morning Blues was recorded and mixed across 20 days in the brother’s rehearsal room in Thun and at the Dachstock venue in Bern, with engineer Kat Aellen at the production helm.
There is no album in Roy and The DMC’s catalog that matches the noise intensity Good Morning Blues has across its 35 minutes, not even their 1997 follow-up LP Forgotten Million Sellers comes close. As Markus appropriately puts it when describing this record, “Good Morning Blues is very much an album out of time for us.” He is correct.
The title track has an inebriated, backwoods, punk-blues feel from the rambling of incoherent lyrics to the slow beat of a bass drum, and a buildup harmonica, to a single, fuzz-pedal-driven, blues-chord progression. As aggro-drunk as the song sounds, it’s the lightest track on the record when three violent-sounding fuzz guitars kick the album into overdrive in a wall of sound driven by a single riff on the nine-minute follow-up track, “Lay In the Sun.” The riff picks up speed to a crescendo at the two-and-a-half minute mark, which gives this track an Icarus-like angle the louder the riff becomes.
The guitars’ buildup symbolizes the group reaching an apex until the six-minute mark, when the music peters out like Icarus falling back to earth. Towards the end of this EP, the production techniques shown on the final, three tracks become the main focus, notably the low-quality, Sony-Walkman recording of the hiss of passing cars on a freeway over an acoustic guitar on “Trying To Get To You.”
An experimental track on the EP is the eight-minute freak-out session on “Candy Train,” with Markus’s heavily distorted vocals, and the use of saxophone solos and conga drums. Simultaneously, the concluding “Six Feet Off The Ground” song leaves listeners with a bulldozer of harsh, white noise from all the instruments layered together, coupled with screeching feedback.
The re-release of this EP is not only a revisit to a moment in history for Roy and The Devil’s Motorcycle but for Voodoo Rhythm Records, too. The label’s decision to release the group is part of a legacy Voodoo Rhythm built themselves as a formidable company releasing outlier music from all over the world. Good Morning Blues is an important milestone for both parties.
Head over to Voodoo Rhythm Records to pick up a copy.