As their name suggests, Beatallica pastiche Beatles songs in the style of Metallica and while any of the remaining Beatles are yet to respond, Metallica's Lars Ulrich has given them messages of support through various interviews. The band was recently served a cease and desist order by Sony (they own the Beatles publishing along with the Pied Piper of Pop, Wacko Jacko), which the band are now fighting with the help of Metallicaís Legal Counsel Peter Paterno. Their pastiches of a Hard Days Night ("A Garage Days Night"), Hey Jude ("Hey Dude") and I Want To Hold Your Hand ("I Want To Choke Your Band"), amongst others, are still available through various P2P sources online and the band hope to come over to the UK for festivals this summer. Alex McCann caught up with Jaymz from the band to discuss the bands history and the current situation with Sony.
Q: You like to keep your true identities secret. But
what can you tell us about your history before Beatallica?
A: All of us in Beatallica have a long history of music and art performance. I actually play in a variety of Irish acoustic/rock projects under the name of TINKER, TYNKR BOYS TRIO, and REILLY, and use instruments such as bass, bouzouki, harmonica, and vocals. We do quite a bit with banjo, fiddle, accordion, and other traditional instruments. I also enjoy writing poetry and put out a book a few years ago. I still consider that to be the toughest project I've ever done. Krk and Ringo both play together in a cyber-metal band called KA. Kliff and I used to play together in a rock band called WET DOG. We've all done things collectively at one time or another either for fun or for something a bit more serious.
Q: The love of one of them must have come first. Which
was it - The Beatles or Metallica?
A: Well, as far as a discovery of either band, I discovered The Beatles first when I was a kid. But, since my folks didn't listen to music, it wasn't really cultivated at home. When I got into junior high school, Metallica came about and some of my buds were into them as well. Because I was surrounded by a group of friends that liked the band, my affinity for metal and Metallica grew. Only later did I sort of "rediscover" the Beatles. I still remember asking for The White Album for Christmas one year. My dad was so surprised! He said, "But don't you like Slayer and things like that?" I was like, "Yeah, but have you heard 'Helter Skelter'? It's just as scary as 'Angel of Death'!"
Q: When you did you first think "F*ck, we can fuse
the two together and add our own slang onto things"
A: It all started with a festival here called Spoof Fest. It's in its 12th year now and it's a weekend long festival I book here in Milwaukee. Basically local musicians emulate and desecrate their favourite bands with full lights, costumes, props, etc. In 2001, we decided to do Metallica. The band consisted of myself, Krk, and two other friends not in Beatallica. On the way to rehearsal one day, Krk heard "For No One" on the radio. Since both of us are big Beatles fans, he had the chorus riff in his head while we were rehearsing Metallica tunes. He said, "Man, I can totally hear this riff as something James would write." I started penning some fun lyrics, just for kicks, and "For Horsemen" became the first tune. We did a few more, again just for fun, and "Garage Dayz Nite" was next. We came up with more and approached our friend Shane to record them. He's now Flemball Rasmartin, our studio engineer. We gave out the discs for free at the festival and, little did we know, an Internet radio host was there to get one. Dave Dixon is now our Webmaster of puppets and actually named the band Beatallica. He began our website: www.beatallica.org
Q: The art of parody's are alive and kicking in the
US. Weird Al Yankovic being the obvious choice. Did it start off serious,
a parody or somewhere in between the two
A: Really it was just a fun project for the fest. We played the fest as Metallica, not Beatallica. Only until 6 months later, when Dave called me, did we realize just what was happening on the Internet. He had created a simple web page with the songs on it. He's a huge Beatle freak too, but not into metal at all. He enjoyed the subversive humour of the mash-up and, when it started to make its way around the net, it grew bigger and bigger. He had to call me and introduce himself with the word about this band that I was supposedly in but had no idea about! After a meeting, we knew we had something and we started a new project that became the Gray Album. Once that was released, we started getting show requests and prepared for live assault.
Q: And the outfits. How did they come about?
A: Since the project is sort of new to the live aspect of things, we wanted to do the classic look of the early Beatles, but in a metalized way. We do have other ideas for costumes and we hope to have some of those completed later this year. Depending on the set list of a show, we'll choose the costume. You know, KISS changed every tour with their costumes. We're at a point where we want to keep things fresh, but the suit look was an easy choice to start with. I have to admit, my hair has been a running joke in the band. I wanted a metal/60's look. I think I look more like I should be in the old Blue Cheer than anything! I should've kept my long hair instead of chopping it all off a few years ago, I guess...
Q: Which song did you tackle first? Which was the hardest?
Any songs you wouldn't even try to do?
A: Well, we touched a bit on this before. But, as far as the hardest, that sort of depends. There are tunes that were hard to complete, but once completed, the performance of them comes easy. I would say "For No One" falls into that category just because it was the first one and something new. Now, that tune is natural. Oh, for sure the new "mystery song" was tough due to the fact that we did it in 12 or 13 different languages as a thank you to all the Beatallibangers around the world. I apologize in advance for any slaughtering of various languages! Hell, I don't use English very well some days... The new songs that aren't recorded yet are really more complex. We're pretty proud of them and can't wait to get them down on tape. As far as not trying something, I don't think we've come across that. Sure, we have ideas that didn't flesh out. We had 15 songs ready for the Gray Album but only used 8, as the others just werenít ready. That merely means we need to work on creating a seamless tune and honing our skills. We definitely don't just cram whatever together to make a song. It simply has to flow, no doubt about it.
Q: Fans on your message board have suggested you take
on the Beatles solo recordings. Macca's "Frog Chorus" or "Freedom" for
example. Is this is option?
A: For now, we have a lot of ideas from Beatles catalogues. But hey, if an idea is good, and it's a solo tune, who knows? We have thoughts about a few that would work really well, we believe. But for now, we want to be concentrating on The Beatles, not solo stuff, Wings, Plastic Ono Band, Travelling Willburys, etc.
Q: Ringo once voiced Thomas The Tank Engine in the
UK. Do you feel this is more ridiculous than Beatallica?
A: I have to admit I'm not familiar with that work. But I do know that Ringo has a fun attitude. He seems very loose and willing to try things that may not be considered Beatle worthy. As far as things not being as ridiculous as Beatallica, I guess that depends on how one views the band. Our songwriting certainly is a process dealing with time signatures, meter, keys, groove, lyrics meshing, original input, and more. Like any song writing process, it's far from ridiculous to the artist creating it. The final product may be based on parody and humour and have an over the top level of bombast, no doubt. But, I think Ringo Starr would agree, any project should be taken with seriousness and a level of respect no matter it be a commercial, light-hearted film, song, voice over, or whatever.
Q: Iím of the thinking that George Harrison was the
only Beatle left with any credibility after they split. What are your thoughts?
Who is your favourite Beatle and why?
A: Oh I know that Krk is a huge admirer of George's work. I think it partly depends on a person's own life and the way they live it. If one is a political advocate, maybe they'd be more drawn to Lennon. If one was into humour, then George may be the ideal Beatle. We do appreciate the whole association with the Monty Python folks on behalf of George. I really do admire Paul due to the fact that his songwriting covered so much ground. From things like "Honey Pie" to "Helter Skelter", and both on the same album no less, I just think he is so well rounded. But I have to say that "In My Life" was played at my wedding and will be at my wake someday.
Q: We have to talk about the court case. They say all
publicity is good publicity. How have Beatallica been affected since the
cease and desist order was issued?
A: Well, we have spent some time really trying to clear the air as to what's really been happening. Beatallibangers out there have gotten really misled as to the facts of the situation. We certainly have gained a ton of attention and many new friends. All this is valued so much and it's very important to us to know that people from everywhere either enjoy what we do or, at least, feel the project is legitimate enough to continue. Us in the live band have been friends for a long time. The issues are something we didn't think we'd experience together. Sure the publicity has been good but we definitely want to be aware of how to properly handle it. There has to be a measure of tact, thoughtfulness, and foresight when discussing the issues with members of the press and media. I'm glad to say that we haven't become defensive or embittered because of things so far. I think it would be easy to do so if we didn't have our heads on straight and have good counsel.
Q: Could you clarify what the cease and desist is against.
Is it just the website or does it stretch as far as live performances as
A: Initially, our Internet service provider received a letter, along with Dave Dixon and the owner of Beatallica.com (a friend of ours). The letter to the service provider outlined what aspects of the site were considered to be questionable: news, music, and lyrics. The letter to Dave outlined the use of material claimed by Sony/ATV. No live performances were discussed, but we did become concerned that they would be. We've actually held off on announcing other shows until the case becomes a bit more settled. We really want to end the issues completely and have our future shows, and any other actions, be done confidently. A lot of folks out there have written into the petition and bulletin board spouting things that simply aren't true; such as we're being sued by the Beatles and/or Metallica. Again, we appreciate support but we do want folks to know the facts before they start railing against parties that either aren't directly involved or are supportive of us. We also have said that if anyone has the idea to call or write to whatever company to just bitch about things, please don't. Support can be given in more ethical ways. We have our legal counsel and their jobs are to pursue an end to this as professionals.
Q: From your understanding why do you feel Sony have
targeted you and not acts such as the Bootleg Beatles?
A: I haven't talked directly to anyone at Sony so I'm really not sure of us being a "target". I suppose that would be a question best answered by them. We've done Beatallica in the spirit of good will but we know that business is business. Perhaps some of these questions will be sorted out before this is all over. We don't want to make a bigger issue out of things by saying we're being "targeted". We pretty sure more will be revealed before this is all over.
Q: Metallica have always been supportive of you. How
did their lawyer get involved in helping you with this case?
A: Really it all started because their web master contacted us. He said Lars Ulrich had been following us and was aware of the story. He gave me a ring soon after the story broke. Lars has been great both as a helping hand in this and for just plain moral support. He put us in touch with their legal counsel and Peter Paterno has been a huge asset to help get discussions going.
Q: What are you doing legally to fight this order from
A: Right now, we're in the process of drafting letters with our legal team, along with the help of Metallica's team. We're trying to present an amicable end to the whole thing. We do know that both sides would like this to be settled, and soon. We're working on how to best make that happen so we can go back on line and continue negotiations with Sony on how to best set up a relationship to make sure everyone is comfortable with Beatallica. Again, the members of Beatallica have had no contact with anyone from Sony in regards to the negotiations. That's where the professionals come in.
Q: Michael Jackson also owns a percentage of the Beatles
publishing with Sony. Is he involved in the order or has he got bigger
things on his mind?
A: Oh, I don't know if Michael Jackson even knows who the hell we are! We've heard nothing directly from him or Paul or Ringo for that matter. Yoko Ono either. Our case would probably seem like a small issue compared to the lives they all lead, I'd think. We would like to know what these folks all feel about the project though. That may be mighty interesting!
Q: In a related question. You could start doing underage
popstars songs in the style of Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson does Aaron
Carter, Lil Bow Wow and Billy Gillman. Which song and which underage popstar?
A: Well that's where, again, the mash-up would have to work seamlessly. You could probably title the album "Off the Wall" and be right on the money if the mash-up worked! I suppose it would work best with something that is more a polar opposite of Michael, like how there are initial oppositions between Metallica and The Beatles. Plus, you'd have to be knowledgeable of both artists. A project with Michael Jackson would give for plenty of material, that's for sure. Ashley Simpson is creating quite a buzz lately but the catalogue is so small. There is a finite amount of material when doing this sort of thing, you know? I think to do something like this, and have a long life span; you need to choose artists with some length of history. The underage stars simply don't have the extensive catalogues to continue with a project for long. But Michael Jackson certainly covers that. Maybe pair it with George Michael? Not a total opposite in regards to both of them being pop artists, but you'd get some legs out of it.
Q: If it turns out you can't fight the order legally,
would you consider doing another parody band or you're own band?
A: Well, I guess you can never say never about a project. Man, I never thought I'd be involved in Beatallica, let alone to this extent, 3 years ago. We consider ourselves to be fun folks and having the ability to infuse humour into hard rock/heavy metal is just really fun. Sure I love a lot of the darker/deathier scene, but I like having a good sense of humour about my life in general. I do keep very busy playing, writing, and performing in my other projects. A lot of festivals and travel, recording and other things. It's all very fun and, unless it ceases to be that, I'll continue to keep myself active in a variety of things. I know Krk will too. Rest assured, we want to continue Beatallica. So far, it looks like we're making in-roads to do just that. If we folded our tents after all the help from Beatallibangers around the world, we'd be due for a serious ass kicking, deservedly so!
Q: Would you consider coming over to play at some of
the UK's festivals?
A: Absolutely! We submitted to Beatleweek for 2005 and we've had such an expansion of our U.K. email list, it's incredible. A good friend of ours, Sam Harris, started the petition and she's from the U.K. We have at least a dozen people who said we could even crash at and trash their place with them. How can you turn that down? But really, all of the U.K. and Europe is definitely a goal for this year. We've had talks with promoters but we'd love to solidify shows there very soon seeing as that the issues at hand are looking to be remedied. Our website: www.beatallica.org will direct anyone to us for appearances and questions.
Q: Finally. If Paul McCartney or Ringo are reading
this interview, what would you say to them?
A: Of course I'd shake their hands in respect then ask them to make an appearance on the next Beatallica recording! But they'd have to wear the wigs for the publicity photos...
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