Interview with Timothy Gassen
v When did you first got in touch with garage punk music?
In the early 1980s, the first ‘60s garage re-issues appeared, and I discovered the underground sound of ’66. I was hooked! Of course, as a very little kid I heard the Beatles and Stones, so I knew this was the best music in the world!
v Which was your first band? Was it easy to find other people in your hometown to form a garage band?
My first band was a three-piece New Wave band that sounded a little like Joy Division! This was in 1982. By 1984 I was engulfed with the garage-psych spirit, and formed my first garage band, named Reptile House. We recorded 6 songs, but never finished them. I found the master tape and have finally mixed the songs, more than 20 years later! I don’t know if they will ever be released, though. No, it was not easy to start the band – the garage sound was very much unknown then…eveything was against us!
v What’s the story of the Marshmallow Overcoat?
I was so excited about the neo-garage scene in the US, especially Los Angeles, that I had to start a pure ’66-styled band. I wanted it to be wild, crazy, and fun – that’s why we picked such an outrageous name: The Marshmallow Overcoat! That was in 1986. I had a bowl haircut, paisley shirts – it freaked everyone out! YEAH!
v What was the inspiration for the Marshmallow Overcoat and what did you listen to back in the 80’s?
I love the folk-rock ’66 sound, the psych sound, but my fave is probably the fuzz-and-farfisa garage sound. So that’s what I set out to perform, write and record…
v You changed your name to simply Overcoat and then again you added the Marshmallow. Why did this happen?
Around 1990 we changed some band members, and thought it would be better to have a simpler name. There were also some larger record company people who were interested in the band, and wanted a less strange name. By this time we had become a very good live band, and the “marshmallow” was making difficult for some people to take us seriously. But we would not change our sound to be more commercial, and decided after a couple records that we should always be the Marshmallow Overcoat! Our fans never stopped calling us that, anyway, so we made the right decision!
v Which is your favorite Overcoat song?
Wow, that’s hard to choose. I like the orchestra on “Our Love Will Survive,” the fuzz on “Psilocybic Mind,” the garage sound of “13 Ghosts.” I think we’ve made some pretty cool sounds over the past 20 years!
v Now about the Purple Merkins… Was this a side band to the Overcoat or you had decided to quit from the Overcoat sometime and focus on the Merkins?
The Purple Merkins was always a side-project for the Marshmallow Overcoat. We thought we’d do one 45, just for fun, but we kept recording and making records! Then an LP and now the CD “Merkinmania!” that compiles all our songs is finally out on Dionysus!
v Do you remember any funny or strange story from the Overcoat or Merkins shows?
All I can say is that almost every incident from the film “Spinal Tap” has occurred for our band at one time or another. Touring is a very strange thing to do, and we’ve done it all over the world. Great fun and very hard work! And I love those garage-rock girls!
v There is a split 45 that was released recently from a Greek label, Sound Effect Records, which features two songs by the Marshmallow Overcoat and two by thee Hands Of Tyme. This means that the Overcoat are still in action? And what about thee Hands Of Tyme?
Yes, the Marshmallow Overcoat just won’t die! We started to do recordings again in 2001 and we keep going! Thee Hands of Tyme is the new side-project for us – and we just recorded two new songs. We hope to have a 4-song EP or 45 out in 2006. It’s like the Marshmallow Overcoat, but a little more of the LA ’67 psych sound in there…
v Let’s go to the other side of Tim now… you are the author of the first ever 80’s resurrection garage punk encyclopedia, the “Echoes In Time”, which was published in 1991. And then you did the “second edition”, the “Knights Of Fuzz” and a few years back the CD-ROM edition. Tell us more about the making of these books.
I became so excited about garage music that I started a fanzine, and a radio show, then started writing magazine articles about all the bands. So I tackled the idea of writing a book on the neo-garage scene, which became the 2 books. Then I make a CD-ROM version with the book and added audio and video in 2001. Now I’m producing a DVD version of the “Knights of Fuzz,” with some great music videos from the past 25 years! Long live garage rock!
v Was it easier for you to work on the Knights Of Fuzz book? Did you get more help from people that knew you then by reading your first book?
Yes, the first book helped people understand that I was serious, and I still get letters and packages from new bands. Keep them coming!
v How many copies did these books sell?
Many thousands – and all the paper books are completely sold out!
v Are there any plans of a new edition in the future?
No, the paper versions will never be printed again. They are very collectable! You can buy the electronic version from me on CD-ROM…
v Which are your favorite albums and 45s from the 80’s garage era?
Too many to list, but The Fuzztones, Plasticland, Rain Parade, Cynics, Yard Trauma, Miracle Workers are among my favorite. They are all fabulous bands, and I have 100 other favorites!
v And who are your favorite singers?
I love Arthur Lee (Love), Gene Clark (Byrds), Colin Blunstone (Zombies) and yes, Jim Morrison.
v Are you still listening to garage punk today? Are you listening to any new bands?
I listen to garage punk EVERY SINGLE DAY! And I still get excited when I discover a new band. I think I’m falling behind on the new sounds, though – I need to find more of the current garage records!
v It’s been over 40 years since the first garage bands showed up and this music is still alive. What do you think is the future of garage punk music?
I think my friend Luca Re from the Sick Rose said it best – garage music is classic, like folk music – it will always survive. So kids, start a garage band. Find those Beatle boots, get those Vox guitars. Make some of your own ’66 noise!
v Anything else you would like to add, Tim?
I love the people of Greece, and thank you for so much support over the years. Keep positive, keep sharing cool sounds, keep working for peace!
Thanks a lot, Tim and thanks for all that Fuzz!
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