THE MONKS: SINGER/GUITARIST, GARY BURGER, ENDORSES EV’
SINGER/GUITARIST OF THE MONKS, GARY BURGER, ENDORSES EV
Frontman of the Legendary ’60s Beat Band, the Monks, Reflects on EV and a Lifetime of Performing
“A banjo with a microphone in it to make it electric, a fuzz bass in ’66, and an amazing singer, not to mention the drummer and organists, both out of this galaxy with what they were doing. Their melodies were pop destructive and must be played to your younger brother.“ The White Stripes, MOJO
Championed by numerous rock critics as THE seminal punk rock band, the Monks inhabit a very interesting place in rock “n’ roll history. Held in high esteem by fellow critic darlings The White Stripes, The Hives, The Strokes, The Vines, Beastie Boys, Die Goldenen Zitronen, FSK, Yo La Tengo, Fleshtones, The Cramps, Faust, The Fall, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Genesis P-Orridge, (founder of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV), SPIN Magazine’s Byron Coley, Germany’s Charles Wilp (Afri-Cola guru, ARTronaut, and composer), amongst others, the Monks’ music continues to garner rave reviews in Rolling Stone, Mojo, Uncut, and Ugly Things. The band is also the subject of a German-made documentary (The Transatlantic Feedback) that chronicles the band’s career as Germany’s “anti-Beatles“, a group of former U.S. soldiers turned expatriates residing in Germany, fueling a movement of anti-aesthetics, noise, and general mayhem across the European artistic and geographic landscape. Dietmar Post, the movie’s director, received funding from the German Government to aid in its production, the government arts commission citing the band as a “national treasure“.
Not long after Henry Rollins and American Recordings’ legendary producer Rick Rubin reissued the 1966 landmark and cult record, Black Monk Time, in 1997, the Monks reformed after a 30+ year hiatus to perform at CaveStomp (the largest Beat Music Festival of its kind) in NYC. There, in 1999, they performed alongside The Standells and Chocolate Watchband, among other beat, garage, and psychedelic bands from the Nuggets-era. Coca-Cola then employed a Monks anthem in a television advertising campaign; likewise, Hollywood screenplay kings the Coen Brothers included a Monks song in The Big Lebowski soundtrack. In 2004 the Monks again regrouped and headlined both the Las Vegas Rockaround in September and the Wildweekend in Benidorm, Spain in November. It is expected they will play several cities in Germany and Scandinavia in 2005 and/or 2006.
James Edlund, EV/Dynacord PR Manager: Many music critics and bands alike identify the Monks as one of the pioneers of punk rock. Where do you think you fit into the history of beat music, punk music, and rock ’n’ roll in general?
Gary Burger, singer/guitarist, the Monks: “In 1966 there was no band playing music like the Monks. Our basic sound was certainly still rock ’n’ roll but we’d taken it major steps in another direction by adding the rhythm banjo, lots of guitar feedback, African-like drumming, minimalistic lyric and repetitive rhythm lines that simply drove audiences nuts. German kids would come to hear us and not know how to react and they didn’t know how to dance to it. It was like they were waiting for the song to “get going,’ waiting for the standard chorus which they could hang a hat on and when it never showed up their puzzlement increased. It was not easy being a Monk during the time of sweet rock. Our audiences either loved or hated us - mostly hated - but in every town we found a few who were willing to listen beyond the envelope and not bug us to play a Beatles, Kinks or Rolling Stones song.
I personally can’t say where the Monks fit into the history of rock ’n’ roll, but I can tell you that the phone still rings today from promoters who sense that the Monks are sure-fire to bring audiences from around the world into their rock events. Some have called us the very first of the punk rockers and I guess if any description fits - that would be it.
Before we became the Monks our band was called the Torquays. We played German beat clubs throughout the country but when we first formed we were all still in the U.S. Army stationed not far out of Frankfurt Am Main in a beautiful town called Gelnhausen. Nearby was the city of Hanau -which had a nightclub - we used to visit to see one particular band from Indonesia called the Tielmann Brothers. The Tielmanns were most certainly the best guitar band I have ever heard to this day. Their sense of balance and volume was superb; you could be sitting at a table in the front row drinking a great German bier, talking at a normal volume and be heard, but the sensuous wash of the Tielmann’s guitar sounds was still right in your face and impossible to ignore so we really didn’t talk much. We listened to the Tielmanns ROCK! Of course we were interested in their equipment and how they generated this fantastic sound. We saw the usual line up of Fender guitars and amps but we were most interested in how great their PA system sounded and the effects they were pulling off it. I discovered that they used a Dynacord Echolette and wasted no time in obtaining one. It was a very cool gadget with a tape loop that had variable speed and intensity controls and essentially was a tape delay unit. You could buy the factory tapes to install as they wore out but it seemed like we were usually out of them and so I’d make them from a standard chunk of ¼“ audio tape when we were on the road away from suppliers of such things. We managed to put many miles on that sweet piece of gear before the heads finally cashed in. I wish I had one today.“
James Edlund, EV/Dynacord PR Manager: As you may know, Dynacord is one of the preeminent brands of MI and pro audio gear in Germany - and, for that matter, the rest of Europe. The history of the company is fascinating and stretches back to 1945, when the company was founded to meet the demands for improvements in radio technology/manufacturing. Years later, the company realized the demand for pro audio and music industry based products and moved into that direction.
The ’60s definitely saw fast-paced developments in these markets. It was during this time that beat bands from all across Europe began using Dynacord equipment. On August 16th, 1965, the German beat band “The Lords“ launched a tour with all Dynacord equipment. In 1966, the “German Beats“ employed a Dynacord system for sound reproduction when setting the world record “the longest continuous performance of beat music“. A year later Dynacord took part in the “First Prague Beat-Festival“ from December 20th to December 22nd, 1967. Held in the Lucerny-Hall in Prague, approximately 30 bands converged on the location from all over Czechoslovakia to take part in the event, which had been furnished with complete Dynacord sound systems. Over 10,000 beat fans took part in the event.
James Edlund, EV/Dynacord PR Manager: Do you remember playing in any of these festivals? What were the top clubs of the day? Do you remember anything about advancements in P.A. around this time?
Gary Burger, singer/guitarist, the Monks: “Yeah, I remember this time you’re talking about - and I recall seeing A LOT of Dynacord gear around. There was really a buzz around how great it sounded! The Monks did not play any further south than Munich and we played there only once prior to being the Monks in a dirtbag bar very near the Bahnhof. It was so bad none of us wanted to go back. We played in Hamburg at the Top Ten Club on the Reeperbahn very often after we became the Monks. This was the club the Beatles played in when they came to Hamburg and all the bands wanted to play there because if you’ve played in Hamburg’s Top Ten Club or Star Club it gave you substantial credentials. The music started in the Top Ten Club at 9:00 p.m. and went until 4:00 a.m. with two bands alternating throughout the night. The Star Club was just around the corner so we could go there on our off-time and catch the English and German acts that came through town. The Top Ten had its own PA and the owner controlled the volume. If he thought the band was playing to loud he’d turn the PA down until the band got the point. It was difficult for the Monks because we used a lot of feedback and yelling vocals to grab the crowd’s attention. The Top Ten and the Star Club were the very top places to play in Germany in the 60s. There were other places like the K52 in Frankfurt and another one or two in Berlin but our favorite place was Hamburg. Our record company (Polydor International) was also located there and it gave us a chance to see our great producer, Jimmy Bowien and plan new recordings. The P.A. system we used while on the road was quite small. I believe it was an amp with Vox column-type speakers on each side of the stage - we always wanted to upgrade to Dynacord.
Some of the clubs had PA systems but we often used our own so we could control it and not have the club owner or manager fooling with our sound all night. I think the PA systems didn’t progress much until we were history on the playing scene and that’d be after 1968. I only remember smaller systems. We did play a large venue or two that had bigger house systems. One was in Munich at a place called Circus Krone where we played with The Kinks to about 10,000 people. As I recall, there were no monitors and we got a bit lost every now and then because we couldn’t hear the vocals and we were spread so wide on the huge stage that we even had problems hearing each others instruments. Later, we did a show with the Troggs in Dortmund where conditions were somewhat better. We set up closer to each other but still had problems hearing the vocals in that big place, again because of lack of monitors. In Kiel we played a show with The Jimi Hendrix Experience that was much better. It was in a movie theater renovated into a very cool nightclub with its own PA that worked to both our and Jimi’s satisfaction. Jimi went on first to a packed house and did his wonderful show. After he finished, the Monks went on and Jimi came back in and sat down in the front row near me and stayed for our entire one hour set. I was using a Gretsch Duo Jet guitar plugged into a Gibson fuzz-tone plugged into a Fender volume/tone pedal plugged into a Vox Super Beatle amp. I could get great, natural feedback out of that arrangement. I think Jimi was just checking to make sure there was no one out there making cooler sounds that he was. It was a great night and I feel privileged to have met him and play on the same bill.“
James Edlund, EV/Dynacord PR Manager: Given the era - and the location - it sounds like you ran into quite a lot of other bands while touring Europe and playing festivals. What were some of the other high points?
Gary Burger, singer/guitarist, the Monks: “The Monks did a television show in Frankfurt with Manfred Mann. We played with the German Lords, a great English group called Casey Jones and another called the Image who we became very close friends with. They did a cover of “Red Rubber Ball“ and had great success in Germany. We played with many other very good groups of those days but regretfully they have slid backwards down my memory chute. But yeah, the big ones: The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Kinks, The Troggs, etc.“
James Edlund, EV/Dynacord PR Manager: What was your experience with recording during the time the Monks were in Germany?
Gary Burger, singer/guitarist, the Monks: “The first time we recorded was in Heidelberg where there was a small recording studio. This was before we became the Monks. We played very often in Heidelberg in a great little club called the Odeon Kellar. We had rather naively decided that if we were to “get anywhere’ playing music that we needed to record. We looked up this little studio, Tone Studio Adler I think it was called and set a date. We ended up recording a pair of Torquay originals (“Boys Are Boys’ and “There She Walks’) in a very straightforward manner... I think we recorded the entire band in one pass and then overdubbed the vocals. We were in and out of there in about 4 hours. We pressed up 500 45rpm copies and sold them at the clubs we played at. We also sent some out to record companies fully expecting to be signed in a very short time. That didn’t happen. After we transitioned from Torquays to the Monks our managers arranged for us to record in a larger studio near Stuttgart. When we got there we were amazed/appalled at the size of the room we were going to work in. It was huge! They were set up to record large orchestras, not 5 piece rock and roll bands. I recall the engineer having a very difficult time because of the very loud volume levels we were playing at. He eventually managed to get 8 or 10 songs on tape. Our managers took those tapes around to various record companies who mostly said they weren’t interested in this awful noise but they finally connected with a great producer, Jimmy Bowien who worked with Polydor International out of Hamburg. Jimmy was very interested in the band because of the different slant to our sound and lyrics. He had a very open mind and wasn’t afraid to walk on unsure ground. He delighted us as a group and our relationship was excellent. Polydor had a large recording studio in Cologne (Koln) and it so happened that the Monks had a playing gig there in the Storyville nightclub so we would do our nightly gig of 7 hours, pack up our gear, drive over to the Polydor studios, record until 8 or so in the morning, pack up, go back to the club and set up, go to bed, get up, play at the club, pack up, go to the studio and do it again. Hell, we were young then! The entire Monks album was recorded in two days. Again, the recordings were very straightforward with the band playing the songs as a unit with no overdubs except vocals. Our managers were there and thought that my voice on the lead vocals was sounding simply way too sweet and nice. So, they started pouring Jim Beam down my throat to “give it a bit of an edge.’ You can listen to the album and tell me if you think it worked. I recall having wild hangovers in the club the night after.“
James Edlund, EV/Dynacord PR Manager: How did you transition into the world of audio/video production, once you returned to the States?
Gary Burger, singer/guitarist, the Monks: “After the Monks folded I returned to the States and eventually settled with my Swedish wife in Minneapolis. I had some G.I. Bill I could apply toward an education so I decided to go to Brown Institute and work in radio as a life’s career. It was a good plan. I finished school, got a radio job and quit after about 3 months to take a singing job at a new nightclub in Crystal called the Rusty Nail. I must have missed the high life. At that time, I also started doing independent audio production writing jingles and an occasional score for industrial films. I had no studio at that time (1970-74) but I was able to make a living doing this and I enjoyed it.
After personal trials, I left the Twin Cities and came North in 1974 and decided to settle here. I found that I enjoyed the slower pace, getting off the packed freeways and into the woods and waters. I worked awhile in non-musical jobs but eventually found my way back into the audio production business. Today, I’m a bit behind the technology curve but still have a very cool little studio that produces a good sound. I’m using Tascam DA-88s (3) and a good assembly of outboard gear. Microphones from Electro-Voice, Neumann, AKG, and Shure. I mix to a Alesis Masterlink plus I have a Nagra IV-S which still gets used sometimes. My board is an older Tascam that has been modified by Dan Kennedy (Great River Electronics Founder). Plus I have one of Dan’s superb two channel mic preamps. I have a largish control room and a pair of good-sized isolation booths for drums and/or acoustic instruments. I record jazz, blues, rock, folk, country bands, single performers and I record chorale groups on location. I’m also in the video business, shooting Beta-Sp format and use EV/Telex wireless - the ENG-100.“
On Electro-Voice Microphones: Gary Burger, the Monks
“The EV microphones I have are: RE510, N/D478, N/D868, RE20, Cobalt Co4, Co9 and Co11. A good friend first drew my attention to EV mics and what I noticed first without plugging in was their substantial feel. When you pick one up it feels and looks like you have a serious microphone in your hand.
I started by trying the EV Co9 in a live music situation at a local night club (yes, I still play) and I felt comfortable with it right away. Its sound was superior to the old standby I’d been using for years, fuller and still with the edge to do the cutting job. My bandmates were immediately jealous and that tells the entire tale.
In the studio I have several EV Co4 mics and find them to be a very good all around utility mic, much like a ’57 but voiced better, in my opinion. They work great on guitar amps, and they work equally well on drums, especially toms which is where I’ve been applying them. They are not expensive and I’d recommend this microphone to be permanent fixture in any recording situation. They get used at my place.
My N/D478 series microphone is a very pretty, dynamic mic that claims to do a lot chores but I started it off on top of the snare drum and loved it and that’s where it stays. In my typical drum set up I’m using a mic on top and bottom of the snare drum and feeding those signals to separate tracks to get both the body and sizzle of the drum. I’m still doing that but when I use the N/D478 I find thatI do not need to mix in quite as much of the lower mic to get the sizzle. This is a great mic and I’d like to be trying it in other places the manufacturer recommends like toms, guitar amps plus the data sheet on it says it works good on bass speaker cabinets. Mmm...I like it so much on snare that I fear it will never see those applications. The sound was bright, full bodied and warm and it has worked really well in this application.
The N/D868 is a kick drum microphone pure and simple. It’s been impressive in my studio. Before I came across the N/D868 I’d been using another good name kick drum mic but now that rests in the storage cabinet. The 868 gave me the full-bodied whack that I’d been looking for to apply in rock and country plus with a bit of placement change I pleased my jazz customers as well. Now I can’t imagine being without it. I EQ mostly not at all to get the kick drum sound I want and it perseveres and comes through in the mix with clarity and definition. I love this microphone.
The EV RE510 condenser is another piece of work that gets much use around here. It doesn’t look like a condenser, it doesn’t feel like a condenser but it acts like one. I’ve been using it in the studio as a vocal mic when I have a solo artist who plays guitar or piano and sings at the same time. I’ve had problems in the past with severe leakage from guitar or piano into the vocal microphone which limited some possibilities. This mic works clear and clean with a minimum of leakage and sounds terrific on vocals. The singer can get right on top of it and yet the proximity effect is minimal and it is still fat, clear and musical. I use it extensively (all the time) in these situations. The EV write-up on it says it is excellent for a number of other applications and I believe them.
My Cobalt Co11 condenser microphone gets use in the same situation as the RE510. I’ll often have a couple of people playing and singingat the same time who are not comfortable with overdubs so we do it all live. When this happens the Co11 comes out of the cabinet. It has good pop resistance so a singer can use it close up. It has a crisp upper and a warm mid to lower sound on vocals which definitelyputs them in the mix in a very satisfactory manner. This is a very good microphone for a lot of vocal applications plus I believe it would work well on guitar amps and I intend to try it there very soon.
The RE20 speaks for itself. This mic has long been a favorite of radio stations and production studios needing a rugged mic that never quits working. I started using it on narrations for my video productions and found it perfect. Then the day came when I had a superb four piece bluegrass gospel band and had major troubles making their mandolin sound right. I went through most of the mics in my collection and none of them sounded right. The band was getting edgy and really wanting to get underway but I was determined to pin down a good way to capture the very high energy mandolin in amusical manner. I dug out the RE20 as a last resort and it worked so very well that the band forgave me my previous procrastinations. It gave the mando a full bodied, musical sound that still cut and did the chores in the mix and I used no EQ. That sold me on it 100%. I was working on some of my own material one day and decided to give it a try on a guitar amplifier. After futzing with placement a bit, I recorded a track and ended up being very pleased with its ability to capture a warm electric guitar without any brittleness in the high end. This is a great mic.
I’ve been very pleased with all my EV microphones. They look and feel substantial and THEY SOUND GOOD! When it boils right down to the bottom line about a product I have to know if it sounds musical and comes through in the mix. That’s all I’m interested in. During the last couple of years I’ve managed to wean myself off some of my older tried and true habits and listen to new things. Electro Voice microphones have been excellent additions to my studio and they are affordable! I rest the case.“