Interview with The Vietnam Veterans by Robex Lundgren January 2016
Have any of you played in other bands? We all played in other bands and some of us still play in other groups. Lucas, our organists has recorded for more than 150 albums. Since 1967, I have sung with a few bands too ! Peter, our bassist has spent years playing and singing in the USA. Martin, our drummer played with many bands and eventually sings and plays guitar in a C&W band…
How is it that you started playing music? I guess nobody of us couldn’t help it !
What are your names/instruments/ages?
Mark Enbatta : Guitars, vocals. 61y.o.
Lucas Trouble : keyboards, bass 60 y.o.
Martin Joyce : Drums, vocals. 65 y.o.
Peter Mc Connel : Bass, guitar, any instrument you can name. 50 y.o.
Have you had previous members? Yes. Three different drummers played on our first album. We had a guy on harmonica… Since 1987, we’ve changed quite often…
Did you make music even when you were young? Yes ! we all started in our early teens…
Where are you from? We all live in Burgundy (France) but I was born in southern France with Basque origins and Peter comes from Vermont state USA…
What year did the band form? 1982
What’s your style of genre? That’s psychedelic music… whatever this name means ! No restriction ! Whatever comes to our brains is allowed.
What inspires you? Life and life only.
How often and where do you rehearse? We only rehearse for gigs or recordings. We do it in a recording studio. We actually have two recording studios and I play everyday in mine…
How have you developed since you started with the music? I’ve played covers most of the first years, except in 1970 when I had a real psychedelic band playing my own songs. I’ve started writing seriously in the late 70’s…
Do you have other interests of work outside the band?
I’m a hearing aid dispenser, Lucas is a record engineer and producer, Martin used to work in publicity. Peter mainly makes music and teaches english. He’s working for a web US company too.
Are you looking for a booking agency and what are your thoughts around that? We used to tour for Paperclip in the past. We now improvise because we don’t play much…
Are you looking for a label and what are your thoughts around that? We have recorded for three labels. Music Maniac stopped business two years ago and we now release on Lucas Trouble’s label, Nova Express. We would be ready for a new label as long as they would do the job Music Maniac used to do…
What made you decide to make this music ? I don’t know… I have a very big record collection and I guess everything is cooking inside my head !
What are your songs about? About my real life ! Time, Love, Sex and anything I can feel…
Who does the composing and write the lyrics? I write almost everything… From time to time, somebody else brings a song and I write the lyrics. Lucas records his own songs on his albums.
Do you start with the music or the lyrics? I mostly start with the music but I already have a few lines coming too.
Do you compose in a certain environment? No. The songs often come when walking in the streets.
Have you done any covers live? We used to play some covers at the beginning of the band. Actually, our first label wanted us to record some covers for the first LP. We played them live too. We have hundreds of original songs so we almost never play covers now…
What language do you sing in? English
What are the least and most people to attend one of your gigs? Ha Ha ! from 40 to 3000. It really depends on the promotion work !
What ages are your concert attendants? It really depends on the country and the venue… We have very young audiences in Greece and rather old ones in Germany… Big venues mean younger people.
Do you always play the same songs live or do you vary? We always play songs from the last album but some of our old songs can’t be avoided. People ask for them… and many others we don’t play anymore !
Do you have a regular place you play live often? No…
What was your first gig like? We opened for Wild Child, a Stooges like band. It was a big success ! We were playing home…
What was your latest gig? We played in eastern France in September. Just before we had played in Belgium and Germany. Since this gig I’ve had surgery on my left hand…
Have you had to cancel a gig? Never.
Where have you played live this year? Belgium, Germany and France.
Where do you plan to gig the coming year? Germany and Greece.
When did you start to sell merchandise and what do you have for sale? We’ve started in 1986. We sell T shirts, records and posters.
What do you think about people downloading music instead of buying records now a days? They’re just killing the art they pretend to like. We spend days recording a great sound and they listen to lame quality. They’re just stupid and tasteless…
How do you think the music industry has changed because of this? The music industry commited suicide when the CD became the only available product. Less choice and high prices killed the whole business. I had a record store then. All the people who were buying ten albums a month stopped buying records. I am one of them… Downloading music for free was just the next step.
What do you think of my work? I think it’s strange to answer ready made questions. I’m not used to it !
How do you think and know that this interview will help you in the music business? I don’t answer interviews to be helped !
Do you have any role models or idols? No.
Is it easier to find inspiration from older bands or bands that are more active today? I’ve never tried to find inspiration in any band and get inspiration from everything in life. I just don’t search inspiration.
What have been your biggest obstacles? None in the past. Today’s obstacle is that people don’t feel they’re a part of something that could change the world. They’re not involved…
What advice would you give other bands or artists? Express yourself ? Don’t copy…
How do you get psyched for a gig? A gig is just another moment of life ! No difference. Our lives are like gigs !
Do you have any new material? Yes. Of course… We’ll work on it later next year.
What are your web sites?
We are on Facebook, Myspace, Soundcloud, Reverbnation, Youtube and Pinterest too…
How can people reach you? Many people get in touch on Facebook on my page or on the band’s page. Others on our site.
What are your plans for the future? I will release a solo double acoustic album and I guess we will work on a new Vietnam Veterans LP. Maybe a single too…
Do you have something to add? Yes ! we have released a lot of records and always had very good sales. I usually answer questions about them. There’s no question about our discography in your interview !
Interview with Andrea Valentini for Sottoterra Rock Zine January 2016
I like your questions!
Here are the answers!
1/ I'm 61 and I live in France. In Burgundy, actually. I was born in southern France but life took me there... I have a complicated family life! let's say I have four kids (32, 30, 13 and 9) and let's forget the rest... I'm living with the mother of the two youngest ones.
2/ I've been very lucky in the early 60's. I had older cousins who used to listen to all the cool stuff. They were Beatles fans. They had Beatles curtains, Beatles bed cloths etc... My first favorite band was the Animals and the next one was Them. Great voices and maximum emotion. That's what I like! Gene Vincent, Otis Redding... As a youngster I could only afford to buy EP's and singles. All my LP's were presents from my elder cousins! I then bought all the albums I wanted but couldn't buy! I started singing in 1967. Stax covers, James Brown covers and some 60's beat covers. I then played bass in a RnB band. I started playing guitar in 1969 and had a real psychedelic band in 1970... This band was my real first band as a songwriter and "leader". It didn't last very long because our drummer was jailed for "political" armed robbery!
3/ Our sound comes from a mix! I think it's a vital ingredient of Rock n' Roll. I've never tried to find musicians with the same tastes I have. I think it's boring and never leads anywhere... I just bring naked songs and everybody brings clothes! It always works. The only problem is with new members. They're not used to it and just try to fit in. I must tell them to play whatever they feel. Some can't... I want everybody to deeply understand and share the feelings of very personal, intimate songs... Really naked! I don't hide anything and the song becomes their song just because we all have the same emotions with different shades... Nothing is forbidden in the band!
4/ In the late 70's, I've maybe been involved in a scene in Lyon... I've played with many people but never went further because these bands weren't exactly what I wanted... In the early 80's, my town didn't have a scene at all... I had a record store and I very soon started the VV's with a friend I was playing with in the late 60's. Nobody was playing our kind of music anyway... Only the Dogs and the Snipers had some similar tastes but they were doing a very different style of Rock. Tamer, I would say... We were and are mad people! We didn't play many gigs but only in very good places!
5/ There've been many good french bands during the 80's. I've seen most of them live and I was selling their records in my store. Unfortunately, we didn't play with any of them because we were mostly playing outside of France... We had friends in other french bands but mostly met foreign groups... From the first day, 90% of our sales were international sales. Now I'm very happy to meet the guys I never met during the 80's! To be honest, my opinion was that most of the guys were fakes and poseurs! Ha Ha Ha! I'm the worst judge you can find! I would like everybody to tell stories about their real lives etc... I've never been into fashions, trends, scenes etc... Some guys really impress me but most of the time, they are very far from the mainstream... I got bad habits during the 60's I guess. Too much talent and too much freedom...
6/ I'm really touched when people tell me how some of my songs were important in their lives! Wow! They really understood and shared the feelings I had. It happens quite often and it makes me feel I've not wasted my time. Writing and singing was good for my mental health and it was useful for somebody else. Wow! Like this girl who told me You're Gonna Fall helped her surviving in prison. OMG! I don't know if we influenced anybody's musical tastes... Actually, I don't really care. Some bands cover some of our songs but I mostly care about this intimacy we've created with many of our fans. We're like family to them! Like John Lennon was a kind of big brother to me. Not an idol, a friend and a brother...
7/ LSD brings to your knowledge things that never were conscious. Those things become obvious and change your life and your understanding of it. It means that nobody doing psychedelic music should do what other did. Everybody has his own story and his own influences in life. Any similarity between the Seeds, the Grateful Dead, Kaleidoscope and the early Pink Floyd? No... People who never had any lysergic experience but liked the aesthetics and sounds of this era used the word about many bands. Years later, it became a rule and a fashion to give names and categories to everything. That's how generations came to think that there would be a psychedelic sound and it's a complete misunderstanding of what psychedelia was and is... Psychedelia is just accepting all the influences and daring to show them. From nursery rhymes, lullabies, local Folk music, classical music to any kind of Rock. That's exactly what we've always done!
8/ The 80's split wasn't really a split... we have recorded together after "breaking up". It was just an old decision to do something else after 5 albums. Then the line ups changed several times... we had side projects too. Anyway, we still are friends and see each others when it's needed. After the Thyrd Twin album I was tired of playing in a band... I will release all the acoustic recordings I have taped during the years before Lucas called me for the Gitanes project... Everybody has played during those years and Lucas became a fantastic producer. It was worth waiting!
9/ Every record has its own mood... My life is a very busy one and I need to write about my hidden feelings. That's the best way to save the money I could give to a psychiatrist. Strange Girl, the previous record probably saved me from a suicide. I didn't know it before listening to it with the band in my living room. A Fistful of Love had to be shorter and crude. No gathering of dark feelings and melancholy. I probably always write about sex and time but this album says "let's not waste time! let's have sex!". Well, there's more than that in it but that was the main mood... I always have the same obsessions and topics. The music is raw and, unlike almost all the previous records, we were ready to play them live before entering the studio. Since Ancient Times, most of the work was done in the recording studio. We didn't have time enough for rehearsing and plenty of studio time... A Fistful of Love is a record by a real band. It means rehearsing a lot and recording very fast!
10/ We actually released it on Nova Express only because Music Maniac stopped business. We didn't want to look for another label in a very short time. It means we didn't give it to any distributor. People can buy it from Nova Express, the VV's site or at concerts... We'll probably do it another way next time.
11/ I can't really answer this question now... I have songs but I don't know if we will use them as the Vietnam Veterans. I sincerely hope they will be VV's songs because it would mean that all of us would be alive to record them. Not sure yet...
I will finish my double acoustic album first. I will record four new ones with Peter Mc Connel on guitar. I've started it in the late 80's. Time to release the stuff!
12/ Apart from the acoustic project, I don't play with other people. Peter does...
13/ We've never played in Italy. I was thinking of driving through Italy and then take the boat to Greece. Why not? I used to speak Italian in the 70's... Anyway, we always want to play in new places! My italian experiences are private ones!
14/ We've been rather big during the 80's and sold quite a lot of records. More than many "famous" bands. We've played large venues and festivals and we've been free to record whatever we wanted to record. I sincerely didn't expect that much... Who cares about a status? I've never wanted to be a Rock star!
15/ I have a steady job. I'm a hearing aid dispenser and a bio acoustician. I've had a record store during 20 years too... I've never expected to live from my music and I'm sure that's the reason why I've earned money with it!
16/ Yep! I've got an op on my left hand. Quite a big scar! I will have surgery on the right hand too. It's what they call a Dupuytren's. A finger gets stiff and slowly bends to the palm. A family disease... I already can play, anyway!
Feel free to ask other things or details!