I first saw Reverend Beat-Man live back in Summer 2000 at the Las Vegas Grind weekend. He put on a jaw-dropping show of raved-out, hopped-up Gospel Blues dementia that left me agog at the energy and excitement of his show. I had just started Gearhead and was at the gathering of the century for a blasted-out garage-punk rave-up weekend of dirty rock n’ roll, raunch and roll, rock n’ roll and all out celebration of the Garage-punk revival.
I specifically remember Beat-Man Zeller’s demeanor after his set too , he was humble and wreathed in genuine smiles of appreciation. He was gracious and kind, the psychotic trash blues mayhem he had channeled during his show was completely gone. Drenched in sweat, he smiled and was appreciative of my gushing wonder and enthusiasm. I had been playing his records on my radio show at KDVS and was so excited to meet the man behind the records in person!
Beat-Man had started Voodoo Rhythm several years earlier and already had his finger on the European pulse with the string of releases from psychobilly trash garage bands he put out. THAT’S what I wanted to do with Gearhead.
Over the years, I’ve watched Beat-man slog on, year in year out, releasing trashy treasures, perform, host festivals and follow his own inner vision guided by the spirit of early Elvis and Sun Records, bringing to the twenty-first century the raw ecstatic excitement of those early days of rock n’ roll. To keep something going this long is a testament to his passion. You run on empty, constantly giving of your own energy, fueling your creations. Having run my own label and festival, the exhaustive amount of energy it takes to keep going is mind-numbing at best, lonely and disappointing at the worst.
Yet he keeps going, no matter what. I am honored to consider him a friend and mentor. Happy 30th Anniversary Beat-Man! You are a true legend and your vision, passion and stick-to-it-ness a true inspiration. (Rev. Michelle Haunold Lorenz - Gearhead)
1992, a year where the big wig culture mongers hyped up the working-class aesthetic as being "in" with their peddling of flannel and shredded blue jeans as socially acceptable garb. Surreal to think there was a time when "slacker chic" and punk rock were receiving big-dollar marketing budgets. Hey, at least we were educated about something actually happening in small towns like Aberdeen or Bellingham, WA (let alone knowing these towns exist!). The Pacific Northwest was the center of the cultural universe for that short period partly because of the media hoopla and major-label bidding wars sparking a frenzy of signing whoever sounded like Black Flag and Black Sabbath, Killing Joke, or The Vaselines. This period of rock music history has already been talked about beyond a dead horse beating; other stuff was happening in far-off places.
Voodoo Rhythm Records, a label and currency 5,000 miles removed from American soil, couldn’t have cared less about the New World’s manufactured “alternative rock” craze all the major label marketing departments spoonfed its youth culture at the time. This averse attitude of marching to their own beat is why they’re about to mark 30 years in business in 2022. Aside from Gearhead here, what other small companies from this era are regularly putting out underground rock n’ roll?
What initially began as a vessel to release a Swiss garage rock compilation has grown into a full-fledged label and publishing company with 100 + LP titles and countless singles to their catalog. Beat-Man, or Reverend Beat-Man as he’s known globally, is the high priest of the fringe roster over at Voodoo Rhythm Records. A rock n’ roll lifer and enabler himself, his responsibilities include giving a platform to worldly and genre-crossing groups like the garage n’ soul of King Khan & The Shrines, the lost recordings of obscure UK rockabilly artist Jerry J. Nixon, the rust n’ sweat garage blues of The Guilty Hearts, and the one-Frenchman wrecking crew that is King Automatic amongst countless others.
Voodoo Rhythm Records, like its peers, has been through consumer taste changes, the digital revolution, recessions, and recently a worldwide pandemic. They’re still here, still kicking and about to commemorate three decades of not backing down with a new label compilation celebrating the label’s past and showcasing its future and another album from Swiss chainsaw-punk maniacs, The Monsters. For those new to the world of Voodoo Rhythm, these compilations are a good starter kit for what makes this Bernese underworld tick and grind together. Beat-Man was kind enough to dedicate some time listing the five albums that shaped his being and encompass the “Records To Ruin Any Party” mantra of Voodoo Rhythm. This list below laid the foundation for Reverend Beat-Man’s early interest in the rock n’ roll realm and why they’re so significant to him.
Reverend Beat-Man. rock n' roll lifer.
Hasil Adkins - Out To Hunch
“When I first heard Out To Hunch, I was into the Rolling Stones, Mersey Beat or rock’n’roll like Elvis, and Gene Vincent etc. But when I heard Hasil for the first time on that Rockabilly Psychosis compilation that Big Beat Records released in 1984, I was just blown away by the dementia in his voice. I imagine this was recorded towards the end of the 1950s and punk music like that was played in churches or bars around Madison. Anyway, I was so blown away that I quit my job in Switzerland and booked a ticket to the USA where I bought a car and traveled around for a half year and I found him! It was pre-internet or Google era. Hahah, anyway I had a lovely time with him.”
The Cramps - ...Off The Bone
“I first heard of The Cramps in probably 1980 or 81 from my older brother. He had a friend in Berlin, and they exchanged tapes, both of them were more into goth stuff like The Residents, Neon Judgement, Cabaret Voltaire, etc. The Cramps were on one of the tapes, and I said that I want that, so that’s when I became a Cramps fan. I tortured my local record store to order their LPs for me; I had only three albums and about 100 bootlegs, haha! They were amazing, and Nick Knox is, for me, still one of the most ridiculous caveman drummers of all time! I love Nick Knox’s drums !!!! His drumming changed my life forever while listening to his music.”
Einstürzende Neubauten - Kollaps
“When I was a teenager, I was completely against everything, everybody, and I hated almost everything, and I loved it. Einstüznde Neubauten was the soundtrack for all those feelings I had inside me. My parents hated the guts out of that music coming from my room, hahaha! It’s just fucking noise, and this was just my thing; the band taught me that you can write songs; differently, not all music needs strict structure and solos, etc. It just needs a lot of noise and something that attracts your attention. Anyway, when I saw them live, they blew away their recordings for me. I wanted to do something similar, and as a teen, I played in a local industrial band in the early ’80s, but I was a big Elvis fan. When I started my one-man-band project Taeb Zerfall then Lightning Beat-Man, my idea was to cross Neubauten with Elvis. And I did, haha!”
Howling Wolf - More Real Folk Blues
“When Janosh (bass player for The Monsters) and I lived together for a couple of years, this was the record we listened to the most. It’s one of the best LPs ever made. The songwriting, the recordings, and the drumming, etc. When I was a child, my dream was to be black but look at me, I’m bloody white, haha!! So, they called me the White Wolf here in Bern. <3”
Venom - Black Metal
“I grew up in Switzerland’s countryside with bands like Status Quo, AC/DC, and Motorhead. However, when Venom came, my metal years were over; you can’t top that band. For me, Black Metal is the best rock n’ roll metal album of all time. I mean, for god’s sake, it’s all in there: teenage angst, teenage hate, blasphemy, and a lot of fun. My parents hated that album; it was perfect for a growing teenager. Sadly, I never got to see them and wanted to go to their first Swiss show when Metallica toured with them as their supporting act, which was Metallica’s first show outside the United States. I was young and scared too, my friends and I got beat up by other metal fans cause we wore jean jackets. That’s when we thought that in Zürich, the other metalheads must be more extreme, haha!!”
Pick up Voodoo Rhythm Records Label Compilation Volume 5 here.
Voodoo Rhythm Records online
Words by The Heathen
Rock 'n' Roll/Automotive Journalist, Influencer, Editor and Publisher of Gearhead Magazine,