You went to Viva right? Well if you were a good kid then you enjoyed the DJs that played in between every band. One thing was evident during almost every DJ set. Almost everyone had a 45 spinning by this man: Marcel Bontempi. Probably one of the most unique talents currently in the rockin world (listen to his take on “Race With the Devil). I first heard him while he was in the Montesas (also a very unique band), his current work, and you can enjoy him in western form in Dr Bontempi’s Snake Oil Company. He is also an amazing artist (that I totally forgot to touch on in the questions but he has done his own album cover art along with other artists such as the Rhythm Shaker’s Voodoo). Here is a Q&A I did recently with the rockin German himself. Enjoy mein rockabilly katzen!
Rockabilly Nerd: Thank you very much for agreeing to answer some questions. I first heard of you when you were singing for the Montesas. What inspired your solo career?
Marcel Bontempi: Well, in fact my “solo career” started long before the Montesas. I do home recordings on four-track-tape-recorder since the early 90s. And with other recording techniques from even earlier. So the whole time I’m making Music this was below the surface. Somewhere down the line I thought it might be good to release a recording, and from then on it started somehow. I got so many recordings here in my poison cabinet from 1990 on – i really lost the overview. So what you call “solo career” was never planned and just came naturally.
Rockabilly Nerd: Along with your solo work you also have the band Dr Bontempi’s Snake Oil Company, how did that project come along?
Marcel Bontempi: When I first bought a Hank Williams LP (these were the Radio live Shows). When i was 16 years old I couldn’t really relate to his music. It was too much “adult” maybe and sounded “soft” to me, compared with psychobilly and the likes. But at some point it made CLICK and i understood it and it soon became my favorite kind of music. I have sung with my wife Ira Lee “Audrey and Hank” songs since then (we’re talking about 1997 or so). The wish to form a Hillbilly and western swing band emerged and became stronger.
When the Montesas slowed down a bit and musicians of the band moved in different cities and made it impossible to rehearse on a regular basis I really tried to get a step further and set efforts in finding the right musicians. Which turned out to be a real challenge. I can tell you I was near on giving the whole thing up. We went to some important changes, and finally we have the tip top line up : with a steady rhythm group, a real hot fiddle and blues harp and all of them love the music. I’m so happy with the band, and I see it grow at every rehearsal.
RN: How was playing at the Nashville Boogie a few months ago? Enjoy the U.S.?
MB: Oh, this was such a great and nice experience. You know, playing in the states was a long time dream. I guess for every musician related to “americana” somehow. On the other hand I refused to go there and just play for the hell of it . Without fee or paid transport. So when brother Jason Galaz finally contacted me to play at his brand new festival, on top of that its in NASHVILLE (with paid transport accommodation and a reasonable fee) I felt like a long-term dream come true. Although Ira Lee and I had only one extended weekend for the whole thing ( way too short time), we absolutely enjoyed every minute of it. A funny thing: I was talking to Texas born musician Almon Loos hours before my show, when I suddenly realized that me (a little German baboon) is going to sing in front of an American audience in Nashville. I told him “Well, you know, you’re an American, you talk the language fluently, you’re accepted… I can’t talk really properly the american language”. So he said “Well, I’m not American, I’m TEXAN, but I know what you mean – but hey, be yourself, talk German if you feel better with it.”. And that is what i did. Every time I threw in some German words and sayings (just for fun) I heard people some where in the audience yell “YEAAAAH!!”. I was really astonished, and later I found out, these were young GIs who had made part of their service in Germany and simply fell in love with its culture and people. Another weird thing talking about culture: In no other land I heard so much German. Hell, there were people in the Nashville Palace, talking German. The officials at the airport greeted us with “Guten tag” and “Auf wiedersehen”.You hardly ever hear that in England or France ;-). People were super open and friendly in every sense. We really really enjoyed our short trip a lot.
RN: Hope to return here? Possibly play Viva or any other weekenders?
MB: Oh definitely! Any invitation to the states will be more than welcome!!!!! I’m in contact with a certain “snake oil”-festival in New Orleans also. Let’s see what happens.
RN: Any new releases in the works?
MB: Yes sir, in fact, there is always something in the pipeline. We have new recordings with the snake oil co, plan to do something new with the Montesas, and as i told you, i keep recording all the time by myself. But I don’t plan very long ahead. Maybe the words Cuba, voodoo, ship indicate a little the direction of what to come sometime soon.
RN: And finally anything you would like to say to anyone reading this?
MB: OK: please, ladies and gentlemen, if you read this, you probably are a deep deep music and rockabilly nerd. But don’t worry – it is just fine. You belong to the secret brother and sisterhood of the weird but cool. Be proud, but not too proud and still help your neighbour. But if you belong to the so-called “rockabilly police” i got bad news for you: I belong to the SECRET SPECIAL forces and got higher orders! Orders you will never comprehend!
I’m part of a rockabilly swat team…..no I’m not. I would like to once again thank Mr Bontempi for taking the time to emailing back this silly blog of mine. If you are a fan I recommend sharing this on social media. While you’re at it go ahead an LIKE the Official Rockabilly Nerd Facebook page HERE.
And as always, stop talking about your haircut.