Tag Archives: Switzerland

Swampy, bluesy, sultry: Honshu Wolves.

Maryanne Shewolf heads this deep and dark bluesy  trio from Bern, Switzerland, along with wolf pups Fabian and Mige. The songs captivate, embrace you with their moody swagger. In this interview, Maryanne shares how Honshu Wolves came to be, in Zaffaraya – an alternative trailer park, and how she had that creative something inside that just needed to be born.

When and how did Honshu Wolves form? 

The band Honshu Wolves was founded in 2007 by myself, together with our neighbor Emanuel. Actually, I asked him to teach me how to play the guitar, because I wanted to have an instrument to go along with my voice. But I was very impatient and wrote my first song shortly after the first few lessons and I asked him if he wanted to play with me. So that’s how the group was born.

I was always surrounded by people playing in bands, but I became a mother very young and didn’t have the urge to have my own group before, so much. But after the kids grew a little bit older, I had the feeling that something wanted to come out and I wanted to dive into a new creative dimension.

After some months we met through a friend our drummer Mige. And we played as a trio, my voice, two guitars and drums.

In 2011 we released our first record, the 10” ‘shine on me’ at the Geneva label Moi J’Connais from Mama Rosin.

Emanuel, the guitarist, moved into another city to study and also didn’t like performing live as much as I did and he decided to leave the band around 2012. We asked him to record the newer songs we have been playing together before he left and he agreed.

We released our second record and first long play album ‘Silver Ashes Line The Lane’ on the label Sacred Hood Records from Biel in 2014.

Just after the recordings we fortunately met Fabian who replaced Emanuel.

In this formation we are still playing now.

Honshu Wolves

Tell me about your musical evolution, personally and as a band. 

I think I started very late with the idea to have a band. I tried out other things before, as a kid and teenager, sang in choirs and was in a musical company, but this was not the thing I wanted to pursue. I played the piano, but only classical music for several years. I still like it, but only to play for myself.

Because my older brother and his friends always had bands I was actually surrounded by people playing in groups. But somehow I didn’t like the idea to just be the singer of a group, cause I didn’t play a ‘band instrument’. Girls forming their own group was not so common then. Some years later I had a girl band, but only formed for a project for one cover song. Out of that some of my friends wanted to play with me, all girls. I couldn’t play the guitar, but played it anyhow. But we didn’t find really a consensus and split.

Then I didn’t play for a long time. I became a mother at 20 as I moved to Zaffarya.

7 years later Emanuel became our neighbor and I decided to form my own group, with my songs. I wanted to sing how I just feel like and play music that touches me or moves me while playing.

There with the group I started with very simple things. I didn’t play the guitar before, so played a blues open tuning and didn’t want to waste time.

I liked Jessie Mae Hemphill and gospel, but also the Velvet Underground and space. I think I mixed this in its simplest form and that’s how it still sounds today in a way I would say.

Of course, I want to evolve the songwriting all the time. As best I can. But it’s still simple. I like clever songwriting and sometimes analyze songs I like. But for myself I don’t write songs with a plan …what I want just comes.

We really became better playing together. In good phases we understand each other blind and match very well.

Honshu Wolves

What/who are some of your influences – music and non-music related? 

For what music I know and love, I have two important influences, one is my elder brother and the other is my partner, Christian.

I think a lot is still based somehow on the blues.

And it was always music, that touches me somehow somewhere.. In very different ways and styles.

Some are beautiful, some are painful, some are groovy, some are trippy, some are crazy, there are a lot of possible ways music can touch me. That’s what I also want with my music, I want it to touch myself and others.

I am a very visual person, as well. But there I cannot really name what influenced me. I think there are a lot of things, but more unconscious. Movies, nature, paintings, patterns, clothes.

Honshu Wolves

How does living out of Zaffaraya trailer park in Bern have an influence on your music?

If it really directly influenced my music, I cannot say. It’s a special place to live and to live there is for sure one reason why I was able to find a group besides my task as a mother. Because we built ‘our house’ all ourselves, life is cheaper, and I never had to work 100%. That doesn’t mean it is less work after all. And it is without luxury, so you need to stay flexible.

But it is a place where you can be creative and where you can think different.

How have you navigated being a band leader as a woman? Any difficulty/challenges? 

In my “surroundings” it was not very normal to lead a band, with song writing and being the boss as a woman. But my friends always supported me and I felt respected. And honestly, I never cared about things like that. If I want to play music, I do it.  But sure, to arise is still not always easy. I am not always full of self-confidence and I am going forward in small steps. I needed some time to write on the records: all songs written by me.

And sometimes it was really like this, that I felt I should play so much better to prove that girls can do this too. The saying: ‘not bad for a girl!’ really exists! And earlier in the beginning, sometimes I had to make clear, that I can manage the controllers of my amp myself, haha. Except Fabian, he is the best and my technical help!

But this is a long time ago and I no longer have bad experiences leading a band as a woman.

Honshu Wolves

How did you get on Voodoo Rhythm Records

Oh, Voodoo Rhythm is very known in the underground scene in Bern and all over Switzerland. And my partner’s band, Roy And The Devil’s Motorcycle, they’ve put out their records for a long time. I know Beat-Man (the label’s head honcho) for a very long time now.

But for the record he was the one who asked us when will  we have a new record, and that he would be interested to put it out. This made me very proud. ‘Cause as I said, I am not always very self-confident and I wasn’t sure if my music will please a lot of people.

Can you talk about how you put Cosmic Creature Capture together? How does it compare for you to your other releases? 

It’s been our actual songs from the live set. Some were quite new like Something’s In The Air and some older like Tell Me. Come Closer was written in the studio during the recording sessions.

Honshu Wolves

What instruments and effects are you using on this record?

Our ‘standard’ line up is two guitars and the drums and sometimes the little lovely trash organ Casio Tone.

For the recording session we had also a bass with us and our acoustic guitars. The studio itself had several instruments we used, like the piano and percussion stuff.

The owner of the NoMad studio, Ezra Nomade, built a plate for the reverb effect, which we liked a lot for the voice, but also for the instruments.

Honshu Wolves

Who did the striking artwork/design for the album? 

Joana Hermes, a young talented dancer, and creative lovely person, and at this time my oldest son’s girlfriend, made a collage in black and white after my idea and wish to have a woman with two faces. She cut out the whole thing by hand – beautiful!

This collage we digitalized with the help of Claudio Marchegiani (also a friend of my oldest son, Louie) and made the layout together with him. Some things I decided alone and with some I let him more ‘free hand’.

Honshu Wolves

Are there any important messages in your music/songs? Where do your ideas come from? 

For me it’s important to create a feeling with my music. First it is a feeling from inside something the music does with me. But then it’s transforming to a feeling outside which can reach the listener if he wants to and can dive in. The music can take you with it and you can live through different feelings… I hear or feel beauty, but also danger, silence and fragility, but power too… If somebody is coming into this flow, I feel myself with my music, it gets into my ‘inner’ rhythm, and that makes me happy.

Some lyrics have a message, some only describe feelings and form a picture, some are telling a story.

Where have you toured? Any favorite places/venues/cities to play? 

Till now we toured twice in Italy, played once in France and Romania. And we toured in Switzerland of course, haha.

Because I have three kids and I have a day job to feed them, we couldn’t go on tour so often.

In Italy we have a lot of lovely friends now and we would like to go back as soon as we can!

But yeah, we have some more cool contacts abroad now and for sure we want to go there when the pandemic-situation will be less difficult.

I think we will meet good people everywhere. That’s why I couldn’t say: there I have to go ‘absolutely’.  Until now there was no place we didn’t find cool and sweet people! That’s the thing I love the most  about touring.

Honshu Wolves

What has been happening in Bern music-wise since the pandemic? Is the music scene shut down? How have you adjusted to everything?

All clubs have been closed for more than one year now. We didn’t play live for a long time.

The musicians who really make their living from music are in a very difficult situation!

Now, it slowly starting with small things happening outside.

Our first gig will be in the beginning of July, also outside.

And then we hope that we can make our release party – finally!!

It will be end of summer in our residence club in Bern called Rössli at the Reitschule, an old autonomic center for culture.

Honshu Wolves

What is next on the horizon for Honshu Wolves? 

As soon as possible we will play small gigs in Switzerland and as mentioned above, we will catch up on the release party.

Two new videos are in the making and we will print new merch.

Touring we don’t know yet, if it will be possible this year.

Honshu Wolves

The Jackets Interview

Strange to say I hadn’t heard of The Jackets before Matt from Voodoo Rhythm Records, a cool garage rock’n’roll  label out of Bern, Switzerland, sent me a promo of their recently released album Queen of the Pill. But yeah,  as soon as I slapped that baby on was I ever mightily impressed!!! The Jackets deliver such a powerful punch of intense and stylish garage punk that  immediately draws you, hook line and sinker. And then later when I heard from Chris Rosales, The Jacket’s drummer, that they toured the US and Canada a couple years ago was I ever bummed!  They played Montreal and I didn’t know it!  Kicking myself, I feel I’ve missed out on what must have been an incredible, crazy and memorable live performance! Well now I am so thrilled that I know them and get to experience their sheer exuberant and maddening garage tunes, and maybe I’ll be lucky if they come back this way again so I can experience their killer live show – as you can see from the photos borrowed for this interview.   I hope if you don’t know them you will do yourself a favor and check them out and then love them like I do!

– Samia ♥

What’s the story of how you all first met and formed The Jackets?

Chris Rosales: I met Jackie at a show I played (Lightning Beat-Man) in Zürich in the late ‘90s. We started a relationship and one of our goals as a couple was to start a great Rock and Roll band. We started writing songs together and rehearsing with just guitar and drums, which was our original idea for the band. Eventually we wanted a fatter sound so I asked one of my favourite bass players here in Bern to play with us, Severin Erni from a band called Tight Finks. We had our fist show in January of 2008. We had good bookings right away. Our fist shows were actually a tour with the French band Magnetix from Bordeaux. The calendar started filling up fast and we even booked a studio to do our first LP after that Summer. This was a bit too fast for Severin. He was about to start a family and wasn’t really prepared to start a new Rock and Roll adventure so he agreed to finish all our bookings we had so far and to play on the record but he couldn’t go on with us after that. We met Sam as a promoter at a small countryside club that we played at. Severin left on the train after the gig and Jackie and I stayed up all night drinking and talking to Sam. To make a long story short, Sam became our bass player a month later. He even plays a little guitar on our first LP but didn’t start playing shows until January of 2009. Jackie and I are no longer romantically linked but we are the best of friends, confidants and partners in crime!

Describe what it’s like being a Swiss garage band…What’s the culture like in Switzerland…Is it easy for a band like yourselves to work on your art? 
What’s the garage music scene like’s there?

Chris Rosales: Well, we aren’t a Swiss Garage band. We are a band that is based in Switzerland. We spend most of our time outside of Switzerland and lately outside of Europe a bit. The National Arts Council in Switzerland is very happy to have Swiss bands go outside of Switzerland to play and we get a certain amount of subvention from the State which we are grateful for! I think this is unique to most of Europe besides France. I have also heard that Canada gives money to bands and artists as well. Switzerland is a small, traditional country with not much experience in the music world but things have been changing for the last thirty years. Bands like Yellow and The Young Gods broke internationally as well as others from the hard rock genre. But Switzerland is famous in the underground Garage Rock and Roll scene because of Voodoo Rhythm Records and Reverend Beat-Man. In this scene, all of Europe has heard of Switzerland and Bern is probably one of the Garage Underground capitals in Europe. There is a Punk, Ska, Rockabilly, Garage and noise scene here because of the influence of Voodoo Rhythm Records and Beat-Man.


Jack Torera, you have such a powerful voice… who are some of your influences?

Jack Torera: I developed my voice basically on stage playing live with bands over many years. I never really had an idol  or a certain style that I wanted to achieve, I couldn’t do that anyways. Of course I like strong female singers like Nina Hagen, Patty Smith or Janis Joplin, mainly because the have a very unique voice and style. I like voices that have personality and don’t sound like everybody else or are perfectly trained.

Who came up with The Jacket’s unique style, makeup, look and outfits?

Jack Torera: The make-up comes from a character I also play in my One-Woman-Plays called Jack Torera, my alter ego. I also do costumes and we were looking for a simple outfit that is comfortable to wear (and wash!) and that is timeless and recognizable as The Jackets.

The Jackets Queen of the Pill

What brought you to Voodoo Rhythm Records and getting King Khan to produce and Jim Diamond to mix and master you record Queen of the Pill? 

Chris Rosales: I have known Beat-Man of Voodoo Rhythm Records for over twenty years and King Khan is also an old friend that I met in the 1990’s touring Europe in one of Beat-Man’s bands. So we are all friends and associates. After our last record, we wanted to work with someone who could produce us. Make us work harder but in a fun way and we decided to go to Berlin and do a few songs with King Khan and it worked really well so we decided to go back and do a whole LP. Jim Diamond has been writing us for years about doing something but we never met personally so it never happened. By accident we met on on airport shuttle in Spain at Asturias Airport and started talking. He asked again if we ever want to do something he would like to work with us. After the Berlin session we decided to send him a few songs to test mix and the rest is history!

As a band who are some of your inspirations?

Chris Rosales: We like a lot of different things. Theatre, Painting, Movies, so we find inspiration in more than just music. Our musical inspirations are endless but a few who I could list would be The Cramps, The Monks, The Music Machine, The MC5, The Stooges and The Kinks.


Your videos are loads of fun! Can you talk about what are your favorite ones and why you like them and how you made them?

Chris Rosales: Videos are a lot of work! Jackie is a film maker and went to film school in Zürich so we have an advantage technically. We have had great experiences and we are lucky to have worked with some really great film people. We made “Wasting My Time” all by ourselves in the south of France with a tripod and the three of us taking turns holding the camera. One was a film compilation (You Better) while we were on tour taken by our driver. Two were major productions (Freak Out & Keep Yourself Alive) with budgets and a professional crew. The last one (Losers Lullaby) was a professionally shot with one camera person and a set assistant. I think they all have their own personalities. I don’t really have a favourite but I always like the newest one!

You’ve been around since 2008 so how has your style and sound changed over the years?

Chris Rosales: I think our song writing has developed a lot. We are still attempting the same things but I think we are way more successful at them now. And that goes for our recordings as well. We are just getting better at it, or making better decisions now. But if you listen to our first record (Stuck Inside 2009) and then our second (Way Out 2012) there is a big change. We have just refined the “Way Out” sound for the last 7 years.


What are some of the most outstanding moments for your band – greatest shows, or experiences that really stand out?

Chris Rosales: Playing Funtastic Dracula Festival in 2013 which really put us in the spotlight here in Europe. Also the two tours of the USA in 2017 and 2018 were very important for us as far as exposure in another continent. The Jackets have had so many great moments (for me personally). I am really lucky and really grateful that I can do this crazy job.

What’s on the horizon for the Jackets with your upcoming release of Queen of the Pill record?

Chris Rosales: Well, We are on tour at the moment in Switzerland and as I write this (June 2019), we are on the way to Spain to tour. We will be coming to the rest of Europe (France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, etc.) starting in October.


Any plans to tour North America?

Chris Rosales: Yes, we are thinking about coming early Spring 2020 but maybe just the North West/ South West USA and then maybe Mexico. But we would like to come back to Canada. You know we played Montreal, Quebec City and Sherbrooke in 2017?

Does the band have any special messages for the audience?
Chris Rosales: Give Pizza Chance!

Queen of the Pill - The Jackets