Countdown to a murder

Some of you may not know this, but March 21st 2017 is a very important date.

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Nothing

The keen eyed among you may have noticed a certain erratic quality to this blog. It ebbs and flows like a confused tide, sometimes engulfing the land with a quick succession of articles; sometimes it goes all Southport and retreats to the sea, leaving people wondering if they’ll ever see anything again.

I’m writing this in the Calf’s Head, a pub in the Lancashire village of Worston. I’m waiting for a cappucino to cool down and I’m absolutely filthy. I’ve been jetwashing the flagstones of a stately home all day and there’s a lot of damp blowback from a diesel powered jetwash.

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Blurb request – The One Rule of Magic

In a few weeks time I’ll be self-publishing another entry in the TotenUniverse. The One Rule of Magic is the first book in what I call the Reflections strand of novels following the new life of Bamberg witch Frieda Schoenhofer.

Frieda was first encountered in Who Among Us… (still doing the rounds with literary agents) and I thought she deserved her own series. And thanks to Au4 in Canada for the inspiration to get started on this novel.

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The TotenUniverse

No one knows the true barycentre of the TotenUniverse. The band are only part of a wider growing European conspiracy. You can now explore further details of this conspiracy and Alien Noise Corporation’s future plans and releases.


Click the image to see the TotenUniverse in detail. As universes go the image is quite large, and best viewed in landscape mode…


And you can learn more about the future plans for Alien Noise and the different story lines and strands here:

The TotenUniverse

There Will Be Blood – Extracts: Raven’s Dilemma

In the third Toten Herzen story Raven has lost her mate, Rob Wallet, and suffered a second setback when Susan Bekker does the dirty on her promise to turn Raven into a vampire. After a brief meeting with an Interpol investigator Raven lets off steam in a phone call to a friend back in Britain.


Raven is questioned by Interpol investigator Pierre Dremba…

“Why are you called Raven if you have blue hair?”

“Because the only bird I know with blue hair or blue feathers is a peacock, and I’d sound a bit stupid calling meself Peacock, wouldn’t I.”

“I suppose so. . . .”

“Rob told me about blue tits, but that’s even worse.”

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TOUR NEWS: TOTEN HERZEN – BRAZIL

A 1st draft abridged extract from the third Toten Herzen novel There Will Be Blood v.2 (The novel will be published at the end of Toten Herzen’s Malandanti world tour, some time in 2016.)


 

Every time the main lights strafed the crowd Dee found a single member of the audience to focus on. In the sea of heads, the infinite pixellation of Rock in Rio, be it a man held aloft or a woman perched on a pair of shoulders, one individual received Dee’s exclusive attention.

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If I Become A Wealthy Author…

I’ll open a call centre. Let’s face it, part of being a successful author is maintaining a relationship with your fans and if you have so many fans a simple newsletter just won’t do.

Contingency plans to cope with overwhelming success are necessary and the Alien Noise Corporation customer service will be second to none. The ANC Customer Care Charter will look something like this:

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Origins of the Malandanti – update

Who were (are) the Malandanti? I came across them when I was researching witchcraft for the second Toten Herzen novel. To understand the Malandanti you must first learn about the Benandanti.

banner-malandanti

Benandanti means ‘good walkers’ (Benandante is the singular) and were a group of people from the Friuli region of northeastern Italy in the 16th Century. Their story is rare in that they were tried for heresy by the Inquisition, but survived. Their secret magic brought them to the attention of the Inquisition along with the charges of witchcraft, but when the trial judges heard what the Benandanti were doing they found themselves with a moral and religious dilemma.

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Toten Herzen at Eurovision?

Official statement from Alien Noise Corporation.

Rotterdam, March 9th

Toten Herzen will not be performing at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest to be held in Austria. Reports that the band would be representing Azerbaijan are incorrect and malicious.

Susan Bekker, speaking from Sao Paulo where the band are on world tour, described the rumours as vicious and vindictive. “The whole rumour thing has got out of hand and we think we know where it’s coming from.”

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Who Among Us…

6 who among us v1

Allegedly based on real events, Who Among Us. . .  is the first part of the story behind the collapse and aftermath of a 400 year old network of covens operating in Europe since their origins in Wurzburg and Bamberg in the 1600s –

Disowned by her family and deranged by anger, Jennifer Enzo views the world as a demonic garden, a film script and a list of names to be assassinated. But when she finds her own name on the list she is forced out of her insular world to counter a sinister threat to her life.

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The Book Of Revelation

5 the book of revelation - v1

The final book of the Totenseries and all answers provided to explain Rob Wallet’s Toten phenomenon.

Finally, the answers to the mystery, for many the greatest hoax of the 21st century, revealed. Rob Wallet’s identity; Susan Bekker’s Big Lie; what really happened to Peter Miles; the fate of Raven; the significance of Elaine Daley’s tattoo and the true nature of the Malandanti.

The question so often asked, who are Toten Herzen, may finally be answered.

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No publication date yet.

Behind The Wall

4 behind the wall - v1

Events take a dark twist in the fourth book of the Totenseries.

Builders break through the wall of a basement in a London house and discover the remains of four people: three women and a man. The link to Toten Herzen emerges when the house turns out to have belonged to the owner of the band’s original record label in the 1970s.

Could the bodies be those of the original members of Toten Herzen?

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No publication date yet.

There Will Be Blood

3 there will be blood - v1

The third outing in the Totenseries. And a major surprise in store.

Finally out of the studio the band are ready to go on the road, prepare for the world premiere of the film and sort out Rob Wallet. They think they have the world eating out of their pale white hands until . . .

A Russian svengali has big plans for his own band: There Will Be Blood. More shocking, more outrageous, more depraved than Toten Herzen. The wedding party circuit beckons as the band look set to become a pastiche of themselves.

In the south of France, an ostracised Rob Wallet teams up with three ex-pat English ghostbusters. And are they delighted when their equipment lights up every time Wallet goes with them on a mission?

Throw into the mix a serious Interpol investigation into the band’s links to a string of historical murders (the list goes on and on), only Raven’s interference can save them. But then she discovers something unusual about Rob Wallet, discovery that forces him into doing the ultimate deal with her.

There Will Be Blood is a sordid tale of deception and identity in the long tradition of Toten Herzen’s dark paranormal humour. The Gwando Awards will never recover.

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Publication date 2016

 

Toten Herzen Malandanti

2014-3d-malandanti____________________

TOTEN HERZEN MALANDANTI
Published 2014
(Alien Noise Corporation)

____________________

The second book of the Totenseries, following on from the turmoil of We Are Toten Herzen.

After the disastrous events in the previous novel ‘We Are Toten Herzen,’ the band are forced to count the costs and the repercussions of their comeback tour. The focus turns to the safety of the recording studio and their first album in forty years. Things can’t get any worse.

But this is Toten Herzen, the dead rock band: murdered in 1977, discovered alive in 2013. Guitarist Susan Bekker wants to sing, antagonising lead singer Dee Vincent whose catastrophic interview in Hullaballoo magazine leads to a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Rob Wallet, the band’s publicist, flirts with insanity when he isn’t flirting with Lena, the seductive former terrorist and leader of a network of covens known as the Malandanti.

The story sets down amongst the isolated mountains of the English Lake District, with excursions to post-communist St. Petersburg and Bamberg in Germany, scene of the 17th century witch trials. Along the way the band are assaulted by an ever growing list of mysteries. Why has a Russian voice coach arrived uninvited at three in the morning? Why are the Malandanti searching for a book owned by Dee Vincent? What is Susan Bekker’s Big Lie? And is the valley pictured in a 14th century painting the source and home of the first European vampires?

Blue hair, black magic, talking sheep, murderous bushes, necromancy, alchemy and leather-clad litigation. It’s all captured on film by a deafening Dutch director in Chris Harrison’s paranormal dark comedy Toten Herzen Malandanti. Book two in the authorised account of the band’s astonishing and some would say unbelievable comeback.

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Available from the following

Barnes and Noble (Nook) – click here

Smashwords (all eformats) – click here

Amazon  (click your country)

UK     USA     Can     Germany     France     Spain     Italy     Netherlands  Australia     Brazil     Mexico     Japan     India

Scribd (epub – note Scribd is a subscription service) – click here

Oyster (epub – note Oyster is a subscription service) – click here

We Are Toten Herzen

2014-3d-wath____________________

WE ARE TOTEN HERZEN
Published 2013
(Alien Noise Corporation)

____________________

The first book of the Totenseries and where the whole unbelievable saga kicks off.

Between 1973 and 1976 Toten Herzen sold over eight million albums and toured the arenas of Europe and the US. In 1977 all four members of the band were murdered by crazed fan Lenny Harper. Harper was only charged with wasting police time and the bodies disappeared.

Thirty five years later, British music journalist Rob Wallet’s investigation into the incidents of 1977 led him to discover the band still alive in a remote village in southern Germany.

He persuaded them to make a comeback.

The paranormal dark comedy We Are Toten Herzen is the authorised story of one music journalist’s ambition to bring Toten Herzen back from the dead. From an isolated Dutch farmhouse to the teeming chaos of New York, via Suffolk and the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, fact and fiction blur as the ’70s most notorious rock band plan their return, outwitting the modern music industry and settling old scores in the only way they know how.

But is Wallet’s story a hoax or strange reality? As he uncovers more of the band’s past new questions begin to emerge. Was lead guitarist Susan Bekker hospitalised in 1974 with Rabies? Was the band’s first manager Micky Redwall killed by his own dogs in 1977? What happened to an original ‘fifth member’ of the band Peter Miles? And after all this time why haven’t Susan Bekker, singer Dee Vincent, bassist Elaine Daley and drummer Rene van Voors grown old? Find out in the only official account of Toten Herzen’s long awaited reappearance.

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Available in ebook format from the following.

Barnes and Noble (Nook) – click here

Smashwords (all eformats) – click here

Amazon  (click your country)

UK     USA     Can     Germany     France     Spain     Italy     Netherlands  Australia     Brazil     Mexico     Japan     India

Scribd (epub – note: Scribd is a subscription service) – click here

Exclusive interview with Toten Herzen’s Susan Bekker

Toten Herzen’s lead guitarist and arguably the most famous Rotterdam resident you’ve never heard of talks of small gobby singers, Jimi Hendrix, dog bites and growing very very old in the business of rock music.

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TheOpeningSentence
Will this interview lead to massive recrimination and legal action?

Susan Bekker
No.

TOS
So it’s going to be one of those interviews, is it? Like Ginger Baker?

SB
I’m still a little bit surprised ANC put me forward to do this interview. I mean, who the hell are you?

susan

TOS
What do you mean? It’s me. I wrote the Toten Herzen novels. You authorised me to write the official fictionalised versions of the band’s comeback.

SB
And we’re supposed to be pleased about that? You’ve portrayed me as a scheming, conniving backstabbing megalomaniac. In the first book you had me driving people mad on a plane, stabbing someone in the eye and eating chicken. I don’t like chicken. I hate chicken.

In the second novel you had the gall to suggest I can’t sing. . . . What was the phrase you wrote: ‘she opened her mouth and woke up all the bats in the trees.’ I can sing. I choose not to. And then I’m supposed to have this obsession with finding someone called Peter Miles who may or may not have been murdered by the band in 1974. What drugs are you on?

TOS
I’m supposed to be interviewing you! It’s all entertainment, isn’t it?

SB
It’s a pack of lies. It’s not like that at all.

TOS
So you and Dee [Dee Vincent, lead singer] really do get on?

SB
Of course we do. We all know she talks a lot. We know she nearly cost us $120 million slandering Rose Pursey. We know she’s volatile and upset George Michael by saying he looks like Keith Floyd. . . .

TOS
You mean Keith Allen?

SB
Whatever. She can be hard work, but she’s not Keith Moon. She is stable. Not the demonic headcase you created in the books.

Hullaballoo-cover-3d

According to Susan Bekker Dee Vincent is not a ‘demonic headcase.’

TOS
I thought it would be dramatic to have that tension between guitarist and lead vocalist.

SB
You say it’s common, but it only really happened between Ian Gillan and Ritchie Blackmore. One swallow doesn’t make a flock, or whatever they make.

TOS
Whatever you say. But there’s also the antagonism between George Lynch and Don Dokken.

SB
Yeah. Go on. Name one more.

TOS
Okay, point taken.

SB
The point I’m making is that you misrepresented the band, painting us as a bunch of monsters.

TOS
You are a bunch of monsters. You’ve made no secret of the fact about what you all are. No one believes all that hogwash about catching rabies from a dog bite in 1974.

SB
No, and they won’t now after all the witchcraft and vampire shit you threw us into. It’s all show business, it’s theatre. Every band has a hook. They have to stand out somehow. But you made us look like the Adams Family. You even said so in the first novel, when that marketing team said something like ‘we should get rid of the Munsters look.’ Elaine laughed out loud when she read that.

TOS
I didn’t think Elaine [Elaine Daley, bass player] ever laughed.

SB
Not in your world, not in the books you wrote.

TOS
So what you’re telling me is that you are a straightforward normal guitarist from Rotterdam, Dee Vincent is a level headed lead singer from Lincoln, and Elaine Daley is a barrel of laughs?

SB
I’m leaving.

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Toten Herzen 2013

TOS
All right. I apologise. I laid it on a bit thick, but I was asked to write books that would sell and it’s not easy when no one wants to read about vampires.

SB
They won’t want to read anything after all this. Why didn’t you make us werewolves or something that’s not out of fashion?

TOS
You’re not werewolves! The whole Toten Herzen myth in the 1970s was about you lot being vampires. Are you denying your own history? Do you want me to do a Stalin and airbrush all that away?

SB
No, I’m saying you should have written something a bit closer to the truth. Our comeback was a difficult choice to make. Rob Wallet had a convincing argument why we should do it.

TOS
It was Rob Wallet’s idea to write the books.

SB
You shouldn’t listen to him.

TOS
He’s the band’s publicist!

SB
Only until we find a better one. For now he’s the best we’ve got. And that’s another thing. You make it sound like we hate him. In the scene in the first novel when he’s talking to the A&R guy from Berlin and mentions a wayward golf swing . . . That never happened.

album-deadheartslive

Cover of the 1976 album Deadhearts Live

TOS
It’s called fiction.

SB
And Dee didn’t turn on him. I didn’t impale myself on the end of a Flying V or deliberately deafen a record producer. Sony turned down the band because they knew we insisted on releasing our albums on vinyl only.

TOS
And a bloody daft idea that would be.

SB
So you’re an expert on music marketing now, are you? You should stick to blogging. How many followers have you got?

TOS
Tens of thousands.

SB
Liar.

TOS
It’s fiction. It’s what I do. You are in denial.

SB
I am trying to promote my band and you have done a lot of damage to the Toten Herzen brand. For example, during the comeback concerts last year no one burned down a restaurant at the Allianz Halle. Lie number one. Lie number two: no one got stuck on a flag pole in Hungary. Lie number three: a papier mache horse was not thrown off the roof of the East Midlands Arena. The entire opening chapter of the second novel was a string of lies. And Tom Scavinio has not quit as our manager. He’s very angry about that. And what you said about his wife, well, words fail me.

TOS
It’s a novel.

SB
That’s no excuse. The third one isn’t going to be like the first two. We’ll have a veto over what goes into it.

TOS
Okay.

SB
Okay.

live-daley-poster

No one was injured by a flagpole in Hungary during the comeback tour.

TOS
It’ll be a very boring novel. Rock band goes on tour to promote new album, blah blah blah.

SB
It’ll be better than rock band chased by corrupt network of European covens. I looked up the name Malandanti. They weren’t even witches. They were evil spirits.

TOS
They said you didn’t understand the concept of fiction.

SB
Who said?

TOS
The band’s management. Alien Noise Corporation. They also said you were paranoid.

SB
No they didn’t. Did they? Who said that?

TOS
You obviously haven’t read the second novel-

SB
Has anybody read the second novel-

TOS
In the second novel Malandanti is the name of the police investigation into the covens, not the name of the covens. It’s in the chapter where Raven discovers the investigation on Weerdshit.org, the conspiracy theory website.

SB
You think people are going to notice little details like that?

TOS
Probably not in the 21st Century. But you see how easy it is for you, you Susan Bekker, to misunderstand the books and what I’m saying about you?

SB
I don’t have to be a simpleton to know when someone portrays me as an idiot. More of a lieutenant than a general, you said. I should punch your lights out for that.

TOS
Tell me about Jimi Hendrix. You saw him live in Rotterdam in 1967. How did you feel when he died?

SB
I thought it was a waste. He was already a giant, so where he was heading we can only guess. But it was like having a migraine when part of your vision disappears. I used to walk around and there was this big hole in my vision where Jimi used to be.

TOS
You said he was the biggest influence on your life, so I got that bit right.

SB
Yes, the factual bits were correct, and yes I did sing Hey Joe in front of the class at my old school. You see, you can do it when you try.

bekker-pose

Bekker poses with Flying V in 1971. The guitar was probably the only thing she had in common with her idol, Jimi Hendrix.

TOS
But that whole nostalgia reminiscent thing only gets you so far. The scene where you lead Rob Wallet around the places you visited as you were growing up, was okay, but it wasn’t dramatic enough on its own.

SB
You don’t think meeting Micky Redwall was dramatic, Redwall ripping off the other two After Sunset members wasn’t dramatic, playing in front of nine people at the Grimsby Welfare Club in 1972 wasn’t dramatic. It’s those human stories, struggling to make a success, they’re more dramatic than finding a lost vampire village in southern Germany. If you wrote a book about Toten Herzen’s origins that would be more interesting than one where we go round throwing people off mountain tops.

TOS
I thought that was quite a nice touch.

SB
And you say I’m a monster.

TOS
Actually no. In the first novel you open up to Rob Wallet and say exactly the opposite.

SB
When was that?

TOS
In the scene following the press conference when everyone thinks you’re all imposters. You sit next to Rob Wallet and say it’s all Micky Redwall’s fault for creating the band’s monster image.

SB
Yeah. I remember that bit. However, I don’t cry. I never cry.

TOS
I don’t think you cried in that scene.

SB
Good thing too. I never cry. And while we’re on the subject, why do you keep portraying Rob Wallet as having a crush on me? He doesn’t have a crush on me. He doesn’t secretly wish my boyfriend would ‘hurry up and die.’

TOS
That’s the third novel!

SB
Oh, so it is going to be another pile of made up bullshit?

TOS
No. In the third novel you get sick of him, the band kicks him out and he misses you.

SB
He misses me. In the second novel he’s supposed to be having a fling with Elaine. What happened to that story arc?

TOS
Who says anything happens to it. I haven’t written the damn thing yet.

SB
The chapter where she attacks him. I have never seen anyone wet themselves laughing, but I thought Elaine was getting close when she read that chapter. She calls it the Portinscale Event, like the Tunguska Event. As if she would jump Rob Wallet.

TOS
But it leads to Rob Wallet’s release, doesn’t it. The big issue that’s tormented him from childhood. Joining up with Elaine resolves that issue.

SB
Now, credit where it’s due, I did like the way that thread of the novel worked out. And that’s why I get so bothered about the rest of it. If you can write a story thread like Rob Wallet’s journey to find his lost valley why couldn’t you tell the rest of the story in the same way?

micky-redwall

Micky Redwall, Toten Herzen’s first manager, rock entrepeneur, mentor and arch-publicist. Killed by his own guard dogs in 1977. Allegedly.

TOS
Because then it becomes literary fiction and at the moment there’s only one person on Earth who reads literary fiction.

SB
Who?

TOS
Will Self.

SB
Point taken. But even so, you could have made the paranormal hocus pocus secondary to the human issues in the novel.

TOS
Like what? If Susan Bekker wrote Toten Herzen Malandanti how would it be different?

SB
I’d keep the Rob Wallet story thread. I’d do more with the story line about Raven’s stifling relationship with her old fashioned parents. I’d play around more with Dmitri Neved’s life collapsing as his wife’s life expands and improves.

TOS
I thought I did all that.

SB
No, you had Raven throwing up when she travelled with Rob Wallet and you portrayed Lena, Neved’s wife as a maniac who murders people using witchcraft. Subtle as a flying mallet.

TOS
You’re not exactly selling the book.

SB
It deserves to be banned. It should be suppressed. You did the world a favour pulling it from Amazon. Who ever bought a book from Smashwords? I don’t know anyone.

TOS
It’s hard being a writer in the modern age. There are so many self-published books.

SB
Well, that’s your problem, not mine. At least not many people will read about me being a dopey-eyed moron with a legend fixation.

TOS
You must have the same problems in the music industry. Toten Herzen coming back after thirty-five years. To what? No more record sales, streaming music where you earn two pence for three million downloads. Will Toten Herzen give their music away with the next iPhone?

SB
We haven’t sunk to that level yet. It’s bad enough being in your sixties in the music industry, let alone a rock band who does things the traditional way. Luckily we don’t need the money.

TOS
You don’t look like you’re in your sixties.

SB
Don’t go there.

TOS
Why not? It’s at the heart of Toten Herzen. Sixty year old rock band who look like they’re still twenty years old.

SB
Doctor Photoshop. As Todd Moonaj said in the first novel, plastic surgery my merry ass. The only doctor these lot have seen is Doctor Photoshop.

TOS
You’re sitting in front of me and you don’t look like your over sixty years old.

SB
I eat all my greens.

TOS
But no chicken.

SB
No chicken.

TOS
Or Chinese, or Italian, or snacks or sandwiches, no grazing, no fast food. . . . I summed it up pretty well in that chapter with Dexter the intern.

SB
Credit where it’s due, as I said. But we would never scare an intern like that.

TOS
You’d just bite him and be done with it.

SB
No.

bekker-02

TOS
How long do Toten Herzen plan to be around?

SB
That’s a very loaded question. A very ominous question. That’s a bit like walking up to someone and saying ‘you don’t know me, but. . . .’

TOS
I’m contracted to write five books.

SB
Oh, God help us.

TOS
The third one is planned and ready. The fourth has a basic premise.

SB
And what delights can we expect in the fourth novel? Dare I ask?

TOS
The discovery of four bodies in the basement of a house. A house that used to be lived in by the owner of Toten Herzen’s record label in the 1980s.

SB
I am definitely leaving.

TOS
Can we continue this interview later?

SB
Why don’t you do what you always do and just make something up.

TOS
That’s below the belt.

SB
You keep telling lies about us it won’t be the area below the belt you should worry about.

TOS
For the record Susan Bekker has just poked me on the jugular vein and left the building. That woman is hard work!

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Contrary to what Susan Bekker says Chris Harrison is the official authorised Toten Herzen biographer, and people do occasionally buy ebooks from Smashwords. ‘Oh, but I’ve only got a Kindle and only ever buy books off Amazon.’ Well, tough shit, in that case you’ll have to make do without!

 TOTEN HERZEN MALANDANTI

2014-3d-malandantiAvailable from these places: (Links open in a new window.)

BARNES AND NOBLE

SMASHWORDS

OYSTER

SCRIBD

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WE ARE TOTEN HERZEN

2014-3d-wathAvailable from these places: (Links open in a new window.)

BARNES AND NOBLE

SMASHWORDS

OYSTER

SCRIBD

<<back to Hullaballoo

Dee Vincent’s Hullaballoo interview…

It caused a shitstorm, a $120 million dollar lawsuit and questions within the band. Now, heavily redacted the ‘full’ interview. Sort of!Hullaballoo-cover-3d

The location where we’ve arranged to meet Dee Vincent, lead singer with reborn shock rockers Toten Herzen, is the sort of back street photographic studio you see in hip fashion shoots, all desaturated and grainy. The time is around eight p.m., the place is open, but Vincent herself is keeping us waiting. Eventually we hear footsteps and she shows up. In the darkness it’s quite an entrance, like the ghost who haunts the building has stumbled across us.

She’s taller than we imagined her to be, but still small, quite fragile looking, which is preposterous if her reputation is anything to go by. (Volcanic temper according to some who worked with her in the Seventies.) She’s also younger than she looks in the publicity photos and fan sightings that have proliferated since Toten’s comeback concerts hit the road. We’re forbidden to talk about that. And she’s more black and white than we were expecting. As she sits down, without introduction, her skin is like bleached parchment in contrast to the cannel-coloured bob she calls a hairstyle. The look is disturbing and she notices my alarm immediately.

“Someone in Germany thought I had a kidney condition. I said you turn yellow don’t you, but he said I wasn’t yellow because the condition was so advanced. He offered to treat me at a private clinic near Cologne, but you have to tell these people to back off. It’s usually a trick of the light. I’m quite orange in normal sunlight.”

I can guess she wouldn’t be orange in sunlight for long if she’s anything like Terence Pearl. I ask her what was the fallout from that?

She pouts. “Stranger things have happened at sea.” The casual dismissal of a man burning to death in broad daylight is just part of what makes Dee Vincent difficult to warm to. There are a number of investigations ongoing surrounding Toten Herzen, what stage are they at?
“Fuck knows. I’m not interested. Occasionally Rob [Wallet, the band’s publicist] gets asked about Lenny Harper getting his head chopped off, but nothing’s come of that. The police wanted to know what we knew about people like __________ and ____________ and ______________, but as we said, we know them, we know what happened to them, along with the rest of the country. What else. . . ?”

New York, I remind her.

“Oh, fuck that lot. That kid in Boston must have been really popular at school after he hit the headlines. __________ wanted me out of the band. I’m still here, she’s in an asylum. Life’s a bitch, but so am I when you piss me off.”

Is this rock bravado, a game to raise the hackles of the Mail and stir up the old conflict with the Mirror? I can almost see which way this interview is going to go. A casual stream of offensive provocations delivered with a knowing glint in the eye. But Vincent is having none of it.

“I’ve done one interview in each country we’ve been to and I get asked the same questions everywhere. Some slight regional variations depending on local sensitivities and interests. The Germans phrase everything within a European context, the Dutch try not to sound as if they’re trying to sound hip, the Swiss are desperate for you to like their country, and the Hungarians can’t say anything except how great the historical sights are and have you been here and have you been there.”

And Britain?

“Age and sex. The British media just want to undress you and they wonder who gave an old trollop the right to have a decent pair of breasts. You might be the exception, but even now you’re trying to look through my tee-shirt.”

I’m not, but even the simple accusation makes me blush. Dee Vincent has a way of looking at you that makes you want to confess to things you haven’t done. She sits on the edge of the settee and leans forward on her knees, gesticulating, pulling her fringe away from her eyes, playing with the rings on her waxy white fingers. Then she’ll inadvertently flash a smile and two ridiculously long canine teeth are there ready to introduce themselves.

How does she react to the accusations that the band are not the original Toten Herzen?

“The same way I react to all the accusations. I couldn’t give a rat’s arse about them. I’m not a scientist so I’m not going to speculate on how or why anything is the way it is, it’s up to people to draw their own conclusions and don’t go too far.”

Go too far?

“Or we’ll get upset.” She sticks her tongue out like a lizard and it’s the first slight indication that she might not be the full shilling. When she talks she’s distracted, when she looks at you it is intense but brief, the distance between her eyes and eyebrows is non-existent and gives her a permanent scowl. She has a habit of flaring her nostrils and there’s a perceptible low end grumble in her throat, just audible, the sort of sound a dog would make if it smoked.

What did she think when she found out about Tom Scavinio, the band’s manager, commissioning a second health report? She jumps up.

“Let me tell you about Tom Scavinio. [REDACTED]”

For a moment she was leaning into my face and almost poked a hole in my cheek with her fingernail. Being close to her is like being next to the chilled cabinets in the supermarket. A cushion of cold air surrounds her, literally cold air. A walking draft. Her disappointment at Tom Scavinio’s walking out on the band is obvious. She falls back down onto the settee and I wonder how to link that to the subject of the new album. Will his absence have an effect on the new album?

“No. He’s not a songwriter, he’s an organiser. We’ll muddle through.”

If there was a chance he’d return to managing the band haven’t you just blown it?

“He knows us, he knows me, he knows we don’t always mean what we say. Our barks worse than our bite. Metaphorically speaking.”

Not literally, obviously, and she knows I’m thinking that. A grin flashes across her face and she starts on me again. She crosses the space between us and puts one knee on my thigh and starts talking to her hands. “I won’t bore you with any of our history because it’s well documented. Rob pretty much told the world everything about us, which is why we occasionally lock him in a steel cage to keep him out of harm’s way. But when I think about it, when I look back on how we were when we first started we were like babies, utterly totally dependent on Micky Redwall to do everything. We practically let him wipe our arses for us, but at the same time we sort of expected it because we were the rock stars, we were the band, the band didn’t do everything themselves, that’s why you had managers and publicists and roadies and stylists and photographers and drivers and security. All we had to do was get on stage and perform or get into the recording studio and record. And it gets to the point where you start to atrophy or turn into vegetables. And like a drunk trying to come off the booze or the spendthrift trying to cut up the credit cards you wonder how the fuck you’re going to cope? When the life support machine is switched off how are you going to breathe? How will I walk unaided? How will I go on the toilet, someone else always wipes my arse for me, which hand do I use? Do I use my hands, I’ve never done it before. . . .”

The weight of her leaning on me is staggering. I want to cry out in pain, but I don’t think she’s aware of it. She’s motoring on and on and her leg is trapping my leg and my eyes are watering. It feels like it’s either going to break or be cut in two. I put my hand on her waist in the hope that she’ll move.

“Anyway,” she says, releasing me. She stands up, legs apart, still gesticulating. “The point I’m getting at is that you think you’ll sink, but you don’t. You find a way and you survive, you find someone else if you’re that desperate, but I think Susan doesn’t need someone else. Not now. Maybe last year when Rob Fucking Useless Wallet let us down, but Scavinio did his bit, thank you very much, but we know how to record an album. We’ve done it five times before. Well, four and a half. You okay? Did I crush your leg then. Sorry, I don’t know my own strength.”

She hops onto the settee and in one movement twists and sits crossed legged ready to meditate. What can she tell us about the album.

“Well, we haven’t started yet. There are no songs written, there’s no title and we haven’t booked a recording studio. Rob thinks we should pitch it somewhere between Nightwish and Dschinghis Khan. Between symphonic metal and schlager. That’s all I can say. That’s all I know.”

It’s true Toten Herzen are coming back into a jungle of rock and metal sounds with endless genres subdividing into ever smaller sub genres. But if you were to draw the band’s ‘rock family tree’ it would be a surprisingly small family consisting of eight members, nine if you include Peter Miles. No convoluted pedigrees here. Two bands, Cat’s Cradle from Lincoln and After Sunset from Rotterdam being dissected, the fat trimmed and the rest put back together in Ipswich. Do people still mistake them for a German Band?

“I don’t think anyone has ever mistaken us for a German band. The stories always made a point of describing us as Anglo-Dutch, like Shell, but when Anglo-Dutch is usually in the same sentence as vampires, necrophiliacs, murderers, troublemakers, horse killers, people tend to overlook what nationality we are. The name Toten Herzen was never a rod for our backs, until now.”

Why now?

“It’s the signature. It’s what people do in our name. Toten Herzen is like the starting gun in the one hundred metre idiot race. It’s become shorthand for do what you will and fuck the whole of the law. If we changed our name to, I don’t know, Mumford and Sons, people would think we were a fucking removal firm and leave us alone. Then we wouldn’t have all the mad shit following us from town to town.”

But these people love you, you’re the reason for their existence aren’t you?

Vincent sounds exasperated by the suggestion. “That’s all fucking well and good if they paid for their own damage, but they impale themselves on flagpoles and then send us the bill.” She leans forward again and talks to me as if she’s talking to a studio camera. “Look, a message to all our fans reading this. Stop torching every town and city you visit. It is a curious form of flattery, I’ll grant you. You might call it passionate. It’s an exclusive club and sometimes you lie awake and think yeah, Toten Herzen fans are the fucking biggest on earth, no one takes them on. All these rap fans going to gigs with their little guns and running off after they shoot someone. In Hungary, police stopped a mobile home with two anti-tank guns and a thousand rounds of ammunition inside it. They were part-timers in the Hungarian army. I mean, who were they planning to shoot with that lot?”

What I find strange, I tell her, is that the music itself isn’t particularly aggressive. It has psychedelic influences, prog rock influences, but steers well clear of thrash or death metal. So where is the trouble coming from. Vincent pouts again.

“Us I suppose. Or the things written about us. Which is old hat and starting to sound repetitive. When we made the comeback last year it didn’t take long for all the headlines to start sounding very very boring. Even we were bored reading them. We stopped after a few months. I haven’t read a newspaper since December. Terrible what they did to that Ceaucescu fella wasn’t it?”

Has the band taken any influences from the current generation of rock bands and metal bands?

“No. In a word. It’s all a bit samey at the moment. [REDACTED]”

As she rants it occurs to me that she’s on her own here. No PA, no entourage, no people. She’s turned up for this interview with Hullaballoo magazine totally exposed, unbriefed, unaccompanied. How, why does she do that?

“It’s part of the game isn’t it. The higher you go the more stable you need to feel and having a load of floozies and cronies and hangers-on and ingratiates gives you the reassurance that you’re not gonna plummet over the edge. But then it becomes that self-fulfilling prophecy, doesn’t it? You are important, all the statistics say you’re important, everyone around you says you’re important. Before you know it you’re buying ten thousand dollar shoe laces and no one’s trying to stop you. Everybody is terrified of losing their seat on the gravy train, everyone justifying their existence, justifying why they’re needed. You only have to look at them, like _______, that fucking nonce from _____. They almost had to shut Heathrow when he flew into Britain because he brought half of fucking _____ with him. Kim Jong Un doesn’t have that many people round him and he’s a living god, for Christ’s sake. And then you’ve got all the spoiled bitches with their hang ups and idiosyncrasies. . . .”

I settle back for this and hope she doesn’t at some point sit on me again.

“What I find peculiar is that every one of them, every last one of them comes from a poor fucking background. The old so-poor-we-had-one-bed-between-ninety-of-us. And the amount of bling they carry round with them now shows they never left the fucking neighbourhood. They’re identikit morons: ____________, __________, _____________, __________. They give off this whiff of self-empowerment and don’t have the brains to see they’re nobodies when they’ve got their clothes on. Products of their own sexual misadventures.” She giggles for a moment, forgetting I’m here. “I mean, look at [REDACTED]. I heard [REDACTED]”

It’s hard to comprehend Vincent’s antipathy towards these artists. No stranger to poverty herself, she grew up in the same terraced street in Lincoln as Elaine Daley in the 1950s and 60s. Her father was an agricultural worker and her mother worked in a baker’s shop a few streets away. An only child, Vincent has all the energy and self-awareness of someone who was the only focus of her parents’ attention. So, why is she so antagonistic towards other artists who rose to the top like her?

“Do you want a slap in the face? Firstly, I don’t tell the world what a fucking horrible life I had and how I evolved out of some kind of slime to become a human being. I don’t lie about how many people I’ve fucked to get that record contract. I don’t strip down to my fucking skeleton to sell my records. I don’t demand, I don’t attack people with shoes, I don’t pretend to know nothing about the world, I don’t have weird pets and I don’t collude with corporations in the guise of fan reach. People say I’m a vampire, but I’d be fucking embarrassed to be a shameless bloodsucker like __________ or __________. And the men, well, they’re just fucking animals. They should be put down. Fucking rapists the lot of them.”

So far I’ve counted three examples of libel, the rubbishing of a large part of the heavy metal community and the wholesale accusation of rape against all male solo artists. Is there anyone else she wants to slander?

“Slander? I’m only telling it like it is. But then your legal team will probably go through this interview with a big red pen and say ‘can’t have that,’ ‘can’t have that,’ ‘rephrase that’.” She steps towards me again. Dan the photographer hasn’t taken a shot yet. In fact, his camera is still switched off. Dee Vincent has climbed on top of me, literally kneeling on top of my legs and is staring straight into my face. She’s breathing heavily, the familiar cushion of cold air is making me shiver uncomfortably and she keeps looking at my neck. “You see, part of the problem is the media. You are the messengers when the fingers point at you, ‘not us, we didn’t say nuthin, we just the messenger.’ But then when you think you can get away with it you paint the picture you want to paint. You create the freaks, you create the weirdos, when the freaks and weirdos are not freakish enough, not weird enough, you always put that little eeny weeny spin on it, don’t you.”

Her eyes are huge and blood red. She has a tiny scar, no longer than a centimetre above, her right cheek. She places a fingernail on it and opens it up, drawing a red line down her face to her jaw. The blood oozes out in a sickening viscous trail. I feel sick. I want to be sick. God knows what would happen if I was sick all over her now.

“When you have strange behaviour you love it. When it’s not strange enough you make it up. And all the time you cunts are playing the game. You tag along with us, the artists, the centres of attention and you invite yourselves along because you’re no good at doing what we do, but you want to be part of it. Rob Wallet was the same. A leech who thought he could rescue his career by tagging along. __________ was another one thinking he was ever so cool and down with it because he slagged everyone off. But you don’t have an air of superiority because you’re not superior. You never were, you never will be.” Her tongue is long enough to snake around the side of her face and lick the blood that’s pouring out of the elongated scar. “And . . . it . . . pisses . . . me . . . off. It fucking pisses me off that we have to suck your dicks to get our message across, we have to go through your filters and your portals and we don’t get heard unless we’re extreme and then you end up with this spiral where nothing is too extreme.”

She holds her tongue out and lets the blood cascade over the tip, staining my tee shirt. “I nearly killed a reporter from Melody Maker in 1975. Do you know why?” I shake my head. “Because he didn’t believe me when I told him I don’t sleep around. I don’t fuck the groupies or the road crew. What are you a fucking nun, he said.” She pauses and looks at the stain on my tee-shirt. For a moment I wonder if she’s regretting what she’s done, but then she looks at me again, looks into my eyes as if I’m in here somewhere looking back out. “Nothing’s changed. No one has the imagination to change. The girls are still stripping off, the men are still fucking the girls and you cunts are still giggling from the sidelines. What a joke. What a joke.”

She climbs off me. Before she turned away I’m sure the scar was gone, the running blood gone, the blazing red eyes back to normal, if they ever were normal. She walks away from us and is consumed by the darkness of the studio. Dan has no photographs, but I think he’s relieved he didn’t have to give her instructions or suggest positions, expressions, poses. She went back to the darkness she stepped out of. Dee Vincent’s world is very very dark.

And then she came back. . . .

(Hullaballoo Magazine, copyright Gillard Publishing, 2014)

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Who are Toten Herzen?

Discover everything you need to know about the band: the story, the tragedy, the comeback. Hear the music. Become part of the journey. (*You need to be a vampire to see this content.)


The legend: 1973 – 1977

Toten Herzen formed in 1973 from the fragments of two earlier bands: singer Dee Vincent and bass player Elaine Daley came from Lincoln-based Cat’s Cradle, whilst Dutch band After Sunset delivered lead guitarist Susan Bekker and drummer Rene V. The marriage was administered by local rock promoter and scrap metal dealer Micky Redwall.

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The Kuip Cafe in Rotterdam where Susan Bekker and Rene van Voors, along with Marco Jongbloed and Wim Segers, met to form After Sunset. Originally inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck and Deep Purple the band decided that any success would only come by gigging in England. (photo FaceMePLS)

Cat’s Cradle and After Sunset were appearing on a triple bill at Hooly Goolys in Ipswich alongside Cambridge band The Scavengers. After one member of The Scavengers fell off stage the two bands had to improvise and Redwall persuaded the four better players to ditch their less interesting bands to create a formidable new one. Redwall, a collector of World War Two memorabilia, came up with the name Toten Herzen (Dead Hearts) and a legend-to-be was born.

Rene-van-Voors-1971

Rene V leaves his mark in 1971.

(Later accounts of the band’s origins claim there was a fifth member, Peter Miles, a local guitarist, who went missing before the first album was recorded. Claims that he was eaten by the other band members were never proven.)1

Toten Herzen’s first album in June 1973, Pass On By, was largely unnoticed on release, but did relatively well in Europe particularly Holland, Belgium, Germany and Austria.

A tour of the UK and Europe went by quietly with just the occasional hotel room wrecked and tales of drunken parties. Nothing the average rock band wasn’t already used to.

Facing obscurity and the emerging trend of glam rock the band stepped away from the scene in the spring of 1974 before going into Foghorn Studios in Kings Lynn to work on new material. The result was the seminal album We Are Toten Herzen and the controversy was immediate.

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A rare photograph taken shortly before it burned down in 1975 of the original Hooly Goolys in Ipswich. Micky Redwall, Toten Herzen’s first manager, would hire the venue for £8 to host his weekly rock nights. Even though Toten Herzen were formed at Hooly Goolys they never played a gig here. (photo Ell Brown)

The album cover had Dee Vincent gorging on Susan Bekker’s jugular vein. Publicist for the band, Izzy Starling said the cover was a tribute to Peter Miles (a photograph of his headstone was used on the innersleeve).2 At the time the band refused all interviews leaving Starling to cover for them. Censorship was never very far away and the band’s image veered from pale faced emaciation to bloated excess. The press described them as ‘vampiric.’3 They were goths before goth was invented.

Dee-Vincent-1973

Rumours surrounding this photograph from 1973 have persisted to this day. Is the guitarist behind Dee Vincent Grant Downey from Cat’s Cradle, or is it an early image of Toten Herzen with Peter Miles?

The following UK tour was described by venue owners as chaotic, violent and bloody with people bringing dead animals into the halls and theatres. On one occasion in Bradford police impounded a horse box containing a dead pony.4 The tour of Europe was bedevilled with police searches and drugs investigations, but no substances were ever found, no charges ever brought.

In November 1974, Dee Vincent held a rare interview with Melody Maker in which she described her life as undead and ‘very liberating.5

In 1975 We Are Toten Herzen was racking up platinum sales all over the world. The band’s whereabouts leading up to their third album was the subject of speculation with various commentators putting them in the Caribbean, Canada, Ireland and even Penzance.6 The album, Nocturn, was released in May of that year.

micky-redwall

‘Never far away from the metal.’ Micky Redwall was considered to be the driving force behind Toten Herzen’s image and reputation. (photo iMorpheus)

Noted for its sonic construction, Nocturn was bigger, heavier and gloomier than its predecessors. Its frantic key signatures and varied rhythms brought the band critical acclaim as well as commercial success.7

But throughout the process rumours surrounded Susan Bekker’s health after being hospitalised in Germany with a serious blood condition. Because of the band’s reluctance to do interviews, the public drew their own conclusions. A roadie from their 1974 tour claimed to have witnessed the band drinking the blood of people backstage and that Bekker picked up an infection as a result.8

The press, turning a blind eye to the facts, ran with the conspiracies: the band never do interviews, never play festivals because they would have to perform in daylight, were never seen during the day, and never performed in France because there was too much garlic.9

In 1975 Toten Herzen appeared on the BBC’s Old Grey Whistle Test and played an eighteen minute set. At the end they were asked to confirm or deny the rumours that they were vampires. Dee Vincent replied simply ‘we are not vampires, we are the undead.’

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The Mid South Coliseum in Memphis where Toten Herzen played a sold out concert to 8500 people in 1976 without trouble. (photo BC Buckner)

In August 1975 the tour promoter for Alice Cooper offered the band a six figure sum to play support, but the band declined claiming they were the real thing, and not pretenders.10 In September they played their first tour of the States and caused a particularly nasty row in Boston and New York, two cities with large Catholic populations.11 Toten Herzen’s twenty seven dates Stateside were sell outs and the band arranged to go back in ’76 to do a bigger arena tour.

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Elaine Daley in flight, 1975. (photo Miemo Penttinen)

The rumours followed them into 1976, but the band, management and record label, Crass, were happy to let them propagate. They travelled to Europe to record their fourth album, Black Rose, and the arena tour in both Europe and America sold out.

The first serious controversy to hit the band occurred on their return to the UK when the family of Peter Miles sued them and their management over his disappearance. The family claimed they knew what had happened to Miles, but were refusing to reveal anything. The Daily Mirror claimed the band were a bigger threat to society than the IRA.12 The judge in the court case, Mr Justice Behringer, ruled in their favour.13

Toten Herzen now appeared to be untouchable with Black Rose becoming their biggest selling album and tours sold out. Groups of fans were claiming, and in some cases boasting, that they had been attacked backstage.14 Again, no charges were ever brought against the band members.

The momentum of success carried the band into 1977 and Klaxon Studios in Swiss Cottage for their fifth album. A live recording of their 1976 tour, Dead Hearts Live, was released and immediately banned because of innersleeve photos allegedly showing dead fans they claimed to have killed.15 (The artwork was reissued, but copies of the original sleeve sell today for thousands of pounds.)

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Susan Bekker onstage in the US, 1976. (photo Cindy Sims Parr)

The band announced plans for a tour to promote the forthcoming album Staying Alive, but a news story was about to break that they would have no control over.

On March 21st, 1977, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police announced the deaths of the four members of Toten Herzen. No details were revealed, but it later emerged that all four had been staked through the heart and their bodies left in coffins in a tomb in Highgate Cemetery, north London.16

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Highgate Cemetery as it appears today. In the 1970s the cemetery was the haunt of both immortal and mortal troublemakers! Rob Wallet’s investigation into the band’s murder raised doubts about Highgate Cemetery being the true location of the killings. (photo George Samuel Bentley)

Two days later, on March 23rd, a 29 year old man, Lenny Harper, walked into a police station in London and confessed to the murders.

All tour dates were cancelled. Staying Alive was never released. And the rumours that had gone before were nothing compared to the ones that were about to emerge.

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REFERENCES:

BAND LINE UP:
Dee Vincent, (Denise Leslie Vincent) b 1953 Lincoln – vocals, guitar
Susan Bekker, (Susan Johanna Bekker) b 1951 Rotterdam – lead guitar
Elaine Daley, b 1950 Lincoln – bass guitar
Rene V, (Rene van Voors) b 1952 Rotterdam – drums
Peter Miles, b 1953 Ipswich – rhythm guitar (alleged)

 

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ALBUMS:

album-passonbyPass On By
(label – Crass; year of release – 1973; sales 32 780)

 

 

 

track listing
01 Endemic
02 Strange Behaviour
03 Tell Me I’m Wrong
04 Dirty Dreams (single – no 187 UK charts)
05 Parasite
06 Pass On By (single – no 204 UK charts)
07 Love Me When I’m Dead
08 Simple
09 Crown of Thorns
10 Hollow Man

 

album-we-are-toten-herzenWe Are Toten Herzen
(label – Crass; year of release – 1974; sales 954 250)

 

 

 

track listing
01 Holocaustus
02 Transformative (single – no 5 UK charts)
03 Electro Therapy
04 Blinding
05 Blood on the Inside (single – no 3 UK charts)
06 Facelift (single no 4 – UK charts)
07 Neverending
08 Dead Hearts
09 Requiem

 

album-nocturnNocturn
(label – Crass; year of release 1975; sales 2 212 380)

 

 

 

track listing
01 Nocturn
02 Chase the Lady
03 After I’m Gone (single – no 2 UK charts)
04 Feed Me, Feed You
05 Psychotic
06 Body Shock
07 Buried Alive

 

album-black-roseBlack Rose
(label – Crass; year of release – 1976; sales 2 675 300)

 

 

 

track listing
01 Two Steps Forward
02 Ominous
03 Behind the Mask
04 Parade of the Millions
05 Senses Overload
06 Mindfuck
07 Judith Loves You
08 Engage, Sign Off
09 Rotten to the Core
10 The Visitor

 

album-deadheartsliveDead Hearts Live (live album)
(label – Crass; year of release – 1976; sales 1 985 000)

 

 

 

track listing
01 Dead Hearts
02 Rotten to the Core
03 Senses Overload
04 Crown of Thorns
05 Electro Therapy
06 Facelift
07 Psychotic
08 Mindfuck
09 Speed King (Deep Purple cover)
10 Transformative
11 Chase the Lady
12 Parasite
13 Crown of Thorns
14 The Visitor
15 After I’m Gone
16 Blood on the Inside
17 Body Shock

 

Staying Alive
(label – Crass; year of release – unreleased;)

 

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ARTICLES:

1 Shock Wave: The New Heavy Metallists – Alan Duncan (Coleridge Press) 1979 p273
2 Melody Maker (August 1974), We never forget our friends
3 The Sun (November 28th), Nutritionists worry over singing corpses’ influence
4 Halifax Observer (June 11th), Sick fans headless horse was offering for shock rock band
5 Melody Maker (November 1974), No rules in the afterlife
6 Daily Mail (February 20th), Pity the Penzance public
7 The Times (July 5th), Undead rockers who know their music theory
8 Daily Mail (April 12th), Rock band’s roadie in bloodsucking sensation
9 Daily Mirror (December 4th), Ten things a vampire band can’t do (apart from sing)
10 Billboard (August 1975), No show for Brit rockers Toten Herzen
11 Boston Herald (September 3rd), British vampire band in sick crucifix claim
12 Daily Mirror (October 9th), Evil rockers more deadly than the IRA
13 The Times (October 18th), Vampire rock band did not eat original member
14 Manchester Evening News (January 30th), Rock fans badly bitten in monster orgy
15 Daily Mirror (February 14th), Latest rock outrage angers Prime Minister
16 The Sun (March 22nd), Thank god for that

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MEET THE BAND

susan

NAME:
Susan Bekker

BORN:
February 24th 1951

FROM:
Rotterdam, Netherlands

IN THE BAND YOU ARE:
Lead guitarist, songwriter.

PREVIOUS BANDS:
After Sunset

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT AFTER SUNSET:
I found out Rene was a big fan of rock music, he went to the same school as me, so we decided to form a band of our own. I wanted to be like Jimi Hendrix and he wanted to be Ginger Baker. We dragged two other guys along with us, Wim Segers on guitar and vocals, and Marco Jongbloed on bass. I did some singing early on, but the others finally managed to stop me.

We were getting nowhere in the Netherlands, so we saved up, bought tickets to get to England and started touring around Norfolk, Suffolk, north London, getting nowhere basically. We ran out of money in Ipswich, which is when Micky Redwall, Toten’s first manager, met us.

We played covers of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, all the bands and musicians we liked. We did our best, but it didn’t work out. It was purely luck that Micky saw us that night. We didn’t have enough money to get back to Rotterdam.

WHAT INSTRUMENT DO YOU PLAY:
I play a Gibson Flying V. It was a birthday present from my mother and is an original 1969 model. I know it’s not worth as much as Dee’s Explorer, but in terms of sentimental value I’d kill myself if anything happened to this guitar. I’ve got two other Vs from 1976 and then I bought one around 1992.

ANY OTHER MODELS:
I practice and rehearse with an ESP M103FM, but once the serious shit starts, it’s back to the Vs. You have a sound that’s associated with your playing and you’re never happy with a song or a performance until you hear that sound, and it all comes through the guitar.

WHAT IS YOUR STRONG POINT:
Someone once described me as cunning. If I was cunning After Sunset would still be around, so I can’t be that cunning. But I think I’m good at analysing a way out of a situation or a way round people.

WHAT IS YOUR WEAK POINT:
Narcissism. I want to be something I’m not.

WHICH IS WHAT:
It’s embarrassing.

IT’S OKAY, NO ONE’S READING THIS:
My hero was Jimi Hendrix. I saw him perform in Rotterdam in 1968 and I’ve never forgotten that night. I won’t rest until I have that effect on someone else.

TELL US ABOUT THE OTHER MEMBERS OF TOTEN HERZEN:
Rene is very level headed, he keeps quiet in the background and lets us girls get on with arguing, then comes forward with a few words that make us all look stupid. I always turn to him for a second opinion. Dee is naturally confrontational which creates a tension in the band, and that’s a good thing because if everyone in a rock band got on beautifully you’d sound like the New Seekers. There has to be some poison in there. With Dee you can fight and argue about something and it’s all done and out of the way. You know where you stand with Dee. Elaine is the hidden hand. She has a great musical understanding, but she never expresses it until she picks up her bass and you hear what she’s playing and I think ‘shit, I hadn’t thought of that.’ She adds the finishing touch to the music, it just wouldn’t work without her input.

TELL US SOMETHING THAT WILL SURPRISE US:
The back of your hair’s on fire.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TOTEN HERZEN FANS:
In the seventies we used to read the headlines and think it was all made up. Then in Halifax we heard about the dead horse, but we heard it from the police before we heard it from the media and that’s when we started to think, fuck, maybe it’s not made up. Sometimes we wish they’d settle down and grow old, but then another generation comes along that thinks it should maintain a reputation. Fine, maintain it, but just stop burning things down.

WHERE DO YOU SEE TOTEN HERZEN IN TEN YEARS TIME:
Touring, bigger tours, bigger arenas. I don’t want to set a limit and say there, we’ve made it, we can settle down now and become complacent.

WHICH OTHER MUSICAL ARTISTS DO YOU ADMIRE:
My early heroes were Hendrix and Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jon Lord, Ian Gillan, Stevie Ray Vaughan. There don’t seem to be any individuals these days who sort of stand out from the band and become such strong focal points. Maybe Eddie van Halen in the 80s, but I don’t know who the equivalents are today. Rock doesn’t get the same press it once did so it’s harder for the pioneers to spread their influence.

WHICH BANDS DO YOU LISTEN TO:
I still listen to Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, some early Iron Maiden and Motorhead. Early Yes, Pink Floyd.

RECOMMEND ONE NON-ROCK SONG:
Oh, fuck. There’s a song called This Guy’s In Love With You and Rob Wallet, our publicist, heard it the other day and he sort of went into a coma-like shock. So, if that song can shut him up for five minutes there must be something strange and powerful about it. We thought he’d died with his eyes open.

WHY DOESN’T TOTEN HERZEN GO DIGITAL:
We have a Twitter account, I think. And a website. We never had a website in the seventies.

MUSICALLY, MP3S AND SO ON:
A lot of effort goes into making our music and we want that effort returned when it’s listened to. MP3s make it too easy to turn music into a background commodity. And the way MP3s are sold, it’s easy money for the likes of Apple to set up a server and then fuck off leaving it to generate money for them without doing anything.

IF YOUR HOUSE CAUGHT FIRE WHAT WOULD YOU RESCUE:
The [Flying] V.

COUNTRY:
Country?

FAVOURITE COUNTRY:
Netherlands. Are there any others?

IF YOU WEREN’T A ROCK GUITARIST WHAT WOULD YOU BE:
Some bored old woman wishing she could have her time again and be a rock guitarist. There was nothing else in my life. Nothing I wanted to be.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ACCUSE YOU OF NOT BEING THE ORIGINAL TOTEN HERZEN:
I can understand that, but if they knew the truth they probably couldn’t handle it.

WHY DID YOU AGREE TO A COMEBACK:
So much went wrong in the seventies, the first time around. This was a chance to start again with us in charge and see if we could do it any better.

AND ARE YOU SUCCEEDING:
It doesn’t look like it!

deeNAME:
Dee Vincent

BORN:
July 9th 1953

FROM:
Good working class stock.

NO, WHERE ARE YOU FROM:
Sorry. Lincoln, Lincolnshire. Some people say ‘Oh! Lincoln, Nebraska,’ and I’m like no, fucking Lincoln, Lincolnshire. England. It pisses me off, but believe me not half as pissed off as Elaine gets.

SO SHE’S FROM LINCOLN TOO?
Why else would I have said that?

IN THE BAND YOU ARE:
The annoying one. Lead singer, rhythm guitarist. Provocateur, usually on the receiving end of litigation.

PREVIOUS BANDS:
Just the one. Cat’s Cradle. Also from Lincoln, Lincolnshire.

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT CAT’S CRADLE:
It was a four piece playing blues and sort of early punk, we weren’t sure what it was we were playing, so we just made sure it was loud. Alan MIller, the drummer, put the band together just after leaving school in 1971. Him and a lad called Grant Downey.

They asked Elaine to join, because she was a friend of Grant’s sister, but none of them had the guts to sing so they were playing instrumental stuff for about six months. Everyone used to go watching them and wonder when all these guitar solos would come to an end, but they never did. Eventually, they got booed offstage at a gig in Hull and decided they needed a singer, ‘to add some depth’ as Almer [Alan Miller] said at the time, like they were a football team needing a couple of new midfielders, so they asked me.

We lasted another two and half years, managed to save up about fifty quid and then it all imploded in Ipswich when we met Micky Redwall and a load of Dutchmen (and Dutchgirl).

WHAT INSTRUMENT DO YOU PLAY:
I play a Gibson Explorer. I’ve got two actually, a 1959 korina body and a 1976 black, well it was originally black then I saw someone playing a white one so I painted it white, then couldn’t decide, so painted it black again.

The ’59 Explorer is worth a small fortune now. Someone once told me it was a ’61 model, but it had a 1959 serial number, so must have been original stock. I don’t play it so much because it has sentimental value and if anything happened to it I’d only go out and kill some innocent bastard, so it gets pampered. The ’76 is the workhorse now.

ANY OTHER MODELS:
I like the Explorer shape. I’ve got a Kramer Imperial and I bought a new Jackson JS32, but it’s a bit light on the sound. I prefer the original Gibsons.

WHAT IS YOUR STRONG POINT:
I don’t know. You should ask the others. Elaine says I never give up when I want something and I think you need that perseverance in the music industry. I’m unshockable aswell.

WHAT IS YOUR WEAK POINT:
Impatience, short tempered, speak before I think, careless, heartless, I have a blind spot to other people’s feelings, jealousy, especially of girls taller than me. How much space have you got?

TELL US ABOUT THE OTHER MEMBERS OF TOTEN HERZEN:
Elaine is the root of the band, holding us down, Susan is the flower attracting all the attention, Rene is the stem holding us up. That’s quite poetic, innit? Don’t know what I am. There’s only the leaves left, but I don’t think I’m responsible for photosynthesis.

TELL US SOMETHING THAT WILL SURPRISE US:
Winston Churchill had smaller feet than me.

REALLY:
See, that surprised you, didn’t it?

NO, SOMETHING ABOUT YOU:
I had my tonsils out in 1975 and the doctors nearly decided to take all my teeth out at the same time.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TOTEN HERZEN FANS:
The old ones are crackers, the current ones are hooligans. They’re like a medieval army of merceneries. You’re never quite sure who it is that’s following you. Never quite sure who’s gonna turn up at the concert. The nutters or the murderers.

WHERE DO YOU SEE TOTEN HERZEN IN TEN YEARS TIME:
History says they’ll be headlining Glastonbury and showing off their MBEs. I say they’ll be selling out playing dubstep and collaborating with a ninety year old Madonna.

THEY:
Fuck, you don’t think I’ll still be around in ten years time, do you?

WHICH OTHER MUSICAL ARTISTS DO YOU ADMIRE:
Burt Bacharach, genius songwriter and craftsman, Lemmy for his integrity, and Susan, even though I can’t stand the fact she’s several feet taller than me she’s still one of the most underrated guitarists in the business.

WHICH BANDS DO YOU LISTEN TO:
Ramones, Clash, New York Dolls, Stooges, Motorhead, some Pink Floyd, some Fleetwood Mac. Of the newer generation I like early Metallica and that girl from Finland. Tarja Whatsit.

TURUNEN:
Whatever, I’ll take your word for it.

RECOMMEND ONE NON-ROCK SONG:
Goodbye to Love by the Carpenters. It’s a beautiful song about a really morose subject with a smoking guitar solo at the end.

IF YOUR HOUSE CAUGHT FIRE WHAT WOULD YOU RESCUE:
The library. I can’t let the books go up in smoke.

COUNTRY:
What country?

FAVOURITE COUNTRY:
Don’t get all Bunty on me, favourite this, favourite that. Luxembourg, blue, deep fried chicken, any real ale.

IF YOU WEREN’T A ROCK SINGER WHAT WOULD YOU BE:
Sixty years old, drawing a state pension.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ACCUSE YOU OF NOT BEING THE ORIGINAL TOTEN HERZEN:
Come round to the house and I’ll prove it to you once and for all.

WHY DID YOU AGREE TO A COMEBACK:
Have you ever been bored for thirty five years? You’d accept any offer after that.

elaineNAME:
Elaine Daley

BORN:
May 20th 1950

FROM:
Lincoln

NEBRASKA:
Fuck off

IN THE BAND YOU ARE:
Bass guitarist

PREVIOUS BANDS:
Cat’s Cradle

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT CAT’S CRADLE:
Dee told you pretty much everything you need to know. We weren’t very good, we were never going to get very far. There was nothing distinctive about us.

WHAT INSTRUMENT DO YOU PLAY:
A Gibson Thunderbird bass.

WHY DO YOU ALL PLAY GIBSONS:
They produce the sound we’re looking for. They do all the hard work for you.

DO YOU PLAY ANY OTHER INSTRUMENTS:
No. I had piano lessons when I was a kid, but they stopped.

ANY OTHER BASS GUITARS OTHER THAN THE THUNDERBIRD:
You should have said that. I have an Ibanez five string I use in the studio.

DO YOU EVER PLAY A FRETLESS BASS:
Fretless? I’m not a violinist, I play in a rock band.

WHAT IS YOUR STRONG POINT:
I don’t know. That’s a stupid question, like asking, do you think you’re clever. Ask other people what my strong point is.

WHAT IS YOUR WEAK POINT:
Interviews. I don’t see the point of them.

TELL US ABOUT THE OTHER MEMBERS OF TOTEN HERZEN:
Musically, we’re all pretty average, but something happens when we start playing at the same time, but I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s the instruments. Personally, Susan is a driven individual and will probably collapse one of these days, just through sheer psychological mindfuck. Dee will be murdered sooner or later. She has self-destruction written through her like a stick of rock. It’ll probably be Susan who kills her. Rene is switched off most of the time to get some peace, and then when he’s working he can’t hear us because he plays the drums. I’m surprised Rene hasn’t walked before now.

TELL US SOMETHING THAT WILL SURPRISE US:
I was born with hair like this.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TOTEN HERZEN FANS:
You get the fans you deserve. If they’re all nutters that’s our fault for attracting nutters, but it wasn’t planned. The only downside is when we get the bill for their damage.

WHERE DO YOU SEE TOTEN HERZEN IN TEN YEARS TIME:
It’ll be over in ten years time. Susan will be an ambassador for the UN, Rene will be buying old vintage cars and doing them up, Dee will be a pile of dust blowing around the suburbs of Rotterdam or across the Wash.

AND YOU:
I’ll still be stuck here in this interview.

WHICH OTHER MUSICAL ARTISTS DO YOU ADMIRE:
Chris Squire is really the only name that comes to mind, but not for his bass playing, more his leadership and temperement. He reminds me a little of Dave Gilmour. Single minded, intimidating.

WHICH BANDS DO YOU LISTEN TO:
A lot of rock and seventies punk, some ELP now and again, some Yes. Prog and punk, I should have answered your surprise question with this answer.

RECOMMEND ONE NON-ROCK SONG:
Do you ever say please?

PLEASE RECOMMEND ONE NON-ROCK SONG:
Once. It’s a song in the closing credits of Brotherhood of the Wolf. Always makes me cry.

MAKES YOU CRY:
No. See, I surprised you again.

IF YOUR HOUSE CAUGHT FIRE WHAT WOULD YOU RESCUE:
The insurance policy.

COUNTRY:
Next.

IF YOU WEREN’T A BASS GUITARIST WHAT WOULD YOU BE:
I left school with an aptitude for languages and chemistry so something that combines the two. I like knowing how things work, it comforts me. Maybe engineering or working in a laboratory making things grow in a petri dish.

WITH YOUR INTEREST IN HOW THINGS WORK HAVE YOU EVER STUDIED WHAT YOU ARE:
No. Have you ever studied what you are?

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ACCUSE YOU OF NOT BEING THE ORIGINAL TOTEN HERZEN:
They’re probably right. I wake up sometimes and think I don’t feel myself today.

WHY DID YOU AGREE TO A COMEBACK:
The others agreed and I didn’t want to be alone in the house.

reneNAME:
Rene van Voors

BORN:
May 2nd 1951

FROM:
Rotterdam, Netherlands

IN THE BAND YOU ARE:
Drummer

PREVIOUS BANDS:
After Sunset

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT AFTER SUNSET:
Some quiet girl at school turns out to be nuts about rock. She opens up, we find two guys who play bass and guitar and we form a band. We’re shit, but don’t know it. We’re broke, but it doesn’t stop us.

We played everything, everywhere, cover versions, blues, it was all over the place. We were in England, but didn’t speak very good English, so people thought there was something wrong with us. It never occured to them we were foreign. Maybe if the band had been called Het Grouewerhengers people might have understood us better.

WHAT INSTRUMENT DO YOU PLAY:
My kit in the seventies was all Ludwig stuff, whatever Ginger Baker played was enough for me! Nowadays I use a kit built for me by a company in the Netherlands. But still use Zildjian cymbals.

DO YOU PLAY ANY OTHER INSTRUMENTS:
I play guitar. I have a Fender, but the girls won’t let me into a studio or on stage with a guitar. Especially as it’s a Fender and they’re all Gibson groupies.

WHAT IS YOUR STRONG POINT:
Ultimate patience. You can’t be the only guy in a band with three attention seekers like they all are and not be patient.

WHAT IS YOUR WEAK POINT:
Feyenoord. I wish I supported Ajax, but you have to go with what you’ve got and we don’t have many glory days at de Kuip.

TELL US ABOUT THE OTHER MEMBERS OF TOTEN HERZEN:
We’re a very mixed bunch and I wonder how we all manage to get along. Susan devotes all her attention to making the band successful, creatively, musically. She lives and breathes it and I don’t think the rest of us appreciate that sometimes. Dee is the typical lead singer, very outgoing, very self-confident, very theatrical. And a fucking good guitarist, if you listen to what she’s doing when she’s not singing. Elaine is the second half of the sound of Toten Herzen. I lot of people talk about the moments when she and Susan combine and create that big guitar sound. She’s on the same wavelength as Susan musically. We are the sum of the parts, but individually the girls have a lot to be proud of, I think.

They’ll make my supper now for saying that.

TELL US SOMETHING THAT WILL SURPRISE US:
I’m not really a vampire.

WHAT:
Gotcha.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TOTEN HERZEN FANS:
Our glorious fans. We’d be a very normal forgettable rock band without them. I think they’re like a lot of fans of rock bands; they don’t follow fashions, loyal to the end. You get the impression they really would fight for you if it came to that. I don’t think fans in other genres can say that, apart from one or two teen idles, but then they grow up and fuck off to the next fad.

WHERE DO YOU SEE TOTEN HERZEN IN TEN YEARS TIME:
My god. Er . . . probably Toten Herzen will be the trading name of Susan Bekker Corporate Music Enterprises and we’ll all be on a retainer.

WHICH OTHER MUSICAL ARTISTS DO YOU ADMIRE:
Ginger Baker was my first influence, John Bonham, Ian Paice. Alan White. But some older jazz and blues drummers caught my attention as years went by. Philly Joe Jones and Gene Krupa come to mind.

WHICH BANDS DO YOU LISTEN TO:
I stopped listening to Cream a few years ago. When you know every drum beat by memory you know it’s time to move on. I’m listening to old Dutch trance at the moment, but don’t tell the others.

WILL TOTEN HERZEN MOVE AWAY FROM A PURELY ROCK SOUND:
Over Susan’s dead body, and it’s too late for that, so I doubt it.

RECOMMEND ONE NON-ROCK SONG:
Via Con Me. Paolo Conte relaxes me when the harpies have been winding me up.

IF YOUR HOUSE CAUGHT FIRE WHAT WOULD YOU RESCUE:
My bed. I had insomnia for about twelve years. I couldn’t get used to sleeping during the day, but I got a bed about ten years ago that was perfect and I’m dead to the world on it now. I can do anything the night after a good day’s sleep.

COUNTRY:
What, music? Country and western?

FAVOURITE COUNTRY:
Netherlands. But I like Switzerland too? Ukraine is interesting.

IF YOU WEREN’T A ROCK DRUMMER WHAT WOULD YOU BE:
Maybe a journalist, then I could write the truth about the band instead of all the lurid lies that have been written over the years.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ACCUSE YOU OF NOT BEING THE ORIGINAL TOTEN HERZEN:
Prove it. Find the original members and stand them next to us.

WHY DID YOU AGREE TO A COMEBACK:
It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE BOOKS HERE

READ WALLET’S TOTEN HERZEN ESSAY HERE

READ WALLET’S INVESTIGATION AND HOW HE DISCOVERED THE BAND HERE

Origins of the Malandanti

Who were (are) the Malandanti? I came across them when I was researching witchcraft for the second Toten Herzen novel. To understand the Malandanti you must first learn about the Benandanti.

banner-malandanti

Benandanti means ‘good walkers’ (Benandante is the singular) and were a group of people from the Friuli region of northeastern Italy in the 16th Century. Their story is rare in that they were tried for heresy by the Inquisition, but survived. Their secret magic brought them to the attention of the Inquisition along with the charges of witchcraft, but when the trial judges heard what the Benandanti were doing they found themselves with a moral and religious dilemma.

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