The Diaboliks



The Diaboliks were a (mostly) girl garage combo who existed from 1994-2000

As far as I can recall it went something like this...

Sometime in early 1994, Babz (formerly joint lead singer of The Slingbacks & Frat Shack impressario) hooked up with ex-Cherylinas bassplayer Anja, a recent arrival from Germany (she'd left the homeland to follow her heart - bit of a running theme here as you'll soon see), rockin' DJ turned thunderin' tubthumper Sophie and a French guitarist called Jeremy. However, within a couple of months Jeremy decided to follow his heart back across La Manche and that's when I got the call - did I want to play guitar for this girl garage band? Hell yes.

Within a couple of months we'd cobbled together a set of fuzz-spattered originals and groovy garage'n'beat covers, and so we decided the time was right to inflict this sound on the public. Babz being a bit of a demon with the old needle and thread ensured that we always looked the business in matching outfits (and no, I didn't have to wear any dresses thank you very much).

By early 1995 we'd notched up a couple of tasty support slots (Dick Dale*, The Flaming Stars, The Clique, The Creation, whose singer Kenny Pickett called me "a wanker" for using a Fender Twin. Still, he's dead now) and started putting out single on various German record labels (Thunderbaby, Screamin' Apple), although thinking back I think our first release was a track on Vinyl Japan's Guitars In The Kitchen ep. Quite fitting then that our final release should also be on VJ, but I'm getting ahead of myself...

Autumn 1995 saw our first jaunt across to Europe, for a tour of Germany, France & Belgium. One particular highlight was the crowd in Nancy going completely wild and demanding more. However we'd run out of songs, so the (French) promoter said "Ah, just play ze same songs again. Zey are French - Zey won't know". That and the American soldier in Kaiserslautern who kept yelling out "Dan's a mod!". I may be many things, but I have never, nor will I ever be, a mod.

By 1996 those good chaps at Dionysus Records in California had agreed to put  out our debut lp, a mixed bag of recordings from the past year or so (all put to  tape in the splendid Toe Rag studios of course). The album was entitled "Danger: The Diabolks" - a pun on the excellent 1968 Mario Bava film (Danger Diabolik) from which we had taken the name of the band. All but two of the tracks were in mono, the exceptions being the psychedelic original "Slaveboy" and the relatively obscure Velvets' cover "Guess I'm Falling In Love", which was the song we habitually closed each live set with.

Another tour of Germany took place in 1996, during which tensions rose to boiling point following the breakdown of the tourbus and a "shall we give up and go home or shall we say ah what the hell and carry on" cliffhanger-type decision point. Fortunately we chose the latter path and following an all night dash from Hamburg to Munich played a blistering set at the Beat-O-Mania festival.

Later that year we undertook a short tour of Spain, the first time we'd enjoyed the luxury of travelling on tour by plane and brand new hire car, rather than a rickety old van. Even so, following the last gig, we walked off stage, packed the guitars in the car and had to drive the 13 hours or so it takes to get from Oviedo to Barcelona to catch our plane home. As we left Oviedo, we stopped off at a restaurant to get sarnies for the trip. When asked what I'd like I said "Oh, get me one with everything in it" and sure enough I was presented with a real Scooby Snack sized sarnie, containing jamon, chorizo, egg, cheese, tomato and about a zillion other ingredients. I took my first bite and promptly ejected fried egg yolk from the back of the sarnie all over the steering wheel of the hire car, leaving it as sticky as hell for the next 13 hours.

1997 was one hell of a busy year. As well as putting out a couple of singles and a 10 inch mini lp, we toured Germany again (where we made enough profit to cover the airfare for the four of us to fly to California for a West Coast tour. Bizarre really, every other foreign jaunt I've done with other bands has usually left us out of pocket, but Diaboliks tours always seemed to make money). The West Coast tour took in San Diego (where we had to carry a severely hungover Sophie from the car to the venue, prop her on the drumstool, then carry her back to the car after the gig), LA (where we played the fabulous Dionysus Demolition Derby festival with such fantastic bands as The Saturn V, Dukes Of Hamburg, Big Sandy, The Humpers) San Francisco (great gigs with The Count Backwurds, The Maybellines, not to mention the generous hospitality of Mr Russell Quan, a true gent) Seattle (where Steve Turner lent me his Mosrite) and Olympia - where we played with a couple of kiddy punk bands in a unlicensed venue. Also that year we fitted in a short UK tour (well, 5 gigs on the trot in London, Brighton & Bournemouth anyway). Oh, and we played up in Scotland too.

1998 saw us back in Germany again, although this time we also took in Switzerland where we played with the riotously funny Servotron. Listening back since to their albums, the music's not entirely to my taste, but they were one hell of a fantastic live act. On the way to that particular gig, we stopped to ask directions of a Swiss gentleman. Anja (who is German you may recall) asked the guy where the venue was and was subjected to a volley of gutteral Swiss-German, throughout which she nodded sagely. As he left, she turned to me and said "I didn't understand a single word of that".

Around this time Anja also made the decision to follow her heart abroad yet again, this time to be with her now husband, Mr Mike Stax of San Diego. However, before she left for the US we managed to squeeze in our only non-Toe Rag recording session at the fabulous but sadly no more Pathway studios, a tour of Italy (the first of many trips to that wonderful country we were to undertake in the next few years) and a handful of blinding UK gigs, including an appearance at the first Wild Weekend alongside such legendary combos as ? & The Mysterians, The Thanes, Thee Headcoats and The 5-6-7-8s.

1999 dawned and the remaining three of us (Babz, Sophie and I) were left wondering how exactly to fill the enormous gap left by the departing Anja. Many of our originals had been built around her basslines (pretty much all of the originals were true collaborations with each member contributing their part, but many of them started with the bassline). Eventually we held auditions, and decided, after much debate and discussion, to hire Lydia. Now, I don't wish to use these pages to badmouth other people, but let me put it this way: In the past 20 odd years it has been my pleasure to play music with something in the region of 70 or so musicians, all of whom I would happily play with again. Except one. I'll say no more on the subject.

The remainder of the year saw us travelling to Italy twice, and returning to the states for the inaugural Las Vegas Grind festival, where we shared the bill  with some true legends (The Trashmen, The Wailers, Thee Mighty Caesars, The Untamed Youth, etc, etc). We also recorded what was to be our final lp (The fabulously named "Three Furburgers and a Chili Dog To Go" at the new improved Toe Rag studios. The old cliche about tensions within a band leading to increased creativity proved true on this occasion, as I believe these were some of our finest recordings, despite the fact that the guitarist and the bassplayer were not exactly on the best of terms.

By early 2000 those tensions had become too much for everyone, so it was time for another change of bassplayer. This time we decided to "keep it in the  family" as it were, by asking John, with whom I was already playing in The Napiers and who was to later marry Sophie, to step in. Tensions disappeared, a pleasant atmosphere returned, and over the next 6 months we embarked on loads of foreign tours, covering France, Belgium, Holland, Italy & Norway, before calling it a day after a particularly fine gig in Oslo. By this time, not only had "3 Furburgers" come out, but we'd also recorded a split 12" single with 54 Nude Honeys. Both of these records were released by Vinyl Japan and are adorned with fantastic Vince Ray artwork.

And that's the story of The Diaboliks. Well, from my perspective anyway. There were some ups and downs along the way, but for the most part it was a  complete and utter blast.

*After reading John Peel's (auto)biography I was delighted to see the gig at which we supported Dick Dale listed as one of his all time Top 10 gigs. I'm not kidding myself though; it was Dick's blistering set and not our ramshackle racket that he enjoyed so much.


Discography

7 inches
Yes I Do c/w Lovin' Machine (Screaming Apple) 1995
Slaveboy c/w Ramrod (Thunderbaby) 1995
I Can't Sleep At Night c/w Never Thought You'd Leave Me (Mademoiselle) 1997
I Love Johnny Bravo c/w Just Like Me & It's Not Easy (Thunderbaby) 1998
LPs
Danger (Dionysus) 1996 12 inch LP & 12cm CD
Itching For Action (Dionysus) 1998 10 inch mini LP
Three Furburgers and a Chili Dog To Go (Vinyl Japan) 2000 12 inch LP & 12cm CD
Compilations
Ramrod on Attack of The Terrible Boots (Mint Sound)
Pommes Frat on The Kittenblood Collection (Thunderwoman)
Hangover Head on 18 Thoughts of British Trash (Vinyl Japan)
Hangover Head on Guitars In The Kitchen (Vinyl Japan)
Hangover Head on Do The Nuclear Tests In Paris & Beijing (Vinyl Japan)
Beat On The Brat/Choc Ice on Black Tight Killers (Vinyl Japan)
Ninja A Go Go on Pervirella Soundtrack (Dionysus)
Yes I Do on The Girls Are All Square (LD&K)
I Can’t Sleep At Night on Today’s Top Girl Groups (Spinout)
A Little Less Conversation on The Kittenblood Collection Vol 2 (Thunderwoman)
Secret Track on reissue of Girls In The Garage Vol 1 (Romulan)

...and 10 years after The Diaboliks split, those good folks at Cherry Red have had the good/bad taste to release a DVD and mp3 download album compilation entitled Nothin But Trash, featuring the misspelled Diabolics' Ramrod, taken from the flip side of the Slaveboy single. We're in good company on this release, as other artists featured include the mighty Link Wray, The Gun Club, The Stingrays, Thee Headcoats, etc, etc.
The DVD is available from Cherry Red, the download album is available form all reputable DSPs e.g. iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, etc. The cover art features the go-go dancing half of The Diaboliks (you'll be delighted to hear that didn't include me...)




Update April 2015
For the first time in 15 years, all 4 Diaboliks were in the same hemisphere/continent/country/town/building at the same time! Last time this had happened was late 2000 at Anja & Mike's wedding in Saarbruecken:

Diaboliks 2000


...and then on 4th April 2015, we met up in The Doric Arch at Euston, which 25 years ago was known as Rails and was home to the mighty Frat Shack. In fact, we tucked into our tea on what used to be the stage area, where The Phantom Surfers, Mummies, Headcoats, Kaisers, etc ripped it up way back when... 

Diaboliks 2015
(l-r: Mike, John, Josh, me, Sophie, Anja, Babz)

1 comment:

  1. I've got a few nice pictures I took of the Diaboliks at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco in '97. I'd love to share them with you. Try to contact me thru facebook. I'll also upload them to FLICKR.com .

    Lloyd Pratt

    ReplyDelete

About Me

My photo
West Sussex, United Kingdom
Upside Down Guitar, Bass, Uke, Mandolin, Banjo, Bouzouki and Cigar Box Git. In 1984 I picked up a right handed bass guitar, but being left handed, turned it upside down and taught myself to play cackhanded. Seeing no reason to change this, I have since applied the same logic to all other stringed instruments (doesn't work so well for piano). Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to play with upwards of 25 top combos, and have been lucky enough to play gigs in England, Scotland, Wales, France, Belgium, NL, Norway, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain & the US, releasing a number of records along the way. Further details can be found on the various pages of this site. I am also a quizmaster, record spinner and Scrabble obsessive. Contact: eviljackmcdeath[at]yahoo[dot]co[dot]uk