V/A feat. Jon Spencer – The Transatlantic Feedback (DVD, GERMANY)

13 March 2009 Play Loud! pl-dvd-04
01. Documentary V/A feat. Jon Spencer - The Transatlantic Feedback (DVD, GERMANY) - Cover
Documentary feature film on the Monks featuring a brief interviews with several people including a 12 second appearance Jon Spencer (at 1h 24m 52s into the movie). This ‘interview’ was filmed in the bar before the re-formed Monks New York show and Jon Spencer says “I’m trying to just come in with an open mind, I realise that they haven’t played in 32 years, I’m trying not to get too excited but I’ve really been looking forward to this evening for a long time”…and that is his entire input.

The DVD special features include an ‘old’ trailer which begins with a segment of the Jon Spencer interview not used in the movie.

The film has seen a theatrical release and was officially released on DVD on 13th March 2009 and was available for pre-order on Playloud.org from 10th January 2009.

“DVD includes 70 minutes of bonus features:

biographies dave, eddie, gary, larry and roger talk about their origins and musical backgrounds.

a date with dave day these field recordings with elvis fan dave day introduce us to the concept of monks banjo playing. enjoy this master class by the first rock´n´roll banjo player in music history!

monks 60s live appearances on german tv the only 60s performances preserved on film are made available for the first time in their entirety.

reunion new york 1999 the 6th monk or how gary burger lost his voice and mike fornatale rescued the monks.

movie trailer” – playloud.org

Playloud also released Silver Monk Time the tribute album featuring Jon Spencer and Solex along with the Alec Empire and Fall 7″ single and a poster for the documentary.

“English synopsis:
The monks were 5 American GI’s in cold war Germany who billed themselves as the anti-Beatles; they were heavy on feedback, nihilism and electrical banjo. They had strange haircuts, dressed in black, mocked the military and rocked harder than any of their mid-sixties counterparts while managing to basically invent industrial, punk and techno music. The genre-overlapping documentary film not only illustrates the pop music phenomenon in its political, social and cultural historic contexts, but also reveals the monks project as the first marriage between art and popular music and this months before Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. The five protagonists of the film came to cold war Germany in 1961 as soldiers and left the country in 1967 as avant-garde monks. For more than thirty years they were not able to talk about their strange experience. In the film they recount for the first time their adventure.

Die Avantgarde-Mönche
In dem ungewöhnlichen Musik-Dokumentarfilm „monks – the transatlantic feedback” von Dietmar Post und Lucia Palacios geht es um die legendäre, stilbildende Beat-Band „The Monks“, über die „Rolling Stone“ schrieb: „Bis heute gibt es nichts in Kunst, Rock, Punk- oder Nut-Rock, das der verrückten konzeptuellen Strenge des Images der Monks und dem rohen, Avant-Biergarten-Sound der einzigen LP der Gruppe ‘Black Monk Time’ nahe kommt.“ Mitte der 60er Jahre kam es in Deutschland zu einem einzigartigen deutschamerikanischen Kulturaustausch: Fünf in Deutschland lebende, amerikanische Ex-Soldaten, die während ihrer Militärzeit eine Beat-Band gegründet hatten, trafen auf zwei deutsche Künstler und Beat-Fans. Gemeinsam entwarfen sie ein Band-Konzept, das mit dem gängigen Bild des Beat brach: Die „Monks“ schnitten sich die Haare kurz, rasierten sich Tonsuren und trugen anstelle von Krawatten Galgenstricke um den Hals. Ihre Musik war minimalistisch und aggressiv, ihre Texte ironisch und radikal, ihre Ästhetik provokant und dadaistisch. Die besondere Situation zwischen Adenauer-Politik und Vietnamkrieg, amerikanischer Pop- und wachsender deutscher Gegenkultur manifestierte sich in den radikalen Anti-Kriegsliedern der Monks und der eigenwilligen Melange aus anglo-amerikanischem Pop und deutscher Avantgarde Heute gelten die “Monks” als geniale Wegbereiter diverser moderner Musikströmungen; Bands wie Faust, Can, Amon Düül oder Kraftwerk sowie verschiedene Protagonisten des Punk können als ihre direkten Nachfahren angesehen werden. Aus den persönlichen Erinnerungen der fünf Musiker und umfangreichem Archivmaterial rekonstruierten die Dokumentarfilmer Dietmar Post und Lucia Palacios diesen besonderen Moment deutsch-amerikanischer Zeit- und Popgeschichte.”

– playloud.org/monkssynopsiscredits.html

Directed/Produced: Dietmar Post & Lucía Palacios
Edited: Dieter Jaufmann and K. W. Huelsenbeck
Camera/Sound: Dietmar Post & Lucía Palacios
Additional Camera: Renato Falcao
Music: Monks
Sound Mix: Miles Kann
Color Corrections: Alastair Owen
Film Advisor: Peter Stockhaus
Commissioning Editors: Katya Mader (ZDF/3sat) & Lili Kobbe (Hessischer Rundfunk)
In collaboration with: ZDF / 3sat (German Public TV)
Hessische Rundfunk (German Public TV)
Filmförderung Hessen hr (German Film Board)
Filmbüro NW (German Film Board)
Filmstiftung NRW (German Film Foundation)
Faust Studio (Scheer)
German Films (information and advisory center for the promotion of German films worldwide)
Chicago Underground Fillm Fund (Chicago)
Cine Impuls (Berlin)
Other Music Music Store (New York)
Anthology Film Archives (New York)
Nattress Productions (Ottawa)
Reel Life (Brooklyn)

Gary Burger (vocals/guitar)
Larry Clark (organ)
Dave Day (banjo/guitar)
Roger Johnston (drums)
Eddie Shaw (bass)
Charles Wilp (fashion photographer, composer, Afri-Cola guru, ARTronaut)
Jimmy Bowien (Polydor producer of the monks)
Gerd Henjes (Polydor sound engineer of the monks)
Wolfgang Gluszczewski (tour manager of the monks)
Joachim Irmler (Faust, 60’s eyewitness and fan)
Jon Spencer (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, 90’s fan)
Byron Coley (Spin Magazine staff writer)
Genesis P-Orridge (Psychic TV & Throbbing Gristle, 60’s fan)
Peter Zaremba (Fleshtones, 90’s fan)

special dedication in memory of monks drummer Roger Johnston (1939 – 2004)
monks collaborator Charles Wilp (1932 – 2005)
technical data title monks – the transatlantic feedback
format DigiBeta | 4:3 | 100 minutes | USA, Germany, Spain 2006

“the monks are undoubtedly one of the most groundbreaking bands in pop history. By the time we started the preparation for the transatlantic feedback in the mid-nineties, the monks were already an insider’s tip, but the actual story that led to their formation was still a complete mystery. It took us years of research to find out that the monks, a group comprised of five former GIs and two art-obsessed managers couldn’t have existed anywhere but in West-Germany of the 60’s and that no other group could have possibly anticipated more musical and pop cultural trends of the following decades. In the movie, Jimmy Bowien, a producer working for Polydor at the time, describes their sound as “an early form of heavy metal and industrial.” Charles Wilp, an artist whose work was featured in the 1972 Documenta V in Kassel and who tried to work with the band on a campaign for the soft-drink Afri-Cola, referred to them as “the first weightless group in history. they were pioneers of techno music.” And Jochen Irmier, founding member of krautrock trailblazers Faust, considers himself a “direct descendant” of the monks and claims that “the ’68 revolution could have happened two years earlier if only the people had understood the sound of the monks.”

After screenings of the film around the world often times we were asked about the managers and them not being in the movie. We gave the following answer: as documentary filmmakers you have to respect the decision by any person who decides not to be portrayed. Karl-H. Remy outright rejected the participation. Walther Niemann, although he didn’t want to be filmed, was of great help and answered many questions , especially those about the art implications. When he came incognito to the film’s premiere at the Munich Film Festival in 2006 he praised the film as being a true reflection of what had occurred 40 years earlier.

Another question people asked was how we did come about the monks story and what in detail had happened after the movie was done. the monks musical career was short-lived. They started in Hamburg in January 1966 and disbanded in Nuremberg in September 1967. After the break-up both managers launched a successful career in advertising, while all former band members went back to the US. They hardly kept in touch after their return. In fact, they didn’t even talk about their former lives as avant-garde musicians. They had no idea that German bands such as Can, Faust, Kraftwerk and Neu! kept the tradition of the monks alive.

When Polydor put out the first re-issue of their only record black monk time in 1979, people were finally ready for them, mostly thanks to the post-punk movement. Towards the end of the eighties, The Fall covered several of their songs. Soon after, the monks were praised in Julian Cope’s 1995 “Krautrocksampler”. Around the same time, the makers of the “Ugly Things” fanzine tracked down Eddie Shaw and Gary Burger. Shaw wrote a fictionalized band biography. In 1997, Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin released “black monk time” in the United Statres. The filmmakers, who lived in New York City at the time, were surprised that no one seemed to realize how influential the managers were, of the strong aesthetic concept behind the band, so we started working on the movie.

Meanwhile in the States, the monks were widely considered as “garage rock”. Ironically, in 1999, the official reunion of the band did indeed take place at a garage rock festival in New York. Remaining in the context of a sixties revival, further reunion gigs in Las Vegas (2003), Benidorm (2004), and London (2006) soon followed. The last four shows, in Zurich, Berlin (both 2006), Krems and Frankfurt (2007), were organized by play loud! and Planet Rock around the movie premiere and the theatrical release of the transatlantic feedback.

After the 40-year hiatus, the first gig in Germany, which took place at the sold-out Volksbuhne in Berlin, was clearly a highlight. Guest vocalists were Peter Hein (Fejlfarben), Schorsch Kamerun (Die Goldenen Zitronen), Mark E. Smith (The Fall), and Ana da Silva & Gina Birch (The Raincoats), who had previously recorded a tribute album called silver monk time. Among the audience were old companions Wolfgang Gluszczeqski, Jimmy Bowien and Walther Niemann.

“After the presentation of the film, three of the original band members (drummer Johnston died in 2004; keyboard player Clark “didn’t feel like coming”) played an unforgettable comeback show in the jammed Volksbuhne. Many fans were dressed up for the occasion, wearing black shirts and sporting white ropes around their necks; in fact, you could even see a couple of tonsures here and there. It only took two songs until the entire audience went delirious. And when the last song was over, people wouldn’t stop clapping, so the monks came back on stage five times, waved to the fans, laughed and wiped some tears from their eyes.” (from Berliner Zeitung, October 2006)

In retrospect the monk music can be considered a cornerstone of pop history. We feel greatly honored to have taken part in deciphering this exception chapter of music history.

Dietmar Post & Lucia Palacios (Berlin, December 2008)

The Monks Book of Revelations

I first heard of The Monks in 1980 when a friend of mine proclaimed, “You want punk, I’ll give you original punk!” He played for me from a scratchy mix tape, several generations down the line, the song “Complication” recorded in 1965 by a band I had never heard of, I was amazed. In 1965 in the USA were still listening to pop fare recorded lushly at The Brill Building, or complex arrangements by our beloved Wrecking Crew on the West Coast. And of course, imported Merseybeat. This was before the golden age of snarly garage which really flourished a full 2 years later with “Pushin’ Too Hard” by The Seeds, “Dirty Water” by The Standells, and “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet” by The Blues Magoos.

In 1965 no one but The Monks were truly stripping pop music to…uhhh…banjo? Banjo? And tribal beats! Fuzz beyond fuzz guitar with some distorted pre-psychedelic wah wah, raspy non-melodic vocals, and in-your-face lyrics. Not even the topical folk music of the day, which always teetered on sentimental solution to the days problems, or irony at best, carried the bare message that war is killing other people or being killed, “People kill for you. People die for you.” And add to this a “ba ba ba” chant which was drained of pop or surf, and a keyboard break of complete discord (this ain’t no Paul Revere And The Raiders, kids) and you have music never yet heard. Even in 1980, its time was only just arriving. This was the first revelation.

Then came the second. Like everyone, once you hear The Monks then next see your first image of them in black robes, white ropes, and tonsures with short hair, you actually have to wrap your head around it all. For me any brilliant breakthrough in pop culture is indicated by the amount of time it takes for me to process it. The Monks took their time.

Cut to a full two decades later when Cinevegas/Sundance Film Festival programmer Mike Plante alerted me to a film he felt would be perfect for a festival I’d launched with my daughter Tiffany Anders, Don’t Knock The Rock Film And Music Festival. We could not believe this gold had come our way; a feature documentary about The Monks. When I first saw a VHS rough cut copy of “Monks: The Transatlantic Feedback” by Dietmar Post and Lucia Palacios, it was the third and fourth revelation: the story of how this band came to be, and he gorgeous telling of that story through two gifted filmmakers eyes.

That The Monks: Eddie Shaw, Gary Burger, Dave Day, Larry Clarke and Roger Johnston were 5 American GI’s stationed in US occupied Germany is legend. What fewer of us knew were the influence of their German avant-garde managers on these five young Americans and how together they created not only a groundbreaking anti-pop sound, but the entire conceptual art presence to go along with it.

What struck me most by Dietmar and Lucia’s film was how beautifully they placed us in the environment and mindset of The Monks in occupied Germany during the Cold War. Yes you can appreciate The Monks music without knowing any of this. But the texture added to your appreciation after seeing the film is yet another revelation. With their use of historic footage of Post WWII Germany, industrial films and a stunning live performance of the band on German TV in 60s mixed with interviews and The Monks revival concert, these fine filmmakers drench our experience of The Monks in timeless relevance.

We, of course, enthusiastically invited the film to Don’t Knock the Rock Film And Music Festival 2006 to a sold out house and hosted the filmmakers and Monks Eddie Shaw, Dave Day and their families. Dietmar and Lucia gave insights one-on-one to the inspired and newly converted. Eddie Shaw signed copies of his fabulous memoir “Black Monk Time” for fans and Banjo Dave Day held court at the Redcat Bar, granting white rope neckties to the newly anointed. When Dave Day passed away recently I was touched to see in so many personal local obits that fans were so grateful they got to see this wonder film and meet Dave during our festival.

Last month I took a trip to Germany where The Hof Film Festival hosted a retrospective of my work. But before attending, I took a side trip to Berlin. As I scoured the record store for treasures a young German record geek overheard me saying “Where’s the punk rock?” he chimed in, “Dead,” then he held up an LP, “Here is punk rock.” It was a reissue of The Monks groundbreaking LP “Black Monk Time”. Revelation.

Alison Anders (Los Angeles, December 2008)

Alison Anders is the acclaimed director of the films “Gas Food Lodging”, “Mi Vida Loca”, and “Things Behind the Sun”.”

ARTWORK: Daniel Richter + Lucia Palacios for Play Loud productions

BARCODE: 6 93723 43500 8

MATRIX: “PLAY 081208 L1 PLAY 081208”