Boys of Bedlam

The Boys of Bedlam  are an eccentric Band with an eccentric repertoire, and an equally eccentric lineup. Tim Waddington (Vocals/Mandoline), Josh Häberle (Bass) and Marcus Zabel (Percussion) are based in the obscure southern german village of Wiernsheim. Playing an ecclectic mix of music (where else could you expect to hear the punk anthem “Blank Generation” followed by “A whiter shade of pale”, interspersed with a sea shanty or a broadsheet ballad describing conditions in a 17th century madhouse?), the group brings an accoustic feel to songs which you generally associate with the “fasterlouder” brigade, and the energy of a rock´n´roll band to songs which you would otherwise only hear in a folk club by a singer with his finger stuck firmly in his ear.


FAULT: How has 2011 been for you so far?

TIM: Excellent – since Marcus (cajon and percussion) joined the band,we´ve developed a real chemistry, and the music has a drive to it which we´ve been aiming for and never quite achieved. If you can make 30 people in a cafe get up and dance, you know you´re good. Big stages and fast songs are easy in comparison to a more intimate setting, which we prefer.

FAULT: How did you all meet and start making music together?

TIM: Josh and I originally got together around 2000 because I put an ad in the paper stating that a mandoline-playing screamer was looking for musicians to play New-York-punk-inspired music, and he was intrigued. We put together a band called “Die Baanhof Meider Gruppe”  (a play on words on the Baader Meinhof gang, which also happens to mean “the group that avoids train stations”), and made loud adolescent music for a while, but that sort of thing gets tired when you´re no longer a bored teenager and after a year or so we split up. Sometimes we´d get back together and jam with various assorted guitarists, fiddlers, accordionists and the like. It was all very pleasant, but nothing really jelled, and we´d drift apart again. When Marcus turned up (he´d been playing drums with Josh in an uninspiring blues trio), I immediately felt that we had something special. There´s the old joke about drummers being the guys who hang around musicians, but Marcus  really listens – he can make a cajon and a tamborine sound like a whole rhythmn section, which frees Josh and I up to play more (or frequently less!!) on bass and mandoline.

FAULT: What has been the source of inspiration for your latest work?

TIM: What we´re doing now we call Folk´n´Roll. It´s a mixture of traditional british folk songs and good rock songs, but no way is it “Folk Rock”. In their time and context, the Fairport Conventions and Steeleye Spans were good, but what else was going on then? Genesis… Pink Floyd… We draw our inspiration more from the contemporary accoustic scene, bands like The Deadly Gentlemen or the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Throw in the energy of, say Carl Perkins (but there you could take any early Rock´n´Roller), and I´d say that´s about  what we´re trying to achieve. A lot of our songs are really old – a sea shanty like “Poor old Horse” has its roots way back in the 18th century, or I´ll introduce “Waltzing Matilda”, which was written in 1895 as “one of the first punk songs” (which it is, if you listen to the lyrics), and we´ll plays the song from the point of view of the tramp who´d rather jump in the river and drown than conform to the norms of his society.

FAULT: What are you currently working on?

TIM: We´re aiming to broaden the base of the material we interpret – we´d like to include some Brecht/Weill songs in our repertoir, and we´re working on an arrangement of “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” (Mack the Knife). Mandoline, bass and percussion is a fairly odd combination for a band, and all the music we  play was conceived for more conventional instrumentation, it´s sometimes a lot of work before we find a set of voicings we´re happy with. We´re also working on a couple of broadsheet murder ballads – its wonderful dark material, and apart from the obligatary sex and violence, often older ballads give a human slant on appalling events, which appeals to me. In a completely different vein, we´re  working on Tears for Fears “Shout” – don´t ask me why, we just like the song.

FAULT: Has your approach to song writing changed over time?

TIM: Not in the least – we simply don´t do it. As George Thorogood once said: “Why should I write songs when Chuck Berry has already written all the best ones?” When I was busy being teenaged and angst-ridden, I poured my soul out in lyrics and melodies, which was good therapy but not very good music, so I wisely gave it up. There are so many good songs out there, and a lot of stuff that nobody seems to know, which is a shame. The process by which one song becomes a huge hit and another dies the death is a complete mystery to me, but I´m fairly certain that it has  very little to do with the quality of the song.



FAULT: What is the story behind aint it fun?

TIM: We´ve been playing “Ain´t it fun” since the Baanhof Meider days, for the simple reason that it´s a brilliant song. I´m a great fan of Peter Laughner – “Ain´t it fun” is only one of many fantastic songs he wrote. There is a compilation of demos and live recordings of Laughner knocking around the internet – it´s called “Take the Guitar Player for a ride”, and I warmly recommend it to anybody – the sound quality is dreadful, but songs like “Sylvia Plath” make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Rock music doesn´t come better than that, without the benefit of recording studios, record lables and the whole caboodle. Interestingly, though I´ve heard a lot of recordings of “Ain´t it fun”, I´ve only ever heard one that comes close to doing the song justice – a live recording by, amongst others, Cheetah Chrome of the Dead boys with the Asheton brothers from The Stooges, at a benefit for the family of Stiv Bators, shortly after he died. Most recordings sound bloodless and totally fail to capture the complete desperation the song describes. That´s a tough one on accoustic mandoline, too!

FAULT: What can fans expect from Boys of Bedlam in 2011?

TIM: Gigs, gigs, and more gigs – but you´ll have to come to southern Germany to catch us, a world tour is hardly on the cards right now (laughs). If things go right, we´d like to put out a CD of our music, but that involves resolving the copyright issues to any of our material that´s not in the public domain, which is no easy task if you´re a small band and want to remain independant. It would be easy to record and publish our folk stuff, but that´s only part of what we do, and wouldn´t represent what we´re about.

FAULT: Who would you like to work with on future projects?

TIM: There´s a tough one – Turlough o´Carolan, Robert Johnson, Charlie Mingus… just joking. I loved the e.p. that The Carolina Chocolate drops put out with Luminescent Orchestrii, and a collaboration of that sort would be really cool. A mandoline player I really admire is Sarah Jarosz – she´s not afraid of mixing her genres, both in her songwriting and the songs she chooses to cover – its pretty brave for an 18 year old girl to sing a Tom Waits song on her debut album, as she did.  Richard Thompson springs to mind, he can play more or less anything with anybody but still remains his inimitable self. The Cellist Ben Sollee would have to be a hot contender – I love the sound of the cello, and he´s another musician who´s not afraid of mixing absolutely everything up.

FAULT: What is your FAULT?

TIM: Probably the San Andreas