Marshmallow Overcoat are one of my most cherished groups. From their debut album, The Inner Groove, which came out in 1987, up to 2008's The Light Show, all their releases have been among my very favourite; a perfect blend of garage and psychedelic sounds, with great original tunes and fabulous covers, as performed by excellent musicians. Timothy Gassen, the group's creator and soul, is yet another of those childhood heroes of mine with whom I have had the joy and honour of communicating, be it via the faceless 'net. Having, over the years, put out seven albums, countless singles and numerous tracks on compilations, they recently issued a 6-CD box set including all their releases! A most welcome gift from our friends hailing from Tucson, Arizona.
Hello to my friends in Greece! We wanted to create something very special for our dedicated fans, so the limited 100-copy box set was one idea. We do want to make the 138-song set available to a wider audience, but we're not sure right now what form that will be in -- a CD set, digital download only, we don't know yet...but whatever form it takes it won't have all the extras that are on the limited first edition.
Let’s start with the very beginning. Which year M. O. got together?
Summer of 1986 in a very hot Tucson, Arizona. We recorded our first 45 for Dionysus Records and soon began to play shows...
There was a local psych/garage scene those days?
Tucson has a garage scene that goes all the way back to the 1960s. The classic garage-psych band Yard Trauma started here in the early 1980s, and we were the next back to create that sound in Tucson after they moved to Los Angeles...
When did you begin to play music and what are your first hearings?
The first "live" music I ever heard was in my basement with my big brother's band -- a 1967 garage band when I was very little! So as a little kid I heard the Seeds, Blues Magoos, Beatles, Byrds -- It makes sense I grew up to make this music! I first stated in the early 1980s in a New Wave-type band, kind of a cross between Joy Division and Kraftwerk. It was called JACKET WEATHER, and we had one 7" EP that goes for $300 on eBay now, lol. I still dig crude electronic music, which surprises my punk rock and garage-psych friends... Oh, Jacket Weather celebrates its 30th anniversary next month, and I'm preparing a complete collection of all of those songs for minimalist-electro fans...(http://jacket-weather.bandcamp.com/)
By the way we re interested in that project
In Jacket Weather? Well, I just found our original 1982 demo tapes, and they sound great! And as I do this interview, I'm doing overdubs in my studio on our first new songs in decades... ;) way cool!!
Lets go on
You did a lot of covers from sixties bands. Which are your favorite ones?
Yes, I didn't realize how many cover songs we did until they were all together on the CD set. Many were recorded for compilation albums, B-sides, etc. My faves are "Shape Of Things To Come," "I Can Only Give You Everything," ""Say It Is Not So" (that was from a 1960s Tucson band!), "Tomorrow Never Knows," "ESP," "The Woods"... we put our own sound on those, I think! Oh, and one of our recent sessions, "Not Fade Away" -- I really like that one. I always wanted to do that as an encore if we returned to Europe!
(Two of ours favourites covers are this house is not a motel and The light show)
In 1992 you had a European tour. You played in Athens two days. What do you remember from those live appearances in Athens
Oh, "The Light Show"! Yes, one of our MOST psych recordings!!!I rememebr that the Greek garage fans were so very kind -- and they knew a LOT about garage music. Our shows were packed and the crowds were so enthusiastic. We were able to stay in Greece for about a week, and I thought it was so beautiful. I always have said if there was one country The Marshmallow Overcoat could return to it would be Greece. We never got to play in Thessaloniki, where we landed from Italy, and it reminded me very much of Tucson...
In 'a touch of evil' your inner photo is from those live. Do you remember any of that bands you played with?
Yes, we had many great photos from those Athens shows -- you can tell the band was really enjoying it. We played with the Sound Explosion, who were so very cool! They were one of the best bands we played with in Europe -- wow, what a great sound!
Yeah, Sound Explosion
I'd have to go through notes to see who else we played with -- we've done a lot of shows over the years, lol...
Do you know any other Greek bands from the sixties till now?
I have a great LP from the Mushrooms.. and a bunch of Hitch-Hyke's releases...I've been hunting for the Greek pressing of the "Eyes of Mind" album (from Bomp Records) for years now...I also have some great Greek 1960s compilations. The Greek sound reminds me a bit of the 1960s Texas sound -- a bit more wild than the rest of Europe, like Texas bands were more wild than the rest of the US...
You’ve changed the name of the band from Marshmallow Overcoat to Overcoat and then Marshmallow Overcoat again. Why?
In 1990-1991, after our "Beverly Pepper" album, there were some major labels interested in us. They suggested shortening the name, so we did for 2 albums -- but we didn't change our sound and they didn't sign us anyway, lol. So we decided to go back to our real name and keep playing the garage-psych sounds we love! So 25 years later, once again we are searching for a record label to release our music!
You have new songs to release?
We have new songs on the limited 6-CD set that we'd love to get out on vinyl -- if the entire 6-CD set isn’t picked up by any label perhaps a single CD of our most recent material would also be cool...
You are the editor of The Knights of Fuzz book that is a psych-garage music guide from 80s to 00s. Tell us some more (how much tome you spend for...etc)
Yes, I first wrote a garagare-psych book titled "Echoes In Time" and then it doubled in size and was published as "The Knights of Fuzz." It took me 5 years to write! It is now out of print and VERY expensive to find a paper copy. An electronic version with lots of updates and hundreds of other garage articles I wrote is on the DVD version of the Knights of Fuzz, along with 25 music videos from garage bands 1980-2005...
How you felt when you came across with all those bands and people? Was difficult to collect all those information
I started collectcting any and all garage bands from 1965 on! I started to find the older '60s musicians and also the new ones, talking to them, learning from them -- I am a supreme garage fans, but also a musician making the music -- so it has been an exciting journey. I've been able to get to know so many of my heroes, and also make music myself! Yes, it took a LOT of work to collect all of this. Remember, I started many years before the Internet or e-mail! Everything ws done by postal mail, so the interview we are doing now instantly would have taken a month to complete!
Super!!!! You have also not only met people from the sixties but played with. For eg. to celebrate the release of Knights of Fuzz in 2001 was a big live show with Fuzztones, Plasticland.... and Sean Bonniwell (a great loss for 2011) etc. How was your meeting with Sean?
Sean was a fabulous guy! We talked about recording togetehr but that never happened, much to my regret. The Music Machine's drummer, Ron Edgar, also played with him at that show, with the Fuzztones backing him up! I have lots of pictures from that night that I have to put online -- I have the biggest smile on my face in all of them! To be able to gather all my fave bands together in NYC for that show was a real highlight for me -- and it was only 3 weeks after the attacks in NY in 2001, so everyone really pulled together to make it happen. It was a real celebration, a special night.
Do you know anything about the "crisis" in Greece (or any other country in Europe)
Oh yes, we are very concerned. The world has changed -- the US and the rest of the world are linked, and we all need to be concerned about each others' welfare! At least I believe so!
With Purple Merkins you had released 4 7’’ and one album. Why don’t you continued with?
I listened again to all of the Purple Merkins releases a little while ago, and I think it sounds like a long-lost Marshmallow Overcoat album! In the 1990s when the Overcoat was using larger studios and doing more intricate music, the Purple Merkins were recording crude '66 garage in our house. But now, all these years later, it sounds to me like the same band, lol. I'd love to do more Purple Merkins music -- but we are having great difficulty finding a garage-psych label to release any of our music! Even after all we've done as a band, we arein the same difficult boat as many other garage bands...
You have also released a single as Thee Hands Of Tyme by a greek label. Why don't you have continued writing music with them?
I thought Thee Hands of Tyme would continue, doing much more psych music, but again it seems any band with me writing, producing and singing ends up sounding like the Marshmallow Overcoat! So I am embracing all of those sounds rather than trying to separate it into '66 garage. psych, and power pop as different bands.
In your latest releases I think you are sounding more psychedelic. Am I right?
Yes, I think so. "The Beyond," for instance uses a mellotron and tremolo vocals! We were going for a real 1967 Abbey Road studios sound on that one!
Besides music you are a journalist film maker, music producer etc. Tell us some more
I have three professional personalities: 1) music, 2) film and journalism and 3) as President of the World Hockey Association Hall of Fame (ice hockey.) These worlds are so different that I have 3 sets of friends who don't really know about the other things I do, lol. Music people think that sports isn't cool, and film people usually don't understand underground music, etc. But it is 3 very interesting worlds!You played ice hockey?
I was never good enough to play, lol. But I did the radio play-by-play for a team, and have written books about ice hockey. It's like a religion, and many people think I am from Canada!
For us ice hockey is an unknown sport! All these years you had played with a lot of bands. Which of them you remember mostly?
Wow, I've been so luck to have played shows with so many great bands. Yard Trauma was always great, The Pandoras, Fuzztones, Plasticland,.. the list could go on and on, and I don't want to leave anyone out! We have been very fortunate. I won't say lucky, because we have worked very hard for years to make our music!You’ve almost did a cover of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Why only some seconds
Ah -- we were warming up in the studio and tape was rolling as we just started playing it as everyone laughed! I included it because it still makes me laugh!
Which are bands or albums you like most from now days
Another hard question! There is a band from Sweden I really like called Nom De Guerre -- kinda garagey power pop. I've been listening to a lot of power pop lately -- also the new Sick Rose album ROCKS! Almost everything on Misty Lane is great -- and I've re-ignited my Beatles passion with lots of bootlegs. I usually hate bootlegs, by the way, but I make an exception for the Beatles since they have enough money already, lol.
What about doors?
HA! As you might expect after hearing our records, I have every Doors song there is! Ray Manzarek was supposed to play on our most recent sessions to celebrate the Marshmallow Overcoat's 25th anniversary, but he was on tour so our schedules couldn't come together. But we might do something with the Electric Prunes!!!
You prepare a show to celebrate the Marshmallow Overcoat's 25th anniversary?
We are trying to do a few sows with the Prunes -- and there's talk about Europe again, but until these deals come through I don't like to talk too much about them. I really don't know if they will happen...
Greg Shaw mentioned you as ‘the guru of garage” how do you feel about that?
Greg Shaw was a dear friend and he opened so many doors for me in the music industry and the garage scene. he really wanted me to carry on in promoting garage music, and that's why he came up with the "Guru of Garage" title for me. Greg was a genius of promotion! It makes me smile when people call me that -- I owe it all to Greg.
Do you believe that there is future for psych-garage music?
I think that garage & psych music will survive all the trends and other mainstream media fads. Garage-psych is pure music, it is very easy to identify, and it appeals to the rebel and explorer in all of us. I have seen the garage scene grow to a very large scale, and then shrink back again, and then grow again. I think kids will find Farfisa and fuzz again and again -- at least I hope so!
Do you want to add something more?
I just want to thank all the kind fans all over the world who help me document this wonderful music. Thank you also to the dedicated fans who have celebrated with us the 25th anniversary of the Marshmallow Overcoat. And finally, thanks to the people of Greece for being so kind. I hope I can visit you again soon!
by kostas M. & george M.