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The Siberians are a Brooklyn group of rock ‘n’ roll vets that play “barbaric Siberian garage punk”.  The band is fronted by Todd Colberg, formerly of North Carolina’s Spinns and Gondoliers, with Hullabaloo’s Charles Gaskins on rhythm guitar, Frank Caira of the Above on bass and recent addition Chris (also ex-Gondoliers) on drums.  Even though these city-dwelling adults put out their debut 7” ‘Who’s Laughing Now?’ this year, it sounds like it was laid to a dusty reel-to-reel by a bunch of horny teenage misfits in their dad’s garage in 1966.  It’s rollicking, primitive, bouncy, fuzz-laiden, soaked in reverb and catchy as hell. I talked to Charles Gaskins, rhythm guitarist of the Siberians and CEO of Killer Diller Records (the label that released their fine debut single).

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Wax Trash: When I first heard your stuff, what initially struck me was the production. Its so 60’s, and that’s a hard feat in this day and age. Tell me a little bit about the recording/production that went into these tracks.

Charles Gaskins: My friend Matt Petronelli recorded us at this small studio, Rock It, that used to be a couple blocks from where Todd, Frank, and I live — we don’t live together, we all just happen to live two blocks from each other, in Greenpoint. Matt is an amazing sound engineer and he’s a fan of a lot of good music, so he knew how to approach recording us with a slightly lo-fi sound. We didn’t want the record to sound too sterile or digital, even thought it was recorded digitally. We recorded the tracks live and added the vocals, tambourine, and back-up vocals later. I also brought an old telephone microphone that we used to mic the room and capture a really dirty mix of all of the instruments, and we also used that mic, along with a clean mic, when recording vocals. The telephone mic is low in the mix, but it’s loud enough to give character to the recordings.

WT: The second thing I thought was, “for a bunch of teenagers, these guys really know what they’re doing!” The songs just sounded so youthful to me.  It wasn’t until later that I found out you guys were all grown up…Do you agree with Lester Bangs when he said rock ‘n’ roll is best played by adults?

CG: HA! Todd is 40, Frank is 33 or 34, and I’m 29. Tom, the drummer on the record, was 23 or 24 when we recorded. Our new drummer is 28, I think. I don’t know if age really has to do with being a better band. There are kids in their late teens who are busting out some amazing shit, as well as guys in their 40s. There are also teenage bands and dudes in their 40s that totally suck. To quote an album I’ve never heard by a chick that I’m pretty sure is dead, “Age ain’t nothing but a number.”

WT: The “HA HA Ha” s on Whos Laughing Now are awesome.  Those are credited to you…was that your idea? Does Todd write everything or is it more of a group thing?

CG: Todd writes his guitar part and lyrics and presents it to us. He usually has an idea of how he wants the drums to sound. Frank and I just start playing around until we think something sounds good. So the main idea of the song is always written by Todd, but we all put our own ideas into it. The laughing was definitely my idea. I’m a huge fan of ’50s and ’60s novelty records and the idea of the song fading out with me laughing like a maniac was really inspired by weirdo R&B songs. Very Las Vegas Grind.

WT: It’s easy to say that you guys sound like a Pebbles or Back from The Grave band.  Are you guys comfortable with this description? Do you view this as a compliment or do you think its kind of dismissive or lazy to compare your sound to compilation filled with a ton of different songs? For example, Who’s Laughing Now reminds me of “They Prefer Blondes” by the Banshees with different vocals of course. What are some of your collective influences for the band? Any favorite bands/singles that epitomize the Siberians taste or act as a guiding light?

CG: That doesn’t bother me at all. I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, though. This band has been around, off and on, for three years. We’ve gone through several phases and line ups. We could easily play traditional country, blues, rockabilly, or whatever but this band was formed out of a one-off band Todd and I did opening up for Mark Sultan. We didn’t even have a band name, we just learned 5 Back From The Grave/Teenage Shut Down songs and played them that one time. Todd and I decided to start a real band like that, but with original songs.

WT: How awesome are the Baxx Sisis?

CG: Really fucking awesome!

WT: Do you have a prized piece of musical gear you wanna brag about?

CG: Todd had this amazing Domino Californian Rebel guitar that got broken in half at our old practice space. That thing was killer. I’ve got a pretty rad Phantom that was made in the ’90s. I’ve never really been one to drop money on musical gear. If something is too nice or rare I’d be afraid of breaking it.

WT: With Killer Diller, Hullaballoo and Bananas Magazine you’ve been active in the NYC garage/rock n roll scene for a quite a while…what sparked all this? When did your love for records and rock n roll go form a hobby to an obsession to a profession? Was it a certain band that got you so excited you had to start up a label and put them out, or just something about Brooklyn itself?

CG: Hullabaloo was started by my friend George, AKA DJ Shimmy, and we had both moved to NY around the same time. Neither of us knew each other but he booked my friends The Crucials to play one of the very first Hullabaloos. They asked George if I could guest DJ the show, George and I ended up getting along really well and he asked if I wanted to do Hullabaloo with him. We’re going on five years of doing it in march.

George and I later started a website called GaragePunkNYC.com. I’m too busy to work on that site so we have Drew and Oweinama helping George with it now. The idea for Bananas happened at my bachelor party. My friend Christophe was saying we should do a print version on GPNYC.com, and I said I’d rather do something that wasn’t specific for the city, so we could have the magazine in as many places as possible, and he agreed. A few months after my wedding we put out the first issue of Bananas. Fun fact! When I was 14 my friend Kidd and I had a ‘zine called Potentially fatal. It started off as a photocopy and stapled magazine then switched to a newsprint ‘zine like Bananas. It’s really funny reading it now because my taste in music hasn’t changed at all.

As for Killer Diller, I’ve always wanted to have a record label, and I actually contacted Johnny Bartlett (Hillsdale Records, Phantom Surfers) by email in 2000 to ask for advise on starting an indie label. He straight up told me that you won’t make any more and that it’s not worth the headache. That put me off for a while, but a couple years ago I had an idea for a novelty record all about this weird African drug called Jenkem. I put out that 7” and haven’t stopped putting things out. But Johnny Bartlett was right. This label does nothing but drain my wallet and stress me out. Maybe if I was releasing indie rock or goth music I’d make money. Oh well.

WT: Garage rockers are sometimes accused of being close minded.  Name some music that no one would expect you dig? Any embarrassing guilty pleasures you don’t mind revealing?

CG: I don’t feel like a have any guilty pleasures because I, personally, think that everything I like is awesome. That’s why I like it. I’m not going to like something I think is terrible. People do get surprised when they find out one of my favourite bands is DEVO, and that I’m a huge Roxy Music fan. I love bluegrass and country western. I can totally get down with a lot of that post punk no wave stuff. Weird noises and shit. I’ve always been really into ska, rocksteady, and skinhead reggae. I love the B-52s. I also listen to a lot of UK stuff like Cock Sparrer, The Business, The Adicts, Crass… All that junk. I could go on about music all day. I like a lot of stuff.

WT: What’s in store? Siberians tour/ LP in the works? Got a new Killer Diller release you wanna plug?

CG: I’m not really sure what is going to happen to Siberians. All of us are in other bands and are super busy. We only play a couple times a year. We’ll probably do a small tour down the East Coast later this year. Baltimore, DC, Chapel Hill, Jacksonville. That kind of thing.

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For Siberians music, show dates, etc., visit:

The Siberians – FACEBOOK

The Siberians – BANDCAMP

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KILLER DILLER RECORDS

GARAGEPUNKNYC BLOG

BANANAS MAGAZINE

HULLABALOO

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RATING: 8/10

Sometimes you have a shitty, mundane, boring day, and then an unsolicited submission shows up in your inbox and saves it. Such is what Perugia, Italy’s The Mighties have done for me. This 5 track EP is straight-forward garage revivalism; the kind that fits in neatly on CHILDREN OF NUGGETS – nothing mind-expanding, but it’s a damn good time. Rollicking, rocking garage-punk at its most direct. “Misty Lame” opens with “Kelly Ride,” a 3 minute CRAMPS-y blast, complete with lyrics like: “Shake your love like a jellyfish.” Fuck all your colleges – THIS SHIT is REAL philosophy. If you’re not dancing to this, your ass is clearly broken.

The Mighties (I give them major points for managing to resist the temptation to dub themselves “Thee Mightees”) whip through 4 more tracks, rarely deviating from the formula, but when it works this well, who cares? I do like “The Seducer” a great deal – it’s a great track in its own right, but it also reminds me a lot (and possibly cops a melody from) fellow Italians SMART COPS, albeit without the speed-freak sensibility. My favorite track here is “The Mighties Theme,” pairing a huge, bombastic opening with a razor-sharp riff – usually I don’t care for band theme songs, but when they rock this hard, i’ll let it slide. Maybe the best part of the song, though is the background vocals/noises.

It’s certainly not a paradigm shift – it’s all a little bit cheesy, but the energy and number of genuinely memorable moments on this short EP makes it worthwhile.

LISTEN: http://www.myspace.com/themightiesband

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