Fifteen Hits That Never Were
Spain’s hottest export, Sex Museum, have released their first ever compilation since forming in 1985. Fifteen Hits That Never Were takes bits and bobs from their sordid past, gives them a fresh coat of paint, rerecords a few select novelties and bundles ‘em up in a right smart package. The Madrid-based five-piece have been actively cranking out volcanic rock that range from ‘60s garage to head-banging skull-crushers. The disc presents 15 of their finest moments including oldies but goodies “Black Mummy” and “Two Sisters” only available in their native Spain. In fact, most of their output is of a regional nature but after inking a deal with Locomotive Records in 2000 they plotted a course for world expansion with the release of Sonic. Featured from that disc are the Deep Purple-inspired tracks “Let’s Go Out,” “Can’t Stick Around” and the massive “Flying High” which takes just enough ‘60s edge and combines it with a Steppenwolf road rhythm.
Prior to Sonic the band had released six full-length LPs and three EPs all considered classics; however most of the material from Fifteen Hits is taken from their last three Locomotive discs with the majority coming from 2006’s United. The bass driven “Ghost without a Will” borrows more than a little from Golden Earring while “I’ve Lost My Faith (In You)” is more punk-meets-new wave. Guitarist Fernando Pardo has a thing for big, fat, boogie riffs as heard in “I Won’t Go Back” and furious solos that heat up even the light tracks. If it makes your foot tap he’s on it. But it’s keyboardist Marta Ruiz that steels the spotlight in every song. Her organ playing conjures up the best of Question Mark and the Mysterians, the Sonics and Jon Lord all in one phrase. She seduces with languid intoxication in “Something For Real” and paints an ethereal ‘80s pop hook in “I Enjoy the Forbidden.”
Rhythm section Javier (bass) and Roberto Lozano “Loza” (drums) stoke the boilers especially on Speedkings’ (2001) metallic master “Red Ones” and the wild ride of “Jet Sam.” They have a knack for keeping the songs frantic right up till the fade out. Vocalist Miguel Pardo (yes, brother to guitarist Fernando) is most closely compared to Iva Davis of Icehouse or Peter Hoorelbeke of Rare Earth with a tangible frailty to his voice that is as manic as it is powerful. Footstompers “Landlords,” “Streetfight” and the chunky “Wassa Massa” allow Miguel to strut his range rolling out guttural licks that break into arena-sized chops. Theirs is a celebration of rock spanning three decades and landing squarely in the 21st Century. On their MySpace page they post, “If Spain is the R'n'R desert, these are five nomads of the sands who want to take you on their acid R'n'R trip.” Check out our candid interview with keyboardist Marta Ruiz by clicking here.
From Wikipedia: Sex Museum’s material is highly influenced by a plethora of genres including soul, R&B and several rock genres such as garage and psychedelic. Later releases have seen their music adopted a more hard rock sound characteristic of the 70s. Through a number of concerts in their homeland and tours through many European countries, they have gained a solid underground following in Spain, Germany and Switzerland. They have played at several Spanish music festivals including Esparrago Rock, Festimad and Viña Rock as well as international events such as the Beat-O-Mania in Munich, where the band co-lined with Metallica, Sepultura, Backyard Babies, Sonic Youth and Extremoduro among others. In 1994 they were chosen as the opening act for the Spanish tour of Deep Purple a perfect fitting.
The Cutting Edge reached across the wide Atlantic via email and asked Sex Museum’s sizzling-hot keyboardist Marta Ruiz to dive us down the road of the band’s rise to fame and fortune.
The Cutting Edge: So let's start with the name: very seductive and appropriate for your type of Sixties hip-shakin’ music. How did the name come about? A wicked weekend in Amsterdam?
Marta: Something like that - kind of a teenage joke that's lasted till today. A friend of ours went to Amsterdam and saw the actual Sex Museum. He told us all about it and we decided to use it as the band name.
TCE: Have you had any resistance to using the name?
Marta: Yes, it sounds a little weird for some people…maybe more in the States: I think people in Spain are finally used to the name.
TCE: How did the band get started?
Marta: We started in Madrid in 1985. We were in high school or starting the University, ranging from 15 to 20 years old.
TCE: Was it difficult to attract an audience?
Marta: It was a little hard at first. We were a bunch of young Mod's that grew up listening to a lot of punk rock and 60's music. We started playing 60's garage music with a punk-rock attitude and there was no scene here for that kind of sound. In Spain there was a lot of pop music and on the other hand a lot of heavy metal. Slowly we began to attract punk rockers, Mod's and 60s lovers. We sounded a bit harder than what people expected to hear from a band with 60's outfits and Beatles haircuts.
TCE: Another band from Spain (and a favorite of ours) Baron Rojo was successful in breaking into the world market with their classic rock / Status Quo boogie. Have you guys ever met or looked to them for advice?
Marta: They were very big here in Spain, maybe the first successful hard rock band here. The NWOBHM was very popular here and Baron Rojo was at the tip of the iceberg of a huge hard rock scene. We never played with them and only got to meet them 4 years ago when part of the band played with another group at a big festival.
TCE: Is it difficult being a rock band from Madrid? Has it been a challenge singing in English vs. Spanish?
Marta: In Madrid there’s a lot of r'n'r bands, but mostly at an underground level. There are enough club's and bands to make a small but note worthy scene. In the beginning the radio stations wouldn't play our music if we sang in English but it has changed through the years and that isn't a problem anymore.
TCE: How did your deal with Locomotive Records come about?
Marta: In the late 90's we were left out in the cold by our previous record label. It seems that we were playing music that record labels; radio stations and music press couldn’t be bothered with. It felt like suddenly everyone hated r'n'r and our music scene had disappeared. The chief of Locomotive was very interested in the band. He spoke with us in late 1999 early 2000 and we decided that they were the label for us. They were the only r'n'r label around here with our same vision and musical tastes.
TCE: You started out with more of an R&B/garage sound. When did you make the leap to more hard rock, Stooges edge?
Marta: At the end of the 80's we firmly evolved to a harder sound and attitude. We started playing Alice Cooper, Stooges, MC5, Deep Purple, BOC, Motorhead and Black Sabbath covers mixed with our 60's garage sound. We were looking for our own sound. We were looking for other influences that didn't coincide with typical garage bands from those days.
TCE: All your albums are well represented within your new disc Fifteen Hits That Never Were. Did you remix or remaster the early songs from Sonic or Speedkings? They sound great!
Marta: We re-recorded the songs with our present line-up trying to show how the band sounds today. We recorded the songs that we have been playing at our live shows. Once more; to represent how we sound today.
TCE: Thanks for including “Two Sisters” off Fly by Night. It's a great track! How did you come about writing it and why was it not on any of the studio records? By the way, I love your version of “Whole Lotta Rosie” off Fly by Night.
Marta: We first recorded “Two Sisters” in 1991 in a now hard to find record called “Natures Way.” It is one of our old classics” - if we can call it a classic.
TCE: Five songs come from United. I've not heard the album (however, I just ordered it and Sonic) but I really dig the vibe with those songs. They seem very crafted, more melodic than frantic. Is this what you were trying for?
Marta: Yes, we tried to make a more vocal oriented record… more vocals and chorus than usual.
TCE: One of my favorite songs from you guys is “Flying High.” The first time I heard it was off the live record. It really captures the band in full flight. Can you tell me a little about how that song was written?
Marta: Our guitar player Fernando is a Boogie- freak. He's always tried to write songs like that for the band and with “Flying High” it finally worked. It's an attempt to make a Boogie-Garage song for the 21st century with heavy riffs and a bit of sequencer.
TCE: Two songs, “Black Mummy” and “Wassa Massa” Are new, right? Were they written just for this compilation?
Marta: “Wassa Massa” is a new song, “Black Mummy” is an old song from our Sparks LP, from 1995.
TCE: I love that you have a female keyboard player. You add so much to the band’s sound. How did you come about joining the band?
Marta: I’ve been in the band from the beginning. I’m the heart and soul of the band. My sound and style is what makes us different from other contemporary bands.
TCE: The guitars are absolutely brilliant. Can you tell be about your guitar sound and how it has developed over the years? What is your guitar set up like?
Marta: The guitar sound is a mix between garage and hard rock. Fernando loves Angus Young, John Cipollina, Link Wray and the guys from MC5 the same. He began playing with a heavy fuzz sound and evolved to a more Gibson/Marshall combination in a very aggressive, primitive way.
TCE: So many bands could learn from your rhythm section. How does that come together so well for you?
Marta: We've worked hard over the years to finally find the right mix. We work more with the overall sound more than the individual. We have finally found the right people for that. We've learned a lot from the great 70's rhythm sections.
TCE: Who are the bands you look up to and what are you listening to when you’re not on the road?
Marta: We're huge 60's and 70's fans, especially rock-oriented music. Everything from the Who to the Kinks, The Doors, Slade, Ike and Tina, Humble Pie, Rory Gallagher, AC/DC, CCR, Raw Blues, Deep Purple, Heavy Funk, 60s Garage, early punk rock, pub rock, southern rock and much, much more. Almost everything with the rock word incorporated in it. Luckily there is a lot of good music out there.
TCE: Great art work on the cover - very striking. How did you go about deciding on an artist? Did you have input on the design?
Marta: We always work with the same people, usually friends that share similar tastes. The design is a very important thing for us and I supervise everything about it.
TCE: Any plans to tour America?
Marta: We hope so!!!
TCE: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about the band - crazy road stories? Playing with anyone famous? Rabid fans in Europe? What’s the next level for Sex Museum?
Marta: We've been playing since 1985 in Spain and throughout Europe so there are enough crazy road stories, great gigs, fights and snow storms to write a book but we need a bit more time to remember everything. The next step for us is to keep our love for music, write better songs, be heard by more people, play more and in different places with my r'n'r comrades who are Sex Museum. We would also like to find more people like us out on the road.
Many thanks to Marta and Sex Museum for keeping the rock alive. As always we continue to scour the planet for the next great band. Sex Museum offer a combination of all things rock with punch and swagger. Check 'em out!
Website: Sex Museum, Locomotive Records