The Devil Made Me: Interview with Reverend Beat-Man
Beat Zeller is obsessed with music. The Swiss put together the monsters playing the crude minimalistic garage punk rock band in the early 1990s, when the genre was not yet popular. Later they headed for rock’n’roll wrestling, wearing masks, in the manner of Mexican fighters. After a couple of years, this style was also sent to gather dust in a long box and Zeller quickly re-qualified as a rock’n’roll preacher.
The outer shell may have changed, but the love of laconic classic rock remained. Moreover, it is presented without observing any conventions regarding the sound and technique of the game, but it brings a lot of pleasure, releasing internal archaic energy. In addition, a father of two children living in Bern works on the label “Voodoo Rhythm”, which regularly presents us with releases of unusual bands like Zeno Tornado & The Boney Google Brothers, Hipbone Slim & The Kneetremblers, The Come n ‘go, The Watzloves and The Dead Brothers. Joachim Hiller chatted with the reverend about the church, faith and the Devil.
Did you go to church with your parents as a child?
Periodically. I still had to go to Sunday school, from which at the age of 13 I learned one lesson: they talk about Satanism. And it seemed terribly inspiring to me. Somehow I went there with an inverted cross in order to shock his reverend. An old such, typical boring Swiss pastor. But then there was an “exchange priest” from New Zealand, who was not so easy to provoke. On our “Satan rules!” he reacted with the words, “It’s good that you believe in the Devil, because the most important thing in faith is to believe.” I was impressed by this, because he was right: the main thing is to believe, and in whom – the Devil, God or Buddha – is not so important.
How did you come to satanism? Is this all thanks to Kiss and other bands?
Yes, primarily because of Venom. When their first album came out – it was incredible.
Did you even know such music?
I grew up in Bern, or rather next to it, a little higher in the mountains, and this is the territory of hard rock. In my city, they listened more to intellectual music: Yes or someone like them. Or jazz. And in the countryside they listened to AC / DC, Krokus, etc. Guys rode mountain roads in clunkers with AC / DC stickers.
You grew up in the suburbs, in a decent family, then listened a little to Venom and began to believe in Satan …
I had a great childhood with amazing parents: I could do whatever I wanted. For days, my friends and I made Tom Sawyer from ourselves, climbed caves and all that. My brother later became drag queen, and then in 1979-1980, punk rock and this gloomy electronic music that inspired me very much came to us from Berlin. Some Berliner gave my brother a cassette, there were Front 242, The Neon Judgement and similar teams. And also The Cramps. Their music completely captured me. It was then that I embarked on the right path.
Is the right path the “Beat-Man Way” you praised?
Each one has his own. Personally, I consider the opportunity to develop important. In the countries where we live, we really have opportunities for this: we can enjoy freedom, do whatever our heart desires. At the same time, many people do not do a damn thing at all, exist in a consumer society, listen to music that they include. They do not know how to realize themselves, they have forgotten how to do it. I believe that the right path is the perception of oneself as an individual, having a place in society, as well as the ability to accept others.
How much autobiographical lies in the song “The Beat-Man Way”?
My songs just come from somewhere inside. I often give live performances, which is in the audience’s favor. When I want to tell something interesting, then it turns out something like “The Beat-Man Way”. I try to talk about what I’ve experienced, but I am one of those who, in certain circumstances, loves to embellish: if it hurts, then it’s a hell of a pain, if I’m in love, then by the ears, if I buy red flowers for my woman, I’ll say that they maroon. It’s the same with songs in which I have exactly the same penchant for exaggeration. It’s like pushing cakes to listeners to make it more interesting to listen.
Now you call yourself Reverend Beat-Man, which automatically makes you think of Christian preachers in the United States.
Yes, free American churches are in some ways sharp-tongued. Take at least the speeches of priests. Only here the message is dubious, although there are people who really have something to say. I myself know such people, they also started in punk rock. And I can definitely say to myself that I have not come to some fundamental religious trend. But a couple of my friends in the USA really found God and are currently preaching. One example is the husband of a friend from Los Angeles whose brother plays in my group. He still listens to punk like Cramps, but he’s unhappy with how things are going in the world. He wants people to calm down a bit. He, like me, goes his own way, but his ideas are similar to mine.