Soggy interview

November 9, 2018

Soggy interview

“It was total chaos and ferocious as if the four of us held an everlasting grudge on the whole world. It was a blend of metal and punk. That was the Soggy sound, a true garage sound!”

Formed in 1978, Soggy quickly developed a unique style of Stooges infused punk and hard rock. They released only one single back in 1982 – “Waiting For The War” / “47 Chromosomes”. Over the years their cult status has grown exponentially. Outer Battery Records reisued their material!

Where and when did you grow up? Was music a big part of your family life? 

Beb (Patrick Bertrand, singer): I was born in Rheims (France) in 1955 (the year rock ‘n’roll hit the world) and grew up there. Music was not at all part of my family life at that time.

Olivier Hennegrave (drums): All four members of Soggy were born in Rheims, a provincial town, not rock ‘n’ roll at all. The town had been devastated by two world wars and was very much looking into the past and its turmoil. Beb was 5 years older than Eric Dars (guitarist), François Tailleur (bassist), and me (Olivier Hennegrave, drummer). We all came from the same neighborhood. Eric Dars’ mother was listening to Elvis Presley. That’s about it. For the rest of us, it was just a musical no man’s land. As teenagers, we started opening up our minds and the British-American music scene really amazed us. We got our first instruments when we were 16. That was back in 1976. That year, Beb who was 21, got it into his head that he wanted to put a band together and temporarily leave his job. That was a pretty bold move.

What bands were you a member of prior to the formation of Soggy?
Beb: For my part, Soggy was my only band.

Olivier: We played in short-lived bands and we would jam from time to time. I did play with Beb a few times. He did not sing, he would scream his lungs out. Being around Beb was like diving into Metallic KO. He would totally get into a trance and the audience was electrified.
Can you elaborate the formation of Soggy?
Beb: Olivier joined me, then François and finally Eric completed the band. It happened during 1978.

Olivier Hennegrave: The band had its first rehearsal with all four members back in November 1978. François (bass) was the only one with a good musical background and a stage experience. We were all very ambitious. We wanted to blow everybody’s minds. We would rehearse every single day. Our obsession was to show that we were a totally wild and out of control live band. Beb was putting his life on the line at every rehearsal.

When and where did Soggy play their first gig? How was the band accepted by the audience?
Beb: The first gig took place on November 23, 1979 at La Maison Commune du Chemin Vert in Rheims. We shared the bill with Cairn, another band from Rheims. How it was, I don’t remember. Olivier could certainly answer that question.

Olivier: I do remember. We were still clumsy and everything was not at all in place. The audience was scattered and glued to their chairs. Too bad for them, Beb, half-man, half-beast was crawling on the seats. He was terrorizing everyone. The audience was mainly made up of hippies who had no idea what to expect at all. Such a great moment!
How did you decide to use the name “Soggy”?
Beb: We needed a name starting with an S like Stooges, Seeds, Sabbath and that was easily pronounced.

Olivier: Beb told us that in US slang, Soggy meant “damp and heavy atmosphere before the storm”. We loved it right away.

What influenced the band’s sound? 
Beb: We had different musical influences. François (Bassman) worshiped Deep Purple, Olivier (Drummer) loved The Sex Pistols, Eric (Guitarman) the southern bands like ZZ Top and as for me, I loved the sound of Detroit (Stooges, MC5) of course.

Olivier: Let’s not forget Black Sabbath that we all digged!

You must been playing lot’s of Stooges too?

Beb: Only two songs of the Stooges: “No Fun” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. 

Olivier: We also played “Louie Louie” by Richard Berry on stage. We actually covered the Motörhead version. The bass player thought he was Lemmy. He pretty took the same substances as Lemmy did. It did not go down too well for him. He passed away in 2008 at the age of 49.
“Waiting For The War” / “47 Chromosomes” single was your only release. What can you tell me about it?
Beb: The single was recorded in Paris in a single day at the Florida Studio on April 21, 1981. I remember the date because unwittingly, April, 21 is Iggy Pop’s birthday. A wink of fate?

Olivier: We couldn’t sign a record deal. In 1981, in France, you had to sing in French or you could go get lost. We almost signed with a young underground label ‘New Rose’ right after The Saints, an Australian band. The label reconsidered the deal and we did not sign with them in the end. We were really struggling. We could not make a living with our music. 

The little money we made with the gigs was reinjected into the project. It was all about DIY. Then luck struck, the guitarist’s mother Josette won the lottery and offered to pay for a studio session in Paris. We recorded in one night. We were totally wired and we produced 1000 copies of this single vinyl.

What can you say about the recordings that were recently released, first by Mémoire Neuve/Reims Punk ‘N’ Roll, and now by Outer Battery Records? Where did you record that material?
Beb: That was wild. When Olivier came to tell me in 2007 that a French label was interested in releasing a 12 inch vinyl, 26 years after the Soggy’s split, I could not believe it. I thought it was a joke. And I still have a hard time believing it, even with the vinyl in my hands. A few years later, Outer Battery reissued the album in the U.S.. It was incredible. Both labels have been very respectful of our vision and they were always backing us 100%. It’s been great. Most of the songs had been recorded in Leslie Studio in 1980 in Rheims, except for “Waiting For The War” and “47 Chromosomes” that we had recorded in Paris. “Down The Shops”, “Let’s Go Together”, “Lost My Brain” had been recorded during rehearsals in Rheims.

Please share your recollections of the sessions. What were the influences and inspirations for the songs recorded?
Beb: The atmosphere was so great. We were like family. We had known each other for a long time. Since primary school, long before ‘Soggy’. It really was a friends’ band. We should also thank all those who have supported us throughout the Soggy era. Without them, nothing would have been possible. Our influence was a mix, a sort of ‘Hard Wave’, term that Olivier came up with. It meant playing metal with a punk sound at full blast.

You achieved quite a unique sound… a perfect blend of Stooges-like punk mixed with hard rock. How did you manage to do that? It was probably more or less spontaneous process?
Beb: The sound of the band came naturally to us, without looking for anything. Eric, the guitarman had fucking amazing riffs. Adding François’ bass and Olivier’s drums, all was said.

What happened after the band stopped?
Beb: When the band stopped, Eric resumed his studies, François and Olivier set up a new band (Thriller). As for me, I stopped everything.

Olivier: When we split, we were heavily in debt. The DIY had brought us to our knees. One night after a gig in Brugges in Belgium, one of our roadie, in charge of the 9 ton truck, had celebrated too much the great show we just did and forget to check the oil level. The engine seized up and we had to leave the truck a few miles from the border. We had to go back and forth with a smaller van to pick all the equipment. That did it for us. This episode signed our death warrant. Eric was gutted and left the band. He later resumed his studies and became a University History Professor. He is specialized in the ancient world. François is the only one who has continued in the music business. He played in various bands until his last breath. As for me, I was totally disheartened. I became a documentary director. So, when Beb told me The Shrine had contacted him in 2016 to invite him to play WFTW on stage in Paris, I immediately wanted to make a film about Beb’s incredible come back. I am so excited that the film “Soggy, un truc de dengue” could be released in the Spring on Spicee.com, a French web documentary site. It has been an incredible journey. This guy had put an end to it all and had become a gardener for the city. A true fairy tale. 

What are some of your favorite memories from the band?
Beb: For my part, I liked when we went to play in the east of France, in Switzerland at La Chaux de Fonds, in Belgium in Brugges, and also in the mythic rock clubs in Paris: the Drouot Golf and the Gibus.

Olivier: From late 1979 to April 1982 Soggy would have played about a hundred gigs. Most of them in France. At the time the concert venues were not really set up to welcome rock bands so we mostly played in Community Centres. When the local press talked about us and when promo posters were all up, we played in front of about a hundred people on average. So not a lot of people saw Soggy live but most never fully recovered from it. It was total chaos and ferocious as if the four of us held an everlasting grudge on the whole world. It was a blend of metal and punk. That was the Soggy sound, a true garage sound!
Is there any unreleased material?
Beb: Maybe a few demos…

Looking back, what was the highlight of your time in the band? Which songs are you most proud of? Where and when was your most memorable gig?
Beb: Of course, the recording of the single in Paris and the televised performance on FR3 (French regional TV Channel)!
“Waiting For The War”, “47 Chromosomes”, “I Feel Top Of The World”, “Cursed Boy”, “Down The Shops”, “Cellulitis Is The Top Of The Shepeless Body”.
It’s hard to say, the gig in Brugges in April 1982, because it was our last gig even though we did not know it then. We had such a warm welcome and a great fan base there.

Olivier: Same here.
I would add “Lay Down A Lot”, a trash and punk tune. I think we can also be proud of our “I Wanna Be Your Dog” cover of the Stooges.
A gig in Switzerland in La Chaux de Fonds in 1980 where we totally killed it. The crowd was wild and we were even more.

Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
Beb: Well, the list would be too long but I will name three: Fun House (Stooges), Kick Out The Jams (MC5) Black Sabbath (The first album).
For your readers I would recommend Sweet Nothing (Sonic’s Rendezvous Band), We Have Come for Your Parents (Amen) and Rare Breed (The Shrine).

Olivier: I would add 3 fucking albums: Outrageous (Kim Fowley) Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols (Sex Pistols), Killing Joke (album by Killing Joke from 2003).

Thank you. Last word is yours.
Beb: Rock ‘n’ roll is life!

Olivier: Rock ‘n’ roll is not dead!

– Klemen Breznikar
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