Turn up the reverb and get ready to stomp your feet. The Razorblades, surf guitar kings from Wiesbaden, Germany, are back! Following the release of their latest record “Howlin’ At The Copycats”in June 2020, we had a little chat with Martin Schmidt, aka Rob Razorblade.
The Razorblades are known for their fast, upbeat, instrumental surf music. They have been around for years, and have made their marks in the scene. However, Howlin’ At The Copycats is slightly different, as they recently started to add more and more singalongs in their songs. As Martin explains “I think it’s our most diverse album so far – we have singing, some electronic elements, classic surf tunes and even a little punk rock and new wave influences… We’ve been singing more in the last years and I have a little more confidence now as a singer. So I tried to write a few real vocal songs – which was fun and gives you even more possibilities to write songs and express yourself, which is cool. Also a lot of people said to us: “You would be really famous, if you would sing” and I wanted to give this thesis a reality check.”
Creativity is key, especially if you are a professional musician in a touring band. The Razorblades are a great example of a band that constantly evolves and reinvents itself. Mr Schmidt’s answer on this is simple : “I just like a lot of different music styles and discover new bands all the time, so my writing is always influenced by whatever is spinning on my record player or bands I’ve seen live. I also think as a musician it’s good to change and evolve and not stay the same on every record, so I try to keep my personal guitar sound and add other elements – new grooves, some new sounds, unusual chord changes. For the first 5 years of The Razorblades, I really listened mostly to Surf music and so the first three records sound pretty classic. Then I got more into American punk, 80s Underground, Ska and that inspired a few songs. In the last years I also tried to work more with Computer plugins. I got better with programming, shaping drum sounds and keyboard parts, so I put a little bit of that into my songs. My role model for a band are The Clash, who sound different, but always like themselves on every album. So that’s what I aim for in a way, be yourself and evolve at the same time without paying too much attention to any style rules.”
When it comes to writing and shaping new songs, Martin will typically do it on his own : “since our third album Twang Machine, I wrote all the songs on my own. I basically jam with myself, which means I have ideas for guitar parts, chord changes or a melody, record these on my computer, put a drum beat on it, add bass guitar and come up with a complete song after a while. I’m not very good at writing with other people. I have enough ideas and like to work them out in a way I like. In my twenties I was in a few bands where we wrote together and had long discussions about ideas and I really don’t want to go there anymore..”.
So, how did they do it for the new album? “This is the first record we recorded completely in our own studios. The drummer did the drum parts at his place, drumming along to my demos. Then I redid all the other instruments on my own TWANGMEISTER studio that I build last year. I played all the guitars, bass, keys, sang and programmed parts for 5 songs. It turned out well. I have more time to work on guitar sounds this way and can redo songs until I’m happy with the result without thinking about studio costs too much.”
Howlin’ At The Copycats has been very well received since its release in June 2020. The Razorblades have a huge following in the UK. Naturally, we asked Martin what he liked most about the UK scene, and how it compared to the German mod/surf scene : “in my opinion British people understand what we do a little better than the rest of the world. They get all the references to punk/New Wave, like high energy music and don’t get too fussy about sticking to genre rules. It’s also the place where a lot of stuff I like comes from. The Cure, The Jam, The Clash, The Specials all are from England. It seems in the UK, stuff like the Mod culture is still a little bit alive, whereas in the rest of the world it seems to be a thing from the past. Our following in the UK came together meeting cool new people anytime we came over and now we have a good network of promoters, bar owners, friends and fans that help and come around on every tour. That’s really nice and something special! In Germany, the Underground scene seems to be shrinking – people get older and not so many young people get into the scene. I’m not sure, if there will be a lot of Mod/Surf/Garage/Rockabilly-
While their touring plans are on hold at the moment, The Razorblades cannot wait to be back in England. Martin says “I really like it that I have friends in the whole world now, that I met touring and playing my own weird kind of music! Some special memories of the UK are playing at the Hells Angels Headquarter in Bristol in front of two Hells Angels and the support band, playing in small towns in Cornwall with people going absolutely mad and of course visiting Brighton a lot of times! Touring in the Underground scene makes you feel not so alone in this world, because you meet all the cool people everywhere. There might not be a lot of them in the town you live in, but if you combine them all over Europe, there’s quite a few good people, who are into the same things as you!”.
So, while we wait for The Razorblades to return with their spectacular, energetic live performances, why not order their latest album, along with a copy of Martin’s latest book “The Surf Guitar Book” (www.thesurfguitarbook.com), if you are a keen guitarist? They have recently launched a kickstarter campaign, to make up for the losses following the cancellation of all their gigs in 2020. Click here for cd’s, records, merch & more!