(by Thom Copher www.heavymetalhog.com)
The Genocide Years
Vocalist Roland Pierrehumbert and rhythm guitarist Fred Gudit first circled the Genocide wagons in 1985... when hair was tall, spandex was tight, and attitudes were high and mighty. The band was ambitious and definitely all heavy metal; after all, the moniker points to a tune from Judas Priest's pivotal 1976 Sad Wings of Destiny album. The band's style most certainly fit the times: loud 'n proud and no holds barred. Roland and Fred, with guitarist Oliver Perdizat, bassist J.D. Aeby, and drummer Patrick Aeby slaved the circuits for five long, hard years before the band's debut EP, Roots in Rock, appeared. It was followed by the '92 release, Showtime. With these independent discs, Genocide began forging its name in stone with sharp tunes and a good, old-fashioned work ethic.
Genocide's sound was unquestionably rooted in Euro-metal with familiar foundations: "The Magic Dust" displayed flairs of Priest's early gem "Exciter" while "On the Road" echoed transitional-period Accept (a la Restless and Wild). Noteworthy, also, were "King Without a Sword," "Born to Storm," and "Breaking the Chains," all of which reflected a mish-mash of halcyon-era metal. However, this was not the mid-to-late 1980s and it appeared that Genocide, mighty as it was, was in danger of becoming another statistic by the usurpation brought on by the grunge movement.
Change was on the horizon for the band. 1994 saw Genocide hooking up with major distribution, BMG Records, and in the following year it released Stranded. The album marked a bit of a departure from the band's pure metal approach, branching off into a more traditional rock / boogie direction. The band's lineup also began to shift with its sound. Oliver, whose guitar work was the main influence behind Genocide's metal sound, had departed prior to the recording of Stranded, as had (bassist) J.D. Aeby. Their replacements, Stephane Monbaron on lead guitar and bass player J.J. Bozzy, seemed to be more suited to the band's restructured sound. Stranded featured a guitar sound which focused more toward the power of the riff rather than the resonance of the melody; Roland also began singing with a bit more grit in his voice.
Stranded was propelled by a cover of Rose Tattoo's "Rock 'n' Roll Outlaw" which was an obvious veer toward the timeless Australian pub rock sound. "Nostalgic Harmonies" and the album's title track further indicated that the band was headed toward a more riff-dominant style. On the momentum of Stranded's raw power, Genocide embarked on a major tour with none other than fellow Swiss giants, Krokus. Things were happening in a major way... but something, still, was missing.
Sideburn is born
1997 saw the band come full-circle as it began to realize, as it were, its true calling. Tired with trying to pinpoint its sound into the metal niche, the boys in the band retooled into the pubber format which it was obviously most suited for. The self-proclaimed "rebaptism" as Sideburn saw the band's redirected approach, which resulted in the bare-knuckled Sell Your Soul (For Rock 'n' Roll) album. Sideburn seemingly made no apologies for the full-scale change. From the get-go, "Raise Your Hands" paid homage to Rose Tattoo (cited by the band as its major influence) with jack-hammer riffing and slide guitars abound. Other Down-Under influences The Angels and, of course, AC/DC rang prominent on rousers "Knockin' at the Wrong Door," "Under My Skin," "Voodoo Girl," and "Mr. Fat Cat" while echoes of pub rock's roots in American blues slither underneath the booze-soaked exterior.
The name "Sideburn," in fact, is also admittedly rooted in rock tradition; it stems from the facial adornment of none other than Elvis Presley and, also, "because it sounded so rock and roll." Relentless gigging, including a pinnacle supporting slot for KISS at Hallenstadion in Zurich, culminated with the semi-live EP Get That Way the following year.
The metamorphosis further realized itself when J.J. (bass) and Patrick (drums) left Sideburn. In search of replacements who fully embraced the pub rock style to which the band was headed, drummer Lionel Blanc and bassist Michel Demierre joined the ranks in 1999. Soon after, Stephane packed up his guitar and the vacant slot was filled by David Pariat. The line up now solid (for a while), Sideburn embarked on its quest for pub-rock perfection.
Following a brief hiatus where the realigned band tightened the screws a few turns, Sideburn resurfaced in 2002 with Crocodile and later with Gasoline in 2004 (both on the Point Music Label, distributed in Switzerland by Musikvertrieb). Swiss production guru Juerg Naegeli (who helmed Showtime) also re-enlisted for both discs. These releases continued to exhibit the band's progressive dedication to the favored Aussie sound. However, as the new material progressed, it wasn't a case of favoritism toward any particular Down Under influence; the band members schooled themselves on the overall ambience of the style. They understood that the groove and the energy could work in harmony and that this simple equation was what separated successful pub rockers from the wannabees. As a result, they were beginning to carve their own place within the genre rather than fitting themselves into the pocket of any single sound.
Over this period, the band's reputation as a tight, dedicated outfit both in the studio and live led to an impressive list of supporting tour engagements. Sideburn opened for legends Def Leppard, Motorhead, Dio, Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy, and Doro... and even Meat Loaf. (I woulda loved to have seen one of those gigs!) There were, too, the road treks with soulmates Krokus and one memorable gig with Rose Tattoo.
Amidst this whirlwind of activity came one more change in personnel. David left the fold in 2005 and Sideburn recruited the well-traveled axman simply known as Boris (formerly of Varedero, Litfiga, King Size Band, The Titty Twisters, and Monkey 3, the latter of which created quite a buzz in the instrumental-stoner-rock community). Influenced by Hendrix, Zeppelin, Sabbath, and (of course) AC/DC, Boris seemed to be the natural choice given his ecclectic past which had crossed paths previously traveled by the band.
2005 also marked the 20th anniversary of the Sideburn/Genocide project. The band celebrated the milestone with the career spanning anthology titled Archives. It's an interesting study where listeners can witness the huge degree of evolution and maturation which the band had undergone in its first two decades (15 as a recording artist). Quite frankly, it's hard to believe that "The Price of Treason" (from Roots in Rock) and "Gangster Lover" (from Gasoline) are, albeit the little name switch from Genocide to Sideburn, the same band. Obviously, Roland and Fred, along with J.D., Patrick, J.J., Oliver, and Stephane as Genocide and later Michel, Lionel, David, and now Boris, as Sideburn, are proud of what they've accomplished. Rightfully they should be, too, because they've always been on top of their game no matter which direction the band was headed in at any given time. Archives is one "best of" set which is never predictable (especially for new converts such as myself) and certainly never bogs down as many retrospective collections tend to do.
And now... the future of rock
David Roades of Airbourne told me that pub rock is beginning to see a resurgence. My response is that it's about damn time. As a musician and a fan, I think we are all getting weary of the trends and pre-packaging which the music industry has loaded up on over the past two decades. The question here: Will pub rock join another rock-casualty statistic and become just another bloated beast in much the way that "hair metal" or grunge and its post-invasion fallout did in eras gone by? I see no feasible way the possibility of that happening because the Aussie sound is too firmly rooted in the traditions of rock and roll itself; it is the lifeblood from which all things have and ever will come.
With that in mind, we can all look forward to the release of Sideburn's Cherry Red. The band is now at the "perfectionist" stage in its career, and for straight-forward rock that's a good thing. As I have said of AC/DC (as a reference point) for over 30 years, I liken any new offering of the pub rock style to a McDonald's cheeseburger: you know what you're gonna get and if that's your taste, you're gonna like it. The availability of pre-album-release tunes "Gimme the Way" and "Ghost of 1980" are what introduced me to the band and led me on a twenty-year journey down amnesia lane. I can honestly say that I can appreciate what the band has done thus far in its career and anticipate - like a kid on Christmas Eve - what's to come. If there is any justice in rock and roll, Sideburn's third decade should be as raucous as an Aussie (or Swiss) pub on a hot summer night.