Psychobilly is not Atompunk, but who cares? We’re following where trails take us, and my sudden interest in rockabilly dictates i check out psychobilly.
Psychobilly is essentially rockabilly and punk with tongue in cheek horror imagery.
Psychobilly first appeared in London at the very beginning of the 80s. While the term was first invented by The Cramps in the 70s, The Cramps weren’t quite attempting to be the style that psychobilly emerged as a few years later. “We weren’t even describing the music when we put ‘psychobilly’ on our old fliers; we were just using carny terms to drum up business. It wasn’t meant as a style of music.”
It was The Meteors who are credited as firing the first shot in the psychobilly genre.
Other bands started playing with the genre tropes and soon, in 1982 The Klub Foot nightclub, opened in the Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith and due to their choice to book and promote psychobilly bands, immediately became the focal point for the whole psychobilly scene. Small record labels interested in the genre would attend the club to find acts to sign.
All rolled along to 1986 when the second wave started, punctuated by Demented Are Go’s debut album In Sickness & In Health
Psychobilly was entirely a European thing with one exception, the great Reverend Horton Heat who began in Dallas in 1985 and still rocks the house today.
Finally, in the mid 90s the third wave of psychobilly jumped into gear when California finally discovered the style and leapt into the fray.
“Psychobilly is commonly played with a simple guitar/bass/drum/vocal arrangement, with many bands consisting of only three members. Often theguitarist or bassist will be the lead vocalist, with few acts having a dedicated singer (Mad Sin being one of the examples with a dedicated singer).
Psychobilly guitarists often play rockabilly-style hollowbody archtop guitars with f-holes and a tremolo bar. Guitarists may play punk-style power chords one moment, and then shift into rockabilly-style fingerpicking and rockabilly guitar-style seventh chords. Notes are often bent, either by pulling the string down or by using the tremolo bar. Gretsch hollowbody guitars are a popular choice. Guitarists often use 1950s-style tube amplifiers such as by makers such as Fender and it is common to see stacks of two speaker cabinets. As with rockabilly guitarists, the overdrive tone usually comes from what is produced naturally by overdriving the tube amp, rather than by plugging into a distortion pedal.
An upright double bass is often used instead of the electric bass found in most rock bands. The use of the upright bass is influenced by 1950s rockabilly and rock and roll musicians, particularly in the use of walking bass lines and the use of slapping. The bass is often played in the slap style, in which the player snaps the string by pulling it until it hits the fingerboard, or hits the strings against the fingerboard, which adds a high-pitched percussive “clack” or “slap” sound to the low-pitched notes.”