Here is an interview I was fortunate to have with Eric Geevers. Eric played in the Acemen a band that toured Europe and elsewhere backing Link Wray. They also played on the Barbed Wire and Shadowman albums. Eric played bass guitar for Link. He continues to play and record with current projects. Eric can also be seen on The Rumbleman dvd. I particularly like what he does on the bass for ‘Batman’.
Thank you Eric for taking the time and granting me this interview.
I guess I would like to know some about your first contact with Link and when he asked you to play with him?
Well – when Link’s music was used in Pulp Fiction, and other films, he wanted to go touring again, and he told his (then) management he wanted a young band “who can play loud, and rock, like Nirvana or Green Day“. And since me and Rob Louwers (on drums) had done a tour with Rudi Protrudi playing lots of Link Wray stuff, we were asked to play with The Man Himself… that was fantastic, of course. I mean, on the sleeve photo of the very first record I ever made with a band, I have a drawing of Link Wray on my jeans, and a couple of years later I’m his bass player! Mindboggling…
We got a tape that Link had made for us, with him talking, “I want to do this next song” and you’d hear, say, Raw Hide or whatever…
We first met in a hotel lobby, and the first thing he said was “if you play as good as you’re lookin’, it’s gonna be great” – which I thought was a bit funny, but then he told us he had just got some eye surgery, and his sight was suddenly a lot better. Otherwise he hadn’t noticed how we looked! On the other hand, if he really thought we were handsome, his eyesight wasn’t as good as he thought it was – ha!
How you and the others felt learning that Link was a fan of Link Protrudi and The Jaymen?
To be honest, Link hadn’t heard any Jaymen records until we played them to him. He knew that we had toured, playing his songs with Rudi, and I know for a fact that Rudi has mailed Link those Jaymen albums. But they never reached Link, and it’s my personal belief that for some weird reason Olive didn’t want Link to see them. When he saw those albums, when we played them to him, he was touched – and he loved it! He did a couple of shows in a Jaymen shirt that says something. You can see it on the Rumble Man DVD, I think it’s released in the US as King Of Rumble. Oh, and he also had an Ace-Tones shirt he was wearing on stage a lot, the Ace-Tones being the garage rock band me and Rob were in at the time.
He was always telling journalists about our band, too, “Eric and Rob have their own band, and I don’t want to steal them from the Ace-Tones, but I’m really happy to have them playing with me – come here, guys, I’m just telling this journalist about your band…” Of course, that journalist wouldn’t be interested in our band, but I guess Link sometimes got tired of answering the same questions over and over again. I never heard him taking the piss though,he was always serious when being interviewed. Or maybe once or twice… I remember in Australia, we did a TV thingy, and Link was being interviewed by a beautiful black girl, and when she asked how important his guitar was to him, Link kept a straight face and said something like “oh, you know, a man’s gee-tar is somethin’ like an extension of his dick, right?”
I suppose they cut that part from the actual broadcasting…
Some of the equipment- guitars, speakers, amps etc. Link and the band were using during your time with him.
Oh maaaaaaaaaaaaan! Don’t get me started on that! Link used to turn his amps all the way up in the fifties and sixties, and he simply adopted that same attitude to the amplifiers he used later on, regardless of the fact that those were way, way louder. When we did the first show in London, the Ace Records 20th Anniversary, Link had two Fender Twin amps, one on each side of the drum riser, and both turned all the way up. Literally, all the knobs (except for the reverb) set to maximum! For most gigs we used a Marshall JCM800 or 900 head with a 4×12 speaker cab, and Link put those at max volume too – through a Boss CS3 Compression Sustainer, with also all knobs clockwise to the max… and then he would complain about the uncontrollable feedback squeals! We turned the speaker cabinet back to front… well, that helped only just a bit…
So we decided it was time for a little trickery. We took off the gain knob from the amp, set the gain pot to 3/4, and put the knob back on with a little glue, so that it looked like it was set to 10 but was actually set to 6 or 7. Link walked on stage for sound check, looked at the amp, saw all knobs turned to the right, and was surprised at the (still deafening, but controllable) sound. “It was the tubes, right? You put new tubes in it!” We never told him…
All through the recordings and touring, Link used a Yamaha guitar, to be precise a mid-sixties Yamaha SG-2, called ‘Screaming Red’. It was pretty beaten up, two of the strings wouldn’t even go over the bridge saddles, but in between them instead. When I said I could fix that Link said “no, leave it, it’s working fine.” Amazing thing: it was. The intonation was good the way it was, which is a one in a million chance if you put your strings on like that. It should have been impossible to tune, let alone play.
Link didn’t want a backup guitar brought on tour. When he broke a string, either me or a tour manager would change the string on the spot, as quickly as possible, with Link telling stories to the audience. At one point we learned to change a string while Link was playing – he’d do a Hank Williams tune, or an Elvis ballad that needed no bass or drums, and I’d be putting on a new string…
working around him playing. The first time I was sweating blood, but then someone told me it looked just great, and I just thought what the hell. I think that’s how we started doing “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You”, with bass and drums coming in halfway, but maybe we did that earlier on, I don’t know.
Anyway I played an old Höfner 500/1 ‘beatle’ bass with Link (though in the studio, I used my Rickenbacker 4000 most of the time), and I had the Höfner strapped to my wrist – no shoulder strap! Played great, looks cool, and Link loved shit like that. We had some fun when we observed that halfway the 4th or 5th song, we could pick always out guitar (or bass) players, by the way they were nudging each other, pointing at the ‘no shoulder strap!’ trick… sign language…!
As for Rob, he preferred playing his own drum kit, but sometimes we had hired kits. Some of them were great, sometimes they were crap, and sometimes he used the support band’s drum kit if that was a better one. I used a Kustom 250 amp until it broke down, and then brought my Vox AC50 with Foundation cab, but some tours were done with the gear hired locally. I hate modern amps like Trace Elliot, I’m sure it’s fine equipment but now for the sound I want to hear. Sometimes I had a modern amp with all kind of shit I don’t need, like a 10-band graphic EQ. Hey, if you need a 10-band graphic equalizer on your amp, you should buy a different bass, dude.
What it was like recording with him? How was he in the studio?
It was fun, hard work, not stressful, and sometimes… almost telepathic. And some of the songs he wanted to record were thoroughly road-tested. In fact there were studio musicians booked for the Shadowman recording, but Link told Ace Records’ Ted Carroll to dismiss them, he wanted me and Rob to do the recording because the live shows were really working out. Rob is one hell of a drummer, not just technically, but he has a quality not many drummers have… he listens. Lots of drummers feel, deep down in their heart, that the rest of the band has to follow them – and bless them, but Rob and me had to follow Link like shadows! With the Raving Bonkers (aka the Flying Tygers) I’m in now, it’s drummer Barry who is keeping the whole thing from derailing disastrously, and we take his cues. But he has that same quality, he listens too.
But Link, Rob and me, we were sometimes almost telepathic, like I said, and rhythmically Rob could follow Link everywhere. Some of the songs we recorded were road-tested, yeah, but some were mere sketches, given a quick run-through in the studio once or twice with Link doing two completely different versions, and then he would say “OK roll the tape!” And then he’d do things totally different – again. I sometimes had to overdub bass parts where Link had put in sudden changes, when telepathy wasn’t enough, so to speak.
There were not really many edits done afterwards, in the mixing stage I mean. As far as I can tell there is one huge edit: on Born to Be Wild on the Barbed Wire album. Link wanted us to play it like we did live, including a short bass solo where I would quote some bass riffs from a handful of other songs (I got that idea from one of my predecessors!), including some Dead Moon, The Who, Jimi, Sonics… and that was all cut from the final mix. I don’t feel bad about that really… however, the way it has been edited now, you can hear an edit with a tempo change that smells like burning rubber. Ah well, it was probably the way Link wanted things done. And when he wanted something, it was for a reason, I tell you.
I remember I was doing the Vox organ for ‘Run through the Jungle‘, and halfway Link winks, signaling me to play on, and suddenly hits the keys with his full right arm – whaammmmmmm! And again, whaammmm! And I’m going ‘what the fuck, that ruins the whole organ part’, but when I heard it in the final mix it sounded just fine. Link knew what he was doing all right, I mean to say.
When you were with him the band was called The Acemen correct?
Yeah, well, we were billed as Link Wray and his Ace-Men a couple of times. That was a reference to the Ace-Tones, obviously, and later on when the album came out, people thought it was because we were recording for Ace Records with Link. The name wasn’t used on album sleeves, I think. And speaking of names on album sleeves, the first edition of Shadowman has my name misspelled as Eric Greevers. One R too many, since it should be Eric Geevers! Later European editions have Eric “Danno” Geevers (Danno being an old nickname…), and when the US release came out, would you believe it – they put Eric “Danno” Greevers on it…!
That still wasn’t enough, Barbed Wire mistakenly had Eric Greevers again, and a recent compilation on Ace Records even says it was one Ric Greevers playing bass on that Anniversary gig. They promised to pay attention to it in the future, but since that first release of Shadowman, the name Greevers keeps popping up every now and then. Ah well…
Rob has now adopted the name “The Ace-Men” (or “Acemen”, I don’t know) for a blues trio. He asked me if I was OK with that, since I came up with the name, but it’s fine. Sure!
How was the band to travel with on the road? How was Link on the road?
Link was a great guy. On the road, too. He wasn’t the partying kind, mainly because of his age and his health, but he enjoyed being among young people and he loved playing live, “playing to the kids, y’know”. He was happily surprised to find out that those “kids” didn’t just want to hear Rumble, but also knew songs like “Black Widow” or “I’m Branded”. Some of the songs we had played with Rudi, we had to go over them with Link – he hadn’t listened to them in ages, and he figured no one wanted to hear those. When we did “Branded” it got a huge response though!
In Australia, we had some time with just Link and the road crew (when Olive had gone home for the funeral of her mother), and that period is something that will be with me forever. The three of us already were a real band, and Link told that to journos all the time, but there and then we were almost like a gang, or something.
Olive, now… she was some piece of work and I could elaborate on her road antics extensively, but hey, I don’t want to go there.
But sometimes Link and Olive would have what can best be described as paranoia attacks. Everyone Link had played with was possibly “mad at Link” (according to Olive), and she would tell him they were all planning things to sabotage Links career, because they weren’t playing with him anymore, or whatever. Olive was always fussing about what could happen, always painting worst case scenarios that were totally out of touch with reality. And there were things like, well… I know for a fact that Link felt bad about being unable to see or get in touch with his US relatives – whether he really was unable or only believed he was, I don’t know.
I have a couple of ideas of what was going on there, but again, I don’t want to go there.
Did he ever share stories with you about other rockers he played with and befriended?
Oh sure, but he was never bragging about that. First time we met, Rob was wearing a shirt with The Who on it, and Link enthusiastically started telling about the time he was in a studio, recording, when someone grabs him from behind, lifting him up, shouting “Link Wray!! Rumble!! Rumble!!” That was Keith Moon. In fact… it was a stark naked and probably more than just mildly intoxicated Keith Moon!
It was a story I had heard before, but… to hear things like that from Link himself, it was so much fun.
But, you know, Link also told me: “there’s Link Wray: the name that’s on the posters, the legend and all that… and there’s Link Wray: the guy now talking to you. It’s the same guy but it’s something different, know what I mean?”
Well… I think I do!
Did you ever watch John Wayne movies with him or listen to Elvis with him?
Never watched movies together, and in the tour van we played mostly Ramones. I played some Dead Moon to him, and I think he liked that, and we had a Foo Fighters tape we all enjoyed. Some Motörhead, too, AC/DC… Oh wait, I remember we were playing AC/DC “If You Want Blood” in the van, with that song “The Jack”, and Link was howling with laughter when he heard the lyrics. So Olive asks: what is it they’re singing, Link? They sing “she’s got the jack, Olive.” What does that mean Link? “It’s a V.D., Olive.” A what? “That means a venereal disease, Olive.” But Link, Link, what is a venereal disease…? At that time, all in the van were laughing to tears. Well, not all…
However, Link wasn’t too much focused on the past, he was watching MTV and knew what was going on. He liked the energy of punk bands, that’s for sure.
How is your hearing after playing with Link?
To my surprise, I don’t think it has suffered that much. I never used ear protection and that was pretty stupid, in hindsight. My ears are what I need to play, after all. There simply must be damage, I can’t deny that, but it’s not to the extent that I’m having trouble. I do wear protection now, in the Flying Tygers I sing too, and earplugs help with that as well.
What people sometimes forget is that Link’s hearing had suffered from his tuberculosis long before he started playing at deafening volumes. But then again… it’s safe to say that playing that loud didn’t help either!
Were you at the performance when he fell off the stage suffering a sprain?
No, I heard only about that afterward. It was in the US when he had hooked up with band members of Dieselhead… I guess they were at that gig.
I have shared some stories with them over the email… hi guys!
Do you realistically believe that Link Wray will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Yes, and I seriously think it’s about fucking time, too. I know that Link (well, not Link himself, if you see what I mean) has pushed away some of his ‘celeb friends’ and some of the people who helped him out sometimes, like David Gilmour, Bruce Springsteen… maybe they will speak up.
What does the future have in store for the X-Raymen?
Oh, I don’t know. Rob and I play in other bands, too, and every now and then we get together with the X-Ray Men. Rob jumped on stage last weekend to blow some mean, unrehearsed blues harp with the Flying Tygers, and I may drop in some Vox organ for one of his bands, you know. We’re blood brothers.
We are planning to do some new recordings for ages, with me on guitar and Rick Finck on bass (he stood in for me at a couple of shows with Link when I couldn’t make it), but both me and Rob have little time for it. On the other hand, when we have a gig, we hardly have to rehearse. Those songs are etched in our souls. As is the memory of Link Wray.