By José Oliveira and Rosine Alleva, Journalist/Photographers, Rock At Night France, Switzerland
Venue – Woodstock Guitares Live
In terms of homage, I will not be far from the truth telling you that the “Palme d’Or” (gold award) undoubtedly returns to the BEATLES. They have marked a generation. The societal context of the time drove to revolution. Everything was then to invent. The British Boom, a musical epicenter during the Sixties, ended up invading the States and silencing Elvis! Thousands of Tribute Bands across the Planet, revive this magical period. Some better than others. So, when I heard HELP coming, a Tribute Band from Slovenia, I ran to the venue!
The band has performed about 200 concerts in Europe , in 14 countries, over the last three years.
Even if they project the image of a modern and futuristic Slovenia, they will never be ennobled by the government in place!
Their coronation happened on the stage of Woodstock Guitares live. Sold out evening with a crowd going nuts!
The musicians : MATIC PELCEL as JOHN LENNON – ŽIGA STANONIK as GEORGES HARRISON – GAŠPER OBLAK as RINGO STARR – ERNIE MENDILLO (the only American in the Slovene band) as PAUL McCARTNEY
RAN– Nice to meet you here at WOODSTOCK GUITARES. Did you have time to visit this Guitar Temple?
ERNIE MENDILLO– Well, we visited the music shop, next door (laughs) I don’t know what we missed. I think there’s a studio here as well.
RAN– There’s a studio and two floors with guitars and amplifiers!
ERNIE– That we saw! We spent some time over there. Yes!
GASPER OBLAK– Guitar players had a lot of fun. I didn’t! (laughs)
ERNIE– Of course! He’s the Drummer!!!(laughs)
RAN – And what do you think about this shop. Do you think it’s an interesting one?
ERNIE – Yeah! I think we were all impressed. We didn’t expected to find it in such a small village, even a little far for a big town. What a large selection of stuff! Fender,Gibson, Gretch, Orange, Vox, Ampex…God, everything is there!
RAN– BEATLES – LONDON to SLOVENIA!!! It’s very curious and rare to see a band coming from this side of Europe, you know? Tell me the story of this adventure, please!
ERNIE– Everyone wanna start with this one?
The others– No!No! You take it! You’re use to! (laughs)
ERNIE– Yeah, actually we are from Slovenia but you can probably hear in my voice, I’m American and living there for quite sometime but about five years ago, we were approached by someone of the British Embassy, they were doing a fundraising and looking for Beatles Bands. They had thought about getting one from England and he knew we played in a band and actually, Gasper and I, we played in a band, and he said “Can you play some Beatles songs ? Well anyway, we got the job. We started learning songs and we played it. A lot of work went into that and we’ve decided “let’s keep going” and the response was so good. We ended up becoming a really true Tribute Band after that but it was purely by luck that we started doing it. We enjoyed and loved the response. The next thing we were playing all over Europe. We’ve been in sixteen different countries now! Doing this for four and half years!
RAN – And why did you choose the BEATLES to a Tribute?
ERNIE– Well, as I mentioned it was kind of asked of us and we took the opportunity. It was just another job, in a way to earn some money and we said ok, but it does go beyond that. I can speak for everyone, we’re all huge Beatles fans and so that makes it a little easier. You know when you love a band so much, you can put more into it so that’s another reason we did it as well.
RAN– Did the other members play in other different bands before this adventure?
ERNIE– Yeah! We all have. We’ve all met each other at different points playing around Slovenia but we’ve all got experience playing in various ex bands.
RAN– And SLOVENIA is a good country for Rock n’Roll?
ERNIE– (laughs) Well not really! There’s some, there’s some….I don’t think a lot of people in the past was exposed to a lot of it. Radios not! Exactly like what I grow up with in America. It’s another world. They have a traditional scene of music which is accordion based, what we would call Polka Music in America but the Pop scene there it was….
GASPER– If he is talking about the past, I would compare it to the Eastern part of Europe in the past, but nowadays it’s not different from any other country…I think Rock n’Roll isn’t mainstream anymore, you know, not a lot people for Rock n’Roll and bands. It’s like that. On other hand, I don’t think we have a culture like the other Eastern parts of Europe, for going out to concerts. But otherwise LOUIS ARMSTRONG played in Slovenia in 62, QUEEN played in Tivoli, Slovenia as well. Even NIRVANA played in Lublijiana. I think we just exposed or you could get exposed if you pushed for it. Of course there’s some limitation because of the regime. And it’s a small country. Only two million people.
RAN – Tributes Bands are a sort of New Wave! How do you explain this movement?
ZIGA STANONIK– I think it makes sense because we’re kind of going back to the old music…I think a lot of people figured it out that this is where it all began you know. I mean, I don’t even think that …before you mentioned like how people are perceiving rock n’roll, how they’re really related to rock n’ roll. I don’t even think they see THE BEATLES as a Rock n’ Roll band. You know, they just know all the songs. Actually you can call that nowadays the BEATLES would be just another Pop band! Nowadays!..But it was Revolution before! And the songs are just amazing and they will live forever! You know, that’s the difference! And it’s a huge difference between what we can make today, what music is becoming today and how is evolving. And I still think there’s new music being made everyday, great stuff still, but we want to produce something good. We need to go back, acknowledge, like THE BEATLES were going back!
ERNIE – I think another reason for this interest in Tribute Bands, if you look at the probably most popular Tribute Bands now it’s the BEATLES, QUEEN, ABBA…and think about it, neither of these Bands exist anymore. You will not get to see any other bands in their original line up. QUEEN still goes on but FREDDY is gone, so I think the generation now that is still interested in Rock and still wants to look back, but this is the only way we can do it! So if you go to see a tribute band, you get a little taste of maybe what it was like to see those bands when they did play live. Not just a recording! And maybe that’s part of the appeal too!
ZIGA– And this is actually what we’re kind of trying to pull of, is to get this rock n’roll spirit in our performance. It’s not just like chronologically going through songs! It’s totally not about this! It’s more about the fun part of it! The singing and the dancing , the excitement, the rock n’roll vibe.This what we’re trying to catch up. Now you’ll be the judge if we succeed (laughs) in doing that, I’m gonna ask you after the show. But this is what we’re trying to pull of, you know. And it’s a hard task! Because the excitement and the energy that the Beatles had is just like that, amazing! So amazing.Try to get close to that it’s like near to impossible!!
RAN– Of course, you weren’t born in the Sixties. But do you know something about that time, I mean, do you think everything was really close to the West Music at that time?
GASPER– Ernie was born in the fifties!!! (Laughs)
ERNIE– I was born in 1959!!!
GASPER– There are really a lot of similarities today than there were then. For example, now we have internet and everything is basically through net, people don’t really dig into the information or look for good music anymore. There are rare people that basically do that you know and you can find, like ZIGA said before, there’s a lot of great music out there but people just don’t know it. It was the same if I make the comparaison in our countries back then, I don’t know. Let’s say thirty, forty years ago, people had to look for it. It was not on the National radio. They didn’t put that music out that often like it has been in Austria or Germany let’s say, but people just had to go, like you said, over the boarder to look for it and say “Oh! There is a new Beatles record, I have to have it”. It’s the same today basically if you look at it.You go on your application and whatever is there, you listen to it. You don’t dig in.
MATIC– Back in the days, our coast, is let’s say about forty kilometers long. There is a big harbor and people got the new music through ships that were coming.
RAN– When did you learn to play your instruments?
ERNIE– Fifteen! About something like that. And you guys?
GASPER– I started play drums at fourteen.
ZIGA– I was ten you know, but I think it was not this music (laughs). It was something else, but it was an instrument (laughs).
MATIC– Your question is tricky because you ask when did we learn…I’m still learning!!! (Laughs). I started at fifteen but I’m still learning!!
RAN– To play a BEATLES Tribute, the BEATLES Music is a big responsibility. Can you change something on stage when you play the songs or you just cover them the same way the BEATLES did?
ERNIE– It is a huge responsibility and we’re always thinking “don’t screw it up”, you know. You can’t! There’s no room to change it. The only thing we can change up there is the presentation! The way we put it across to an audience, we can kind of do it in our own way but I think the music because it’s so engrained in people ‘s brains, it’s gotta be spot on. It”s gotta be perfect! So, there’s really no room to change anything! And honestly it’s like painting a moustache on the MONALISA!!! It’s all wrong, you know, so we have a lot of respect for the music! We don’t change the music or the arrangements.
RAN– What are your favorites BEATLES’s songs?
ERNIE– Oh! That’s the impossible question! It changes, you know.
GASPER– Right now, “DIG A PONY” goes through my mnd.
ERNIE– I always liked “I’ll follow the sun” which we never played but just a personal favorite that I remember when I was a kid and this album came out in America called BEATLES 65 and that one hit me. I loved it. But, I loved everything actually.
RAN – The most difficult song to play for you, technically?
(Big reflexion before the answer!)
ERNIE– Mostly on the vocals as well can be tricky. What would you say guys? (Hesitation!..) “PAPERBACK WRITER”!! Even the BEATLES struggled with that one.
GASPER– Basically all the songs that they recorded and did never performed live. They’re all hard to get right now. Even with all the technologic help we dispose now!
ZIGA– There are a lot of songs that we don’t actually play because we would need an orchestra or a big band, you know, whatever, a large ensemble to play on this, that’s a little tricky. But I think what the magic of this band is, we’re still kind of trying to pull it all in four. Cause I also think people are used to see four guys on stage when you start talking about the BEATLES. A fifth guy maybe for a later stuff, because of BILLY PRESTON, maybe it would fly, but I don’t know.
MATIC– No, because they didn’t actually perform with him
The others – Just on the roof, remember!
ERNIE– Yeah but nobody saw that, really.
MATIC– If we wanna give people like an experience how it would be or how it was back then when they were still performing, it must be just four guys!
ERNIE– Well, there are a lot of Tribute Bands they can’t get away with adding members. And I have seen, like PINK FLOYD, they can have nineteen people on stage. PINK FLOYD was intentionally faceless you know, I mean if you really follow the band, you know it is four guys but live it doesn’t matter when they do it, when these Tribute Bands perform. For us it’s got to be right , there’s a look and an expectation I would say from the audience for seeing four people up there.
RAN– Did you meet any BEATLES member?
ERNIE– I did! PAUL McCARTNEY! About a year and half ago. I met him in Munich, right before the concert. Very briefly. Took a picture with him. I’ve got the proof.
RAN– Did you talk with him about your band?
ERNIE– No! I didn’t! (laughs) I was very embarrassed. There was really no time. They even said “look he’s not gonna sign any autographs! He just gonna come”. He said Hello …
RAN – And you said “Goodbye”… (laughs). Some years ago I was in his London Office and LINDA gave me a beautiful photo calendar with great Rock pictures.
ERNIE– She tooked so amazing photos! Oh! She did!
RAN– If the FAB FOUR were alive today, do you think that people would like to imagine that a BEATLES reunion should be possible?
ERNIE– I think everybody wanted! I think until John was murdered, everybody had that hope, even to the point where they did, more or less reunite, for FREE AS A BIRD for the Anthology, the three of them. I think if they would have lived till this day, all of them, they ever would have escaped it. The question still would have been asked “are you gonna get back together?”. The pression would be enormous! It never went away in the seventies. They were always asked that. Even when they tried to do their own solo careers. That was the first question journalists would ask them!
RAN– People are still dreaming at a LED ZEP or a PINK FLOYD reunion. Do you agree with this desire or it’s completely out of time?
ERNIE– Hummm, I agree with it only because I’m a Fan , when ZEPPELIN got together with John Bonham‘s son I guess it was for a Tribute to Ahmed Ertegun, the Atlantic Records President and it was kind of a surprise, they put all the work and they did a one show in London, which_they ended up releasing on a DVD but I think I was certainly not alone in the hope that they would tour and go around and do some shows. And they didn’t, you know. They sounded great in that show. They really did. So I think there’s always this hope for it because what Ziga was saying about this desire to wanna go back and listen to the roots whatever music or whatever rock n’ roll is today, I think that was a golden period ! I said that to my children “Oh! Dad you’re old” but I do believe the Sixties, the Seventies, that was probably the best period of music in terms of Rock n’ Roll! There’s still that reverence towards that music and the hope that now, as the oldners sixties and seventies, the people would get the chance to see them one more time and do it. That’s never gonna go away until at some point they’re all gone . They are slowly living us.
ZIGA– That’s why people like us are trying to keep that music alive !
MATIC– To show it to the new generations because most of them don’t know it.
RAN– We are talking about the BEATLES but in America many people don’t know that. In Europe, at that time, our King was not ELVIS !!! Did you know this?
ERNIE– (The american one) No! But you gonna surprise me now.
RAN– The King of rock n’Roll in Europe at that time, was CLIFF RICHARD AND THE SHADOWS!!!
Everybody– Oh! Yeah! CLIFF of course!!!
ERNIE– Which is funny because CLIFF Richard, I think they molded him into being an ELVIS! A British version as an Elvis, you know. For me as an American, I never thought of CLIFF RICHARD being a Rock n’ Roller!!! It was more created, a kind of Star you know for the British market. Like all the other ones like Marty Wilde, Tommy Steel and all these British rockers that they created in the image of Elvis. They did it in America too after Elvis , there was Fabian, Frankie Avalon….they tried to create another Elvis and yes, for Britain, CLIFF was huge!
RAN– Since some years from now, CLIFF lives in Portugal and he is an important winemaker in Algarve, the sunny side of the country. He has a beautiful “Quinta” and receive thousands of fans who run to the supermarket to buy his bottles, expecting an autograph!!
ERNIE– Really? Wow! Very clever Boy!
Everybody singing and laughing “Congratulations and celebrations, when I tell everyone that you’re in love with me”
RAN– Well, tell us something about this Tour!
ERNIE– We just play all the time! I don’t even consider that as a tour! We were on the road last week, we did four shows in Germany, drove home on Monday, had two days at home and back on the road yesterday to get here and to go to Switzerland tomorrow, go home for other two days and back on the road again…So it’s just constantly playing and we love it.
RAN– To play in AMERICA! Is it a dream for you?
ERNIE– It is for me! Ask these guys but I would love to go back home and do this. I mean I’ve played in America when I was younger, of course, playing in bands and have toured with bands but to take this Band would be pretty cool!
GASPER– (crying) …and a bit expensive!!! That’s the problem!
ERNIE– Yeah! It would cost some money
RAN– With a little help from a rich friend!!! Who knows? (Laughs).
Many thanks, hope to see you soon!! Have a nice concert!