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Lizard - 2002 Interview with Georg Bayer

INTERVIEW: Lizard (Apr 2002)
Southern boogie is alive and well in Germany of all places!

Southern Sting
In The Spotlight - Lizard interview with Georg Bayer.
Written by: DangerZone (Apr, 12, 2002)

Apr 2002: You wouldn't expect Germany to be home to one of the most faithful Southern rock acts out there, but it is. Lizard have been around in one shape or form since 1986, with two studio albums, 1991's 'Rock And Roll Refugees' and 2001's 'Southern Steel' plus 1999's 'Live' recording. Led by vocalist Georg Bayer it's been a slippery slide for Lizard but the results are finally paying off.

After Lizard split following their debut, they reformed in 1995 and have gone from strength to strength, touring constantly with the classic likes of the Atlanta Rhythm Section, Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jethro Tull and Doc Holliday. This has seen them build a devoted audience, not only in Germany, but throughout Europe. Indeed their brand of Southern rock is perhaps the most honest out there, keeping true to the sound which was invented by pioneers like The Allman Brothers and Skynyrd.

The thing which intrigued me most is how a German came to have such a fascination with Southern rock. Georg explains: 'I was working with a guy from Dallas, Texas during he 70's and he was the first one to bring me records from The Allman Brothers Band when he came back from his holidays. Since then I have been a dedicated fan.'

Seeing that Georg has been involved in the music industry since the early 70's, who were his earliest influences? 'In my teens I was listening to bands from England like Free, Cream and The Rolling Stones. It was only natural when I heard the Allmans and later Skynyrd for the first time that this was my music.'

Georg wandered around the music scene for years forming the earliest incarnation of Lizard in 1986. However the debut didn't arrive until 1991. Why the long wait? 'Yes we started in 1986' Georg confirms ' but only played in local clubs. We weren't too successful until we opened for Doc Holliday in 1988. Our tour with Molly Hatchet in 89 led to our first record deal.'

Unfortunately Lizard split after the first album, unfortunate after all the years of hard work. What went wrong? 'I think that happens with many bands. After the first album you expect too much and you don't have the patience to handle all the restless touring and the pressure to make a good second album.'

With a contractual obligation hanging over his head Georg hooked up with Doc Holliday's Bruce Brookshire and ex Whitesnake legends Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden to form the Borderline project, who recorded an album 'Line Up' in 1993. 'I learned a lot during that time' says Georg, 'that should have been the second Lizard album and I had to fulfill the contract with the label.'

Working with Marsden and Moody must have been an experience right? 'Bernie and Micky are excellent guitarists and the way they played on 'Line Up' was unique. It was a special moment in my life when we were recording 'Sweet Little Angel' and my two year old son was in the studio.'

Just two years later Lizard was reformed however, due to 'constant demand'. The line up of Christoph Berner and Volker Doerfler on guitars, Andy Kemmer on bass, Helmut Kipp on drums and Klaus Broskowski on keyboards, is one that has almost lasted to the present day, with only Ralf Mende replacing Kemmer on bass.

How have you managed to keep such a steady group? 'This lineup is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I'm very proud to have these great musicians in my band. We love and respect one another so everyone feels comfortable being a part of Lizard.'

Georg is one of the primary songwriters, along with Doerfler and Berner, but points out everyone is involved in the songwriting: 'I think you can only make good music when you give everyone a chance to be part of the song.'

Since the reformation Lizard have toured almost constantly, resulting in a live album in 1999. Indeed touring with so many classic rock outfits must have done them a power of good in boosting sales, not to mention the privilege of playing alongside them: 'I'm a fan of all these bands and it's a great gift' confirms Georg. 'Sometimes I think it's just a dream and when I wake up it's gone. The feeling to be part of it is overwhelming.'

Out of all these bands which one was the highlight? Hatchet? Skynyrd? 'Certainly Molly Hatchet. We opened for both the old and new Hatchet and the audiences loved the package. But the real highlight was our gig with Jethro Tull in front of ten thousand people in 1999.

Unfortunately the US market has not been so kind to Lizard and their brand of Southern rock remains virtually unknown over here. Strange as they are more Southern than any American band almost. Any chance of making to the U.S.? ' For two years we have tried to arrange some gigs with Doc Holliday, but since 9-11-01 it's too expensive to get flights to the U.S. But we are working on it and I'm optimistic we will make it. Playing in America is my top wish and I would play in any venue offered to us.'

The latest album 'Southern Steel' is a vintage piece of Southern rock that is closer to early Hatchet or Skynyrd than anything those bands have done for years. From 'Boys Are On The Road' to 'Wanted' this is an accomplished piece of work. It is pure. Still how is it that Lizard are more faithful to the sound than some of the men who started it? 'I think we have learned a lot from the other bands' says Georg. 'They all tried at certain times to make Southern rock sound more modern and failed. So in my opinion you should keep it as pure as possible.'

This policy has resulted in good sales. 'Times are hard for the industry as a whole' laments Georg, 'but Sony says 'Southern Steel' sold more than expected and our Swedish distributor has already ordered the next edition.' The reviews have been unanimous in praise for 'Southern Steel'.

Lizard - Southern Steel (2001)

Why are German audiences so receptive to this stuff than other countries? 'I have no idea why!' laughs Georg 'but it is a fact!' Getting the album on shelves overseas, particularly in the U.S. has proven difficult. Georg points out it can still be ordered. 'You can order our CD through Amazon and some mail orders, but we are still searching for a distributor in the States.'

How supportive has your label Halcyon been? 'They have helped a lot to get Southern rock back here in Germany, not only with Lizard, but with Doc Holliday, Alligator Stew and Catawompus.' Does that mean Lizard are not the only German band pursuing Southern rock? If one didn't know better they could almost be American. ' Yes there are some bands here in Europe' Georg adds with hope 'but most of them are cover bands. I have to say that in the last five years the scene is getting bigger and there are some good bands. For example in France like Calibre 12 who play their own music. France is a place we are well known, as well as Switzerland, England and Scandinavia.'

With such a passion for this music I can't resist asking Georg his definitive Southern moment. 'How about Skynyrd's 'All I Can Do Is Write About It'?' he answers.

Good enough I suppose. But with this devotion to the genre has Georg ever wondered about packing up, moving to the South, waving his confederate flag and brewing moonshine? Maybe that's going too far! ' I live in a small town in the South of Germany and I love my hometown' he elaboarates. 'It's certainly nice when I visit my friends in Georgia, but I would never leave Germany for a longer period. I'm not a patriot. I just love my friends and family and I hope I can stay with them forever.'

For Georg Bayer the South is all part of a fantasy, one he's lived out quite well thus far.

Lizard Online (Germany)

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