Montreal natives Gerard van Herk (vocals/guitar) and Tony Dewald (drums) met at a party in the beginning of the ’80s, and formed Deja Voodoo. Their entertainment tastes were similar, and soon they were mixing horror theatrics with a mix of stripped down rockabilly and country. In fact, van Herk played only four strings, and Dewald’s kit had no cymbals – which they dubbed ‘sludgebilly’ – Buddy Holly meets Hank Williams meets Herman Munster.
They were introducing their own songs, usually only a couple of minutes long, into their shows while they tried to find an audience in an overall saturated music market. After releasing the four-track self-titled EP, featuring “Monsters In My Garage, they set up Og Records (named after van Gerk’s imaginary caveman friend), and sold their indie cassette GUMBO – 17 SLUDGEBILLY GREATS at their shows and locally retail.
By ’83 they were finally breaking out of the greater Montreal market, and got some attention in Toronto when they released TOO COOL TO LIVE TO SMART TO DIE in 1983, which got US distribution from New York-based Midnight Records. Following a series of shows along the eastern seaboard, CEMETERY was on the shelves the following spring. Received relatively well in pockets across the country and spurred on by the title track single, it even sold in the northern US and Europe.
Their outrageous theatrics grew a reputation along with their alternative swamp boogie sound. For the next few years they toured Ontario, with a few stops out east on both sides of the border, and also made it as far west as Prince George, BC. During the same period, they also began working on compilation albums spotlighting other Montreal groups, as well, starting with FROM MONTREAL in ’83, then the five volume set that finished in ’89, IT CAME FROM CANADA. “Three Men, One Coffin” is a rare basement track from the second series, that never made it to their mainstream catalogue.
The decade also saw them make a couple of European tours, where they were particularly well-received in the clubs throughout Greece in Finland, and even cut a pair of videos during this period – “The House of Doctor Stimuli” and “White Sugar.”
SWAMP OF LOVE in ’86 featured the ridiculously long three-minute opus “Don’t Let No Ning Heads In Your Home.” Finnish label Gaga Goodies released the 1988 EP – HIEKAA HIETERANNEN, and then BIG PILE OF MUD a little over a year later, which preceded the self-explanatory LIVE AT BACKSTAGE CLUB HELSINKI FINLAND to close out the decade.
Still keeping active on the Montreal scene, in the mid ’90s van Gerk and Dewald started putting on indie shows each December called “Voodoo BBQs.” But by the end of the millennium and with outside interests pulling them in different directions, they sold off Og Records, and van Gerk has stayed active, working for a time as a university linguistics professor. Since the late ’90s, Dewald has lived on the west coast working as a wine brewer.