Horrorpops -- Total Chaos!
Christiania, the self governing Freetown nestled in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark, is unlike anyplace most Americans will ever see in their lifetime. Part hippie commune, part dissident's utopia, nearly anything goes within this plot of land snatched up from the Ministry of Defence over three decades ago by a group of citizens looking for greener pastures.
When you step through the gates of Christiania, not only are you bidding adieu to Copenhagen, you're leaving the European Union behind as well. Since the Freetown's inception the Christianites have been struggling to provide their residents with as much freedom and as much power as possible. Each time the question of joining the EU arises, it is quickly squashed. But that doesn't mean anarchy reigns supreme. As you travel deeper into Christiania, you are greeted by a number of signs, including one which explicitly outlines the area's major tenets - no hard drugs, no guns, no gang insignias and no weapons.
Continuing further down the road you encounter Pusherstreet, Christiania's notorious homebase for marijuana dealers and hash bars. Once you pass through there you cast your eyes on a host of peculiar buildings built years ago by hippies that conjure up images of a place more familiar - Venice Beach, California. Only cooler. Here it is commonplace to see dogs running to and fro, guys with mohawks drinking coffee in quaint cafes with strangers who look their polar opposite, sporting long hair and flared jeans. It's unassuming. It's diverse. It's Christiania and it's the perfect place for Hellcat's latest signing, Horrorpops, to record their debut album, Hell Yeah.
Much like the self governed social experiment in their hometown, the Horrorpops have prided themselves on diversity. Musically, the band is all over the map and while most bands attempt to achieve that goal, Horrorpops actually get the job done. "That's the whole thing, that's why we started the band," says vocalist/bassist Patricia over the phone while doing some press wrangling in Los Angeles. "We didn't want to be categorized and we didn't want to be labeled because we were really fucking tired of all those freaks in fucking uniforms who dictate what you're supposed to be like, look like and sound like if you play subcultural rock and roll. We just want to be able to play all styles of music; all the stuff we like listening to. We play whatever the hell we feel like."
And that's the truth. When asked by a fan after their first show what type of music the band played, Patricia simply replied rock and roll. That description didn't cut it. "So we told him 'Horror .... pop?" she explains. It stuck. Though Patricia claims the band tries not to showcase their influences, one can't help conjure up images of a harder rocking No Doubt mixed with a hint of rockabilly on some of their songs while Siouxsie Sioux has surfaced as a reference point on others. In the end, Hell Yeah culminates in a sound distinctly its own.
The seeds for this album were actually sown eight years ago when three Danish bands formed in an unholy union of rock and roll. Patricia, vocalist/guitarist of Peanut Pump Gun, and Kim Nekroman, bassist for his namesake Nekromantix teamed up (and later married) after the 1996 POPKOM Festival in Cologne, Germany. They quickly snatched second guitarist Karsten and drummer Niedermeier from Strawberry Slaughterhouse to round out the band. In order to land gigs throughout Europe, the young group had to have at least a nugget of recorded material to hand off to promoters. The Horrorpops first release was a simple, six-song demo CD. Their only goal was to play live so the idea of recording a proper album never arose. That eventually changed.
"We used that [six-song demo] for about two or three years, or something, and then realized we better make a new one because people may be getting tired of always getting the same CD," Patricia recalls. "So we went up to the studio and recorded more tracks. All of a sudden we were sitting there with 13 tracks and we went, 'Hmmm, this is almost an album.'"
The Horrorpops took their finished product, recorded free of charge by a good friend at his Ventura Recording Studio in Christiania, to Los Angeles with them on a mini vacation. While in town they nervously held court with Rancid mastermind and Hellcat Records president Tim Armstrong. After listening to the tracks, Armstrong gave it an enthusiastic "hell yeah" and the album received a green light. He also gave Horrorpops an opening slot during a pair of Rancid's high profile local gigs. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
"For some reason, Americans like chaos," Patricia says laughingly. "I think that we were well received by people over here. They seem to fucking enjoy what we've been doing. They've been laughing a lot. I hope that's a good sign."
Watching Horrorpops perform live, it's easy to break out in laughter, or if the case presents, recoil in terror. It's a certifiable mad house when they take the stage. You never know what to expect or in which direction you should focus your eyes. Not only do you have two guitarists competing for your attention, Horrorpops add a pair of go-go dancers, Mille and Kamilla, to the mix. With all the action going on behind her, it's difficult for Patricia to keep track of her bandmates' whereabouts.
"I never know what the fuck is going on," she admits. "The one goal is that nobody gets hurt. Seriously. I think that when I look to my right or to my left I will see Karsten or Kim and the go-go dancers but I never will. I never know what the fuck they're doing. Kim uses a wireless and is fucking all over the place. The same with Karsten. The girls are always trying to sit on someone's face or something like that ... it's pretty nerve wracking but it's fucking funny. Our biggest problem is that we laugh so hard at each other so much that we have a really hard time playing."
Patricia hopes to one day step away from her microphone and watch the disaster that occurs behind her nightly. Because of the bulky upright bass she plays, her movement is limited so Patricia is considering strapping it to a skateboard to join the fun. That sounds safe.
When Hell Yeah was released stateside, Horrorpops was supposed to take the nation by storm with a coast-to-coast tour. After flying halfway across the world, their hopes were dashed when the band realized they neglected to acquire the proper work permits.
"Bummed out can't fucking cover what we felt like," Patricia says. "Imagine this: we had two months to get jobs to get enough money to come over here. Plane tickets are like $2,000 per person. Everybody worked so fucking hard, got over here and was like 'Yeah! We're going on tour!' Next thing that happens is that the whole thing is cancelled. We have no money for food. No money for hairspray. We have nothing. We were just too stupid to realize that we need work permits to tour here."
Luckily for us, Horrorpops learned the error of their ways and will be back in America for the second half of the Punks vs. Psychos tour with Lars Frederiksen and The Bastards. Kim Nekroman will be pulling double duty with his psychobilly band as well. But where do Horrorpops fit on this bill? Are they punks? Are they psychos? Patricia says neither of those pigeonholes fit the band to a T but they don't really care. They just want to take their stage show to the people. And that they will.
by Jay Hale