They're tasteless, crude, and downright vulgar. They've side-stepped overexposure with indecent exposure and created one of the most impressionable stirs in the Rock underground since the first wave of American Punk. They've proudly pissed on popular culture and cough up controversy with child-like enthusiasm. They aimlessly amuse themselves by spreading darkness, fear, and both cheeks at anyone who doesn't get the joke - yet anyone who's ever really listened to the music or seen the band play. Well, there must be a point buried in there somewhere, right? They're Turbonegro and they don't like your kids!
And yet when an epic track like "The Age Of Pamparius" comes blaring from their "Apocalypse Dudes" breakthrough, or classics like "Get It On" or "Rock Against Ass" hook you in, evidence shows there's plenty to sink yer teeth into if little else left to judge - or is there? Turbonegro is an embodiment of sex, sailors, food fights and F-words rolled up into a bong-sized hash ball that's a never ending toke into the mindless, madness, rush of adrenaline that brings out the dirty dog in us all.
And they make a statement like few others before or after them - not that either of the two band members previously interviewed were too anxious to reveal the inner workings of a cumulatively mad mind; and so what? If it sounds good, who cares if it makes sense? The statement? "Death Punk Forever" "I Got Erection" "Fuck The World" take your pick or pick your window for that matter cuz it don't have to be clever, just carefree and maybe a little bit crazy.
Ask not why they are not bigger than they are, rather, astonish at the fact that anyone this side of Northern Europe has a remote clue as to their existence. So after a well aimed pelvic thrust through most of the '90s that culminated in their finest ("Apocalypse") hour and five year period of self-destruction, they rise again, bigger and better than before and pointing straight at the ear of an ever-growing legion of fans who wouldn't let them die. Turbonegro is a self-deprecating slice of Seventies' showmanship and self-indulgence, swearing off the socially bound seriousness that's plagued the suffering music-first Rock star hold outs who place playing at a premium.
They've released seven full lengths, two EPs and a live disc and already had a remarkable 26-track tribute done for them entitled "Alpha Motherfuckers," which features some of the greatest Indie Rock, Punk, and Techno bands that ever existed. Now, after a lengthy recording layoff they release the magnificent "Scandinavian Leather," which follows a successful U.S. club tour first opening for Q.O.T.S.A. and then headlining their own· and this after having played for hundreds of thousands of European festival fans on last year's comeback. Prior to a recent show in April at The Bowery Ballroom in NYC's East Village, I had the perverse pleasure of meeting this under the radar, made for the stage character act bore of Hard Rock, Punk, and Comic Relief.
Due to technical difficulties taking place in the Ameritania Hotel bar (read - too damn much talking and lite FM in the background) and inferior recording equipment ($45 bucks really gets you shit nowadays doesn't it?), much of the shared banter between (Guitarists) Rune Rebellion, Euroboy and myself was lost in a blur of indecipherability. However, luck must've been with me this evening as I've only recently discovered that scattered at key points between spread particles the tape does in fact yield enough information to make something out of almost nothing.
IMWT: Why does the live show only feature material from your last two studio albums "Ass Cobra" and "Apocalypse Dudes?"
Rune: It's partly because with this line up was basically when we started touring for "Ass Cobra" and that's when it all kind of formed. So these are our songs.
IMWT: There's a huge difference in the sound between the "Ass Cobra" and "Apocalypse Dudes" albums yet it's still undeniably Turbonegro.
Rune: Part of the difference is in the change of line up. Obviously Euroboy came in and plays on "Apocalypse" and then there's Chris Summers who took over on drums.
IMWT: Do you set out to make a statement or get a reaction with your music?
Rune: Not really, it's just about us making the records we want to make. But of course when we release a record we do want to get some reaction.(laughs)
IMWT: Do you worry about cynics questioning your judgment?
Rune: Well we give them something to talk about but we don't like to explain things to anyone.
IMWT: Do you have any deeply rooted social or political sentiments you want people to know?
Rune: Death Punk Forever!
IMWT: Gimme something on "Scandinavian Leather," your first new studio album in five years.
Rune: First of all, I'm really sure it's our best record. It's got all of those elements from our previous records but it's just more mature and a more concentrated form of Death Punk.
Euroboy: It's also the most focused and vital album we've ever done. I mean... what is the best album? That's a matter of taste. But I know that this album as a whole, it's a great band effort. The other albums have been a bit more· maybe separate, you know? "Apocalypse" was, I just feel like halfway through the recording we kind of broke the code and came up with our own musical identity. We started writing these really cool songs like "'Motherfucker" and "Rendezvous With Anus" and "'Dungaree High," and we came up with this really catchy and cool bubble gum-like Death Punk style and on the new album that was our goal, to really expose that side of the band. We may lose a few of our fans of the old Punk stuff because people only into Punk are not always into what sounds good, but they're more about something else. But we're probably going to get a lot of new fans as well.
IMWT: There are a lot of similarities between "Leather" and "Apocalypse," which makes sense considering how much better the band sounds overall?
Euroboy: It's important to remember that state of the art Punk Rock these days stays underground. It's genuine low-fi all recorded live. We totally go against that. It's really well produced and a thoroughly made album. It means we might lose the hipsters but the music is still really good and it's an album that's going to last for years and years.
IMWT: What are Turbonegro like live?
Euroboy: I don't know, I've never seen myself like that and I don't like to watch videos of our shows. I can feel that there's this certain magic going on when we play. There's a lot of euphoria going on stage and then it makes sense to perform the songs.
IMWT: So why should people go see you guys?
Euroboy: Cause we're good.
Rune: Cause we're beautiful. (Laughs)
Euroboy: We sound really good compared to a lot of new Punk Rock bands and we actually have a good heavy live sound now. Musically, it's good and visually, from what I've heard, we're fantastic. A guy came up to me last night - from The Moving Targets - and he's an older dude, and they said it was like watching The Dead Boys.
IMWT: Why does Turbonegro "Hate The Kids?"
Euroboy: Cause they suck (Laughs).
IMWT: Seriously, that's one of my favorite songs.
Rune: I don't think we've ever played that live. We've got so many songs now.
IMWT: What are you going to play from the new album?
Rune: I don't know... we'll probably play one or two. (They did - "Sell Your Body To The Night")
After our interview the band headed downtown for the second of two sold out shows at The Bowery (er, Mercury Lounge a night earlier actually, but ultimately replaced due to size limitations!). Luckily, the evening succeeded far better than the previous night that was cut short because of a ridiculous bottle-throwing incident that downed lead singer Hank Von Helvete. The band ripped through their many classics - and true to form, stuck mainly to the previous two, "Ass Cobra" and "Apocalypse Dudes" records - or basically pick up their '98 live release, "Darkness Forever!" for reference. The band is alive and constantly in motion on stage, nearly KC-like in their personas only without the "sunshine," offering a colorful perspective for the fixed eye. Hank's stage presence is a combination of charismatic and creepy, adorned with a top hat, cane, and diffusive evil black eye make up that adds a sinister Alice-like element to the freak show persona.
A packed house for The Bowery, which may hold 6 or 700 (not counting the downstairs lounge area) means nothing compared to something like Norway's Quart Festival, packed with tens of thousands as is viewable on the MPEG add-ons to TN's recently reissued "Ass Cobra" and "'Dudes" records, but considering their time away and the fact they receive no mainstream press, the results were pretty damned impressive. And the show was phenomenal. The band was dripping with as much attitude as Hank had belly over belt, and were as mechanically sound as any Arena-Rock stud twenty years their senior. All in all, no one left disappointed, Hank got a rose from a cute female fan - didn't seem bothered by it - they did "I Got Erection" for an encore, "Death Time" for another, and for a memorable Monday night, darkness and denim reigned supreme.
By: Vinnie Apicella
Turboloid 12" - Straitjacket Records 1990
Hot Cars & Spent Contraceptives - Big Ball Records 1992
Helter Skelter - Repulsion Records 1993
Grunge Whore 10" - SFTRI Records 1993
Never Is Forever - Dog Job Records 1994
Ass Cobra - Boomba Records 1996
Apocalypse Dudes - Boomba Records 1998
Darkness Forever (Live) - Bitzcore Records 1999
Scandinavian Leather - Burning Heart Records 2003