TURBONEGRO
Party Animals
Abacus Records

Described as trashy, decadent, even hedonistic, Oslo’s own Turbonegro always show up ready to party. So it’s no surprise their seventh disc boasts the title, Party Animals, and includes such party favorites as, “All My Friends Are Dead,” “Blow Me (Like the Wind),” and “Wasted Again.” The band’s humor is very much intact as is their relentless hold on punked-up rock and roll. Lead guitarist Euroboy’s passion for ‘70’s rock opens up the disc with a funky riff over an apocalyptical Aldo Nova-like intro. Stephen Hawking (vocalist Hank Von Helvete in disguise) then welcomes us to the party zone.

The legendary status of the Norwegian six-piece has reached new heights since their return to active touring three years ago. Out of commission while Hank recovered from massive drug addiction after their 1998 world tour, the band now seem much more at ease and are able to move into the writing process effortlessly. No strangers to controversy, Turbonegro pull from their influences including Judas Priest and Alice Cooper to create some rather ideal moments. Leading the pack is the Cooper-esque, “All My Friends Are Dead,” which sits in your head for days. It’s their catchy hooks that are key to maintaining legitimacy among the band’s critics.

A healthy dose of guitar harmonics between Euroboy and rhythm player Rune Rebellion keep the record full of chunky memorable licks. “Blow Me (Like The Wind),” “Death From Above,” and “High On Crime” are open chord heaven and the anthem “City Of Satan” could be the next “We Are The Champions.” The double-entendre “If You See Kaye” mat not be as slick as the old April Wine ditty, but certainly has all the nasty grind of classic street-punk. Bassist Happy Tom, and drummer Chris Summers lock horns in a thunderous clash of the titans giving the disc plenty of pelvic thrust.

Every great band has a self-describing tune they use to unmask a certain persona within the group. Kiss had their “God of Thunder,” Alice Cooper with “Welcome to my Nightmare,” now Turbo throws in “Stay Free” – the unveiling of Hank. Its cheesy ‘80’s metal backdrop accentuates the mood that is part comedic and yet painfully relevant. Closing track, “Final Warning” has keyboardist Pal Pot Pamparius working overtime. He and the band are joined by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra (a first) creating an epic almost over-the-top musical experience. Let it slide right to the end to hear the bonus track.

San Francisco is made to order for Turbonegro. They always do well there and their fans take very good care of them. So it was only fitting The Cutting Edge pay them a visit in the most eclectic of US cities. After their sellout performance at the Great American Music Hall in 2003, promoters opted to book this year’s show at the famed Fillmore. The band was eager yet nervous as we sat down to speak with bassist Happy Tom.

The Cutting Edge: Are you aware of the significance of playing the Fillmore in San Francisco?

Happy Tom: Oh yeah, It’s got us all scared. One of the most famous places to play, like CBGBs in New York or the Marquee in London. But it has a great vibe – perfect for a Turbonegro show.

TCE: There’s been a lot of interest generated in the band over the last two years. You made a great comeback record Scandanavian Leather (2003). You’ve also put out two DVDs; Turbonegro the Movie and Reserection. Do you think the DVD’s have help sell the band?

Happy Tom: Yeah, I guess a lot of people have seen them. Some people say we showed too much or we let the fans in too close, but for us it was real life. We weren’t sure we were ever going to get back together again. It’s a documentary and documentaries are supposed to be revealing.

It was filmed with a hand-held video camera and we brought it with us everywhere we went for like two years. We were never sure about the band going on. We never thought we were going to get back together again, in fact, we all got full time jobs or enrolled in school. I have a bachelor’s degree. Paul went off to film school in New Zealand. Chris was working as a bartender, Euroboy as a studio owner/producer. All of us just moved on.

TCE: Does the band generate enough revenue to sustain you guys full time now?

Happy Tom: Yeah, we make enough money that we can spend ALL our time doing this. I don’t know if anyone makes money selling records anymore but with touring, we support ourselves. I think we’re probably the best-paid live band compared to our record sales. But with our new CD, Party Animals, the record company has shipped quite a lot. It seems to be in all the stores.

TCE: The vibe on Party Animals has more pop sensibility than Scandinavian Leather, less angry and aggressive.

Happy Tom: Yeah, well we talk about the songs before we write them. For instance with “Stay Free” we wanted a song that that delt with Hank’s character. It’s a long tradition singing about yourself. Listen to Alice Cooper or Kiss. We wanted a behind the mask type of thing. I write most of the lyrics but Hank contributes so he puts his own spin on things.

“All My Friends Are Dead” came from Hank because all his friends have died from drugs. There’s only two guys left out of ten he grew up with. “High On Crime” is the first single and my favorite so far. The songs grow on you as you play them. We just finished a video for “City Of Satan.” It shows us animated like in the early Roman days. It has a battle with skeletons and we take over the empire. It’s so long we had to edit it. No one wants to sit through a six-minute video - look at November Rain – that’s what killed Gun and Roses…that and the dolphins.

TCE: Is that an orchestra playing on that song? That must be a first.

Happy Tom: Yeah, that and “Final Warning” we used the Norwegian Broadcasting (Radio) Orchestra which is like this huge 60-piece orchestra. A lot of classically trained musicians in Norway are Christians so we gave the songs other working titles. “City Of Satan” was called “Blood Runs Hot.” I wonder what’s going to happen when they find out they played on a song called “City Of Satan”

TCE: How does the writing process work in the band?

Happy Tom: We have something called the riff lab. We write most of our songs in the studio so we have our own room with guitars and amps and we drink beer and write the songs. We’re like, “we need a hook here – we need a bridge there.”

We have what we call the ‘Power Trio.’ Which is Chris, me, and Euroboy. Chris is the big music lover in the group. He does a lot of the backing vocals. Hank is the rock n’ roll messiah. Rune and Paul take care of the business side. So it’s like we are a corporation.

TCE: In the CD booklet there’s a great picture of you with the Oslo hockey team. Have they ever used your music to psyche up before a big game?

Happy Tom: We’re actually quite popular in Norway. The hockey team are big fans of the band and yes, they play some of our songs because it’s like a patriot thing. They played “Get It On” last season. I was watching a big football game on TV and they showed this helicopter flying over the stadium playing “The Age of Pamparius” intro. That was cool. We include the song in our encore every night even though it’s kinda hard to play. We do the costume change and put our old denim back on - a stroll down memory lane.

TCE: What’s the largest crowd you’ve play for?

Happy Tom: We played for 75,000 people at the Download Festival last year. Several festivals this summer were like 60,000. The Budapest Festival was 400,000 people. It was awesome! We’ve been using a private 11-seater plane just to make the calendar – make the logistics work.

This year we got offered to open the Motley Crue tour. Nikki Sixx is a big fan and we get emails from him every week. Our x-band manager turned it down. Hence the X.

TCE: Is it true you guys are getting sued?

Happy Tom: Yeah, we’re getting sued by the Swedish royal family. There’s some law about majestic insult left over from feudal times. Hank made this remark on stage about the royal family and the next thing we know the lawyers for the royal court were calling us threatening to sue. It made all the front pages in Scandinavia. We could actually get thrown in jail. But monarchs aren’t going to be there in 50 years so were not too worried. They’re so unpopular in Sweden right now that no one cares.

TCE: Every year you have some kind of theme in your live show. What can we expect tonight?

Happy Tom: This is the fall of the Roman Empire meets Rock and Roll circus. We got pretty much everything except the elephant. We got a midget, balloons confetti, cannons, fire. It’s going to be quite the spectacle. We saw metal school a couple nights ago in LA. That really inspired us.

The International Noise Conspiracy and Juliette and the Licks is touring with us this time around. Both are great bands. I got my picture taken with Julliet Lewis and somehow it made it to the papers back home. That was fun – and their drummer is amazing. Rick Rubin produced the new International Noise Conspiracy CD, which is great, and we’re hoping he can do our next record. They said he would watch them rehearse and write down all these notes, kinda like a guru.It would be like Yoda producing your record.

Euroboy and Rune showed up just as we were winding down the interview.

TCE: Euroboy, what’s the secret to making a killer record?

Euroboy: (Laughing) Well, after two classic albums and trying to make the third one just as memorable, we decided to make it what we call, “Marshall Stack Rock.” We had to wait until we could look at each other and say, “This is the shit.” And that took a lot of beer!

Happy Tom: Beer can rock

Euroboy: I like anything that’s at least 25 years old. That’s what I’m most inspired by. I love the Stooges especially “Raw Power” and the guitar work of Williamson. Even though he was only in the band a short time his style was in-your-face. He played these massive, memorable riffs. That’s why people claim that record single-handedly sparked punk rock. If we could come close to that…

That night at the Fillmore Turbonegro took complete control of a sold-out crowd. Fighting like Norseman determined to conquer, they ripped through crowd favorites “Denim Demon,” “Sailor Man” and “Get It On.” A miniature version of Hank ran around the stage trying to insight a riot. The scene had several in the crowd referencing “Hank the Angry Dwarf” from the Howard Stern show. Mid-set a banner dropped displaying a Roman battle scene straight out of The Gladiator. Rune and Euroboy were in peak performance intertwining their guitars in hard rock harmonies.

Keyboardist Pal Pot Pamparius was as flamboyant as ever doing his best to excite the crowd. Party Animals was well represented with almost half the set coming from that record. “All My Friends Are Dead,” “Blow Me (Like the Wind),” “City of Satan” and “Wasted Again” had the crowd worked into a frenzy and chanting every word. Bassist Happy Tom was more center stage than ususal and drummer Chris Summers kept a mean beat throughout “Deathtime,” “Back to Dungaree High,” and “Prince of the Rodeo.” No show would be complete without “The Age of Pamparius” and crowd favorite “I Got Erection.” Hank’s banter with the audience was comical and light. He remained in fine voice throughout the night proving indeed to be the rock and roll Messiah

Set List: All My Friends Are Dead, Deathtime, Back to Dungaree High, Sell Your Body (to the Night), Denim Demon, Blow Me (Like the Wind), City of Satan, Sailor Man, Don’t Say Motherfucker, Motherfucker, Get It On, Wasted Again, Ride With Us, Fuck the World, Prince of the Rodeo.

Encore 1: The Age of Pamparius, Are You Ready (For Some Darkness), High on the Crime.
Encore 2: I Got Erection, Final Warning. 90 minutes

Website: Turbonegro, Abacus Recordings