The Retox Tests Are In - All the Young Dudes Beware
Todd K Smith chats with Turbo guitarist Knut Schreiner aka Euroboy
“There for a while being in this band about killed everyone.” ~ Euroboy
After a summer of large-scale festival shows and critical raves on their new opus Retox, Norwegian export Turbonegro is set to conquer America once again. Since reuniting in 2002 the five sailor boys from Oslo have made steady progress infiltrating young, impressionable minds with their juvenile cock-play and overt worship of death punk.
Two years ago they achieved a personal victory by selling out the legendary Fillmore West on their Party Animals tour stop through San Francisco. There, standing with their backs against a colossal backdrop depicting a Roman gladiator arena, they delivered a show that was on par with their theatrical idols. It was the perfect package they had hoped would launch them into superstar status. However, it was not meant to be. So they remain determined to adequately pounce American audiences with Viking-like bludgeondry until we succumb to their almighty greatness and drink from the horn of rock ‘n roll.
Through the phone lines we reached out to Norway and connected with Turbo guitarist Euroboy (Knut Schreiner) for his take on world domination and the placement of his mild-mannered punk band into the future of amplified noise. “Last time we were in America we brought our entire rock and roll circus to town,” remembers Knut. “We played legendary places with a huge show thinking the audience was ready to take all we could give. We had tremendous success in Europe In Norway we are the people’s band and played all the festivals. In America - not so much. So this year we are playing smaller shows as a legendary band. We are better than we’ve ever been and are ready to show you.”
This heats up our conversation and we talk about European festivals in general. Eventually the new Stooges album comes up and Knut is off and running.
The Cutting Edge: You played several times with your Detroit heroes The Stooges correct?
Euroboy: Yes, we have played many festivals with them. They are huge Turbo fans so we get along great. I first met Ron Asheton (Stooges guitarist) in Leeds (UK). He was a big fan of my SS Gestapo cap. Years ago he used to dress in full Nazi regalia on stage as a political protest or something. We are not a political band, but I wear the headgear as a character. When I first started playing I was enamored with rock guitar. It was a glamorous almost fantastic thing. I was into the showmanship and making it into an extravaganza. Then there’s the other side of rock ‘n roll - the negative, the hate, the self-abuse, very narcissistic. The character I become on stage is a combination of the two. There is the wild windmill guitar with this Gestapo cap waving the flag of negativity and destruction, but all done tongue-in-cheek.
TCE: How do you go about getting a Gestapo cap?
Euroboy: That’s a funny story. In Oslo at the public library they have this fantastic costume department almost like Hollywood. It has all kinds of things. I knew a girl that worked there and I talked her into letting me borrow it for a couple shows. I ended up using it for a couple tours and wore it out. I got the next one on Ebay.
TCE: The new record Retox is a healthy bite of hard rock with the lyrics more punkish than Party Animals or even Scandinavian Leather. Do you consider it a return to the pre- Apocalypse Dudes days?
Euroboy: A lot of press has said Retox is a return to form but really it’s not. If anything we are pushing forward with more aggression. We’ve always had this Judas Priest / Totalitarianism about the band. We find heavy metal lyrics really funny and we in turn have fun with it. Tom and I are pretty much the chief writers. I’ve studied at the school of Tom Seltzer (Happy Tom - bassist) for ten year now and we have the whole death-punk formula down. We don’t really go outside of that much. The music has a stiff upper lip with the lyrics ice cold almost to the point of sarcasm. When I think of Turbonegro’s music it’s like a triangle with humor, punk and heart at each corner.
TCE: Critics call you a parody band or mock metal. What is your take on labels like that?
Euroboy: The term cock rock has been around for years and we like to have fun with it. Lyrically we all sit in a room and throw out our favorite lines. We like the controversial elements and the double-entendres, but there is plenty of satire in there as well. What people miss is how much heart and soul goes into it. We’re not always this funny little band we actually work really hard at it.
TCE: You’ve kept a rather busy schedule since reuniting. You’ve released a record every couple of years and tour extensively. Was it difficult to settle into writing Retox?
Euroboy: When we come home from touring we live reclusive lives. We all have our own things going on and so don’t see each other much until it’s time to record and tour again. Tom and I get together and start sorting out ideas. With this record we talked about what works in the band and what doesn’t what is good and what is not so good the older verses the newer, etc…
TCE: Is there tension during those kinds of discussions?
Euroboy: Sometimes but never crazy. However, it did get a little heated when we sat down to choose the songs on this record. We ended up choosing the songs that best represented our push forward. We do stick to a formula but I think we went the extra mile on Retox. I really like the combination of metal riffs with power pop overtones. Kind of like thrash metal meets Ramones vocals. That’s what we’re moving toward.
TCE: I hear that in “No, I’m Alpha Male” and “You Must Bleed”.
Euroboy: Yeah, but also in “Do You Do You Dig Destruction” and “Hell Toupee”. Our audience is getting older and we’re maturing as musicians. “Hell Toupee” (or in Slayer terms Hell-To-Pay, ed.) is actually a joke we share with our audience about losing your hair. We’re playing better and trying different things while still keeping the basic Turbo sound.
TCE: I like the retro garage sound in “Hell Toupee”. Are you fans of that kind of sound including garage, stoner, and desert?
Euroboy: Yes, but we don’t do it very well. We leave that to the professionals. We’ve toured with Queens of the Stone Age and I like the Eagles of Death Metal. We keep our eye on the desert rock scene. Nick (Oliveri) from Mondo Generator and Kyuss came to Oslo and recorded a couple songs with us. They came out great. We didn’t use them on the new album but maybe someday…
TCE: Yeah, they are touring with you in the states this time around - they and Daniel Davies’ band, Year Long Disaster.
Euroboy: Yes. It should be great for us and the fans.
TCE: What songs from Retox are going down well “live” and what can we expect to hear in your current set?
Euroboy: Well I always say, “Side A”, but really “We’re Gonna Drop the Atom Bomb”, “Hell Toupee”, “Stroke the Shaft” - and “What Is Rock?” all get great response. We do “What Is Rock?” as a power trio with me, Tom (bass) and Chris (drums). It sounds amazing. Of course, we’d get killed if we didn’t do “Erection” and “Darkness”.
TCE: You joined the band in 1996 correct?
Euroboy: Yes, right after Ass Cobra. I’m still considered the Ron Wood of the band even through I’ve been with them over ten years. For me it’s always been about combining classic rock with punk rock creating a musical tapestry that is unique to us. Sure we borrow things here and there, I think everyone does. Ours is just more apparent. But we put a lot of heart into what we do.
TCE: From 1999-2003 the band disbanded due to drug and addiction issues. How is the health of the band now?
Euroboy: We are all doing really well or as good as can be expected. Hank is 100% back and doing great. It’s good to have our old friend back and he’s singing better than ever. He is the perfect conduit for us to channel our musical vision through and plays the roll of Rock Star to the nines. There for a while being in this band about killed everyone. Playing punk rock while living on the edge and doing insane things to make good music became very unproductive. To be productive you need to be straight, creative and on your game. Peak performance; that’s where we are right now and I think the record proves it.
This October Turbonegro will see the first Norwegian rock biography published on the band titled “The Saga of the Denim People”. In the mean time check out Uta Heuser’ “Give Me Friction, Baby” published on Reiffer Press out of Germany.
Special thanks to Euroboy and Kit Young at JLM PR Inc.