The Midnight Nambla

Turbonegro arent gaytheyre just really, really good-looking

Photo by Stian AndersonAnyone who ever played in a band and saw This Is Spinal Tap watched varying degrees of their own experiences flashed back at them. Turbonegro may be the only band to see the farce and think it didn't go far enough.

A reasonably solid Norwegian punk band in the early '90s, by the middle of the decade Turbonegro had transformed into a hardcore, denim-clad homo-minstrel show. By the end of the '90s, the band had married its sound and image with glam decadence and Alice Cooper hard rock.

Acts of outrage included songs like "The Midnight NAMBLA," a fan club (Turbojugend) named after the Hitler Youth and performances capped by singer Hank Von Helvete singing with a sparkler sticking from his ass. As bassist Happy-Tom puts it, "Turbo, we're not a band, we're more like an ethical gray area."

The band was set to take over the world with its genre-bending Apocalypse Dudes album when Von Helvete's heroin addiction and subsequent physical and mental health problems crippled both him and the band. Turbonegro broke up in 1998, only to get bigger post-breakup; Von Helvete managed to clean up, and the band reunited in 2002 for a series of tours and a new album, Scandinavian Leather. There's since been a second post-reunion record, Party Animals, and bassist Happy-Tom was, cough, happy to talk about what makes Turbonegro tick.

Is it okay to record our conversation?

I'm going to sue the OC Weekly for all they've got. We're going to take over the OC Weekly, then Turbojugend is going to take over Orange County and we're going to send drug dogs into Newport Beach. We're going to have all our lowrider fans in Turbojegend tear down the gated communities. Mexican kids in America like Morrissey and Turbo.

Is it because you're so similar musically?

No, it's because we're sort of Latin in a way, in that we're both lovers and fighters. We're like the Latinos of the Arctic. Plus Hank has a lot of Portuguese in him. We're sort of Latino.

What genre do you self-apply these days?

First we were Death Punk, but that sounded kind of gothy. Since we're from Oslo and not Gothenburg, we didn't want that. Then there was Rainbow Rock, but that sounded too positive. So now we call it Super Rock. It's sort of a combination of Def Leppard and Throbbing Gristle.

Why create genre names for what you do?

Because most artists are like, "I don't want to be pigeonholed." But we actually do want to be pigeonholed, but there's no such pigeon. And there is no such hole. So we have to invent our own.

Are you bothered when you're labeled a joke band?

We started out sort of as a joke. We don't take ourselves that seriously, but the one thing we do take dead seriously is rock & roll. Rock & roll is so dead. People talk about, "Oh, rock & roll is back." Where? "It's over there." And they're pointing at like the Vines or some bullshit band. We're blowing the whistle on rock & roll, and by the way, we have funny hats on. Did you notice? Rock & roll is dead, but we're fucking the corpse. In the sense that the white oil will never stop pumping into the corpse.

Your DVDThe ResErection really humanized the band a lot, showing Hank's seclusion in remote northern Norway while he cleaned up and the band's reunion with him. How do you feel about that?

I think that links up with funny hats and joke bands. I think in the end a lot of other Scandinavian bands were like, "Oh, Turbo, they're ironic and they have funny hats." I think we ended up as the only real rock & roll band because we are very much real. I think the film sort of showed that.

It seems that you're emphasizing the homosexual image less.

Some critics said, "It used to be funny, but it's not funny anymore." Hey, we thought it was funny for two minutes. It hasn't been funny for years, and that's the point. There's so much homosexuality in hard rock, and heavy metal, and also punk rock. It's so latent. It's like this big sort of cyst full of pus that we tried to poke a hole in. Our image isn't really gay—we're just really, really good-looking.

TURBONEGRO WITH THE (INTERNATIONAL) NOISE CONSPIRACY AND JULIETTE & THE LICKS AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES, 1530 S. DISNEYLAND BLVD., ANAHEIM, (714) 778-BLUE. SUN., 7 P.M. $18. ALL AGES.

 
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