Norway’s least classiest band, TURBONEGRO, are now three albums strong since their much ballyhooed reunion in 2003. Their latest, Retox, certainly isn’t a return to their filthy deathpunk past, but it’s timeless much like their feel-good-but-feel-naughty rock ’n roll they’ve perfected of late. Having recently taken their raunchy rock ’n roll rollercoaster on the road, we pulled bassist, Happy Tom, aside for a quickie and a lightening round of questions to uncover the mystery of the German Shepherd, the homo shtick, and the magic of Retox.
APESHIT: Cheers to another finely crafted album of classic rock songs in Retox! The album is grittier than Party Animals but equally cheeky. What brought about the added edge?
Happy Tom: Party Animals was the last installment in the Apocalyptic trilogy, the first two being Apocalypse Dudes and Scandinavian Leather. The main concept of the trilogy was to bring punk rock out of the stagnant realm of lo-fi and/or slick snowboard movie shit and into a classic arena rock setting. With this mission accomplished, we knew that we could make a more basic rock album. Retox is such an album.
APESHIT: It was reported that you guys wrote and recorded about 20+ songs during the Retox sessions. Of the 12 that didn’t make the album, some were released as bonus tracks. Are there any plans to release the ones that haven’t yet seen the light of day or do those songs just totally suck?
Happy Tom: Most of these were not completed, for several reasons, one being that some were not up to par with the rest of tunes, the other that we did not have time to finish them.
APESHIT: Bands that reunite typically do so for all the good things (the music, the status, the girls, the money). Having already released your third album since your almighty reunion, what has been the worst or most difficult thing about being a band again?
Happy Tom: It’s been a wild ride, a hurricane of feeling good, so to speak. Which is not necessarily only good. It creates a surplus depot of serotonin in the brain. And then darkness falls yet again.
APESHIT: Also with the conclusion of the Apocalypse trilogy, you guys broke away from the black album cover concept with Retox. Who is the handsome gentleman on the cover of the album (the dude with his back turned)?
Happy Tom: The artists Gardar Eide Einarsson and Matias Faldbakken came up with this guy, they call him “the Baltic,” he is a typical speed dealer from one of the Baltic nations.
APESHIT: The band often alludes to classic punk or rock lyrics (and sometimes riffs too). How do those allusions typically come about? Do you usually start writing songs with those allusions in mind or do they come up as an after-thought?
Happy Tom: Both, either as a blatant rip-off or as a more creeping, subtle influence that is rooted in the subconscious. We’ve heard a lot of music, the years pass with the riffs.
APESHIT: Your DVD, The ResErection, contained quite a candid and honest look into Hank’s rehabilitation as well as the revival of the band. How did it feel to open up yourselves and show the off-stage side of the band?
Happy Tom: It came about naturally. It seems like a lot of people were surprised that we would do that, but they seem to misunderstand the main premise of the band: we are not a joke. We are not a staged show. We are real.
APESHIT: Now that Hank has adorned himself in the American flag for his current stage costume in addition to the band’s homosexual themes, is there any way that TURBONEGRO can further offend the rest of the world?
Happy Tom: Homo is no longer taboo, it is so mainstream that we should have dropped it years ago. But somehow, it just sticks. With anti-Americanism rampant in Europe and the world in general we felt that time was right and ripe to bring back the stars and stripes to rock’n’roll. Or to quote Rune [Rebellion (guitars)]: “America is the New Homo.”
APESHIT: Speaking of your homosexual image, have you guys had any serious confrontations with homophobes?
Happy Tom: Nope. They are too scared.
APESHIT: Whose German Shepard is that posing with you guys in all the band photos?
Happy Tom: We rent them for the different photo shoots. I guess we should own one ourselves, but it’s too much work. It’s like owning a mongoloid child with large teeth and an appetite for human flesh.
APESHIT: Had TURBONEGRO not reunited, what do you think you would be doing today? Still playing music? Running a pizza shop?
Happy Tom: We’d either be in prison or in a psychiatric hospital. Or just had regular nine-to-five lives. I would prefer the latter.
APESHIT: TURBONEGRO has fans all over the world. Your “fan club,” Turbojugend, has chapters all over the world. But in what country do you think TURBONEGRO is the biggest, most popular in? Is it Norway or somewhere else?
Happy Tom: Our “main” countries are Germany, Norway, Sweden, USA and Spain.
APESHIT: Where is the strangest, most unexpected place you’ve seen someone wearing a Turbojugend jacket?
Happy Tom: There’s a chapter at Eton, the private school of the British power elite. There’s one in Kabul and one in Yemen.
APESHIT: TURBONEGRO is in the midst of the What is Rock U.S. tour with Nick Oliveri’s MONDO GENERATOR soon. How is playing in the U.S. compared to Scandinavia?
Happy Tom: We love playing in the USA, because people have such a strong, innate love of rock’n’roll. I guess growing up with all those classic rock radio stations does have some positive results. The love of TURBO being one. Plus we like girls with tattoos.
APESHIT: What’s next after the U.S. tour? More touring? New songs? New DVD? Time off?
Happy Tom: After we get back from the U.S. tour we embark on a month long tour of European sports arenas with MARILYN MANSON.
APESHIT: TURBONEGRO has evolved over the years from a punk band to a rock band. Musically, what does TURBONEGRO’s future behold? What will be the next evolution of TURBONEGRO?
Happy Tom: Probably evolve back into a punk band, but with a arty twist. I hope. I like art. Absolute music, probably.