Formed in '94 by former Entombed drummer Nicke Andersson, The Hellacopters have spent the past five years playing their way to the top of the European circuit. Both their albums and their live shows have come to be respected as a no-holds-barred excess of noise and swagger. In an interview with Kerrang, Therapy? bassist Michael McKeegan voted the band's '97 release, Payin' the Dues, as the "record that sets you up for a night of rock 'n' roll mayhem."
Their new release, Grande Rock, is out here in the States on Sub Pop and a is deal inked with them to re-release Payin' the Dues on this side of the pond (Man's Ruin has already re-released their first album, Super Shitty to the Max). Combined with playing such showcases as CMJ and, most recently, Estrus Records' annual homage to all things rock 'n' roll, Garage Shock, The Hellacopters are looking to conquer the rest of the world and you'd best be ready to sign up lest you be trampled underfoot by the masses.
On the eve of their first appearance at Garage Shock, Earpollution's Craig Young and Steve Weatherholt, along with Moshable magazine's Peter Markham from Denmark, caught up with bassist Kenny Hellacopter to ask him why Scandinavia is ground zero for '90s rock 'n' roll, find out what it was like to play with Kiss in front of 36,000 screaming lunatics, learn about the value of truck stop music, and ask exactly why it is that they have so damn many singles out!
Kenny Hellacopter: Third time, actually. Second tour we've done, first time we were doing showcases in New York.
Craig: Right, the CMJ shows. How was that?
Kenny: Too good! Being the first gig that we did [in the States], being in New York City, being at CBGB's and doing it with the Dictators. Everything for us... it was like ripping a page out of Please Kill Me, because we were there. For us, being Scandinavian kids, doing that was just mind boggling!
Craig: So why is it that there is so much good rock coming out of Scandinavia right now?
photo by jeff greenwood
Kenny: As usual, I guess boredom is one important factor. Boredom and also... Being from Scandinavia, I think it helps bands have a perspective on American music. American and Australian music I would say are two important factors for Scandinavian bands to sort of...uh...
Craig: Get inspired?
Kenny: Yeah, pick the nuggets out of it and scoop them together to get a good, solid gold brick. Being right in the middle of it here in the States might be hard to get the perspective on it that we get for free. Like, we have 60-70 years of American music history to dig through. Here, you're sort of born with it. Your father listens to Hank Williams and the guy that beats you up at school listens to Lynyrd Skynyrd. And to us it's sort of the same. It's all fucking awesome rock music!
Craig: Because people in America take it for granted?
Kenny: Sort of, yeah. And also you have, I guess since high school or whatever, you know..."this crowd listens to this music so I won't, ever." Our driver would totally bum out when we played Foghat records and stuff like that.
Steve Weatherholt: So was there a bias against British music?
Kenny: No. British music is basically the same as the Scandinavian.
Steve: But not in their influence?
Kenny: But Scandinavian music is American in the end. It's all blues. The English sort of had their invasion, and then you had the Detroit bands stealing the British bands' tunes.
Steve: It bounced back and forth.
Kenny: For a while it was just England and America. But England lost it somewhere after The Damned.
Craig: Why is there suddenly so much interest here with your sound?
Kenny: I guess...basically... I haven't got the faintest idea. The stuff we do now, people have been doing it here for a long time. It's easy for America to be fascinated by hearing our own sound but from somewhere else. A fresh perspective.
Craig: Describe The Hellacopters' sound.
Kenny: Basically it's high energy rock 'n' roll. We always were a rock 'n' roll band, but we like punk. We were all punks when we were kids and part of our heart and soul is in that punk.
Craig: I read an article where you described your sound. You said: "I wouldn't mind being lumped in with black soul music. Maybe we don't come across that way, but it sure as hell feels like it sometimes." Could you elaborate on that?
Kenny: [grinning] No... But...
Kenny: But I guess that's just sort of the feeling that you try to reach, even in the rehearsal room. Definitely in the studio and up on stage. If you're lucky you kind of snap and go, "I am...I am in music." Once you get to that level you can sort of ride on the wave through the show and you're home free. That's the soul part I was talking about.
Craig: You've referred to Payin' the Dues as your "blues" album, and the new one, Grande Rock, as your "soul" album. What will the next one be?
photo by steve weatherholt
Kenny: Probably a "boogie" album is coming up pretty soon, and then we'll being doing a "psychedelic" one.
Craig: And then "swing."
Kenny: Yeah, the epic...the epic double album. Heh heh! Then a "live" one.
Craig: Your Peter Frampton album?
Kenny: Yeah...ha ha ha! Let's hope for that to happen!
Peter Markham: You were going to do the Kiss singles, I thought.
Kenny: Yeah, well...that ain't gonna happen no more. It started out as a good idea, something fun.
Steve: Didn't the Melvins do that?
Kenny: Sort of. That's basically what we had in mind to do. But Nicke and Robert were the only guys who actually recorded their songs. Dregen and the rest of us never got around to it, and if we were to put it out now... People in Scandinavia have this strange thing about us. We're still compared to the Backyard Babies all the time, and it's sort of strange. The obvious reason is Dregen, right, but it's two different bands. So putting out the solo singles would be strange.