A willingness to suspend disbelief may encourage the enjoyment of the dark, bloody world of Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats – the willingness to disbelieve the fact that the “Blood Lust” album was not released in 1972, the willingness to disbelieve the idea that Uncle Acid’s voice alone can slit your throat, the willingness to disbelieve the very real possibility that The Deadbeats will someday show up at your front en masse, after midnight, demanding your money, your drugs or your life.
It’s the same disbelief that often fuels our fear in the land of film – the suspension of reality that feeds the dark delirium of such classic UK horror as “Taste the Blood of Dracula” or “The Plague of the Zombies” also feeds Uncle Acid tracks like “I’ll Cut You Down” or “13 Candles.”
Yet horror also relies on what is not seen – and we’ve not seen the flesh of Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats yet. No matter. We didn’t see “Rosemary’s Baby, either. And upon that films release in 1968, Los Angeles Times film critic Charles Champlin ended his review by stating the following:
“Having paid my critical respects, I must add that I found ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ a most desperately sick and obscene motion picture whose ultimate horror – in my very private opinion – was that it was made at all. It seems a singularly appropriate symbol of an age which believing in nothing will believe in anything. Its surfaces are too accurate and Miss Farrow’s anguish too real to let us be comfortable in some never-never land of escape.”
Likewise, we too find Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats too accurate and too real to let us really be comfortable. But we nevertheless enter his never-never land, our entry gained via the interview below. Read on if you dare …
Can you recall the first time that music made you realize the association between music and fear? Was it a sensation that appealed to you immediately or something that slowly crept into your mindset? During your adolescence, were there any artists whose music or image struck fear into your heart? Are there any now?
I remember being terrified of Ozzy when I was younger – fat, ’80s Ozzy. To me, he seemed like some kind of out of control satanic thug who I imagined lived in a castle somewhere. The association between music and fear is very similar to film in a lot of ways. You can associate all kinds of feelings to what you see and hear. I think it works better when the message is conflicting. You get directors who’ll put ballads on top of a murder scene and stuff like that. I like things that contrast, which is why we put two and three part harmonies on top of Sabbath-y riffs. It shouldn’t work, but it does.
Have you always been attracted to the “dark” side of music? What can you tell us about your own personal musical evolution? Did you play in bands prior to Uncle Acid, and if so, how did those experiences influence what you wanted to do with The Deadbeats?
I like dark and heavy music, but I also enjoy lighter music too. By lighter music I mean things like The Beatles, CSN&Y, The Ronettes … that kind of thing, not the shit that’s in the charts today. I can’t listen to someone like The Byrds all the time the same way I can’t listen to Slayer all the time, but a good balance is important and makes the music more enjoyable. I really can’t relate to these people who just listen to one genre of music. It’s good to be appreciative of all kinds of music.
Before this I was in a really bad thrash band. It was just a jam band really. I don’t think any of us took it that seriously, but it was good fun for a while. I didn’t write any of the songs but I did get to play fast, technical stuff. That got pretty boring after a while though so I just quit to do my own thing. So really, all I learned from it was if I wanted to go anywhere, I’d need to write my own stuff.
The music of Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, to our ears, is undeniable in its joyful, junked-up simplicity. Did the music exist prior to the concept (for lack of a better word) of the band? Or was it in your mind to create a sinister sounding rock band and these are the songs that came out of that desire?
The music came first, but I’ve always wanted to mix heavy and sinister with melody and harmony. That was, I suppose, the only concept for the band. Everything I write tends to end up weird and sinister anyway. I’ve always had a very strange imagination. I remember at school once, my English teacher told everyone to write a Brothers Grimm-style fairytale. I went completely overboard and wrote mine about two children who get captured by a witch in a snowy forest and then get dismembered and eaten … in graphic detail. It had lines like, “Their blood twisted in the snow like candy canes.” It was fantastic!
One of the things that makes Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats so compelling to us is the sense of mystery in regard to the band, and the fact that the band seems almost anonymous to us, outside of the visuals we draw in our heads from the name alone. Was this aura of intrigue a distinct objective or an accident, or perhaps just a necessity? The band really did seem to come from nowhere – like Dr. Phibes.
Well, we’ve been here for awhile, it’s just no one ever came to visit us out here in the sticks. You know how it goes. I like things to have mystery, plus it suits me personally because I don’t really like giving out too much information about anything. People will always want to find out more but unless they ask specific questions, they won’t get answers. There’s also this whole thing that I hate about modern bands and the way they over-expose themselves. There’s just put too much crap out there as it is. All this Twitter updating and having millions of glossy promo shots of the same four people … I just looked at all of that and thought, “Is this really necessary?”. So we just went the opposite way, partly out of spite, partly to see what would happen and also because it was just the right thing to do. There’s a great Neil Young line that goes, “I’m a Cutlass Supreme in the wrong lane trying to turn against the flow.” That’s how I feel sometimes when I look at all these bands heading down Twitter highway while our shitty Oldsmobile of a band is trying to go the other way.
Another thing that makes us return again and again to the “Blood Lust” album is the terrific, raw and freaked out vocals. What did you want to capture when it came to the voice of Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats? Who are the vocalists who possess screams that send shivers up your spine?
Thanks, but really the only reason I’m the singer is because no one else would do it. I think that’s how it used to be in rock music before really good singers like Robert Plant came along. I don’t have the power to sing like those ’70s rock gods. I guess I’m coming from more of a shitty, ’60s garage rock angle. I have zero technique and a weird delivery, but thankfully it doesn’t matter. I actually tried setting this band up in 2008 and I jammed with a few other people, including a singer. I had this great little song called “Spider” which was a weird surf rock meets early Alice Cooper type thing. Really simple, catchy melody. I gave the singer a demo and told him to learn the melody. The guy came in the next week telling me he’d come up with something better. He then sang some awful soul shit. So I just put an end to the whole thing and gave up. Singers are assholes. Blackie Lawless from W.A.S.P. is one of my all time favorite screamers. More people should worship W.A.S.P.
Do Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats have plans to tour – or have you avoided the live arena in its entirety? What would you like to see in an Uncle Acid live show that so far has proved out of your grasp? What are the bands or artists that you find most compelling live – perhaps even more compelling live than on record?
I think we’ll start playing live again soon. I’m in no rush with these things. I’d probably prefer to be working on new stuff all the time to be honest, but it would be nice to go out and play for a bit too. I’d like to have a live witch burning at every show, but they won’t let you do that any more, apparently. It’s political correctness gone mad!
I’d say Neil Young is the greatest live performer around now. He’ll do things on the guitar that I’ve never heard anyone do. There’s a clip on YouTube that I’m studying where he does this solo that sounds like an old tractor stuttering and falling apart, but its the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. Half of it is just noise. I’ve watched it 200 times but I still have no idea how he’s making these sounds. He’s the last outlaw but he’s still putting out great music too.
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite Cactus song of all time?
“Sunset Mission” by Bohren and der Club of Gore. Great stuff. It’s sort of doomy jazz or something. I love film noir and this is just like the ultimate film noir soundtrack. I put that on and I instantly feel like Humphrey Bogart. I’d like to see them live. Also, some Alice Cooper – “Love It To Death” and “Killer.” Both amazing albums.
I love Cactus. I first heard them on late night radio about 12 years ago. Now you can just go on YouTube or Wikipedia and find everything, but back then it was impossible to find their music or any information about them whatsoever. I ended up having to get their greatest hits on import as it was the only album I could find at that time. Hard to pick a favorite. Their cover of “Evil” is what got me into them and that’s a great one, but if I was to pick one it would probably be “Token Chokin.”
Would you care to comment on the rumor (the rumor that we are attempting to start right now) that you will soon enter the studio to record an acid-tastic version of a classic Sister Sledge song, with the working title, “We Are (The Manson) Family”?
I wish it were true. I actually found a load of old covers that we recorded last year, but sadly that wasn’t one of them. We did another Kinks song a while ago but I don’t think there’s much point putting it out other than to show off my amazingly average harmonica skills. Maybe one day.
In his recent book “Shock Values,” author Jason Zinoman says the following:
“One of the central pleasures of getting scared is that it focuses the mind. When you experience extreme fear, you forget the rest of the world. This intensity fixes you in the present tense. Overwhelming terror may be the closest we ever get to the feeling of being born. To put it another way, the good horror movies make you think; the great ones make you stop.”
Well, if it’s written in a book, then it must be true. But actually, fear really does focus the mind. It’s a good distraction technique, too. It’s used in politics and media all the time to focus our minds elsewhere whilst the piggies at the top run riot.
What’s next for Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats?
We’ll do a new album this year, I suppose. Also, we hope to bring our live show of misery and disappointment to a dump near you sometime soon.