Just when you think you have somebody pegged, they usually do something to surprise you. Previous Nekromantix records have been good but have been led by a handful of strong songs. With the release of their new record "Life is a Grave and I Dig It!!!", the psychobilly band has blown that conception right out of the window. This is a snortin', blazing affair that's like a superhero with all his powers on full strength. Easily the best work the band has ever done with at least 80% of the material earning an outstanding ranking.
I spoke to group founder Kim Nekroman (also of HorrorPops) this week to catch up on all the latest news. Kim, as always, was an interesting interview who is also quite inspiring with his enthusiasm for his work and life in general.
antiMUSIC: Is today a full press day for you or are you just fitting in a few around whatever else you're doing today?
Nekroman: No I'm just actually doing two while we're rehearsing with HorrorPops because we're going into the studio on Thursday to record the new album
antiMUSIC: How much time do you have?
Nekroman: It's fine, it's fine. Don't worry about it
antiMUSIC: Holy crap Kim, this CD is just amazing. Each record just gets way better than the previous one. And I'm not s***ting you, this is excellent stuff. The title track, "Horny in a Hearse" and "Anaheim after Dark" are all especially killer!
Nekroman: Thank you very much.
antiMUSIC: You've been on the road with HorrorPops all of last year. When did you start writing songs for this record and how long did it take to put together?
Nekroman: Well basically we've just been doing that, you know, while on tour and off tour. Whenever we get a chance I sit down a write a little stuff. Like we actually started last June tour coming up with like sketches and ideas while being on the road. So it's been like all long kind of thing.
antiMUSIC: What do you do when you're on the road when you get an idea? Do you scribble down notes here and there or have to try and keep it all in your head.
Nekroman: Well, kinda like a combination. Mostly I remember. If it's too many new songs at a time, I usually just use my phone, the Dictaphone thing. And just record it on there. Because that's always something you have right on you, right there. And I can easily transfer those files on my computer. I basically always have my laptop on me too. But you know, it takes a few minutes to set that stuff up. The phone, you can just grab it, push the knob and it's there.
antiMUSIC: What comes to you first? Do you get a riff or do the lyrics come to you or do you develop from a title or idea?
Nekroman: Well, in general, lyrics are like the last thing. Often I have a good hook line, like you know whatever like, a title without an idea of the song. Or I have like a basic concept of the song and the title is added later but mostly, mostly it's either like a guitar rift or a base walk? Or whatever, something sounding cool and then building from there.
antiMUSIC: There's so many excellent songs on here. What was the most fun to write or your favorite?
Nekroman: Oh, it's still so fresh and new to me so I like them all. Yeah, I'm always getting accused of, no matter what band I'm in, my band mates say I'm too…I just like everything. Every body else, it's always like they have a song or two, where "ah, we're not too sure, we have to work more on that." I'm just like, I kinda hear, as soon as I have the chorus, I hear the song already done, and you know, yeah, this sounds cool. I don't have to get used to it, because if I don't like the chord progression or whatever, then it never ever gets to a song anyways for me. So as soon as I'm at the point where I'm "Yeah, this is going to be a cool song," then I feel like the whole thing is so fresh, like everything is like a new baby, you know. It's like the baby… I just love everything. I'm sure in a few months or in a year some of them will grow on me. Some of them will be like, "Oh man, I can't listen to this song anymore." You know? It's kinda like that. So but I see the whole album as a whole. Not like, oh, this song is like carrying the whole album. And that's how I always feel about Nekromantix albums. I mean, I would hate to write an album where just one or two songs that carry the whole thing. And then the rest is just like all fillers.
antiMUSIC: Guess that's what separates you from some of the pop people out there.
Nekroman: Yeah, I mean, if you can make just that one song that pays the rent, then why not? That's not really what any of the bands that I'm in are all about. I mean I want to be happy with whatever ends up on CD, because it's going to be on there forever, you know
antiMUSIC: Did you write just these 13 for the record or were there any others that you had to choose from or maybe didn't finish developing?
Nekroman: Well, I mean, it's kinda like if you have a huge bucket and there's still a lot of riffs and little progressions, choruses, verses in that thing. They might not appear for another year or two or three but that's basically...like ever since I started writing music, there's always something that oh, this is actually something I wrote 12 years ago but for some reason it really didn't hook me back then but now we're going to use it. I mean I've been experiencing that with both Nekromantix and HorrorPops like songs, that were like, ah, no, let's just wait and see. It's kinda like having a hard disk with a lot of stuff on it still. So it's not like you start over with blank because all that stuff is still there.
antiMUSIC: When you're writing, do you ever have to decide between whether a song is a Nekromantix song or a HorrorPops song? I mean both bands are kind of similar so the song could go for either but what dictates what bands get what?
Nekroman: That's a hard one because I usually just write music. There's a lot of time when Patricia actually says, ah that's a HorrorPops song, and yeah, there's more than one example of that happening, yeah. But it's hard to say, it's basically just Patricia stealing them for HorrorPops, because I don't think for like, oh, this song is going to be for Nekromantix or this is going to be for HorrorPops. If I hear a good song, it's a good song.
antiMUSIC: You're a winner either way.
Nekroman: Uh, huh.
antiMUSIC: You seem to have really developed as a songwriter. Not that you weren't good before but all the songs seem to be on a different level. Everything is based around a psychobilly base but you do so much more within that framework. You've got the country-tinged "Fantazma" and the verses of "Cave Canem". A lot of people are content to just work a certain formula to death. You don't seem to be like that. Is it in your nature to keep it fresh all the time or are you just trying to stand out from other bands?
Nekroman: No it's just in my nature. And that's also why we started a band like HorrorPops because I can't, I mean, I can't be dictated like by a song, or anything because that would just make things boring. One of my slogans is why make the same album over and over again? I mean ok, you're in the same band, you have the same instrumentation, and fans of the band kinda like whatever you do. So you try to keep like a thread throughout your albums, but I mean it has to be fresh and new or else it's just going to be boring, you know? And then we might as well just re-record our first album or whatever over again.
And kinda like, I hate when people say, oh, I like this band but I only like the old stuff. Well, fine, I like a band like Depeche Mode but to be honest, I can maybe count the songs that I really like on two hands. It doesn't mean I'm not a fan of the band, you know. I guess it's like everything else in life, I mean, there's no one that perfect, that can give you 100 per cent positive, or happiness or whatever. So I guess, yeah, it's just in my nature to try to keep it fresh, not only for the fans of the band but for sure for myself.
antiMUSIC: Yeah. Sure.
Nekroman: Yeah, if I'm not happy how can I expect anybody else to be happy? Like the good ol' saying if you don't like yourself can you expect anybody else to love you or what you do? And so, something that I really don't want to end up being is a cliché of myself or a parody of what I'm doing. I mean, I'm not getting any younger so I don't want people to say, oh, those old dudes are squeezing the lemons still from whatever. As you move along in life you are exposed to new influences all the time and time does not stand still so I can't see how you can avoid to get influenced or inspired by new things happening around you.
antiMUSIC: Although they're not really new, you've got some new guys. Who are they and how did you hook up with them?
Nekroman: Well that's the guitarist is Troy who was also a guitar player for LA. based band The Rezurex. He's been in the and for two years now. And on drums we have Andy who was drumming also for LA band The Rocketz, so I got somebody who was in the neighborhood and I guess that also helps a lot. I mean it's not the first time that there were line-up changes in the band. I mean almost on every album somehow. And even though some people can say, oh, now it's a new band, but it's not. What it does, is just gives me and the band, like a blood transfusion or blood injection, you know. It's kinda like you rediscover or you relive, like when you start up a band and everything is new and like gung-ho, you know, and at a point, just like any partnership it can become like a habit. I'm not saying it's easy because it's definitely not easy to change that much of a band. Like a guitar is a pretty important thing when you are a trio. So I'm not saying it's like an easy thing, but I don't mind it. It's not a problem for me. I see it as a challenge and something positive comes out of it.
antiMUSIC: You formed the Nekromantix in 1989. What is the state of the popularity of psychobilly now compared to when you started?
Nekroman: It has definitely grown a lot. Back then, back then it was still a subculture over in Europe and no one really knew about it in the U.S. and it was like that for many, many years in Europe and I guess until Hellcat signed Tiger Army and the success of Nekromantix being signed to Hellcat which has way bigger exposure than any of the little independent labels that released psychobilly before that. That has helped a lot, which to me, has given the psychobilly scene a big boost. So I would say definitely way bigger, way bigger now. It's just kinda like punk rock. The inner core that just wants their band to be unknown, they're of course complaining and saying, oh, this band is not real, whatever, because people know them. Well that's a very bad argument, you know. It's exactly the same that happened to punk rock except that psychobilly has not become on the same mainstream level as punk rock has…yet.
antiMUSIC: It helps now with tours like the Warped Tour that helps get it out there to a bigger audience.
Nekroman: Exactly and in the '80s all the little categories were very divided. I mean, if you didn't have the right look or belong to a certain scene, you go to any other type of concert and you know, if you're a punk rocker you had to fight with whatever. But nowadays everything is way more crossed over because the kids are, I mean, even though there is a psychobilly fan, but he still likes and admits openly that he likes other types of music and, I mean that's only the only way to go, because I mean I don't want to play for five people because I have to dictate how my fans should look, you know. Basically it's all about rock and roll and if you have long hair then that's fine. That's what I like nowadays. Everything is way more diverse and people are mixing in all kinds of influences in their music.
antiMUSIC: What parts of the world are your best audiences from?
Nekroman: I can't really say one is better than the other because it's just different. It's just different, like say in Europe you have all the oldies who have seen Nekromantix or any other similar bands so many times, and these guys are pushing 40 now. You don't see them freaking out on the front row in front of the stage anymore. They're more like laid back, standing at the bar or whatever, tapping their foot. But there's a new generation of kids, and I guess, when it comes down to it, I guess it's the same anywhere in the world, it's cool touring Europe but I love touring in the us., I love touring Canada, and especially Canada or Japan or Australia they're not used to getting so many shows with bands on our level because, you know, it's just the way it is. So eventually when it happens, people are very, like totally crazy and into it, and that's just cool.
antiMUSIC: Is there anywhere that you haven't go to yet that you would like to tour?
Nekroman: Yeah, I mean, I always to go to Brazil. I always wanted to go to Australia. I haven't been to Australia with Nekromantix yet and of course I wanted to tour Canada because for the last 10 12 years I've received emails from Canada: oh, you guys ever going to come to Canada? We basically only played Vancouver so totally want to go to Canada because a lot of things are happening up there too. Not that it's a big following yet but it's way more than it used to be I guess because of the Internet and the access that the people have nowadays you know. I haven't played Russia yet either.
antiMUSIC: A lot of bands want to go there now. The crowds are supposed to be really great.
Nekroman: Yeah. And I mean it's especially interesting for me because I am from Europe and I mean the wall, Berlin, is four hours from where I lived all my life and all that stuff is so close and we're brought up with it from history you know, so I was visiting Berlin many times while the wall was still there, when I had to go through Eastern Germany. So it's kinda interesting for me all that is no more…I grew up during the cold war, so that's just exciting. But I hear it's pretty crazy. Things are actually pretty chaotic still. The whole, you know, unorganized mob and whatever. And the split up from the Soviet Union. Like all those states, little countries are like countries on their own but all my life it's been that's just the Soviet Union or Russia, but it's not so now. And I hear a lot of stories, there's a lot of crime over there. And they don't have any money. But the bands I know that have been there say it's like f***ing great, great time. Like the kids over there are hungry. But still it's hard when you're a band at our level. We're not totally unknown but we're far from big. So promoters are often like, 'oh, we can't really pay anything.' You kinda have to pay for your own trip. And that's when it starts to get annoying.
antiMUSIC: When did you first hear psychobilly and what was it about that kind of music that connected with you more so than say metal or pop?
Nekroman: Actually I was brought up with rockabilly because that's what my mom listened to.
antiMUSIC: Like Robert Gordon?
Nekroman: Oh, no, even before that, like Johnny Brunette, good ol' Elvis and all that stuff…
Nekroman: Yeah, like all that stuff she was listening to. And when I was young, in the mid seventies, when punk rock came around, I was obviously attracted to that. But the combination of rockabilly and punk rock was done by, probably the most well known would be, The Cramps over here, but there was a lot of other bands that was messing around with that style without calling it psychobilly. Basically they just, you know, rockers or punk rockers playing '50s songs in a punk rock way. And so I kind of got hooked there and then in '81 we had The Meteors kinda establishing the genre or brand psychobilly. But at that time I was listening to you know Stray Cats and Pole Cats, Robert Gordon…all that stuff.
antiMUSIC: You play guitar in HorrorPops and bass with Nekromantix. Do you have a preference for one over the other?
Nekroman: Not really. I mean I love when I've been out with Nekromantix, going back to the guitar. I like the change or the variation. I mean things need to be not the same all the time otherwise I might as well go get a 9-5 job. And that's just not me. So to keep things interesting. It's the same thing, I can't really say I love playing bass more than I love playing guitar or the other way around.. It's just two different things. And I love them both. Yeah and I feel fortunate that I'm able to do it.
antiMUSIC: Keeps things from getting boring.
antiMUSIC: You're headlining the Hellcat tour. Where all are you going and how long will you be out there?
Nekroman: We are, I can't even remember right now. I know we have four lead shows in the LA area around April 12th and then we are heading over across country to the east coast. Then we go up and into Canada. So we are going to have not like a major, national kinda tour, but we going to have five shows up there I think. So like Ottawa, London, Toronto, Montréal. So in all five shows and then we go out again. And that's going to be part of the Hellcat Tour which is going to be, oh, I can't even…I to have to ask you to look that up because I know that's on the label's website. Because part of the tour is going to be Time Again, Society's Parasites and I think Left Alone. That's going to be on the west coast leg. We do that whole thing, go east, up to Canada, come back in then we are going on a, I think, 10 day west coast leg of that tour. So I think all in all it's going to be one and half month tour.
antiMUSIC: You're famous for your coffin basses. How did it come about that you started building your own? Do you have a background in this at all or was it just one of those things that you thought why not try it?
Nekroman: Yeah, I mean I started the band in '89 and a friend was video recording the first show we did and at that time I just had a normal upright and I was looking at the video and said like, I need something different. And then it was like, dang, I think I'm going to build myself a coffin base. And I had a friend who was collected coffins he had an old child coffin. Like a real one….unused of course. And he gave it to me and I just basically took an old neck from a regular base and slammed it on there and that was the first one. And since then I just started building them from scratch, improving them over the years. So the whole idea was just to, again try to be different and do something else. And it all went well with the coffin logo and that whole image.
antiMUSIC: What modifications did you make from that prototype for your next one and how did it change to the one that you use today?
Nekroman: Well it's just little things. Not so much design-wise because basically it looks the same. It's more like improvements as to make it easier to play and little things like that. Like the set up. I'm the type that likes to use my hands, to build things, it doesn't matter what the f*** it is, anything. I was a kid who took apart radios you know to see what the f*** was going on inside, so yeah.
antiMUSIC: What can you tell us about the new HorrorPops songs at this point and how are you going to manage your time there around the Nekromantix tour?
Nekroman: Well, I can't really reveal that much other than we are entering the studio on Thursday and we are actually, I am on the parking lot of the rehearsal room right now where we have two last tweaking rehearsal days. So we wrote all the songs, and we are just going to spend the next two days refining and tweaking and then we enter the studio. I can't reveal anything basically like that, I can't say any songs. I mean the plan is, the release plan is I believe June 10 or July 10 one of those months. It's going to be close, I keep myself busy.
antiMUSIC: Patricia just posted a blog recently that said the direction may shift slightly back towards the "Hell, Yeah" sound. Given that Geoff has said he's not a big psychobilly fan, does that shift cause any problems in the band?
Nekroman: No it's not a problem since that band is not strictly psychobilly. I mean I really don't think about labels like that. If I like it, I like it. If the music sounds good, it sounds good. I'm not like, oh, this is too… especially not with a band like HorrorPops, this is too rock, or this is too metal, or this is too disco or I mean, that's actually the whole concept of that band. It's like, f*** yeah, we're allowed to play a disco song or a pop song, and if people have anything to say, then they're bad, you know.
antiMUSIC: They shouldn't be a fan.
antiMUSIC: You were in the Dutch navy for 8 years. What was your role there and did you get your love of touring from that job where you were away from home for long stretches at a time?
Nekroman: Dude, it was the Danish navy, not the Dutch navy
antiMUSIC: Yeah right. I'm sorry.
Nekroman: Yeah, it would be the same if I called a Canadian an American, right? Well yeah I was there 8 years. I don't know. I like traveling. I mean…..
antiMUSIC: It fit what you were doing at the time…
Nekroman: Yeah, I just like adventure. But what I did there was I was a radio operator, yeah. So I was in the submarines. Basically, that was one part of my life. I went straight from school and I made good money, compared to my classmates that like went to whatever university , or college or whatever people were doing, so yeah, it was great while it lasted but I kinda got fed up with under the sea. So I just had to move on and that's when I started the band.
antiMUSIC: With two bands that you're a founder of, and all the recording and touring that goes with it, can you ever see a day where you'd like to start you own label and just concentrate on helping new bands develop. Or are you a musician only that doesn't have any aspirations of the business side?
Nekroman: No, I'm very involved with the business side. Especially with Nekromantix, it's very DIY. And kinda run everything myself or the other things are being run by me. As an example, like all the artwork, everything is done by me personally. Because I'd rather do that than have someone do it and have to stand over their shoulder and say, no you have to change this. No you have to change that, because the time I'm spending and the frustrations, I mean, it's way easier to do it myself and I mean I work with everything from, I'm a tattoo artist to desktop publishing, I have released magazines. I once had a model bureau back in Denmark for crazy, freaky people. I was a dog trainer. I was breeding dogs at one time, and I just do anything. Life is just like a f***ing big cake and eat as much as you can before someone takes it away. You know.
antiMUSIC: Last question. Considering the nature of the second song on the record "Horny in a Hearse", ever done it in a hearse? Would you recommend it?
Nekroman: Yeah, of course. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: Would you recommend it? (laughs)
Nekroman: Yeah of course I would. I mean a hearse is like, I mean I couldn't see me doing it in a f***ing hot rod because there's no room. But a hearse it's got the perfect layout for that. It's basically a miniature RV so you've got the bed and everything like that so, yeah. I would totally recommend that. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: When is the record out?
Nekroman: April 10.
antiMUSIC: That's all the questions I have Kim. Anything else you want to mention about the record or the band that I didn't ask?
Nekroman: No. I guess we pretty much covered everything.
antiMUSIC: Great talking to you as always. All the best with the record and we'll see you in Ottawa in May.
Nekroman: Thank you very much.
Morley and antiMUSIC thank Kim for taking the time to speak with us.