Turbonegro - one of the most legendary Scandinavian bands ever to set foot on a stage is about to return with a new album. Next week will see the release of Scandinavian Leather - the successor to Turbonegro’s near mythical Apocalypse Dudes.
Turbonegro have over the years recorded for labels like Man's Ruin, Sympathy For The Record Industry and Amphetamine Reptile Europe. The denim clad thugs have been keenly championed by the likes of Poison Idea, Rocket From The Crypt, Dave Grohl, Dr Eugene Chadbourne, Jello Biafra (who claimed that "Apocalypse Dudes is possibly the most important European record ever"), The Beastie Boys, the crew behind Jack Ass, Metallica, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, Beck's mother Bibbe Hansen, The Hives, Steve Albini and Queens of the Stone Age. This admiration resulted in a tribute album - "Alpha Motherfuckers" (Bitzcore records, 2001) - with tracks from the likes of The Supersuckers, QOTSA, Satyricon, Therapy?, The Residents drummer Toby Dammit and Teutonic bubblegum dance queen Blümchen (re-christening herself Denim Girl for the occasion).
The denim demons released the first in a string of hailed albums in 1991 – the aptly titled Hot Cars and Spent Contraceptives. This string of releases was topped by the now ultra-classic 1998 album Apocalypse Dudes.
Unfortunately, Turbonegro’s journey toward international breakthrough was ground to a halt then front-man Hank von Helvete fell under the spell of the needle. Turbonegro’s successful 1998 tour ended at a psychiatric ward in Milan, thus sending the band on a four-year hiatus. Hank von Helvete retreated to the Lofoten Islands in the North of Norway to deal with his drug habit while the other band members focussed on other bands and separate careers.
Turbonegro’s fan base has grown rapidly since they disbanded in 1998, as proven by the immense and ecstatic crowds at their appearances last summer (imagine 44.000 people singing along to "I Got Erection" at the Bizarre Festival). A unique phenomenon can be found among those counting themselves as loyal Turbonegro fans. All over the world, fan bases gathered in so-called Turbojugens – mimicking the band’s homo-erotic, denim-clad appearance. The Turbojugend sub-culture includes all paraphernalia associated with devoted fan-bases: bootleg swapping, fanatic fan-sites, uniform clothing, and total admiration. So far Turbojugend chapters can be found from Tromsø in the north of Norway to Santiago in Chile with divisions in most of the world’s major cities. Germany has proved to be one of Turbonegro’s strongest territories with no less than eight ‘Jugend chapters.
This massive growth in underground status prompted outcries for a reunion. Early last year rumours started to circulate indicating a possible reunion, and to the delight of loyal fans Turbonegro finally declared that the band would perform at the 2002 Quart Festival in Kristiansand. The Quart gig along with festival appearances in Europe was extremely well received by old and faithful as well as new and energetic fans. Hank von Helvete was clean and the band eager to hit the studio to record a new album.
Late fall 2002 the title of the follow up to Apocalypse Dudes was made official: Scandinavian Leather. The release date was set to April 28. Needless to say, fans were thrilled.
Swedish label Burning Heart (home of International Noise Conspiracy, Millencolin, Refused, Division of Laura Lee and until recently the Hives) is Turbonegro’s new label. Says Turbonegro’s ideological leader Thomas “Happy Tom” Seltzer of their upcoming album: It’ll be the most destructive party-album you’ve ever heard. Scandinavian Leather will end up four or five times better than Apocalypse Dudes.
Joe Baresi, whose resume includes Queens of The Stone Age, Hole and Satyricon albums produced Scandinavian Leather in Sweden’s legendary Polar Studios.
To support their upcoming album, Turbonegro recently completed a very successful US tour with Queens of The Stone Age. Save for a violent encounter with a beer-bottle throwing audience member in New York (which necessitated a few stitches in Hank’s neck), the tour was a massive success with loyal Turbojugends making pilgrimages from all over USA. To quote Hank von Helvete: This tour has in fact been the best one I’ve ever done. All shows were great, and that’s exceptional.
April 29 will see Turbonegro embarking on another European tour which will cover Sweden, Germany, UK, Holland, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Switzerland. Turbonegro will also cover Norway with an unprecedented hall-tour that includes upcoming acts Surferosa, Amulet and a magician (!).
Turbonegro have also recently completed a video for the latest single Sell Your Body (To The Night) directed by acclaimed director Spike Jonze (of Fatboy Slim, Björk, Beastie Boys fame). The video-shoot included members of the infamous Jackass show on MTV. The Jackass-gang have for several years been big fans of Turbonegro, frequently using Turbonegro’s music in their famous TV stunts. Problems arose when the grizzly bear appearing in the video went berserk in a tunnel in LA’s urban jungle. The bear’s trainer had warned upfront that the bear was not in the best of shape. When the grizzly began to behave strangely in the tunnel, the message from the trainer was clear: Do not move! Hank von Helvete had the bear in a leash, and the arduous task to calm down the huge animal. Apparently it was only the Turbonegro-members that froze - the Jackass-gang ran to the emergency entrance. We wondered if we didn’t catch the drift when the Jackass-guys started to run and we stood still… At that point we had a bad vibe about the situation - admitted the band. Yeah, it was a bit tense for a while. The Grizzly kills with one blow. But it was not a problem. Me and the bear had became good friends, and we managed to calm each other down - said Hank Von Helvete after the shoot.
The spectacular cover of Scandinavian Leather is designed by renowned artist Klaus Voormann - perhaps better known as the “fifth Beatle” in the band’s early Hamburg days. Voormann had not designed a cover since completing what is widely regarded as one of pop history’s most unique covers: Beatles’ Revolver.
As always, lack of confidence will not be an issue with the denim-clad gang in 2003. Says bassist and Turbonegro ideologist “Happy Tom” of comparisons to other bands: Other bands happening these days are good in nudism, we are pornstars!