AVN Associate Editor and part-time
rock star Frank Majors gives readers a monthly guide to all
that is cool and hip in the world of sex, rock and rap.
This kick-off addition of the monthly column casts the spotlight on Turbonegro, a tremendous group whose latest effort, a reunion album on Epitaph called Scandinavian Leather, is among the best albums these ears have heard in years and is a genre defining/defying tour de force that revels in sex and depravity. Various band members confess to being HUGE porn fans, their songs reveal in violent sex and depravity, and they flirt with gayness and sadomasochism.
Let the floodgates open...
Straight outta the streets of Oslo,
Norway, the home of black metal, church burning and a fiery
underground rock n' roll scenes, comes Turbonegro, a
sex-piece outfit that plays a merciless brand of punk rock as
fueled through heavy metal riffing, arena rock posing, glam
outing, goth nihilism and comic book cartoonishness. Not
since the Ramones or the Misfits has a band displayed such a
strong image, yet backed it up with such ferociously
Lead by Lester Bangs-by-way-of-Zodiac Mindwarp frontman Hank Von Helvete, bassist Happy Tom, guitarists Rune Rebellion and Euroboy, keyboardist Pâl Pot Pamparius, and drummer Chris Summers, Turbonegro is maelstrom of sounds, sweat and images, simultaneously sounding old school and new school fresh at the same time.
Throughout the '90s the band released a handful of indie albums (with 1997's Asscobra and 1998's death-punk classsic Apocalypse Dudes being the best), documenting their love for pizza, hobbits, violence, Blazing Saddles, and gay sex before breaking up because of "religious differences."
Yet even after they split, the legend grew...
Cut to 2002, Apocalypse Dudes has become an underground classic, Turbonegro: The Movie helps spread the madness, and they even inspire a tribute album feature heavyweights such as Queens of the Stone Age, the Supersuckers, and Nashville Pussy. The band is asked to headline some European summer festivals and, amazingly, pull the rarely-seen feat of returning to the stage ten times better than when they left. Word spreads and the band is quickly snatch up by Epitaph Records to record a new album, Scandinavian Leather, released this month. A fan described it as "Exile on Mean Street," and he is not far off the mark.
All the while, their massive fan club, known officially as Turbojugend, swells, with denim-clad fans roaming the alleys spreading the word street-team-style and giving the KISS Army a run for their money in terms of dedication and sheer costumery.
I recently had a chance to catch the guys in action as they stormed the stage of Hollywood's Troubadour, wrapping up the first leg of their first American tour and using their daytime downtime to shoot their second video. The first one, "Fuck the World," features the Romanian National Ballet, while the new one, "Sell Your Body (To the Night)," is directed by Spike Jonez (Being John Malkovich) and features the band, the Jackass crew and an army of denim-clad fans marching down the streets of downtown as Hank walks a live grizzly bear. I was curious as to what makes the Apocalyptic ones tick, the true natural of their sexuality and what kind of role sex and porn play in their music and lyrics.
AVN.com: There is so much sex and violence in Turbonegro's
music and lyrics, I wonder where it all comes from. What
drives this band sexually? What kind of porn do you
Happy Tom: Gonzo! My favorite is the king, Buttman. I don't like that big budget stuff, Andrew Blake and Vivid. Too many champagne glasses, vinyl, gloves, and all that shit. I like it raw! The first Buttman video is a classic! I like the democratization of gonzo because it's the POV of the subjective camera, the viewer is the doer. It's like everyday realism but with good-looking girls, and that's been really healthy for porn. I'm not into the real extreme stuff through, I like it when it's more subtle. There's a lot of power in sexuality but you don't have to spell it out with a flamethrower.
AVN.com: Who are your favorite porn stars?
Euroboy: There's so many porn heads in the band, but I'm not one of them actually. If you really want the shit, you should ask Tom.
Happy Tom: I used to like Trinity Loren a lot. As far as current stars I like, Anna Malle is pretty cool, pretty wild. Jenna Jameson of course. I've loved Raquel Welch when I was 6 years old. I've always been focused on that.
Hank Von Helvete: I used to watch a lot of porn but not so much anymore. These days I like old, vintage '70s porn, especially anything with Ron Jeremy and Sasha Gabor. Ron is great because he proved that you don't have to be good looking or in good shape to be a porn star, you just have to get hard, stay hard and cum on call.
Chris Summers: I don't really watch porn. My girlfriend is my own little porno star. I have sex all the time so it's quantity and quality!
AVN.com: Have you ever met any of your porn idols?
Happy Tom: I used to work for a National Broadcasting Company in Norway and we brought over Sasha Gabor. You know, the Burt Reynolds look-alike? He's part Norwegian and lived in Norway and we wanted to trace all these Norwegians who had had a special life, special careers. We were all so excited. We picked him up at the airport and took him to a café and within like 20 minutes he had has cock out and was trying to pick up girls and get them in a movie. It was so funny! He's a fuckin' circus, a one-man show.
AVN.com: When did you lose your virginity?
Euroboy: I lost my virginity when I was 17. It was actually during a Nirvana show at a festival in Holland. They were on stage playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
AVN.com: Do you remember the first time you found a girlie
Happy Tom: I had a brother who was five years older so it goes without saying I found some stuff laying around and in drawers. I was like, "This is great!"
Euroboy: When I was like six years old, me, my older brother and his friend found a bunch of soggy old adult magazines in a wooden cabin in the forest behind the railroad tracks. That was the first time I saw cock sucking. I remember thinking, "Why are they naked?"
AVN.com: Are you guys into porn magazines?
Hank: We read a lot of porn mags, rock biographies, fanzines, and stuff to get our ideas and lyrics. We are massive consumers of Anglo pop culture. You have to realize, English is our second language so we pick up a lot of things from reading and just talking to people. We try to write lyrics in the rock n' roll language so the kids can get it but we throw in little jokes and subversive ideas too. We listen to lots of different styles of music and try to throw it all into our sound. From punk (well, actually I don't listen to much punk anymore) to metal to classic rock to David Crosby!
AVN.com: You guys flirt with the gay lifestyle on your albums
yet seem quite heterosexual off stage. So, er, what is it? Do
you guys dig guys or girls?
Hank: We are not gay, but we like toying with it. We like the aesthetics of being gay, but not the politics. So many punks and metalheads dress gay, with their hair and clothes and fashion, but then they act all homophobic. We are just throwing it in their face. Hey you look gay anyways so why are you so uptight about it? Rob Halford kinda brought the whole leather thing into heavy metal so we're just doing that with punk. We aren't really gay but we like that people might think we are. And if it helps some gay kid come out of the closet, then that's cool. Or if it helps some guy that hates queer rethink his position, then that's great too. But we make gay jokes and horse around, so we don't take it too seriously.
Chris: We like playing games with our audience.
Hank: We've always done everything wrong. From our name, to our image, to people thinking we're gay, to the music we play.
AVN.com: Yet now you are having a major comeback. Why?
Hank: When we broke up it was due to my heroin addiction, I need to get away and I went to some islands and really thought about everything and realized how important this band was to me. So when we came back I was very focused, all of us were. We realized we were a better band and the time off had actually made us bigger. We always though we were ahead of our time, so coming back and having all this happen just proved it. In RnR the rule is if you're gone longer than two years it's over, people forget and move on. So when we came back after four years and were even bigger it felt really good. Like, ha, we knew along we were doing something right!
Euroboy: When I joined Turbo I hated a lot of the scene they came from, like the politically correct crusty punks living together in squats with their dreadlocks and vegetarian food and stupid tattoos and piercing. I hated it. The first shows I did with Turbo a lot of the people in the front rows were giving me the masturbation sign, "Oh, you fucking guitar wanker," every time I went down on my knees and did my solo bit. Five years later the same people are standing there themselves with slick greasy hair and chain wallets going "yeah, rock 'n' roll!" So I just think we were kind of progressive, it was a reaction to grunge, indie, shoe-gazing.
AVN.com: So now that you guys getting big, has the groupie
scenes gotten any better? It seems to have dried up over the
Euroboy: The groupie scene has changed quite a bit since we broke up in '98. During those four years the band wasn't together we became more aware of the qualities of Turbonegro. We always loved bands that really had their own identity like the Ramones or Misfits or Alice Cooper, almost bands that have a cartoonish touch, you can call it formula bands. Then we realized, hey Turbo is a classic band in that sense. So we became more aware of that and when we got back together again it's like there was no doubt anymore and we went all the way and everything became much more playful with the audience. I have no trouble stroking a girl's chin and take my thumb into her mouth because it's part of the stage theatrics and we approach being onstage much more as a performance now than we did in '98. Then we were confused about should it be real or not? Now we don't give a fuck, we just wanna amaze people. That creates a certain affect on the audience as well. They become more playful. I can ask a girl in front of the stage to show her titties and she'll do it right away because it's a very fun, playful atmosphere. It's like punk rock spring break. But that would never have happened in the mid-'90s.
Hank: We are bringing back something that many people feel has been missing for twenty years, the theatrics, the posing, the pomp, the fun, the humor, the whole show, the whole package. We love guys like Bowie and Cooper and are just brining back some of that showmanship and tongue in cheek humor. I mean, who wants to get up on stage and look like they do in real life. I'd rather look like a space alien... (Mid-way through his sentence, we are interrupted by a roadie who delivers Hank a bouquet of flowers and a love letter sent by an adoring fan). We are bringing back groupies too...
AVN.com: Well, the last time the groupie scene was really
thriving was during the hair metal era of the '80s? Does that
make you the new wave of metal?
Euroboy: I don't think we're the new metal. We're more like the new version of punk. The first wave of punk rock was really into '50s rock n' roll and '60 garage rock. We pick up from our own childhood influences, which are the classic rock bands, but Turbo is ahead of the game. We'll always be a little cooler than the rest of the sect.
So how does it feel after years of struggling in the
underground to finally be on your way up to the big leagues
here in America?
Euroboy: Of course it's very nice but, I know it's a cliché, but the only thing that really matters is to me is to make a good album. That's really satisfying and for me is the most fun part. I enjoy making the albums more than touring.
AVN.com: Well, you sure made a coupla great ones with
Apocalypse Dudes and Scandinavian Leather,
that's for damn sure.
Euroboy: When we made Dudes we went into the studio with five songs to record an EP and it sounded really good. Tom decided we should do an entire album, so we had to write the rest in the studio. Then we kind of came up with the Turbonegro sound as it is today. Half was through the recording we broke the code and invented our own genre. We went from Death Punk to what we call Rainbow Rock, because it's a lot of raw energy, really hard, negative riffs combined with sweet layer of vocals, catchy hooks, and pop sensibility. There's some humor in there too but there's an emotional, melancholic bottom line as well. I'm a bit of a hippie, you know, so I love a little psychedelic too. That's why we call it Rainbow Rock!
And with that, the band hit the stage
and unleashed their feverish brand of rainbow Rock on the
star struck crowd. Never have these eyes seen a reaction from
a Hollywood crowd like Turbonegro received at this show. The
normally reserved, jaded Tinseltown audience quite literally
lost their mind over the denim demons and received them like
the rock royalty they are surely soon to be. I have a feeling
in the near future, in hip clubs and high schools across the
globe, you're going to see a lot of kids with hungry eyes,
bulges in their denim jeans, and makeup on their twisted
faces stripping down to their Scandinavian Leather to give it
up for their heroes, the mighty men of Turbonegro.
Under the Rainbow, indeed!
Learn More about Turbonegro at these fine sites:
Watch the "Fuck The World" video here:
To check out Frank's own brand of rock 'n' roll go to www.thestreetwalkincheetahs.com
Stay tuned next month for the next edition of Frankly Speaking: The Rock And Porn Connection or email Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.