Backstage with...Turbonegro

Time Out New York: I just dialed like 46 digits—where the hell are you?

Happy Tom, bassist: We're in Karlstad, Sweden, between Stockholm and Oslo. They're celebrating the 100th anniversary of the peaceful dissolution between Norway and Sweden, so they have the Norwegian prime minister here and...us. I think we're pulling more people than he is.

TONY: You also play in a black-metal band called Scum, with members of Emperor, Zyklon and MindGrinder. How's that scene doing these days?

HT: I just record with Scum; I don't have time to play in two bands. The scene lives its own life—I don't think it's as young and vibrant as it was in the mid-'90s, but the bands are still around.

TONY: It doesn't seem as angry now.

HT: Yeah, because all those black-metal guys got goth girlfriends. It used to be pure anger, and now it's postejaculation depression. Remember how punk-rock guys always had new-wave girlfriends? Same thing—it loses the edge.

TONY: When you're not recording or touring, what are you doing?

HT: I do ceramics. I have a little place where I do yoga and pottery. You can make really cheap troll dough—it's just flour, salt and water, a gooey clay. Our whole new merchandise line will be made out of it. Ashtrays and parachutes. Isn't it funny when those pot people who want to legalize hemp say, "You know you can make wall-to-wall carpeting, parachutes..."? Why can't they just admit they want to get high? Who wants a parachute made out of hemp?

TONY: You mentioned troll dough—which sounds edible—and it got me wondering: Do you guys eat out when you're in New York, or just munch on pizza?

HT: The two things we hate most in the world are oppression and carbs.

TONY: That's not true! I saw your rider and it includes loaves of bread, bagels, chocolate bars, potato chips, wine, liquor and 1,000 Heinekens.

HT: Yeah, we have a lot of booze. When we played in Australia last year, there was a notice in the big Sydney daily paper that said, "Norwegian band demands enormous rider." We actually made the news in Australia because of our rider.

TONY: You guys had to take a four-year break when lead singer Hank Von Helvete suffered a mental breakdown. How's he doing?

HT: He's keeping fit. Have you seen his workout DVD? The limited- edition Party Animals CD comes with a Hank workout DVD—which actually works. [Editor's note: He's not kidding! It's called A Guide to the Perfect DeathPunk Body.]

TONY: He's put his body through some unusual routines in the past: I remember a show at which he inserted a Roman candle in his ass. Does he still integrate fireworks into performances?

HT: At first he did that every night, but there was so much focus on the ass rocket that our more subtle artistic qualities were drowned.

TONY: Yeah, it sucks to get upstaged by an ass rocket. When I first saw the name Turbojugen, I thought it was a Turbonegro cover band. Turns out it's your fan club. Did you start this or did it evolve on its own?

HT: It means "turbo youth." They basically buy a lot of jackets and drink a lot of beer. In the mid-'90s people were like, "Yeah, rock & roll is coming back now!" And we were like, "Where? Where is it?" We thought rock & roll was in a pretty bad state if a bunch of slightly overweight and underweight Norwegians had to dress up and pretend to be homosexual to revive it. We brought back the rock-messiah singer— that's Hank. And the totalitarian guitar hero—that's Euroboy. But something was still missing. We needed a fan club. That was something in the '70s: to be a fan. Kiss had an army; we have a navy.

TONY: And you're closely associated with wearing a navy cap. Where did that come from?

HT: That came about in 1995, when we had our first and last ever image-strategy meeting. We got really drunk, and woke up the next day and found a piece of paper on the table. We were brainstorming all night and the only thing we came up with was "homo." We're the Village People of rock & roll. Or maybe the Pillage People.

TONY: Did you specifically aim for a more accessible sound on Party Animals, or was that something that producer Steve McDonald (Redd Kross, the White Stripes, Beck) brought to the sessions?

HT: We wanted to capture the holy trinity of punk rock, hard rock and bubblegum pop. That's Steve's background right there. He made us play harder than we would have on our own because we're a bit lazy. We wanted to try a real producer once. Mostly we sat around and sent him out to get beer.
—James Oliver Cury

Turbonegro plays Webster Hall Tuesday 11. Party Animals is out now on Abacus.