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Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats - Interview

  by Paul Waller

published: 3 / 4 / 2014

Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats - Interview


Paul Waller talks to Kevin Starrs, the front man with rising doom/stoner rock band Uncle Acid and the deadbeats, about touring with Black Sabbath and their recently released third album, 'Mind Games'

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats have been thrust in the spotlight ever since their third album, 2013’s ‘Mind Control’. The album fully succeeded in borrowing the very best from Black Sabbath and the doom and stoner rock scenes that have followed them without sounding like anything else out there at all. How is it possible for a band to do this? Well, maybe if they were not so elusive we would have a much better idea, but as it stands these reluctant rock heroes have etched in their wake a trail of intrigue and misdirection over the course of their first two records. In fact it’s only in the past year that photographs appeared of them at all. Until then who knew what lay behind the tales of horror and 70’s flavoured psychedelic-riffing the outfit produced. Pennyblackmusic picked up the band’s trail and caught founding frontman Kevin Starrs on the phone after a lengthy tour supporting the aforementioned Black Sabbath, and what better place to start than at the beginning of it all. PB: Do you remember the first time you discovered heavy rock or metal when you were growing up? KS: It probably would have been listening to bands like Aerosmith from a box set of their 70’s stuff called ‘Pandora’s Box’. I loved that stuff, but then I moved onto Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and a whole load of classic rock stuff, and then obviously I discovered Black Sabbath and, of course, that moment opened up all kinds of doors for me. My taste just got heavier after that. That’s all. This would have been at school. Everyone was listening to things like Blink 182, and then there was me. I was into Sabbath (Laughs). PB: It’s pretty much known now that you struggled to find a band, let alone a scene to be part of in your native Cambridge and yet there was motivation enough for you to write record and release your debut album ‘Vol. 1’ yourself. What was that trigger that made you want to push yourself to do it? KS: Just because I didn’t have a job pretty much. I had nothing else to do and no real prospects to actually find a job, so I was pretty bummed out about it. I just thought, “Fuck it! I’ve got all these songs, and maybe I should try and record them and see what happens,” and it all kicked off from there. PB: I take it you were signing on at that point? KS: Yeah. PBM: How did it feel to sign off? KS: Ha, it was fucking amazing, mate, although I was trying to balance having a proper job during ‘Blood Lust’ (Uncle Acid's ’sophomore effort), so I was working during the week and trying to gig at the weekends, and then eventually it all took off and became too much to balance everything. PB: I’m paraphrasing here but I read that regarding ‘Vol. 1’, well, you want to put it to bed. Is that the case? KS: Well, no, not really. There are some good songs on ‘Vol. 1’, but everyone always asks me when is it going to come out, when are you going to re-release it, but the truth is that we don’t have the time to do it. We are always going through new stuff and we have a big tour coming up, so it would mean having to find time to do it. It would need remixing, mastering and there is all kinds of problems with it, but it will come out eventually on vinyl at some point. PB: Does it bother you that fans can simply illegally download it off the internet in its old state? KS: With ‘Vol. 1’, it doesn’t bother me because there is no way of getting it otherwise. We only did about thirty copies of it or something, so if people want to hear it, yeah, they can download it. I want it to be perfect before I re-release it. I wouldn’t be happy if it got released the way it is now. There is work that needs doing to it, but of course I understand that people are trying to find it in any way they can. PB: After the release of your second album ‘Blood Lust’ it appeared to the outsider that day by day your popularity began to grow. Did you have an inkling that when you were recording ‘Mind Control’ that this was going to be a breakthrough record? KS: I thought it would go one of two ways, I thought it would either be a really good record for us or that it could just destroy us because it wasn’t really what a lot of people wanted. It was different to what ‘Blood Lust’ was. It has different themes, it’s completely different and not a lot of people wanted it. They wanted another ‘Blood Lust’. They wanted it exactly the same and I didn’t want to give them that, so I thought if people didn’t love it they would just think that it was terrible. Luckily though, people really responded well to it. PB: Did you get wind of any negativity due to the difference of the record to ‘Blood Lust’? KS: I did. There have been a few people that had just not given it a chance and they just dismissed it based on a couple of singles that they have heard or whatever, but for me I feel it’s the better album but I guess it’s just what you want to get from our band. There is that thing that happens when a band gets bigger, and that’s not what you want them to be, that thing of, oh no, everyone loves them now, everyone is talking about them so I am not going to like them now. You do get a lot of that. PB: I myself am guilty of taking that attitude every now and again. KS: Yeah, so am I actually. PB: Was the themes on ‘Mind Control’ based on any true events? It may be a lazy leap, but the Manson family springs to my mind. KS: It just came out of my own imagination. I mean a lot of it is based on the events surrounding the Charles Manson case. The lyrics on ‘Poison Apple’, for example, are referencing a lot of things that he said. On the song ‘Devil’s Work’ where the line goes, “I’m the devil and I’m here to do the devil’s work,” that’s a line taken from “Tex” Watson who was directly involved in the killings of Sharon Tate, so, yeah, ‘Mind Control’ references that a little bit but a lot of it is just complete fantasy really. I put in a lot of effort coming up with the concept and every song had to be strong, a potential hit almost, and of course it had to all tie in as well. PB: I recently saw a documentary about the Sharon Tate murders, and to watch the Charles Manson girls walking into court every day singing Manson’s lyrics in harmony was just freaky. KS: It is. Yeah, it’s bizarre to know that it actually happened. The artwork, as well, it had to be all brought together as one package. PB: That front cover is just something else. Who designed it? Whose idea was it? KS: That was me. I designed everything and I have to take control of everything unfortunately. PB: Well, once you know what the record contains it brings the whole package together. Without that knowledge, maybe not, and it’s just a mountain in a pretty box. KS: That put a lot of people off, I think. They wanted some blood thing on the front maybe or something really psychedelic or weird, but we went in a completely different direction and even though it does relate to the album it was not what people expected at all for an album called ‘Mind Control’. PB: Personally speaking, even though I’ve played it to death now, I wouldn’t want to change anything with the new record from the production through to the lyrics and the structures of the songs themselves. Now ‘Mind Control’ has been out for a good while, have you had the opportunity to reflect on it? Do you think you would change anything? KS: No, I am happy with it. I think we did a good job. Maybe, and it’s a big maybe, but with the mix I sometimes think that I wish I would have turned that down a little bit or turned this bit up and balanced it a bit better, but to be honest it doesn’t really matter. It came out pretty good, I think. PB: Does the record label keep you informed of how many copies ‘Mind Control’ is selling? KS: Yeah, they have sent me statements recently, but I can’t really remember what it’s done (Laughs); it seems to have sold pretty well. It is nice to sell a lot of records I guess, but it’s the product itself that really matters to me. PBM: What about your label, Rise Above? Who approached who? KS: Well, Lee (Dorrain, label boss and Cathedral head honcho - PW) just emailed me one day as he liked the band and said, “Do you want us to put anything out on vinyl?” I said, “Yeah, of course. That’s great.” That was the one thing that we couldn’t afford to do. We could never afford to press our own vinyl, so it was perfect for us. Obviously though, we didn’t have any idea as to what sort of market there was out there for it. The first press was I think only around 150 copies that they did and that sold out pretty much instantly. So, we kept doing it again and again and again just trying to keep up with demand. PB: What a great day that must have been checking your emails with that in your inbox. KS: Oh, yeah. PB: It’s difficult to pin down the Uncle Acid sound. It’s not doomy enough for a doom band. It’s not psychedelic enough for a psych rock band, and you’re not straight enough for the classic rock fans. Yet here you are with this rapidly growing fan base. KS: Whatever comes out, whatever sounds good we just stick with it. I think that’s the way to do it. You can’t really try to jump on any bandwagon. A lot of bands are doing this whole occult thing; it seems everyone is trying to get onto this occult rock bandwagon and in fact was trying to push us onto that, which has nothing to do with us. Our songs have nothing to do with that. They are stories and have films references and stuff. They have nothing to do with the occult. We get pushed in there, but we feel we are different to that. PB: You have just come off a tour where you were supporting Black Sabbath. BLACK SABBATH! What the hell? KS: I first heard about it in Germany I think it was. I got a phone call from our booking agent who said, “Do you want the Black Sabbath tour?” I was like, “You have got to be kidding me! “There is no way that should happen, but it did. It was absolutely amazing when we got on it. Obviously they are our favourite band, so to tour with them and to get so much respect from them as well was just incredible. They are really nice guys too. PB: How did their crowd take to Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats? KS: Europe was a lot more responsive than the UK I think. I don’t want to generalise, but the European audience tends to be more open to new music whereas in the UK it appeared that they wanted someone like Motorhead supporting or Megadeth or a different old band that they knew, those kinds of bands that get the supports in arenas all the time. Newer bands never really get a chance. Having said that there were some great UK crowds. Birmingham was great. There were two Birmingham dates and we weren’t sure how we were going to go over, but they maybe were our best shows. The reason you want to do it is that it is a chance to try and make new fans and turn them onto the music. That’s the objective really, and because it was Black Sabbath of course. PB: And when the tour finished, that must have been a hell of a come down, right? KS: Yeah, it’s strange. For a month you sort of sit back and think we did this and saw this and did that and reminisce, but then of course you have to move on and accept that it is finished and just hope that we did a good job and know that we had a great time. PB: It’s well known that you didn’t want to have photo-shoots done with the band, but now there are a few doing the rounds. It’s inevitable that when your band gets to a certain size that this has to happen. Did you feel like a bit of a berk finally relenting and getting them done? KS: I did. Yeah. It’s not something that I see being really relevant to the music, but I understand the needs that magazines and online sites and blogs have for the pictures. It is a compromise. PB: Rise Above must have been well chuffed with you doing it. It’s pretty hard to promote a faceless band. KS: Yeah, of course (Laughs). They were quite insistent, telling me that if I want to sell records then you have to make sacrifices. Thankfully there wasn’t any compromising with the music. so I thought the least I could do was a couple of pictures. PB: Finally what does the future hold for the band? There must be some exciting times ahead for you. KS: I have some ideas for the next record. I’m not sure how much I am allowed to say, but we might have a single coming out at some point soon. PBM: Completely new material? KS: Yeah, and this will be tying up the whole ‘Mind Control’ era. It is part of the concept and it sort of brings closure to that chapter, and, after that, well, hopefully at the end of this year we will begin to record a new record. PB: Thank you.

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Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats - Interview

Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats - Interview

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