Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Kevin Starrs

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Kevin Starrs

UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS is not your average, typical, run-of-the-mill band and, in fact, it is quite a challenge to stick a label to the music these fine gentlemen are putting out. And that’s the beauty of it and why here at METAL KAOZ we love talking to Kevin Starrs, Uncle Acid himself. And in this occasion, the subject of discussion was another solid piece of music, titled “Wasterland”, that has been spinning on the turntable for a significant amount of time. Are you ready to taste some acid? Forge on, then.

Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats - Kevin Starrs

Hello Kevin and welcome to METAL KAOZ again!
Hi, Dimitris, how are you doing?

I’m good, thank you. I don’t know if you remember, but we met a couple of years ago here in Chicago.
Yes, I remember.

By the way, I love the Blackie Lawless logo you have in your Skype profile.
(laughs) Nice, good.

Let’s jump straight into it; first of all, how long did you work on “Wasteland”?
It took about six months from writing to finishing recording and mixing and everything like that; maybe a little bit longer in terms of writing. But the actual tracking of the album took four days.

That’s fast.
Yeah, the one before that took three days so we’re taking our time now (laughs).

That’s kind of old school because back in the day things were moving faster in the studio because there wasn’t enough money.
Yeah, that’s the way to do it and we do the same thing; we move fast because, you know, we record everything to take and we do it live in one roll in one room and we’re facing each other, so it’s done the old fashion way, really. As you said, you’ve got to move fast because it costs money to run through all those tapes and things like that.

Of course. One would expect that recording things live, it would take much longer because if you’re a perfectionist, you’ll say “let’s do this again” and so on.
And that’s why we rehearse a lot while at home, everybody is really prepared so once we go into the studio everybody knows exactly what to do and it really only takes like a couple of takes and then once you’ve got it, that’s it. But a lot of the time, it’s a lot about creating capturing the vibe of what’s happening.

There is a quote of yours in the album’s press release saying there’s not enough melody or harmony in new music for my liking”, so how did you change your song-writing to have more melodies and harmonies?
I guess I just had this feeling that needed to happen, so the melodies just appeared for me, so then I thought “this is really melodic”, so I just kept going to that direction. But once I made that decision in my head, to make it more melodic and put more harmonies in there, it’s just what I had to do and go with the flow.

Also quoting the press release of “Wasteland”, there is a concept behind the album, so first of all how does the concept guide the music, if it did?
Yeah, I mean on certain tracks it did. Something like “Wasteland”, it’s sort of describing this waste and I kind of thought of Morricone feel to it, so there is a bit of a Spaghetti-Western element to some of that stuff. But a lot of the time it’s just the music comes first and then you just kind of figure out what to fit in those melodies. It can take a little bit of time, you know. But sometimes, it’s just that some songs they write themselves – you can’t help it; it’s five minutes and the song is done.

The album’s concept itself is about walled cities, heavy surveillance with people being cut off and afraid of each other; well, that does not sound quite as a dystopian place but rather a worse copy of the world we’re now living in, right?
Yeah, you can see how it could head down that path but there is like a more extreme version of maybe what’s going on now. It’s kind of show as well that if things continue down this way, it will end up being a complete disaster, you know.

Even the concept about these program discs that they can help us reconnect and remember the past, so is there a positive twist in the album?
Hmm, not really (laughs). I’m trying to think of some positives but I think it’s kind of… maybe the only positive thing you can take, it’s the fact that we could maybe learn something out of this so we won’t go down that road, but the people on the album have gone passed the point of no return and it’s just helpless. They become apart and everything is just fucked. So it’s really bad times for these people.

My follow-up question was that “I didn’t think so” because listening to the marching drums at the end of “Exodus” does not seem quite positive, but quite the contrary I would say.
(laughs) It’s funny; that last little piece of the album that kind of really the closure of it. The listener is being caught, you can hear the sound effects, of somebody sawing through your skull and ripping open your head and taking out your brain and taking out all those memories from your brain and that’s the end of the album sort of suggests; this person has been caught by one of these blood runners, one of these mercenaries and it’s finished for them and you’ve got the marching beat and some chaos and then it kind of goes quiet. And you’ve got the wind whistling or whatever, so it’s pretty depressing, isn’t really?

Exactly. Let’s talk about the music itself; so you recorded the album at the Sunset Sound studio in Los Angeles; why did you choose that place?
We were actually supposed to record somewhere else but there was a little bit of misunderstanding so I walked up to the gate of Sunset Sound and I said “let me in because I want to record here” and the guy said “oh, we don’t do that. Are you sure you just didn’t come out of the street and say that?” So I explained the situation and then he let me in and luckily there were some really nice people there and it seemed like a good place to record. All the equipment that they have there is top quality, really good, old stuff kept in good condition. And you know, you compare with the studios we now have in the UK where some of those good quality studios are long gone turned into luxury flats or whatever. Luckily, in LA, there’s a bit selection of good quality studios that they’re still get in use and being used for 50 years or something like that. So, it was nice to be able to record in an environment that was so legendary almost; you know, so many great albums have been made there and if you have to up your game to match that.

Cool. What an interesting story! So you were unlucky but it turned out you were lucky.
Yes (laughs).

How did you contact Geoff Neal? Why did you choose him?
When we went into the studio, the guy there recommended Geoff as being great engineer for this and he was really great in the studio, a really nice guy, made everybody feeling really relaxed, so we could concentrate on what we had to do. And he did everything he had to do and it was all done very quickly. It turned out really great working with him.

Listening to some of the songs, you can’t help but notice all those layers that someone has to listen to many times to pick all the details. For example, are there any movie excerpts at the end of “No Return”?
There’re things I’ve collected over the years, little samples that I can’t even remember where they are from. A lot of it it’s just kind of public-domain, old advertising slogans, old TV adverts, information videos, so a lot of it is just collects of recording that I’ve found and just put them in there if they fit in.

The reason I’m asking is because I could swear I heard some Vincent Price there.
Yeah, I did forget about that one, he’s definitely on there. I can’t remember from which film is this though. But yes, you are right.

Listening to “Shockwave City”, it kind of reminded me the FOCUS song, “Hocus Pocus”.
That’s funny you’re saying that because you’re the second person that said that and I love that song - it’s a great song - but I didn’t think about it until it got pointed out to me yesterday, somebody said that. So, actually you’re right, it does have that vibe, that feel to it. For me, when I was writing it, I was thinking of KISS, early KISS, especially the second riff that comes in halfway through towards the end, to me, that’s a real KISS kind of feel to it.

The other track that I would almost call it Progressive for UNCLE ACID is “Bedouin”, so here it seems you’re pushing the UNCLE ACID envelope diving deeper in the ‘60s - ‘70s Rock sound with lots of keyboard layers; so what’s going on there?
I felt I kind of had to put more elements into the music, different instruments, so there’s a lot of analogue synthesizers and there’s the sound of the horn – that’s just keyboards doing that – so it sounded cool and I thought “I’ll just go with that”.

That would be a cool one to play live.
Yes. It’s difficult to know which songs people wanna hear live but I think that one is interesting, it could be a good one to do live.

Are there any plans to release any singles after “Wasterland”? I mean, do you have any release-worthy material on the side?
Not really. We recorded almost everything. There was another song that could have been on the album but it just didn’t really fit well in there. I’m not sure why it didn’t work but it just didn’t, even though it’s a really good song, so I’d like to go back and kind of revisit that and re-record it for the next album, if it can fit on that. Apart from that, there is nothing really. Normally, when we do singles we just put out a cover version on the B side because in the past I’ve used up and we did “Poison Apple” and the B side to that was a song called “Under The Spell” that I felt it was kind of wasted by putting it as a B side on a single where it should be on an album. So, I said to myself “in the future we’ll just do covers and put them on B sides” because a lot of people don’t buy singles, so they would never hear these other songs.

However, 7’’ singles are awesome!
Yes, they are. But I’m not sure; maybe we might release a single. We’ll see. We’ll have to speak to Rise Above I guess.

Sure. Well, thank you for your time, Kevin, to answer my questions. See you in a couple of days in Chicago!
Thank you, Dimitris! I really appreciate it!