|If bios were poorly conceived music videos, this sheet would begin with a greaser-type, drunk and punchy, taking a late-night shortcut through a boneyard. He nearly trips on an almost empty jar of Dax Wax. After a moment of cool consideration, he kicks it with styležagainst a headstone marked with a calligraphic "N," interrupting the dirtnap of three Danish psychobillies. The wind whistles a "Don't Fear the Reaper"-ish melody as three rotted hands burst from the earth and haul their owners into undeath. One of them picks up the jar and dips three skeletal fingers into it, finding enough goo to shape his stringy thatch into a respectable pompadour. He wipes his hands on his pants and in a sepulchral whisper, asks, "Got a smoke?" |
Back in the days of "Thriller," "Hot for Teacher" and King Diamond, that'd pass for high concept, award-worthy shit, except now it's just a low-budget introduction for Denmark's proudest export, psychobilly stalwarts NEKROMANTIX. For the ultra savvy psychobilly connoisseur who keeps NEKROMANTIX' five albums (four studio, one live) within easy reach, the band requires no introduction. However, as the band is only now issuing its Hellcat debut, Return of the Loving Dead, , it's appropriate to drop science (fiction).
When Nekro-nucleus Kim Nekroman left the Royal Danish Navy (he was a submarine radio operator) in 1989, his first move was to pick up a pair of drumsticks and join a rockabilly band. Within months, he caught the psychobilly bug, enamored of the punk-and-metal-infused rockabilly sound. "I used to go to all those psychobilly citadels in the '80s, like Germany, England all over Europe," says Nekroman. " I thought, 'Hey, why not get paid for this?'" He dropped his sticks and picked up the upright double bass to form NEKROMANTIX with guitarist Peter Sandorff and drummer Peek. Shortly thereafter, the band would make its live debut with two shows at Copenhagen's Stengade 30 club. These shows would lead to the band appearing at a large festival in Hamburg, Germany, widely considered to be Psychobilly Central (although, at the time, the genre was comprised mostly of British bands). The festival would serve to introduce the band to the psycho scene and the band's muscular, monster flick-inspired spin on the sound and fun, feverish performancežwith Nekroman's homemade coffin bass at the centeržwould soon distinguish them as one of the genre's top-shelf acts. "At that time, psychobilly had already existed for like, ten years," says Nekroman. "But this was like a kind of new generation, even harder than before. We had no taboos. We took everything from metal to whatever and somehow, people from different subcultures said, 'Oh, this is cool. There's no rules here.' People outside the scene, they enjoyed our music and came to our concerts and everybody was having a good time."
The buzz would intensify over the next five years as NEKROMANTIX released four studio albums (Hellbound, Curse of the Coffin, Brought Back To Life, Demons Are A Girl's Best Friend) albeit with three different lineups, as both Peek and Sandorff would depart (the latter to complete a degree in architecture) between 1989 and 1996. With each record, the band's sound would develop and their achievements would accumulate. The video for the "Curse of the Coffin" would receive airplay on MTV's "Alternative Nation" and Brought Back to Life would garner a Grammy nomination for Best Heavy Metal Album. All the while, NEKROMANTIX was touring Japan, Finland, Germany, the UK, Holland, Belgium, Sweden and France. Despite the success, NEKROMANTIX had attained only cult/import status in the United States. After Demons, Nekroman would put the band on hiatus while he pursued other musical endeavors such as HorrorPops, in which he plays guitar and his wife, Patricia Day, plays slap bass. There would be no new Nekromantix music for two years, and hardly a gig. Nevertheless, the Nekro-"magic" would prevail. In 1997, Sandorff, having completed his education, was ready to play again. He called Nekroman and the pair enlisted Sandorff's drumming brother, Kristian. The creature stirred.
The trio would begin writing songs and playing live, recording a tenth anniversary show at Stengade 30 for 1999's Undead N' Live. The record featured "Nice Day For A Resurrection," which would become the lead track for Return of the Loving Dead. The song, with a guitar intro eerily reminiscent of a segment from Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper," would herald the return of NEKROMANTIX. "A lot of our songs are about bringing things back to life, or 'Return of the Something'," Nekroman says. "Because Peter was back in the band, it had two meanings."
Spurred on by renewed passion, Nekroman decided it was time to take NEKROMANTIX to the next level. Through connections he made online, he brought the band stateside to play the 1st Annual NYC Psychobilly Rumble and a nine-date West Coast tour. In February 2001, he passed a demo tape to Hellcat Records chief and Rancid memberžand, coincidentally, NEKROMANTIX fanžTim Armstrong, who readily offered a deal. "We hadn't released an album for years, and I thought it was about time something happened," Nekroman says. "I was tired of all those small labels we'd been on. Nothing ever happened and we never saw any money andžnot that it's about money at all but just a change. We got this demo to Tim and he loved it; he'd been into the band for years."
The trio entered their friend's aptly named Copenhagen studio, Bernie's Bloody Barber Shop, and emerged with Return Of The Loving Dead, a heapin', 13-track slab o' psychobilly goodness. The record finds the band inspired and hungry, loose and fun. "We like to do it pretty fast," explains Nekroman, "because we [don't want to] lose a lot of the impulsiveness. Epitaph just said, 'just do it like you do it,' and that's what we did." Whereas Demons was more subdued, Return Of The Loving Dead comes off the line with the psychobilly suckerpunch of "Nice Day" then opens the throttle and goes for the throat with the social commentary-via-schlock of "Who Killed the Cheerleader" inspired by American teen TV, and "Nekronauts," a swiftly-paced tale of "explorers of the underworld," before relenting if only for four minutes in the slowbilly burn of "Subcultural Girl." The wicked shuffle of track five, "Gargoyles Over Copenhagen," gets the ghoulish romp back to a respectable ruckus. More psycho tunes follow about hellcats (a coincidence), rubber monks and leather nuns, haunted cathouses, the loving dead and a family man whose homicidal tendencies manifest at mealtimes before the spooky, wacky ride culminates in a seven-minute metallibilly epic called, "Necronomicon." "That was the last song we did lyrics for," says Nekroman. "Peter and me, we said, 'Kristian, it's your turn.' He's actually starting to be a preacher. He's taking his exams next week. Over here, we have a pretty liberal church, so he doesn't have a problem with it at all. We're not worshipping the devil, but on the other hand, we're not worshipping God, but it's not a conflict for him at all."
Within the songs lies the NEKROMANTIX philosophy: have fun and hold nothing sacred. It's ingrained in their sinister sound, which has defined and endeared them to psychobilly fans over the past 13 years. Says Nekroman, "We're kind of going back to the roots, just being teenagers again and not thinking too much about what we're doing. I'm not taking myself so serious, life or death or anything, because it's all about having a good time."