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INTERVIEW: Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats
Nick Hutchings , April 22nd, 2014 10:07

With the band's UK tour starting in Birmingham tonight, we get the latest update from the Acid coven

The mysterious Uncle Acid (aka Kevin "K.R." Starrs) sings like John Lennon, plays like Tony Iommi, daydreams like Dario Argento and would probably enjoy holidaying with Josh Homme on a future Desert Session. With his band The Deadbeats, Uncle Acid has been ferociously touring last year's hypnotic and heavy as hell third album Mind Control in the UK as support to heroes and spiritual forefathers Black Sabbath. Now the band is striking out on its own playing in Europe to wildly appreciative audiences.

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats eschew the normal channels of self-promotion but have built an old fashioned and fervent fan base that transcends both genre and definition. It may be doom, it may be psych, it's most definitely rock. It comes from a dark place - by which I don't mean their hometown of Cambridge - but the imaginings of one person that seem to draw from an unsettling other world somewhere between Suspiria, The Wicker Man and the Tate mansions. Musically it's up there with Dopesmoker by San Jose legends Sleep, and yet somehow it is as quintessentially British as Monty Python and smoked kippers for tea. Uncle Acid creates the nightmarish visions from his bedroom but has got to a stage where his band can turn them into terrifying reality in the flesh, and it's paying a stipend of cult fanaticism.

Hard to categorise, equally hard to pin down – I eventually get my questions to Uncle Acid third hand via e-mail. I wanted to find out how Uncle Acid adapts to what the Talking Heads described as "Life During Wartime", life on the road, how the band relaxes after replaying their unrelenting songs of death and destruction every night and what dastardly plans they have for a new record. He may be a Luddite but the music of Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats is satisfyingly loud; he may be slippery but his answers are enjoyably dry…

You are hard to pin down, how much of this is shyness, how much is wilful, to help perpetuate the mythology of the band?

Uncle Acid: I wouldn't say its shyness rather than me just living in a totally different world to most people. I don't care about mythology or reputation. I suppose we just go about things in our own way...

You toured with Black Sabbath last year, and I've read before you are a big fan - how was that?

UA: It was a great tour. They're my favourite band of all time so it was a huge honour to be asked to play with them, especially as we're a bit of a small underground band. We made a lot of new fans out of it, which was always the objective.

Did you have much to do with Ozzy?

UA: We spoke to him a few times... he was very nice. He came into our dressing room one time and told us how much he liked our music and stuff like that. All the Sabbath guys were equally great with us and very complimentary.

It seemed like a highly appropriate support slot. By contrast, what's the most incongruous line up you've been in?

UA: We're a weird band in that we can play with almost anyone and kind of fit in. Despite what some people may think, our influences are pretty wide ranging. We're playing some dates in Japan with Venom, Morbid Angel and Eyehategod and this summer we're on various bills with Blondie, Television and The Black Keys... so it's always interesting. There are elements of pop in our sound as well as the heavy side.

Tell us about how the tour is going in Europe… how are the audiences?

UA: The tour is going great. There have been a lot of sold-out shows and the reaction from the fans has been great. The audiences vary from country to country, some are more passive and stoned than others, and then you'll get some that are just wild. The crazier the audience, the easier it is for us to put on a great show. We did a show in Brighton last year and the fans were pretty mental down there, but I would say so far our best audiences have been in Scandinavia. They go out to shows to have a good time rather than watch with their arms folded...

Why do you think you attract such passionate fans?

UA: There's no over the top bullshit with us and we don't over promote what we do, so maybe people appreciate that. We're playing sold out shows around Europe with 500 to 600 people showing up each night with very little promotion. The fans spread the word, which seems a more honest way of doing things.

For Blood Lust, you gave yourself a story of an unearthed horror movie; do you have to get yourself into a certain mindset to play live?

UA: Not really... it's better to completely zone out when playing live. I like to just relax and have a beer or two before I go on. The calm before the storm!

Do you listen to other people's music while on the road or before you go on stage to hype yourself up?

UA: Usually our intro tape is enough to hype us up before a show. We listen to all kinds of stuff on the bus though. At the moment there are a couple of Sly and the Family Stone albums in the CD player. Usually anything that sounds different to what we do is good to listen to otherwise it becomes too much of the same thing!

Your music comes from quite a dark place, how do you get yourself back out of that at the end of the gig?

UA: The best thing to do is get on the bus and watch some mind destroying film like Leprechaun 4: In Space.

Was Mind Control the first album that you wrote with a view to a band playing it?

UA: Blood Lust had songs that were supposed to be for live shows but then the band fell apart so I started adding mellotron and synth parts and all this stuff. You are correct though, for Mind Control I did make a conscious effort to try and create songs that would work in the live environment; otherwise we wouldn't have enough material for a full set!

Are you writing as a band now?

UA: I find it easier to write everything on my own. It's really hard for me to write with others. Maybe one day I'll manage it!

How much writing do you get done on the road?

UA: I need to be in total solitude to write, so being on the road isn't really the best place for me to do that. My mind is so focused on the gigs that I'm not really free enough to write anyway.

How has your methodology in writing and recording evolved?

UA: My approach to writing is pretty much the same every time. We recorded Mind Control slightly differently from the other albums in that we went into a studio for two weeks solid and did everything at once. It was pretty intense and I'm not sure if I'd want to do it in that way again. I think the best way is to break it up over the space of a few months, live with the recordings for a bit until you start hearing it differently and then work on them again. I like the idea of going into the studio for a few days at a time and then taking a break from it all.

Does playing Mind Control while thinking about new material help or hinder the creative process?

UA: Yeah, I would say it hinders it. Even when we have a couple of weeks off, I'm still in the Mind Control cycle. I prefer to be doing absolutely nothing when I'm in writing mode. If I'm occupied with other things, it can be hard to open up and be receptive to new ideas.

What themes are you playing with for your new material?

UA: I have some ideas in mind, but I don't want to say too much. You get an idea and then the more you work on it, it becomes something different. It's always going to involve violence and death, but apart from that, nothing is certain!

When can we expect to hear it?

UA: Sometime next year. We're doing so much touring this year, so we probably won't get to record anything until November time. It works great for me as I've always recorded in the winter.

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats begin the UK leg of their European tour tonight at O2 Academy 2 in Birmingham, before playing Glasgow, Manchester and London; head to their website for full details