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Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats

Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats

Interviewed by
Martyn Pepperell
Thursday 13th February, 2014 12:13PM

Formed in the witchy flatlands of Cambridgeshire, England, over the last four years Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats have devolved into an international gang of street creeps, burnouts and draft dodgers, along the way releasing acclaimed albums bursting at the seams with quality psychedelic doom music. Next week Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats arrive in New Zealand to perform at West Fest in Auckland and live alongside The Eagles of Death Metal at Bodega in Wellington. Earlier this week Martyn Pepperell spoke with their primary songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist K.R Starrs...

I understand Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats takes a lot of influence from the music of the late sixties. What is your association with the sounds of that era?

I guess it was just something I gravitated towards. My parents would listen to The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, The Kinks, and all these cool old bands. I just sort of absorbed that. Then I started listening to heavier stuff as well. Our sound is a mix of everything.

That makes sense. While you have a heavy sound, your music is still very much rooted in song. And while these songs may get noisy or rough, they're still driven or underpinned by a strong sense of melody, or strong hooks.

That is what we try and do. When I write I try to think of the song as being a pop song. It's got to have a good melody. Good harmonies. Those are the most important things, rather than the beat or the riff or anything. Don't get me wrong, it's good to have those heavy elements, but the most important thing is to have a good strong melody.

This is what I love about the work bands like yours do, where heft, volume and noise are tastefully used to enhance the emotional resonance of the key melodic and lyrical ideas.

I think it is good to have the balance. If it was just all heaviness I don't think it would really work. The contrast between the heaviness, the lyrics which are actually quite dark and the melodies is powerful because the melodies are so sweet. Also we have the harmonies, which kind of sugar coats it, and you almost don't realise what is actually being sung to you.

Do you remember when you first encountered art you connected with that used these sort of juxtapositions?

Black Sabbath I guess? Although they have the heavy riffs, the melodies can be quite almost Beatles-esque. They're quite melodic. I liked that. Then to take it a bit further and make it even more melodic, there was a band from the eighties, an American band. They were a metal band, but at the same time they did two and three part harmonies, which is very strange for a metal band to do. I always liked that contrast.

I get these sense here that when you entered music seriously, you understood your influences and knew you had to expand upon what they had done, without falling into pastiche or replication, if you really wanted to contribute to the culture.

That is true. You can't just be an exact carbon copy of something. You need to add your own thing to it. You have to come up with your own ideas. That is what we try to do as well.

'Death's Door' from Blood Lust:

When do you feel like Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats first really found itself musically in that regard?

I guess maybe once Blood Lust started to get a bit of recognition. Then with Mind Control we wanted to do something completely different to Blood Lust. We did achieve that because everyone wanted an album with the exact same concept as Blood Lust. Then when gave them something completely different, they still accepted it. People were completely willing to go with what we were doing. I think maybe once Mind Control got released and reviewed well, that was when I realised we were doing something right.

'Poison Apple' from Mind Control:

You talked about writing earlier. Your albums have storylines, and Mind Control had a great one. A cult leader comes down from the mountain and brainwashes his desert disciples through drugs, love, violence, and intimidation. How did you develop into a storytelling songwriter, someone who structure not just songs, but whole albums in this manner?

When I younger at school I was always very good at creative writing. I always wanted to go into that field. I would write stories and that. For me as musician, the thing I always struggled with was coming up with lyrics. For me it is easier to come up with a whole story for an album, and have each song as a chapter, like in a book. It just makes it a lot easier for me to work that way, because I can see the whole picture.

You have this interest in writing. I'm guessing you started reading early on?

My parents read to me when I was little, and I was always encouraged to be creative. My parents would give me books. When I was young I would read books like 1984 and Animal Farm. Animal Farm was an easy read, but it was powerful to read at a young age. I think it might have affected how I think politically. It's good, reading can open your mind, and that's the way it should be. I would certainly encourage my children to read from a young age.

You play guitar, organ and sing. How did you begin learning these skills?

Guitar was self-taught really, just from listening to records. Mimicking what I heard on albums and that. In terms of organ playing, I'm really not a very good organ player, it took a long time to get to where I'm at, and it was definitely not without effort. Singing is one of those ones where no one else wanted to sing, so I ended up having to do it. I still don't think I am a very good singer, but fuck it.

Did you have many bands before Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats?

Not really, just school bands; bands of friends. I would always take a backseat and let everyone else do everything, then turn up and play guitar. This is pretty much the first time I have said, "This is my band. I'm going to write everything and control everything." I was sort of unemployed and just writing songs because I didn't have anything else to do. I got some friends together, asked them to play for me, and eventually had enough songs together to put out a CD, which became Volume 1. It just took off from there. People heard it on Myspace and really liked it, then we did Blood Lust and it all went crazy from there pretty much. We probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Myspace. That online fan support inspired us to keep going.

'Lonely and Strange' from Volume 1:

I just consulted the world's most accurate online encyclopedia and it informed me that you guys get tagged into the worlds of heavy metal, psychedelic rock and doom music. What musical interests do you have that listeners might not expect?

The Dubliners? They're an old Irish folk band who I think are absolutely amazing. I think people would be very surprised to find that out. Again, they were using harmonies, obviously in a folk setting with acoustic guitars, but the melodies and the lyrics are just amazing. You can’t just keep listening to the heaviness all the time. Again, going back to the contrast, there has got to be a lightness and a darkness. We had a song called 'Down To The Fire' on Blood Lust, it was all acoustic and had flutes and everything. So it could something that we look at in the future. We might do an acoustic album. The possibilities are endless with that really.

Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats
Wednesday 19th February, Vector Arena (as part of West Fest)
Thursday 20th February, Bodega, Wellington (in support of Eagles of Death Metal)

Tickets for Wellington available from HERE at UTR and instore at RPM and Slow Boat.

Tickets for West Fest available from Ticketmaster.


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