The Duke of Nothing declares
Turbonegro is back
in the game
Put yourself in Tony Sylvester's shoes. At 39 you're the ex-singer for a bunch of British underground bands (Fabric, Dukes of Nothing) and now working behind the scenes in the music industry. You also happen to be London president of the local Turbojugend, part of a network of 2500-plus fans clubs for revered Norwegian faux gay deathpunkers Turbonegro.
Turbonegro has been dormant since frontman of 17 years, Hank Van Helvete, succumbed to "road lifestyle issues". He shook off the monkey, re-built his life, married and became a solo artist/celebrity in his home country, but Hank and his ex-bandmates are no longer seeing eye-to-eye. Moves are underfoot to reform TRBNGR but without a vocalist, there'aren't many places to go.
Cue a penny dropping. It was 2011. Sylvester and the band were mates. He had experience. He was the nephew of a bristish vaudeville singer, for fucksakes! Why not catapult the credentialed uber-fan into the centre-mic position? Sylvester jumped at the job and slid into the role like, um, an engorged stiffy into a well-lubed condom. A new album, "Sexual Harrassment, was banged out and the Denim Demons were once again a going concern. Having torn parts of Europe a new arsehole, an Australian tour looms.
Put under peer pressure (thanks Ashley Thomson and Al Creed), THE BARMAN became a convert to the cause in the '90s. He jumped at the chance to have a quickie (interview) with the new frontman on the eve of the visit Down Under. Here's the result.
You've crossed the line from fan to frontman. Do you get more pussy/arse now?
Potentially yes - very much so, but I'm a fighter not a lover. Actually that's not true - I'm a watcher, not a fighter.
Where and when did you lose your virginity as Turbonegro's singer? Describe how it went. If you don't mind, also tell us how your first gig went.
It was the baptism of fire of the World Turbojugend Day in Hamburg: two rehearsals and then straight in front of the most rabid, hardcore Turbonegro fans in the world. They welcomed me with open hands, which goes to show you the incredible high regard the band are held in: that they were willing to give this new line up 100% support straight out of the traps was incredible and really cemented our plans to make it a full bona fide proper comeback and to go and record.
First show back for Turbonegro, Hamburg 2011.
Give us the rundown on your previous musical history...
Classic suburban kid I guess - listened to a bunch of rock until I discovered Hardcore aged 14 and that was it really.. found skating and hardcore and never looked back. I'm a total record nerd - collect everything from British folk psych through to Northern Soul, but I still consider myself a Hardcore kid...
As a fan-turned-band-member you have a unique perspective. Unless, of course, any of the previous singers remain fans. Tell us about the first time you heard TBNGR and which album did it for you?
It was through work - I worked at a record distributors for a long time, handling everything from Dischord to Touch & Go at the time, was listening to a bunch of very worthy, very po faced post rock at the time. One day this package of records shows up, usual dross, except this one shining beacon: this bizarre album parodying Pet Sounds but with a band of heavy set homosexual looking dudes on the cover. I just thought if this sounds as good as it looks, I'm in love. that was "Ass Cobra" in 1997 and that was it.
Put your fan hat back on: If you had the chance (I suppose you do now) to ask one member of TRBNGR one question, what would it be?
Pal Pot: Will you please come and play a show with us. please?
What has become of Hank? Is it true he's converted to Scientology?
He's doing his thing: Scientology, being a celebrity, writing his autobiography. Personally not seen him since before he left the band.
If it's not too personal a question, have you ever shoved a firecracker up your butt on-stage? If not, was it out of deference to Guy Fawkes?
Nope. My arse stays free of burning hazards.
On the practical side, have you relocated to Norway? If so, are you going to educate them about cricket? What's the best thing about Norway?
It's the most expensive place of earth! I love it, but I'm a London boy born and bred.. it'd be pretty hard to shift me. There's this rotten salmon they eat at christmastime which is just incredible. Kinda soft, almost buttery, and very very pungent. Pretty lasses too.
Tell us about the recording process for "Sexual Harassment". Was the intention to take things back to basics and make a no-holds-barred punk rock record? How long did it take from go to whoa and how much of the album features in the live set?
We wrote and arranged it in December last year and went stright into Electric Lady in New York in January for two weeks to bang it out - it was specifically written to be a short, sharp shock. I think previous TRBNGR records have had a balance of live bangers, radio hits and epic album tracks, but we purposefully stripped this down to live bangers, pure and simple. We're currently rotating 9 of the 10 tracks in the live set along with al the old faves. It's a pretty healthy mix, i must say.
The band's obvious home turf is Europe so what brings you back to Australia? Will TRBNGR assault America again?
I think there's a lot of common ground between TRRBNGR and Aussie rock - we're big fans of The Saints, Radio Birdman, Rose Tattoo, Coloured Balls and a heap more. And i didnt even mention the DC. Pound for pound, "Powerage" is the greatest Rock album ever recorded.
We've hit the States about three times now - can't wait to go back.
You're probably aware of comments about the band going over old ground and "Apocalypse Dudes" being a high water mark. How do you take that?
It is. I mean, it was the right record at the right time - it's alchemical genius. The fact that many many people have called Sexual Harrassment the best album since Apocalypse Dues is the greatest achievement I think we could have done. Makes me extremely proud.
So with a fresh album under the belt, are there plans to record more?
Of course. There's a bunch of ideas already kickin around - We're giving this one time to breathe first.
Leather underpants: Yes or No and Why?
Fuck no. Chafing.
Susan Boyle. Bonk, Avoid or Marry?
A sexless, long distance marriage could work.
When you're on the road, who do you room with and what's their worst habit?
Thankfully we dont have to endure that indignity. But if Tommy keeps up that terrible impression of a Geordie accent he insists on doing, he's getting a dig.
Since we're in a virtual bar, what are you drinking?
Jameson's on the rock. Or a nice glass of Riesling. Ta, love.
Turbonegro Australian Tour
Thursday December 6: Sydney, Hi-Fi
Friday December 7: Melbourne, Hi-Fi
Saturday December 8: Meredith Music Festival (sold out)