Music: The Rocky Horror Music Show

Danish crew HorrorPops mix Psychobilly, Punk, dancers, tattoos and lots of sass and ambition

Mar 15, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Octavio Arazala

How's our hair?: HorrorPops like to keep it simple.

Danish guitarist Kim Nekroman is used to extremes, but the East Coast-to-South routing of the latest HorrorPops tour has subjected the band to the full range of the American climate.

"We're sitting here in the hot, hot Texas weather," says Nekroman from the southern end of HorrorPops' current circuit. "We started all the way over east, so we get cold, we get hot, we get humid, we get all kinds of crazy weather."

Coming from Nekroman, this is more observation than complaint; crazy and the tattooed Dane go together like pancakes and syrup. In fact, the very existence of HorrorPops is evidence of Nekroman's mad musical nature.

Ten years ago, Nekroman was playing a German festival with his Punkabilly band, The Nekromantix, when he struck up a conversation with Patricia Day, the frontwoman of openers Peanut Pump Gun. The pair discovered they had a lot of musical likes in common and eventually reached the conclusion that it might be fun to start a band together outside of the context of either of their primary gigs. Thus was born two new relationships: Day and Nekroman joined forces as bandmates in HorrorPops and ultimately sanctified their professional union by making it personal and becoming husband and wife.

"We talked about how cool it would be to start a band where there were no limits or no labels," says Nekroman. "If you play Psychobilly, fans expect you to play Psychobilly and, if you play Punk Rock, you can't play nothing else but Punk Rock.

We like '80s music, we like some Metal, we like everything from Dolly Parton to Motörhead. We like basically everything, and we want to put that into our own music."

One of the first parameters established for the new HorrorPops aggregation was Day's fascinating suggestion that she and stand-up bassist Nekroman (famous for the coffin-shaped upright he mauls in the Nekromantix) should move outside of their comfort zones and play each other's instruments in the new band. As they each learned the new methodology of their unfamiliar instruments, the dynamic of how they approached songwriting and performance was dramatically altered.

"The main inspiration for that was to have a total new approach to writing music and it worked," says Nekromantix. "Instead of doing something that would end up being another kind of Nekromantix with somebody else singing or it's going to be another version of blah blah blah, we just tried to challenge ourselves and have a different view in order to write new music. I like playing guitar but I also love playing bass, and when I get fed up with one thing, then it's time for me to get out with the other band, so it's the perfect thing for me."

HorrorPops started as a trio (along with Strawberry Slaughterhouse drummer Niedermeier) and played a handful of gigs before recognizing the need for something slightly more engaging in their stage presentation. That's when they hit on the idea of employing dancers.

"We played two or three shows as a trio, and we thought, 'We need something for people to look at,' " says Nekroman. "Mainly because we weren't feeling that comfortable on our instruments yet so we needed something to distract. When I go to a show, I want something for the eye and the ear. That's how we came up with the idea of having dancers, not the typical go-go, stripper-type dancers but someone doing the same crazy shit we would do if we didn't have an instrument in our hands."

Not long after, the band added a second guitarist, Caz the Clash, also a veteran of Strawberry Slaughterhouse, and this lineup recorded the HorrorPops 2004 debut, Hell Yeah!. But before the record was released, Caz departed the band and was replaced by Karsten, who had also left before they got started on their follow-up album.

For the vacant guitar slot, Nekroman called Geoff Kresge who had just left his post as bassist for Tiger Army. Kresge accepted Nekroman's offer to join HorrorPops before finding out that they needed a guitarist, not a bassist, but Kresge had some guitar playing on his résumé and eased into his new role without a hitch.

"Geoff's been a good friend of the band for years," says Nekroman. "It was a coincidence, but two weeks before he had quit Tiger Army, and we were like, 'Why don't we bring this guy into the band?' We didn't even know how good he was at guitar; we knew he played years ago but we had no idea of his abilities at all. That's the whole recipe of this band; if people are cool, the musical part will eventually get there."

The latest HorrorPops release, last year's blistering Bring It On!, shows the band's progression as they've mastered not only their new instruments, but also their roles in the songwriting process. Day is clearly the focus of HorrorPops; her voice has been likened to everyone from Siouxsie Sioux to Debbie Harry, and she has brought the same manic energy to her bass performance that her husband provides for the Nekromantix. At the same time, Nekroman takes a step back in his role as guitarist, allowing Day to fully realize her position as the band's personality.

After the current HorrorPops cycle, the band will take a short break before heading out again this summer. Nekroman will fit in time to record a new Nekromantix album coupled with a quick circuit, and then this winter he's back in the studio with HorrorPops for work on an album that should come out next year. It seems like a relentless pace from the outside, but Nekroman's perspective is grounded in pragmatic reality.

"It's only music, it's not that complicated," says Nekroman. "People tend to go, 'Oh, this guy is so good.' He might be, but it's the whole band. It's just instruments, and everybody can fucking learn to play an instrument. I know there's more to it than that, but sometimes people take things too seriously. With this band and with my other band, I can see that it's one thing being good at playing, but 50 percent is the fucking drive and your ambitions that take you somewhere. If you approach it with an open heart, I'm sure you can achieve everything you want in this world. That's our motto."

HORRORPOPS play Top Cat's on Sunday with The Tossers and The Vladimirs.