Best Norwegian punk group ever. Artists behind FC St.Pauli's
team song "I got erection".
The original Turbonegro lineup formed around christmas 1988 in
Oslo, Norway consisting of Thomas Seltzer on bass, Vegard Heskestad, Pål Bøttger
Kjærnes and Rune Grønn on guitars, Pål Erik Carlin on vocals and a guy named
TK on the drums.
Thomas and Vegard had formerly shared times in a band called
De Dype - a noisy and subversive ensemble equipped with a certain amount of
Butthole Surfers inspiration and a disturbing attitude that was basically
meant to piss people off. Apparently early Turbonegro continued their conceptional
An explanation for the band's controversial name - once
offered by Thomas - states:
"A Turbonegro is a large, well equipped, armed black male, in a fast
car, out for VENGEANCE. We are his prophets.".
First rehearsals were made during the winter of 1988/89 being
followed by their first ever gig at Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen, Denmark in
late march and their Oslo stage debut in april 1989 . In the subsequent weeks
they began recording songs for their debut single Route Zero and the Turboloid
12" both to be released on Straitjacke - a 'free' label that had been
called into being by Thomas Seltzer back in 1983. The early pre-deathpunk Turbonegro
sound featured here offers thick and heavy distorted rock.
In September 1990 Turbonegro set up for a three-week tour in
the United States that eventually broke the band. Rune had been beaten up in a
quarrel with some crackheads in front of a hotel in Minneapolis - just a few
hours after their arrival in the US - and was forced to spend the rest of the
tour in hospital. Further incidents include a roadie becoming involved in a murder
at a party in Sacramento attended by the Turbo boys and Vegard hanging out with
a stripper who was revealed to be the daughter of beat poet Jack Kerouac
(?!? - hmm, not to sure about this). However, the first Turbonegro line-up soon
disbanded after being back in Oslo.
In the winter of 1990/91 Thomas Seltzer (now on drums) reformed Turbonegro
with Pål and Rune. Norwegian punk veteran Harald Fossberg who had acquired fame
in the late 70's with Norwegian
punk pioneers Hærverk was recruited as the
new singer and in the subsequent months Bengt 'Bingo' Calmeyer joined them on
Bengt & Thomas had already teamed up in their early teens
in Akutt Innleggelse, a band that amazingly had tracks released on Pushead's
'Cleanse the Bacteria' LP and Mykel Board's 'World Class Punk' compilation
tape. In 1983 Thomas had started the label Straitjacket Records to release Akutt
Innleggelse's first & only 7". Throughout the following years
Straitjacket put out a couple of further singles by various Oslo bands as well
as the debut of Turbonegro of course.
In the summer of 1991 the reformed lineup released the Vaya
Con Satan 7" in the US being followed in early 1992 by their debut
album Hot Cars And Spent Contraceptives on up-coming local label Big Ball
Records. Both the single and the CD give an early introduction to the Deathpunk
sound - Turbo's self acclaimed very own genre. Actually the musical pre-settings
are already anticipating later 'Ass Cobra' era - dark death driven punk rock
with occasional excursions into hardcore and metal as well as a certain tendency
to disruptive and sarcastic lyrics.
In winter 1994/95 Turbonegro had run through a brief episode
of making up with afro wigs and painted faces - something that refers to the 'Al
Jolson schtick' - which actually caused a couple of bizarre situations. Happy
Tom remembers: "So there we were backstage with our black faces and wigs
and little hats, smoking pot with our all-time heroes the Bad Brains, and
the absurdity just didn't cross our minds. I mean, those guys didn't mention it,
they were probably just embarrassed on our behalf."
The afro joke was dropped in may '95 at a gig in Oslo where
the Turbo boys were entirely dressing up in sharp bulging denim complete with
smart moustaches: "We feel that denim out-rocks leather at all levels.
Leather is for empty, little people. Denim is for us big guys! And the kids LOVE
it!" - as Happy Tom remarks on the superiority of the dark blue denim
The improved & sexier image demanded a new sound as well
!! Then recording engineer Chris Calmeyer states: "Even though we were in
many respects happy with 'Never Is Forever', also musically, the band never
sounded that way live. So, very early in the recording of the string of singles
that forms 'Ass Cobra', we decided to make things more raw, trying to convey
the power of the live performance, if not the sound." First fruits of the
current recording sessions showed up on the fabulous Denim Demon and Bad Mongo
singles released in spring '95.
In the summer of 1995 Turbonegro left europe again for their
second tour in the USA entitled 'NAMBLIN in the 90'ies' that included eleven
shows with talented luminaries such as Candy Snatchers, Ed Hall, The
Gynecologists, Plainfield and even Pig Champion of Poison Idea who joined
in on a couple of songs in Eugene, Oregon. Happy-Tom comprises: "At
least we didn't get the shit kicked out of us like we did the last time we were
in the USA".
In the fall of '95 Bingo finally decided to quit because he
didn't like the direction Turbo was developing to musically - "less
Slayer, more rock'n'roll". Pål was fed up with playing and wanted to
travel. Thomas at the same time was suffering from some stress injury to his
arms after the US tour - thus agreements were made to put the band on ice for a
The departure of Pål and Bingo finally put Thomas back in the
original position on bass guitar. Therefore former Angst
Hornslien became the new drummer and thee amazing 21 year old guitar Wunderkind
Knut Schreiner - soon to be introduced as 'Euroboy
' - stepped in as the new
lead guitarist. Knut had been playing before with Thomas in The Vikings
furthermore fronting his own sensational combo Kåre & The Cavemen. In the
summer of '96 Pål returned from Thailand and opened his famous 'Pamparius
pizza parlor in Kolbotn outside of Oslo. A few time later he rejoined for an
updated engagement as keyboard player and 'dancer
' which in fact allowed him
more opportunities for getting drunk at gigs
The release of the incredibly famous Ass Cobra album in spring
1996 and the subsequent highly successful European promo tour in September (with
8 dates in Germany plus one each in Groningen/NL, Copenhagen/DK & Prague/Czechia)
finally got Turbonegro the indeed long deserved resonance. The apparently absurd
idea of putting demonized Village People looks and a notorious Tom Of Finland
fixation into punk rock context equally irritated and fascinated - and simultaneously
set middle-European underground into a feverish turbo-euphoria. Punk rock lovers
and reviewers unanimously agreed on the simple fact that this must be one
of the best punk rock records of the nineties - if not ever !!!
In December/January Turbonegro continued spreading the deathpunk
seeds on a tour with further 14 dates in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and
Denmark. The insignia of their stage performance - the bulging denim, Hanky's
routine to stick a lit roman candle into his ass, Happy-Tom's sailor hat,
Euroboy's lissom and sultry guitar choreography & Hanky's attempts in
addressing the audience in their broken native tongue - sort of became the turbo
trademark for the upcoming boom.
In spring 1997 Turbonegro hit European roads again - this time
with new candidate Christer Engen (aka Chris Summers, ex-Big Bang) treatin' the
drums. Hanky's remarkable results in crossing Alice Cooperish makeup styles
with mansonesque frenzied looks and the excessive use of lipstick & rouge
added a good portion of bizarre decadency to their stage performance. Musicwise
- as later will be prooved on Apocalypse Dudes - it became obvious that
they had meanwhile made a move into mid-70's punk territory - in the spirit of proto
punk pioneers á la The Dictators, The Ramones or late Iggy & The
Stooges - plus traces of New York Dolls' glam travesty thrown in (besides, they
used to start shows with a cover of a modified Grand Funk tune ...'We are a
The subsequent 'Summer Of Head' US tour in July broke
relevant ground for their transatlantic prominence. Whilst San Francisco -
capitol of notorious P.C. excitement - had welcomed the presence of Turbo's
blazing rock'n'roll circus with an absurd boycott by accusing them of being 'fascists,
racists, and homophobics", in the end Happy Tom strikes the
balance: "We sold one hell of a lot more t-shirts playing for black
shipyard workers in Norfolk, Virginia than we did in Berkeley".
Further indications of approaching rock stardom revealed
with their appearance at the international PopKomm music fair held in Cologne,
Germany. During their performance - where a gone-wild crowd destroyed a TV
camera - Hanky pointed out an air-guitar ecstatic Jello Biafra meanwhile
Happy Tom was introducing him to the audience as the 'Emperor Of Juggling' -
another punk celebrity nominated due to their current 'War Against
Motherfucking Juggling' campaign.
In the autumn of '97 recordings for the new album Apocalypse
took place at Endless Sound studios, Oslo with new producer Pål Klaastad
- and was after some delays finally released in march 1998 on Boomba! - and
furthermore on Virgin
in Norway exclusively. Euroboy's rather melodic and more
versatile guitar playing apparently contributed a lot to their remarkable change
in sound - 'a new resurgence of 70's influenced glam'n'roll' as the Boomba
announcement put it. No doubt their most successful record ever with great
bombastic hymns like 'Good Head
', 'Selfdestructo Bust
' and 'Get It On
to name just a few.
The subsequent sold-out tour in april / may 1998 was a huge
success - 24 shows in total, 13 out of it in Germany, 2 in Sweden, 3 in the
Netherlands and one each in Copenhagen, London, Paris, Vienna plus Belgium and
Switzerland being followed by a bunch of appearances at various open-airs in
the summer - amongst them the renowned Roskilde-Festival in Denmark and the
Cologne' Bizarre-Festival in Germany.
In November they set up for the second part of their 'Darkness
Forever' tour with further 16 dates in Germany, Belgium, France and Spain with
then sensational support act Nashville Pussy, who had just released their 'Let
Them Eat Pussy' debut LP on AmRep. Hanky's occasional 'mental indisposition'
obviously became a stronger problem during the tour - he had already been
replaced on a gig in Sweden earlier that year by Turbonegro's very first singer
Pål Erik and furthermore refused to participate in Turbonegro's trip to their
SXSW showcase in Austin, TX in April - so finally when they were back on their
way from Strasbourg, France to Munich, Germany "Turbonegro
broke up in the waiting room of a psychiatric emergency ward in Milan, Italy"
(Happy-Tom). The remaining 5 shows in Germany got cancelled and a few days later
Turbonegro officially proclaimed their definite split. Nevertheless a last
farewell show took place at Mars in Oslo on December 18th - supported by
Sweden's Backyard Babies. Last ever song performed on stage has been the final
encore 'I Am In Love With The Destructive Girls' - so "Yeah-Yeah! Yeah-Yeah!"
were about the last words uttered.
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