Blood Lust: An interview with Uncle Acid
TBR: Uncle Acid, tell the people a bit about the history of the band, if you would.
Uncle Acid: It’s a long boring story, but basically the band started in Cambridge in a pub that Syd Barrett used to drink in called THE ANCHOR. I met a couple of musicians in there by chance, which is quite surprising because there aren’t really any musicians in Cambridge. It’s really just a science town. The whole thing was put together because I had some songs and I wanted to record them. I didn’t think anyone would be that interested in hearing them, but we made a MySpace thing and just vomited all the songs onto that. Amazingly people really liked it and everything has just kind of rolled on from there.
TBR: I believe that it’s Red on the drums, Kat on bass and Uncle Acid on vocals, guitar and keyboards, correct? Is this the band’s original lineup?
Uncle Acid: Yeah, but this will be changing for various reasons. We were really just a studio band at first. That was the agreement. Then a bit later on we decided to play some live shows which turned out really, really badly. It just sounded terrible as a three piece. In the studio it’s different because I can add the rhythm guitar and the keyboards, and sing harmonies but of course I cant do all these things at once in a live situation. We live in a pretty remote place and there aren’t many musicians round here to play with us so we just stopped playing gigs and went back to rehearsing new songs. It’s different now though because people actually want to see us live, so its easier to focus on getting it right. Before, people around here wouldn’t even tolerate being in the same room as us.
Uncle Acid: I wouldn’t say it’s a concern although it was never really meant to get this big. Or rather, we didn’t expect it to get this big, but it’s very nice that so many people enjoy the music. As long as they are realistic with their expectations then it doesn’t bother me. In terms of mystery, it’s probably more down to the fact that I have absolutely zero interest in giving out information unless it’s 100% necessary or relevant to the music. I just thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if you tried to avoid all of that PR stuff and relied on just the music and word of mouth.
TBR: Clearly, people have a positive reaction to the music as a whole but for my tastes, the vocals are definitely a key ingredient. In fact, they are so sweet that it has led to some speculation, whispered in hushed tones, that Uncle Acid may have made some sort of deal with Old Nick. Can you speak to or dispel these rumors or are they true?
Uncle Acid: I don’t know about that… feels more like a curse than anything! I’m limited in what I can do but sometimes you can work that to your advantage. Some people will have a problem with the vocals because it sounds weird or different but it doesn’t bother me, I just get on with it. I can’t ‘oversing’ anything so therefor the melodies have to be written in a simpler way. It’s probably more of a 60’s angle when singers didn’t have to be vocal gods, they could just get away with singing great melodies.
TBR: Vol. 1 was self-released as I understand it. I understand that Uncle Acid gets his kicks from torturing and screams… How long will the people have to wait for a re-press? Is that in the cards as yet?
Uncle Acid: Vol. 1 was laid to rest last year and I don’t think it’ll come back. It served its purpose at the time which was really just as an introduction to our music so theres not really much point in bringing it back. I don’t really like to re visit things. I’d prefer to be writing new stuff rather than having to dig up corpses from the past.
TBR: Blood Lust was released first on Killer Candy Records. What can you tell us about these folks? As I recall, it was catalogue number KCR02. Do you know anything about their first release?
Uncle Acid: Well it’s actually just something we set up. I use the term ‘set up’ very loosely. It was our attempt at trying to look more professional. The first release was Vol 1. Apart from the vinyl on Rise Above, everything we’ve done has been self released and self funded. We’re a DIY operation!
There was plans to put out other peoples music on Killer Candy and even some weird instrumental stuff but theres just no time or money for all that at the minute. Eventually I’d like to do some mellotron library music or something like that. I’m not sure that would interest anyone but myself.
TBR: Later, it was released by Rise Above Records. How did this come about?
Uncle Acid: Lee Dorrian liked what he heard and it just so happened we needed someone to put our music onto vinyl, so it was perfect. At the time there was a bit of interest in the band but no real buzz going on which was fine by us, so we just went with as many copies of the vinyl as we thought we could sell. People now keep saying “Why didn’t you press 1000 or 2000 copies?” Well, there just wasn’t anywhere near that level of demand back when we arranged it all. Some people who live in the internet computers don’t believe that and think it’s some kind of marketing plan we have. According to them we arrived fully formed in September 2011 and straight away had 5,000 fans willing to buy vinyl but we only pressed 350 copies because we wanted to be a ‘kvlt’ band, whatever the fucking hell that means.
Really, we were just desperate to get our stuff onto vinyl so 350 copies was a great deal for us. We hadn’t even sold that many CD’s in two years! I thought we’d be lucky to sell 250 LP’s if I’m honest! Of course it ended up taking about four months for the thing to be manufactured and released by which time the CD started getting rave reviews and more and more people started checking us out. Its funny because all these things that bands use nowadays to cultivate interest and hype like twitter, photographs, over the top press releases…we did none of that, we just relied on the music. We just put the songs out there and a lot of people like them. A lot more people than we ever expected!
TBR: As with most of the vinyl pressings on Rise Above, it sold out almost immediately. Are you aware of any plans to re-press it?
Uncle Acid: I haven’t really spoken to anyone about it. I have no idea what the plans are right now, but I’m pretty sure they’ll get round to it next year or something. As I mentioned, it kind of took everyone by surprise that the album took off the way it did. The CD’s are now available on a permanent basis so hopefully the vinyl will come out again soon too.
TBR: What can you tell us about the recording sessions for Blood Lust?
Uncle Acid: Cold… damp… dark. Everything was breaking and blowing up. It was recorded during winter and there were a few stoppages due to bad weather and huge technical problems. About six songs got scrapped because I completely lost focus. Some really good ones too, but things obviously turned out for the best. The sad thing is, we cant use those old songs because the themes wouldn’t fit onto any other album but Blood Lust. So the album got unintentionally trimmed down and lost a lot of the crap which wasn’t needed.
In terms of recording, I like everything to be grainy and flithy sounding, so you have to use tape machines for that. You don’t need an over the top, glossy production for this kind of music. We just send everything into the red and overload all the equipment until theres smoke pouring out. With tape you can then send the signal into these new computers that they have now. I’m sure you’ve seen them, the computers with the buttons. Once the sound gets into there you can do all sorts of amazing things with it. The other important part of the sound is small, cranked up valve amps. Everyone seems to be using these ridiculous 500w stacks these days. I like to use a little 30w Fender tweed amp that’s all rusted and has a weird smell to it. I’ll sometimes rape that with a basic audio fuzz pedal and it sounds like a crackling, blown out speaker. You mix a bit of that into every song and it sounds great.
TBR: Pray tell, what sorts of other things go on out at “The Barn”, Uncle Acid?
Uncle Acid: Not a lot because we cant use it anymore! It wasn’t really set up for bands anyway. It was pretty dangerous. Sometimes you’d have water leaking in on valve amps, exposed electricity cables and electric heaters on top of hay stacks and all that kind of thing, but it was free so you cant complain.
TBR: There is a very alluring sort of sound to Blood Lust – songs like “I’ll Cut You Down” have passionate – almost romantic sort of feel.
Uncle Acid: Funny you should say that, I have often thought of “I’ll Cut You Down” as being like a love ballad. It’s about a witchfinder type character who is supposed to be doing God’s work. He travels around from city to city collecting money and torturing ‘witches’, which is explained a bit further in the next song, “Death’s Door”. See, the whole album is supposed to be like a concept. You’re flicking through the channels and then you come across this obscure, 60’s horror film. That all happens at the fade in of the album, then you’re right into the movie with the first track. All the songs are just scenes from the imaginary movie I had in my mind. I suppose it’s like how a lot of people discover us….flicking through the youtube crap and then they stumble onto us.
But anyway, this witchfinder guy is twisting everything to make it seem as if he’s doing Gods work and all that, but really he’s just getting off on the whole torture thing. He’s a maniac sadist just like Matthew Hopkins. Only this guy is paid in gold AND drugs so his mind is even more fucked! It’s a great plot. One day I’ll buy an old camera, pay some actors and make the film. And it will be terrible.
TBR: What sorts of things occupy the band’s time when you’re not rocking out with the freaks?
Uncle Acid: I tend to keep away from everything. I sit in old, dark pubs and drink black ale by the fire. Theres no better way to unwind and gain knowledge than to sit in a local pub. No music, no sports, no TV’s, just a load of people drinking ale and passing the time. It’s an expensive hobby though. Our government would rather us sit at home, frightened and alone, drinking cheap supermarket beer while they feed us garbage through the television machines.
TBR: I assume that there may be a thing for old horror flicks. Care to share a few all-time favourites?
Uncle Acid: The 60’s Hammer stuff is obviously great, although not all of it of course. Things like Kiss Of The Vampire and Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde have a classy gothic feel which I particularly like. Even the rubbish they put out in the 70’s like Dracula AD 72 is watchable because of the way it was filmed and the overall atmosphere. I just like old films in general. I really cant watch new movies. Everything is too fast and choppy and the colours are too vibrant. It’s got worse since they brought in high definition. My brain can’t handle it.
I’m very big into Film Noir at the minute. It’s all just black and white and easy on the eye, and the way they paced things back in the 40’s and 50’s was great. They took their fucking time to tell a story. I like the atmosphere in those films especially. Foggy streets, sleazy bars, slick pavements and the smell of death and betrayal. It’s dark and trashy, like the best horror. One of my favourites is ‘Laura’ starring a young Vincent Price. Anything with Humphrey Bogart is always worth watching too of course. ‘In A Lonely Place’ is a particular bleak favourite that everyone should see.
Actually, I’d eventually love to make some kind of weird, jazzy doom, film noir type album one day. It would be like nightmare lounge music with the worlds worst host.
TBR: Before parting ways, do you have any words for the people, Uncle Acid?
Uncle Acid: The line’s cutting out… Thank you all! Hail Hail!