God only knows if Turbonegro percussionist Pal Pot Pamparius is for real.
One minute he's pondering Norway's natural resources: "Norway is very much like Canada. There are lots of fir trees, palm trees, oak trees, lots of water and trouts. And, yeah, trouts."
Then he ego-flaunts: "It hurts other people when I'm always right. But I am."
Next thing I know he's recounting how his mother was committed to a mental hospital a year back because she detests rock music and he hasn't spoken to his father in four years.
He stops there. I stop there. It's a proverbial stare-down.
Musicians have a tendency to play cat-and-mouse with music journalists, batting us about before landing a final blow like, "What city are you from again?" or with the Jack White-perfected hang-up.
That hurts, man. Really hurts. A key indicator of interview bullshit is the single word "trout."
The occasion for this battle of wits is Turbonegro's triumphant return from the ails of their 1998 "breakup." You see, singer Hank von Helvete had a nasty habit of being a bit insane. Turbonegro's temporary end was rumored to have occurred in the lobby of an Italian mental hospital where Helvete eventually found his true calling to "spread Darkness to the people" with black face makeup and an intimidating top hat. Charming.
Back and definitely in black, these six Norwegian-dwelling, denim-clad manboys-Pamparius, Helvete, guitarist Euroboy, bassist Happy-Tom, guitarist Rune Rebellion and drummer Chris Summers-have returned to the microphone to record such mind-boggling musings as "Fuck the World," "Wipe It Till It Bleeds" and "Turbonegro Must Be Destroyed."
Generally speaking, their opus Scandinavian Leather is the lost masterpiece of Alice Cooper meets NOFX meets The Ramones-without so much as a hint of a joking smile. Helvete saunters around stage, yelping and crooning '70s-era punk-metal with the panache of an isolated townie who's been stuck in drifts of snow with an AM radio for far too long.
Turbonegro even has a mighty battlefield of friends in Hollywood these days. Queens of the Stone Age brought the Norwegians on tour with them in March and April, Dave Grohl and the stars of Jackass champion the band at every turn and ex-Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra claims that Turbonegro's 1999 album Apocalypse Dudes "is possibly the most important European record ever."
Thems is fightin' words.
"Everything on the tour has been sold out," says Pamparius in a near-perfect American accent during a rare, serious moment. "We played Montreal and it was probably one of the five best shows we've ever played. It was the first time I've ever seen crowd-walking, which was quite a phenomenon-instead of crowd-surfing people were walking on each other's heads."
Such inspired antics may explain why every city's fire marshal seems so interested in Turbonegro. Since the band's inception in the early '90s, Helvete has consistently demonstrated his onstage persona with The Assrocket. After club fire incidents in Minnesota, Chicago and, most devastatingly, Rhode Island, Pamparius senses that Americans are a wee-bit sensitive about fire-meets-ass technology.
"Hank's been shoving this bottle rocket up his ass and lighting it for 10 years now, and we did it in New Orleans when we were on tour with Queens of the Stone Age," he says. "We never thought about this anti-pyro thing. Hank just fired it up and the promoter was just crying angry tears. So no ass rockets for America.
"It could be a good thing for Hank's ass, though. There's burn marks by now." ©
Turbonegro performs at 'Canes, 8 p.m. on Oct. 2. $14. 858-488-1780.