The release of their new compilation CD “Real Fucking Make-Up” (you can find a detailed review on this website) was the perfect occasion for us to interview the TRASHCAN DARLINGS again (last time was in 2001!) While so many bands have so little to say, it’s always a pleasure to read interviews with Strange? Gentle (vocals) and Chris Damien Doll (guitar), here is the proof…
So tell us a bit about your new CD, when did you get the idea of releasing a compilation CD with rare tracks? Who made the cover?
Gentle: I think the whole thing was Chris’ and Frankie’s idea. Everyone sort of contributed to the cover I guess. We all collected some old pictures, Chris wrote the liner notes and one of Chris’ associates was responsible for the drawing. When you look at our history we’ve always liked to keep as much as possible in the family. Friends or members have taken the photos and the band has participated in both producing, mixing and mastering of our songs throughout the years.
Doll: I believe Mark Bell is the name you’re looking for in regards to the cover, Laurent. An English artist I met through the guy who does the great American fanzine Sonic Ruin. Sonic Ruin did a whole issue on our Getting Away With Murder album and had Mark draw me and Strange? for the frontcover. We all thought it looked great and I asked him to draw the cover of the CD, which he did. I think it turned out fantastic. His company is called Swordfish Graphics and he does a lot of different work.
I’ve had the idea of collecting all our 7” and EPs on one CD since forever. It seemed kind of pointless to make re-prints of 4-track EPs and 2-track singles when we could put it all on one CD, as well as never-before-heard-songs, and make a really cool compilation of it. Frankie and Danny (who was in the band at the time) thought it was brilliant. Stange? and Andy were slower to embrace the idea, but eventually everyone was on the same page and now we’re all very happy with the way the album has turned out.
Why no cover songs on this CD?
Gentle: I think that both space and taxes made it impossible. It is a shame though. Some of them are quite good. I am sure Trashcan Darlings have played close to 50 cover tunes over the years and only a handful made it into the studio.
Doll: Real Fucking Make-Up! the way it is now, is close to an hour in running time. We have 8 cover tunes, which have only been released on 7” and EPs in the past, and it just wouldn’t be enough space to include them all on the same CD. Omitting our own compositions to include cover versions was never an option and a double CD wasn’t an option either. I bet people can, and will, download them for free from some internet piracy site anyway.
Gentle: One day it could be cool to release an album with cover versions. Maybe reveal some of the stuff that has inspired us over the years, but for the time being we like to concentrate on our own stuff. Maybe in 10 years or something.
Speaking about covers, there was a HOLLYWOOD BRATS one (“Tumble With Me”) on your first EP, was it a kind of tribute to your fellow countryman Casino Steel?
Gentle: That is one of the good ones right there and yes it was a tribute to Cass and to his first group the Hollywood Brats which we all enjoy. Cass has recently done a great album with his new group The Last R´N´R Band and he still writes great tunes. As for the actual recording it was an honour to have him and the Hollywood Brats’ guitar player Brady in the studio with us. It remains one of my favourite recordings and moments of our career.
Doll: Tumble With Me was the last track on the Holiday In My Head EP, which was our 4th release and 2nd EP. Just thought I’d correct that before our fans send death-threats to your site!
Honestly I don’t think I ever thought about it as a “tribute” to anyone at the time. Both me and Strange? are huge fans of Hollywood Brats, so to be in the studio with 2 of the original members, recording one of their songs, was very cool. We knew Cass from before as we have mutual friends, but to have him there as the Hollywood Brats’ piano player was something very special. How many bands get to do something like that so early in their careers? Record a cover of one of your favourite bands, who also happen to be huge underground cult icons, and have 2 original members of the band come play with you almost 30 years later? It felt totally unreal, but very cool.
With that being said, we always pick covers like that. Songs we think people should hear, cause they mean something to us, rather than the standard trad.’s a lot of band do for “sing-along-effect. We get the sing along effect from our own songs instead.
I discovered a new side of your music with the ballad “Intergalactic Silence” which was previously unreleased. Why didn’t you write more ballads for the previous releases?… And since we’re talking about it, which are some of your favourite rock ballads ever?
Gentle: I do not think you ever decide how a song is going to turn out once you write it. This particular song sounded best in this tempo. Both Holiday In My Head and Far From Me was written on acoustic guitars as ´slow songs,’ and first came to their right once we speeded them up. Actually most of our songs are written that way, since we usually start off with the vocal melodies. However I don’t care too much for what you refer to as “ballads,” but it is not just punk or hard rock that matters to me either. I love blues, folk and loads of other stuff, but the fast stuff is cool. Makes your heart move a little faster.
Doll: We tend to call these type of songs “slow songs” instead of ballads. Probably because we started out at a time when the 80’s metal bands had taken the concept of a ballad from being a pure and honest way to write a song and made it into formula based cheesy radio bullshit, to ensure that they sold that extra million records to their female fans. Our slow songs also tend to stray away from the “power ballad formula” as we usually don’t have verses based on acoustic guitar or piano and then go balls out on guitars and drums for the chorus with Strange? screaming how much he loves some slut over it HAHAHA.
We did write more slow songs for previous releases! Fuck, isn’t one of your favourite tracks Angel Lost from the Gore Gore Boys & Splatter Pussies EP from 2000? That was our first slow song. Call-Girl from Episode 1: The Lipstick Menace was another. So, there has been a few, but maybe Intergalactic Silence is a more obvious ballad. I haven’t thought too much about that.
Both me and Strange? have oodles of slow songs lying around and the only reason not more of them have been recorded is that we have other faster songs that usually go over better in the size venues we play on tour. That’s why Intergalactic Silence was dropped in favour of Far From Me for the Lipstick Menace album. We already had Call-Girl on that one which was a more “rocking” tune so to speak. I tend to like ballads, but I have a very ambivalent relationship to the 80’s power ballads. Some of them I really like, most of them I really hate, but the way that whole scene ended still leaves a bad taste in my mouth a lot when I think of power ballads. It was one of the ultimate sell-out things of the 80’s and one of the main ways Glam and Classic rock itself paved the way for Grunge to come wipe it out. Sad when you liked Glam and hated Grunge, but by then the “glam” scene had turned into something I couldn’t identify with anymore anyway and the wipe out created a vibrant underground glam scene that was a lot more exciting at that time. I can’t really list any favourite ballads, Jacobites + Dave Kusworth and Nikki Sudden’s solo albums usually do more for me than the more typical ballads.
You describe your music as Glamour Punk, what other bands from the past or present would you put in the same category?
Gentle: I think the Trashcan Darlings’ sound is very characteristic and I don’t think we sound like any other band, but like everyone else we take inspirations, and we obviously listen more to hard rock or punk than R&B or whatever. It is funny ‘cause we often draw inspiration from bands or songs that you probably would not compare us too. I listen to music most of the day,… everyday, so I mean, of course I find inspiration. I cannot think of any names that would be true and answer your question. There are many great bands out there but only we sound like Trashcan Darlings.
Doll: Glamour Punk, as we see it, is more a reflection of our image and attitude than a musical statement. The Glamour is obviously the visual aspect of the band, while Punk shines through in the attitude and lyrics. Musically I would say we are an energic rock’n’roll band with elements of punk, metal, garage, horror movies, pop, blues, hard rock, porno, drinks, science fiction, substance abuse and so on and so on.
A lot of people seem to think Glamour Punk is a sub-genera of punk, and for some bands maybe it is, but to us it was never like that. It’s actually closer to a sub genera of glam in my opinion, but we have a lot of punk fans as well and we appreciate that, but I think that has more to do with our attitude and the energy in our music than our musical expression.
So other bands in our category would be other bands who draw inspirations from a vast selection of musical directions, has a dirty attitude and a glamourous look. At the moment I can only come up with New York Dolls, Hollywood Brats and Hanoi Rocks, but I am sure there are others. None of those bands sound anything like us though.
Gentle: There are times you hear a song, read a book or see a movie and think, Ey, I wish we could do something like that with the Trashcan Darlings, and lots of time we have actually done it too. The up-right bass on the Murder album and the industrial outro on Dehumanizer on the Lipstick album were ideas that developed into Trashcan Darlings music and arranged to sound the way we like it.
How do you see the evolution of the band from the beginning to now? What are the most important musical changes or improvements since your first releases?
Gentle: I would say experience. The lads are obviously better musicians after almost 15 years. With that said, I really enjoy some of the early stuff. Young bands have an energy and a hunger that can make them get away with almost anything. It is called rock’n’roll, I think. As a recording artist there will always be times when you look back on what you have done so far and wish you had done this or that differently, but I feel much of the early stuff has stood the test of time, which is another reason for releasing this new album.
Doll: I agree. There aren’t many big musical changes. Both Strange? and I had the musical direction pretty much worked out before we even met the first rhythm section. It’s always been about good vocal melodies, loud guitars and kick ass beats. However, we put more in there now. In the beginning the bass and both guitars would just strum out the chords as a base for the vocal melody. Now those 3 instruments can play 3 completely different things over the same chords and the result is that they compliment the vocal melody even more + leave a lot of cool details in the background for people to discover later. We are also more adventurous with arranging our songs, even if we’ve always been good at that. The only difference I can see is that we allow a few more hard rock influences today than we did early on, but we did that in the past too with Electro Shock Rock from the first EP and on from there, so it’s not really a big difference there either.
I would say all in all that we have achieved what all artists should strive for: We have our very own easily identifiable sound and we have developed within our own style of music over the years, to make it more interesting to ourselves and our fans without wearing the “trend troll” cap even once. Naturally we’re proud of that.
You had different drummers and bass players in the band. Is there a kind of rhythm section curse in the TRASHCAN DARLINGS a bit like in Spinal Tap with their drummers?
Gentle: Most bands last 3 to 5 years. It is just natural that you reach a crossroads and want to try something else. The reason Chris and me are still doing it is probably cause we write most of the music. I see most of the past members on a weekly basis and we all get along fine. One day we might form a big band maybe. A Trashcan Darlings theatre.
Doll: I think our member changes show more how determined Strange? and I have been, rather than to show how “little determined” the ex members have been. Some of them obviously never had what it took to be a Trashcan Darling, but were invited to join anyway as we needed members to play our songs, but most of them were exactly right at the time, but just grew out of spending all their free time at rehearsals, in studios and on tour for no money at all and they had to be let go. I can understand that, it’s tough for us too, but I guess being a songwriter gives you that extra drive.
I remember when we were talking about England, you told me that you were working with a manager or something, are you still?
Doll: No, we fired our manager a few months ago. Like so many others in this business he was all talk and no action. We kept him on for a year, but when the lack of results caused us to put pressure on him in a few meetings it became obvious that this guy just didn’t have what it takes at all. He left the music business entirely after we fired him, even if he did work with some “names” before and while he was working with us.
However we still wanna come to England and play. We’ve gotten tons of fan mails from there over the years, but we’ve never had a chance to play. We don’t have any booking connections there, but if anyone reads this, feel free to contact us, that goes for the rest of the world too! I get several mails from American fans every week asking when we’ll come. Some of them even offer to help with a few gigs in certain areas which is cool. There is nothing we’d like more than to do that, but we need a booker who can set us up with a full tour if it is to make sense. Hopefully some day.
Nowadays, most bands take care of everything themselves and the Internet really changed the relationship between the fan and the artists. Someone like Bowie says that it kinda killed the mystery, the magic… in a way. What’s your opinion on it?
Gentle: I believe that’s true. These days you can befriend your ´hero´ on Facebook or MySpace and the distance between band and listener is not like in the 70’s when Bowie had his heyday. But I really do not think it matters much. I am not in this business to be anybody’s hero or anything. I want people to hear, and hopefully get something good out of our music and that is about it, and for alternative groups like us I think it is much easier to reach out today, but the competition is much harder.
Doll: What Stange? said! The magic is gone a bit. You can log on online and see the set-list of your favourite band after the first night of the tour. Instead of sitting at home with the new record hoping they’ll play certain numbers when they finally come to play in our neck of the woods. However it’s important not to forget that in the 70’s and 80’s there weren’t that many records released compared to today. You were more in need of liking the “current trend” in those days and you also got all your information from music magz who only covered the bands they wanted to cover.
In other words, if you were into the current trend in those days it was great. Mystic and magical on a whole other level than today, but if you didn’t like the current trend you were pretty much fucked. Today’s kids still follow trends, but there are so many different generas and records being released in the underground and you can read interviews with these bands online and all that. So for me, who’s usually never into the current trends, and for Trashcan Darlings, who isn’t exactly the latest trend either, the internet has been very good.
The music industry is in an incredibly bad and weird situation with the record market collapsing and no one really know where it’s all going. Do you think that the CD will disappear anytime soon? Are we coming back to the early 50s or even before when playing as much as possible was the only way to live off your music?
Gentle: Yeah, I think the stage is the future of rock music. This kind of music wasn’t meant to be listened to while staring into your computer. I have met several musicians who no longer care to release albums on labels anymore. They print the CDs themselves and sell them at shows. Anyway, rock always sounds better on stage so I guess it had to turn out like that sooner or later. Shame for guys like me though, who love records.
Doll: I have no clue. I never download anything illegally as I think stealing from artists I like is not something I want to do. I do check out stuff on places like MySpace and YouTube though, and if I like something I will buy the original, but you do see all the record stores being closed down everywhere and you also notice that Nice Price is now cheaper than it was 20 years ago and it isn’t uncommon that CDs are sold at even cheaper prices either. This proves that you simply can’t charge that much for a CD now cause the market for it isn’t there anymore. Kids today don’t care about owning the originals like record collectors like me and Strange? do. They only listen to music on their iPods, so a CD collection is just there to collect dust. I do hope that the kids of the future will buy their iPod-music from places like iTunes instead of stealing it from us and other bands, but I guess you can never beat getting something for free, even if it’s stolen. I guess until governments start prosecuting people who do this, the industry and bands will slowly just fade away.
Making a living from playing live is a nice dream, but I don’t see how this is feasible. Everyone knows that small and medium sized bands barely make break-even on tours and gigs, and without selling records or any other means to push bands to the next level I just don’t see where bands will make enough money to make a living from playing live. At least not if they play their own original metarial. So I’m not sure how the situation will be for musicians in the future, but I am sure something needs to change.
Who is the biggest record collector in the band?
Gentle: Chris or me. I think maybe me.
Doll: Strange?. I don’t know who of us has the most music anymore, but when it comes to “collecting” stuff I am out of that game a long time ago. Strange? likes to say he’s out of that game too, but that’s just what he wants himself to believe. You should see his eyes when he’s standing there with some overpriced rare 7” in his hands. You know he’s gonna buy it and you know he’s gonna use the whole tour beating himself up about it whether he buys it or not HAHAHA. There are still a few bands I collect as well, but buying used vinyl is kinda a thing of the past for me. I buy a lot of music still, but it’s more new bands I discover or back catalogues from bands of the past and not so much “completist” stuff anymore.
You have toured in several European countries like Norway, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland and Finland. Any plan to play outside of Europe? Is the USA one of priorities in the future?
Gentle: We would love to play outside Europe. I really do not care what name someone has put on their country. I would prefer it if they were interested in our music though. I think Asia would be great. I have heard some good stories from there. At the time of writing we have just come home from our two first gigs in Sweden so our world grows smaller while we are talking. Great gigs too by the way.
Doll: We play where we are invited to play. At the moment we don’t have any priority counties outside of Norway. We’d love to play the US, but as mentioned before, a US tour requires that we get someone professional who’s willing to put the work in and organize a tour for us.
We’d also love to play more in the south of Europe. We get fan mails from countries like Spain and Italy all the time, but I guess it all depends on who we meet in the future.
How do you usually write songs in the band? Is everyone involved in the song writing?
Gentle: That changes a lot. Usually Chris or me comes with a song and opens for the band to add ideas. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to make the songs sound like we want them too, while other times we have an instant killer. A song like From Purity To Pain was brought forward and laid to rest time and time again, before we were satisfied with it.
Doll: Strange? usually writes his songs on an acoustic guitar at home and comes with chords, vocal melody and lyrics to rehearsal. Sometimes also riffs. I usually add a few riffs to his songs and arrange what’s left to arrange and that’s usually it. For my songs I bring in demos I have recorded at home with detailed drums programmed and everything. Once the band knows the songs the way they have been demoed, we start working on them. So far I think Frankie has contributed to two or three songs, and seem to be getting more and more into the songwriting, and Strange? to a few others, but it’s usually me who finish almost every Trashcan Darlings song.
How is it to be a band in Norway? Does the Government encourage culture and music a lot? Do you always get food/drinks/money and a place to sleep at shows there?
Gentle: I think being a band in Norway is rather simple ‘cause Norway is a rather simple country to live in and yes, the government encourages people to play music, even rock. Yet, it is the same as anywhere else. You have to find a rehearsal place for your group and places to play live. Recognition is often based on who you know, but that is the same everywhere I guess. On a less positive note you have the fact that this is a rather small country with long distances, so it is pretty expensive to get from city to city and you might not expect too many people to show up. At least not when you are playing alternative music.
Doll: I guess the government encourages music here. There are a few governmental funds where you can apply for cash and stuff, but we never got anything. We don’t play shows if we don’t get food, drinks, money and places to sleep. We’ve been doing this since 1995 and there is no way we’re gonna be searching for a place to sleep after we played a gig, whether the booker has heard of us or not. Some “luxury” you just need to demand.
While most of Northern Europe new bands tend to be on the metal side of glam, you guys still have a punk edge in your music. What do you think about this Northern sleaze/glam metal wave?
Gentle: I really have not listened much to Northern sleaze or glam since Backyard Babies. Scenes come and go and I am fine with that, but I think this kind of music had closer bonds to punk and for that matter blues earlier and I miss that in newer bands. Too little Steve Jones and too little Chuck Berry. The most important thing is that we enjoy what we do, not what we, or anyone else, choose to call it. Whether we do ballads or rockers, punk songs or flirt with harder stuff it’s all just Glamour Punk to us.
Doll: The Swedish sleaze metal scene! Took me a while to get into, but I must admit that I think a few of those bands are very good. There are also a few American sleaze metal bands that are very good. I like that stuff a lot and listen to a lot of the records. It’s been very long since I’ve been excited about a current trend, so this is all good for me.
Some of you have side projects, can you tell us a bit about them?
Gentle: We all play in different bands these days. I used to think that would be a bad idea, but now I think it is just healthy for the spirit. We like to play live and being in several bands opens the possibility to play more. I sing for a great group, Valentourettes, with a great bunch of guys and Chris, Frankie and me are even in another band together called the Strange Dolls.
Doll: Me and Andy are in a Norwegian-singing punk band called Ronny Pøbel. The band has gotten quite a bit of attention here and is in the media a lot. It’s the first band of 36 year old father of 5 and ADD patient, Ronny Pøbel, and it’s truly insane. But also very cool for Andy and myself who get to play a lot more together and also get to try out different styles of music. Frankie and Q. Ken are in Eddie Guz’, from the Carburetors, solo band; Eddie Guz & The Soldiers. So far I think they are still working on the songs and haven’t made any public appearances, but they are at least working on it.
Chris, are you still working in the porn shop? Any anecdote about working in such a place?
Doll: Yeah, I still do but don’t really have any funny stories for you. I mean, it’s a job like any other. Only bonus is that it’s easy to get time off for gigging and touring, the customers don’t mind me bringing a guitar and writing songs during my work hours and I get to bring the latest movies with all the best female actresses in the world home for free. …..Damn, that’s pretty fucking cool when I come of think of it!
Also owners of other stores have been trying to headhunt me to work for them as I am considered somewhat of a porn movie expert here. Now if that isn’t a compliment, I don’t know what is… Oh, and I have the only job in the world where you hope that you are surfing porn when the boss comes in HAHAHA.
What can we expect from the DARLINGS this year?
Gentle: Hopefully loads of good gigs.
Doll: Lots of concerts in Norway where we’ll also start playing some of the songs we have written for the next studio album, to try those out live. At least 2 shorter trips to do shows in Germany, the promo video for “Fed-Up!” to surface on MTV and NRK (National TV stations here) and Youtube.com when it’s finished on TV and a lot of “behind the scenes” stuff for planning the next studio album and probably some very cool things I have forgotten about.
My head is already way into the next studio album, which is gonna be another instant hit that just keeps growing on you.
Be sure to check www.trashcandarlings.com and www.myspace.com/trashcandarlings for info and music.