The Music Has to Come Before Everything | Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats
In the year of their 10th anniversary, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats are finally playing their first ever Hungarian concert, with Radio Moscow as co-headliners. Led by the group’s only constant member Kevin Starrs, the psychedelic Cambridge quartet released their fifth longplayer Wasteland last fall to critical acclaim. Ahead of their A38 gig on June 13, we asked Kevin a bunch of questions.
You formed the band ten years ago. How do you look back on the past decade?
It’s been a great experience, but we’ve worked hard too. To go from being on the dole to touring the world in the space of a few years, you can’t really ask for much else as a musician. I never expected any of the touring side of things to happen. I knew once I started recording my songs that I’d like to continue with that, if only for myself. I certainly didn’t think anyone else would enjoy what I was doing!
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
There’s been a few. Of course touring with Black Sabbath was a huge honour and they were all very complimentary towards us which was nice of them. When Geezer Butler says you’re a great band, that’s a huge compliment! Also playing the Montreux Jazz festival was a pretty big deal because it’s such a prestigious event. Our only problem was the police were there making us turn the amps down. We play so loud that even turning down the volume wasn’t enough so we had to move the amps to face the back wall! Apart from that, it was a good show.
Tell us about the time you met Neil Young!
He was selling off some of his old equipment a few years ago, and it coincided with us being in L.A. to work on the Wasteland album. So I ended up at the auction place looking at his stuff on display and he turned up. Neil is my favourite songwriter of all time so I was pretty excited to see him wandering around. Anyway him and Daryl Hannah ended up coming over to where me and my girlfriend were standing and we just started chatting. We talked about a couple of old mixing desks he was selling. It was a surreal experience. Slightly psychedelic actually, haha! I ended up buying a guitar from him which I used on the song ‘Wasteland’.
Your latest album Wasteland has a post-apocalyptic concept. What current real world events have influenced it?
It’s mostly fiction but there was inspiration from watching how relentless propaganda can destroy people’s free thought. We had elections in the UK a few years ago as I started writing for the album and the amount of blatant propaganda and smear campaigns that went on was incredible. In the end of course, many people fell for it and voted against their own best interests. So the album took that idea and looked at what would happen if you continually swallow the shit that gets fed to you. It spirals to the point where you are trapped inside a walled city, under heavy surveillance, afraid of everyone and a slave to flashing screens while the world outside burns. Not so much fun at that point.
You direct most of Uncle Acid’s videos. Do you have any ambitions as a filmmaker?
I’d like to get into that at some point. Maybe direct and score a short film or something, but do it in the right way using actual film. Like in our music, it’s not about trying to recreate something old or ‘vintage’ as some people seem to think. It’s about creating something that appeals to your own tastes. I like a certain analog aesthetic so that’s what I go for. Shooting on film is very expensive though, and I’m not the sort of person to go begging on Kickstarter, so we’ll just have to see what happens!
You’re the only original member in the band at this point. Why has the line-up changed so much?
The issues sometimes come when you’re touring for weeks on end and people find out that just being able to play the parts is only half the battle. Everybody needs to have the right attitude. When people start arguing all the time or causing conflict, it just takes the enjoyment out of it and it affects the performance. That’s when changes get made. The music has to come before everything so if people are negatively affecting that, they’re out the door.
Everybody in the band now is very laid back.. .until we get on stage, and then all the aggression comes out. That’s the way it should always be. When I’m on stage I become a completely different person and I get so into what I’m doing that nothing else comes into focus. You enter into a different world. The lineup right now is the best it’s ever been by quite some distance. That’s not taking away from anyone else that’s been in the band, because everyone did their part, but the band has never sounded better and we’re improving all the time which is frightening.