A Q&A with Uncle Acid of Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats
by Kit Castagne, published October 28th 2014
photos by Kit Castagne
On Sept. 25, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats brought their doom-laden brand of primordial heavy metal to Cambridge’s Middle East. In our Cambridge – the Deadbeats are based in Cambridge, England – they conjured the dark funk of Sabbath with a distinct aftershock of pop sensibility. Frontman Kevin Starrs – Uncle Acid himself – met up with Tastemakers to talk genre confusion, happy mistakes and rowdy crowds.
TMM: So your name is one of the most attention grabbing aspects of the group, could you break down where it came from and why you chose it?
Kevin Starrs (KS): Yeah, there was a band in the ’70s called Cactus and their singer, when he left Cactus, was going to form a band called Uncle Acid and the Permanent Damage Band. But that never happened. He got murdered and then, you know…
Anyway, I read that and thought, “Uncle Acid, that’s a pretty cool name,” so I just thought I would use it.
TMM: So the name came before the idea of the front man Uncle Acid?
KS: Yeah, we wanted to sort of keep it anonymous, so nobody would know who was in the band. There wouldn’t be any press pictures or anything. That was really the idea, to give us a pseudonym or stage name.
TMM: Could you give a brief history of the band? How you guys all met and how you got to where you’re at now?
KS: Basically it started as a studio project with some friends – a drummer and a bass player. See, where I was living at the time, Cambridge in the U.K., there were just very few musicians, so it was just the three of us. We tried playing live a couple times, but it didn’t work. We really just needed another guitar player, which we couldn’t find.
We continued like that for a couple of albums, but the band fell apart and I thought, “Fuck it, I’ll just leave it.” But then Blood Lust sort of exploded and I thought it would be good to actually tour, so I put the lineup together as you see it now. After that it all worked out pretty well.
KS: I guess it was part of the idea, but mainly it was all we could afford. We were borrowing equipment that wasn’t very good and it all kept breaking, but it just added to the overall sound. We didn’t have a budget or anything. It was all self-financed, so it was part by accident, part by design really.
TMM: Could you explain a few of your main influences, both musically and otherwise?
KS: Musically, obviously Black Sabbath. I mean, we all love Sabbath. The Beatles as well. I’m a big old school metal fan. I love Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P. and all these ’70s and ’80s bands, but I also like The Ronettes and Fleetwood Mac. Some of the softer stuff, you know? I thought combining the two in Uncle Acid… it kind of works.
TMM: Going off that, I’ve found your music – especially “I’ll Cut You Down” – is great to get people who don’t like metal on board with the genre.
KS: Yeah, that’s the thing really. It’s quite an accessible song – it’s heavy, it’s got riffs, but it’s not that aggressive. That was kind of the idea, to mix something heavy and dark with something light and sort of poppy.
TMM: You have a very distinct, funky vocal style. Did you look to make that happen, or did things just work out that way?
KS: Actually, that just happened. I didn’t want to sing initially, but we couldn’t find a singer, so I just thought, “Fuck it, I’ll do it,” and it just came out like that and worked.
TMM: So you were just trying to sing normally and it just came out that way?
KS: Yeah, we all thought, “Wow, maybe we can just use this then.”
TMM: Do you guys see yourselves as part of any particular genre or scene right now?
KS: Well I think it’s better to be away from any kind of scene. People would probably class us as being part of a scene maybe, but I’m not sure I really see that. I think it’s pretty hard to pigeonhole us. I don’t know if we’re metal or rock or something. We get called doom and psychedelic, but I don’t feel part of any kind of scene.
TMM: So this is your first U.S. tour, right?
TMM: Does that have any significance, or does it feel like any other tour?
KS: Yeah. I mean, we’ve toured Europe and the U.K. We did Australia, so we’ve been around, but this is the last major market we’ve left to go to, so it’s definitely good to finally be here.
TMM: Have you noticed any big differences in the crowds you’ve played in all the different countries you’ve been to?
KS: Yeah, it varies a lot from country to country. Some people are more reserved. Some – like Poland – man, it’s just mayhem from start to finish. People were flying across the stage and it was just crazy. I was impressed with the Philly audience last night too.
TMM: Philly’s got a rep as an aggressive town. They’re famous for having some of the craziest sports fans in the U.S. When they play New York teams, they’ve been known to slash the tires of cars with New York license plates.
KS: Well, that actually explains a lot then.
TMM: Well, thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
KS: No problem, I appreciate it.