WE WILL BE INTERVIEWING MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT NEXT WEEK, LEAVE YOUR QUESTIONS FOR THE BAND IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW.
I have a large soft, squishy, dark spot on my heart for the world’s only “cinematic-electro-glam-disco-industrial-lounge-horror-porn” rock band and theatrical troupe: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, now celebrating 15 long years of decadence, profuse beats and a firm grasp of the profundity of cultural detritus.
Their Ugly Spirits Tour with Cherrie Blue and VooDou is streaking across the land as we speak, wrapping up in the band’s ancestral home of Chicago (which will never be the same without WaxTrax) at the end of November. If you’re in SoCal, there’s nothing like Thrill Kill on Halloween – they’ll be oozing all over the Henry Fonda Theater in LA October 31.
Thrill Kill also has its own label now, SleazeBox Records, affiliated with Martin Atkins’ Underground, Inc, and a new live CD, their first ever, called Elektrik Inferno. The new disc is a ripping collection of favorites spanning their entire career. The sound quality is crisp and clean, the bass/beats propulsive and infectious, the samples clear and well integrated
A faithful rendition of the classic “Kooler Than Jesus” sets the mood perfectly. Other highlights include the unguent “Disko FleshPot,” a discofied “Swine and Roses” with rhythm guitar worthy of Chic, “LeatherSex” is more disco destruction propelled by piano, and “…Cuz It’s Hot” comes close to the menace of the original. The only real disappointment is a techno version of “Sex On Wheelz” denatured of its monster guitar riff. In fact industrial/rock guitar is notably missing from the disc in general, but that caveat aside, Elektrik Inferno is an excellent intro to a 15-year orgy.
Dawn Olsen and I interviewed band leader/producer Buzz McCoy and wrote a career overview a few years ago.
A flaming disco ball of unknown origin slammed into a drive-in theater showing
Christian Zombie Vampire, fusing unspeakable screen characters, molten squares of glass, guzzling revelers, back seat gropers and the shrieking theater sound system into an alloy known as My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult.
Buzz McCoy (aka Marston Daley) and Groovie Mann (aka Frank Nardiello) are the creative forces behind this bizarre union of disco/industrial music, sleazy omni-sexuality, and B-movie horror. Inadvertently created and self produced, Thrill Kill have released a slew of dance club hits since 1988 with such expressive titles as “Kooler Than Jesus,” “Devil Bunnies,” “The Days of Swine and Roses,” “Cuz It’s Hot,” “Waiting For Mommy,” “The International Sin Set,” “Leathersex,” “Sex on Wheels,” “Blue Buddha,” “Glamour Is a Rocky Road” and greatest of all, “A Daisy Chain 4 Satan.” Their back-to-back albums Confessions of a Knife and Sexplosion! stand with the best that either the disco or industrial genres have produced.
Buzz McCoy grew up in a small town in Massachusetts in the ’60s and ’70s before he moved to Boston after high school. As the baby of the family, he spent much of his childhood alone, listening to an inherited record collection that ranged from Aerosmith to Donna Summer to Frank Sinatra to Motown. While living in Boston, Buzz played bass in a punk band called Zero Zero that received some airplay on college radio, but after a brief stint in San Francisco, Zero Zero petered out.
His return to Boston truncated by lack of success and boredom, Buzz joined some friends in Chicago in the mid ’80s. Through these friends, Buzz met Groovie Mann and the pair ended up living across the street from one another. Through the twin conveniences of proximity and unemployment, Buzz and Groovie indulged their mutual taste for bad horror films. Submersion in the genre convinced the pair that they could create cinema no worse than what they were watching. Their premise of a runaway taking up with a satanic cult generated the title My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult.
With a killer title and delusions of sleazy glory, Buzz and Groovie began to take action upon their vision, perfecting their fake blood recipe, lighting things on fire in the basement, and filming scenes. Inspired by the results, they resolved to score their evolving creation. Both had vaguely musical backgrounds and by slapping together this and that with drum machines, synthesizers and a febrile imagination, Thrill Kill became a musical entity as well as a film title. Through the grapevine, Chicago’s industrial/gothic Wax Trax! label (Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Front 242, Meat Beat Manifesto) became intrigued by the pair’s film music.
Wax Trax! encouraged Buzz and Groovie to shape these sounds into songs, and their first releases were 1988 singles “First Cut,” “Shock of Point Six” and “Resisting the Spirit.” The songs were undistinguished but promising enough that Buzz and Groovie were sent to Belgium to record with a friend who had a real studio, Luc Van Acker (Revolting Cocks). They wrote and recorded their first album, I See Good Spirits and I See Bad Spirits, in less than two weeks, mixed it in less than a week and returned to the states not as B-movie auteurs, but as legitimate recording artists.
Flush with excitement, Buzz and Groovie were struck with a revelation. “We were like, ‘Hey, we’re a band now. Maybe we should go on tour. That would be cool.’ I always wanted to go on tour when I was little.” Buzz and Groovie began seeking bandmates from among friends and acquaintances, cast members of their movie, and suitably tawdry strangers found in bars: adding keyboardist Thomas “Buck Ryder” Locklear, dancer/singer Jacky Blacque and a mutating pack of scantily-clad women known as the Bomb Gang Girlz. Buzz and Groovy essentially transplanted the attitude and accouterments of their Thrill Kill film onto the stage, creating a writhing performance project and its accompanying throbbing soundtrack.
Spirits is a bit fuzzy and unfocused, but on Kooler Than Jesus the troupe finds the right admixture of socio-religious commentary and caustic, bouncing beats. The band casts aspersions on both sides of the God/Satan dichotomy, finding absurdity in either absolute, and tries on symbols for fit, like a semiotic Madonna.
Thrill Kill hit greatness with 1990’s Confessions of a Knife. Whereas their first two albums were collections of songs, Knife holds up as a unit – a genuinely frightening examination of compulsion in its many forms: drugs, mental illness, sex, murder and hints of retribution (“Do You Fear the Inferno Express?”). The album opens with the original mix of “A Daisy Chain 4 Satan,” a pulsating beat and recurring descending bass line set the mood for samples of a young woman confiding, “I live for drugs…I get drugs free…I freaked out very, very badly – I freaked out on acid…”
The woman’s inert proclamations are interrupted by one of the most bloodcurdling screams on record: a tortured, buzzing Tarzan wail of aggressive misery. Groovie’s distorted, stressed lead vocal bears the weight of the world as he descends into the quivering miasma that is his own brain.
“Here I will dream, why?/Give me a drink/I need to think, now/I’ve gotta wreck my sinking brain.”
References to mysterious “black boots,” defiant eruptions like “Go forever loaded,” and the confessional “It’s too bad I need time to sleep/Forget my problems before I wake/Then it’s TIME TO GO ON,” convey an empathy with a struggling soul that is as strangely touching as it is disturbing. Incredibly, the 12″ remix (by Buzz and Paul Barker of Ministry) of “Daisy Chain” is even more powerful, with the drum beat doubled and the bass pumped up.
Other album highlights include “The Days of Swine and Roses,” with its chanted “Christian zombie vampire” refrain and gnarly bass line; “Waiting For Mommie,” with its Chic-like [again] rhythm track and demands from “Mommie” to “Get your hard ass over here”; and a remix of “Kooler Than Jesus.”
Sexplosion! is equally successful, trading the gothic horrors of Knife for the jet setting Euro-sleaze feel of a soft-porn Matt Helm movie. “The International Sin Set” sums up the “film’s” ambitions: heavy on glamour, illicit tanglings, queasy pseudo-brass squawking and a jumping disco beat. “Leathersex” forthrightly sings the praises of leather to beef up one’s sex life, set to another disco groove.
“Sex on Wheels” is Thrill Kill’s best-known song, with a driving guitar line reminiscent of “Walk This Way,” surrounded by screeching tires, a rumbling bass and a literal notion of auto-erotica.
Subsequent albums include the trance/techno of 13 Above the Night, the lavish horns and wheels of Hit and Run Holiday, and the rather lackluster A Crime For All Seasons.
Buzz is humble about his abilities and accomplishments: “Everything I’ve learned has been trial and error. I don’t know anything about engineering or sonics. If I started putting the latest sound, from the latest outboard gear in my music, it would set [the music] in a certain time frame. I think the way our music sits now, it’s more haphazard and timeless.”
Now, 15 year’s worth.
Check out Chi Chi’s cool TKK site here.