Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats Interview with Kevin R. Starrs: The Creeping Noir

Ester Segarra

When guitarist vocalist Kevin R. Starrs of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats croons, “I know you love murder nights/I know you love death,” on the song “Murder Nights” from his band’s latest LP, The Night Creeper, he might as well be speaking directly to his audience. Uncle Acid‘s fourth outing overall, The Night Creeper (on Rise Above) follows the unmitigated success of 2013’s Mind Control (review here) and 2011’s Blood Lust, as the latest step in a surge of profile that’s seen them go from releasing 100 copies of their Vol. 1 debut in 2010 to featuring at Roadburn in 2013 — for their third show, ever — opening for Black Sabbath, and headlining across the US, which is something they’ll do again in support of The Night Creeper, bringing Ecstatic Vision and Ruby the Hatchet along for the ride (info here).

Not only is it a feat that Uncle Acid have managed to accomplish this, but they’ve done so while vigorously maintaining a mystique that few bands can claim as their own in the age of social media, Instagram ubiquity, cellphone concert videos, etc. I remember wondering how they were able to get such an ethereal, eerie vocal sound until I actually saw them on stage and realized it was Starrs and fellow guitarist Yotam Rubinger — the band is rounded out by bassist/backing vocalist Vaughn Stokes and drummer Itamar Rubinger — singing together. They’ve become the household name of cult compounds, and that’s utterly perfect for the atmospheres they conjure with their tales of murder, vibes transposed from grainy horror VHS tapes, biker movies, bad-trip psychedelia and other ominous, analog threats brought to bear across songs that are correspondingly classic in their structures, melodically rich and at times unbearably catchy.

Where one might expect after Mind Control that Uncle Acid would begin to smooth out their sound as their audience continues to grow, The Night Creeper is their grittiest offering yet. Recorded mostly live at Toe Rag Studio by Liam Watson, cuts like “Pusher Man” and “Melody Lane” — which sounds like it would be a Beatles reference but actually seems to nod at The Rolling Stones in its lyrics; the ol’ switcheroo — demonstrate just how identifiable Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ sound has become over the last half-decade and the impact and influence they’ve already had on heavy rock, while ambient pieces like “Black Motorcade” and the instrumental “Yellow Moon,” as well as the nine-minute hypno-jam “Slow Death” serve notice that as much as their aesthetic has developed to this point, the progression has by no means hit its endpoint.

In the interview that follows, Starrs talks about making The Night Creeper and especially how the advent of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats as a live act has allowed them to grow in the studio.

Q&A follows after the jump. Please enjoy:

Ester SegarraI wanted to talk about the advent of Uncle Acid as a live band, since that’s sort of the huge change since the last record. Can you talk about how that’s maybe affected the songwriting going into Night Creeper?

I don’t think it really affected the songwriting. The effect that it had was mostly to do with the recording. We could go in and record, basically the basic track for the full album in three days. We would have never been able to do that two years ago or a year ago or whatever. So it’s given us a tightness to the dynamic. And it just makes things, it feels a lot more professional now. You know, we’re like a well-oiled machine when it comes to playing live.

How did that compare, then to when you did Mind Control?

Well, at that point we had a lineup which we hadn’t played live. So it kind of dragged on. Maybe a bit longer than it should have done. Whereas I’ve always preferred to work at speeds of things when it comes down to laying down the basic tracks. That’s what we did this time. Everything was live in the studio on the new album. You know everyone in one room and it’s got a real rawness to it. And that comes from the touring, just constantly playing, and it was just a good experience for us.

I hadn’t heard that the album was done live like that.

But you know, it’s a strange one because it was tracked in three days. Once we had those live tracks, I took those home. I worked on building them up. You know, adding keyboards or harmonies, whatever else. The basic, the basic core of all the songs is a live performance for all of them.

That’s a huge change in focus then!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you know I think it’s great for us because one of the issues I had on Mind Control was because we just took ourselves off into the countryside, in the middle of nowhere and recorded for two weeks or whatever it was. You know it becomes a bit more of a job all of a sudden. You’re waking up every morning going into the studio, staying up till late and just doing that every single day. It becomes kind of – it’s not good for your creative mind, I don’t think. Whereas with this, we did it quickly. Then I could live with the songs for a couple of months and wake up at three o’clock in the morning and go into my studio next door and I could work on it. It was definitely a better way for us to work I think.

When were the songs actually written?

Actually, most of them were written when we got back from the US tour in October. I had maybe seven or eight tracks that could’ve been used which I’d written for the past couple of years. And when I got back from the US tour, I just thought, I don’t know, I’m not gonna be feeling these songs anymore so just scrap it. And all of a sudden, I was writing all these new songs so I thought, go in this direction. There’s a couple of older tracks on there. “Waiting for Blood” is an older song. “The Night Creeper,” that’s a bit of an older song as well. Apart from that, all the songs were written from October onwards.

Since most of the songs were put together over a pretty short span of time, was there some sort of theme you were working on? I know Mind Control had its concept, is this a different approach?

Yeah, this was, I was watching a lot of film noir and things like that and that uncle acid tour datessort of served as a starting point. I was kind of just getting to the whole way that those films are made. And a lot of them were actually adaptation from old books like The Maltese Falcon. That started up as a shitty little book. So I kind of like that idea of having it start as something else and then becoming another thing, moving onto like a Giallo influence. And then I realized how similar Giallo films are to film noir. They’re just kind of more extreme, more violent versions of a film noir. So I thought there’s kind of a bit of lineage there. All those genres. It was kind of the visuals of those films that really inspired me to start writing.

What was the atmosphere in Toe Rag when you were there? You were there just for a couple of days?

Yeah, we did two days to start with and we did most of the album in two days. Then we came back a few weeks later for a single day just to do another couple of tracks. It was great. It’s a real small studio, so everything is — you’re all in one room. All the amps are there, all the drums are there and everything is bleeding into each other. It’s a perfect studio for us. Liam Watson, he knows his equipment. He knows exactly what microphones to use to get this sound or that sound. It turned out real well, I think.

Listening to the record, it’s pretty consistent sound-wise with other stuff but it’s got its own, grittier feel to it.

I completely agree. It’s got — I don’t know, a sort of Smog City, real filthy (laughs). I think it’s just the tape or whatever, it just — I’ve got no idea of the sort of magic that he’s put into it. It’s got a real rawness to it, a real disgusting quality to it that I like.

What was the process like for you, during that time when you were living with the songs and expanding on those live tracks? It seems like you could probably just go forever adding stuff, right?

Yeah, that can be a problem. You’ve got to know when to stop and when the track is ready. That’s the most exciting part, when you can just do whatever you want with it and see where you can take it. One of the examples with that is, the song “Slow Death.” When we recorded that, the skeleton of it just completely 10 minutes of the same thing over and over again. I think Liam Watson was just thinking, “Oh god, what are they playing at here?” I had it in my mind where I wanted to take it, once I brought it home. Eventually it just started building up and up, adding reverse tape echo and all these effects to kind of represent somebody dying, or someone being tortured. That’s one of my favorite songs on the album. I like the way that it started from basically a really skeleton idea and it just fleshed out into this huge monster.

Uncle Acid has such an identity sound wise. “Slow Death” sounds like you’re growing in that identity. It still sounds like you guys, but there’s progression there too.

I think it’s just different influences that have come in. I feel more comfortable doing, having a wider range of influences being in the music and things like that. I think it does show progression and it’s good to add different elements. For example, we’ve done that track — it’s a weird one. Then there’s an instrumental track, and acoustic track — things that we’ve never done before on albums. To me it’s more of a varied album than what we would normally do.

For the upcoming US tour, did you have a hand in selecting Ruby the Hatchet and Ecstatic Vision?

They got loads of names together and I just said, “These are good bands so let’s go with that.” It’s always difficult to choose support bands. There’s so much politics involved with managements and agents. But I think we’ve got two real good bands, that’s the important thing.

uncle acid and the deadbeats the night creeperYou’re doing Europe after this run in the States, then you’re coming back to the US again?

Next year. Next spring, possibly. Not sure yet. But yeah, we’ll return to the States to play the south and all the places we haven’t visited yet.

Is there any chance you’ll be at Lee Dorian’s Day at Roadburn?

I haven’t asked him about that yet, but possibly I guess. It’s a great festival. It’s so well run. It’s a good one to play at.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Waiting for Blood”

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on Thee Facebooks

Uncle Acid’s webstore

Rise Above Records

Tags: , , , , ,

8 Responses to “Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats Interview with Kevin R. Starrs: The Creeping Noir”

  1. Jose Humberto says:

    im getting ready to purchase this album

  2. SeanoftheDead says:

    They have the anonymous thing down pat. I sat next to Mr. Starrs for 2 hours at a bar before they played NYC and had no idea it was “him” until I saw him on stage later that night. Love these guys and am so impressed with their consistent output of great songs!

  3. Acid Slave says:


  4. Know It All says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong here… But I’m fairly certain the lyrics are “I know you love murder nights/I know you love DEATH”

  5. Robb says:

    Can’t wait for this one. Got my physical copy pre ordered already. HURRY UP SEPTEMBER 4th.

  6. Brian says:

    Pretty sure Dean Millar is out… wikipedia says “Vaughn Stokes” is playing bass for them.

Leave a Reply