The Elektrik Messiahs, the AC/DC Gods, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult invites ReGen into their perverted little world during the band’s latest tour.
An InterView with Groovie Mann & Buzz McCoy of My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult has stood the test of time as the band is on the verge of celebrating its third decade. A staple of the WaxTrax! era of American industrial music, Thrill Kill Kult has continued to defy categorization as the band has experimented with funk, rock, disco, and all points in between, all the while driven by fantastical lyrics that are every bit as sleazy and alluring as the grindhouse aesthetic the name implies. Driven by the core duo of Groovie Mann and Buzz McCoy, the group has long settled into a core lineup that includes bassist Mimi Star and guitarist Westin Halvorson, taking to the road in the summer of 2016 for the Elektrik Messiah Show tour. On the tour’s third stop in Baltimore, ReGen Magazine caught up with the Thrill Kill Kult and spoke with Mann and McCoy about the band’s current status with a little insight into the upcoming follow-up to 2014’s Spooky Tricks. Professionals and party animals alike, they touch on life on the road (including an anecdote about former member Charles Levi), the band’s unique audience, sunny Los Angeles vs. freezing Chicago, and hippies vs. hipsters.
They say that the first two or three shows set the tone for a tour.
McCoy: Every song, the crowd was like, ‘Yeah! Thrill Kill!’ It’s been great though because it’s very much a down period for us now, and this tour was mainly to appease some of the fans who were pretty irate about us skipping the East Coast last year.
At least you know that after nearly three decades, the audience is still there.
Are there any tour memories that you’d like to share?
McCoy: I don’t know; I missed out on most of the last tour because I broke my shoulder a week or so before the tour. They went without me for three weeks, and I just programmed everything ahead of time for them. They did three weeks, and then there was a month off, and I was healing up and went out to play with a cast on.
McCoy: Oh, I have no idea how we do it. Everybody knows that we kind of like to party a lot too.
Mann: Yeah, it’s so hard not to sometimes.
McCoy: But I have no idea how we do it, to tell the truth. When we do like five, six, or seven shows in a row, and we’re driving around in a van, and we travel light because we can’t afford a crew… we do everything ourselves, just as we’ve always done.
Mann: Yeah, sticking to and going back to how we started is not a hard thing for us to do because we know it.
McCoy: Yeah, this is our job, and we don’t mind doing all the work because it’s what keeps us going.
Mann: Some people just like to be rock stars, and play their guitars, and when we go out with young bands, and we hear things like, ‘Where’s the rider?’ Dude, we don’t even have a rider!
McCoy: We don’t need a rider!
Mann: Yeah, you’ve got to unload your own equipment!
McCoy: That’s really how you survive in this business, man. You just have to rely on yourself.
Mann: And your ego is irrelevant… well, until you hit that stage, of course. (Laughter) But everybody pitches it, and we figure if everybody carries in one thing, it helps the whole thing. Everybody is equal.
McCoy: Yeah, nobody stands around and does nothing. Grab something, help bring it in, and we are a family. We watch out for each other, and there are no egos. If there are, then they’re out.
Mann: Yeah, we’ll leave them in the city that we last played in.
Has that ever happened?
Mann: We’ve left Levi more than a few times.
McCoy: Yeah, if he’s not on the bus, fuck him… he’ll find his own way back.
Mann: We’d be on the van ready to drive to the next city, and he’d be asleep somewhere with some trick or something, and he did it enough times that we were like, ‘Okay, moving on!’ (Laughter)
Spooky Tricks was in 2014; what is Thrill Kill Kult working on now?
McCoy: We just started a couple of months ago working on some new songs. We’ve got like five or six ideas. The game plan is that next year is our thirtieth anniversary, so the whole idea is to have a new album, have a big tour, and do the whole 30 year thing.
The lineup and the technology has changed, but in terms of how you approach the way you do things, what would you say has been the biggest change for Thrill Kill Kult over the past 30 years?
Mann: I, on the other hand, am a collector.
McCoy: I guess it’s cooler to have CDs, and that’s why we do it because the artwork and the imagery is very much a part of the band.
Mann: Yeah, the physical aspect of having artwork and… you know, it’s just so much fun to design a CD and have all of that.
As far as music in general, what have you noticed as far as people’s attitudes toward music?
McCoy: Yeah, ‘I have a computer,’ and everybody is a band now.
Mann: I think that’s cool because it’s given more artistic opportunity, but then there are a lot of people that just go along for the ride and say, ‘Gee, I think I’m going to go be a band,’ and it’s totally not that way anymore. If you are going to be noticed, then you have got to be a good writer!
McCoy: I often think about what would have happened if the kids had now what we had, what would they have done with it? I mean, it took me forever just to learn how to use a computer because I didn’t grow up with it.
Mann: Yeah, and now you have six-year-olds making music and making videos, but I don’t care how many thousands of programs or whatever you have; if you can’t write a good song, you’re not going anywhere.
You’ve said that every album has a story behind it – not necessarily a concept, but an idea and a direction. Is it ever a concern for you to top what you did previously or how to evolve things?
Mann: I think that’s pretty lazy, to be honest.
McCoy: But then again, it keeps the fans happy, because you know how some people like to say, ‘Oh, I liked that band’s earlier stuff.’ But so many bands tend to just keep that one sound and never deviate from it. I think it’s better to explore and so you can get a vast, huge kind of clientele. Your audience will have goth kids, secretaries, lawyers, doctors, so it’s all over the place.
Mann: Oh yeah, when we first started, that’s how it was. There would be so many different types of people are our shows.
McCoy: And we would meet people afterwards, and it’d be like, ‘Yeah, I’m a lawyer, so if you ever need a lawyer, I’m your guy.’
Now, that’s networking!
Are you saying that you don’t like hipsters?
Mann: I got called one! (Laughter) It was some street worker or a construction guy or something like that. I live in hipster central, so it’s a bit unavoidable, but I was like, ‘What?’ But it was because I had on tan shoes or something.
Chicago hipsters seem to be different from the ones we have here in Baltimore.
Mann: That’s because they’re all drunk.
McCoy: Yeah, Chicago hipsters are definitely more into a good time.
When in doubt, the common language is always alcohol.
So, what is inspiring you now as far as the new material you like to work on? What sorts of things enter into your thought process – movies, news, anything like that? Because you’ve been doing this for so long that it must be like clockwork.
Mann: I think it sort of depends on what’s going on in our lives and how we’re feeling about how things are affecting us. It sort of comes out through the songs and we don’t really set out to do anything.
McCoy: Yeah, we write more fantasy stories as opposed to taking things from reality.
The last album, in your words, was a little more voyeuristic, so in what ways will these lyrical fantasies be a 180 from that?
Mann: We haven’t really thought about that just yet.
McCoy: Yeah, we haven’t really worked on the new album that much yet to get into that side of things. We’ve gotten some grooves together and we’re playing around with some sounds.
Mann: It’s all pretty abstract at this point, so we don’t know yet since we haven’t discussed that yet.
Thrill Kill Kult did a retrospective collection of different mixes of your WaxTrax! years, and there was the hint that you would do the same for the material after that.
McCoy: I… just haven’t done it yet. (Laughter) I’ve been busy and we’re kind of lazy, I don’t know. But that is the concept that we’re going to do the Interscope years, and then after that, the Sleazebox years.
The band’s current lineup has been together for quite some time.
And most Thrill Kill Kult lineups don’t…
McCoy: Yeah, they don’t last that long, right? (Laughter)
Mann: Yeah, we had Levi for years, and we had Jacky, of course.
Do you keep in touch with your past members?
Mann: Oh yeah. Jacky just moved to L.A., and almost all of us are there now, funnily enough.
Los Angeles has been referred to by a friend of mine as a black hole that sucks everybody in and nobody escapes.
McCoy: Well, the alternative is to go back to freezing Chicago. (Laughter)
Mann: The sun, man… you don’t realize ’til you live there…
McCoy: L.A. is what you make of it, just like anywhere else.
McCoy: I’ve got some solo material that I’m finally finishing up. I’m just doing the final mixes, but I don’t know what I’m going to call it yet, if it’ll be called Buzz McCoy or something else.
Mann: I don’t know. I have some ideas for a new Darling Candy album, and I’ve started to work with this other producer on some tracks, but it’s all unnamed at this time.
Photography by Tabetha Patton (MizTabby)