Their previous efforts have given us the punk-rock manifesto Ass Cobra (1996) and the super-rock destruction of Apocalypse Dudes (1998). These two albums by themselves would be enough to mind-fuck even the strongest of music aficionados, but were they finished? Hell no, they came back after traveling through the depths of drug-addled band-breaking hell and brought us the rock with Scandinavian Leather (2003) and now the triumphant stadium destroying Party Animals (2005).

What more can we ask for? What are the Turbojugend? Why are these fuckers dressed like gay sailors? What is a Canadian Tuxedo? You got questions, and folks, Hank von Helvete and I have the answers.

From the perspective of a fan, Turbonegro is the epitome of all that could go wrong – or right – with a musical entity. In the beginning, these Norwegian superheroes started just like any punk-rock band. As Hank relates: “There have been many explanations, but basically, Turbonegro was started in a small Oslo suburb where Pal [Pot Pamparius, keyboard, percussion] grew up. The real truth of the name Turbonegro was that it began as a tag he put on the wall at Pamparius Pizza. It only lasted one day. ‘Turbonegro’. Then this word he tagged was painted over, but he kept pondering on it. He thought this had to be the best band name, ever.

This was winter of 1988 or ’89. Pal could not play anything at this time, you know. Then he met up with Happy Tom [bassist] and Tom had played drums and bass in different punk bands. He was the experienced one. They got together and Pal told him about this great name he had come up with. Tom told him that he would be willing to be the rhythm, and eventually music would come, you know? So, they did, and in the process they realized that they had everything you need to start a cool, hard-rocking deathpunk band. You need one guy who can play, one guy who can’t play and a good band name.”

Turbonegro’s original line up was Thomas Seltzer [Happy Tom], Pal Bottger Kjarnes (Pal Pot Pamparius), Rune Gronn (Rune Rebellion), Vegard Hesketad, and Carlos Churasco. Their first show was in Copenhagen, Denmark, in March of 1989, and by April they had finally played their first show in their hometown of Oslo. They recorded a few singles and in 1990 came to the United States to tour for the first time. When they arrived in the U.S., Rune was beat up in Minneapolis a few hours after arrival, and was hospitalized. The band forged on without him, but the first tour was a disaster.

Three weeks later, Turbonegro returned to Oslo and broke up. They eventually reunited and got back to kicking ass in 1993 after licking some wounds, changing the band name to Stierkampf (the German word for bullfight), and getting a new lead singer by the name of Hans Erik Husby (aka Hanky, or Hank von Helvete). By 1997, the band had solidified the lineup with the addition of Chris Summers (drums) and Knut Schreiner (a guitar genius known as ‘Euroboy’ to the fans) and gone back to Turbonegro, but this was after some not-so-great ‘schtick’ moments, including painting their faces in the style of Al Jolson.

“We were backstage, wearing wigs and hats, with our faces painted black, smoking pot with Bad Brains – and the absurdity of it never dawned on us. Those guys didn’t mention it once. They were probably embarrassed on our behalf,” muses Happy Tom.

The ‘denim demon’ look became the norm; when asked about why his band wears all denim, Tom states, “We feel that denim out-rocks leather at all levels. Leather is for empty little people. Denim is huge for us. And the kids love it!”

I asked Hank if he knew of the term ‘Canadian Tuxedo’. “I’ve never heard that, is it something sexual?” “No.” I reply, “It’s the wearing of an all-denim outfit. I’ve heard it called a ‘Canadian Tuxedo.’” “That’s interesting.” he says, “Do people in Canada like denim that much? It’s no wonder we have so many fans there.”

The music of Turbonegro is something beautiful, ugly, decadent and downright rocking all in the same song. This band has a wealth of raunchy lyrics, ranging from the downright pedophilic Midnight NAMBLA ( Nemesis of the toddler/I look just like your father/and I am the Midnight NAMBLA), to the straight sing-a-long classic “(I Got) Erection” (Every time I walk down the street/Erection/See a woman that I’d like to meet/ Erection..), to the best fucking rock song about a pizza parlor ever written (So think you’ve had a calzone/ well not like this) in ‘Pamparius,’ the first track on Apocalypse Dudes.

Turbonegro has brought the glam and greasepaint of the greats like Alice Cooper, thrown in the punk-rock badness that enamors modern-day rockers to the likes of the Supersuckers, Hellacopters or Zeke, and slams it all together with an outright pop overtone not seen since the days of Bowie, Slade, or T-Rex. When it comes to image, the band favors the seedy homosexual look found in back-alley tough-guy leather bars, and they look like they would not be uncomfortable in the ‘Blue Oyster’ bar on those cheesy Police Academy movies from the 80s.

I ask about their penchant for the makeup, denim, and trademark sailor caps that are integral to the Turbonegro show. “We felt that the clothing and the styles that rock ‘n roll had, especially the L.A. scene in the ‘80’s, you know, glam rock and metal, a lot of that look actually came from the gay scene. And then these guys in makeup and hairspray are acting like they’re very hardcore, homophobic heterosexuals to compensate.

We just want to remind them where their cool looks came from. I’m the only one in the band that’s not actually gay. The others have been gay all the time, and playing in other bands, they’ve had to hide it a lot. Then we figured, ‘why not come out with it?’ It’s okay to rock and be gay, it’s made it so much easier for the others to be who they are.”

In 1997, Turbonegro released Apocalypse Dudes. Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys, et al.) was quoted as saying, “The new Turbonegro record is possibly the most important European record, ever.” This album is considered to be the band’s best release by far. Let me interject here that in 1998, I interviewed Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers for this magazine. I asked him what he and the band were listening to, and he told me of Turbonegro, who I had never heard of.

He told me that if I did anything that week, that I had better go out and buy Apocalypse Dudes if I was even remotely a fan of rock. I did, and man, I’ll tell you what, I’ll give you readers the same advice. Get this album. It’s subsequently been re-released by Epitaph and is now available to the masses. This album is a series of hits from back to front. It was at this point that the band was writing its best music, but were internally falling apart.

The band played 24 sold-out shows to support the album on 1998’s Darkness Forever tour with Nashville Pussy. This would be the end of Turbonegro. The band broke up in the waiting room of a psychiatric hospital in Milan, Italy. Singer Hank’s mental and physical health had deteriorated to the point that he had to be committed. Addicted to heroin and emotionally exhausted, Hank fell apart.

When asked about this period, Hank comments, “What heroin addiction does to a band is the same as it would do to any other work environment. When you have a junkie on board, it all goes sour. You miss gigs, you miss appointments, money disappears, people disappear … the whole environment becomes bad. That was the reason we stopped playing. My heroin addiction was causing us to become a bad band; people were getting fed up, and it stopped being fun.

It was better that we stopped when we did. Now I’ve gotten better and we’ve started again. It was as easy as that. It’s been weird, because when you’re without someone for four years, which was the length of time the band was apart, you would figure you would never see that someone again. You figure you would have to start over, but we didn’t have to, we came back bigger than ever, it’s been weird.”

“Bigger than ever.” is an understatement. Turbonegro grew in their demise from an obscure Norwegian underground rock band to something of a rock legend, thanks to a rabid worldwide network of fans called the ‘Turbojugend’ (Turbopeople). These fans have kept the band’s trademark sailor-cap logo and name alive over the four years from the band’s demise to their triumphant return in 2003 with Scandinavian Leather. The band’s demise served only to heighten their appeal.

Membership in the Turbojugend chapters has multiplied astronomically and includes people like Bam Margera, who has featured the band on his MTV show Viva La Bam. Happy Tom laughs, “KISS have an army, and we have a navy. It’s not an exclusive club, it’s a free-for-all. That way we don’t have to be responsible if some mongoloid buys one of our jackets and does something stupid.”

Catch the band on their upcoming US tour, and if you haven’t already, check out 2003’s release Scandinavian Leather, and the newest super-rock heavy hitter Party Animals, just released (not on import) by Burning Heart and Epitaph.

“Are you ready for some Darkness..?”