This band and its fan club have mutual affection out the ass.
by A.D. Amorosi
Yellow DEVO suits. Trips to Texas to visit Roky Erickson. Bought, lost and rebought Ziggy lightning bolts.
Stacks of Patti Smith's yearbook photos.
Remembering the foolishness committed in the name of worship, I hear Jellyfish's "Joining a Fan Club" "I still get heartburn when I think about all of the stamps I ate" ringing through my brain.
You can argue your idols were artistes, that anything beyond a gig ticket or vinyl tchotchke was but support, but it still boils down to this: You were a fan. You held the badge. You were devout.
"Fearless Leader took me to Khyber to see [Turbonegro]. There was a guy on keyboards and tambourine acting freaky in the corner
like he'd escaped from Woody's and was still rolling on ecstasy as he played. The lead singer grabbed the mic and said, 'Are you ready for the darkness?' The crowd roared. He looked into the audience again. 'Do you know what you are asking for?' I found myself trying to sing along despite having never heard the song before. After the show as we walked out onto the street, I took off my leather jacket and rung it out
sweat dripped onto the sidewalk. Baptism by deathpunk. Life hasn't been the same since."
That's a guy named Lucky Lieutenant testifying to the start of his undying devotion to Turbonegro.
And Fearless Leader? He's the boss of the Philadelphia chapter of Turbojugend the international don't-call-it-a-fan-club dedicated to the bombastic Scanda-Norwegian metalpunks that beg the musical question, "What if Judas Priest starred in Fassbinder's Querelle, sailor hats and all?" Or "What if This is Spinal Tap was about Frankie Goes to Hollywood?"
With lyrics that speak to misfits and perverts, Turbonegro inspires a dedicated fan base. They buy the denim jackets (or kuttes) for 200 bucks. They traveled to the worldwide Turbojugend meeting, in Hamburg.
Lucky Lieutenant and Fearless Leader do and did.
Neither wants his name in print. While Lucky, 33, is a weekday white collar desk jockey and a weekend bouncer, Fearless (also 33) says he is self-employed ("a pro gambler"), married ("my wife's also a member") with kids.
Fearless' chapter of unorganized denim sailor men is currently holding steady at 39. That's not counting MTV stunt doof Bam Margera, who owns a jacket received directly from Turbonegro but does not attend regular meetings. "I started it because I enjoyed listening to the band, because it was fun, and sheepishly, because I wanted to be able to order the jacket," says Fearless, who gathers the Philly Jugend at Rex's, Club 218 and Ludwig's as well as at anyone's house. Club bylaws require a meeting no less frequently than every 77 days.
Lucky is adamant that this is not a fan club. A jugend is a German concept along the lines of the Boy Scouts of America, a youth organization with a sports- or outdoors-type theme. The Web site suggests rugby tournaments, Yahtzee, darts, puzzle events, karaoke competitions (Cat Stevens themes a must!) and the mysterious "famous Schnitzeljagd." Nothing too weird, even though Lucky points to "Oslo Bloodbath Pt. III" the Turbonegro song about criminal transvestites turning tricks and dying at the bloodied hand of a denim boy as a party track.
To him, it is a way of life. "Thus, it's not your typical fan club," says LL. "One of the band members has said Kiss has their army and we have our navy. There is a level of understanding between members."
"Besides, truthfully, no band has had a shtick this good since Kiss, so why not run with it?" asks Fearless. "Travel abroad does get expensive. That's why only certain privileged members have been lucky enough to do so."
Other privileges other than having an Ass Squad to guard the higher-ups is that these men have met their Turbo princes up close and personal. While Lucky met bassist Happy-Tom and drummer Chris Summers at Repo Records ("Tom's English is very good."), Fearless has hung out with singer Hank Von Helvete on the Sunset Strip as well as with guitarists Pal Pot Pamparius and Euroboy at one of the Philly post-gig after-parties. "They're nice people," says Lucky.
"Afterwards we shared a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and just stared into the void," says Happy-Tom from his Karlstad, Sweden, home hinting at sex with Philadelphia club members. "We have issues."
Turbonegro's latest, Party Animals (Abacus), has been panned as a mere distillation of past glories Ass Cobra and Apocalypse Dudes. "I tell them to fuck off back to Nostalgiaville," says Happy of those critics. "It's a rock 'n' roll landmark." Animals is a sleekly rocking, ribald work whose stripped-down songs "If You See Kaye (Tell Her I L-O-V-E Her)" and "City of Satan" sound like 2Pac's "California Love" mixed with Joan Jett.
"No," says Happy-Tom. "We are magicians. This is not fun. It is serious."
Right now, Turbonegro is at war with its own country after Hank Von Helvete repeated the joke from The Aristocrats, but with the fecal-semenal-fuckfest punch line changed to "The Swedish Royal Family." The family is currently considering pressing charges for some form of lewdness. So a Philadelphia gig will be repose for the sextet. Or a place to hang its codpieces.
Happy puts the similarities and differences in its American and European fan clubs down to (respectively) drunkenness and a better grip on classic rock. He'd still like to see more members "get perms."
"Turbojugend is a Frankenstein's monster that we created, and now it is out of our control," he says.
"Without Jugend, there is no structure," says Lucky. "Without Philadelphia, we'd have to join Turbojugend Nomad. Without Turbo, the band, the rest wouldn't come together."
Turbonegro plays Mon., Oct. 10, 8 p.m., $18, with Early Man and Bad Wizard, The TLA, 334 South St., 215-386-2000, www.theateroflivingarts.net.
Turbojugend Philadelphia, yo.