THE HELLFREAKS - INTERVIEW
"Sitting in a tour bus with a hellish hangover and a bunch of guys isn't so attractive for most girls, maybe..."
Questions: Jaka Čurlič & Irena Vrtovec
Answers: Shakey Sue - Vocals
1. First can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your band and your music?
Hey Folks! I’m Shakey Sue, singer and founding member of The Hellfreaks, into-your-face punkrock/psychobilly from Hungary ... or better: currently based in Budapest AND Berlin. Personally I moved to Berlin one year ago and live now separately from the band. So I’m in a kind of a distance relationship with the rest of the band, who all live in Budapest. We started the band in a cellar of Budapest without having any big plans – but things went really quick! Even for our first album we had a German label, and started touring across Europe half a year after the foundation. Till here and now we played at many major festivals, but played in small clubs from Romania till Spain as well – more than 100 gigs at all.
2. In February you celebrated the 5th anniversary of the band. How would you describe your beginnings? Do your origins (being Hungarian) in any way influence your music development? Did you have any problems getting gigs outside of your country?
I think the only Hungarian influence was that we never thought that we could ever be as successful as we are right now. :D
We started to write the songs in English, and I still only sing in English.
The Hungarian language is really hard, and it’s a big challenge to use the language without sounding ridiculous. We have a huge vocabulary – but that even makes it harder to use it correctly. That’s why The Hellfreaks are in that strange situation to had first success outside of our borders, and later in Hungary. Even the young people who all learn English in school prefer to listen to music in Hungarian language. So we started with a kind of handicap from the Hungarian point of view.
On the other hand that was exactly what we wanted to do; shows outside of the country, to travel, to see the world and be on tour. We’ve been in a lot of countries where we've never been before thanks to our music. I think that’s an awesome thing. It was not so hard to get international shows. If I remember right we had our 3rd or 4th show already in Vienna/ Austria and from that point we had much more invitations from other countries than Hungary.
3. In 2009 you released your first self titled demo and in the same year you applied for the tender that the Program For National Contemporary Music Culture in Hungary put out for music and motion pictures. Despite over 180 submissions you won and obtained the necessary funding for the music video for your single 'Boogie Man', which instantly resulted in over 1,500,000 views on Youtube. How would you describe your feelings when you received the award? Were you surprised of such a success so early in your career?
Of course we had been surprised! We didn’t even want to try it, just a very good friend of mine helped us and believed that it could work. We had nothing to lose and said okay, let’s try. It was a mixed genre competition between the bands - from pop to hiphop, and other crazy stuff. We know that we are not doing anything mainstream – and normally this is a shot in your head in Hungary. But somehow it worked, and we got this awesome opportunity to make this videoclip. Of course first it wasn’t such a big success. This video started like any other video with some hundred views. But the number of views increased constantly and right now it’s close to 2.000.000 views. We’re still surprised and think: This. Is. Really. Crazy.
4. Later you released ‘Hell Sweet Hell’ in 2010 and ‘Circus Of Shame’ in 2012. Who is writing the lyrics and what messages do they bring? If I am not mistaken Sue has a degree in Environmental engineering. Are the lyrics maybe influenced also by that? :)
I’m writing all of the lyrics by my own. And fortunately without any influence by my degree. But if you really want to hear a song about a waste-water treatment plant let me know and let’s see what we can do for you! :-)
But in the meantime I will stay at real life experience like I use now.
For the first album – Hell Sweet Hell – I thought it’s better not to sell my sorrows. The lyrics are much more about horror themed stuff, quite far away from real life than all our stuff later. The big difference at the second album about the lyrics is that they are ALL about my personal thoughts and experiences – still with a little spice of horror, but not necessarily anymore. There are horror-elements, but it’s not ABOUT horror elements anymore. Of course there are some exceptions like “Dead & Breakfast” which is about real-happened murdering in Hungary, but which are quite funny. Or “Don’t Feed The Models” where I compare models to little Gremlins… Of course there is a big portion of self irony as I work as model myself from time to time.
We are working on the 3rd album right now. Here I will go even more this road. I would never ever write about any political issues in our songs, but I won't shut up if I think something has to be said. And there are many thoughts collected in my mind I just want to shout out in this world.
5. On Youtube I found the video of one of your shows when you covered The Distillers "I am a Revenant" and I also read on your webpage that Sue is really into them. I would like to know how they influenced you and how was the process of turning The Distillers song into psychobilly?
Oh, the process was quite easy; because this is our style and we can't do it otherwise … or at least we don’t want to do it. But the plan wasn’t to make it “psychobilly way” – the plan was to make it Hellfreaks way. Everyone did his job, and after trying it 3 or 4 times in the rehearsal room we thought “let’s go on the stage with it”. I think that’s not really professional, but our cover songs were always born this way - without a concept or rehearsal it a million times.
But thank you very much that you call it “psychobilly version” – that’s a nice compliment
6. You've been on quite a few tours, what is the strangest thing that happened to you on stage?
Pooh, let’s think about it. There are some I have in mind. My first thought was how I've made a very clever move and my microphone sticked in my hair. And all that at a quite huge festival in Leipzig in front of 500 people. That looked quite stupid how I tried to get the microphone off my head.
Or once the police came on stage in Prague and ask if we could be so nice to stop the show cause we are too loud.
Or once a guy came to me between 2 songs to ask me if I could kiss the paper he was holding in his hand, cause he would love to tattoo it on his body. weeks later I got an email of his ass with my kiss tattooed on it.
Or once we played at a huge punk festival in Germany. The story would be quite long to go in details, but the promoter left the festival, and there was absolutely no more organization, security, absolutely nothing. So it was pretty cool! But the crowd was soooooooooooooooooooooo drunk, that most of them ran around naked. I have never seen so many penises in front of a stage. I was amazed :D
7. If you had to do a cocktail named The Hellfreaks, what would you put in it and what effect would it have on people?
Do you know the very last scene in the film “The Perfume”? This would be the effect. And that’s why I would take the recipe into my grave. ;-)
8. Best album artwork of all-time is…?
We are working on it ….
9. In your opinion which famous movie should have a punk rock / psychobilly soundtrack?
10. You have traveled many countries with your band, what is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?
The weirdest food was in Spain. And we still don’t have any idea what it was. I guess some crazy seafood, but none of the people could answer us the question in a language we speak, and it’s pretty weird to eat something you have no idea if it swam, crawled, flew, or if it was a plant once.
11. If you could have any musician of your choice on your next album who would it be and why?
I guess that’s not a big surprise; I would choose young Brody Dalle. I just love her powerful don’t-give-a-damn-voice. Or Taylor Momsen. But the reason is more her body, not her voice.
12. What do you think about the role of women in alternative music? Do you think that there should be a greater number involved in the movement? Sue, if I’m not wrong, besides being the lead vocal, you are also the band manager. How do you see the involvement of women in this sort of music?
I feel like a man in this band! And I’m sure that every woman answers this if they are surrounded by guys in their band. You don’t survive that behaving as a woman…
To be serious: There is no special role in the alternative music scene for women. We're also just doing music and hope that everything goes well while we have huge fun. I don’t see any difference compared to guys. The only difference I see is the number of female musicians – because you’re right, there are much less than guys. Why? I have no idea. Sitting in a tourbus with a hellish hangover and a bunch of guys isn't so attractive for most girls, maybe. Personally I LOVE female musicians. It makes it interesting, because music done by a girl is always different, it always has something that makes it special, and it always has a “what? I don’t get it” effect – in my point of view that’s awesome.
Yes, I do the whole management of the band, and yes, I think that girls are getting more brave to kick some asses on stage step by step. But maybe I’m just getting older and just get to know more people year by year. A big problem I realize in the scene are those movements who put all the girl-fronted bands in one genre. Even if they don’t have anything in common. We are compared to other female fronted bands all the time, who also use an upright bass – bands like Horrorpops or Kitty In A Casket. You have no idea how angry it makes us to be compared with these bands! The only thing which is the same is that the singer of these bands have no penis between their legs and use an upright bass. Nothing else. Totally different sound. But some people just don’t care, and try to hear music with their eyes, not with their ears.
13. How is the alternative scene in Hungary? Are there many alternative clubs? Any interesting new bands we should check out?
Oh… A heart-aching question! There are really, really super little alternative clubs in Hungary. There are some in Budapest, but they are always on the edge to close their doors, because the alternative scene is just so small. Of course we have some punks, rockers or psychos. But let’s say, it’s still “not cool” to be different there. There are always some “trendy-waves”. Likes some years ago everyone listened to hardcore. Now all those guys shake their ass in those super fancy techno clubs. Just not my cup of tea. Of course there is also a true scene. But next to 10 million people who live in Hungary its just a hand full of people, who stay strong and ARE the scene. That’s one of those million reasons why I moved away to Berlin where absolutely no one cares how you look.
Yeah of course – a pretty funny thing: We have a small scene, but a lot of great bands. Not so far I discovered a band from Budapest called “Vex” – angry girlpunk. They've recorded their demo not long ago. I think they are pretty cool.
13. What are your plans with The Hellfreaks for the future?
Record our third album, being on tour, survive to live separated, and collect crazy stories.
14. Any last words for our readers?
Check out our tourdates, stay tuned on our website (thehellfreaks.com) and be there to make a night unforgettable.
15. Thank you for your time!
Thank you for giving my words some space!
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