Interview: RRAF (05.02.2008)

Real Fucking Make-Up!

A chat with Chris Damien Doll on the forthcoming compilation album, drugs and make-up.

Trashcan Darlings, maybe THE most important band for the history of RRAF, are just about to release a brand new record! It’ll be out in the shops in Norway on Monday 3rd March, and available through as well as some German mail orders. And of course, get in touch with the band if you are having trouble getting it. Okey, with no further delay, we’re proud to present Billy’s chat with Mr Doll:

RRAF: Have you gotten a lot of requests for a record like this lately, or what are the reasons you choose to release it right now?

CHRIS: Yes. First of all a lot of people’s been trying to get a hold of our old EP’s and singles. Some of those sell for obscure amounts of money on places like eBay now and for instance „Gore Gore Boys & Splatter Pussies“ has been out of print since about 2002, I guess. Our fans also want to hear a lot of the old songs at our shows, so by releasing a compilation like this all our new, young fans get the chance to get the old tunes on CD. That actually goes for the old fans as well, as only 5 of these 18 tracks have been available on CD before. Another reason for it to be released now is that we really wanted to record some old tunes that have been lying around for a while, because we think they are great and we have been playing around with them lately. We have a bunch of older songs that still may end up on future Trashcan Darlings albums, but for these five songs this was a golden opportunity. A few of them are a little lyrically dated and a few others are a bit on the slow side for a new Trashcan Darlings record, but they are all fantastic songs. The CD includes a 16-pages booklet with the stories to each song, both the old and the new.

RRAF: Let’s go back to the beginning. How were the first years of the Trashcan Darlings?

CHRIS: It was some very hard years. We’ve always had the music as our Nr.1 priority, but it was still hard to get this thing together. It was the mid 90’s and grunge was still big in Norway. That made it almost impossible to find members for a band where wearing lipstick and eye-shadow was a requirement. Strange? and myself spent a whole year just planning the whole thing, writing songs and hanging out in bars trying to find the right people for the group. We played the wrong music and never got a line-up who lasted for more than a couple of gigs, so there wasn’t many gigs either in those years. But there was a definite enthusiasm and belief in what we were doing. That’s what kept us going then and still is today.

RRAF: We’ve heard a lot of stories on Trashcan Darlings messing around with drugs. How bad was it, and how did it affect your focus on the music?

CHRIS: Do we really have to talk about this? Yes??? Ohhh… We didn’t have the highest ambitions when we started out, but we were dead serious about what we were doing. We never did drugs to be cool, keep the party going longer or to fit in socially. We did drugs because we wanted to do drugs and we had this master-plan, being inspired by the New York Dolls, GG Allin and Johnny Thunders, that we really just had to release one killer album and get enough hype around it, and then at least one of us should die of drug-abuse so we could be cult legends forever. We did as many drugs as we could for a long time, and it was way over the limit. It got to the point where people you hadn’t seen in a while were surprised to see you alive when you ran into them on the street. After a while the abuse started to affect our playing in a negative way and the mood at rehearsals could get really hostile. We’d throw things at each other and other such nonsense. Many of our friends died or got totally fucked up, but most of all; the lack of hype and that killer album made it way to soon to die. Ha, ha. In retrospect it’s not something we’re proud of, but that’s how we were living back then. It was no joke and „I Just Wanna Die (On a chemical high)“ was some real heartfelt lyrics back then.

RRAF: A couple of the „new“ tunes; „Fed-up!“ and „22 & Trash“ sound like they could have been written around those times as well?

CHRIS: Yeah. „Fed-up!“ is actually about quitting hard drugs. I decided to quit and made up my mind about it, but as always I fell back into it again and again and again, until one day I woke up and was so paranoid that I couldn’t move from the living room chair for 2 whole days. I decided that enough is enough and did a real „Trainspotting“-thing where I unplugged the phone, locked the door and stayed in, being paranoid for 2 weeks until the worst of it was over. I think I wrote Fed-Up during those 2 weeks… or at least the lyrics for it. The original lyrics for „22…'“ were four full A4 pages of words that I had to edit down, so you can probably guess what state my head was in at the time.

RRAF: How was it working with this compilation-project vs. a regular TD album?

CHRIS: We’ve done everything ourselves, as usual. So it’s pretty much the same. This time we had just half the studio-time, since we only recorded five songs, but we had to use the double amount of time mastering it, since the old recordings sound so different. It’s all been re-mastered, so it sounds like one album now. We’ve also done a lot of booking in Norway, more than we usually do, and playing live is still a great way to promote an album. In addition to this there’s the whole deal of doing interviews, getting reviews, making the video and so on. So it’s basically been the same as doing a regular studio album. In a lot of aspects at least.

RRAF: How did you end up on an East-German record label? And how are things on Eastside Records?

CHRIS: Strange? got a letter in the mail sometime in the mid 90’s. Ha, ha. The guys from Eastside Records had been to Norway fishing and buying 7″ vinyl singles. They wrote that we had some awesome singles, and wanted to release our stuff in Germany. Life there is great, I suppose. They are a small label and they are working their asses off with the connections and finances they have, which is all we can ask of anyone, really.

RRAF: Why do you think you’ve got so much more fans in Germany than you’ve got in Norway?

CHRIS: Actually I think it’s just because there are more people living there. If you play a small town in Norway on a Monday, next to no one will show up, but in Germany there’s always someone showing up on almost any day in almost any city. The small towns in Germany are almost bigger than the big cities in Norway, you know. Besides, we’ve done probably ten times more gigs in Germany than in Norway. That and the fact that we have a booking-agency in Germany and never had one here, has given us more fans down there, I think.

RRAF: You’ve been compared to bands such as Backstreet Girls and even Turbonegro through the years. How do you feel about that, and the fact that they’ve reached a bigger crowd than you? Do you get frustrated?

CHRIS: Of course you can get frustrated, but what’s the point; that won’t make you a better musician or get your band more recognition. Besides it all depends on who you compare yourself too. We get mails from other bands who haven’t come as far as us who are jealous at us for being so big. That’s just life, you know. You are supposed to aim for the top and most people will always compare their band with the bands who are just a little bit bigger all the time. That’s good as it gives you energy and driving force to go out there and make your band bigger, but if you dwell too much on it it’s easy to just end up frustrated. Backstreet Girls were big in the 80’s and are still going strong and Turbonegro is probably the biggest rock band Norway has ever had. We’re stoked just as much over other bands having success. After all we all gain from it. If Norwegian bands are doing well abroad it means people are checking out Norwegian bands in general, and if a rock band does well in Norway it means that rock is doing good here and it’s easier for others to get cool shows as well. On the issue of comparison, we’ve always laughed at that. It’s all a matter of how much or little the guys comparing us knows. There’s not much in our music that sound like the Backstreet Girls, and we did make-up years before Turbonegro started wearing it. We don’t have anything in common with Wig Wam either, but to the regular Joe those are maybe the only bands he’s heard of who have loud guitars. I guess if someone had barely seen a guy with a guitar before, they could end up comparing us to Bruce Springsteen. Ha, ha.

RRAF: You’re a busy bunch of men now; Strange? singing with Valentourettes, and you and Andy playing with punk rocker Ronny Pøbel. Is it hard to schedule gigs and studio time to get things done with the Darlings ? And what’s up with Strange Dolls these days?

CHRIS: We all have Trashcan Darlings as our first priority, so there’s never any question of who has to cancel if something is double-booked, but so far it hasn’t been a problem and it’s all a matter of communication anyway. It shouldn’t be impossible to do all these bands without it affecting any of them in a negative way. The other projects are sort of other people’s bands and other people’s songs that we are fortunate enough to have been asked to join, even if I’m heavily in on the song writing with Ronny Pøbel though. Whereas Trashcan Darlings is Strange? and my songs, you know. It’s our band and that makes it a little more personal. Strange Dolls is something we’re hoping to do more of in the future, but right now there’s just not enough time. Strange?, Frankie and I will do an acoustic Strange Dolls show in Germany in May, but apart from that nothing is set. Oh, I have also been asked to play guitar for classic Norwegian punk band Betong Hysteria at a one off show at Rockefeller on the 23rd of May. Of course I accepted that too!

RRAF: Do you make any money from this? I mean; do the records sell, and what are you doing for a living behind all „the fucking make-up“?

CHRIS: So far there hasn’t been any money in this. The records sell OK and we are able to continue doing it, but we’re definitely not getting rich. Behind the make-up all we do is foundation. Ha, ha.

RRAF: Is the lack of cash one of the reasons you’ve lost so many band members over the years? And how has it affected you as a band?

CHRIS: Yes, along with drugs and alcohol it definitely is. Being in a serious band is hard work, and people get tired a lot. Most people just want to hang out in bars telling other people that they’re in a band. To do that it’s really enough to play a couple of gigs a year. If that’s all you’re looking for you won’t last long in this band. We love to tour, and that’s what we do. Of course people get tired and since we don’t make any money touring, you can’t really expect to make up for lost income while being on the road either. In the early years we lost so many people that playing just one gig was difficult, but I think it’s only made us better. Strange? and I have developed a lot as songwriters and musicians over the years, and each time we’ve lost a band member we’ve always replaced him with a better musician. That way we’re continuously getting better as a band and that way I can honestly say that I prefer the line-up we have today to any of the old Trashcan Darlings line-ups.

RRAF: What are your plans for 2008?

CHRIS: We’re gonna be playing a lot in Norway this year, I hope. We haven’t done too many gigs in Norway in the past, so that is something I’m looking very much forward to. We’ll also go on a few short trips to Germany to play at least one festival and some selected shows here and there, but there will not be a full European tour this year as we already included the two new songs that work best live from the upcoming compilation in our Getting Away With Murder set-list and we don’t wanna do that again. We’re also working on songs for the next full Trashcan Darlings studio album. We have 5 or 6 songs nearly finished and the aim is to finish a lot of songs and pick the best ones before we go make the next album. Fans can expect a few of these songs to be performed live around Norway this year as we always like to test our new songs in a live situation before we record them.

RRAF: Now a question presented to you from the posters at the RRAF forum:
Where do you buy your make-up? Do you have a sponsor?

CHRIS: Most of it comes from H & M. That’s cheap, and works for us when the purpose is for it to last 30 minutes into a gig and then look like a mess. The foundation and real good stuff we get at professional make-up stores. Strange? actually gets most of his stuff at professional stores when I come to think of it. We had a sponsor once, but they gave us so many strange colours that we dropped them. Ha, ha.

Interview: Billy McBarbie

© by RRAF (2008)