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Biography

Early years (1989-1994)

Turbonegro first came together in Oslo, Norway during the winter of 1988/89. The line up was Thomas Seltzer aka Happy-Tom, Vegard Heskestad, Pål Bottger Kjærnes, Rune Grønn, Pål Erik Carlin and Tor-Kristian "TK" Jensen. Thomas and Vegard had formerly shared times in a band called De Dype - a noisy and subversive ensemble equipped with a certain amount of Butthole Surfers inspiration. Apparently early Turbonegro continued their conceptional styles. Their first show was at Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen, Denmark in March 1989. By April, Turbonegro played their first show in their hometown of Oslo. In the following weeks they recorded songs for their debut single Route Zero and the Turboloid 12" EP. Both records were released by Thomas Seltzer's own label, Straitjacket Records, which he started in 1983 to release his first band's, Akutt Innleggelse, EP. This first session was recorded at Nesodden Musikkverksted by Christian Calmeyer. Thomas played bass and drums on Route Zero. An initial pressing of 50 copies came with an exclusive demo tape called Computech featuring a cover of The Stooges' 1970. The early pre-deathpunk Turbonegro sound featured here offers fairly tormented and distorted noise rock (some contemporary reviews compare to a Halo of Flies or early Mudhoney type-of-sound). Turboloid was the second and last release by the original line up. Drummer Carlos Churasco left to play guitar for Anal Babes. Route Zero was reissued by Sympathy For The Record Industry in 1990 with two songs from the Turboloid EP. In September of that year, they left Norway to tour the U.S. for 3 weeks. Rune was beat up in a quarrel with some crackheads in front of a hotel in Minneapolis a few hours after their arrival and remained in the hospital. The band forged on without him but the tour was a disaster. Three weeks later, Turbonegro returned to Oslo.

In the winter of 1990 Thomas Seltzer reformed Turbonegro with Pål and Rune. Norwegian punk veteran Harald Fossberg who had acquired fame in the late 70's with Norwegian punk pioneers Hærverk was recruited as the new singer and in the subsequent months Bengt 'Bingo' Calmeyer joined them on bass guitar. In the summer of 1991 the reformed lineup released the Vaya Con Satan 7" in the US being followed in early 1992 by their debut album Hot Cars and Spent Contraceptives on up-coming local label Big Ball Records. Both the single and the CD give an early introduction to the deathpunk sound - Turbo's self acclaimed very own genre. Actually the musical pre-settings are already anticipating later Ass Cobra era - dark death driven punk rock with occasional excursions into hardcore and metal as well as a certain tendency to disruptive and sarcastic lyrics. Swedish broadcasting DJ Lars Allman once described their sound as "Radio Birdman meets Venom in an institution for sexually abused retards" and Danish Moshable magazine remarked back then: "One great big hunk of an album that simply barfs up the best in Scandinavian punk rock - and then slam it into overdrive. So fucking punk that it will tear you a new asshole - and then some!"

In December 1992 Turbonegro set up for an after all quite ruinous tour outside of Norway: having had money left from a grant they went for one gig confirmed in Ålborg, Denmark then heading south to Hamburg, Germany where they stranded in a desperate and finally unsuccessful search for an opportunity to play. After 5 days the band ran out of money but their efforts were not a complete waste as contacts were made with Gravy Train Agency, who organized several tours for Turbonegro outside of Scandinavia in later years, as well as people from Crypt Records. In late March 1993 Harald played his last show with Turbonegro at Sentrum Scene in Oslo. He quit due to health reasons and was replaced by Hans Erik Husby aka Hank von Helvete who would be their best known and remaining vocalist. With the new singer a decision was made to rename the band Stierkampf (the German word for 'bullfight'). They opened up for Poison Idea in Oslo and Denmark as well as The Ramones in August 1993 at the Oslo Rock Festival. The only release as Stierkampf was the Grunge Whore EP on Sympathy for the Record Industry. All songs on this release would resurface on their next album with the exception of "Six Pack". Their second album "Never is Forever" (1994) was recorded by Christian Calmeyer at Nesodden Musikkverksted and was self-released (limited to 1200 copies) with a friend at Oslo Musikk Distribusjon. In their own words announced as "a tribute to Blue Öyster Cult" it is an attempt to dissociate from the Lo-Fi aesthetics of the garage scene: "When the rest of the punk oriented world tried hard to be lo-fi and 'real', Turbonegro as usual went the opposite way, creating a miniature suburban deathpunk opera. Seldom have pop culture, darkness and desperation blended so well." With the release of this album followed their first full European Tour. The tour was nick-named "Nihil Jung" and had 17 shows in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

By the winter of 1994/95 Turbonegro was back to the old name but with a new look referred to as the 'Al Jolson schtick', though it didn't last long. Happy-Tom summed it up best with the following anecdote: "so there we were backstage with our black faces and wigs and little hats, smoking pot with our all-time heroes the Bad Brains, and the absurdity just didn't cross our minds. I mean, those guys didn't mention it, they were probably just embarrassed on our behalf."

New look and new sound, rise to success (1995-1997)

The gag was long gone by May 1995 when they debuted the denim and moustache look. Happy-Tom stated "We feel that denim out-rocks leather at all levels. Leather is for empty, little people. Denim is for us big guys! And the kids love it!" With a new look came a new sound. Christian Calmeyer, their engineer at the time, said, "we decided to make things more raw, trying to convey the power of the live performance, if not the sound." The first recordings of the new and improved Turbonegro showed up on the Denim Demon and Bad Mongo singles in spring '95. That summer Turbonegro left for their second attempt at a US tour 'NAMBLIN in the 90's'. They played only eleven shows and in the words of Happy-Tom "at least we didn't get the shit kicked out of us like we did the last time we were in the USA". In fall '95 Bingo and Pal left the band putting Turbonegro on hold. Pal wanted to travel while Bingo didn't like the new musical direction, "less Slayer, more rock'n'roll." Thomas at the same time was suffering from some stress injury to his arms after the US tour - thus agreements were made to put the band on ice for a while.

Also that year Anthony Martin started his new label Boomba Records so he could release Turbonegro's third album Ass Cobra. It did not come out until the spring of 1996 and by September they were touring Europe again with a new line up. Anders Gerner from Angst was added as the new drummer, so Thomas went back to playing bass. Pal was replaced by Knut Schreiner, who Thomas had played with in The Vikings. Knut aka Euroboy was a priceless addition to the band in the reshaping of their sound. The Prince Of The Rodeo 7" was Euroboy's recording debut with Turbonegro and a taste of the greatness to come. Also at this time Pal returned from traveling in Thailand to open his famous 'Pamparius' pizza parlor outside of Oslo in Kolbotn. He decided to rejoin the band as the keyboard player and "dancer". Pal's return would be the final touch in the latest incarnation of the band. The new look, sound and album irritated and fascinated the European underground; people were starting to pay attention to Turbonegro.

In December and January, Turbonegro continued spreading the deathpunk seeds on a tour with a further 14 dates in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Denmark. The insignia of their stage performance - the bulging denim, Hanky's routine to stick a lit Roman candle up his ass, Happy-Tom's sailor hat, Euroboy's lissom and sultry guitar choreography & Hanky's attempts in addressing the audience in their broken native tongue - sort of became the Turbo trademark for the upcoming boom.

In spring 1997, Turbonegro had yet another line up change. Christer Engen, aka Chris Summers, from Big Bang took over on drums and they were ready to tour Europe again. This time out they were opening up with a modified version of a Grand Funk song ("We are a Norwegian band"). Hank was wearing Alice Cooper like make up and lighting Roman candles in his ass (referred to as "assrockets"), they were just warming up to their final and greatest album Apocalypse Dudes. Musicwise - as later will be proved on Apocalypse Dudes - it became obvious that they had meanwhile made a move into mid-70's punk & glam territory - in the spirit of proto punk pioneers á la The Dictators, The Ramones or late Iggy & The Stooges - plus a bit of New York Dolls' travesty thrown in. As Euroboy explains: "When I came into the band, that added a '70s rock'n'roll feel that wasn't there before...Turbonegro was just as dirty, but they were certainly more punk rock-driven than (before). We brought the Rolling Stones into the Ramones." [5] Now it was time to take the new and improved Turbonegro back across the Atlantic with the 'Summer of Head' US tour. They were more warmly received this time around but still played only a few shows that were plagued with problems. Nonetheless, after years of stumbling through line up changes, name changes and various shticks, they had finally found themselves.

The Apocalypse trilogy part one, popularity boom and disbanding (1998)

In the autumn of 1997, their next album Apocalypse Dudes - the first part of the so-called Apocalypse trilogy - was recorded at Endless Sound studios in Oslo with producer Pål Klaastad. When Happy-Tom was asked if their new sound and album has anything to do with Euroboy's entry into the band, he replied, "Yep, he's a genius, and so is our new drummer Chris Summers, The Prince of Drummers. We released the punk album of the millennium with Ass Cobra, and didn't want to make an Ass Cobra part two plus we spent two years writing new stuff, so as to make sure that every song is a hit, so we ended up making the rock album of the next millennium." The album was released in March 1998 by Boomba Records. However it was released in Norway exclusively by Virgin. It is regarded as their best and most successful album amongst many fans and critics alike. Moshable magazine commented: "Apocalypse Dudes is the perfect mix of classic 70's US punk / rock'n'roll like Dictators, Heartbreakers & Ramones... every tune on this release is fucking brilliant". Jello Biafra was quoted as saying, "the new Turbonegro record is possibly the most important European record ever."

Turbonegro supported the album playing 24 sold out shows throughout Europe, by fall returning for yet another 16 European dates on the 'Darkness Forever' tour. The tour was for long their last, and ultimately the end of Turbonegro. According to Happy-Tom "Turbonegro broke up in the waiting room of a psychiatric emergency ward in Milan, Italy." Hank's mental indisposition became a real problem thus the remainder of the tour was cancelled. They bid their farewell December 18, 1998 at Mars in their hometown of Oslo. The last song performed on stage before they broke up, was the final encore "I Am In Love With The Destructive Girls" - so "Yeah-Yeah! Yeah-Yeah!" were about the last words uttered.

On hiatus (1999-2002)

On the threshold of what was by many expected to be a major breakthrough for the band, Turbonegro withdrew from the music business and appeared unlikely to ever return. While there were several reasons, Hank von Helvete's drug addiction made it impossible for him to continue. Leaving the band to undergo treatment for heroin dependency as well as his struggle with depression, Hank von Helvete returned to his childhood town in northern Norway. There he worked at a radio station and as a guide at a whaling museum. Another issue was that the band was stuck in an oppressive record deal with Boomba. The arrangement saw very little money directed to the band and cancelling the tour with Nashville Pussy after only half the dates only added to the financial problems.

In 1999 Bitzcore Records out of Hamburg bought the contracts from Boomba and began to reissue Turbonegro's entire back-catalogue of albums. 1999 also saw the release of a posthumous live album entitled Darkness Forever!. It captures selections from two shows in Hamburg and Oslo, documenting Turbonegro's larger-than-life stage antics. Their appreciation among contemporary artists from diverse musical genres as rock, pop, punk and even black metal is displayed on Alpha Motherfuckers, a tribute album to Turbonegro that was compiled and in the works over a span of two years and until released by Bitzcore in May 2001. The line-up includes among others Queens of the Stone Age, Nashville Pussy, Therapy?, HIM, Bela B. & Denim Girl aka German technopop star Blümchen. During these four years, the band members would rarely speak, however the momentum from their previous albums (most especially Ass Cobra and Apocalypse Dudes) would continue to grow as more and more music fans would turn to their music. Unbeknownst to the band, Turbonegro was becoming a cult phenomenon. Fan clubs were established all over the world (see Turbojugend).

The immense following and the tribute album revealed a huge interest that, by audience numbers, was never received back in the day when they had quit. When Turbonegro were approached by the organizers of the Norwegian Quart Festival about a possible participation in 2002, Turbonegro agreed. What was initially meant to be a one-off affair to offer an opportunity to the many newly recruited fans to witness a Turbonegro performance, finally resulted in the band's reunion. Apart from the tremendous response at the festival shows Turbonegro had also realized that they were in better shape and much more determined than ever before.

Reforming: new albums, new tours and even greater fame (2003-)

Shortly after the Bizarre Festival the band proclaimed that they signed a record deal for two new albums with Burning Heart Records, an independent record company from Sweden with a long tradition in the punk & hardcore sector. Burning Heart also licensed Turbonegro's most successful albums Ass Cobra and Apocalypse Dudes from Bitzcore and reissued them as digipak CDs with additional video footage from the recent Res-erection show at Quart. Turbonegro appeared in an episode of Viva La Bam during Season 1. The band ends up playing their concert at Bam's West Chester home. Their single, "All My Friends Are Dead", was also used in some episodes of the show.

The band released the highly anticipated album, the second part of the Apocalypse trilogy, Scandinavian Leather in 2003, complete with artwork of a skull Ouroboros from legendary Revolver-designer Klaus Voorman. A US tour with Queens Of The Stone Age proved that the American Turbojugend contingent had grown completely out of control, and almost 150 shows later, Turbonegro finished the Scandinavian Leather campaign by selling out the House of Blues in Los Angeles two days in a row in December 2004.

While Scandinavian Leather was recorded at their own Crystal Canyon Studio in Oslo, Turbonegro decided to bring in Steven Shane McDonald as co-producer for Party Animals. McDonald played bass and sang in Hawthorne, California band Redd Kross from the age of 11, and "Standing in front of Poseur" from the bands 1979 debut EP is still a punk rock classic. Redd Kross transformed from being an archetypical L.A.-punk band to taking in influences from the glam and stadium rock of the seventies, not unlike what Turbonegro has done through their career. In recent years McDonald has worked with artists such as Beck and The White Stripes. On Party Animals, he's done his best to keep the bubblegum intact in the stadium rock and the sharp edged punk rock. This follow-up to 2003's Scandinavian Leather and the last offering in the Apocalypse trilogy was released throughout Europe on the 9th of May (Norway 2nd of May). It continued and brought to perfection the '70s and '80s glam metal and hard rock influenced party-oriented deathpunk sound that was first introduced on Apocalypse Dudes. Party Animals was followed by intense touring throughout Europe - and in October they visited the US. A collection of remixes and rarities also appeared in 2005 as Small Feces.

Turbonegro are on tour again in 2006 with mostly European locations. They keep reinvading the world with their deathpunk sound; probably the best summary of the band is by Happy-Tom: "Most rock 'n' roll bands start as a riot but end up as a parody. We started up as a parody but ended up as a revolution."

On March 8, 2007 the new single "Do You Do You Dig Destruction" was released in Norway. The single is from the album, Retox. The album was released on June 13, 2007.

On July 10 2007 Turbonegro was one of the warm-up bands, alongside HIM, at Metallica's headlining concert at Valle Hovin Stadium in Oslo, Norway.

The band will tour Europe late summer in 2007, including an appearance at Download Festival and playing 10 intimate gigs in the United Kingdom.

The Turbonegro official site was completely redesigned for the new album release, the new site debuted on June 11, 2007.

On October 27, 2007, Rune Rebellion played his last live show with Turbonegro in Stavanger, and subsequently left the band. He stated "The decision was made this Summer, realizing I hadn't had time off at all from work or touring for three years." Despite his departure from the position of rhythm guitar, he is still closely collaborating with the band by running their label, Scandinavian Leather Recordings and managing their itinerary.

On March 3, 2008, it was announced that Chris Summers had been asked to leave the band. Chris had already been gone from the band for 6 months due to a broken foot. On the band's website, they cited that "personal problems and a focus on other projects, we have been forced to ask drummer Chris Summers to resign from Turbonegro." Chris' replacement was announced to be Vikings drummer Thomas Dahl, who had been filling in for Chris since he broke his foot.

In early 2008, guitarist Euroboy also announced that he and Happy-Tom are working on a new album tentatively titled Tumours. They continued they're Retox album tour throughout 2008 and 2009, and on August 7 2008 Turbonegro celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Apocalypse Dudes by performing the entire album at the Øya Festival in Oslo, Norway.

After the band finished their Retox world tour, the band announced through the Turbojugend-Forum that the band has gone on hiatus for an unknown amount of time.

Source: Wikipedia