Latest release: What Happens in Hell, Stays in Hell (Hellcat/Shock)

Psychobilly pioneer Kim Nekroman has been lugging his coffin bass around the globe with Nekromantix since the late 1980s, surviving nine different line-ups and eight studio albums so far. In October, his band will be Australia for a lighting-fast tour. We caught up to Nekroman recently.

Hi Kim, great to be talking with you. You’ll be bringing Nekromantix down to Australia soon, but you were out here last year with HorrorPops; how did you enjoy that tour?
It was great! It’s always great coming to Australia, and then we spent a little more time than just the tour. We got it hang out a bit down there, so that was awesome.

The Nekromantix run is only very brief though.
We’re doing four shows in Australia and right at the tail of that we’re doing a show in New Zealand.

So how long are you going to be playing for, because you have a lot of stuff to work through now.
It’s probably going to be one and a half hours. The usual rock show set. It’s not gonna be where we bring out pyrotechnics or strippers or anything like that. It’s just going to be a rock n roll show.

Tell me a little bit about the history of the coffin bass. First of all, why a coffin bass?
When I started the band back in 89, we played out first show and I felt that I really needed something different from what I call a standard rock and roll bass. I actually took the neck from that bass and chucked it on a real child’s coffin. That was the first coffin bass. It looked cool but it was a little bit too heavy, so I just started building them from scratch.

Building them from scratch must take you a bit of time. Do you still build them, or do you have someone make them for you?
Oh I still do them. The last one I did was probably… it’s not like I time it, but it takes a good couple of weeks’ labour. It’s something I do on the side. I work on it, leave it for a while and then I work on it again. It’s hard to put a time on it.

How do you find the time? You have two current bands that always seem to be playing and touring or doing something.
I have no idea, but I seem to manage to anyways. If I kind of looked at it from the outside, I’d find it impossible, but somehow I manage to do it. I guess my days are twenty-eight hours instead of twenty-four. That must be the only thing I can think of.

Is there ever a time when you’ve found Nekromantix and HorrorPops playing on the same day somewhere?
We try not to do it on the same day. Because that kind of takes away from both bands. Sometimes it can be very close and we just juggle it as good as we can.

Is there a mood you have to get into to be able to go from one band to the other?
No, not really. It’s not like I put on a hat or I put on my fake nose. It comes natural. First of all there’s two different instruments. That alone puts me automatically in another mood, so, I mean, I’m still me, but it comes very natural and automatic. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to wear flip-flops and do push-ups.

The latest Nekromantix album has been out for a while now. How do you compare it to your earlier albums?
That’s a hard question to answer, because to me it’s just another album. It’s not like, OK, this time around we need to go in a different direction or that direction. It’s just whatever… the song writing’s the same as it was back in the day. You’d probably have to ask somebody else if they can hear what’s different. But to me it’s basically the same thing. Obviously, hopefully we’re a little better at what we are doing after all this time but the spirit and the song writing is the same thing. It’s kind of like just another kid!

You’ve seen a lot of people come through your band, even fairly recently. Does it change the vibe in the live/band situation, or is it always Nekromantix, regardless of who’s there?
I would say a little bit of both. Obviously new first blood brings a new energy to the band and motivation. For the most time, there’s a reason why other people leave the band: they have other things to do, they gotta move on with their life and it’s for the better that they leave the band and new blood offers fresh new ideas and that kind of thing, and that kind of rubs off on me. It’s a good thing.

It seems to me that the style of music that you play is really pure. There doesn’t really seem to be as much cross-genre pollution or the like than there is with a lot of other musical styles. Do you feel the same way?
Yeah, mainly because it’s underground and a sub-culture that hasn’t really been spoiled or damaged by the mainstream. It’s stayed under the radar for so long, and that’s why it’s kinda the same thing. I’m sure there’s fans out there that would argue that, Oh, this band is more popular than this band, but that’s just what it is. It will always be like that. There are bands, like your guys The Living End, that have pushed it a little further and gained mainstream popularity but I only think that’s a good thing. I love that band, and there are other bands that do the same old, same old year after year. That’s kinda what I like about the genre.

That must also give you a level of comfort that you’re not pressured to adapt Nekromantix to some passing trend in order to stay relevant or feel that you have to make some kind of radical change.
Yeah, true. Obviously I know some bands that are bitter that they don’t get more response to what they do, but you know that if they were signed to a big label they would probably be under all sorts of restrictions and limitations and instructions which I’m pretty sure they would hate.

You’ve been doing Nekromantix now since 1989. What is there still left for you to do? What sort of plans do you have for the band into the future?
As long as we can do what we do: go out on tour, make our albums and that we’re still able to pull people, that’s kinda my vision now. As long as we can do that, after all these years, go to Australia and people will show up… that, to me, is amazing.

Nekromantix hit Oz on the following dates:
2/10: Rosemount Hotel, Perth WA
4/10: HiFi Bar, Brisbane QLD
5/10: HiFi Bar, Sydney NSW
6/10: HiFi Bar, Melbourne VIC