By Brian F. Johnson
The music of the late-Sixties is most often thought about in terms of catchy, happy melodies like “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” by the Mamas and the Papas, and similar songs about peace, love and all things good.
But the Summer of Love had a dark and scary autumn that served as the killing fields of Altamont, complete with the devilish Manson Family, which in the 1970s gave way to cult horrors like Jim Jones and the mass-suicide of 909 of Jones’ followers in Guyana. And it’s in that dark season that Cambridge, England’s Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats found their stories, their style and ultimately their heavy psychedelic metal sound.
Formed in 2009 by lead guitarist, organ player and vocalist Kevin Starrs, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats were originally as hidden as Jones’ Peoples Temple. While they released an EP in 2010 titled simply Volume 1, the band had no publicity, no photos of themselves, and were as mysterious as the twisted cult leaders of yesteryear.
Their 2012 full length, Blood Lust, which was recorded in a dilapidated barn, tells the story of a 17th century, drug-crazed sadist who embarks on a witch-finding killing spree before meeting his own demise at the withered hands of Satan. The album was incredibly well received by critics, and eventually it caught the attention of the band that is most often used as a comparison for Uncle Acid’s sound — Black Sabbath.
Uncle Acid, which had gained some traction but was still relatively unknown and just starting to deal with things like press photos, soon found themselves supporting Sabbath for 16 dates of the legendary metal band’s European tour in late 2013.
Around that time Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats put down the tracks that would become their third studio release Mind Control.
Like the work before it, Mind Control also had a dark, occult-like feel, centered around the story of a mind-twisting cult leader who came down off of a mountain to brainwash his disciples through drugs, violence and intimidation. “I wanted Mind Control to be completely different than Blood Lust,” Starrs said, in a recent trans-Atlantic interview with The Marquee. “I just had this idea of a cult figure, and the more I wrote the more the story started to pan out. I wanted the idea of someone that was a cult figure that had control over people, so the natural thing to research would be Charles Manson and Jim Jones, and looking up how they would speak to people. For example the song ‘Poison Apple,’ all of the lyrics from that are kind of like if Charles Manson was speaking to you, and a lot of the phrases are phrases that he would use, which I thought made the story seem more real.”
Recorded at Chapel Studios in Lincolnshire, Starrs said the “witchy” vibe of Cambridge carried over to their studio time. “Lincolnshire is very, very isolated, but it’s quite similar to Cambridge. We were right in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farmland and trees in November. We were waking up early and going to sleep late and just recording every single day,” Starrs said.
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have followed Mind Control with a new 7” single called “Runaway Girls,” a song that was actually written just before the Mind Control sessions. “A couple of weeks before we went into the studio I wrote ‘Runaway Girls,’ but we didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse it and we tried to record it while we were doing the album, but for whatever reason we just couldn’t get the performance right,” Starrs said. “It annoyed me that we never got it on the album, so when we had the chance earlier this year we finally got it done.”
Now with that single and the Sabbath seal of approval in their pocket, the band set off on its first U.S. tour late last month, hoping to get more people to drink their tainted Kool-Aid concoction of B horror movie imagery, tales of hippie love-fests-turned evil, and psychedelic doom metal.
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