with the Howlers,
7 p.m. Wednesday, July 21
The Social, 407-246-1419
You know how sometimes the value of a song increases when it stems from a fascinating origin? “Rot in Hell” is one of those. As it appears on Life Is a Grave & I Dig It!, the 2007 record by psychobilly outfit Nekromantix, the whip-swift track is dominated by a guitar’s austere cry and frontman Kim Nekroman’s tattooed hands darting across his double bass. Nekroman poses a comically pointed question (“Don’t you fucking hate waiting forever just to have your fries served cold?”) before taking aim at the song’s subject, calling someone “a twat” and “a worthless bag of slime,” telling him to “suck his cojones” and for the person to “go choke the chicken before you make me barf.” The chorus is equally kind: “I hope you rot in Hell!” Fun but unremarkable, it’s another catchy, hokey Nekromantix song to pile onto a discography overflowing with catchy, hokey songs. However, Nekroman’s “Rot” back story gives the track some juice. It’s inspired by a former Nekromantix guitarist who was always complaining about the lack of decent meals on tour, and as the miles-worn Nekroman says, “When you’re on the road, you have to take what you can get.” One late night after a show, everyone was hungry and the guitarist in question wanted something gourmet. Much to the band member’s ire, the squad stopped at a fast-food spot instead.
After refusing to order, he finally relented and asked for french fries. When he got his potatoes, he went ballistic. “Fuck, these fries are fucking cold!” he screamed, before lobbing them at the elderly ladies working behind the counter and adding, “Rot in hell!”
“In his head, at that time, the whole world sucks and he’s so angry about such a little thing,” Nekroman says. “I can’t help but laugh when I sing it, because I’m totally thinking of that situation. [“Rot” is] about all of those little things we freak out about.”
Fragments of meaning and metaphor drift around Nekromantix songs, creeping beneath kitschy sagas about monster movies, “the loving dead” rising, “howlin’ at the moon” and sex in a hearse. The words are hardly the only source of kitsch. Seeing Nekroman’s cresting Vanilla Ice–style hairdo, or his coffin-shaped bass, softens the impact of anything remotely nefarious or serious about the band. Nekromantix’s commitment to this subculture is so devout that they keep turning out album after album packed with over-the-top hoary horror motifs.
Taking his cues from Nosferatu, Hitchcock flicks, and other thrillers, Nekroman’s been penning gruesome lyrics since he began writing music. One of the first songs he remembers creating was a riff on Hellraiser.
“Not everyone sees it, but I can get influenced by whatever happens in my life,” Nekroman explains. “You can choose to see one of our songs as a straight-up horror story or you can look a little deeper.”
Nekroman’s “Gargoyles Over Copenhagen” discusses Armageddon in the Danish band’s hometown; “Spiders Attacking Manhattan” is a 9/11 allegory and “Alice in Psycholand” is about dangerously flirting with suicide. He allots ample room to cover “anything from terrorist attacks to crappy girlfriends leaving you.” Nonetheless, Nekroman’s aware of the trappings of kitsch – a detail that makes his project endearing.
“Psychobilly is basically about having a good time and getting away from everyday life,” says Nekroman. “We, as a band, take our music as a serious matter, but if people want to see [our work] as straight-up entertainment – as I do with a lot of horror flicks – that’s totally OK. It’s just music.”