By RACHEL REEVES
For those who hit their teenage years in the late 90s and early 2000s, punk bands didn’t get much cooler than the HorrorPops. Fusing elements of psychobilly, punk, surf, ska and even new wave into one infectiously raucous sound, the Danish band easily racked up fans around the globe. Consisting of drummer Henrik “Niedermeier” Stendahl, lead singer/bassist Patricia Day and guitarist Kim “Nekroman” Gaarde, the band toured heavily during this time period. Known for their incredibly energetic stage presence, the HorrorPops often accompany their high-energy sound with theatrical wardrobe choices, Go-Go dancers and of course, Day’s iconic upright bass that may as well be the unofficial fourth member of the band.
After being signed to Hellcat/Epitaph Records in 2003 off of the strength of their demo tape alone, the band released three well-received albums over 4 years. They played hundreds of shows and became a familiar presence on the Warped Tour roster. Due to their popularity and strong fanbase, it came as a subtle shock to many when the band simply never followed up their 2008 release of Kiss Kiss Kill Kill with another album. Although Nekroman could (and still can) be found on stage alongside his band the Nekromantix, it seemed like the HorrorPops may have quietly retired as a band. However, everything changed when the band announced they would be reuniting for a short run of shows in early 2020.
A true force to be reckoned with, the HorrorPops delighted fans and sold out venues once again. Further maximizing on the magic contained in this historic HorrorPops moment, the band decided to use this opportunity to release their very first live album. Filmed and recorded in early 2020 at The Wiltern in Los Angeles, the release features 19 tracks of classic HorrorPops hits and a newly recorded interview. To celebrate this highly anticipated release, Rue Morgue spoke with the one and only Patricia Day all about the HorrorPops return to the stage, her Danish upbringing, how the global pandemic is still affecting musicians, and so much more.
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today Patricia! I’m so excited to chat with you.
I’m so happy to be talking to Rue Morgue again! It’s been 10 years since the last interview with you guys.
I definitely wanted to ask you a little bit about that. It’s been awhile since the last album and the band took a little hiatus for a while. What was it that prompted this return of the HorrorPops?
We never decided to stop being a band or stop touring, and we also never really decided to start touring. So, hiatus…that’s been the word to use I guess, but nothing in the HorrorPops is ever planned. I don’t know what made us want to do a few shows again. Henrik Niedermeier moved back to Denmark about eight or nine years ago. He became a father and well, you know how that goes. Then, a few more years passed and we actually started missing each other a lot. Henrik and I have known each other since I was 12 or 13. He’s like my brother from another mother. We just missed each other! So, I was like, “Should we try and see if there’s any interest? It could be fun getting on the road!” Then we were checking around to see if anybody was interested in seeing the HorrorPops at all. We really didn’t know, but our booking agent was convinced that he could set up shows for us and sell some tickets. And he was right. We did!
That has to be a strange emotional crossroad to navigate, not knowing how a band reunion will be received. What was the general vibe from the fans once you did announce the new show dates? Were you at all surprised with the fan reception?
Yes! Super surprised! We were thinking, “Oh, we’re just going to do tiny clubs.” You know, 200 capacity rooms just for our own sake. But then it turned out to be bigger rooms and these rooms were selling out like, so fast. We were all speechless. We couldn’t believe what was going on, but it’s also a difficult edge to walk. On the one hand it was, “Wow.” With this kind of response, all these people coming to these shows, it’s great. But does that mean there’s a constant need for the HorrorPops? Or was that just because people were excited to relive a ‘high school days’ kind of situation? It’s hard to judge. To continue to the next logical question, are we now fully back as a band? I don’t know if we are. It depends. If people want us to play, we’ll play. But are we going to record a new album? Well, if people really want one, maybe. But we’re not really going to plan things. We’re going to do what feels right, when it feels right.
I love that. It seems very organic, and, I would imagine, helps keep it fun.
While a future studio album is still up in the air, you recently released your first live album and concert video, Live at the Wiltern. Tell us a little bit about this release and why you chose to return with your very first live album.
So there’s a couple of things. For one, it’s weird how our generation of bands, like bands that came out basically in the late ’90s and early 2000s, there’s not a lot of stuff about them online. Then Myspace started happening, which then died of course, but, we were in our prime when Myspace was at its peak. So anything that’s ever been about HorrorPops was basically on Myspace, and there was a lot. You know, people didn’t have the iPhone yet so there wasn’t a lot of filming the band live. You can’t find a lot of old, old tour stuff on YouTube. There’s certainly not a lot when compared to other bands. There’s some, but really crappy quality because it’s that old. So it’s like, “You know what? We should have something.”
It’s kind of sad, you know, because we should have something online that shows who we are as a band live. I always thought that HorrorPops is a live band, a band you want to go see. It’s not just listening, it’s also watching. So I thought, “Let’s just record this so there is something out there for people to watch.” Basically that was the thought process. Again, it’s HorrorPops – we don’t really think that deep about any decisions that we make, but if I have to try and explain it, that would be my kind of excuse as to why we did it.
You’re so right. HorrorPops is so wonderfully theatrical. I vividly remember the first time I saw you play at Warped Tour. To be honest, between you and Brody Dalle (of the Distillers), you were really the first live female fronted groups that I had ever seen and that ultimately had a huge impact on me. That makes me curious, who are some of the women who have inspired you along the way or are still inspiring you?
Well, it’s weird because being Danish means that I’ve grown up in a time, in a country, where there is no difference between men and women. Like, men don’t see women as any less than themselves. In Denmark, there’s also equal pay and equality is a real thing. So, you know, even though I chose a career in music where it’s very male-dominated still, being a Danish woman, it didn’t hit me in the same way as it has for a lot of American girls who still have this weird way of seeing themselves.
And there’s this weird way that men see American women. For example, the whole engagement ring thing. Like, what the hell is that? You want the man to buy you? Is that what it means? There’s some cultural things there that are different being Danish. So, I didn’t really need to have girls to look up to in order to do what I did. That was the thing, I’m a person picking up an instrument. I’m not a gender, you know? It doesn’t matter for playing. I’ve been extremely lucky in that way. Of course, moving to the U.S, I started experiencing a lot of this basic sexism. But luckily, not in my formative years. But, who do I look up to today? Well, there’s not a lot of women in this business that are above even 30. Having a career doing this, there’s this idea that it’s only for young girls with bouncy body parts. Mine are more droopy than bouncy, but that happens with age. So, who do I have to look up to? What woman has done this, let’s say past 50 or 60? You’re getting down to less than five women, you know? There’s Dolly Parton. There’s Tina Turner, but that’s not a lot is it. So, I don’t really have anybody to look up to.
“…even though I chose a career in music where it’s very male-dominated […], it didn’t hit me in the same way as it has for a lot of American girls who still have this weird way of seeing themselves.”
Well, you’re paving your own road and that’s part of what makes you such an icon. Also, thank you for calling me out: I told on myself and my own subconscious, culturally-ingrained thinking by asking that question, so I appreciate you discussing it a bit. The fact that you were raised in a culture that’s so much more progressive in regards to gender equality, I’m quite jealous of that. Poly Styrene from the X-Ray Spex once wrote about how she got into punk music because she thought it was this really inclusive creative space. But then once she got into it, she realized it was just as misogynistic as any other industry. Having that gender-neutral background, do you think that strong foundation helped you navigate the music business when you came over to the U.S.? Was there anything that surprised you about how you were treated over here?
Yeah, of course. And luckily for most things I just think they’re hilarious. Like, I actually enjoy standing on stage for a soundcheck and there will be some local sound engineer that will not communicate with me about what I need because I’m a woman. Like I don’t know any technical details of what I want in my monitors. They’ll communicate with Kim or Henrik like, “What does she want in her monitor?” And I’m just dying laughing because first of all, Kim and Henrik don’t know how to handle that situation at all. Because the last thing you want to do is fuck around with the local sound guy. That can ruin the night for everybody, you know? So, watching them trying to navigate this timebomb between them, dealing with it, and keeping on the good side of the local sound engineer and not having me either fucking die laughing or throw a fit, that’s always an entertaining moment.
I don’t know if it helped me navigate anything. It’s like asking, “What’s it like being a woman?” I can’t answer that question. I have my own perspective. However, I was surprised when we went into recording the second album Bring it On!, Brett Purvis was producing it, and Brett was talking about [how] he was going to release a Suicide Girls DVD. And what I thought about that, again, this says something about how long ago it was, was, it’s weird because I have all my tattoos and all that. I didn’t want to be a sex object. I wanted to be one of the guys or whatever. It was considered very unfeminine to be heavily tattooed. And now, all of a sudden, it’s becoming sexual and objectified and I’m not sure I like that turn. Then Brett said, “Wow, you’re a feminist.” And I was like, “I didn’t know that was being feminist. I thought it was just not wanting to be objectified.” So that’s an example of, “Okay. What am I going to do in this situation?” Other than going like, “Well, that says more about you than it does about me.”
The HorrorPops have been together for nearly 25 years now, which is a feat for any band. What do you still love about creating with Kim and Henrik after all this time?
Well, our 25th anniversary is coming up in August. That’s when we started at the first practice, Kim, Henrik, and I. That’s how we started out, and we are truly the best of friends. Like, we were the best of friends and we’re all kind of like an old marriage. We all know what each other’s thinking. Half the time we’re laughing without even having to say what is making us laugh because we all know, you know? It’s so bad that people will say, “We don’t understand hanging out with you guys.” [Laughs] It’s not just the language barrier most of the time either. We’re just non-communicative because we just know. It’s very, to use a Danish word, hygge [a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being]. It’s very, very comfortable and homey to just be the three of us. It’s such a joy and personally, I could spend the rest of [my] life on the road with Kim and Henrik without it being any kind of a problem. I love them.
That dynamic really translates. It genuinely seems like you three are always having the best time on stage.
We are! And we’re pointing and laughing at each other a lot. [Laughs]
So, on this new release, there’s a little interview, and you were asked a question, but I wanted to re-ask you the same question because so much has happened over the last year and a half. The question was, why does the world need this type of art right now?
So, why do we need live music? I think COVID really answered that question for us. We need to be together in a room with a lot of people singing the same tune or you know, moving to the same beat. It’s just, what’s the word…primal. We just need that. As human beings, we connect on a different level when we are together with people that like the same music as we like. There’s just a connection. But why do we need HorrorPops as a live band right now? I don’t know. I hope somebody needs us to play. That would be nice. I cannot say that we have more to offer than any other live band, but that would be a question to our fans, not us.
Between the HorrorPops and Kim’s other band the Nekromantix, there’s a lot of spooky and horror imagery present. Are you or any of the other band members fans of the genre?
First of all, if we’re talking horror movies, that’s definitely Nekroman’s department. And Niedermeier. There’s a generational shift between them too that’s interesting. Like, Nekroman loves all the, you know, the early horror movies—Suspiria, the ’70s and ’80s. Also, he’s into the end of the ’80s stuff where it’s what was then called splatter and where Evil Dead came from. But, I’m not into horror movies. They don’t do shit for me. I don’t need to get scared and I do get scared watching horror movies. I actually do jump and scream and pee my pants. I don’t find it funny. Horror is for people who have, I believe, a secure life where they haven’t experienced a lot of actual horror. But that’s just my personal theory. Now, if we are talking books, that’s definitely my department. Especially horror that crosses with sci-fi. Like, The Bible for example. No, I’m kidding. [Laughs] But if you’re talking Lovecraft, that’s more down my alley.
So, right after this 2020 tour that we see on the Live at the Wiltern release, the world shut down due to COVID. As musicians, I imagine that had a huge impact on you and a lot of people that you know. How did the global pandemic end up impacting you and how did you all end up coping career-wise?
It’s interesting because you’re asking that question in the past tense.
Oh wow, you’re right. Yikes. I’m so sorry.
It’s just that it’s not. It’s not past tense for us. Not for me personally anyways. The Nekromantix played a show right as California opened up and allowed outdoor shows. Like, two days later, he was on stage. Lucky him. But that doesn’t happen for a lot of people. For most musicians, they’re starting now to book shows, but tours usually book six months in advance, that’s just industry standard. So, you’ve got every fucking band at every level who wants to go out and play every venue. Plus, a lot of them have closed and have not survived. Then, the ones that have survived don’t have any personnel because they had to fire everybody. Now they’re having to rehire people for everything. So when a venue is ready to say, okay, we can start booking bands, it’s tough.
Even six months from now when you start seeing shows, since everybody wants to play, every venue has at least a hundred bands each night to choose from. Each musician is in a hardcore competition with each other and the venues know that. And, they’re going to do everything they can to save money because they’ve had it fucking tough too. But that means the offers for bands to play are very, very low. So as a musician, when you do get the chance to come out and play again, you’re going to be playing for a lot less money. Now, the fan going into the show ain’t going to see a difference. They’re still going to pay the same ticket price as they did last time they went to a show. But the band now only gets maybe a third of what they used to because the venues need to make that profit. And there’s a whole thing about that that pisses me off.
Long story short, the venues asked fans to please help out in this crisis. Asked musicians, “Please help us.” There was this whole thing called Save Our Stages. I don’t know if you’ve read about it or heard about it, but that was a thing. So, every band that could did a live stream or whatever and made fans donate. Right. So now business is coming back. Now, every venue that’s out there—including venues that were asking musicians to help—now these venues are putting in clauses into the contracts saying basically, if tickets don’t sell as they were expected to, they can cut whatever fee. So now there’s nothing called a ‘guarantee.’ You’re not guaranteed any kind of pay any longer as a musician. You can be having to drive a thousand miles across the country to play a show and you don’t know what you’re going to get paid. It can be nothing.
Yeah, that’s messed up.
It’s so messed up. But, there’s so much of this industry that…oh, it makes me so angry. And I guess that was the reason why I needed a break from it. Because I’ve always been very heavily involved in everything that we did. We never had managers or management of anything. I’ve done it all. Which then means I dealt with all these assholes taking advantage. It makes me so tired. Another example is that most fans don’t know, and I wish more people were aware, that every venue that a band plays charges 20% minimum for the band to sell their t-shirts. Now, that 20% is before costs. So the whole cost of the shirt or whatever is on the band. I mean, the venues are actually making more per shirt sold than each member in the band is making per shirt sold. That’s just how the industry worlds.
I’m really glad you’re talking about this. I think fans deserve to know where their money is going.
Yeah. But I mean, there’s not a musician’s union and it’s the name of the game. Everybody’s competing with each other, so there’s not really going to be any chance. All the venues can figure it out together and band together to make an industry standard, but we musicians can’t because we’re hungry. We’ll take whatever we can get. So, we always end up fucking ourselves. That’s just the name of the game I guess.
The HorrorPops Live at the Wiltern is out now. You can purchase the Blu-ray/DVD and CD set via MVD Entertainment Group or snag a limited vinyl version of the release from Cleopatra Records. Rue Morgue is also giving readers a chance to win a copy for FREE! Click here for further details.
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