Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats Reminds Us Psychedelia Isn’t Always Rainbows

We interviewed Kevin Starrs about music, weed in the U.K. and social media addiction.
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats Reminds Us Psychedelia Isn't Always Rainbows
Courtesy of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats

Psychedelia is often portrayed as colorful swirls of melting clouds and moments of synesthesia that change everything you’ve ever known about the physical world. But what about the darker side of psychedelics? And we’re not talking about the stigma—you know, like if you eat one piece of LSD you’ll turn into a fried potato that suffers from eternal acid-flashbacks. Rather, we’re referring to the heavier side of tripping made famous by bands like Black Sabbath; or Pink Floyd’s film adaptation of The Wall. 

But Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats are harder than Pink Floyd, though they visit similar lyrical motifs. And they sound a touch more ’80s-metal than the Ozzy-era-of-Sabbath they also exude. Uncle Acid is the truth of modern-day psychedelic rock because they represent the gripping-hold of a trip; and their new album Wasteland is a testament to that. They bring a balance to the colorful waves of Tame Impala. And they’re vastly different from the dark vibes of the Black Angels. Who-the-hell-else is talking about technology destroying the human mind and potentially leading to our violent, lonely demise?

Kevin Starrs, Uncle Acid’s lead singer and guitarist, got real with us about their new album, social media addiction, and what’s happening in the weed-world across the pond. They’ll be touring North America in 2019, including dates scheduled at the Wiltern in LA, the Brooklyn Steel in New York, the Warfield in San Francisco, and more.

High Times: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have a sound that dates back to a time when cannabis had its first run at mainstream popularity. How has that infiltrated your sound? Has cannabis been a part of it?

Kevin Starrs: It definitely is for our audience. In terms of when I write songs, not so much. I tend to smoke to switch off, so when I’m writing I need to be switched on in order to enter a different part of my brain and get into it. But for our audience, it definitely enhances the experience of our music for them.

HT: Your music is very Sabbath-esque, which hits that vintage cannabis-era. But it’s different from the happy, colorful, dreamy moments often associated with psychedelics. Your music represents the darker side—the unspoken part of  the psychedelic experience.

KS: It’s definitely an expression of  the evil side of psychedelics. It doesn’t have to be all flower-power and peace signs. What we try and do is mix heaviness with the lighter parts so the harmonies and melodic vocal lines mesh. Then we mix it with these heavy, dark riffs and dark subject matter in order to create a contrast.

HT: How is the cannabis culture in the UK?

KS: They’ve just legalized cannabis for medical use. I know they’ve been talking about it for a long time. Hopefully this move will lead on to full and bigger regulation and legalization. Though, I don’t think it’s going to happen under this government we have. They’re really, quite conservative.

HT: Is there a big need for cannabis in the UK?

KS: Absolutely. There was a big court case recently where an Irish woman’s son had a really severe disease and was using cannabis oil to help with his seizures. It blew up into a whole national court case because the NHS of doctors took the oil away and said they weren’t going to let him have it, even though it was doing wonders for him. Since then, cannabis seems to be moving toward legalization for medical use. It’s really good.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats' Kevin Starrs Talks to Us About Weed, Tech Addiction, and Wasteland
Spencer Strayer

HT: You guys had an album come out on Oct. 12. Are the themes in this album different than on past records?

KS: Yes this one touches on the idea of a dystopian nightmare of technology infiltrating our brains and wiping our minds clean causing everyone to live like zombies—kind of like the living dead, or something. 

HT: So relevant to what’s happening today! My god.

KS: Yeah, you can definitely say that (laughs). Our album is a bit to the extreme, but it’s kind of a warning that it could become this way if we are not careful with our technology consumption. The record’s still got our classic heavy melodic sound, just a different concept.

HT: I understand that technology was created to make things easier, but it seems like it’s actually had some really horrible effects on society.

KS: Yeah, I mean the whole social media and smart phone thing—people are fully addicted to it. There’s been no tests or studies on its effects or long term impacts. It’s been fully let loose on the public, and now we are seeing all these mental health issues rise—it seems like there’s a correlation there, and it’s spiraling out of control. It’s sad for the younger generations of people who don’t remember a time before all this stuff. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine being a young person today with all the problems technology is causing. It’s really sad.

HT: How has technology impacted your life?

KS: It’s really helped the band because when we started MySpace was the big thing. And it was through that platform that people started hearing about us and spreading the word. Our music was reaching people all over the world. People were listening to us who we would’ve never reached if the Internet wasn’t there. So, you know, there are good parts of the Internet, but things have gotten out of control. The Internet also seemed a lot smaller back in the MySpace days, like there weren’t as many people online. Now it’s just a wasteland…which is kind of how we got the name for this last album.

HT: “Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats” is a take on another band named Uncle Acid from the ’70s. Can you go into that a bit?

KS: Rusty Day was in a band called Cactus in the ’70s, but he left that band to start a project called Uncle Acid and the Permanent Damage Band. He was unfortunately killed before he could ever record anything. I thought it was a great name and a shame that it was never able to be properly used for anything, so we decided to go with a new iteration of that name.

HT: Keeping the legacy alive! How did he die?

KS: He and his son were shot in a suspicious murder..possible drug deal thing not sure.

HT: So, you’re obviously into dark music. What kind of music do you listen to when you’re not writing for Uncle Acid?

KS: A lot of Neil Young and a lot of the good, old classic stuff. I love it. I obviously love the music we play—the heavy and dark stuff—but you don’t want to listen to that all the time. No one wants to listen to the same kind of music over and over. It’s nice to switch it up and listen to the quieter stuff too sometimes. 

HT: When is Uncle Acid going to be on tour in the US again?

KS: Next year! Expect us toward the beginning of 2019. We’ll be coming through a lot of cities including LA, so be sure to come out.

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