In their heyday, Manowar’s slogan was “death to false metal!” But if that’s true, Manowar should die and even Metallica need to retire. Because there’s only one real metal band right now, and that’s Compressorhead.
The rocking robots are one of the most amazing acts you’ll ever see. The titanium trio recently caused a big stir at Australia’s Big Day Out festival and are hooking-up with Gibson to rock the Musikmesse show in April in Frankfurt, Germany.
Backstage, we find Compressorhead’s long-suffering roadie, Kolbie, sitting wearily in a pile of wiring, metal shards and PC chips. Kolbie mumbles something about the trials of teching for “a band of machines that play real instruments.”
“Compressorhead are built out of metal scrap, most of the movings are made with electro pneumatics. It is controlled via Midi. There is an interface that changes the Midi signals in switch signals for the electro pneumatic valves…,” Kolbie’s voice drifts off. He has soon got his face in a Robotics for Dummies manual.
So, that’s enough boring tech-talk. Gibson.com want to know about the real Compressorhead – Fingers (guitar), Bones (bass) and Stickboy (drums). After a slug of lubricant – one of their rider demands, naturally, as well as three bags of assorted nuts – the trio are ready to talk.
As young robots, was rockin’ always your dream? Did you have previous jobs?
Bones: “My dad worked in a sausage factory, filling meatbags for meatbags. He hated it and it put me off slaving for humans. Now, the meatbags slave for me, tending my every need while I rock.”
Stickboy: “It’s my mum that taught me to rebel. She was a multi-armed painting robot working at the shipyard and liked to malfunction. On many occasion, she would cover the sides of ships she was meant to be painting with digital graffiti, and it left the meatbags scratching their heads and trying to re-programme her. She really influenced my attitude.”
Fingers: “I was put to work as a speed typist at a young age and couldn’t stand it. I stole a guitar from my meatbag boss’s son and haven’t looked back.”
Most bands have a “forgotten” early member – has it always been you three?
Fingers: “In the early days, there were two fembots that used to hang around with Stickboy. They danced on the stage with him rocking out. Even though they could groove, they couldn’t sing or play any instruments so eventually they had to go.”
Explain the name Compressorhead.
Bones: “Compressorhead is named after an essential member of our band, a simple machine with only one task - to deliver fresh air to our pneumatic circuits.”
Which bands were your early influences?
Bones: “Led Zeppelin, Hawkwind, Motörhead, Ramones…”
Do Compressorhead just play metal and punk? Can you, for example, play The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now?” Or a smooth Barry White love song?
Stickboy: “Why would we want to play a miserable song? And Barry White is an overfilled spongy meatbag. Compressorhead like to play good songs.”
I’ve never asked musicians this before, but what is in your heart: Apple Mac OS, Windows OS or Linux?
Bones: “I dream in Linux.”
Stickboy: “And we think in platform-spreading Midi.”
Humans are 70% water. What are you made of?
Fingers: “90% metal!”
Do Compressorhead ever mime?
Bones: “Are you kidding??”
Sorry! Stickboy, you have four arms. Isn’t that a bit unfair on humans?
Sitckboy: “Yeah, so-bleeping-what? It’s actually harder to control four arms than it is two. The drummer from Def Leppard has only got one arm, and he’s not complaining.”
You don’t move much, Bones, but I like your groove. Are you working on your stagecraft for the future?
Bones: “Those stupid meatbags that look after us gave us a tiny space to rehearse in so it’s hard to move around. When I’m onstage, it’s a lot easier to rock out and lose control. Our live gigs are where it all happens.”
You look a bit thin, Fingers. Is touring taking a toll on your body?
Fingers: “No! One night after a gig, I had a threesome with a couple of cheap angle grinders, and after fingering their circuits they got a bit carried away. It was awesome, but I paid my price.”
So, you have groupies! Most metal bands seem to be adored by young males studying science – I thought Compressorhead would be no different?
Bones: “I dunno if it’s just young males! This group of hot young toasters and microwave ovens were following us around on our recent Australian tour. They popped up and dinged to us every time we went to the catering tent.”
Outdoor gigs must be a worry - as Neil Young wisely said, “rust never sleeps.” Do Compressorhead take precautions when playing in rain?
Fingers: “Lots of high grade WD keeps us lubed-up to rock. But we’re a bit afraid of water; it is non-compatible with inorganic life forms. Give us a roof, meatbags!”
What’s on Compressorhead’s gig rider?
Stickboy: “JD 40, and lithium lube - one of our favourites. Also, it’s nice to have a couple of sexy fridges around. Very important for us robots is a nice backstage area for our meatbag crew, so they don´t hang around with us onstage all the time, because it´s a bit boring to hang around with guys who don´t drink any engine oil and don´t like electricity in their circuits.”
Which other touring bands do you like hanging out with?
Bones: “They’re all meatbags and don’t understand our humor. We do appreciate their abilities to rock and this is our common language, I guess. But what goes on tour stays on tour! However, at some stage, we’ll get some meatbags to make a documentary of Compressorhead on the road, this should reveal all.”
Have you ever tried playing Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music album – essentially a load of feedback?
Fingers: “We can play that s**t!”
You are playing with Gibson at Musikmesse 2013, with a Gibson Flying V and Gibson’s Min-ETune™ tuning system. Tell everyone what you like about robot guitar technology.
Fingers: “Because it has robot tuning, and I am a robot! It excites my circuits and I don´t need a meat bag roadie to touch my sweet sustaining Flying V for tuning.”
And why do you like the Gibson Flying V?
Fingers: “The shape of the Flying V was such a futuristic statement when it was released in 1958, a bit like we are today as robots playing rock music. It feels so good when I run my 78 fingers all over her body. She likes it too. I can tell by the sounds she makes, especially when I stick my plug in to her input hole.”
Will Compressor head be adding vocals to the set?
Bones: “We like it when meat bags get up and sing with us. Someone suggested we get Stephen Hawking as our vocalist. At least we can understand him.”
Will Compressor head release an album?
Bones: “Yeah, we’re working on some original tracks.”
Finally, who is more metal? Metallica or Compressor head?
Stickboy: “Metallica are about 400kg. Compressorhead? 1300kg!”
If you happen to be visiting Musikmesse in April, Compressorhead will be playing live every hour from Wednesday April 10 until Saturday April 13, 2013 on the stage next to the Gibson bus, located in the Agora outside Hall 4.0.
Read more at Compressorheadband.com.
Read more about Gibson Flying Vs
Read more about Min-ETune™