Satan and a six-pack
Hangin' with Upsidedown Cross
by John O'Neill
Spoken about in hushed tones, and known chiefly as that band in
perpetual hiding in their rehearsal space, Upsidedown Cross have been one of
the seven hills' more mysterious pieces of music folklore. Thought to have
broken up -- they haven't played a Worcester date in nearly eight years -- the
inverted ones, it turns out, have been biding their time, waiting to unleash
their Satanic asses on the scene just as the millennium approaches. Kinda like
the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, only with beer breath. Oh, and they've
been touring the country at-will, where they're generally considered quite a
legendary act, indeed. They've also acquired a knack for not being invited
back a second time, having recently been bounced from New York's Coney Island
High after a total of 45 seconds on stage -- they blew the club's power. Just
another day at the shop for the boys.
"We sometimes have problems like that," says founding frontman Larry Lifeless.
"Once we were in Boston and somebody lit one of our props on fire. But we just
kept playing, who gives a shit? They did close the club down when the fire
Since forming some 10 years ago from the ashes of Kilslug (Cheez on bass is
the other original Crosser. The new line-up also has Dirty Ed on guitar, Bobgod
on the drums, MacNamara on lead guitar, and Hobit on the keyboard), Upsidedown
Cross have spent a career battling against convention and occasionally shooting
themselves in the foot, all in the name of putting on a show. A typical
performance could include live earthworms on Madonna statues, or the band
could bust-up a makeshift alter or spray fire extinguishers full of pee at
folks. They take their entertainment very seriously. As Cheez explains, "We're
a horri-metal band. Not horrible, horror-metal, so we're gonna put on a
spectacle. It's taken us six weeks to get ready for this [they play this Friday
at Lucky Dog] show. There are a lot of props. We like props!"
Which, from where we sit, is true. Their rehearsal space includes a CVS bag
full of small religious pamphlets and prayer books, a couple of crosses
(upside-down, natch) on the wall, including a lovely six-footer with HATE
painted on it. In a cardboard box are a couple statues of Mary, a tile
wall-hanging depicts a Bible passage, there's a so-far unbreakable Last Supper
scene and a load of plastic bubble wrap on which the band like to paint. Evil
stuff, this desecration business. But in talking to the guys, you don't get the
feeling they're slated for a trip to Hell. Burger King, maybe, definitely the
package store, but not Hell.
And their music says the same thing. Their third album, Witchcraft
(Final Injection), is certainly tuff and dark and, well, evil; but there's
also a touch of wink-and-nudge in Larry Lifeless's lyrics, which are a nasal,
in-and-out-of-key, buzzbomb, squawk of a delivery. While songs like "Fire" are
at the core a bit disturbed, lyrics like "At the coffee shop/Said it was a
pot/Left on the stove/Became too hot" make it more of a stoner-Sabbath vibe
that the band ride -- though Lifeless is always up for fixating on the power of
Satan or witch burning, arson, and inner voices. It's just as much a flat-out
hoot as it is demonic.
Having originally released two discs on Taang! in the early '90s (they signed
a seven-album deal but bailed after getting screwed moneywise) with alt-hero J.
Mascis on drums, the Cross have been through numerous line-ups, settling into
this newest incarnation just six months ago.
"Everyone else either a) had a breakdown or b) were crybabies
who couldn't stand alcohol abuse or c) crazier than we were," Cheez
explains while fetching a round of beer. "[The current group] were all friends
who had known each other for years. It just came together. We've already got
stuff. Four songs are recorded, and we'll do five or six more and try to shop
it to labels."
"That thing with Taang!, we lost our publishing rights, they took everything,"
adds Lifeless. "The bright part of the story is we have a new law firm -- the
Trench Coat Mafia. They're going to San Diego to talk to Taang!"
The band's prolonged absence from the Worcester scene seems to come down to
the simple choice of not wanting to bother to hunt down a gig. They remember
the days of Worcester past when the hair-metal bands ruled Green Street. It
made more sense to practice for cheap in town, then take it out on the road.
"We really didn't play Worcester cuz we thought there was nothing here for
us," says Cheez. "We went to Austin and California and New York. All these
other places have better food. We're on the menu tour."
"The band has been everything from a two-piece to a 10-piece. I've been to the
rottenest places where it was 120 degrees to awful places with three feet of
snow," expounds Lifeless on the band's long, strange road and general shitty
luck. "We broke down in Nevada and didn't even realize prostitution was legal
till the day we left!"
Why the band continue on is a no-brainer. They love to drink, eat Chinese
food, rehearse, hang out, and, mostly, entertain. You may love it, you may hate
it, but you won't soon forget an Upsidedown Cross show. Which is the chief
reason they want a record deal -- more props. As Cheez readily agrees, "We want
bigger props. We need more lights and a six-foot wall of flame. Fuckin' A!
That's why I wanna get signed. Big Props!"
"Nobody would mind making some money, we're making nothing," says a more
reserved Dirty Ed. "Right now we're just entertainment for the masses that dare
to step close enough."