“Pirate Love, is what I’m looking for” bawled Johnny Thunders on his superlative slice of lost junkie-punk ‘Pirate Love’. Suitably turbulent years of drug abuse followed until he died in suspicious circumstances lying ‘in the shape of a pretzel’, but Thunders was gone but not forgotten and thirty years later five Thunders fans adopted his battlecry and set out to peddle dirty garage rock on the clean streets of Oslo. With their winning combination of top tunes and scuzzy filth listening to Pirate Love was aptly like being amorously pursued by some salty seadog, caressing you with a metal hook where his hand should be, and the dark assault of debut album Black Vodoun Space Blues flung them to the forefront of Norway’s production line of bands with bite. It is three years since that breathless release made waves, but finally Pirate Love are coming in to harbour again to drop off a similarly confrontational cargo in the form of sophomore effort Narco Lux High School. With interest severely piqued the journalistic coastguard of Nö Music cornered Pirate Love frontman David Dajani to get the lowdown on everything from working with The Strokes’ producer to seeing Jay Reatard implode.
Fittingly, given their musical lineage, Pirate Love have always cast themselves apart from the Norwegian musical establishment. “‘Part of a scene’ doesn’t ring too well in my ears”, tuts Dajani, “we’ve always operated on the outside. Or was it the inside…? Whatever. I guess the common denominator for us, and our friends’ bands, is that we’ve found our own sound, on our own terms and we´re not asking anyone for permission.” That sound might nod to Norway’s hard-rocking history, concedes Dajani, but Narco Lux High School has “more in common with Black Sabbath than Black Metal!” Indeed it is names like The Stooges that most commonly crop up where Space Blues is concerned. “I firmly believe you can hear echoes of the Stooges primitive futurism in songs like ‘Sick of You’, which was geniously mixed by Emil Nikolaisen [Serena Maneesh]”, confirms Dajani of one of the last album’s rawer moments, “this time round though we’ve let ourselves be influenced by everything from Steely Dan to The Germs! And it sounds excellent!” If their latest single is anything to go by Pirate Love are indeed both on form and evolving. Three minutes of Jesus & Mary Chain-esque woozy squalid surf-pop, ‘Thirteen/Clean’ has the makings of the perfect summer anti-anthem – just don’t drop the ‘s’ word. “Shoegazey? Please. Other bands can stare at their laces as much as they want”, sneers Dajani: “we´re into Eyegazing.”
Pirate Love might be confident about the finished product, but getting there wasn’t always plain sailing. “It´s like an addiction”, says Dajani of being in a band, “so we just have to keep on going. Like daytime TV soap operas or something.” Bidding to take things to the next level on the new album, the band roped in regular Strokes producer Gordon Raphael, responsible for the zeitgeist defining Is This It, but whilst Pirate Love might claim to be the “laziest band ever”, it seems that they struggle to cede their independence. “Well, Gordon was a really nice guy and it was fun hanging out with him in Oslo and all”, recalls Dajani rather guardedly, “but at the end of the day, I think we knew how to produce our own record. He ended up recording the drums, but nothing else, so yeah – we collaborated, but not to such an extent that his vision eclipsed ours.” But then Pirate Love have seen enough of the world in the last few years to bring considerable experience to any autonomous creative endeavours. “I think we have more fans in, say, Italy and Switzerland than we do in Norway”, notes Dajani, and indeed much of their efforts have concentrated on foreign climes. The group have toured extensively in Europe and the US, taken in prestigious Texan showcase SXSW, and accompanied several heavy hitters on tour, including Black Lips, The Damned and the late garage-punk maverick Jay Reatard. “Supporting Jay Reatard was an awesome experience”, recalls Dajani, “seeing him play was like witnessing the early Ramones or something. I remember being in the front row in Copenhagen and Hamburg, and my jaw dropped. Like, for real! The sheer energy of his performance was kinda scary. He really did give it a 100% – and then some. He was a pretty cool cat to boot; polite and down to earth. But after the first night of the tour he apparently drank a bottle of gin and kicked a fan in the face, or something. But shit like that happens when you´re strung out.”
That said, part of Pirate Love’s appeal has always been the impression that they too are teetering on the brink of self-destruction. The Norwegian broadsheet Dagbladet observed that it would take a long search to find a ‘blacker’ album than Space Blues, and lyrical titbits like “I’m gonna end your life… you’re a slut you’re a cunt” (from the admittedly winningly catchy ‘In A Dirty Cellar’) support the image of Pirate Love as aggressively nihilistic. Whilst Dajani admits that “’Thirteen/Clean’ is our darkest song, like, ever” he is rather more dismissive of any suggestion that Pirate Love are coming from a bleak place. “Angry is sooo 2008/9. We´re a happy band and we wanna rock out with our cocks out. You know, contrary to what you may have heard: Dick AIN´T gonna suck itself…” In the interests of getting head this self-styled ‘Norwegian Psychedelic Space Boogie cartel’ will be unleashing “a varied, dark and sexual mix of punk rock from the 60s, AOR rock from the 70s and obscure 80s adult contemporary soft rock”, in the form of Narco Lux High School. “We considered going to Africa or another third world country to get inspired”, Dajani glibly proffers, “but found out that a few visits to the local tanning bed house would be equally effective. I think we might lose a few fans with this album, but then gain new ones, too. Spend a buck, earn a buck, ya heard?!” “I get high, on my own supply”, sang David Dajani on Space Blues highlight ‘Skin Deep’. He’s not the only one getting his kicks from Pirate Love’s supply of moody punk pleasures. You could do far worse than spend a buck on this buccaneering crew: “Pirate Love, is what I’m looking for” indeed.
First published on nomusicmedia.com, 2011