King Salami & The Cumberland 3
According to his own self-serving mythology – and contrary to countless other historiographies – Malcolm McLaren handpicked the members of the Sex Pistols on account of each members’ subjective punk rock appeal. In a world obsessed with image, aesthetic merit can be crucial. King Salami And The Cumberland 3 aren’t the Sex Pistols, and the band isn’t on a quasi-ideological quest, but when drummer Eric Baconstrip points out that vocalist King Salami joined the band on account of “having all the best dance moves”, you get the impression King Salami And The Cumberland 3 is more than just a linear sum of its musical parts. “When we play, we want the mood to be fizzy dizzy and busy,” Baconstrip says.
Baconstrip and drummer Kamikaze UT Vincent hail from a punk rock background, with Vincent playing in The Chinese Lungs (with Baconstrip) and Black Time. Baconstrip’s previous outfits include the Ulcers, the Parkinsons, UK subs, the Sidekicks and the Nipple Erectors (with The Pogues’ Shane McGowan). Salami had never played in a band – though his dance moves were seen at many a notable gig – and guitarist Pepe Ronnie was apparently the “reserve choirboy” in the Vatican between 1976 and 2005 (a pedigree generally unmatched in the punk rock world). When Chinese Lung’s vocalist left for Berlin to play in Black Jaspers with King Khan, Baconstrip and Kamikaze decided to form “a good time R&B party band”. Pepe Ronnie, Baconstrip’s former band mate, was enlisted; with Salami’s involvement, King Salami And The Cumberland 3 became a reality, after debuting at Wormwood Scrubs Prison in 2006.
King Salami And The Cumberland 3 have remained true to the band’s original party band ethos, with its musical style and general rock ’n’ roll aesthetic avowedly focused on good times. Attention-stealing dance moves dominate the band’s musical repertoire, including Do the Wurst (“come into the corner, and I’ll explain what the wurst is,” Baconstrip teases), The Climb and the Pawnee Stomp. “We get a lot of people trying to do the dances, but not always to the right song,” Baconstrip laughs.
It’s not entirely clear if the members of the band have ‘day jobs’ – it’s suggested, possibly tongue in cheek, that Baconstrip balances his rock ’n’ roll exploits with a career as a cartoon animator, Kamikaze working as a sushi chef, Pepe as a male dancer and Salami, ahem, a tennis coach – though King Salami and the Cumberland have maintained a relentless schedule of touring in Europe, the United States and north-Asia. “The Spanish are very… ‘un-self-conscious’,” Baconstrip says. “So we can always expect a pretty wild show over there. But the gigs in the UK are getting really exciting too now – maybe that’s due to the fact that the audience is entirely Spanish or Italian?”
King Salami And The Cumberland 3 recently left their continental Europe comfort zone for a tour of China. In times past, touring bands have been compelled to provide a transcript of the lyrics to their songs, lest Chinese audiences be exposed to politically provocative rhetoric. The very notion of Do the Wurst being translated into Cantonese for analysis by Chinese government officials is bizarre in itself; sadly, but fortunately for the band, King Salami And The Cumberland 3 was about to avoid standard Chinese bureaucratic procedure. “I heard that it's usually what happens, but as we entered China via Japan, and without saying we were a band, we didn't have to do it,” Baconstrip says. “But there were government agents at most of our gigs, not doing anything special but just keeping an eye on us. Weird.”
Government surveillance aside, King Salami and the Cumberland left an indelible impression on the increasingly fertile Chinese rock’n’roll territory. “It was a bit like us being teachers and the audience being at school,” Baconstrip says. “At one show they did a conga! We had an amazing time and met amazing people, each show/city/club was totally different from the previous one, you never knew what to expect, but every gig was a blast!”
With the world, and Europe in particular, in the midst of very difficult economic, social and political times, Baconstrip says King Salami And The Cumberland 3 are doing their best to make the world a better place. “We’re being tourists everywhere – that's what brings the money in,” he says. While only half of the group are carnivores – suggesting that Do The Wurst may be pushing an ulterior ideological message – Baconstrip prefer “raw donkey, tartare style!” as the standard fare during the band’s tours. “Half the band is vegetarian, but Italy and Spain always deliver great ham or sausages – it’s always a pleasure to play and eat there.”
This week King Salami And The Cumberland 3 arrive in Australia for the band’s first Antipodean tour. Armed with its most obscure Australian factoids – “platypus drive on the left hand side of the road, and Rod Laver – King Salami And The Cumberland 3 will continue their current career quest. “In ten years’ time we'll have evolved into super-beings, communicating our songs telepathically throughout the universe and beyond the boundaries of time itself. How about you guys?” Baconstrip asks rhetorically.
BY PATRICK EMERY
KING SALAMI AND THE CUMBERLAND 3 perform an instore at Off The Hip on Friday August 17, then perform at Lu Wow on Friday August 17 and Saturday August 18, then a 2am slot at Pony on the night of Saturday August 18, then at The Retreat on Sunday August 19, then The Espy on Wednesday August 22.