Famous Firsts: Uncle Acid's Kevin Starrs on Charles Manson and touring with Ozzy

A photograph of KR Starrs on stage in 2016

While Kevin Starrs might not have been around for the birth of heavy metal, everything he does – from his vintage instruments to his 60s-tinged sound – is steeped in its heritage. In 2013 he cemented Uncle Acid’s metal credentials with a support slot on Black Sabbath’s reunion tour, while last year they released one of 2015’s finest, and gloomiest, albums. From AC/DC to Charles Manson, here he remembers the musical moments that shaped his own career.

What was the first album you ever bought?

“I’ve got a feeling it was Purple Rain by Prince. I seem to remember that being the first one, and I’m not sure why; it was something about the guitar playing and the solos. I think I was like, seven or eight when I got that at a thrift store in Crete, where I used to live. I’m not a fan of a lot of his stuff, to be honest, but he was a great guitar player, and that song in particular has a great solo, so I guess that must have been the appeal at the time.”

What was the first gig you ever went to?

“My first gig was AC/DC at Milton Keynes Bowl. I think it was Megadeth, Queens Of The Stone Age, and the Offspring supporting. That was a good one! It wasn’t as busy as I thought, and since then AC/DC have had a resurgence in popularity. I think Axl does a good job. I was never a huge fan of Brian Johnson anyway, I was more of Bon Scott fan, but I’ve always liked Axl, so maybe I’m biased.”

What was it like the first time you met Ozzy?

“He was very nice. He came backstage in Amsterdam, I think it was, and he was very with it, a lot more together than you might expect. I was really surprised actually because he was just a normal guy, and you don’t imagine him to be like that. But he was very polite, shook everyone’s hand, and had a quick conversation with everyone. He talked about the show and stuff like that, and he was a great guy. It was scary meeting someone like that, but he was totally down to earth.”

What was the first Uncle Acid tour like?

“Well, the first tour was with Black Sabbath, so it was fucking great! It was pretty scary, because obviously we’d done club shows before, like one-offs here and there, but to go from that to playing football stadiums in Sweden and stuff like that was just fucking nuts. It was a tough thing to step into and I think we handled it pretty well, but it was fucking amazing. They treated us really well, and the crew was great with us. It took a few shows to get used to it, but once we got into it, it was great.”

What was your first US tour like?

“That was incredible as well. It was all sold out apart from one or two venues. It was crazy. We did good sized venues with not a lot of promotion, just word of mouth and people turning up on the night. The fact that we’ve come back three years in a row has helped. The shows at the Roxy (in West Hollywood) were really tough because our guitar player was at death’s door, pretty much. He got released from hospital the day of the first show, after they did some tests on him, and we should have cancelled the second show, to be honest, but he played it and then got rushed to hospital the day after because he had this huge stomach ulcer. They said if it had gone untreated an extra few days he would have died! He was vomiting blood! It was fucking mad! Luckily we had insurance! Fair play to him for playing, because he could hardly stand up. My voice was completely wrecked too, so that was a tough way to end that tour.”

When did you first hear of Charles Manson?

“It would have been way back in the early ‘90s, I think. I was always watching late night American brainwashing programmes, like Manson the serial killer, the boogie man… I think from a young age I’ve always been aware of him, but it wasn’t until much later that I looked into the whole story and figured out what was bullshit and what wasn’t. I just think it’s a really fascinating period of history; there’s so many theories about what happened, and I guess we’ll never know. We actually went up to Cielo Drive the last time we were in LA, and that whole house had gone now, but just to be in that area, up in the hills, was kinda spooky.”

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, live in Hollywood

This is Charles Manson's letter to Marilyn Manson