Death Valley Screamers: The Ukranian Rock Gods From Yorkshire

Virtual unknowns in their home-town of Leeds the Death Valley Screamers are rock aristocracy in the Ukraine; their singer is the PM's son-in-law. With their new album Big Fish the band are hoping to find their way back home.
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In October 2005 the British press carried the story of Sean Carr, a Leeds lad who married Zhenya Tymoshenko, daughter of Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The couple had met while she was a student at the LSE. But when Carr moved to Kiev, it wasn’t just to play househusband, and it wasn’t long before he resumed his rock ‘n’ roll ambitions with a band that combined elements of his old UK band Paris in the Fall with a Ukrainian speed metal outfit called Lazy Town. The result was Death Valley Screamers, and their debut performance was to a live audience of a quarter of a million people at the country’s Independence Day commemoration in Kiev’s central square, with millions more watching on TV.

No pressure there, then.

Since then, DVS have become regulars on Ukraine’s equivalent of MTV and the biker festival circuit (Ukraine has alot of bikers) with their particular brand of heavy rock – all wanging guitars, runaway rhythms, tricksy chord progressions and harmonised backing vocals – that places them in the grebo rock tradition of Crazyhead, Gaye Bikers on Acid and above all Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, British bands that charted a new heavy rock direction and took it to the next level from the earlier New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

Despite being described by the Kiev Post as one of the ten most influential foreigners in the country, Carr has found it hard to turn a profit from music in a region renowned for high levels of copyright piracy, an underdeveloped rock venue circuit and a somewhat slippery grasp of the concept of royalties.

At the concerts, expect performances of stand-out tracks such as ‘Crash Landing’ and ‘No Reason to Hate’, songs squarely aimed at people who like riding Harleys very fast with no helmet.

In the face of such difficulties, DVS’s achievements have nonetheless been relatively substantial, including concerts in Russia, Georgia, Egypt and the US, a video featuring Hollywood actor Armand Assante and Paul Sr off TV’s American Chopper reality show, and a generous mention in Michael Palin’s programme about New Europe.  Carr, a committed Jack Daniels drinker, is also a member of the Tennessee Squires, an exclusive honour not to be sniffed at.

One of DVS’s proudest moments, however, was being asked to compose a song for all the miners who risk their lives and frequently face death in the Ukrainian coal industry. The band flew to Donetsk to record a chorus of mineworkers for the song ‘Fallen Friends’, a charity recording that extended their popularity to Eastern Ukraine, and which features on the album Big Fish, due to be released in the UK in October, followed up by a live tour extending into November, the band having finally resolved visa problems that prevented them from playing over here before.

The leery and beery title track casts a cheeky wink at Carr’s marriage to the daughter of the political mover and shaker once dubbed in the press ‘the Eleven Billion Dollar Woman’ (chorus: ‘to catch a big fish you just need a big rod’), and the album finale ‘Ready to Rock’, boasts a chorus massive enough to out-chant AC/DC. At the concerts, expect performances of stand-out tracks such as ‘Crash Landing’ and ‘No Reason to Hate’, songs squarely aimed at people who like riding Harleys very fast with no helmet. Looks like Ukraine’s most famous biker is intent on heading up a post-grunge, grebo metal revival.

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