Sitting in a bar, The Smoking Mönkeys may just look like a group of drunks that were just thrown from a hurricane pulling them from various eras. But spending some time with the members, you'd learn that they each have a story to tell and the madness makes sense in the end. Now, guitarist Danny Salamander, bassist Mr. Krinkle, drummer Azn, and vocalist Sgt. Cheesecake all sit on a bench at Bob's Big Boy near Toluca Lake in Los Angeles, California explaining to us the path they have taken.
The Smoking Mönkeys came from an underground music scene in Sweden, where Danny and Mr. Krinkle have lived the majority of their lives. The two met during a JawsomeBand concert, walking out half-way through the show. "It was pure shit," said Mr. Krinkle. "It might have been more useful as a sleep aid than a rock concert." At the time, Danny was beginning a career in amateur porn, while Mr. Krinkle worked as a garbage man. The two began a musical career together when they realized that there was a lot they liked in common, such as beer and women and rock music.
The two had begun jamming together, but had a difficult time finding a drummer they could get along with. "We found this one dude, Phillip Reisler , who was really good at the skins," recalls Danny. "But when he said Megadeath was better than Metallica, neither one of us could even look at him again." Things began to look down, until one day some equipment they had ordered came in from FedEx. They went to the door of their apartment to find the delivery boy, a skinny man of Asian decent, laying down a beat on the boxes as he waited. "I don't even know what it was," Mr. Krinkle adds. "But it blew us away." The two invited him to come in, set up a drum kit made out of hollowed out coffee cans with saran wrap tightly layered over the top, and handed him two drum sticks fashioned out of Popsicle sticks glued together. After an impressive 8 minute drum solo, the drums burst into flames and melted down into a pool on the floor. It was decided, this guy was in.
Sgt. Cheesecake hails from London, and was working as a Chef on-board a fishing vessel. "I tell you, that job was the dog's bollocks. Never once ate seafood on that ship!" He remembers. His years of work with his fishing mates came to an end when the ship was caught in rough seas and thrown far off course. "We ended up becoming beached on the Swedish border. I was bloody near gobsmacked." Having no money on him, no understanding of the Swedish language, and not a clue on where to go, he walked. "David Bowie was my savior. His various characters through his early career set the tone for my adventure." His first encounter with his soon-to-be bandmates took place outside of a bar when he bummed a smoke from a stranger, and asked wandered over asking if any of the three had a light. His position winning moment came when, by chance they heard him singing "Suffragette City" while drunk at a street corner. "They took me up to their flat. I was pretty sure I was fucked, but when I awoke there was a Mic in my face and these three with their instruments just staring at me." After performing an encore of his earlier stunt, his fate was sealed.
The band started off playing cover songs at local Swedish pubs and small venues, while they began writing their own material. "The circuit was relentless," Azn shakes his head, as if trying to fling the memory away. "The crowds loved to throw in requests at shows. The Metallica song 'Blackened' was the most requested. It was very stressful on all of us but we made it through." At the time, the band was known as "The Mickey Mouse Club", because of an odd coincidence where one day at practice they all wore shirts with Mickey Mouse on it. This name stuck for a few months until, at last, a name was decided on. The name was apparently inspired by a Jonathan Coulton album, Smoking Monkey. The band remembers the tough times that they had gone through just to get from gig to gig. "One time," Danny says. "We were going straight from one gig to another, and we had to get to the next town in a matter of minutes. We had no bus, no roadies, and had to tow all of our equipment. Well this night we didn't have the ability to make more than one trip back to the apartment, we had to take it all in one go." A challenge, rest assured, the group was willing to face head-on. "We stepped back and started using our tetris skills," Cheesecake recalls. "Eventually we got all of the equipment in the car. But there was one problem, we couldn't fit in the car. It was 2 A.M. and it was below freezing. We had no choice but to put the top down on the car and ride all the way to the next gig, getting blasted with arctic cold air." He sips his soda, chewing down on an ice cube. No doubt, the memories of the cold rush back. "We threw up the 'Devil Horns', despite the fact that our fingers were freezing off," Azn throws in. All of them agree that it was good times.
As the gigs came more frequently, the band's fanbase grew exponentially. Some gigs ended with a wild finish, with fans jumping on stage during the last song to sing along and really get into the magic. The band was on fire, and soon word spread to some local record labels. They had soon cut a record deal, had a tour manager, a shitty tour bus, and they were living the life. Then one day, they finally nailed "Blackened", the fabled Metallica song that had haunted their earlier years. Nothing could stop them now. Or so they thought. Footage of Danny's early career made it's way online and was spread through the fanbase like wildfire. The Danny Salamander 'Sex Tape' scandal had begun. "I was a fucking porn star in my earlier years, what did they expect?" he says of the press and their venomous reaction to the footage. "That shit was available for years in Sweden." The band didn't let this get them down. It was free publicity, and shortly following the outcry over the tape, they began selling copies of the film at the merch booths at shows. "I think that was our hottest selling piece of merch," Mr. Krinkle says, with a smirk on his face. "I suppose sex really does sell."
It was this tape that turned on the international limelight and had it pointed in the air like the bat signal. This light said "The Smoking Mönkeys" performing tonight! The first time they set foot on U.S. soil they were instantly showered with rock stardom. Fans were awaiting with CDs, T-shirts and on a few occasions breasts to be signed. They were treated like royalty, shows sold out almost instantly. They were the hottest thing in international musicians in America since Beatlemania. But rest assured, no "More popular than Jesus" comments from the boys. They wanted nothing more than to keep up the current pattern. Radio and television interviews were performed quite often. Offers for them to endorse product lines were aplenty. "We even got approached by Phillip Morris, the gentlemen of Big Tobacco, to give the blessing on a brand of cigarettes called "The Smoking Mönkeys"." Cheesecake holds up a pack. "As you can see, we found the idea to be quite entertaining." With their tour coming to a settle with a final show for the year on December 14th, the boys are looking forward to some time off.
"Always gotta relax for the calm before the storm," Danny says. "And that's just what this next album is going to be. A storm that will take the world and pick it up and give it a good one-over!"
Author's note: This is just a little funny side-story for my friends and I's Rock Band group. I do not write for Rolling Stone, though that would be nice. All of the events are fictional. Any likenesses to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. More legal bullshit. Also, cocks. Ect...