“I got into music literally by accident” – Exclusive interview with Shakey Sue of The Hellfreaks

Their return to this world began in February 2009 when Shakey Sue and her guitarist decided to amp up the sophistication of the music they were playing as members of an established surf-psycho band. Sue abandoned her drumsticks and the guitarist grabbed his Gretsch and after teaming up with two other friends who were rocking the punk world The Hellfreaks were born.

Rather than trying to hide their horns any longer, they combined their musical roots in punk rock, psychobilly, and metal and the result was an original hard-hitting sound.

During the summer of 2009, they recorded their first demo. That very same year the Program For National Contemporary Music Culture in Hungary invited applications music and motion pictures. Despite over 180 submissions, The Hellfreaks won the competition which gave them the funding required to produce their first music video for their single „Boogieman” which instantly resulted in over 3,000,000 views on Youtube. The video became one of the most viewed psychobilly videos ever! At the beginning of 2010, the band released their debut album „Hell Sweet Hell” which went to almost immediate success being sold to fans from Alaska to Australia, from Budapest to Birmingham.

After another 2 years of touring, the world was ready for their next album „Circus Of Shame” recorded on german label Longneck Records. A mix of punk rock and psychobilly a healthy touch of take-it-or-leave-it, an alternative model and vocalist Shakey Sue and her 3 partners in crime set out to take their fans by storm and tell the critics ‘Listen to this now!’ 2013 they recorded their second video-clip in France/Montpellier for the song „Godless Girl’s Fun”, directed by Enguerran Prieu, a participator of the Cannes Film Festival 2013. The Hellfreaks continue to show fans across Europe and the USA that as a hard-touring band they can draw and play to audiences regardless of geography. They have performed in almost every European country, from small clubs to major festivals such as the WGT, Rock’n Ink & Force Attack in Germany, the Psychobilly Meeting in SpainClub Sin in FinlandWarhead in PolandPod Parou in the Czech RepublicThe Whoolwich Grand Theater in LondonBedlam Breakout Festival in Northampton and countless other venues.

As 2014 began to close up, the band split though it was a brief departure as Sue pulled the band from its temporary grave with a new line-up and a fresh evolution of their sound which saw punk and rock ‘n’ roll instincts fuelling a whole new incitement and individuality. The new generation band started with a tour through the USA in Summer 2015. The Hellfreaks toured in California, Arizona, Nevada and played at Ink’n Iron Festival in Long Beach as well.

The potency of this change was in evidence within the third album Astoria, released in 2016. With this piece, they separated themself from the billy-roots and went straight forward to their new way they can call their own now: fresh, modern punk rock, with a high melodic punch, rockin’ guitars, and a female singer between poppy notes till roaring lungs added with a tiny dose of hardcore-attitude.

In 2020 the band released their 4th album God On The Run, an unbridled stomp which unapologetically puts all before in the shade. We had a pleasured opportunity to do a full-depth interview with the one and only Shakey Sue!

Szia, nagyon örülök a lehetőségnek! It’s such a pleasure to do an interview with a Hungarian band! The Hellfreaks is actually the first Hungarian punk rock band that successfully made the international breakthrough. How much was it hard to reach that kind of success as a Hungarian band?

Szia! (smiles) Thank you so much for having us! I’ve never been in someone else’s skin so it’s hard to compare but I think that we’ve worked extremely hard for every little success we’ve had so far. I’m also very thankful for living in Hungary because there are so many corners of the world from where it would be impossible or certainly much harder to reach any success as a rock band. 

Of course, there are some additional struggles you have to deal with as a Hungarian band: the biggest market for rock music is in western Europe.

That’s where you have to get to and of course, there is literally distance between us that you have to cover with higher travel costs and also there is a big difference when you compare the backgrounds of the bands that we have to compete with. 

Just an example to make it easier to understand: if you want to buy a guitar, generally you have to work much harder for much longer. There’s likely a bigger sacrifice to be able to afford that guitar compared to someone who lives in Germany for example.

There is a big economical gap between west and east Europe, no reason to deny that. This guitar is just one simple example but you can apply it to the whole spectrum of band life.  
On the other hand, it’s also pretty funny. When you tour as an eastern European band, you are wearing a stamp because eastern Europe doesn’t exactly stand for quality. For some reason, some people think that this preconception has to be true on all levels and that can cause some hilarious moments on tour: often we play shows with other bands that don’t know us but know where we are from and think that has to mean something. It is always such a fulfilling moment to see how their opinion changes in a second when they hear our soundcheck. You can literally see the “how wrong I was” moment in their eyes. This is pretty awesome.

The greatest challenge is…

Being in a touring, active band is quite easy as long as you are a student, but when life gets serious, you have to give up a lot to be able to balance between band life and “grey” life. This is constantly a hard challenge for me, to believe and fight for my dreams, but also not to give up on the necessary path. 

Beginnings:

We’re not newcomers so we have a pretty long story, with many ups and a few downs. We didn’t start this band together, we’re more like puzzle pieces that found each other later on. The band is over 10 years old, so it’s taken a long time to get to where we are today. 

I got into music literally by accident. I was a professional gymnast, sport was pretty much my everything – but unfortunately, I once landed wrong on my feet, which resulted in a spine operation when I was 14 years old.

I had to recalculate my life and fill the gap that my sports career had left behind. It was a difficult reality to accept at the time. The physical pain was nothing compared to the hole in my soul that I tried to fill. That’s how I found music and a couple of years later ended up forming The Hellfreaks in 2009.

Behind the name:

I was more or less a teenager when I formed the band. The only thing I can clearly remember is that we wanted to have a one-word band name. I came up with the idea when I was working at one of my very first jobs, at a rockabilly bar as a bartender where I didn’t even earn 2$ / hour, so far from home that it was almost impossible to get back late at night. So the birthplace of the band was quite a hopeless place and compared to that we’re very happy about how far it’s come.

Inspiration:

Inspiration comes from literally everything. Every life situation, every thought, and all types of music.

Teamwork:

The songs aren’t written in the rehearsal room anymore. But of course, they are written by us all, even though it always starts in a small room in front of a computer by our bass player. After a certain point, I start to work on vocal melodies and lyrics and our guitarist and drummer also add their ideas, but the root of all the songs came from our bass player Gabi. That means the actual recording of the songs only happened after many-many demos.

I’m pretty old school when it comes to the lyrics: I can’t sit down and figure out what I want to write about on purpose. The ideas find me randomly, so I always write down 2-3 words or a line in my phone wherever I am in that moment, otherwise, the idea is gone forever. When it comes to the song I look at my idea board and pick out one of these ideas to work on. When I start to work on the words, I need to be alone and I’m not able to write in digital form, I need to have a pen and paper in my hand, otherwise, my brain is blocked.

Inspiration behind the new album, God On The Run:

God On The Run is lyrically inspired by imperfection. It’s about our own imperfections and those of our surroundings. It’s about the feeling of drowning and standing our ground to win the fight at the same time. It’s a mix of honest thoughts vocally and instrumentally. We merge metal, punk, rock music, and maybe even a bit of hardcore. Something which seems impossible to categorize even though we know that most people just need categories to know what to think of it… But we’ll never fit in and this is one of our best qualities and that’s what we want to share with the audience: don’t force yourself to fit in. Doesn’t matter what the topic is.

God On The Run was released exactly a year ago, but thanks to this unusual situation that COVID-19 caused, we are already working with full force on our new material


Abou the latest video, ‘Tabby’:

Due to the slowed down, Nine Inch Nails-esque musical vibe, „Tabby“ is not only a surprising and brilliant change of pace sonically to what most of their fans would expect, but it‘s also an anthem for the strangest time in modern history, where we are all facing daily challenges not only due to the pandemic but also because of the raging storm of stress, uncertainty and insecurities happening in our heads 24-7.


In her own words, Shakey Sue commented further about the true meaning behind „Tabby“: “It’s a reflection of who you want to be in life. Life can make us believe that we’re all slaves to the circumstances and the whispers in our ears during the roughest of time, telling us that we’ve lost all control… and more often than not, there are always others that want to force us to accept that this is our fate and that the cards are laid out for us already. For most of us, our path is not a lullaby, but with „Tabby“ we want to encourage you to take control of what you can control: of who you are, what you want, and what you stand for. We’re born with the conviction and the ability to be as strong as we choose to be. But when we grow up, so many of us lose our confidence somewhere along the way. Remember that you have stripes too! Cat or Tiger? Who are you? It‘s up to you to show your stripes!”


We love our home and we can’t wait to do our annual show in our hometown Budapest. But for now, we can’t, or rather don’t dare to plan any shows, so we’re focusing 100% on the creative process.

COVID-19:

Sure it’s something very unexpected but if you’ve been in a band for a long time, you face a lot of unexpected situations and you learn to take them as they are and learn to deal with each of them. So we just saw it as another challenge that we have to master somehow. 

We’re in a very special situation: our fanbase is spread all over the world. Normally we mainly tour in Europe, that’s why many of our fans couldn’t see us live and won’t for a while, even when everything goes back to normal. The pandemic is a difficult situation but at least we can give our fans more Hellfreaks content than usual thanks to social media and YouTube. It is a situation that we could not and can’t change right now, so we decided to make the best of it.

Some fun facts:

Uff, hard to pick out just one of them … The first thing that pops up in our minds was a punk festival called Force Attack in Northern Germany. The organizer of the event literally disappeared with all the income in the middle of the festival so there were many bands and thousands of punks left without any kind of authority. Yeha! (laughs)

We knew that we wouldn’t get the payment for it but we decided to do the show anyway. The crowd was amazing but so incredibly drunk. In the middle of the show, one of the punks came up with the genius idea to enjoy the concert naked – and many others followed him. In the end, we played in front of so many naked guys – yes, just guys (laughs) – none of us expected this. Try to stay serious while this happens, good luck!

Please support the band with hitting the ‘follow’ & ‘like’ button on their socials:

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"I associate heavy metal with fantasy because of the tremendous power that the music delivers." - Christopher Lee

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