Live in Portland 2013

Live in Portland 2013

Jace Rogers is a prolific musician who has lived and played in bands all across the east coast of Australia. Now at age 40 and finally cracking the doorway of underground success with his bass and drums duo DEAD, he certainly knows a thing or two about longevity. In part two Jace talks about moving to Melbourne and the beginning of his evolving musical partnership with Jem which lead from Fangs Of… to DEAD. Conducted on 24 April 2014 at Jace’s house in Castlemaine, Victoria.

So you finished up with Pigman Vampire and packed your shit and moved to Melbourne. What was the attraction?
At the same time I kinda just finished my visual art degree and there was various things in my personal life and I needed change. I’d done that tour with Pigman to Melbourne and got inspired…well I’d wanted to move to Melbourne for a while cause of visual art primarily and also cause I’d been to a few gigs in Melbourne and really dug the people that were at shows, people who were there cause the music was awesome not kinda what Sydney had become. Anyway I moved to Melbourne without knowing anyone really, had a few loose contacts…like I’d met Jem (DEAD) before but yeah…just thought “fuck it” it’s time to…I think it was just time. Everything aligned into that.

I kinda envisioned that I’d do more with my visual art than music in a way cause…cause of that I didn’t know anyone and I could just do that solo but yeah ended up that it just happened that all these songs sort of fall out…so that’s when I did Bikini Eyebolt with a couple of mates. But yeah it was sort of like, I was progressing at a really rapid rate at that point and um, the guys that were in Bikini Eyebolt had really intense jobs like chef jobs and shit so it kinda, it just ended up not working out. But we got an album recorded and printed about 50 t-shirts that…

Ha ha I’ve still got one
Yeah I’ve still got a bunch. It was just that classic thing were I’ve still got a stack of CD’s under the bed. A couple of people have shown interest post the band and I’ve sold a few to people. It’s good to just get it out to people and I don’t really care what happens to it

Wasn’t Tenzenmen gonna put it out on tape or something?
No he just put a bunch of the CD’s and put it online and stuff. But yeah he was an enthusiast of the band. But the audience…like we only played half a dozen shows at the most.

I think I saw at least two
But it was good for me because it was the start of me writing a lot of material and it kind of hasn’t stopped since then which is good. It was a very big learning curve. That band stopped and then we (Fangs Of…) did the demo. Wasn’t it it like “Can you guys play my songs?”

Yeah yeah
Just to humour me and we started that band. How many years did that go for?

It was a while…2008 onwards. Playing with Jem would have been a big attraction at that time. He was a pretty respectable drummer.
I loved Fire Witch. I didn’t really envision playing with him at all. I guess he was just like a nice dude and so he was approachable about it..but you know he was also fairly clear that in no way he was committed to being in a band or anything. I really just wanted to record my songs and I just thought that was what it was gonna be. Like, we had one jam and then we recorded that EP.

I guess it just all clicked for us during that rehearsal, you know “This is easy”. I know it’s probably weird saying on your own blog…

Haha
But it was awesome to play with you too. It was just like a really good band I thought. And it was a shame that…haha…not many other people…well it’s not really true that many other people thought it was good but somehow we did get under peoples skin. I don’t really know what that was. I mean, you and me both had fairly harsh tones at a time when people were going for a more stonery…I get the feeling that had something to do with it. And we were fuckin’ loud. But as far as I was concerned, we were kinda like a heavy pop band. There was nothing not to get. It certainly wasn’t flavour of the month.

Playing with Jem was quite interesting because he’d never really played song songs before, he’d only really done long jammy things. That’s what he was kinda used to in Fire Witch anyway.
Highly composed jams

Very loose timing wise. It was interesting to say “This bit goes for 4 riffs…”
He often still says that you taught him to play in time.

Haha
He kinda puts it like, he might start slowing down and you’re still on the beat so he’s going “fuck I better catch up then”. He just had no option…haha.

I think it was like, even previous stuff that Jem had done had a lot of jamming involved and I think the songs that I was writing were definitely a leap out of what he was doing. But, at the same time he was a big fan of Nunchukka Superfly and more structured, more deliberate and more punchy songwriting. It was really good one time he came back from recording with Blackie (Hard Ons, Nunchukka Superfly) on his first solo album and he said “Blackie told me that punk rock is like a race to the end”. You know, everyone is racing each other to the beat and ever since then…you know it was just a bit of advice that clicked. The stuff that Jem is doing now, I mean, people freak out about the drumming that he’s doing now. I think it’s far more muscular and relentless than what he ever used to do.

I’ve changed heaps as well over time. Especially writing for DEAD, you don’t have the layers. Like in Fangs Of, I’d write a bass riff and it was mine to do whatever I like with guitar. But in DEAD there’s only one layer kind of thing and I don’t do any of those tricky loopy things or anything like that. It’s a very different mode of songwriting. The thing that I always try to remember is not to be too tricky, cause I think I can fall into that trap of “Well there’s only two of us so we better do something interesting” whereas I think sometimes simplicity is still a good thing to remember.

Well Fangs Of was a pretty non-showy kinda band. There were some mad drum fills and the odd guitar solo but it was generally very stripped back.
There wasn’t any wankery. We just got the job done.

There was a bass solo on one song though
Haha

The first EP was a bit of an experiment and then the Soccer Mums EP recorded by Jack Farley sounded really good at the time but in hindsight I don’t like the sound of that EP.
Yeah it’s weird for me, because my emphasis was always about the song. I hadn’t thought anywhere near as much as you and Jem had about production and who to record with or whatever. It was the first EP that we did with Barry at Fat Sound…I actually like the way that one sounds, the drums sound like cardboard, it’s definitely not an ideal thing.

I think there was just a real energy and everyone was a little bit unsure of what they were doing and it kinda made it a little more vital. I think the circumstances made that sound good to me. The Soccer Mums one, I was just sorta on board with what this guy’s doing…

We recorded it in your living room
That was actually a ballroom in the old days I’ve been told. But yeah I think the recording doesn’t have enough attack for me.

It was punk anyway. It was a home recording on analogue tape and the production suits the songs.
I think it could have been a whole lot heavier with a different recording and probably more what I had in mind but it is what it is

The TV Evangelist record was done with Neil at Head Gap
And with Sloth. One side with Neil and the other with Sloth.

That’s right. What was the reason behind recording there?
I think we just…I think Head Gap was reasonably new at that point

Neil had the Ricaine pedigree
I really liked Neil, I hadn’t known him that long. But I’m pretty sure that part of it was that I liked Neil haha. I think we were pretty stoked by what the studio had to offer.

Had Wicked City released their first album by that point? That was recorded at Head Gap I think
I can’t remember, and I can’t remember if Dad They Broke Me had done theirs yet either.

I suspect they were before us
It must have been other people that we knew first but it was kinda exciting to be in a REAL studio with real equipment.

Analogue tape
It was definitely Jem’s suggestion to do it there. Maybe he’d gone there to help Dad They, because he always helps John tune his drums.

That would have been your first Vinyl release as well
Yeah that was my first. Everything else had been tapes or CD’s…

There are still copies of that for sale!!!
Haha, only a couple. No there’s about 200 left. That was really good, that was at the beginning of when vinyl was becoming trendy again.

We just didn’t hit that wave in time to offload all those copies
I don’t know what happened there. I think with that band, had we toured more and actually gone overseas it would have worked out a lot better and I think the outcome of DEAD would have been the same had we not gone overseas and stuff. There’s labels and stuff in Europe and there’s a couple in the states that are really stoked by the Evangelist record and are keen to do that next one.

It’s hard to know, I feel that had the opportunity to tour more, maybe we would have sold more records.

Ballarat house show

Ballarat house show

There was a bit of touring, the Kill My Bleeding Smile tour
And we were supposed to go to Japan but that fell through which was a bummer. We did a few runs up the coast and over to Adelaide

Adelaide was a disaster, every time we went there
The first time we DID play, we played with Wicked City, I think that was okay. We stayed at a backpacker joint and Nick G snored so loud he disturbed pigeons in neighbouring suburbs.

Moving right along, our unreleased last LP was recorded with Jack Farley again
Yeah, at his studio.

The recording seemed pretty impressive at the time
Yeah I really liked it. I guess..what year did we record that? 2011? 2010?

2010 I think
I guess cause I’ve written a hundred songs since then, it didn’t seem that exciting to me until the possibility of release came up and I kinda went “Yeah whatever”. But it’s actually exciting to me that it will come out cause it sucks having a whole album sitting in the can.

I’ve got half a dozen…
There are a few tracks that won’t be on the album that we can…like that more experimental track Opera which I really like. If we’re doing vinyl we can’t fit it on.

We could do a double LP and sell even less copies
Haha

Live in Brisbane 2009

Live in Brisbane 2009

So after Fangs Of went on hiatus, you and Jem kicked off DEAD which was intended to be a much more active touring proposition
I guess at the time both Jem and I had a lot of energy for the…well we still do but it was just very much a joint decision to do more of everything. I know Jem had a lot of plans for touring and doing stuff. He’d been in Fire Witch and Inappropriate Tough Guy Behaviour and I think both of them probably frustrated him to a degree about what they could and couldn’t do. I know that he wanted to do more in all of those things and he probably still does. We were both in the same position where we had the opportunity personally to do more and we wanted to push it a bit more.

Actually, Jem basically booked a tour for us before we’d even written a song haha. So we knew it would be the case that we would play before we were ready and kinda learn live how to do the band. Especially for me, songs that I’d written before, it was definitely a learning curve to write for DEAD playing bass, to make the songs interesting.

We’re both fans of a lot of music. We like the idea of heavy music obviously but we don’t wanna be a doom band. We don’t wanna be any kind of genre band I guess, not that we’re trying to reinvent the wheel or anything. I guess we just don’t, personally for this band, I don’t think I’ve really thought about playing a style of music in particular. I actually read a review of our Idiots record and this guy was saying, basically his criticism of us was we are genre-busting. You know, it’s not like we’re going out of our way. It is what it is. It’s the sum of its parts. We kinda push each other to play out of our comfort zone and that’s what ends up being. It’s not like we’re trying to be clever or anything.

It’s a Catch-22 when a lot of Aussie bands are trying to get noticed in America and they play to a style and don’t succeed because they don’t stand out from the crowd. And yet, the bands that are totally far out and weird such as Birthday Party…
And Lubricated Goat…

Yeah so I guess what I’m saying is how can you stand out from the crowd if you don’t have a bunch of different styles going on?
Well I don’t really give two shits about reviews these days anyway. From what I can gather, reviews are done in front of the computer in less time than what it would take to listen to the album. Some reviews, they’re like a fuckin’ rollercoaster ride. One minute they’re saying how awesome you are and then the next minute they’re saying how shit you are. Has everyone got ADHD? You know, have a listen through your stereo instead of headphones. I guess that’s just part of the whole thing these days. Labels will try to get you a lot of reviews and anyone can do it.

As a friend of mine said that when punk rock hit it was awesome because it opened the doors to experimentation, but still 90% of it was shit. It’s like rock photography these days…I was at Swans show at the corner and these two young women barged their way in front of us and as they elbowed me they showed me their fancy camera. Seriously, one of them, half the photos she took were the back of the other ones head. They didn’t know what they were doing, so, anyone can buy a digital camera now and edit, delete delete delete delete and try and sell a photo. It’s opened the door to a lot of stuff but you let all the rabble in when you open the door.

Music journalism has never really had a good reputation and a lot of the criticism is warranted because they can be hacks that know fuck all
There are of course great people that have blogs for great reasons but I guess we (DEAD) are at the low end and we don’t publicise through the right channels. We just take what we can get.

Tell me about the influences for the first DEAD album. It is quite different to Fangs…
A lot of the sound just happened naturally in the rehearsal room. There wasn’t really a deliberate attempt to sound like anything. It was just at that point, that’s where we were up to. Even when we were recording the first album, I was still getting a handle on what I was doing in that band. There were still a lot of songs coming out but I didn’t necessarily know the right way to play them just on bass.

The object of the band was never to cover bass and guitar, it was just to have bass as its own instrument. There’s very little workman-like bass going on in any of our stuff.

We’ve always listened to a lot of The Melvins and then I guess we started listening to a lot of, well I did composing stuff, started listening bands that were just bass and drums. I love big business. I rediscovered godheadSilo, which is a band that I’m not a huge fan of…

DEAD

DEAD

Sure but they were one of the few bass-driven  bands like Ruins and maybe Man Is The Bastard that anyone had heard of in the 90’s
Yeah exactly, and we’re both fans of Man Is The Bastard and Jem loves punishing people in the car, you know, just putting Man Is The Bastard on.

Haha
You know it’s either Man Is The Bastard or Kate Bush haha.

Did the first album come out before you went to South East Asia?
Yeah it came out before that and there was a release over there on the Ricecooker label from Malaysia, which was a cassette release. So Tenzenmen got on board with that as well. I never actually got a copy of that, they were just sort of all gone. I actually can’t remember, it was slightly before then, We Empty Rooms put it out on vinyl and then the cassette release happened.

So we went to South East Asia, Malaysia first, then Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines which was pretty awesome. It was actually the first time I’ve been out of our country. It was pretty massive for me and it was as eye opening as it was, just confirming that this is a good thing to do. It really gave me a hunger to go to as many places as I can. The hospitality over there was crazy. Everywhere we went we were so well looked after. A meal that I guess would be 2 bucks Australian, they were insisting on paying for us. I think because Jem obviously has family in Malaysia and he’s been in that area a fair bit. He already had a rapport with certain people, but I think the fact that we were keen to try local food and weren’t asking to get taken to McDonalds or whatever.

People were warm to us, well that’s what it seemed like anyway. I was just really humbled by that whole experience. Seriously wherever we went, there were people to drop us off, pick us up, organising tickets for us, it was just amazing.

Cher and James from 7x0x7 booking agency, booked the whole tour for us pretty much and Joe Kidd (DUNG, Ricecooker) and Jem obviously was doing stuff. Wherever you go there it’s obviously a big community effort, like sometime in Indonesia people have to be paid off. You know, it’s not easy to put on a show. One of the shows we played in Yogyakarta at the National Museum there, which have art shows and gigs, I dunno how many people were there, but a few thousand people were there. A gig like that is frowned upon by a lot of people and there’s certain people that have to be given money or whatever so that they don’t come in and kick heads. As a consequence, everyone is so passionate about gigs. It’s a really vital part of what they do. From what I can gather, punk rock hit a lot later there.

They weren’t allowed to get a lot of stuff and it’s pretty big there now. They’re accelerating through all the stages of punk really quickly…there’s powerviolence and all kinds of shit. They just really love loud kinda chaotic stuff, even though we were being billed as more like a stoner band…they were trying to get what genre we were for posters and stuff. I’m not a stoner fan at all, that’s just kinda how we were billed.

What sort of gear did you use on that tour?
Haha. Whatever was available. In Kuala Lumpur it was good, our friend Joe Kidd had just got a bunch of new equipment like Orange and Marshall. Some of the other gigs I was playing through Crate twins and stuff like that. I’d just assemble whatever I could at the shows. Certainly sonically, it was not ideal but no one gave a shit. I guess sometimes too when you don’t have the amplification you try your guts out. It never felt bad. The last show that we did in Manilla, I blew the bass amp up in the first song…

Haha
…and I just had a guitar amp for the rest of the…I think it was a Crate single or something. It didn’t really matter.

What happened after South East Asia?
We basically started working on going to the US. Jem, through his connection with Wäntage USA had wanted to do Total Fest with every band he’d been in but it just hadn’t worked out. We just thought “Fuck let’s do it”. They invited us to do the show and Wäntage did a pressing of the record so it was kind of ideal for us.

We ended up hooking up with this band called Unstoppable Death Machines who were friends of the label owner’s brother and they were based in Brooklyn. It turned out to be, like we weren’t ideal tour mates in a way but at the same time it was as good an introduction to the USA that we were ever gonna get to just go as a completely unknown band and not be losing a shit ton of money.
We had gear every night instead of trying to fossick for shit or hire or whatever. In the end, even though it probably wasn’t ideal we came out of it pretty well.

Hopefully it was beneficial for them as well. Definitely as the tour went on we realised we were getting paid a bit more because there was an Aussie band so I think we were getting to the next town each night. So we did a lap around the states from New York back to New York. It was pretty gruelling with some 15 hour drives and shit.

How did you cope with the food?
The food was good. I felt pretty apprehensive before I went and was slightly worried cause friends of mine had just gotten back and I noticed that they’d all put on a bit of weight haha. I was sorta worried about what food was gonna be available that didn’t have meat and cheese and whatever in it. But it ended up that basically it was a little bit hard in the Midwest area, but at the same time you could always find a health food supermarket that are really great. You can get anything from fresh to frozen stuff.

I was buying these frozen burritos and just letting them thaw out…just bean burritos. By the time we hit the west coast you could get really great Mexican food and that was pretty much all the way back to New York. The closer you get to New York you can get more hipster fake meat kinda stuff. It was actually really good.

Did you have any really awesome shows?
Yeah there were a few. There were definitely certain shows where there was hardly anyone there. I guess because of the band that we were playing with who appealed to more of a hipster crowd. It was sort hard for us being daggy heavy guys. But then the more kinda rock shows that we played we went over really well. The warehouse hipster kinda stuff didn’t go so well for us. Total Fest was incredible…

In Missoula
…yeah Missoula, Montana. It’s a 3 day festival basically. It was amazing. Big Business played and Hammerhead. Yeah it was really good.

But yeah we played this other festival called WhyNotMinot In North Dakota and it’s just phenomenal. We’ve played it twice now and just the people there are incredible. For a town…I don’t actually know the population but for how remote it is, to have not only a punk (festival)….to have all day and all night for two days…yeah it was really good. So that was a highlight. The second time we were there we played a show in a tiny basement at about 3am, which was our third set for the day, we never drink before a show and we were pretty drunk, the space was chockers and it was complete chaos from start to finish, the most fun I’ve ever had playing a show. And there’s a band there called Mr Dad who are absolutely mind blowing! San Francisco was really good too.

Dead 1Where did you play there?
The Hemlock Tavern which was right in the middle of San Francisco I think, that was with Vaz who we brought out here (Australia). I really liked places like Albuquerque. In New Orleans ….there was a hurricane pending so it was raining heavily. We kinda played the show thinking…we weren’t even gonna play the show we were just gonna bypass it. Then we were thinking were gonna have to leave straight away.

The guys on the door had something to do with EyeHateGod and they were like “I thought this show was gonna be hipster doofus dudes” and they were really stoked on us and they were like “Next time you come back you’re playing with EyeHateGod. We were like “Oh yeah we can do that” haha.

Richmond, Virginia was a really good show….you know a long drive to a pretty small show is pretty gruelling but generally always worth it. There’s always someone who is stoked.

Tell me about your New Zealand tour?
We did the North Island. I can’t remember how many shows, maybe a dozen all up. Then we did a show in a place called Barrier Island which is off the coast of Auckland…like a 3 hour ferry ride. It’s all generator power over there, incredible. I think I played through a 45 watt Jansen haha, pretty under gunned…I dunno what Jem was playing. It was still fun. We played at the Sport Club, everything was kinda weird. Everyone was lovely. It was one of those shows where a whole family would be there from tiny kids right up to grandma sort of thing. There were two of those families there and one of them bought everything we had, singlets for the kids, a record, I dunno if they liked it or not or they were just being supportive or whatever.

It was a very unusual place to go. It was so beautiful, you’d come over a hill and it would be hard to comprehend that it was a real thing that you were looking at. It was just perfect flat water and hills, and incredible place. We played this festival called Camp A Low Hum which was the main reason for going over. There was a lot of wasted young people there and I was one of the elder statesmen definitely.

Haha
Ben Ely from Regurgitator was there playing in Ouch My Face. We were staying in dormitory accommodation and people were getting pretty wasted and on various things. We woke up and this woman was walking around screaming that there was a poo in the shower.

Haha
We went in to inspect and there was a poo in the shower. So I drew up a little sign saying “Warning”. It was Ben and this guy…I can’t remember his stage name – Dave Norris who is kinda like a DJ and he does some really weird fucked up stuff. Actually he had a timeslot and he got so wasted that he completely forgot to play and then had to do this renegade gig later on.

He donned gumboots and got a shovel. I think he had stubbies shorts on and no shirt, he looked like a warrior. He shovelled up this poo. I think Ben was opening doors for him to get out and they saved the day. I dunno where they got a shovel from.

Tell me about some of the bands you’ve brought out to Australia?
With Fangs Of… there was Kill My Bleeding Smile (Japan) who now are called Knellt and I’m pretty sure now it’s really only Seth the guitar player and songwriter who’s in the band. I don’t know if they’re like a two-piece now or something like that. Maybe the drummer is the same…he’s been in and out a few times. Anyway they’re a great band. We played a few times with them in Japan. We did a string of shows with those guys.

Vaz, who basically came out from Fargo via….I dunno. They were actually from a little town outside Fargo and then they were based in Minneapolis in the band Hammerhead who were on Amrep and now they’re based in Brooklyn. But yeah Vaz were incredible. Hammerhead were way more popular or well-known but Vaz to me is an infinitely more interesting band. They’re great guys.

I think they were a little…like there were certain places in Australia that we went that were a bit out of their comfort zone, like there were bugs or flies or whatever. They were worried about dingoes at one stage…

Haha
Paul went missing and the other guys were certain that he’d been eaten by a dingo.

I remember there was a Fangs Of tour when we stopped by the side of the road and I slept on top of a picnic table. I think you slept on the roof of the van and I swear to god something came and sniffed me…I dunno if it was a dingo but I was packin’ it
Haha

In my sleeping bag at 6am in the red dirt and something ran off into the distance
West Wyalong. That was the place where Jem said let’s stop ANYWHERE but West Wyalong. We got there and I was so tired and I said sorry man haha.

You guys have brought out heaps of bands to tour Australia now. What was the Estonian band?
Talbot. Jem helped them come out.

Did you guys tour with them?
No we just played some shows in Melbourne…Victorian shows I’m pretty sure. They kind of…I don’t know much about those guys. From memory they were bass and drums. I think they were looking at coming back again. I think a lot of people really liked them.

There was a European band as well that I missed…
Ten Volt Shock, from Germany. They were a great band and really good guys. I think they were just stoked to be somewhere…to be on tour. One of the guys is a teacher and he gets limited time off. He just really makes the most of everything. They were a great band…very angular, tight, kinda Germanic in a way I suppose.

Jem has been through, I think X-Mist…he’s had there records in his distro for years.

What about Realized?
No I think that was Jem and Inappropriate Tough Guy Behaviour. That was a while ago. But we played with them in Japan.

Cyberne have been out twice. As you would know they are a pretty incredible band. Most of the bands that I’ve met from Japan are very serious about what they do. There are no kinda half measures with those guys. It was amazing to go through Australia with them a couple of times and see people who really, I would assume wouldn’t like that music, but really warmed to it because of how passionate those guys are.

Also I think they make a huge effort to be…they’re so friendly. I think people are stoked to have these crazy Japanese guys talking to them. There’s something very likeable about those guys aside from how good they are musically. We did a split CD with Cyberne and Knellt.

We definitely have plans to bring other bands out. We’ve been talking to bands like Gay Witch Abortion from Minneapolis who are one of my favourite bands that we’ve played with. They’re a two-piece band, a guitarist and a drummer. Once again they’re not a band trying to compensate for not having a bass player, they’re just riffing out. The guitarist has a lot of effects but he doesn’t sound like one of those guys who rely on them, he just uses them tastefully. Their drummer Sean is incredible.

I guess they will be pretty much unknown when they come out. They have releases on Amrep so hopefully people can get on board with that.

It’s sorta frustrating, like the Vaz tour we did was probably the worst tour that we’ve ever done in Australia…worst attended. I’m pretty sure when we played in Brisbane there were like 3 people, because across town there was some Eddie Current Suppression Ring side-project band playing and there were 300 people at that.

It’s really frustrating that we don’t have the money to advertise in probably the channels that those guys do, so then no one knows about it. I realise that it’s difficult music. I’m sure there’s a bigger audience that potentially would like to see that.

I think there are a lot of things that conspire, either with you or against you. Those guys (Vaz) were really good-hearted about it and they also went to South East Asia.

In terms of bass players, who has impressed you on tour?
Yeah there’s a lot actually. One of the bands that I was really floored by was Omotai who are from Houston, Texas. I actually don’t know what specific genre they are but they’re a metal band, reasonably technical I suppose. The bass player Melissa is…and I guess it’s doubly impressive to me when a woman is playing heavy bass…I’m like wow that’s awesome, just a P-bass with a GK and a fridge.

We played with them at Total Fest. The bass player from Helms Alee, also a woman who is like…my god this is thumping. There drummer too is a very slight woman, just thumps. The other thing I notice is that woman often have a unique take on the instrument, it’s not like they are coming from a long line of…like this is how you do it.

But yeah, it’s always really impressive to me. I love watching Jarred (Big Business) play, but I guess I’m equal parts impressed by his vocal ability and the songs. I guess they’re more like a complete package of a band.

There were some insane players in Japan… No half measures over there, there’s no kinda slacker shit going on. It’s really well rehearsed. I guess like Harada from Ryokuchi. He was a big inspiration for me in a lot of ways, like the multiple amp thing, the volume, he has a lot more finesse than I do. His approach to music…he’s stoked to listen to music and to play it.

Also Rick from Towers and Joe Preston. Guys like that are players that I’ve dug. Paul from Vaz who plays bass in Hammerhead, he’s an incredible bass player, just relentless, thumping, kinda like in your style in a way. Different, but kinda like “This guy is just never gonna lay down”.

The other one is the bass player from Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth which is Tad Doyle’s band, which I think is his wife. Once again it’s this tiny woman standing in front of this massive rig and just thumping bass. It just does make me really stoked when I see that. If I had a bit more time I probably could of thought of way more.

Obviously Patto (Wicked City) is awesome. There’s been sometimes when I’ve seen Patto play…there’s just some nights when he’s just decided he’s gonna do runs on every note pretty much and it’s just like “Wow”. He never fluffs anything, it’s just sick. I guess from a long way back from when I started playing bass, Ray Ahn (Hard Ons) has always been…I dunno his sound has always been great and I really respect his playing, particularly in Nunchukka Superfly.

I guess I learnt playing punk bass…a lot of down strokes, root notes and a run here and there. That’s sort of how I first learn. Some of the stuff with Nunchukka where Ray is sort of just on an endless run it’s just like “Wow that’s killer”.

Tell me about the second DEAD album Idiots?
Well it’s a concept album about Idiots haha. Um, yeah we actually discussed that I’ve kinda always really like that idea of De-evolution. We’re not a political band or anything, but there’s always an idea behind everything. The songs aren’t gibberish even though sometimes the lyrics are a bit degenerate or humorous or whatever. It’s not like the lyrics are aimless or pointless, there’s always something. We definitely don’t have that angle that we have this special information that no one else has.

I really like arty ideas…I’m into philosophy and stuff. The idea was, as Australia gets more conservative and nasty and greedy, we’re also getting more stupid. One thing that really upsets me is the medium of television and how irresponsibly it’s used. I think it’s such an amazing medium and generally it’s just a whole load of crap, generally it’s a whole load of advertising, even the shows are advertising something.

I just feel like everything is sorta going downhill and that’s what made me think about the Devo or De-evolution idea. So we kinda thought of the least offensive but most…you know if someone calls you an idiot it’s sorta worse than being called a fuckwit.

So we recorded that with Neil again at Head Gap. We just sorta went in with the idea that we would be super well-rehearsed, so we sorta over-rehearsed to the point where we were hoping that…you know when you’re so used to a song that you relax into it then you start kinda playing with it a bit.

Almost all the songs are first takes and there are very little overdubs. We were just really ready to go with that material.

How many tracks are there for bass? Do you do any doubling or is it just one take pretty much?
It’s all pretty much one take and there’s a few areas where I have overdubbed. It’s quite minimal what I’ve done and then there’s some bits where I do more noise sorta stuff.

I rarely overdub the playing…I think there’s pros and cons with that. One of the things is that we maintain the playing of that moment. We’re budget constrained really.

Basically I think mixing takes a long time with this band because the balance needs to be there. It’s surprising how good it’s been for people to mix our band.

The bass on Idiots is clearer, maybe a little bit heavier, but definitely clearer. I was surprised when you said it was only one track…one take anyway
Well it’s two amps. I always have a bass rig and a guitar rig going. There’s a few different heads that I used. Basically for the bass I used an old Fender Bassman head and a fridge.

Is that Neil’s gear?
Yeah. And then for the guitar rig I used either my Sunn Betalead or a Sovtek 50 watt head. I think the Sovtek one gave me more…it was more clunky, more real piano’y bass sorta sound and the Sunn gave me more crunch. The Sunn really works for when I’m doing chords.

I’ve worked out how to get my sound now, by the time we were recording Idiots I was a lot more solidified in what I was doing. I think prior to that I’d had a more similar tone out of both amps, whereas now I go for a more bassy sound out of the bass amp and not so distorted. I guess that comes from being more confident in my own playing as well, not trying to smooth over stuff with more distortion or whatever.

I think the last time you came and saw us you said it was more sorta tougher sounding. I think Jem has warmed into his role as well, we’ve sorta moved together.

So tell me about the two new albums that are in the can
Yeah so there’s also a remix album as well that a bunch of friends have been involved with and I think that’s just gonna be a lathe cut vinyl. I think we just put out a call to people who wanted it and that’s who is gonna get it basically.

We also did a split 7” we with No Anchor.

You did one with Vaz as well?
Yeah we just put that out with Vaz. The No Anchor one was recorded with Max at Cellar Sessions in Coburg. We basically treated ourselves and demo’d Idiots there before we recorded it, which was another reason why we were well rehearsed. We’d also tightened the compositions up, so it was a lot quicker once we got to Head Gap.

So we’ve been working on an LP with BJ Morrizonkle and we’ve got more than enough…we’re gonna have to cull material basically. It’s been really awesome to work with him because he has some really good ideas.

Basically we’ve been explaining our ideas visually rather than aurally. So it’s like “This bit is a giant blow up duck with boots on walking down Swanston Street” and everyone goes “Oh yeah, I think I know”.

Dead 2What instruments is he playing?
He’s just playing a synth…well that’s just been in rehearsal, but I think when we go to record it…

So it hasn’t been recorded yet?
No. I think we’re going to record drums and a couple of bass beds somewhere and then Ben is gonna take it and do all of his stuff. So I think this recording is gonna be more lo-fi but a lot more layered than any of our other ones.

We recorded with Toshi Kasai (Big Business/The Melvins) in LA when we were at the end of our second US tour. That album is being mixed slowly but it’s almost ready now. Our aim is that it will come out this year sometime, before December so it doesn’t get lost.

What labels are expressing interest in this stuff? Is the Toshi one the one you obviously want to plug the most?
Yes! It’s called ‘Captains Of Industry’. That one I believe will be We Empty Rooms, Rock Is Hell (Austria) and Eolian Empire (Portland, OR) who also did the Idiots record. They’re a really unpretentious heavy riff lovin’ label. It’s Jem’s diligence I guess, he hears a band that he likes, looks up the label and then contacts them. We’ve had a really good working relationship with those guys, they’re really on the same level as us.

We probably pushed them a little bit with the handmade packaging stuff but they were really on board with sorta how we wanted it to look and they respected what we were doing. They were really supportive of us on tour and we also toured with a band called Towers who are also on the label.

Towers are another two-piece bass and drums duo who are very different to us, more spacey and soundscapey sorta stuff. Since then I’ve done the artwork for their record, there’s a lot of mutual stuff going on now. In a town as hip as Portland, it’s good to see some real people.

So what’s the future hold? Are you gonna go back to the States?
Yep, we’re gonna go back next year to the states….2015. We’ve put in our usual bucketload of grant applications and been denied for most of them. It’s luck of the draw. We’re gonna go back next year regardless of any of that stuff.

Last time I went to the states I did art for Total Fest so there’s other stuff like that. Last time we pretty much paid for our recording from gig money. It’s definitely getting better for us over there and I think going back again is a good idea. As hard as it is, when you’re not a known band, you paying out of your own pocket, it does eventually pay off for you if you are not shit.

That’s coming up, we’ve been invited to play Extreme music fest in Fukuoka, which we were gonna do at some stage. We also wanna go back to South East Asia really badly. That was the first tour we did, so we’re really overdue to go back there. Everyone who goes there has the best time, it’s just a real treat to play music in that region. I really hope we can go back there and see our friends.

Basically we’re just gonna keep recording and whatever way it comes out….like with these lathe cut kinda things, instead of trying to push a record really hard and putting all your eggs in one thing and riding it out for a few years, we just write too much music to do that…to take that approach. We’re just gonna keep putting things out as regularly as we can. If we only put out 30 copies…you know we’re not gonna do limited edition things it’s just, anyone who wants one can let us know and we’ll press that many but we’re not gonna press 300 and wait for people to catch on. We will have already moved on.

Who’s doing the lathe cuts?
I think it’s a guy in Melbourne. I couldn’t tell ya, Jem does all the boring stuff. I just do the art haha. Jem knows all that stuff. From running a label for so long at such a budget level, he’s always working out ideas…I think we’ve given up on the idea that…..we’re not an easy band to market or sell in anyway and we don’t intend to be. So we just have to…I guess we’ve just taken the approach that, the whole thing is an art project and so therefore we do it exactly how we wanna do it and we don’t cut any corners. We just make it fun.

He (Jem) loves doing screen printing and I love doing art which is why we put so much effort into doing our packaging. I know some people appreciate it. We have some great supporters who are always willing to get behind what we do.

Is there any Jace that is not being expressed through DEAD?
Oh man, I’ve got about half a dozen bands in a folder on my computer. I really love Jah Wobble stuff and Bill Laswell. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m gonna make a dub record, but I definitely would like to do some more hypnotic and repetitive stuff that is more atmospheric.

I’ve recorded that stuff on my lame recording equipment that I have and one day when I have money I’ll record it (in a studio). I’ve also been talking to some guys who are more noise orientated about doing something more hideous that takes very little rehearsal.

I’m always open to doing stuff, somehow I never join a band, I always start it. Maybe cause no one wants to include me in their project haha.

Nah seriously it’s because people are lazy and you are a bit more driven
Haha. I kinda want to be in every band that I like, that’s sorta my problem. I guess I get so excited about the music that I love so I then get inspired to write music around that. I’ve got a lot of stuff that no one but me will ever hear, like a hideous bucket of riffs on my computer.

Have you thought about having a Jace Bandcamp where you just put your more lo-fi home stuff up there for anyone to get?
I haven’t really thought of that, maybe I could do that. I don’t know anything about recording so…I guess I’ve worked with people who do, so my recording is gonna be total balls haha. I’m not letting anyone else hear that haha.

Do you think that DEAD will go into overdrive now that Jem has moved up to Castlemaine?
Yeah I hope that happens. I can’t see any obstacle to that outcome. We’re definitely working on ideas to do more art stuff…I do an image and he prints it, not necessarily related to the band. I’ve always got a million ideas for a business I just never do them haha.

I think Jem and I drive each other in a way, he’s a very driven person regardless of anything. I think that then makes me come up with something else because there’s an outcome to this. We’ve been rehearsing at The Bridge Hotel in town which is working for us for now. We’re talking about setting something up ourselves. Throwing ideas around about having something that’s also a venue…Castlemaine is a pretty vibey little town…it’s possible you could do that.

I think it could be utilised, especially if we could put on some all-ages shows. That’s important to both of us. We love playing regional shows and to be able to facilitate a venue for touring bands. It’s great that he’s gonna be closer by. It’s sorta hard now to go into Melbourne all the time and rehearse.

Captains Of Industry will be released in October and DEAD will be touring nationally in Nov/Dec 2014.

Bass Vulgaris is pleased to announce the release of the debut Castration Party album featuring yours truly. Castration Party from Melbourne, Australia is a bass and drums duo formed in 2012 consisting of Michael Brackenridge (Brain Resin, Fangs Of…) and drummer/engineer Joel Taylor (Join The Amish, ex-The Abandonment).Studio fun

Castration Party is influenced by the holy trinity of bass heavy bands Godflesh, early Swans and Noxagt along with a healthy dose of Zu, Jesus Lizard and The Melvins amongst others.

Music For Cowards is out now on Bass Vulgaris and is available on Digital and Digipak CD through Bandcamp

Comments Off on Interview with Skye Klein: Halo, Terminal Sound System etc

TSS-Skye-Klein-02Melbourne raised musician Skye Klein has carved a unique path in underground music from the crushing bass and drums intensity of Halo through to the electronic based projects Terminal Sound System and Tether. Interview conducted in Ballarat on Saturday, September 28 2013.

So you grew up in Brunswick? Grew up in Brunswick. Grew up in Brunswick when Brunswick was a place that people didn’t go to haha.

It was a good place to grow up, it was pretty like the wild west back then. I think it was like, one cafe that was frequented by old Greek men ostensibly playing cards, but I think they were dealing drugs out of there. I’d go down and play space invaders on the convertible…you know there was no pokies back then, they had these space invaders games where they’d flick a switch and they’d  turn it into a pokies machine.

I’d go down there and play space invaders for a while and they’d flick the switch and some old guy would gamble his pension away and they’d kick me off it. I’d have to wait for him haha.

I’d run errands for them, which these days I think back and think, “What the hell was I doing?” Random envelopes that I’d have to run from one cafe to the other haha. That place is still there actually, it’s just around the corner from my mate’s place so they haven’t been shut down yet haha. They must be doing something right.

So how did you get involved in music? So after several failed attempts, you know like my parents would try and do anything to get me to play music…guitar lessons…I think I lasted 3 lessons…

When you were a teenager? Yeah when I was a teenager, early teens. I think it took till I was about 17 when I went and saw The Cure and decided that actually playing music might be a good thing. So I was heavily into The Cure when I was a teenager and I think I picked up a guitar then. About a year or so later I saved up pocket money kinda stuff and from odd job kinda stuff and bought a 4-track and started writing songs and doing stuff at home in my bungalow.

What sort of bands were you into? It was weird, it was kinda that (The Cure) and then I discovered my mum’s old records from her 70’s record collection, so all this old psychedelic rock stuff – Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead which I never liked. I tried to but didn’t….Pink Floyd, stuff like that.

I had this strange thing going where it was like The Cure, Sisters of Mercy and these kind of Goth bands and then Floyd and Jefferson Airplane and Hendrix and stuff on the other side. Also her boyfriend’s record collection and he grew up in Melbourne in the 70’s and 80’s so there was Birthday Party and Boys Next Door, The Cramps, kinda later punk stuff. It all kinda slowly coalesced together but it was this kinda strange 3-pronged musical taste.

I still like a lot of it. I still like The Cure…kind of. Still like The Cramps. Didn’t start getting into heavy stuff until I randomly discovered Godflesh, Ministry and Neurosis all at the same time. I don’t know how it happened.

I would buy tapes randomly because I liked the covers. I think I was on a family holiday and was bored shitless.  I bought Slavestate (which is) a Godflesh record, Souls at Zero a Neurosis record and a Ministry tape which I think was…The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste. It blew my mind and all 3 (records) blew my mind. I think I was about 18 at the time. I just wasn’t interested in metal at all but those things just opened up a whole new world.

Did you have a band back then or was it just solo stuff with the 4-track? It was solo stuff, I was just writing heaps of songs with the 4-track. That’s just what I do. So this is like, post-high school but not doing anything else. I think I just went on the dole, wasn’t interested in Uni and just spent two years writing songs on the 4-track. I didn’t have a band until a few years later when I hooked up with a friend of mine.

So this was early 90’s? Would have been Mid-90’s. So like ’93 or ’94 so I’d just finished high school. Didn’t have any plans on doing anything else and didn’t know what I wanted to do. Just knew that I wanted to write music and dig in with the 4-track a couple of pedals, guitar, bass and drum machine.

What sort of gear did you have back then? I had a Squire bass which actually lasted a very long time throughout pretty much everything else I did. I had a half-decent guitar which I actually picked up for $50 from a hock shop in Flemington where I was living at the time. It was actually a 70’s Fender Squire which was actually quite a good one.

Japanese? Yeah it was a Japanese Fender Squire and it was like 50 bucks. I think I bought it and some other dude was there fuming behind me….

Haha I bought it because the head stock looked like, you know the 70’s head stock with the big fat round bit, looked like the head stock on the Fender Jazzmaster that Robert Smith from The Cure played. I was like “I want that guitar because it looks kind similar to a Jazzmaster”, you know…teenagers haha.

I also had a delay pedal, a chorus pedal and an old Tascam 4-track that I got from the Swoppy (Swap Shop) back when you could sit around the Swoppy and smoke cigarettes all day. Spend your paper round money, I think I was working at a Deli at the time.

I didn’t realise the Swap Shop had been around for that long? Yeah I used to go there when I was in high school.

In the same spot? Yeah exactly the same spot. I bought my first amplifier from there which was a Peavey Austin which was apparently designed to play lap steel and pedal steel. It was like a 1×15 (speaker) and a massive PA horn built into it…really weird and a spring reverb in there. It had a really abrasive, Blixa Bargeld style sound to it, really harsh, reverby and really cool. You know, I didn’t have any money, that was kind just what I had and an endless supply of cassette tapes and just fucked around with that stuff. And an old Boss drum machine which I don’t remember what it was.

So when did you start Circle Of Lebanon? That was probably the first thing that I actually did with a mate of mind who played in the early days of Halo and another band that kinda became Halo. We’d get a couple of bottles of Stout and a box of Cold and Flu tablets haha and sit up till 6 in the morning with the 4-track and whatever we had lying around. So a couple of guitars, drum machines, drums, cymbals, whatever was there…. a little Casio organ.

We’d sit there all day and all night just recording stuff, flipping the tape over and playing shit backwards and slowing it down, doing what… before computers, doing what everyone who was recording music was doing, just having fun and playing around. Being like, “Everything sounds really good when you slow it down”, playing it backwards and that was just like, the culmination of 6 months of us just jamming, taking bad cheap drugs and drinking and jamming. Nothing to do, we were both on the dole haha. It was kind of the product of equal parts boredom and interest and inspiration and working out what we wanted to do.

George played music for years, he came from Geelong and had played in bands since he was like 12 years old and I was like a complete newb to that kind of thing. I just played by myself and you know, we still play together.

Were you playing guitar? Yeah, I viewed myself as a guitar player. We both played bass on recordings. When we started playing together in a band I played guitar and sang, so I didn’t think of myself as a bassist.

So did Halo evolve out of that or was it a clear break? It did evolve from that. We started writing, as opposed to playing around with the 4-track, actually writing songs. Had another band called Insect, which was this bizarre kind of…we were both into The Cure and stuff and this kind of Gothy thing.

We’d play at The Arthouse almost every like two weeks. We’d call them up on a Thursday night and say “Can we play on Friday night?” and they’d kind of slot you in, which was really good.

I’d never played live before but he’d (George) played live a lot, playing bikie parties since he was 13 years old you know, endless Hendrix covers. He was a very good musician and I was not a very good musician at all haha.

But we just started playing gigs…hooked up with a drummer, several drummers as always happens, over the next couple of years…playing gigs and writing songs. Halo gradually evolved out of that band, it became different, it got heavier as we got off this weird kinda Goth rock trip and got more into metal and stuff like that.

George had played metal before and I’d been interested in it since having my mind blown apart by Neurosis basically, and Godflesh and Ministry to a lesser extent. The early days of Halo were myself and George, another friend and another friend Robert playing drums who then…it basically became, you know the proper incarnation of Halo was myself and Robert.

It was this thing of a band that turned into another band where half the people went off and….someone went off to take heroin and the other guy (George)didn’t like the way it was going and wanted to do more music music.

It ended up being myself and Robert and it sounded really shit with just drums and guitar. It was like “We need some low end here, I’m gonna try playing bass”, but I think I was kind of playing it like a guitar and at some point we went “Holy Shit” this is actually sounding like something we wanna do.

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So what year was that? It would have been ’98. So I went to Uni for 3 years and I did Media Arts at RMIT. It was a very strange situation where they had a full recording studio setup with all this crazy shit that I’d never seen before. I kinda learnt the basics of that there.

We’d be studying the birth of electronic music, experimental music and all this avant garde shit and then my mates would rock up after that and make all this horrible music and record it and piss everyone off haha.

It was a very staunchly avant garde kind of thing and we’d be playing like, heavy kind of rock music. That’s really when Halo actually became Halo because we could record it and listen to it, and record some more and listen to it.

After I finished that (Uni) I was living in a warehouse in Fitzroy and that’s when the other guys kind of left the band. Robert and I would jam in this massive wooden warehouse where everything sounded amazing, which had like 5 second reverb on everything. That combined with the fact that we could play as loud as we wanted because my housemates didn’t mind. That’s really when Halo came together…that would have been about 1998 to 2000 that I was in that warehouse.

We did most of our recording there as well, just ourselves…

On the 4-track still? Nah, I still didn’t have any gear but I bought an 8-channel mixing desk from RMIT when they were clearing out all their shit and I would hire 8-track recorders, from somewhere in Fitzroy. I would just hire a digital 8-track and that’s where we recorded the first 3 Halo albums, on a digital 8-track and this old Tascam mixing desk which they were about to throw out but I got it for like a hundred bucks or something.

Yeah and I bought some speakers and…I had a little bit of an idea of what I was doing from what I learnt at Uni but I actually hadn’t paid much attention so it was still…we’d just work like monkeys  at the typewriter, just bang away at it and fiddle around at it. In hindsight, you know gradually learn how to get tones that we liked because we had the time to do it.

We’d decide to record something but it was still you know, just made up on the spot. By that point we weren’t writing songs, we’d made a conscious decision to play and record and when it sounded good, that would be an album. Because I didn’t have a computer there was no editing or anything like that.

So is Massive Corporate Disease the first one? The first one is called Subliminal Transmissions. All the tracking was done at Uni as part of my time there, we’d come in there after hours, I think it’s still online to download somewhere. That’s when it was still 4 people and a weird mash of ideas…

I definitely haven’t heard that one I’m pretty sure it’s on internet archive, if it’s not I’ll stick it up there. It’s really kind of 4 people with completely different ideas trying to playing music together.

Massive Corporate Disease was shortly after that and by that point, the guitarist George had left. The bass player was kinda semi-there, semi-not there. Robert the drummer was kind of in and out, he was going overseas and stuff.  Most of the drums on Massive Corporate…I played.

 A lot of that was myself playing drums, the bass player playing a little bit of bass. And I took it all home and layered more bass on it and kind of made that into an album. That was a strange one and after that Robert and I did everything together. That was almost a solo thing, I haven’t thought about that album for a long time.  A little bit of everyone but mostly me.

Were there any Melbourne bands that you looked up to? Disembowelment? Yeah there were people there, bands that I liked and appreciated and kinda Melbourne grind bands and a lot of grind and crusty punk bands that jammed and played in similar places that we did. In the warehouse and in another warehouse in Brunswick which was a studio and rehearsal space called Sublime which a lot of Melbourne grind and punk bands kinda jammed there, it was like 20 bucks to jam.

Everyone went there to jam and record. I dug that stuff, but I was never really in that scene. I liked what they were doing, it was like “I dig that, but I don’t wanna do that”. I think we became quite isolationist like that, we now actually have an idea of what we’re doing and everything else is kinda cool but…we played gigs with bands but always felt a bit kinda disassociated from it as well, which was our own doing cause we’d never really bought into it…

A lot of the stuff I was listening to wasn’t local stuff as well, it was a lot of Noise stuff and always Neurosis. It’s kinda been like from discovering them THE touch point throughout my music making time as what inspired me to do stuff. Obviously kinda their sound but more their approach to music, for them it’s almost bordering on spiritual approach to music…

They have a brand, brand is not really the best word but they have a kind of whole shtick Oh definitely, they certainly have a philosophy really. I don’t follow it as such, I think I understand it.  I get it and I get what it means to them and what it’s done for them. It is their inspiration. I think it just shows how powerful inspiration and belief are, which is a weird and loaded term…it is faith.

They have faith in themselves and what they do and why they do it. For me, in the long term, what’s more inspiring than the music itself is the belief…in the music. If you believe in the music you will follow that and you will end up forging your own path.

You guys were early adopters of distributing your music on the internet through MP3.com and stuff like that. There was a time when internet distribution wasn’t really regarded as a serious thing for bands and there was a divide between real bands who toured and played shows and internet-only bands – how did that all come about for you? It’s funny, I kinda discovered the internet haha and discovered the whole…and you’re right about the divide, it didn’t seem real. It didn’t have the legitimacy that it does these days. You can be a band that only exists on the internet and you don’t have to exist anywhere else. You can be a brand, a thing, in a sense, you don’t have to tour, you don’t have to play gigs.

On discovering the internet, I could research or find out about other bands overseas, I saw the potential of that. Because I could find out about other people. It’s difficult trying to explain to younger people these days…

Because they’ve grown up with the internet Yeah, the idea that suddenly you could find out about bands on the other side of the world and conversely people on the other side of the world could find out about your band was absolutely fucking mind blowing. You just couldn’t DO that before. There was mailorder and word of mouth, which is great in itself and worked for people for a very long time and still does, it’s still all about word of mouth still.

But yeah that idea was just quite incredible, and I started putting our music online on mp3.com haha which back in the day was THE Facebook, MySpace , blah blah blah everything haha. Realising that thousands of people were actually downloading this music, that’s pretty fucking incredible.  We were just a couple of guys on the dole living in Brunswick and Fitzroy and the potential of that was pretty amazing.

We would burn CD’s, go down to Officeworks, do the whole thing, do the photocopying…we were actually screen printing stuff. CD’s at the time were like, 10 dollars for a blank CD. Putting them together, doing the artwork, screenprinting the CD’s so they didn’t just say TDK on them or some shit.

We setup a website, people could download the music for free and mailorder CD’s from me…setup a PO Box. A surprising amount of people actually bought CD’s. It was 5 dollars a CD and 2 dollars shipping and people were actually buying stuff.

I think I actually sold more CD’s then than I ever have since, because people were still in the mindset of actually buying things mailorder, but because they could listen to things before hand which was completely new.

It was a short lived but quite interesting time because I was actually going to the post office every two days to send CD’s to America, Japan…Lithuania which was incredible. The idea that someone in Europe was listening to our music when we were really just making it ultimately for ourselves, was really cool.

The first 4 Halo records were us burning CD’s, screenprinting or photocopying artwork, putting it online, selling it by mailorder, playing shows…but we’d never sell CD’s at shows. No one would buy anything, because everyone else was on the dole and you wouldn’t pay 5 dollars for a CD when you could buy two pints of beer for 5 dollars back in 1998 or something haha.

That I think, probably not so much in Australia but overseas, created, albeit quite small, got Halo known and led to the whole Relapse thing and stuff like that…the fact that we built up a following just through doing that whole kind of thing.

Can you explain the songwriting process by that point – was it still mostly jamming? We’d jam every week but we wouldn’t play the same thing twice, we’d just jam completely from a blank slate. So then we would go “let’s record” and we’d come in next week but the only difference would be that we’d have a handful of really shit cheap mic’s setup.

We’d just jam and go “okay, that’s sounding good” but because we didn’t have the facilities to edit anything at the time, we’d just mix it. All those recordings are just us jamming without any forethought.  No one was bringing any riffs or anything to the table. It was just the two of us, we’d kinda established this dynamic…we knew what we wanted to do, not in terms of riffs, but what sounds we wanted to make, how we wanted to sound, so we’d just do it. We wouldn’t edit it, it would just be mixed and done.

We’d established this relationship where…I think  it’s a lot easier with just two people because you’re looking at each other and you know what’s going to happen. In the right kind of relationship you know what that person is going to do before they do it and we just did it. Those albums could have sounded, well not completely different, but they could have been different songs. The fact that there’s recognisable songs, is just because that’s what we played at the time. If we’d recorded a different jam the album would have been completely different haha.

But did you turn those recordings into actual songs that you then played live? Some of them yes, there’s a live recording that’s online that we actually replayed as well as we could…

Is that the 2001 live album? So there was a gig at The Arthouse actually, I think there were about 12 people there. We’d recorded this record which was Degree Zero Point of Implosion and we went okay “Let’s play these songs”, so we did our best actually trying to recreate what we’d done. Also when we went on tour just through necessity, we just didn’t feel we could make shit up every single night.

But then it was a bit different in that we didn’t try to play songs. Neither of us had toured before, we tried to do what we did at home, jamming and just doing it. And then after a couple of gigs went “this isn’t gonna work, we’re gonna destroy ourselves”. You’re not always feeling like playing a gig, you know, every single night of the week. We would always write songs as we were playing a show. Then the next night would be somewhat similar to that with at least the ideas to how things started.

So there was some concession to actually playing songs, more out of necessity than anything else. What we really like doing was that magical moment when things actually happen and sound good when you’re jamming. Which as everyone who jams knows is actually kinda rare, so when you’re playing every night which, unless you’re really shit hot jazz players, is not gonna happen haha.

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Were you guys touring Australia? We never toured in Australia. In earlier bands which were not really related…me and my mate George played in Insect, we went to Adelaide once I think and played a few shows there haha. That was about the extent of it, which was great fun. We never actually toured in Australia.

What gear were you using by that stage? My old Squire P-Bass. The amps, which were the amps which I had the whole way through were a Laney 100 watt solid state head with a Peavey black widow 1×15 box…which I would blow that speaker about once a month haha. I was continually replacing it. It broke, so I would buy the cheapest, shittiest fuckin’ speaker. There used to be a place run by bikers down in Collingwood that sold speakers and I’d just go and buy a speaker every month or 6 weeks or so.

I also had a Marshall JCM800 bass series, actually I’ve still got that amp, very nice. …a 4×12 which was designed back in the day before bassists wanted to be loud and thick. It was more of a classic rock bass tone kinda box. I’d split the signal into both amps…different pedals on either side.

Did you use a splitter pedal? I used my old Chorus pedal as a splitter with the Chorus switched off so it had stereo output.

Back in the 90’s I hardly ever saw splitter pedals in the shops, you couldn’t buy them. In fact I had a guy make one for me. Yeah right. I think the whole multiple amp thing is a bit more of a modern…more of a recent thing anyway. Back then I realised that my Chorus pedal had two outputs and If I switched it off, it still worked….run two separate pedal chains one just using the Marshall as the more high stuff and the 1×15 as the low stuff and um, a fairly revolving door of pedals until I finally found what worked.

Distortion of some sort obviously? Yeah haha. A bunch of pedals, not as many as people often think. On the treble side it ended up being a Guyatone Metal Monster which I don’t have anymore, which was this fucking ugly pink and blue tiger striped distortion pedal with a valve in it. It had like 18 knobs on it, swept mids and all the rest of it, it was just retarded and stupid to setup haha.

And a Boss Pitch Shifter, I’d often pitch shift UP stuff. The idea being originally that it would cover the frequencies that a guitar would normally be in. And a Delay pedal.

On the bass side was a Big Muff Pi, which I’ve still got, well battered and used…still kind of works. A Boss Octave pedal OC 1 or OC 2 whatever it is…ugly brown thing. That tracks like shit…doesn’t track at all but puts out some really…I think that’s probably to blame for going through a couple of speakers every month because it just puts out this big warbly groaning tone.

And occasionally a MRX Blue Box which I’ve still got somewhere, which is a one-trick pony. It puts out even more horrible low end. It just sends out square waves sometimes, it would just batter the speakers and they just pop.

Just as an aside, a bunch of tones on Body Of Light is the speaker broken and flapping about. I remember remarking at the time, if we could actually recreate that and carry a broken speaker around with us and switch it on when we wanted to, because it was a really good tone. It sounds physical, it sounds like a thing, rather than a sound. You can hear the sound of that paper flapping about in the air moving.

I think the bass player from The Stranglers signature sound was a caned speaker and he can’t reproduce that tone anymore because he doesn’t have that broken speaker anymore haha. Yeah it’s definitely a sound, it’s a physical thing, it’s a broken speaker flapping about. No one is ever gonna release a broken speaker pedal.

Haha If they do I’ll buy it. It’s like recording an acoustic instrument at that point. You’re getting all the nuances of that bit of paper flapping about and farting. It responds differently to different notes. It’s definitely a sound. You know early Surf Rock kinda guys punching holes in speakers to get distortion…and get a real ratty kinda gnarly distortion.

Those were the kind of pedals that kind of made it through everything. Also a Frostwave Blue Ringer, which is a Ring Modulator. It was an Australian guy who doesn’t make them anymore, now runs a bookstore in Northcote. He made synth stuff and he started making guitar pedals.

I saw KK Null from Zeni Geva play a noise show at the warehouse that I was living at the time and he had this ridiculous array of pedals. That was one of the defining moments in my musical inspiration. It was just this wall of horrible drone.

I remember, I was into Noise at the time and I remember I had to leave and go for a walk around the block because I thought I was about to throw up. It was just this undulating wall of noise. Anyway he was using a couple of those and the next day after I had recovered from the horrible wall of noise I went down to the Swoppy and bought one. They don’t make them anymore.  I’ve still got it at home.

It’s got this discordant, clangy…but can also be dialled down to tremolo. That became this thing that we used a fair bit later on…Body Of Light and stuff, is the slow tremolo, rather than just being a wall of noise, it would be  just this pulsating noise which just sounded heavier because it was in and out rather than just flat out.

It wasn’t tempo synced to anything…we couldn’t tempo sync anything to save ourselves. It was more of this… surging. It just seemed more aggressive.

It’s interesting that you mention KK Null because back in the 90’s he was the first guitarist that I read about that used the split amp thing. I think he had an SVT stack for low end and a Marshall stack for high end. It’s pretty common now. Yeah I probably read possibly the same thing as you. I knew we had to do something to get the sound and I knew I had two amps anyway. I think I read that and it all clicked and went, “That’s such a fucking great and obvious idea” but it hadn’t immediately occurred to me that you could get both at the same time.

We still do that now in other bands that I play in. The band I play in, both the guitarist and bassist…I play drums in this particular band…both run split amps, just to be able to, just sounds, so you can focus all the low end through a big ass low stack and pummel shit with that while still having stuff over the top.

Were you aware of any other Aussie stuff in a similar vein? The only other Aussie stuff from back then doing that Godflesh/Swans thing was that Sydney band Public Hanging. Did you ever hear them? Yeah I did hear Public Hanging. I’ve got their CD somewhere at home. Yeah I actually did like them, never played with them, never knew them, never spoke to them.  I did dig their stuff.

There was another band also that was more on my wavelength called Life Drill who were also from Sydney.  I’ve actually looked for their stuff, I’ve got their CD. they released one CD and then disappeared. They were a drummer, two bassists and a singer. They were even more up the kinda Swans alley. No one really compares to Swans no matter how much they try haha. As far as I know you can’t get the CD anymore, there was one pressing of 500 CD’s and then they disappeared.

They were awesome and I think they had an influence on me, especially the vocals. By way of Swans a similar, droning almost intentionally annoying vocal sound haha. I never got to… a friend of mine saw them live once, I think they played at The Punters Club.

A mate of theirs, who was an electronics nut, would make all of their stuff, so they had these racks of just bizarre homemade effects and um, two bass players.

They were on Black Hole yeah? Yeah they were on Black Hole, same as Public Hanging. There was a short time there where Black Hole was releasing…

Black Hole was the shit for a while Yeah for about 3 or 4 years in mid-late 90’s they were releasing some really good stuff. Public Hanging, Life Drill and a band called Whore, who are also out of Sydney I think who I remember really likening. 

Yeah I’ve got that album Even though they weren’t a free jazz band, they had a lot of free jazz elements and that really turned me onto like…I hadn’t heard John Zorn or anything like that, but Zorn obviously had a big influence on them (Whore).

I tried to get Black Hole to release Halo but he wasn’t into it…made him a big promo package and everything.

I think he (Jeff from Black Hole Recordings) brought out Secret Chiefs 3 a few years ago but I don’t think he does the label anymore Yeah I think he’s done a bunch of stuff with Secret Chiefs over the years. Running a label is a pretty thankless task and I don’t begrudge anyone who can’t be fucked with it.

How did the whole Relapse thing come out? We sent him randomly…we’d recorded Guattari, photocopied, made these beautiful CD’s, photocopied on acetate…still think it’s the best artwork I’ve ever done haha. Randomly sent them out to 3 or 4 labels, Relapse was one that I knew of through Neurosis and I think I sent them out to a couple of other labels in Europe or something. I would have sent it to Earache and Nuclear Blast haha, or something really inappropriate.

We’d recorded in ’99 and close to 2 years later got a random email from Matt from Relapse. He was like “This is fucking awesome, one our interns was listening to it” and he’d pinched it out of their box and had been playing it for the last year and a half and Matt had just randomly overhead it.

They’d released Neurosis stuff, which was somewhat godly at the time which was pretty surreal.  I was sitting in my flat in Brunswick at the time and I got this email from the head of Relapse, which was like getting an email from Jesus or something haha…and they wanted to release it.

What’s the significance of the title? I’ve looked into that guy Guattari It’s a compound title. Robert and I both wanted to call it different things. From The West Flows Grey Ash And Pestilence was what I wanted to call it…which was a fairly nihilistic title really.

Guattari is a philosopher that Robert was heavily into at the time. The Degree Zero title was also a Guattari title from one of his writings…that was really his thing. Robert would be the one to ask about that. So it’s a compound title, put the two together and it sounds obscure enough that people are going to scratch their heads…

The title is a great fucking title. I had no idea what that was about but I tried looking into it Yeah it’s pretty in depth stuff. I generally don’t have the patience for that kind of thing. I read a lot but Philosophy is really not my realm.

What did Relapse offer you? I think we signed a contract. I’m so useless with contracts I just kinda read words until my eyes glazed over so I gave it to Robert…

It’s all legalese It’s all legalese. It’s a world unto itself. It’s a manufactured reality, legalese, it’s there to keep lawyers in business as far as I’m concerned. My few dealings with lawyers and the law…

What did Relapse actually offer you – was it just a couple of albums or something? Yeah I think it was two or three albums and a straight up royalty deal. Obviously far better distribution than we could ever handle ourselves which in hindsight is the important bit. Money comes and go but distribution…you can buy distribution but you can’t buy the kind of exposure that a label can offer. People will buy, well I’m assuming they do, well I’ll buy records because certain labels are effectively curators and people trust their opinion.

I mean Relapse has since diversified. When we were still dealing with them they were doing more and more kind of straight up rock stuff and they were still doing a lot of Death stuff that was making them money, like Nile and stuff.

That’s when they’re very specialised but then they diversify. In the curational tastemaker sense they have been replaced by dudes with blogs…

That’s what I’m hoping to do haha Yeah people get a following and trust their judgement and align their taste with them. There are still labels like that. When I was on Relapse like 10 years ago, they did employ about 30 people. Once it becomes a business you can’t specialise anymore.

So Guattari came out in 2001 or so? It came out on Relapse in 2001. We recorded it in 1999 and self-released it and we released another album in the meantime. That was Degree Zero.

Did you get a bump in your crowds by that point? By that point we weren’t playing many shows in Melbourne, we’d kinda cracked the shits with it in a sense. We’d been playing semi-regular gigs for about 30 or 40 people at the most. By that point we were like, we enjoy playing but it was never about putting on a show. We’d kinda cracked the shits by that point, there’s no point playing a show to 12 people…there is a point playing to 12 people but it’s a lot of fucking around but it’s not a lot of fun.

The consequence of that was suddenly we were getting reviews and stuff and people wanting us to go overseas and stuff. Before that, the street press wouldn’t touch us because we were just another couple of dudes in Melbourne. As we were speaking about earlier, the whole fashionable doom revival was still 10 years away apart from a few hardcore people in Melbourne.

In my interview with Xavier Irvine he was saying that only one guy had a car in Roskopp. How did you guys get all your shit around? All the amps and stuff? I didn’t have a license at the time or a car so Robert would drive. He had this little Laser hatchback

Jesus We’d cram shit in there.

One trip or two trips? We’d do it in one trip. From the early days, this is going way back, we used to borrow my mum’s car which was a little Celica hatchback. We’d get a full band into that, we just got very good at Tetris. Suprisingly you can fit into a car when you don’t have any choice, of course you then, you have like 4 people in the front seat haha. It’s definitely an art, you perfect it as a necessity.

We met a guy in Italy a couple of years ago touring with Terminal (Sound System). He actually worked an airport as a baggage handler. He was fucking incredible.  The band we were touring with had a lot of gear and big drums. We were touring in a medium size van. And he would take half an hour.

He would stand back and put his gloves on, look at it for about 5 minutes and do his calculations and then he would then shout out orders in Italian “you now, you now”. He would pack the most incredible amount of gear into this van. It takes a particular mindset and necessity; you can’t afford to fail so you just fuckin’ do it haha.

Halo were booked to play with Godflesh on their US tour in 2002 along with the then up and coming High On Fire. The tour was cancelled when Justin Broadrick shit-canned Godflesh and the rest is history.

How did the ill-fated tour with Godflesh come about? I was sitting in my flat in Brunswick and I got an email from Ted Parsons who was the drummer for Godflesh at the time saying “Hey blah blah blah, do you wanna tour America with Godflesh?”

I thought it was a complete joke.

HahahaI was like Godflesh, what the fuck? And I think I sent back a pretty flippant email saying “Yeah yeah sounds great whatever dude”. And then he sent back an email going” Nah dude seriously, look me up, I’m putting together a tour” so at that point I actually looked him up and realised this is actually kinda real. So they obviously found out about us somehow…

Relapse wasn’t involved at that point and I emailed Relapse and said “I’ve no idea what I’m doing, I’ve never been on tour in my life”, apart for a couple of shows in Adelaide. So then the tour manager actually took over and made the start of it happen got involved and his idea was that, because Relapse got involved we’d do a pre-tour cause we were going over there anyway. So we went and did 3 weeks with Mastodon, which was meant to be the warm-up tour, when Mastodon were still playing bars.

They were awesome dudes and they looked after us cause we were completely green. And also Bongzilla, who were good guys as well, fucking hilarious. Crazy. Fiends.

But Mastodon looked after us nicely. So we did these 3 weeks of tours which completely fucking shattered both of us. After coming from our nice safe little lives in Brunswick, to being on the road in America which is difficult because every day is driving at least 6 hours and sometimes like 14 hour drives and then you’re expected to play a show to like 30 people in a strip bar in Pittsburgh or something. It was extremely full on.

So we did those and I hated pretty much every moment of it, cause it was just punishing and we’d never done it before. We were so used to doing it once a week, you know like, our special moment together haha. Suddenly we had to pull it out every night, which was really uninspiring, but if we’d known what we were in for we would have prepared. But we didn’t prepare at all, we didn’t have our amps because we couldn’t take it on the plane.

Were you guys sharing amps? Yeah we used all Mastodons’ gear which luckily of course they had good gear. You know, bands that actually tour have good gear because particularly when you’re doing bars and stuff they’d gotta play without a PA so they have like nice big Ampeg rigs and stuff like that

Did you have a touring sound engineer as well or was it just local dudes? No it was just whoever was there. That’s why bands have good stuff because they can’t count on anything. If you’re lucky there might be a vocal PA with a couple of 12” speakers. Apart from a couple of club gigs, most of them were bars, you know front bars and stuff. You can’t rely on there being anything. You’ve gotta have good amps, good drums…they had like Sunn heads and Ampeg boxes, I’d never even looked at that stuff because it was way out of my price bracket haha.

Being able to play through that stuff was pretty nice. Still can’t afford it hah, but a bit of a revelation as far as bass gear, like a nice big full valve Sunn rig is pretty fucking incredible. Although, it was almost too good, in the sense that I couldn’t quite get the tones that I was used to getting, because it wouldn’t drive the same way that my Marshall and my shitty Laney would drive and break up and stuff. It was too clean in a sense, so all that kinda added up to being a pretty full on and not really enjoyable experience.

So we did these kinda 3 weeks and we had a couple of days off and we were sitting with Rich Hoak who was the tour manager…

Brutal Truth drummer? Yeah who was at the time the drummer for the band Total Fucking Destruction…fucking awesome punk grind band, fast and loud… we were sitting at his place just outside of Philadelphia drinking cheap beer on our 1 or 2 days off going “Holy shit we’ve now got a 3 month tour ahead of us with Godflesh”. I was like a full proper…I think it was like every fucking city and I was terrified….exhausted and terrified.

So he (Rich Hoak) got a call from someone at Relapse saying Justin Broadrick has flipped his lid, locked himself in his house and disbanded Godflesh. He freaked the fuck out. I secretly went, “Holy shit my prayers have been answered”.

So you were relieved? I was relieved which is kind of funny, because it was a dream come true which quickly turned into …I’m so out of my fucking depth haha. I’m exhausted, I lost my voice two gigs in…

Because you were screaming too hard? Because I was screaming too hard, I was so green. So green, I didn’t know that you’ve kind of gotta moderate yourself. Because we went flat out…it was like we’ve gotta do what we do and what we do is go flat out, do everything like it means something. And I promptly lost my voice, was exhausted, hands bleeding, fucking fingers ripped up and the whole thing

We had a meeting the next day and the tour had been called off. They were trying to salvage it with some other bands but it never really came together. So Rich felt really bad about it, not that it was his fault at all, so he set up a little mini-tour just around the East Coast and it was a really DIY thing.

Shop fronts and squats and stuff and most of them were just straight-edge hardcore bands. The DIY scene over there is massive for that kind of thing. That was fucking awesome even though we weren’t straight-edge in the slightest.  After playing all these bars where people are fairly disinterested, suddenly you’ve got like 60 kids jammed in right in front of you going off. Although those kids were there to see the really fast technical band who could play, not us.

Haha We met like 17 year old kids who were the most brutal fucking players that I’ve ever seen. I’m still not into that music but these guys are fucking incredible, they don’t sit around drinking and smoking haha…they practise scales. That was amazing. That’s when I went “Actually, touring can be really good” but it’s all about the audience and where you play.

I think we played like 5 shows in 24 hours cause we would go to the Youth Centre at like 4 in the afternoon with all those kids with massive earlobes haha. And then we played somewhere later that night and then the next morning.

Those extra 6 days were actually really fucking awesome. That’s what I think touring is all about, the bars are all a bit… There was no pressure, apart from having to play well. I think we just let it all out then I think.

That’s when the whole playing without a … I lost my strap. So we played all those shows with no strap. It got really real then… the first gig we played was with no mic stand. Vocals with holding the mic and holding the bass with no strap…that went on to be…that’s when Halo became Halo.

That’s what we took on to the next tour that we did. It was like “Fuck the mic stand, fuck all the shit that makes it easy”. How elemental and brutal can we get with this without any of the things that actually make it like a show. Make it really really real, where everything is actually a struggle, but a struggle that you can use not a struggle with a PA or a struggle because your amp’s shit. That’s annoying but it’s got nothing to do with actually playing music. That was really formative in many ways.

I never repeated that properly, because it was an accident and it was just something that happened because Rich wanted us to play a bunch of shows and it was really really amazing.

Did you guys have Visa’s and stuff or was it dodgy? I’m an American citizen, came here when I was little so I was able to breeze through but I think Robert just did it under the radar. I think he took some cymbals and did the “I’m just going to jam with a friend or something”. They don’t care about some long haired musician haha. Europe was a lot harder later on, because we had to make up stories and stuff. They’re pretty full on about that kind of thing.

The No strap No mic thing that became you’re thing? It did. It just seemed to bring out…make it less like a band playing a gig and more like…less like a band playing instruments…less like being a musician and more like actually existing or doing something. It’s difficult to describe but it just made it more connected for both of us really, because if I wanted to yell I had to pick up the microphone and do it. It sounds really annoying, but it became physical. Like I became less of a musician, less like a bass player, I wasn’t playing the bass…it changed the way I played as well.

It made me really connected to the instrument, not in a real musician way where people say they’re connected to their instrument because they play a certain way. It became a physical way of playing. It also restricted what I could play, it became a bit more percussive. At that point I think it became irrelevant that I was playing bass, it could have been a drum, it just so happened that I was playing a bass and I’d just so happened established a sound with it. It became less and more than music which is I think, what we were after all along.

We’d gotten rid of all the other things that were in the way of that which was other musicians basically and writing songs haha. The last thing which was things that allow you to be able to play music…get rid of those and you just can’t play normal music anymore, if you physically can’t do it because you’re holding onto  a mic and holding a bass, like how the fuck are you going to play? You can put the mic down, but it just made it different. It made it less and more than music at that point. It became really physical.

Guattari and Body Of Light really sound like your investing a lot of emotional energy in the music, you know it’s really cathartic? It definitely was, from the base of things, there was nothing contrived about it whatsoever.  It was emotional music really, it still is, I can barely listen to it. It’s difficult to try and isolate exactly what we were making music about. I think it was as nihilistic and it was intentionally not about things.

Because we tried to remove things what we were talking about, it was things that you don’t talk about it was just the things that you feel without having to express things in words because things get convoluted and meanings get changed when you express them literally.

But if you don’t even attempt to express them literally, or when you remove the ability to do so the real thing comes out and the real thing is not really recognisable. It’s animal instinct at that point, without being filtered with meaningful words… which changes depending on context. It was putting ourselves in the position where things could come out which would normally be filtered or changed…reinterpreted.

You guys were meant to put out a 12” on that label Troubleman Unlimited. Whatever happened to that? Yeah that was recorded in the basement of….I think his name was Mick who worked at Relapse. We recorded that before the tour began, we thought we’d do a warm-up jam. We recorded it and it turned out really good. We recorded it straight to 2-track and I think I did some Mastering on it back in Melbourne. It never happened. Sadly enough I don’t have the master anymore. It ended up on a computer somewhere and I lost it.

I do remember I had the artwork and everything. It was like 20 minutes a side or something…I had all the artwork, the recording sounded awesome and we sent it off and nothing ever happened. That was 4 computers ago and it may well be on one of those stacks of CD-R’s that one accumulates over years…like in my closet somewhere haha.

Body Of Light was recorded after you came back from the USA? Yeah I think we recorded it in 2002 and it came out in 2003 from memory. We recorded that at Sublime in Melbourne which was a warehouse down on Lygon street. We recorded it with Paul Morris, awesome fellow. He’d done live sound for us off and on since the beginning. He and another guy called Beau, he played in a band called Clown Smiling Backwards, kinda psychy kinda industrial. One of the small group of Melbourne bands that actually blew me away.

Robert (Halo) actually played drums in Clown Smiling Backwards which is how I met him. So we recorded it there, but we couldn’t afford the studio and we were friends with him. At that point I had bought a digital 16-track Fostex box. So we brought in our cheap, shitty 20 dollar Behringer mic’s and plugged them directly into the 16 track. Didn’t do any soundcheck or anything…Paul went to the pub or whatever and we did what we did every week which was setup a jam. Then we took it back to my place.

The next couple of weeks, just mixed it, again same as usual didn’t do any editing or anything. I think, because I had a better mixing desk by that point, it ended up sounding a lot cleaner than Guattari. But the process was basically exactly the same, just jamming and mixing. Then we sent it off to Relapse and they liked it and put that out as well.

Did you guys move to London after that? Shortly after that Robert moved to London because his partner who was a university lecture got a placement at some big university over there. I was of course very sad haha. Robert was very excited to move to London, but we didn’t do anything until we went on tour.

Some bands might be able to survive that kind of thing by trading stuff via email or whatever, but our whole thing was that we played together. You can’t really do that via email.

So how did the European tour come about? So I think Rich (Hoak) emailed us. He knew that Robert was in Europe and we were planning on touring there anyway. I wanted to go there but didn’t know how to set it up. He (Rich) was touring there with Total Fucking Destruction and Pig Destroyer and he just made it happen.

He organised the main…again there was a second part of that tour. I flew in on the pretence that I was a guitar technician because I didn’t want to have to go through the rigmarole of having to get a Visa and all that shit, because they’re really fucking strict.

A mate of mine tours bands and he’s had people literally turned away at London Heathrow customs because they’ve checked their Facebook page. Realised they’re in a band, realised they’re carrying a guitar and gone like “Nah, fuck you go home” and they’ve had to get the next plane home to Australia.

We didn’t want to risk that shit haha because I was carrying pedals, so I was a guitar technican, which caused enough of a…it also happened when we went to America, just post-9/11. I had this box, I took my bass and this box. To Europe I just took this big rack case which was jammed full of pedals and a lot of stuff which I had taken on these tours was like hand-made stuff. Oscillator boxes that just put out massive amounts of low-end, which you wack in the PA so a lot of extra low-end just hits it like a 40hz sine wave which crashes through everything and just makes the sound engineer shit themselves haha.

So anyway…a box with just wires and shit soldered together and I got a few odd looks from security.  Thus I was a guitar technician with a box of tricks going into Heathrow haha.

So we toured with Pig Destroyer , Total Fucking Destruction before we went on to Europe, was with a local band that um, I’m sad to say I don’t remember the name of. They were a good kinda Christbait style rock’n’roll grindcore band. They were really good, it’s always really good to have locals as well. They keep you out of trouble basically haha. They tell you the right places and the wrong places to go. And they have mates locally that will let a dozen like sweaty fuckin’ dudes sleep on their floor, or in their housemates bed or something haha.halo_rotterdam_1

How long was that tour? I think it was like 2 weeks or something , so relatively short, the UK bit of it. I think we started in London and just went straight up to Scotland, you know playing everyday all the way up to Edinburgh at the end. I think it was bordering on winter so it was pretty brutal haha.

It was really really good, it opened my eyes to Europe as a touring place, as opposed to my previous…you know I was terrified of repeating the America thing, apart from the good bit at the end of America. There was heaps of people coming to the shows and people were really supportive and really like up at the front of the stage.

You know, touring in Europe later on with another band, there’s a different attitude at gigs, people seemed to be more into it in general. Just like, there were dudes who were into Pig Destroyer and equally into Halo. There’s a fairly big gulf between the two haha, about 200 bpm.

The metal scene particularly in Europe is fucking awesome, really broadminded people. Some kid who was like 17 or something had been getting buses, following the tour. That kind of shit is amazing.

Were you playing clubs or squats? That was pretty much playing pubs and clubs. Didn’t do the squat thing which surprised me because I thought we’d do more of that. It was mainly pubs and a few bigger clubs and stuff like that. I guess, it just depends like, if you’re organising a tour from the other side of the world as they were, as Rich was organising most of it, I think it was just easier to go through normal bookers that would go through pubs and clubs and stuff.

If you’re in Europe, you can do whole tours that are just in squats and stuff like that, but if you’re not there and you’re not in the scene directly, it’s a lot more difficult because you can’t be sure that it’s not gonna fall to shit. You don’t want that when someone has flown 2000 kilometres.

What happened after the European tour? After the UK bit, we had so much fun, so Robert just through the internet being a lot more accessible then organised another 6 or 7 shows through MySpace in France, Netherlands, Belgium…I think Germany from memory. That was just off his own back.

That bit wasn’t with Pig Destroyer? No no, we just went off on our own. We just played with local bands. That was like the end of the American tour, just playing really DIY stuff like squats and some clubs and stuff like that. Just going off and doing the local band thing and sleeping in their houses. That was really good, having people stick you in their attic room and then playing in the snow or in a warehouse, in France I think it was haha.

That, again, when touring gets 10 times harder but 10 times more enjoyable because you’re there with people who live there and it’s not so much an invasion of bands, like in a bus together. You’re there with people and playing with local people, eating with them and stuff like that.

What gear were you using on that tour? Yeah just borrowed shit. We couldn’t carry shit around. I played through Pig Destroyers ridiculous guitar array. He went to this hire place and he used these two massive Laney valve stacks, big ass, with all the flashing lights and 500 fucking tubes in them. I think I used both his things which he was very uneasy about haha , looking over my shoulder so I didn’t blow them up so he didn’t have to pay for them.

I don’t know what it was…Laney 2000 blah blah blah, you know, high end shredder amps. And then the bass rig from the local band, I can’t remember the name of. It wasn’t an Ampeg or anything, it was a pretty standard solid stage rig.

By that point the amps of course meant something, they were good, but it mattered less that we could get the tone that we wanted and it was more about the act of performing. The violence and the brutality.

Half of it was kinda punching the guitar, and dropping the guitar and screaming. It started to become more of like an Einstürzende Neubauten gig haha, it became more about percussion and aggression and emotion, more so than technically playing. The point where it culminated…in Belgium where the bass fell into about 3 pieces about 15 minutes into the set.

Was that the Squier? At that point the Squier had been stolen. Robert went on eBay and bought this 70 dollar Korean piece of shit, which didn’t matter. It was a good thing that it wasn’t a good bass. By the end of it, I have a lovely photo of it where it’s in about 3 pieces, and I think the last show which we played in Belgium the bass fell apart. Literally, the neck split 15 minutes into the first song, I say song very loosely.

halo_rotterdam_2Haha The rest of the set was me playing this bass which was in 3 pieces, on the ground, on my knees, covered in blood because the thing had split and cut my hand open…it devolved into this like Neubauten/Swans/GG Allin moment of just complete nihilism haha, which of course was fucking awesome but there’s no recordings of it haha.

A bass sounds pretty weird when the neck’s broken in half and you’ve just gotta play the pickups and the strings by rubbing them on there. I had a sampler on that tour, with just like noise loaded on there. The last gig was mainly drums and screaming and flat out noise. That was the last time that Halo played live.

We’ve since attempted to record but that didn’t work out due to technical malfunctions ironically haha. I think it’s somewhat fitting that the last time we played live, it reached the logical conclusion of what we had been going for all along, which was completely un-musical at that point. It was just pounding toms, screaming and just fucking feedback.

Whatever sound a low A string makes when you rub it on the pickups because you can’t play because there’s no tension anymore haha…it was tuned down so low that you couldn’t really fret notes.

At some point during the recording of Body Of Light, there’s one track on there which is towards the end where the bass sound is just this flapping, kinda farting noise. It was just tuned down so low that what you get is the flapping of the strings hitting the pickups, rather than any discernable note whatsoever. So playing the pedals and just this random…rather than anything else. It reached its fitting conclusion I think.

What year was that tour? I think it was 2004.

After the tour Halo split up or disappeared at least? Yeah split up is a kinda negative way to put it, but yeah out of necessity… Robert lives in London.

He’s still there? Yeah he’s still there, he loves it. For someone who likes going and seeing bands and stuff like that London is a great place to be. Everyone who goes on tour, if they’re touring the UK they’re usually gonna play in London. He comes back to visit his folks.

We had two attempts at recording new Halo stuff. One, my trusty, well what I believe to be my trusty 16-track fucked up, so the entire thing was full of glitches and noise and stuff. One part of me thinks it could have been a fitting record if the whole thing sounded like a broken CD haha.

But, I wasn’t happy…you don’t wanna take the piss that much. I had to draw a line somewhere. That was just a little too fucking hipster for me haha.

It’s amazing the amount of shit that comes out This wasn’t in any way good, it literally sounded like 17 CD’s all broken at the same time. It was just full of clicks and crackles but not…yeah, it didn’t work basically.

We had one other attempt and a similar thing happened. We hired a whole bunch of shit and it just turned out shit, which is really disappointing…

Was that here in Australia? Yeah this was here as well. The stuff we hired was bodgy and Robert was only here for 3 days and we drank like, 2 bottles of Gin cause we were celebrating…

Haha One thing lead to another and the recording just ended up being like rubbish, which is a shame because we played really well. We hadn’t played together for so long, we hadn’t seen each other in years, so I was a bit sad about that.

We’re in kinda irregular contact via email. I caught up with him when I was in Europe a couple of years ago and I slept on his couch and stuff. Whenever people ask me, I say I would love to do it again, but life gets in the way to a certain extent. I’ve got priorities and stuff now that I didn’t have then, so it’s a lot more difficult for me to just up and fly to the UK and do recordings. You know, I’ve got a kid and stuff like that.

We plan on doing it sometime, but that could just be me talking out of my ass.

It’s open at least, you’re not broken up? Nah we’re not broken up, you know, we’re really good friends. We understand each other in that way musically. There is absolutely no animosity, purely because we moved to different countries.

It’s pretty hard being that far apart It is, for any band it would be really difficult. Some people can make music via the internet and some find that the music would work fine. If we were making electronic music together…I can email him stuff.

So what is Robert Allen up to exactly these days? Um, he plays in bands in London. A lot of kinda grind/noise bands. The last I heard he was playing in a band called Skat Injector, that was like, him on drums, a guitarist, I think there was a vocalist and a couple of guys on just pedals and noise…kinda like a harsh noise/grind thing.

He came from a Napalm Death/Slayer kinda background. He can belt out a good blast when he needs to haha. He’s kinda swapping between noise and grind bands in London.

What did Relapse say, did you keep in contact with them? I told them that we were doing an album and they actually gave us some money to do an album…but the second time around when we actually hired stuff.

They email me every…or they did email me every 3 or 4 months to ask about stuff and I kinda just told them how it was. It’s not gonna be happening because…

They gave us a couple of thousand dollars because we were gonna hire some stuff and blah blah blah, hire a warehouse and do it. When that didn’t work out they took it out of royalties and it was no big deal. I think any label is pretty used to dealing with flaky artist’s haha. When shit doesn’t happen, I don’t think it’s any big surprise.

Are you getting royalties and stuff? No. Either we’re still in debt…I don’t know how many records Halo sells on iTunes or whatever. I haven’t got a royalty cheque in a long time haha.

I assume we’re either still paying off that $2000 record advance to hire a fucking Pro Tools rig or we’re just not getting paid any money…I dunno haha. I work on the web as a business, my job is as a web developer.

You’re not reliant on Halo royalty cheques I should pay, quite apart from music, I should pay more attention to how these things work but I just don’t fucking care. I’ve never been interested in business, I’m interested in music and more recently my family.

Everything else is an annoyance that gets in the way of doing those things. I’m not an accountant…people make a living from doing music and all power to them for doing what they love and making a living from it. I’m just not interested in all the hard work that goes with that haha.

Similarly with tax returns and shit like that, I would rather cut my fucking hands off than do that every year and save my fuckin’ receipts for bass strings haha.

It seems ridiculous to save up what I spend on bass strings, drum sticks and guitar strings every year. I’ve probably spent far more than that on beer and food. It’s a weird thing. People can do it, but you’ve really gotta have discipline when it comes to that. I’m not really that disciplined haha.

Alright back to music for a while, Halo was pretty ahead of its time and pre-dates the resurgence of slow heavy shit. Do you think you had an influence on that resurgence? I think so…I don’t really have any evidence but I think we did. The fact that Relapse released stuff, so it got fairly wide coverage in reviews and just being available to people.

I’ve gotten emails from out of the blue from some dude in America or the Czech Republic or somewhere saying “I love Halo, it made me start this band, record this music…” That’s always fantastic to hear that.

I don’t mean anything by this, apart from what I felt at the time back in 2003 or something, hearing the first Khanate record…

Yeah I was gonna mention Khanate … thinking “You cunts, this is really good. You’re a famous dude but you sound like my band haha. You’re a famous dude so you’re getting all the press haha”.

I remember being really cut, and it’s a fucking great record and they’re a great band but I remember hearing it and going “You’re a famous avant-garde guitarist dude, and you’ve put together this slow doom band…”

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, it’s entirely possible that they hadn’t heard you guys but they just had similar influences like Swans. They’re one of the few bands that took the whole Swans thing to its logical conclusion, where it’s totally sparse and drawn out and agonising… It’s difficult to say, and I don’t wanna sound egotistical and presumptuous to say that (Halo) definitely had an effect, because it’s quite possible that we both ripped the Swans off haha.

I know I did to a certain extent, particularly early Swans stuff. Definitely I think anyone in that realm did. Godflesh definitely did…it’s all over it. And to a lesser extent people like Neurosis. I don’t know where the lineage is, because it’s all around the same time.

Whether one person is influenced by someone else, or that person is influenced by that person…musicians are all thieves. Artists steal from each other, there’s nothing bad about it, it just happens. Nothing is made in isolation.

Did you ever get bummed out by the video game Halo? Completely haha.

When you Google the word Halo… Yeah, I remember walking down the street and seeing one of the fucking tram stop shelter things and seeing this thing saying Halo with this dude with a gun, thinking “Fuck, we’ve fucked up” haha.

Even then, it would have been the late 90’s thinking “We’re never gonna get any search results”. I knew that everyone, as soon as you say “I play in Halo”, everyone is gonna say “You play Halo?”.

Yep, it completely bummed me out. That and um, I think Beyonce has a song called Halo…or someone, I think it was Beyonce. It served us right for choosing such a ubiquitous word for a band haha.

What projects did you kick off after Halo wound down? I’ve had a few projects. A Beautiful Machine which was just completely me. From before the Halo days I was really into the kinda British 90’s shoegaze stuff like Slowdive, Ride…surprisingly not really My Bloody Valentine. I’ve never really got into them that much, even though I can totally see their influence. They never really blew my mind that much.

I’d always been into that stuff, it’d really just been something that I listened to. I really wanted to make some music like that. It was a conscious decision to make some head phasey psychedelic pop music.

I did all that (A Beautiful Machine) myself. I was between jobs again haha. I was house sitting for my family, so I had um, a bunch of time and I had the dole and I just kinda sat there for about a year and recorded 3 albums haha.

I played bass and guitar and drums…

Skye has a long running electronic project called Terminal Sound System that has ended up being his most prolific musical outlet. The live line-up also features Marcus Fogarty and original Halo alumni George Hatzigeorgiou.

It’s more guitar driven music anyway Yeah it’s guitar driven psychedelic pop music. I really just branched out from what had been my musical life for the previous 6 years or so. Trying things that I’d always listened to, but never played because I wasn’t interested, because I had a band. When that band (Halo) didn’t exist anymore in any practical sense….

So I did that and I’d been interested in electronic music since…somewhat mainly because the warehouse where most of the Halo stuff was recorded….we used to hire the place out to pay the rates because it was a casual lease, so there was lots of raves and stuff there, when you could still have illegal raves behind Brunswick St in Fitzroy haha, before it was completely gentrified.

Most of it (raves) didn’t do anything for me at all, unless I had a lot of drugs haha. It was more like 4am when I was trying to get to sleep and all the techno stuff had finished and people were playing drum and bass, dub and stuff like that…it got really interesting, particularly the dub stuff.

Just particularly bringing it back to the idea of this fucking elemental bass, that runs repetitive…it’s maybe a bit of a long bow to draw, like the repetitive bass in dub and the foundation of stuff like Swans and whatnot, it’s completely there, it’s the same fucking riff played for 25 minutes with shit over the top haha.

The stuff over the top is neither here nor there, it’s all about this…like repeating repetitive foundation. It’s always there and it’s grounding everything and everything in relation to that. It’s the most important thing in that music, without it, it’s just a bunch of clanking guitars and a bit of drums…it’s all about the bass.

That really fascinated me for years. It played no part in the music I played at the time and it still doesn’t play an overt part but it became something that I was interested in. Also peripheral exposure to electronic music…there’s so much of it I didn’t like haha. There’s little bits where I was like “I kinda like this and I kinda like and I like bits of kinda jungle and drum and bass”. That’s where the Terminal Sound System kinda came from.

It was liking bits of electronic music, but also being a musician in the traditional sense and wanting to make that not completely machine like. Although the first few things I released were very machine like. They were very much me just finding a path, trying to invent a kind of music that I liked that was electronic but not electronic. It’s there for posterity, because at that point I was committed to just putting stuff online.

Whenever I recorded it (Terminal Sound System) I put it online. I put it up for mail order on my mail order label…it’s there and I don’t like a lot of it, but it paved the way for what became my main these days.

Is it just you or are there other people in Terminal Sound System? Yeah, when we play live…so they play guitar and bass and keyboards and stuff like that. In the studio it’s completely me, so it’s become a very singular kinda thing.

Did you take those guys to Europe? Yeah, that was very important to me. I played a bunch of shows in the very early days with a sampler and stuff like that, but pretty quickly discovered that the whole single dude on stage with a sampler and laptop is just not something that I’m into.

I don’t like watching it, so I should have known that I don’t like doing it. I tried it and went “This is kinda boring”. It’s nice to hear your music on a sound system, but it’s pretty shit…you’ve gotta be a pretty dedicated music fan to enjoy it from an audience perspective. There’s nothing…there.

Music is physical. It’s a physical act, it’s like sport haha. Watching people do things that they’re good at and the enjoyment that comes from that. A big part of it is just watching someone and when some is just pushing a couple of buttons…it doesn’t do anything for me.

So it was important for me to get these guys on board, particularly going on tour and going to another country. You don’t wanna go on tour by yourself anyway haha. The fact that we were touring with a full band…

Which band was that? They’re called Lento, they’re an Italian band. They’re definitely worth checking out, they’re on the same label as us, which is how we got on the tour. They’re a 5-piece instrumental band that has some somewhat techy doom stuff.

Is that Denovali? Denovali yeah, so they’re a German label. Really good guys, they took us under their wing and we used all their gear. They drove us around because we didn’t have driver’s licenses. Yeah a really good band, really good riffs…and different. I’ve not heard a heavy band quite like them. They’re techy but not overly proggy and doomy but not overly sludgy. They’ve just got a really good mix of the two.

What were you playing on the tour? I was doing vocals, electronics, keyboards and samples and stuff like that.

No live drummer? No. It’s something that has always been on the cards for that band. In the studio I do live drums and programmed drums…basically I couldn’t get shit together in time. It would have involved getting a drummer, getting him to learn all the songs…it was a logistical thing. George and Marcus where doing guitar and bass, which is the same George from way back.

I was going to ask you about music as a career…you haven’t bought mansions and flash cars? Haha. No, I bought a house but that’s not anything to do with music.

Not with you royalties? The most amount of money I’ve ever made from music, going back to the mp3.com days in the early 2000’s, for about two years there, this is before the internet bubble burst and the internet was rife with money, they had an initiative whereby you got paid royalties per play. It was to do with advertising, because advertisers would spend a lot of money to put banner ads on websites and Terminal Sound System was featured on one of their mail out news feature sorta things. In like 4 days, I made$2500 and they sent me a cheque and it actually…that’s the most money I’ve ever made by an order of several magnitudes. That was quite bizarre.

That happened and I probably used it to pay rent for a few months. I don’t do music as a career.

You spend a lot of your time making music thoughWhich by no means am I bitter about, it’s what I do you know? That’s my thing. That’s what I focus, in the past all of my attention and these days 50% of my attention on. The other 50% being my daughter and I go to work to afford the mortgage on my house and feed my family and have time to make music.

I know people who…the guy who does my mastering does it as a living, but he also does live sound because that’s a lot more regular. I think anyone who does music for a living works really really…like far worse hours and harder and longer than people who have a day job. There is no clock off time.

If you’re doing live sound, which I did for a few years, you get there at 6pm to setup and you’ll be packing up at 2am and you may have earned 200 bucks. That’s pretty fucking shit. You’ve got some free drinks and maybe a free dinner if you’re lucky haha. That’s no way to live…

You have a blurb on your website about downloading. What’s your take on downloading and the state of the music industry? I think that wholesale, free-for-all, downloading what the fuck you want is harmful to musicians, to labels, to anyone involved in the music industry. It’s good in the sense of distribution. My paint point with that particular blurb is that people rely on money, politically, philosophically…the fact is we rely on money. We have to pay rent, we have to buy food yada yada yada.

I don’t rely on music for a living because I have a job…most musicians are doing exactly the same thing, 99% of musicians have a day job.  So there’s several points involved, my main one is that my label (Denovali) is doing it for a job and what they’re doing is really amazing, they’re actually putting their own money into releasing music in physical form which is fucking expensive…to press vinyl and more to the point, to actually ship it to places. 

The artist is making this physical thing which represents and carries the art and a lot of people really value that and they (artists) need money to do that. If everyone just downloads the records they can’t afford to do that. The artists can keep making music and they’ll stick it on Bandcamp.

If and when I don’t have a label, I’ll stick it on Bandcamp and I may charge for it, I may not charge for it. That doesn’t make much difference to me but it makes a lot of difference to people who care about releasing artefacts, and they are just artefacts, but they’re beautiful things that people really cherish. 

The other side of it is a point of respect. If someone releases the music for free that’s great and I’ve done a lot of it. If someone releases music and is like, “I would like to sell this music” and you go and download it for free, that’s great but the person has asked you to “Please respect my wishes” and buy this music if you like it. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.

I imagine there is probably no release in the last 10 or 15 years that you cannot listen to as many times as you want, in enough quality that you can get an idea…it’s not like we’re in 1995 and you get 30 second outtakes on Amazon or some shit.

That’s the overarching idea, if you value it enough “I’m asking you to buy it”. If you value it enough to download it and keep it, but don’t buy it, it’s disrespectful to the artist’s wishes. That’s pretty much all we have left in music and art…respecting someone’s wishes. That’s pretty much all it is. The money is nice but like I said haha, but 20 dollars here and there is gone in groceries or beer or whatever. It’s not about the money, it’s the principal of the matter.

On the money side of things it’s about supporting the labels who release these beautiful things. I don’t buy vinyl because I don’t have a record player haha. I buy CD’s because I’m old and I’m used to buying that kind of thing. I buy digital if that’s all there is available. The point is, if someone has released something not for free, then the obligation is you should buy it and respect their wishes.

It makes someone feel really good when you buy their music. No one is going to stop making music if you don’t buy it, but it lets them know that you care.

It’s more like the rusted on music fans who still buy stuff, kids don’t give a fuck You get far more distribution from a torrent than you do from anything else and people copy it for each other. The big argument is that you make money from touring, but you don’t make money from touring…

Unless you have merch …even if you sell merch, unless you’re pulling in lots of people and people are buying like 6 albums each. I think we were spending 300 Euro’s a day on petrol in Europe and we weren’t driving really long distances.  It was a heavy van and it was full of amps but still, that’s a lot of records.

We (Terminal Sound System) covered our expenses pretty much to the dot. All the records we were selling and the same with Lento, who were selling a lot more records than us because they tour Europe a lot. They break even, so they have day jobs and they take leave…that’s a bit of a fallacy that’s been…the thing is if you pay 60 bucks for a hoodie, why don’t you spend 12 bucks for a CD?

I completely understand not buying a CD because you don’t need it but. The argument that you should just tour just doesn’t always apply if you’re a guy with a laptop. You can’t play squats, it’s just doesn’t work.

Tell me about the new Degree Zero Point Of Implosion vinyl reissue? A dude emailed me out of the blue. He had a small label and he said that he wanted to release it. I realised that we’d never actually…we had the rights to it. I think Relapse burnt a bunch of CD’s that we sold on tour in the States so that we could have some merch…and I went “Vinyl, great, go for it”.

He released it, which was great. I think we recorded that in 2000. Yeah, so it was after Guattari. I think he emailed me in 2010 so it was 10 years later haha.

Yeah I thought it was kinda weird it just popped up out of nowhere Yeah and he was really into it and released it on vinyl. I have a stack of copies at home. I have not listened to the vinyl because I don’t have a record player. I hope the vinyl pressing turned out good because I haven’t listened to it. Vinyl is one of those things that I haven’t gotten into, too much of a money pit haha.

Do you still listen to guitar bands? New?

2000’s onwards My music purchases have kinda slowed down a lot in the last 5 or 6 years. The most recent albums I’ve bought have been the last few Neurosis albums which I kinda like…but it saddens me to say that I think they’re not as good as the early 2000’s ones.

For me, I think Times of Grace is…which is funny because the first time I heard it, I hated it because I really liked Through Silver In Blood, but my tastes at the time were very much in the…Through Silver In Blood is kinda industrial in a sense, there’s a lot of samples…Now when I listen to it, it sounds really over produced.

At the time my ears were in that production realm. It reminds me of The Cure’s Disintegration, it sounds so over produced and thin. At the time I thought that was fantastic but recently I thought “Fuck that’s horrible”.

The bass sound is pretty bad on that album, it’s fizzy and doesn’t cut through at all That was the last album before they started working with Steve Albini. So I heard Times Of Grace and went “This sounds horrible, it sounds like a rock band” and then as I listened to it more I realised it was genius. It sounds like a rock band, but it sounds like a really good rock band and Albini is a genius at getting a rock band to sound like a really good rock band.

So yeah, I’ve bought their last few albums. I think the songs are getting not as good.

It’s a little bit old man kinda… They’re getting very old man haha. Which, they’re old men, so it stands to reason but it doesn’t have the vitality that Times Of Grace and to a lesser extent A Sun That Never Sets. There’s a couple of bad moments on there. To a large extent it’s pretty fucking good. 

Particularly Times of Grace, I still listen to it now 10 years later and it completely floors me. I didn’t listen to them for a while because I was burnt out on them, but recently I bought their newest two albums.

Any Australian stuff, Heirs? Yeah Heirs. I haven’t listened to the record that much, I liked them better live. It happens a lot to me where a band will sound really good live and the record just won’t capture that. It’s like reading the book and then seeing the film.

Some bands sound better live and some bands somehow for some reason, recording production just removes…the stuff sound engineers want to remove is the bass, that ffffrrrrrrbbbbbhhh. If you remove that, you remove all the balls from that bass player. It’s usually with the bass and drums where engineers tend to remove stuff that actually sounds good. That rumbling of the bass just echoing from the room, which is very difficult to capture, you need to mic the room.

Honourable Mentions
Hope Sandoval/Mazzy Star
Bohren & Der Club of Gore
The Night Terrors
Ride
Scorn
Helmet-Meantime
Ministry-Filth Pig

Dishonourable Mentions
Tool
Radiohead

Zombie Apocalypse pack 5 records in 5 minutes list
Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon
Neurosis – Times Of Grace
Flo-Ex –Zorya
Mazzy Star – So Tonight My Love Tonight
Ministry – Filth Pig

Discography

Year Band Title Format Label
1996 Circle of Lebanon Circle of Lebanon CDR, digital Embryo
1998 HALO Subliminal Transmissions CDR, digital Embryo
1999 HALO Guattari (From the West Flows Grey Ash and Pestilence) CDR, digital Embryo
1999 A Beautiful Machine A Beautiful Machine CDR, digital Embryo
1999 Terminal Sound System Solaris CDR, digital Embryo
1999 HALO Massive Corporate Disease CDR, digital Embryo
2000 HALO Degree Zero Point of Implosion CDR, digital Embryo
2000 A Beautiful Machine Home CDR, digital Embryo
2000 A Beautiful Machine Solar Winds, White Noise, Antigravity CDR, digital Embryo
2001 HALO Guattari (From the West Flows Grey Ash and Pestilence) CD reissue Relapse Records
2001 HALO Live 060601 CDR, digital Embryo
2001 Terminal Sound System RH-8SB CD, digital Relapse Records
2002 A Beautiful Machine Another Time CDR, digital Embryo
2002 HALO split 7″ with Agoraphobic Nosebleed 7″ vinyl Relapse Records
2003 HALO Body of Light CD, digital Relapse Records
2003 Terminal Sound System The Unquiet Sun CDR, digital Embryo
2004 Terminal Sound System Solaris CD reissue Hive Records
2005 Terminal Sound System Last Night I Dreamed of Armageddon CD, Digital Hive Records
2007 Terminal Sound System Compressor CD, Digital Extreme Music
2008 Terminal Sound System Constructing Towers CD, Digital Extreme Music
2010 Tether Sines Digital (i) = x
2010 HALO Degree Zero Point of Implosion Vinyl reissue With Intent
2011 Siilt Schism Tapes Digital (i) = x
2011 Terminal Sound System Heavy Weather Vinyl, CD, Digital Denovali Records
2011 Terminal Sound System Constructing Towers Vinyl reissue Denovali Records
2013 Terminal Sound System A Sun Spinning Backwards Vinyl, CD, Digital Denovali Records
2013 Terminal Sound System Constructing Towers CD reissue Denovali Records

 

Comments Off on Interview with Jace Rogers: DEAD, Fangs Of, Box Monsters etc – Part 1

Dead - Hokage Osaka 2012

Jace Rogers is a prolific musician who has lived and played in bands all across the east coast of Australia. Now at age 40 and finally cracking the doorway of underground success with his bass and drums duo DEAD, he certainly knows a thing or two about longevity. In this, the first of a two part interview, Jace discusses the early days of his music career starting in regional Australia in the early 1980’s. Conducted on 28 September 2013 at Jace’s house in Castlemaine, Victoria.

 So you grew up in the northern rivers of NSW?
I grew up in Mullumbimby, well I went to school in Mullumbimby. I did primary and high school up until year 10 in Mullumbimby. Then I moved to Griffith in the Riverina for Year 11 and 12.

I started playing in bands in Mullum. But I probably did my proper apprenticeship in Griffith where there was actually a lot of people playing music and they were pretty super judgemental about how you played. So you had to have your chops up.

Was that The Stiffs?
No that band was in Griffith. I think I was the only kid around who was into punk music. And I think due to that fact it was like I got more into it because, it was sort of like, I could either just give in to Motley Crue and Guns ‘n’ Roses or go further. And I ended up roping a couple of mates into getting into shit like The Buzzcocks and The Ramones and stuff like that. Shit that you could play really easily without many skills.

So were you in a band in Mullum?
Yeah I was. I was in a couple of bands. I think my first band was when I was about 13 or 14 and we were called The Ramjets…cause we loved Roger Ramjet.

Haha
And we kinda played pretty much just covers. We used to like the idea that punk bands would do 60’s songs and punk ‘em out, so that’s kinda what we did. Rather than do covers of punk bands, we did covers of 60’s and 70’s music and punked ‘em up. At that stage though we were still learning our instruments and it’s hard to tell even now, it probably sounded like shit.

Ramjets in either '85 or '87

Ramjets in either ’85 or ’87

So what were you playing then?
Guitar

Was that the first instrument you picked up?
Yeah that was my first instrument. I remember when I decided I was going to play an instrument, I was about 10 and I thought it should be drums but I think my parents weren’t really keen on me being a drummer and said “how about guitar?” so I went with guitar. It was probably a pretty good thing because it was easy to get one and not piss everyone off by practicing and stuff.

So that was like late 80’s?
No it was like ‘84. I think an uncle of mine gave me a shitty acoustic guitar that I’ve still got and actually a nun taught me the rudiments of guitar. My mum is a teacher in the Catholic system and she knew this nun who is actually a pretty tops person. She taught me just chords and basically how to read music. It was actually pretty cool and the sorta shit that I remember.

What sort of stuff were you into back then?
When I first started playing guitar?

1984 man that’s a long time ago…
Yeah I can’t remember when Money For Nothing (Dire Straits) came out, but I was right into that guitar sound. Before I started playing guitar I was just into pop stuff, just whatever was on the radio.

Pretty much soon after I started playing guitar I heard AC/DC and I just wanted to play like that. I was pretty interested once I heard he played the blues…that’s something I used to record like twenty 12 bar riffs over on my cassette player and then solo over that, that’s kinda how I learned how to play like Angus Young, or as close as I could get haha.

So that was in Mullum and then your folks upped stakes and moved to Griffith?
Which was a real big culture shock, like in Mullum some of my mates had older brothers who were into punk and stuff…and right before I moved to Griffith in 1989 and that year was when Bleach by Nirvana came out and the first Mudhoney EP and before that the older brothers had given us the Sex Pistols and a lot of British punk music and we were also into hardcore and thrash and stuff like D.R.I and anything that was fast like Slayer. If it wasn’t fast then it was gay pretty much haha.

Like even Motorhead to a degree we were into. Then we went to Griffith and there was just no one on my wave length at all, like only older people had even heard Led Zeppelin. People my age were just getting whatever they were given. I’ve been looking up music for a long time even pre-internet when you had to read a book and stuff…pretty much everyone was into Guns ‘n’ Roses…

Yeah but Guns ‘n’ Roses were better than a lot of other stuff like Michael Bolton or Boys to Men
I guess like the musicians were into Guns ‘n’ Roses. There was this younger crew that were into Credence Clearwater Revival and they’d obviously delved into someone’s record collection which is kinda cool.

There were 3 guys in town who were into metal and they kinda worshipped Black Sabbath which was awesome but they also kinda liked Extreme…

Warrant?
…yeah and Def Leppard and stuff like that. And that kinda music I never got because it just wasn’t heavy. I remember I heard the name Motley Crue when I was still at Mullum and I thought “that sounds pretty heavy”. And then when I heard the band I just couldn’t believe that was it. I found way more power in listening to The Buzzcocks or The Jam or something like that. I thought that had way more balls.

I guess I also grew up on third or fourth generation cassettes so that by the time I heard something super polished from Hollywood it sounded like shit to me. It sounded like it hadn’t been flushed down the dunny yet.

On a side note, did you ever catch wind of any of that sort of Underbelly stuff going on in Griffith?
Yeah for sure and it’s funny because like I’ve got a lot of friends from there and one of my really good friends from there is Italian. I think when I moved there it was like 60% first or second generation Italian and that’s a pretty heavy concentration.

I’d already read books by Bob Bottom before I was there and I was kind of into it. I really shouldn’t say too much because I’ve still got family there haha. I delivered a table for this guy that I used to do work for sometimes and there was like a dog fighting ring going on during the middle of the day. That shit is definitely there, it’s not just stories. That whole Donald Mackay stuff…his family got harassed for years.

Tell me about The Stiffs?
That was just a band where I roped guys in. The rest of the band didn’t really play any instruments. It was like that classic thing where you get your mate to play bass because bass doesn’t matter. If you turned the guitar up enough you didn’t even notice that he’s faking it haha.

Then we found a drummer who was really into Iron Maiden and I think it wasn’t too much of a stretch to get him to play punk music. So we just did a lot of Ramones covers and Hard Ons covers…obviously that’s where the name comes from. It was basically just about playing music that kinda offended everyone that didn’t know about it.

Feeling sort of ostracised already, it was like “Let’s put it in people’s faces” kind of thing. I wasn’t probably really trying to antagonise anyone it was just like a thing of expressing who I am. I thought that kind of music was light years ahead of what everyone else was listening to and it was like I’m really smart and they’re really dumb haha. It was a really teenage arrogant way of thinking about stuff.

We kinda hijacked school socials and stuff like that and everyone hated it. It was really good for getting noticed by girls because you were the odd one out and that was really good actually.

Were you playing pubs back then?
We were too young, maybe in Year 12. I think we played school things, parties and maybe the PCYC. We did a bunch of gigs but I can’t remember playing any pubs. I think that sort of came later. You know the context of regional Australia is pretty much that you play covers. We did play covers but no one knew any of them. If you didn’t do the standards you probably just didn’t get a gig really.

That kind of was my next band where I was approached by these guys in their mid-20’s…. maybe I was 18 or 19 and these guys approached me to play guitar in their band. And even that band…

Firehorse 1992

Firehorse 1992

Which band was that?
That was Firehorse. It was kind of different for Griffith because we weren’t doing Taking Care of Business or Bang a Gong (Get It On) kinda thing. It was right when the big Nirvana came out and Red Hot Chili Peppers…it was the beginning of alternative music getting noticed by everyone. So we played that kind of stuff which actually went down okay in Griffith.

I think if you have your chops and you add the odd song that everyone knows then it’s all cool. There were a couple of songs like Rolling Stones or something that made it okay to be a band in town.

Nirvana kicked open doors for a lot of people back then. Did you think that you were gonna make it?
I definitely knew that it wasn’t gonna happen with that band (Firehorse),but back then no one had told me that I couldn’t. Back then I actually thought….playing those shows back in Griffith as a cover band we were getting paid really well.

More money than now?
Yeah I got paid more money back then than I do now.

Haha that’s shit isn’t it?
Yeah I got paid 3 or 4 times as much. Some people actually make a living from playing 2 or 3 cover shows a week and that’s their living. I used to read Hot Metal magazine and all that, I was just living in a complete fantasy world that if you had a good band you would be home and hosed kind of thing.

I think I just thought that if I was getting paid that much money to play covers in Griffith which is the middle of nowhere, I’m gonna move to Sydney and it’s gonna be awesome. And it was a real shock. In hindsight it is funny, living in Australia the chances (of making it) are so much slimmer than living in the States and it’s still the case.

You know now when we (DEAD) go to the states I see bands like Big Business or Red Fang, you know bands that are sort of heavy and stuff that actually make ends meet. Part of their culture is going to see bands and everyone understands…there’s a bit of a respect for people that are touring around. It’s much more normal for people who had the dream of doing that but never did it.

I think people don’t sort of just…people understand it a lot more than here. You know when you tell people what you do and they say “When are you going to give it up?” They can’t understand that if you haven’t really made it, made it big time then why are you still bothering when you’re 40 years old. It’s a hard thing to explain, I don’t think you really can it explain that shit to someone who really doesn’t understand.

Firehorse 1993

Firehorse 1993

How did you cope living in a country town being into weird music?
Mullum was pretty easy even though it was pretty, you know, it wasn’t the norm but there were enough weirdo’s around…we kinda got right into looking like punks, you know, like leather jackets with liquid paper on the back and Mohawks and all that.

I saw pictures in rock music magazines of the Sex Pistols and The Damned and stuff. I always loved the way The Damned look, I thought they looked awesome. I think we also kinda looked…by that time we were also seeing stuff like The Exploited and G.B.H. and that kind of hard leather and boots kinda thing. We kinda all got Doc Martins as soon as we could, all that shit, and it definitely stuck out in a kinda rural/hippie town.

Not long after I got into punk there was this bunch of people that decided that they were going to live out the back of Mullum, they were from Melbourne and we called them Rat people. I don’t know who the fuck they were but they all had rats wherever they went. They would wear swastikas….they were some kind of punk group. I don’t know what they did but after a while they got asked to leave the shire, they got moved along…

Haha
I don’t know where they went, I think they were kinda junkies and they…like I saw one time in a park one of the guys washing a baby and he was washing the baby by spitting on it and then shoving its head under a tap. So we weren’t the weirdest people around.

But then in Griffith I used to get quite a lot of abuse….pretty much no one skateboarded there and whenever I skateboarded people would yell out at me from cars or throw eggs, just general shit that you cop. It took a while until I was playing in the band Firehorse, I would cop shit regularly actually but it just kinda steeled my resolve in a way.

I would go into the record store there and they had a magic book that had everything in it and I’d go “Wow you’ve got the entire Dead Kennedys back catalogue” and I’d try to order that, that and that and they’d always go “No worries, two weeks”. A year later…they’d do it with a slight grin, like “this record is never showing up man, we’re not even going to place the order”. After a while I just gave up and bought Led Zeppelin because that was the best thing they had in town haha.

What were your early recordings like, just 4-tracks and stuff?
We just did a demo with The Stiffs and that was someone’s 4-track. I don’t know whose it was, there was a rich kid that we knew that had a lot of equipment and I suspect it was his. No one knew what they were doing…maybe one guy who did live sound thought he knew what he was doing, but it just sounded like…if you put one mic in a room now and recorded it onto your computer, THAT probably sounds better than our 4-track recordings haha.

Then with Firehorse we actually had a guy who had a pretty awesome recording studio out there (in Griffith). I think he had a vision that he would entice bands out to his mansion with a pool and whatever. If it wasn’t so far away it probably would have worked, but it was just in the middle of nowhere and I don’t know how anyone would have even found out about it.

The guy who owned the studio was good but we had a dude producing us who was shit and he fucked up the recording. We were kinda telling him at the time, “shouldn’t these levels be a bit higher”, not that I knew anything but it was like “I can hardly hear this shit” and everything just sounded lame so I wasn’t particularly proud of that recording.

The dude who owned the studio tried to fix the recording after the fact but it was a polishing a turd situation. But, it was all songs that I had written and it was just a good document of where I was at (musically), at the time.

You obviously did a few cassettes back then and being the pre-internet era, how did you distribute your music?
I think in those days it was just…we had no connections to anyone that existed and my idea of what it was, was that that at some stage I’d walk into some guys office at Sony Records and he’d have a revelation and invite me to dinner.

Haha
So at that time the people who were buying it were just our friends. When you’re a kid you have heaps of friends and you sell a couple’a hundred, which was another false…you know like, “As soon as I get to Sydney I’ll be selling a million of these things” haha.

So we didn’t distribute them (cassettes) at all, we just sold them at gigs and I think we had them in the local shops in town and that was it really.

You weren’t tape trading?
Nah, it was a real isolated community and we weren’t connected to any of the national sort of stuff. There was no press…they probably sold 3 copies of Hot Metal magazine a month. So I actually did pull out some contacts from Hot Metal magazine and tried to contact people, you know…like I was trying to entice some bands to come to Griffith. I think it used to be in the early to mid-80’s a tour path between Sydney and Melbourne, like bands used to come….

Cold Chisel or something?
Yeah actually Motorhead…

Really?
Yeah but they didn’t play because in sound check they blew up the P.A. That would have been pretty incredible actually. No band that wasn’t on the radio really came to Griffith in those days. It was like…you know the band that we were actually in (Firehorse) was probably the most popular band in town. We got all the supports that actually came through which was like Choirboys, Johnny Diesel and Screaming Jets and all that kind of stuff.

For me being 18 or 19 was actually a bit of a thrill actually, but soon became like, “these guys are all boring fucks”, just treating you like a dick. There was certainly no sense of camaraderie like they were going to help you in anyway. You were almost there to carry their shit.

There was an attempt by some local businessmen at one stage, and it pretty much brought all those bands…

I’m sure I read that PiL played in Ballina or something like that
They played in Byron Bay in ’89 at the piggery which was the Byron Arts Factory…which was an old piggery. Actually in that era bands of that ilk would play all the major cities and then play Byron Bay which was a bit of an anomaly.

Byron was one of the first places that had a lot of raves and once that happened the bands stopped coming. Rollins Band and All and Hard Ons used to play there…it was actually pretty good and a bit weird that that would be the case. Actually I remember when PiL played and there was a lot of people there but I didn’t really like it, because I was into the first 3 records and they were doing…

That would have been the bad period
Yeah it was when they brought out that “9” record and I didn’t like the band. Everyone was calling out “Sex Pistols” and he was just getting angrier and angrier and it was just a bit weird.

PiL definitely played in Ballina at the Ballina RSL on their ’84 Australian tour…minus two points for Jace. Interestingly they also played in Jindabyne and Frankston on the ’89 tour that Jace attended.

Did you ever see Mortal Sin? They were a pretty legendary and heavy touring Aussie band
I saw Mortal Sin but after they were cool.

So how did you come to move to Sydney?
I kinda had family, my dad grew up in Sydney. It was kind of the city that I most went to as a kid to visit my grandparents. There were also quite a few bands that I really liked like Massappeal and Hard Ons and I really liked the beaches. I was into skateboarding and surfing and it just made sense. I had friends living there and it seemed like a really logical thing to do…until I got there.

Haha
Yeah like until the reality of after the first few weeks hit of where I was and the feeling of “What the fuck am I going to do?” I had no contingency plan whatsoever, I had no idea what I thought was going to happen. Being in bands had always been kind of easy and I’d always kinda met everyone who was in a band and decided who was going to be in my band and then went to Sydney and being in a band was heaps less of a big deal. You were just one of….

Small fish in a big pond?
Yeah yeah, and actually meeting any likeminded people was actually pretty hard. I actually ended up forming a band with an old mate from Mullum and a mate from Griffith.

Was that Kato?
No, we were called T.I.T. The drummer I used to play with back in Mullum….we used to love playing D.R.I. and M.O.D. and S.O.D. and every band that had one of those names.

Haha
I think he thought up the name, it was sort of obnoxious but we could never think of what T.I.T. stood for haha so we just ended up being Tit. It was kind of like my updated version of what we were doing back in Mullum, but it was all just our own stuff. It was all sort of fast and punk stuff.

Did you guys move up to the Gold Coast after that?
Yeah so we started the band in Sydney and then we got this offer from this Gold Coast based manager and an agency to be involved with them. I guess it was like they would get us gigs and help us record and it was a pretty nice offer really. We all kind of just thought “It’s what we wanna do” and it was kinda going along really well and we were getting paid really well and doing good gigs.

Then the manager guy died of a heart attack. He used to deal directly with the agency and then we had to deal directly with them. They were ripping us off and any gigs that came directly through us they were taking a cut of and it just kinda became unworkable. They also promised a lot of things that never happened so, we were just too young to know how to work out what to do. In the end without the manager it was just impossible so we just moved back to Sydney.

Did you ever see or play with that old Gold Coast hardcore band Thrust?
I played with Thrust a few times when they got back together in the mid-90’s.

So after that you moved back to Sydney and T.I.T sorta fizzled?
When we moved back to Sydney we kinda decided that…well I had been writing a bunch of different material. I was getting into Butthole Surfers and sorta more weirder shit and I didn’t want to play that more punk stuff.

When we were doing T.I.T. it was sort of the time of that Southern California pop-punk shit and even though we weren’t doing that stuff you could kinda relate it. We were playing a lot of those shows and indirectly we were part of that crew. I hated all those bands but that just seemed like what was going on.

I was writing different shit and our drummer became not the right guy and that’s when Kato happened.

Some of the same guys?
Same guitar player..

So you were playing bass?
Yeah I was playing bass in T.I.T. and then in Kato. Actually I think Kato might have started right after the first time that I saw Nunchukka Superfly. It was sorta all the things that I’d heard like maybe Melvins Bullhead and Butthole Surfers and just seeing stuff like Kiss My Poodles Donkey…and it just really changed my perspective on what music could be.

I really wanted to play those driving basslines. So that’s how I started writing music around the bassline and it’s kind of how I’ve written music ever since actually. It really changed the art of songwriting for me.

What gear did you have back then?
My first bass rig was an Acoustic…I think it was like a 270 head. I had 4×12 box, but it was a bass box and it had that, you know staggered Z shape speaker configuration kinda like a Sunn. I had no idea what it was, it was just something that I got off a guy in Sydney.

My first bass was a Rickenbacker…I think it was an ‘81 Rickenbacker. Ever since I saw Sid Vicious playing bass I thought it was the best most awesome bass ever. I thought it was the most ridiculous bass ever. When I tried it out at the shop I thought “Holy Shit”, it sounded like a piano..and no pedals, just turn it right up.

What did you achieve with Kato?
Well to be honest not a lot, we did quite a lot of shows. It’s interesting, the guys that I was in the band with were really good musicians but they didn’t, but it took me years to work out that there main prioritiy in life wasn’t being in this band…and that was my main priority.

I think it was kinda a constant case of them actually going “It’s a bit naive to think this band’s going anywhere” and me going “why the fuck aren’t they prioritising this”. We were just…cause we were mates we stayed in the band together but I was sort of constantly frustrated. We did a whole heap of home recordings and we released a few things, but it wasn’t released properly, it was still just selling at gigs and a few shops that would have it kind of thing. It wasn’t really distributing it, and we couldn’t back it up with enough shows because, or touring, because they had jobs.

It was a really frustrating time for me actually. I sort of talked about doing other music projects with other people but to be honest I was sort of out of my depth from being a country kid. I kinda went from having everything being a possibility to nothing being a possibility and it was all in my mind but that’s just my perspective on it.

It all seemed like…I didn’t fuckin’ know anyone to get a gig and I went from somewhere where everyone knew me to being like, “I don’t know anyone here”…how to get gigs, I’d try and talk with bands and it was a pretty hostile scene to be honest. There were a few bands like Blitz Babies and the Hard Ons were always lovely…but it was around the time that Hard Ons were splitting up and I think Blitz Babies split up not long after. Actually it was around that time that I started hearing more about Melbourne bands and I was considering moving there but just didn’t do it for another 15 years or so…

Haha. So how did PD Idol get started – was it similar dudes?
There were a few different lineups of that band. The first one was an old mate from Griffith and a guy that I met through Drum Media. I put an ad in that said “Do you like Melvins, Jesus Lizard and No Means No” something like that and this really quirky drummer from Holland answered…actually there were a few people that answered and we tried a few people out and um, Pete, ah, I had some friends from Sweden and I really like European people and I seem to get along with them really well and a similar sense of humour and stuff and he was great right from the word go. He was a big fan of The Fall and heaps of post-punk music, so it was just really easy to communicate with him and play music with, he was just a really good fit.

PD Idol at The Annandale in 1996

PD Idol at The Annandale in 1996

Was there anything different with that band, where you slowly started to find your way with booking gigs and all that sort of jazz?
Yeah we did a lot more gigs, it was still a little bit frustrating with the lineup changes and stuff…actually ended up playing with the guitar player from Kato. I was the bass player all throughout PD Idol. That’s where I was writing the songs from and it seemed like if I was writing the songs from that point, I was best off playing that instrument and really liked playing that instrument. Pete was a real pleasure to play with, like his drumming and my bass playing really suited each other.

We were still a bit frustrated because Pete was a bit older and he was sort of thinking about having kids. The whole scenario of the last band kinda happened again and it was kinda like and I started realising how lucky you are when you get in a band with likeminded people where it actually works. I guess the band lasted a while and we did a fuckload of rehearsing and I’ve kinda always written a lot of material but actually playing outside of Sydney was a bit of a problem.

Did you do any touring?
Nah not really. I think we played Newcastle and Wollongong and stuff like that. We got a bit of radio play and there were a bunch of things that happened right at the end of that band. That was when I had my kid and a few things happened where we actually moved out of Sydney at that point so that was the end of that band.

It kind of was a long frustrating time living in Sydney for me in a way. It kind of coincided with a bunch of new fire laws that shut down a bunch of venues and then the pokies came in and just gutted the whole live music industry and as a consequence the gigs were way more hard-fought over. I remember ringing up the Annandale once cause we’d played a gig at the Annandale and I was ringing up to try to follow that up and the guy says to me, and it had only been a month or so ,and he says “So what have you done in between now and then” and I was like “We’ve rehearsed and written songs, what do you mean?” and he was like “Well why should I give you another show?” and I was like “Cause the last one was pretty good” and he was like “Well it wasn’t that good” and hung up. That was kinda like…to me, as someone who wasn’t really an insider it was pretty harsh.

I think there was a lot less money in doing that so they were like “Why would I give a shit kicker band a go”.

So after that you moved up to Lismore?
No we went via Griffith again when Eli was born….it was for 8 months or something, but I didn’t play music there. Then we went to Lismore and I went to study.

You did art?
Yeah I studied visual art.

That whole period you were in Lismore was pretty productive – you did a bunch of different projects
Yeah I had a purely art thing, that was just noise with a guy from uni that was heaps of fun. Like I’d seen stuff like KK Null…I’d seen a bunch of noise stuff in Sydney and once again it was sort of like a revelation.

I didn’t see Masonna but I got a CD by him….it was really hilarious to me that the tracks were moving on but you couldn’t tell the difference between the start and finish…

Haha
Yeah I felt like maybe that was what it was like to be around in 1977 when punk happened, like these people were actually revolutionising even though it wasn’t the beginning of noise by any means.

When I was in Sydney I also got right into John Zorn…a lot of experimental music which I got into through Pete (PD Idol) who was also into Krautrock and stuff. He actually more than being a great band member he exposed me to so much music, he really helped me, he gave me 20 years of music in 2 years or something.

So I did that (noise project) which was just a drum kit and guitar playing as loud as I possibly could…you know I went to a show once where I felt sort of physically ill. I thought that was pretty amazing to make people have a physical reaction and I was sort of trying to do that.

I used to do things like have a box of oranges and hand them out and make the whole room smell like oranges, cause everyone was peeling oranges…it was sort of like, pretty wanky art stuff.

That was the first thing I was doing, then I hooked up with another guy at art school who had been in bands in Melbourne…

Jace formed a band with Cornelius Delaney aka Nique Needles who had previously acted in cult 80’s movie Dogs in Space, starring alongside Michael Hutchence of INXS fame. It’s a strange world.

Box Monsters

Box Monsters

Was that the Box Monster’s guy?
Yeah, he was about 10 years older than me or something, but we initially hooked up because we had a similar visual aesthetic and stuff. Then I found out that he was a musician and I said “Do you wanna do something?” and we kinda met somewhere around the Tom Waits and Cramps area. I don’t know, he was in that movie Dogs in Space so he was of that era where, he got that era but he sort of also rejected it slightly.

He was in Lubricated Goat, like an early incarnation of Lubricated Goat and I think he got a….

Bad taste?
Yeah he thought they were really bad people. So we kind of got a monster theme, it was more like a visual arts project that had a soundtrack to it. So I was painting a lot of warped super hero kind of stuff…I guess it also had a slight gothic sensibility, so we made a band around visual stuff really. The sound that came out probably evolved into something different.

I think the first gig that we played, I think it might have been an open mic night or something, I can’t even remember. I had this mate Billy who I knew played drums, we’d never jammed before but I thought he’s gotta be the right guy and we had a jam…we just played that show and Cornelius said “yeah he’s the right guy” and that’s how the band formed really, on stage. I’m sure the show was complete shit.

Box Monsters '05

Box Monsters ’05

I met Jace sometime around 2005/2006 and my old band Brain Resin ended up doing some touring with Pigman Vampire in late 2006.

What about Pigman Vampire – how did that kick off?
That kind of came about when the art project got boring and because I’d always had more experiemental ideas in my head…playing Cramps riffs kind of bored me after a while. We didn’t have the scope to get it as cool as Tom Waits, it was somewhat a limited thing and it really was only meant to be a couple of gigs and it just lasted a couple of years…

I kind of wanted to have a band that was like The Melvins mixed with black metal mixed with pure noise. Somewhere in there it was improvised. I know that the vision of that band (Pigman Vampire) was bigger than anything that ever came out sonically, it was more of a cerebral thing and me and the drummer Billy from Box Monsters, both seemed like we were on the same page but our ideas were bigger than what we were ever going to achieve.

Maybe in Lismore but if you were in New York or something
Yeah exactly.

There were some other guys in that band – Rohan and Oliver?
Yeah they kind of…

Cause you were playing guitar in that band?
Yeah basically Oliver was only in the band for a short period of time, basically because he wanted there to be rules. It was probably to the detriment of the whole band really, that was just our whole idea…he was thinking that we had to mold it into some kind of jazz thing. In a way that kind of structure might have worked but we just weren’t interested in what he had to say haha.

Rohan played loopy keyboard atmospheric stuff and it really wasn’t what he wanted to do, we were kind of on his back making him do that. He was interested in drinking some homebrews and having a jam but he wasn’t really interested in freaking out psychedelically. So yeah, basically the whole band never really worked sonically, there were definitely some killer jams but they just happened in the middle of nowhere and no one heard it.

The band never really had a vision of, like I never really had anything that I was gonna play or whatever, it was actually just trying to make the thing succeed in a room at any given time. At any given time

Jace’s Bass Rig

Heads
Gallien Krueger 800RB
Sunn Beta Lead

Speaker Boxes
2 x Lorantz 4×10
1 x Marshall JCM 900 Lead Series 4×12
1 x Custom made 4×12

Pedals
Boss TU2
Boss PS3
Hughes and Kettner Tube Factor
Verellen Tofusmoke

Bass
1986 MIJ P Bass

Jace Rogers Discography

Year Band Title Format Label Instruments
1991 The Stiffs Demo Cassette Self-Released Guitar/Vox
1993 Firehorse S/T CD EP Self-Released Guitar/Vox
1994 T.I.T. S/T Cassette EP Self-Released Bass/Vox
1996 Kato S/T CD EP Self-Released Bass/Vox
1997 PD Idol Sonic Euthanasia CD-R EP Godmum Guitar/Vox
1998 PD Idol S/T CD Godmum Bass/Vox
1999 PD Idol Ixodes, Ricins, thysanura, Coleoptera CD-R Godmum Bass/Vox
2000 PD Idol Brittle Bones CD-R Godmum Bass
2004 Box Monsters Enter The Flagon/ Sketches Of Homebrew CD-R Self-Released Guitar
2006 Pigman Vampire Pigheaded Gods – Demo CD-R Satanic Lentil Guitar/Vox
2007 Pigman Vampire The Bloated Aftermath CD-R/Digital Satanic Lentil Everything
2007 Bikini Eyebolt S/T CD-R Satanic Lentil, Tenzenmen Guitar/Bass/Vox
2008 Fangs Of… S/T CD-R EP Satanic Lentil Guitar/Vox
2008 Fangs Of… Fangs of Satanic Soccer Mums CD-R EP We Empty Rooms Guitar/Vox
2009 Fangs Of… Fangs of a TV Evangelist LP/Digital We Empty Rooms Guitar/Vox
2011 Fangs Of… Fangs of a Vengeful Altar Boy / Injured Ninja split EP 7″ EP Aniseed Records Guitar/Vox
2011 DEAD Thundaaaaah! LP/Digital/Tape Weemptyrooms, Wantage(USA), Ricecooker (Malaysia), Tenzenmen Bass/Vox
2012 DEAD DEAD/Cyberne/Knellt – 3-way split CD Impulse Records(Japan) Bass/Vox
2012 DEAD Idiots LP/Digital We Empty Rooms, Eolian Empire(USA) Bass/Vox
2013 DEAD DEAD/No Anchor split EP 7″ EP We Empty Rooms Bass/Vox

 

 

Comments Off on Interview with Xavier Irvine: The Day Everything Became Nothing, Fuck I’m Dead, Roskopp

XavierXavier Irvine is a Melbourne based musician specialising in the dark arts of Grind, Goregrind, Death Metal and just generally pulverising music. Primarily a guitarist, he nonetheless plays bass in The Day Everything Became Nothing. Interview conducted at The Charles Dickens Hotel in Melbourne – Sunday 11 August 2013 – lubricated by dark ale

How did you get started in music?
I had basically no interest in music till I was about year 7. I went to a school that had a compulsory music program. Before then I wasn’t even really interested in music. My parents had records and stuff and we listened to stuff, but I didn’t have an ear for that kind of thing. I wasn’t into any particular bands or anything like that.

Which school was it?
It was “Sophia Mundi” Steiner school in Abbotsford. I was basically dragged kicking and screaming into the music world. I had to learn recorder first, and so I had to learn how to read music on recorder and play it. And actually recorder is kind of like…usually in primary school it’s a bit of a nothing kind of instrument, but at this school they actually took it really fucking seriously haha. It was one of those weird things where it was really intensive and they took it really seriously. Within about a year or a year and a half I could play the instrument and there was a certain sense of satisfaction that I could actually play an instrument even if it wasn’t an instrument I’d dreamed of playing.

And then at some point there we had to take up a main instrument, so I did tenor saxophone from year 7 or year 8 (onwards). And then I went to another high school in Year 10 to Year 12 and I kept playing saxophone there. As I was playing music, I became more interested in music and I had some friends from primary school (Jacob and Christoph) who were really heavily into metal and hardcore and stuff. And it’s funny, the two evolved in parallel, as I got more interested in music and playing instruments, I got more interested in music itself and I started listening to more stuff and I slowly started to develop a real interest.

But you’re primarily a guitarist now?
Basically, yeah. I started playing guitar in high school, probably around year 10 or year 11. Actually that’s not true, it was at Steiner. I could already play a bit of guitar by the time I started at that second high school. I probably started around year 8 or year 9, you know, really badly, just teaching myself, learning a few riffs.

What sort of shit were you into?
Um, that early high school it would have been probably stuff that was on radio, alternative popular music. There would have been a lot of dodgy pop punk and rock kinda stuff. But as I got more of an ear for music, and just seeking stuff out, I got much more into hardcore, punk and metal. In parallel to that, ‘cause I was playing saxophone and taking it reasonably seriously I started looking for bands or artists or that were using horns in more interesting ways than the shit that I had to do for school.

Through that I got interested in Melbourne bands like Bucketrider who were using horns and stuff but making noisy and aggressive and interesting experimental music. And that kind of led to an interest in that whole kind of scene. I picked up some of those things at the same time as the more metal stuff.

Did you ever get into that band Embers?
I think I only saw Embers play once or twice but I really really liked them. One gig in particular was absolutely mind blowing, at Bar Open. I didn’t quite believe it was improv. It was pretty intense and a bit of a cacophony. There were just these bits where they would just lock in and do something, you know, very controlled and very intentional.

Did you have a serious band in high school?
I did play with friends and stuff. I found in high school there would only be a few kids who would be into doing a band, so you would kinda be stuck doing a compromise of what everyone wanted to do in a way. I had a friend who was a really good vocalist and he was a total Pearl Jam tragic. So we ended up doing Pearl Jam covers and a few originals, I didn’t even particularly like them (Pearl Jam) haha. Not that there was anything wrong with them haha, it was all valuable experience working in a band environment but I was more interested in punk and stuff like that. I had another mate who was into that kind of stuff and we used to jam, but it wasn’t a proper band either. We just played the two of us, he was on drums and I was on guitar or something like that.

Xavier went on to play guitar in the awesome grind band Roskopp along with the brothers Jacob and Christoph Winkler and later on with second guitarist Zev Langer.

So tell me about your first proper band?
So Jacob who played bass in Roskopp and Christoph the drummer are brothers, I knew them since primary school, they lived in my neighbourhood. We went to different high schools but because we lived in the same area we just stayed in touch and were still hangin’ out regularly. They were actually both drummers at first and Jake picked up bass so that we could have a bass player for Roskopp. He picked it up really quick actually, I think it just kinda worked out that way it was weird. Dave Pearce was originally our second guitarist, then Zev Langer later on.

Most people have shit gear when they start – what sort of gear did you start off with?
I did okay actually. I think my grandmother sent me some money or my mum splashed out. My first guitar that I played early in Roskopp or just a bit before that, was a Nuno Bettencourt signature model Washburn. It was the ugliest thing on the planet, but as far as guitars go it wasn’t actually shit, it was actually a pretty good quality instrument. It was a kind of butter yellow colour…kinda disgusting. The first amp I had was a 15 watt Peavey Rage practise amp, totally sick. I’ve still got that and I would probably use that on a record if I could find an appropriate use for it, for a scratchy black metal sound.

I’ve got a practice amp at home (dunno who owns it) which I plugged bass into, and it actually sounds pretty cool. I wonder if you could fool people, mic it up and record it…
In my experience you fuckin’ well can! Even from about Year 10 ish, I started to get interested in recording stuff… just on a PC at home with Sonic Foundry’s Acid. I just started mucking around just recording stuff and I would record that practice amp and realised that, you know, you could get away with it.

You’ve probably heard before that sometimes on big records they would actually use a practise amp or something smaller because they can push it harder without getting so much volume out of it. You’re driving it’s speaker harder and driving it’s circuitry harder but you actually get less volume at the microphone so it might be less likely to overload the mic than if you were putting it in front of a stack.

Tell me more about Roskopp?
We were all into metal and hardcore but it was around that time that we kinda discovered grind.

What year are we talking?
Probably around 1998, I could be wrong. We were kind of jamming together, before it really became a proper band, and we were jamming together before the end of high school. I was living out in the country at the time at my mum’s house and they (Jake, Christoph and Dave) would come up for a weekend or something. And because it was isolated we could just make as much noise as we wanted and just muck around and stuff. We all got an interest in grind and that became a direction for the band, a real goal for what we wanted to do. It just kind of evolved. For a while at the start it really was like a dodgy garage band kind of thing. Maybe it still was by the end of it hahaha.

You guys took a long time to actually put stuff out?
We took ages to play a live show and we took ages to put anything out. The album was only released long after the band broke up.

Did you guys tour?
We did a couple of interstate shows I think. We definitely went to Canberra once and…fuck that might have been it actually. But we played some really successful Melbourne shows. There were a few good supports that were well received and stuff. There was a patch where we were doing quite a lot of shows that did really well.

It was always a really satisfying band creatively and it was also a really difficult band. There were a lot of difficulties. One of which was that I didn’t get a licence till I was like 28 or 29….I think Christoph is getting his soon.

Haha. Who was driving?
Well in the later years of the band, when we played the most shows Jake was doing it all. We would sometimes use cabs to get gear to places. Either way Jake was always having to drive to a gig and was kind of in charge of logistics. Regardless of whether we helped him load or whatever it still came down to him….

He couldn’t get pissed or anything?
Well he doesn’t drink, or didn’t drink at the time at least so that wasn’t the issue. But it was a fair bit of an imposition and there was no option for anyone else to ever do that one show. So that was kinda hard for him and obviously frustrating.

We were also in a stage with our playing where we were really pushing the envelope of our abilities. We still hadn’t gotten very proficient at our instruments, especially in the early to mid-era of that band. So that makes things really hard because you’re trying intensely hard to pull something off and you just, just about get there. Often we wouldn’t quite get there and it sounded sloppy.

It’s funny cause all of us can agree that we actually like listening to bands with that kind of sound, like early Carcass records or early Napalm Death records, that are played a bit dodgy and where they’re just about pulling it off. But to be in a band like that, it’s actually a different thing, it’s actually quite hard, it’s rough, it’s really rough. Of course, maybe we were just being too hard on ourselves…

What happened in the end?
We broke up a while back. It’s actually a few years ago. We actually haven’t played together for ages and ages. First of all Jake decided to quit, I think because he felt like it was too big a commitment. The other thing is that we jammed a hell of a lot but we didn’t play that much relative to how much we jammed.

It was very satisfying and it’s really important that I stress that because it was actually a really satisfying band to do. I’m really happy with, and proud of the work we did. But it was definitely kind of one of the more challenging projects that I’ve been involved in.

Who recorded the album?
So, we went to Toyland for one day and just tracked it all live at Toyland. Then we did vocal overdubs with Jason Fuller at his studio in Reservoir.

Adam Calaitzis engineered at Toyland?
Yeah, so he recorded everything and then I mixed it in pro-tools on my PC at home. That was the first proper thing that I mixed.

The album is your sum total achievement – you did a 7” as well?
There’s a 7” and then a split 7” with Agents of Abhorrence and funnily enough the posthumous releases just keep coming. There’s actually a split with Blue Holocaust coming out probably this year or maybe early next year. I just finished the masters and sent them off to the guy from Blue Holocaust who’s putting it out.

Do you have any thoughts on the other Roskopp from the USA?
They’re a very good grindcore band. Most people know that there are two bands with that name, and reviewers always mention it, so the name thing doesn’t bother me at all. I sometimes wonder if anyone owns records by both bands thinking that they’re one and the same, but most grind fans are pretty switched on and well informed about their genre of choice so that’s probably never happened.

Xavier also plays bass in the awesome slow-mo goregrind band The Day Everything Became Nothing along with Tony Forde(Blood Duster), Marty Evans, Dave Hill(Fuck I’m Dead) and Dean Engert. They fuse thick slabs of downtuned riffage, pitchshifted vocals and really clever minimal drumming. I loved the reaction of some random people who heard them blasting out of my car when I wound the window down at a servo a few years back haha.

xavier bass

How did you start playing bass?
I started playing bass when Dave said he and some friends were starting a band and were looking for a bassplayer. They had already had a few jams, maybe 4 or 5 rehearsals or whatever, and had written about half of the first album. They had like 4 or 5 songs and they just gave me those rehearsal recordings on a CDR and said “Do you want to learn those” and I did….

How did they pick you – did you put your hand up?
Just ‘cause they knew me from Roskopp. Dave Hill played in Fuck I’m Dead and I just knew him from going to shows and chatting with him because I was a massive fan. I didn’t know Marty or Dean at the time. Dave just asked me if I wanted to play bass and I jumped at the chance. They sent me those songs that they’d been working on and I liked the sound of them and it seemed like an interesting thing to try.

That was around 2001?
I think was about 2000.

Did you have a reference point in mind for bass?
I don’t think I took a reference point from any other bass players or bands necessarily. I think I just went in being really conscious of the tone and the sound that I was going to shape to fit the work with that band. It evolved, it took a while…I think with that band we really, over time we’ve managed to dial in our settings, so that we each occupy different spaces in a way. So that was definitely something that I was really conscious of.

I’ve been interested in some bands that feature bass though, you know, bands that are just bass and drums like Big Business I’ve always listened to.

My approach as far as what I’m doing as a bassplayer is really just filling out those bottom octaves and crafting a sound that works and functions within the sound of the band. I’ve always been conscious of that and just playing the way that works for the band.

I’m sure I’ve heard you play a Today Is The Day riff at shows?
Yeah for sure. There’s some riff…it’s a song off “Temple of the Morning Star” near the end that has a bass intro and I often play that at sound check. I think I just chose that because you play a lot of open strings which is important for whoever is EQ’ing on the desk and it kinda goes up the neck and you hit most of the notes on the way up. I can’t remember when I started doing that, I just thought it was an appropriate thing and I’m a big Today Is The Day fan.

Yeah?
Yeah yeah, huge, I’ve got all their records. Even their later stuff, yep, yeah yeah yeah…huge fanatic.

Was Jake from Roskopp an influence at all?
Jake was a really good bass player, he was using a Boss Bass Overdrive, same as mine… the main thing I like about them is that they have that clean blend so you can dial in some direct signal. Jake had this setting… he had this tone that was really menacing. I don’t think he had much clean in there at all. Very different to the sound that I use in TDEBN. He used my bass rig in Roskopp, same equipment, same pedal and yet a completely different vibe. One thing I’ve thought a lot about over the last few years is how they say it’s all in the hands and it really, really is. The way a person interacts with their instrument can make a huge difference.

There are lots of people on the internet obsessing about what gear their heroes are using and stuff. That person you idolise will probably sound the same whether they are using their rig, your rig or some other piece of shit. And if not, you could at the very least still probably tell that it was them because they’ve got a way of holding a chord or because of how far along the string they play. If you are playing near the bridge or closer to the neck, and how you pick or pluck the string… all those elements which are super important. I think Jake played really close to the neck and I play really close to the bridge. The way that I dial in the pedal, there’s probably more clean tone coming through than there is distorted tone.

Did you have to buy a bass rig from scratch?
Once again I was pretty lucky and I had some money. I just splashed out and got it pretty much straight away. I think I borrowed Jake’s (Roskopp) bass for a while and then once I realised it was a serious thing I bought the bass that I’m still using now and the rig that I’m still using now.

What bass have you got?
It’s a Cort 5-string bass, I think it’s called a B5 or something like that.

Is it active?
Yeah active pickups, it’s got Bartolini pickups in it.

And you have the same amp from back then?
Yeah I still use the same rig. It’s a Lab Systems Midget 250s head.

Lab Systems was a Melbourne based amplifier manufacturer whose amps were quite popular amongst Australian musicians in the 1990’s. Unfortunately they went out of business a while back.

Xavier Amp

Lab Systems gear is hard to find these days
Yeah I think they’re amazing. That 250 watt head can pretty comfortably drive an Ampeg 8×10 cabinet. We’ve played supports or festivals and whoever is engineering will be like “What the hell is that tiny thing?” and you plug it into the backline 8×10 and they’re “oh okay cool, it seems to be loud enough” to push a fridge.

Do you have a fridge?
No just a 4×10.

Have you ever blown it?
Nah. I run it at a volume that is loud, but not ridiculously loud. There’s a sweet spot which I run it at and it’s not gonna shit itself or anything. The head did die about a year ago…I think it got about a decade’s worth of use, pretty serious heavy use before anything went wrong. I actually found out that the guy that designed the Lab Systems equipment still does servicing. So I just couriered it down to him and he repaired it. That was it, that’s the only money I’ve ever had to spend on it in 10, 12 years. He’s down in Rosanna or something like that.

That’s nice of him
Yeah well he doesn’t exclusively service Lab Systems gear, he’s a general amp tech now.

Have you ever snapped your low B string?
I’ve never broken a bass string.

Really? Wow
I’ve got a pretty light touch. Aggressive is not the way to describe how I play bass. I’m very conscious of timing and I play firmly. But I’m not that aggressive when it comes to interacting with the instrument (even if it sometimes looks that way).xaviers bass

Bass can be a forgotten element in the mix sometimes
There’s a producer in the states called Joe Barresi (Melvins, Queens of the Stone Age etc), he’s great at doing lots of stuff with thick bottom end. His kicks are generally not very clicky or anything. It’s funny, I watched an interview with him a while back and someone was asking him well “how do you get so much bottom end in your mixes?” and he said something like “well, I just don’t EQ it out like everyone else does” haha.

I was going to ask you about how you’ve managed to maintain consistency in your bass tone across all the albums but you’ve already answered that…
The main variation over the albums is the production and the recording techniques. The actual band’s sound hasn’t changed much across the 10+ years.

The most significant change, honestly, is that Marty changed his kick drum sample sound, maybe after the second album. We were at rehearsal one day and he was scrolling through the dial on his module, looking for the sound that he normally uses, and he stopped at a different one and we were like “Dude!! That sounds way better than the one you’ve been using for the last 5 years!” haha. It was way thicker and bigger, we were like “Oh God, I can’t believe we’ve been using that sound for that long” haha.

Does he use a DM5 or something?
No, he’s actually got the entire brain or module for the Roland V-Drums. He owns an entire set but he just uses the brain and the trigger for the kick and that’s it.

Do you get more satisfaction out of playing bass or guitar?
About equal to be honest, ‘cause I’m really happy to be playing bass in the band that I’m playing bass in. They’re sort of different tasks in a way, but they’re both important.

For a lot of guitarists, playing bass can be a bit of a chore
Two things I suppose, first of all I don’t really differentiate between the two, I play the bass like I would play guitar – I use a pick. I’m very aware of the fact that the notes are lower, the strings are heavier, all those aspects. I’ve always been really conscious of being in control of a larger string and the fact that it swings differently, all those mechanical considerations. So that’s always been really important to me, just to have good control over the instrument as I do with guitar as well. You know, trying to play cleanly and accurately and stuff.

The other thing is in The Day Everything Became Nothing, the riffs are very simple and generally the playing is not very fast or technical. It’s a very enjoyable band to play bass in because you’re not trying to squeeze a million notes in or some really whirl windy kinda riff like in a technical death metal band. A lot of our stuff is very rock influenced and deliberate and kinda just metronomic. So there’s enough time to put a bit more craft into the actual act of playing than there would be if it was really fast.

I don’t think I would enjoy playing bass in Fuck I’m Dead or in Roskopp so much as I do in The Day…

You get that feeling listening to TDEBN that you are trying to make each note count
Make each note count and there’s a huge process of, not so much now because we’ve established a sound and we kind of know what we’re doing… but in the beginning there was a big process of dumbing down and simplifying, because especially Dave (guitarist) had come from a background of Fuck I’m Dead and he’s a very, very proficient technical metal guitarist.

It’s a constant process of “No! Dumber! Dumber!!” haha. Simplify, simplify, simplify. We’re pretty good at that now but at the start it was a bit of a struggle to kind of pull it back.

I think the idea behind the band, well everyone in the band is going to have a slightly different opinion, but I think we could all pretty much agree that a key idea behind The Day was to play simpler, more primitive music, so that we could play it better, you know? So we could do a better version of something that’s simpler in a way….

Who writes all the material?
Mostly Dave for riffs, but I’ve been writing some since after the first album and so has Dean. I’ve written an average of a couple of songs an album or something like that.

We’ve always been very communal arranging and putting songs together, everyone chimes in and that usually works very well. Usually Marty (drums) or Dean (guitar) will have very good ideas for arrangements. Everyone in the band will have some cool ideas about how we can arrange something or make an improvement.

The guitars are playing pretty much exactly the same thing just double tracked right?
Yeah since they mostly play the same parts, having two guitars serves mainly in getting a wide stereo image and it’s also better live, so you get a nice big sound.

It could be hard if you didn’t write the riffs because you wouldn’t get your moment to shine haha
We’ve been lucky in that. None of us are precious about that sort of thing. We all play in other bands and we have other opportunities to have complementary musical experiences to an extent. That’s maybe another reason why the TDEBN has been such a success, just a great creative team, you know?

It always feels like a team effort and we really enjoy just locking in together and playing stuff together. I love playing bass with Marty on drums and with those guys on guitar and with Tony (vocals), it seems to work really well. On a good night, it’s just the best.

Tell me about the first TDEBN album?
So Dave, Dean and Marty had written about half of the album, like I said, before I joined the band. But they did that in maybe 4 or 5 rehearsals, something like that. So then I came on. We had a few different vocalists for a while there, we were trying to find a vocalist, Tom the bass player from Fuck I’m Dead had a go at it. And another guy that they worked with… Dave, Dean and Marty all worked at Shock Records export warehouse together. A large proportion of the Melbourne grindcore scene worked there together.

Was that in Northcote or something?
I think so, I actually never went there. It was weird because a lot of rehearsals consisted of them talking about all the weird people that they worked with, that I was not privy to. So I have all these pictures in my mind of people they worked with that I’d never seen or met before and it was kinda weird haha.

Yeah, so I joined the band and we wrote the rest of the album. Within that time Tom had a go, there was this guy…I think his surname was Love, so he had the nickname Dr Love haha. Then we settled on Kody, Dakoda Abrams who also played guitar in Flesh Vs Venom. He was actually our vocalist right up until we recorded the first album. We did some live shows with him on vocals and then he went overseas, kinda unexpectedly, just as we were about to record haha.

Was he escaping the law?
No, I think he went home? He’s originally from Canada. But for some reason I recall maybe he was going to live in England for a while, I can’t remember. But anyway they all also worked with Tony Forde (Blood Duster) so they gave him a call and he was interested in doing it. So we did some rehearsals with him and then went and recorded the album. We recorded the album with Paul Morris who had a studio in Brunswick, Lygon St. That was pretty straightforward, I think we did it in two days.

What was it recorded on?
It was recorded to computer hard drive, through some big…I think he had a big Mackie or Allen & Heath desk, 30 or 48 tracks….

Was it ProTools back then?
Logic, the early Emagic version of Logic for PC before it went Mac only. I wasn’t really that deep into production back then so I didn’t pick up on every technical aspect. I do remember he had a giant tube DI thing that he used to DI the bass, so we had clean bottom end. Back then I think Dave was still using his Marshall JCM2000. So yeah, the first album has different guitar amps and different guitars I think. Soon after that Dave and Dean bought those Peavey Wolfgang guitars and the Mesa heads. Maybe Dean had his Dual Rectifier for the first album, I actually can’t remember, it’s such a long time ago.

So it was basically tracked in a day or two and mixed in the same kinda time, so it was pretty quick. Actually the mix, we might have revisited a couple of times, but it was very fast. All of the recordings have been very quick. There’s no extended, you know, no extended periods for the tracking, especially for the tracking. If anything went on, it would usually be the mix…a tweak here or there.

The sound on the second album Invention : Destruction is quite different….it’s a lot cleaner
Very, very different…much less harsh top end, less sonically aggressive. I think it sounds great though, Fuller’s mix is really good. That album was actually mastered by Scott Hull from Pig Destroyer. I remember we asked for a few revisions of the mastering, I think we were having a bit of trouble communicating exactly what we were after… there was a version that had bright top-end but less bass, then another one that was the other way around…we went with one that was close enough to what we wanted…he did it for really cheap.

I think he kind of did it as a favour to Jason Fuller who recorded it. So he charged us almost nothing. It came out really well anyway.

You get what you’re given
We got a little bit more than we gave I think. I think we only paid him 100 bucks or something ridiculous like that to Master that whole record.

I reckon that album still sounds fuckin’ cool
Yeah. I think they all sound… I’m pretty happy with the sound of all of them and they all sound quite different in their own sorta way. The very latest stuff that we tracked at Toyland and I mixed at my house is the stuff that we’re all the most happy with. It sounds the closest to what we think we sound like. We could be wrong though…

I think some people might argue the opposite, but if you’ve got someone in the band that can mix it, it’s definitely worth trying. Especially with more eccentric styles of music like Grind or whatever, there might be a lot of things about your sound that someone from outside the band might not pick up on immediately. It probably also helps a lot that we all have very similar opinions as to how things should sound.

What about Brutal?
Brutal was tracked at Jam Hut (rehearsal studio) in Preston. They’ve got a room up the back. The two very back rooms up the back have a window between them and there are panels usually installed to separate the two rooms. But if you take those panels down it’s like a recordings studio, you turn one into the control room and one into the live room and you can record like that.

So we recorded everything there in maybe one or two days I think.

What did you record it on?
Jason Fuller did that one as well.

On a laptop or something?
I think he had a Mac G4 at the time and a Digidesign 002 interface back then with a set of Focusrite preamps.

He had a good set of mic’s at the time. The acoustics of that room aren’t great though…and we’ve realised this more and more over time, that the room is probably…well it might not be the most important thing but it’s a very, very important element of tracking drums.

Basically until we started tracking drums at Toyland….well, we always had good drum sounds, but we got much better drum sounds when we started tracking drums at Toyland. That drum room sounds particularly good, plus, all of Adam’s (Calaitzis) gear is seriously top notch, you know, you’re getting a really experienced engineer placing mic’s that, in turn, are running into really good Pre’s. And you can go to tape if you want or digital. Mind you, that’s not a make or break for me, we’ve kinda done both over there and both sound good.

It’s nice to record to analogue tape, it’s just different rather than better. There’s advantages to both. But that room is just fucking great because it sounds so good, it’s just really live and nasty haha. I think also because, these days, current convention for recording loud drums for metal or rock is to close mic everything… The more live sounding the room is the better really, at least some of that short reverberation ends up in those close mic’s. You just get more sound, more room, more chaos in a way…

It’s kind of ironic though because Marty has such a minimal drum kit
Yeah it’s funny but at the end of the day, you know, the snare sound sounds better and the overheads sound better haha.

It’s kinda weird you know, and there’s just one little rack Tom, but that room still makes a huge difference.

So the new album was done at Toyland?
No we’re still writing that. The stuff that we recorded at Toyland was just 3 songs, one for a split with a band from Holland (Cliteater) and one we just released as a digital single.

Not the best band name I don’t reckon….not one you can tell your mum haha
No. We actually met one of those guys…he came over with his girlfriend on holiday or something like that. As per usual, bands with the most debauched subject matter and the dodgiest artwork are just normal people. Just playing that game of trying to freak everyone out and trying to make people worried about their morals haha. But obviously they’re just  normal kids.

You guys went overseas?
Just the States.

Maryland?
Yeah Maryland in 2008. I think we did 7 or 8 shows all up. It was really really fun, really good. Marty had a one kid at the time and his wife was pregnant with their second. And the kids keep coming thick and fast. We’re planning a European tour in January 2015, so over a year away from now, that’s how far ahead we have to plan.

I’ve got a 5 month old… Marty has got 3 kids now, as of a few days ago haha. Tony has a little daughter who’s also 5 months old and Dave and his wife are about to have their first one in a couple of months.

You’re all getting old…
Yeah just a lot of kids and stuff. But you know, occasional interstate touring still totally possible. Overseas is a little bit trickier, just those long stretches. So when we go and do Europe, it won’t be more than 16 days all up… two weeks with a little bit either side, something like that.

How did the US tour go anyway?
Really really well, really successful. It was a huge variety of shows that we played. We played some people’s houses and basements and stuff and then we played some normal venue shows with more established bands and stuff. Pretty much we were really well received at all the shows. It was with Fuck I’m Dead as well…

Did you guys get invited to play Maryland?
Yeah we got invited to play and they put up some money, not enough to pay for everyone’s airfare but enough to make it possible. So we all had to chip in a certain amount of our own money.

Once we were actually in the states, once our airfares were paid, apart from our own individual purchases…our day to day living costs were actually covered by the money which we made from the tour after the first few days. So it was very successful in that way.

So as far as a big holiday or whatever, if you treat it like that, it was pretty cost effective. All we had to fork out was a portion of our airfares and stuff, and then after that it was basically…we’d make money from the shows and then use that money to eat and pay for a hotel that night.

Did you have Visa’s or was it dodgy?
No. That was kind of a bit of an adventure.

Did you take gear?
We all arrived in the United States with absolutely nothing, not a shred of equipment…

No pieces of paper with the itinerary haha
Nothing like that, although if they were motivated or if they decided that month that they were going to scrutinise people that looked like they were touring they probably could have nailed us…actually one of the guys stamping passports at LAX asked Jay (Fuck I’m Dead) something, tried to trip him up and said like “So what band are you in?” and Jay was like “I don’t play in a band” haha.

He was probably just fishing; he didn’t really give a fuck. He probably thought it would be funny if he asked that and the guy’s like “Oh yeah we’re doing this show and that show…” and then he’s like “ahh, come this way” haha. I’m sure they’ve got bigger fish to fry though.

Lots of bands have been fucked up…
Yeah some people got shafted coming into Australia. Wasn’t there some Japanese bands…the guys from….

Birushanah…
Yeah Birushanah or Ryokuchi or something.

America is like the really big fish though…
The scale, the scale of the place. The guy was probably just teasing us, rather than trying to kick us out of the country. I think he was just like “these guys look like they’re in a band”.

If you don’t have a work permit…
Yeah we were very aware of that, and kind of stressed… until we were standing in the street outside hailing a cab we were pretty freaked out.

We did investigate the possibility of getting visa’s and stuff but it’s kinda tricky. From what we were told, you could apply and there would still be no guarantee of you getting it. So then what do you say to the promoter? “Thanks for the massive cash advance, we might be coming”? You’ve just kind of just do it and wing it.

How did you go with gear?
So we flew to LA and spent one or two nights in LA just trying to get over jet lag. Then we flew to Minneapolis to start the tour and then we had a day in Minneapolis before we had to play any shows. So the guy who’s van we were borrowing, drove us to some guitar stores. I bought just a cheap bass which was adequate.

Did you bring it back to Australia?
No. I actually sold it at Maryland Death Fest. At the end of our set I got on the mic and said “Does anybody want to buy this bass….”

Haha, that’s awesome
I think I paid like 300 bucks and sold it for like 100 bucks. Like nothing, totally just tossing it away. It was a pretty terrible instrument. It was a bit of a chore to play actually.

But some kid bought it haha
Yeah some kid came up and was like “Oh, I’ll buy that” …everybody happy.

But the other thing is because I was playing there with Fuck I’m Dead as well, I went there with the intention of buying a really nice guitar, because I’d never had a really nice guitar before. So I bought a Music Man axis, from a shop in St Paul. St Paul and Minneapolis are actually two neighbouring cities that grew and merged together. So it was just from the other side of town…

The day that we actually went to buy our instruments was a bit of a hilarious disaster. We kinda had this idea that you could go to any guitar store in the States and they’d have lots of good instruments. But they just kinda… didn’t! haha. It was way cheaper than it is here (Australia), but like, there was still a lot of crap instruments.

It’s one thing to say “let’s land in a country and just buy some guitars” but when you’re actually forking out money, you don’t wanna buy something that’s absolutely abysmal, although we kinda did in the end… except for the nice guitar that I got…

And we just plugged into other people’s amps every night and just hoped for the best. That was actually really funny…we plugged into some horrendous rigs on various nights at various shows. But, it was a really good lesson in just making it work with what you’ve got. It’s still your band and you’re playing your songs.

Were there any fuckups with the gear where you’re standing there stressed out and nothing’s working?
Nothing quite that dire, nothing awful happened except for some pretty dodgy tones, when we had to plug into something that was just, not suitable. But that was fun after a while…after we got used to it we started to enjoy it and take a light-hearted approach, “what kind of piece of crap am I going to plug into tonight?”

Actually that’s one thing that we didn’t anticipate. Everyone’s experience of touring the states is going to be a different thing. But we found that even though instruments are much cheaper in the states, people make a lot less money. The people doing the kind of jobs (in the USA) that we do in Australia make a fuckload less than we do, so they can’t afford good equipment.

It was a bit of a shock how much poverty there is, how hard life is for people in that country (USA). Anyway, we met lots of good people and had lots of good nights playing shows and meeting people and stuff. It was really great.

You don’t reckon you’ll go back?
Unless we get some really insane offer where they pay for everything, it’s just not that likely cause like I said, most of us have families now and it just makes it more difficult. We’re going to do Europe though, we’ve been wanting to do Europe for years. We’ve had a few offers and stuff but for various reasons it has not been possible, so we feel like we really should just do it, at least once.

Xavier joined Fuck…I’m Dead around 2006, who were Australia’s premier drum machine based grind killing machine. Fuck I’m Dead was also kind of another all-star band as it featured Jay Jones on vocals (The Kill, Heads Kicked Off, Mid Youth Crisis etc), Dave Hill (The Day Everything Became Nothing) and Tom Raetz on bass.

I first heard them back in the day as a 3-piece with a drum machine on their split 7” with Sanity’s Dawn and was super impressed. They definitely raised the bar of brutality when they expanded to include Xavier and ‘human’ drummer Darren Condy.

How did you come to join Fuck I’m Dead?
I think I joined in 2006, around then…2005, 2006. Dave decided that he wanted to get a real drummer and a second guitarist. I guess for all the reasons that you might expect. You get a bigger sound and a bigger stage presence with two guitars. It’s more interesting to watch having a real drummer than to watch a blank empty space behind you where the drum machine might be sitting, or nothing at all when the drum machine is being run from the sound desk.

Obviously he (Dave) knew me because he’d been playing in a band with me for 5 years or whatever haha. I sunk into the role pretty easily. We spent a few sessions together, the two of us together either at one or the other’s house or at a rehearsal room just learning the riffs and playing along to the drum machine.

Then we started jamming with Darren on Drums and got him up to speed with everything and then started playing shows. I’d been a really big fan of that band for ages so that was fun to play in the band that you like, that you’ve listened to.

The drummer Darren seemed to come out of nowhere?
The connection with Darren is probably through Roby who plays guitar in The Kill. I think he and Roby went to high school together or knew each other from a long time back.

He (Darren) was playing in a band with his brother and some of his cousins that was kind of a nu metal band that had percussion and stuff…it was that kind of nu metal kind of groove metal sound to some extent. He just worked really hard, just to get the speed up and stuff. And he’s just a nice guy. He did kind of totally come out of nowhere, he definitely wasn’t known as a fast blastbeat kind of drummer until he started playing with us. But he was playing metal drums in this other band and he has done lots of other things over the years, so he was a very experienced musician but he wasn’t known in the extreme metal arena.

You get a huge amount of energy having a real drummer on stage, it makes a huge difference. Very different, much more chaotic and much more…basically by getting a real drummer we added that element of, like I was saying with Roskopp, you know, playing right to the edge of your ability. The sound of a bunch of people straining or striving…that can be really good.

Obviously it’s all subjective and it all depends on taste, but that can be a great sound – people trying to force this thing out, playing that fast and trying to make things work. It can be really good, really energetic…exciting to watch, at least I think so when I’m watching bands.

Tell me about the album Another Gory Mess?
So we tracked that in about two days. Basically we tracked drums and Dave’s guitars at Toyland and I recorded everything else. We didn’t record any other instruments at Toyland because we were just there for the drums. Tom’s bass was done with a DI and I also used a condenser microphone…a Mann (Neumann copy).

Is there another album in the works?
No. Fuck I’m Dead is basically over. We’re not playing any shows, we’re not jamming, we might if someone offers us…we might play the occasional show. That’s definitely our last hurrah, our last record. You never know, years down the track we might decide to resurrect it, but I don’t think it’s very likely.

What’s your musical landscape looking like now?
I’ve actually got quite a few things on the go. I’m playing guitar in a band called Trade, which is a kind of Krautrock band, at least that’s the point of departure. We basically set out to do krautrock kind of stuff…it’s basically an instrumental rock band.

Who’s in Trade?
So Marty from TDEBN on drums, his brother James on bass and our friend Rob who plays guitar in Useless Children. So it’s Rob and me on guitars.

Are you playing shows?
Yeah yeah, not a hell of a lot…just spread out over the last year and a half. We’re going to do our first recording really soon.

I love krautrock and psychedelic shit
Yeah it’s (Trade) got three feet and two of those are in those camps. There’s some psychedelic stuff, the krautrock aspects and the other….is maybe just more rock.

Xavier is also working on a surf rock project with Jason Fuller from Blood Duster

I’ve also been working on over the past few years, some surf rock material. I told Rob about it, he said “I’ll play guitar on it” and I said that would be great. I knew that a mate of mine from work was a drummer and I thought well, why not just ask him? So he’s playing drums.

What’s it called?
Well it doesn’t have a name. We played a wedding though, it was the strangest show. It was at Rob’s brother’s wedding. I kind of imagined it would be in a scout hall or a backyard something, but it was actually at the Thornbury theatre with a full PA and lighting rig. Rob’s brother is a sound engineer and all his mates pulled together and put this PA and lighting rig together. It was fucking weird, not that many people there by the time we played, we weren’t like the main wedding band…lucky, that would have been terrifying…too much pressure haha.

So it was a small show in a huge venue with huge production haha. We played like 27 minutes of material. A small appreciative crowd, some of the oldies were into it. Classic surf tunes.

I’ve got a bass player lined up which is Fuller (Jason Fuller) playing bass as well.

He’s in the surf band?
Yeah but the funny thing is, I’ve known for years that he’s right into surf rock. He’s got lots of classic records. He’d been on the verge of doing a band like that for ages…he mentioned it a few times doing recordings with him or whatever. When I started thinking about who I could get to play bass I figured he would be really busy, but after he kind of stopped doing Blood Duster I gave him a call…he’s learned about half the set. We’ll see haha. I’m really hoping the band works out.

Anything else on the cards?
Well for ages I’ve been working on electronic music at home. I’ve got a few synthesisers…just by myself. I’d love to play with a drummer. I was doing some stuff for a while with Jacob from Roskopp playing drums but we never played it live. I’ve got a few rehearsal recordings with him playing drums with my synthesiser stuff.

I’ve also talked about doing the same kinda thing with Marty (The Day Everything Became Nothing) but it’s just a timing thing. His third child was just born last week so it’s going to be difficult to make the time. I still find the time late at night to whittle away on a track, just tweak something, write something new.

What are your influences for the electronic project?
Stuff like the John Carpenter and Alan Howarth soundtracks. I really like that American prog band Zombi and all the associated spinoff and solo acts that they’ve done. I never thought I’d get interested in much dance stuff. But the more, the really creative techno stuff I’m getting more and more interested in. I don’t see myself actually making that kind of music though; I’m obsessed with the moody 80’s soundtrack vibes.

I know it’s obvious but Aphex Twin is pretty fucking amazing…
Yeah I’ve heard quite a bit of his stuff that I find mesmerising…really really interesting music.

That album Drukqs…
Yeah that’s a fucking amazing album, I love that record, it’s totally incredible. That’s actually the album by him that I know the most, I’ve listened to that a lot. It’s a really, really good record. He’s done some incredible stuff.

Sonically, getting interested in electronic music has been a really interesting thing. Actually I’ve really enjoyed the experience of…stepping into a new genre and stepping in at the ground floor and not knowing anything about it. I’m still at that stage with electronic music where I’m working on a track and I’ll listen to someone’s stuff and I’m like “I’m not even close” to understanding how they make that synth sound. I really enjoy that kind of thing, the analytical exercise of trying to work out it’s done, how they did it. Synthesisers have been a really fun thing to learn and a totally different approach to making music than to making music with acoustic instruments, like guitar, bass or wind instruments. Especially with sequencing and stuff like that.

The artistry is really about the sound, effecting the sound or even just choosing the right sound for each thing or building it up into a track and making that work. It’s such a different approach. And when you’re doing stuff with lot’s of sequencing It feels kind of hands off in a way, it’s such a weird thing, but really really fun, really rewarding.

Do you have any particular take on the music industry in general?
I’m a bit divorced from that end of things I think. I’ve never had that role in any of the bands I’ve played in. I’ve been heavily involved in production and that kind of thing, but the actual release and distribution and all those business aspects I haven’t had much to do with.

It’s a lot harder to actually sell stuff like CD’s these days though?
I do think about it a bit…I listen to radio national (ABC) a lot during the day because they often talk about social issues and they sometimes discuss stuff like piracy. The general consensus is that it can hurt smaller bands more than it does the bigger people. I would tend to agree with that.

But for the underground grindcore stuff there’s still just enough of a market… enough fans with an interest in owning physical copies of things. It’s definitely hurt it but I don’t think it’s going to wipe it out, it’s still worth our while pressing CD’s and Vinyl and whatever.

If we do make it to Europe next year (The Day Everything Became Nothing) then there might be a lot more people who have heard us (through downloading) than there might have been otherwise.

The internet is an equaliser in a way
Provided you know that you want to hear. You still need promotion and advertising, all those aspects are still really important to the music industry. Dave who plays guitar in Fuck I’m Dead and stuff, he used to run No Escape records. He’s very much across that kind of thing and really good at strategising and coming up with ideas for how to promote records and stuff, which is fantastic because you have to have at least one person in the band who’s good at that.

We (Fuck I’m Dead) wanted to do Another Gory Mess on vinyl and we put feelers out and we didn’t find anyone who was interested to do that. Actually, there weren’t tons of labels really keen to put out the CD. We went with Roby because he was by the far the most enthusiastic of a small handful of labels that would have done it. But we went with Roby because he was actually really keen and actually wanted to do it.

Roby was actually really passionate and really liked the band. That’s one thing for sure…it’s really important to work with people who really want to work with you, because they’ll work much harder for you than someone who is half interested.

How did the iTunes single go? – The Day Everything Became Nothing – All For Death
I don’t think it made a lot of money… I mean it’s an underground goregrind release sitting as a digital file in a totally alien context. I’m sure there are a few people who really like the band that went and bought it and a few more people who posted it for free downloads I suppose. It was a fun thing to try.

I really like the photo next to the plane and even though it’s a pisstake, that’s kind of what bands have to do these days to get noticed…
Yeah that’s what we were making fun of I suppose. Everything we do with that band we’re just having fun and just having a bit of a laugh. That’s really important to us. One of other thing I would like to mention on the subject of business is that we’ve never really expected to make money out of playing music, we’d be very unhappy people now if we’d seriously expected to turn a profit!

There are metal bands in Australia that do take it a lot more seriously and are really trying to make a go of it… playing that sort of industry game and trying to make it work. I say good on ‘em, it’s really hard work, it’s a full time job to try to do music as your main thing it’s just such a…it’s almost certainly as hard as a full time serious job that someone might do.

I was going to ask you how you balance music and your personal life?
I dunno, the same way anyone would. I think I sort of try to compartmentalise those activities. My wife is extremely supportive. Especially now since having a kid, I’m trying to spend shorter periods but more focused periods doing stuff…I only work on music if I feel like I’m going to get something out of that hour or two hours that I spend.

It means that I’m less likely to sit down with a guitar and just have a play. I usually wait ‘till I’m confident that I’ve got something in mind that might work. That helps, I spend less time farting around.

There’s a tendency for bands to be a kind of mates club, where rehearsals consist of half the time spent hanging out and the other half playing music

All the bands that I’ve played in, we’ve always been really conscious of only doing bands with people that we really like. The band becomes the primary way of social interaction for that group of friends. The people I play music with, I mostly see them only when I’m playing music with them. Doing those bands becomes the time that you spend hangin’ out, talking shit…

You could do a lot of bands with a lot of musicians who are really technically proficient, but unless you really get along with them….

Xavier Rig

Xavier’s Bass Rig
Cort B5 – 5-string bass
Lab Systems Midget 250 – head
Lab Systems 4×10 – quadbox
Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive
Korg Pitchblack – tuner

A small selection of Xavier’s old favourites and current listening
Today is The Day – everything, but especially up to and including Temple of the Morning Star
Omar-S – Fabric 45 mix (Detroit techno recommended to me by Rob from Useless children)
Big Star – #1 Album
Zombi – Escape Velocity
Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury – Drokk (the rejected score for the last Judge Dredd film)
Michael Rother – “Flammende Herzen” and “Sterntaler” (awesome Krautrock solo albums)
Majeure – Solar Maximum (Anthony Paterra the Zombi drummer’s solo stuff)
Midnight Oil – Red Sails in the Sunset
ZZ Top – Tres Hombres
Entombed – Left Hand Path
Entombed – Wolverine Blues
Entombed – DCLXVI: To Ride Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth
Satyricon – only the later rock albums
AC/DC – High Voltage
AC/DC – Powerage
Impaled – The Dead Shall Dead Remain and Mondo Medicale

Xavier Irvine Discography
Roskopp – Self-Titled 7” EP – 2006 (Crucificados Pelos Sistema)
Roskopp / Agents of Abhorrence – split 7” EP – 2010 (Crucificados Pelos Sistema)
Roskopp – Mutation, Voodoo, Deformity or Disease CD – 2012 (Blastasfuck Grindcore)

The Day Everything Became Nothing – Le Mort CD – 2003 (No Escape Records)
The Day Everything Became Nothing – Slow Death By Grinding CD EP – 2005 (No Escape Records)
The Day Everything Became Nothing – Invention: Destruction CD – 2006 (No Escape Records)
The Day Everything Became Nothing – Brutal CD – 2008 (No Escape Records)
The Day Everything Became Nothing / Cliteater – split 7” – 2011 (Cudgel)

Fuck I’m Dead – Another Gory Mess CD – 2012 (Blastasfuck Grindcore)

Comments Off on Interview with Patto Millman: Wicked City, Fire Witch, Ageing

Patto BassPatto has spent more than a decade anchoring bass heavy Melbourne bands including Fire Witch, Wicked City and Inappropriate Tough Guy Behaviour. This interview was conducted at the Town Hall Hotel in North Melbourne – Wednesday July 31 2013 lubricated by dark ale.

When you were a teenager, what was your reason to pick up bass?
Dude in the neighbourhood, it was a bass player. Yeah I wanted to play after seeing him. He listened to 90’s kinda punk like Pennywise and shit like that. I picked one up.

How old were you?
It would have been like late primary school, 11 or 12 years old. That was basically it.

What gear did you start off with – probably something not very good haha?
I put my bass through a Hi-Fi. I was playing through a Hi-Fi and had no actual rig to speak of haha.

What bass did you have?
It was a black Yamaha RBX, shithouse haha.

How did you progress from there to actually playing in a band?
I took a few lessons at high school from the in-house bloke. I didn’t really enjoy that, learning Autumn Leaves and shit like that. I played in my first band with a friend from another high school and he played guitar. I had a few lessons from an external guy, this old rocker guy in Camberwell. He was trying to teach me technique and whatever I was just like,” look I just wanna learn Rage Against The Machine basslines” haha. He was teaching me about awesome bass players like John Paul Jones and I learnt stuff like Lemon Song. I only did a few lessons there and then started playing with some local chaps in this high school thing.

Played the Carey high school formal in Kew. We played that gig that was probably year 8 when I was 14. We played Spiderbait covers and we had a few originals. But that was all kinda bedroom jamming. Then I went to a different high school and hooked up with Jem and Tom. I met them around the same time and that’s when we started Fire Witch in about Year 10. We were at this high school where we all did music (Swinburne). We basically had rights to this one really small jam room. We got into there as much as we could and wrote most of the songs that we would play for the next 8 years or so haha.

So what did Fire Witch sound like when you first started? Were you playing covers?
Yeah we had a few covers – Crimson covers like The Talking Drum. The second gig we played we had a few Zappa covers. We were all pretty into late 60’s/70’s stuff. We were obsessed with this band called Pre-Shrunk from Sydney, who are like another 2-bass and drums band. We’d seen them play at an underage FReeZa alcohol and drug free events. We took the bus up to Ararat to see them play with Dreadnaught. So they were a massive thing.

So that’s where the Fire Witch twin-bass thing came from, Pre-Shrunk?
Yeah I reckon it was. They had an awesome heavy experimental thing, it was actually a bit dancey. Those guys listened to heaps of techno haha. But we liked their rock albums the best. That was our aim, to be heavy and unusual. The whole Melvins thing, you know we were just getting into later Melvins like Hostile Ambient Takeover. Kevin Rutmanis playing slide bass – that was a huge influence. We were all like, “what’s this brutal sound?” which we’d never heard before. And so Tom took up that role and I took up rhythm bass.

I was always wondering about that, how the high and low bass set-up transpired?
Yeah we knew sonically it needed to happen. You know it’s like when you’ve got a band were everyone can sing but someone has to be the main singer. And Tom was just the best at playing that high stuff.

How did you wind up being instrumental?
It was more of just a practical thing and none of us were crash hot singers. We were also listening to a lot of post rock stuff like Godspeed and Mogwai. And we were obsessed with tone basically. But the need for vocals seemed a little…

Redundant?
We were worried about what distortion pedals were going to do what and what textures our instruments could make…and none of us could sing for shit haha.

What gear did you have by that point? Had you upgraded from the Yamaha?
Yeah that was still Yamaha days. The amps were a little better cause we were using school stuff. We blew a few of those up well.

Yeah those 60 watt combos don’t really go far
Actually previous to all this I did actually have a few bass guitars. I got my first amp in a package with a Park/Marshall and it came with this other Sunburst bass which I ended up leaving on a train one day. I used to have to catch the train from Hawthorn to Ringwood for school and I’d put the bass down on the seat next to me. And I did the same thing again with a bass that was like a hire-purchase thing and I just left it on the train haha. Too much pot smoking haha.

Was there any tension between you and Tom trying to outdo each other?
Not so much trying to outdo each other, definitely tension in songwriting. It was generally a democratic thing where everyone put in their two cents. But it ended up being the person who was most attached to the song. They would end up with the most passion about where it should go. It was rare that we would bring in riffs and write around that, it was all pretty much jammed and improvised.

It wasn’t too long before you guys ended up recording some material?
Yeah fuckin’ here actually (Town Hall Hotel). Our first release, Live at the Townie. I’ve still got about 200 unmade copies at home haha.

Was there any significance behind it being live?
Yeah we booked a residency here every Wednesday for a month. We took this local bloke who said he could record it digitally. So we were like right, this will be our first release. It was largely organised by Jem who had been in bands before. He was like I reckon this is a good way to get our first thing on the cheap. Record each gig and select the best from each gig. We ended up using pretty much the last gig mostly, maybe 1 song from a previous week.

How about your first studio recording?
After the live one we did a 3” which was recorded at La Trobe at Sub Studios. We recorded a couple of tunes there (Kritta/Critter).

What about your next recordings? How was the reception from the different engineers with the twin-bass setup?
….yeah haha, particularly Barry at Fat Sound – he mostly recorded folk, folk rock. Jem had recorded there with his first band The Union. He was a good dude. He had a whole bag of carrots a day, an entire kilogram bag haha. He was a bass player so he understood that we wanted to be fat and brutal. We always had that separation – Tom with his 5-string. We were trying to leave enough distinction with the two basses so that it sounded like a standard 3-piece. He was pretty old school, he always called distorted bass, fuzz bass. And we were like, No, it’s distorted bass haha.

How about your live gigs back then – were you pretty much just playing Melbourne?
Yeah it wasn’t too long before we went regional, Warrnambool and Fish Creek. Jem was totally onto booking all that shit. Tom and I basically tagged along pretty much haha.

How was the crowd reaction in the regions?
Yeah people were pretty good like, “Fuck, these guys have two bass players, that’s pretty weird”. It probably would have been hard for some people to get into it. We were pretty young dudes. We didn’t really give a shit.

Later on you ended up going to Japan
Dad They Broke Me had brought over Ryokuchi and Birushanah from Japan at the same time I think. John the drummer had played with Birushanah a bit in Japan. They brought them out and asked us to play with them on this line-up at Pony. I was like what the fuck! I’d never heard anything like it before. It was fucking mind blowing. They love tone, they love amps.  Guys were playing aluminium necks, with A/B Boxes going to two guitar amps haha. Using half stacks as distortion pedals, you know, just crazy shit. The gig was awesome. That was around 2006. We ended up going over to Japan in 2007.

After the gig Harada from Ryokuchi came up to us, I think the Dad They blokes had been in his ear. Harada liked our sound as well, he was all about bass and they were a two-piece. He was like after the gig (best Japanese accent)” Fire Witch, Ryokuchi, split cd launch” and you know a Japanese tour. And we were like, holy fuck!

I have an issue of Unbelievably Bad somewhere which features a Fire Witch tour diary
It was the first time I’d been overseas. It was a different environment to be playing in, where you didn’t know anyone in the crowd and didn’t know the mixer. The gear was always awesome, like Ampeg fridges on stage. I think Tom and Jem lucked out on the in-house gear though. I think Jem said some of those kits were just fuckin’ shit house haha.

Did you feel a sense of inferiority compared with those Japanese bands?
Not really. They had their thing, and we were a heavy band. We always thought we played several different types of music. We could be heavy and we could be really quiet and that was the post-rock influence. We could do multiple kinds of styles and Ryokuchi were kind of like that as well. There was just an appreciation for each other’s music. I think playing with a band like Corrupted was probably one of the loudest bands I’ve ever seen. It was more just like, we were learning.

You weren’t overawed?
Nah, just their commitment to amplifier worship. We were like, “maybe we should play through heaps of gear as well” haha.

Everything seemed to fizzle after the Japan tour?
Yeah, we recorded some music over there which we put on our 10”. That was all recorded by Harada from Ryokuchi. We got back and we had reached that post-high school… where maybe we wanna do other things. Tom was studying Botany and went off to do fire fighting with the DSE in the country.

Post-Japan, I think we did a couple of tours to Sydney and Adelaide and stuff like that. We did an Australian tour with Ryokuchi in 2007.

You guys didn’t really play much after that?
Largely because Tom was out town. I joined Wicked City around that time as well.

Any unfinished business?
I’ve got cd’s upon cd’s of jams and unfinished jams that we were working on. And towards the end it was pretty exciting shit to be honest. We play so infrequently and we’ve all got other shit going on and it will probably never see the light of day. Towards the end we played the odd gig here and there in between people going overseas and Jem going on tour and stuff. Whenever we got back in the same room it was always pretty exciting.

Patto also plays in the totally awesome Wicked City along with Paddy Warner on Drums and Nick Grammenos on Guitar. Patto joined around 2006/2007 and they’ve since gone on to release an EP, 2 LP’s and a 3rd LP which is due to drop shortly. They’re technical and heavy with stoner, punk and indie influences. Difficult to explain, easy to listen to.

How did Wicked City come to be?
I vaguely knew those guys from going to gigs and Nick’s brother was Gerasimos from Peeping Tom a band that Jem (Fire Witch) got us all into. He was like go and check these guys out, they’re the new Black Sabbath kind of thing. At the same time we were discovering bands like Kyuss and the whole stoner thing. And they (Peeping Tom) were one of the best kinda live Melbourne bands. And then they started this band. They had another bass player, he was a bit flakey and he didn’t have a good rig. They asked me to join. Had a few jams and I was like, this is cool music that I’ve not really done before.

So were you using the Rickenbacker by then and the Sunn?
Yeah

Was there a set you had to learn?
I learned a bunch of their existing songs from cd’s and stuff pretty much. Jammed in bedrooms.

What was it like being in a more conventional band with guitars and shit?
Ultra exciting, really exciting. At times Fire Witch was a little bit too experimental. It was just cool to play tunes that were just a bit more, you know where I wasn’t so attached and emotionally invested. It was still that same kinda vibe where everyone had that equal kind of…everyone makes decisions. You start playing with people and you gradually get more and more comfortable with each other.

Did you start doing serious gigging after you joined?
Things definitely progressed a bit more.

What’s the first milestone with Wicked City?
The EP was a big thing. That was recorded down at Fat Sound as well. The first milestone was kicking the singer out really. Getting rid of the dead weight. I guess we were heading in a different direction, I guess it was a bit more straight-up when the singer was in the fold.

How did you wind up at Head Gap for the first LP?
Head Gap was new place and we wanted to record on 2” tape. Around that time was when it was just getting set up. He had good gear, he’d recorded Warped. Nothing official. He had credentials, he was in love with Shellac and analogue recording which we thought was cool. That was the push to go there.

Was that self-released?
The first album was on Afterdark Records, The Old Bar guys. We paid for the recording and some of the pressing. It didn’t really make it into JB Hi-Fi or anything.

Did you do much touring by that point?
After the first album we went up to Batemans Bay and Adelaide. This is brutal on the memory dude haha.

At about that point you ditched the Rickenbacker for a P-Bass?
I’ve always liked the Rickenbacker and always liked its versatility, particularly in Fire Witch where I would bust out a Mountain Top solo kinda thing. But it was an old 70’s thing and I couldn’t get into the sound of it anymore. I would put on new strings and it just wouldn’t sing that well. Along came the internet, all of a sudden there were basses up online.

It was also after seeing Ray from Nunchukka…Mark D…it’s the first fuckin’ bass ever invented. It’s got sweet credentials.  Actually Ray had told me that a lot of the Japanese P-basses from the 80’s were always a pretty good bet. So I just kinda bought one on a whim from eBay for $900. I still play it as my main bass.  Playing in a 3-piece as basically a rhythm bass player, it was time to get something a bit fatter. I couldn’t make that Rickenbacker sound good. Even now I’m kinda like, uhggh, I should probably sell that and buy other sweet toys.

How did the Wicked City European tour go?
It was a bit of a slog trying to book all of the shows, between all of us trying to scrounge up all the contacts that we knew. I more so was trying to contact bands that we didn’t know.

All through MySpace?
Yeah MySpace days. You know it was a similar thing like, you don’t want to play with shit bands. It was like, hey, here are our tunes, we’re going to be in Europe at this time. We didn’t have any solid dates. It was more of an online thing, not really sending them stuff. Sending bios and links to tunes. We went to Germany where we picked up this station wagon that we were going to cruise around in. Took guitars and snares and what have you, so generally gear wise we were at the mercy of what we could borrow.

Who’s station wagon?
That was through Paddy’s mate that he’d been surfing with. We bought it. It was a bit of a fuck up. The car was awesome. We bought it for $1500 but through a translation fuck up, we actually hadn’t bought it. It was basically just a long term hire, which was fucking great for cruising around Europe except for all the tolls and shit.

How about the shows themselves?
We played about 13 gigs and we were there for about 5 weeks. We played a bunch of gigs and partied and had a good time. That was in 2011. We played in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, mainly southern France, played a bunch of gigs in Spain with this bloke we met at The Old Bar, this bloke Nacho. They were some of the better gigs. Booking it was a fucking nightmare. So many, you know, “yeah yeah, we’re interested in having you play”, but most of them didn’t eventuate.

When we weren’t playing shows it was all just backpackers, reading Lonely Planet kinda deal. In Spain we kinda of battled with, you know, there 9am is like 4pm over there. Most of the shows we played were like 2am. It was a totally different vibe where you’ve gotta stay up all night.

Some of the gigs we played there were really cool. We played this one kind of squat where at the beginning of the night they were playing local skate videos and they had markets and shit. This bloke Nacho booked it, it was his home town. An awesome community vibe, people were selling jewellery. We played at 3am, coked off our fucking brains haha.

The crowd reaction?
They pretty much enjoyed it. Between playing gigs and partying….There were a few sloppy shows haha.

Gear on tour?
There was a gig in fucking Rennes in fucking France where I played through some shitty fuckin’ Peavey combo. Funnily enough it was the only gig where we got noise complaints. In southern France, just playing through the worst gear of all time – single speaker fucking bullshit. For the most part the gear was actually pretty good. Played with generally rock/stoner kinda bands. There were a few Ampeg fridges on the way.

No Sunn’s?
Nah. Loads of Behringer.

Any cool band discoveries?
A lot of the bands didn’t really grab me. There was a particular band from France called The Old Guys who were really cool. Kinda bonded with those dudes over our love of The Blood Brothers and The Rapture. They were a cool band. Kinda had this punk thing going on, a little bit off centre. It was kinda like folk-punk. We didn’t actually play with them. We just watched them play at this pub that we played.

How’s the new album going?
All recorded. All ready to go. At Head Gap, with Neil. It’s cool stuff. As it is now, we’ve got enough songs for another album. That’s the way it goes really. Nobody has any cash. We do wanna do some more vinyl again.

Songwriting evolution?
People have vague ideas. There’s generally like just a vague idea and we play them till they nearly die and turn them into songs. Sometimes it’s slow going and sometimes it totally works.

What gear did you use on the latest album still the P-bass and the Sunn?
It was mainly the Sunn with its in-built dirtiness. Just some more distortion, the boss ODB-3 which gives it some extra teeth, just on what’s already pretty dirty. There was a little extra post-production reverb stuff. Oh, and the chromatic tuner haha.

How did you approach the tracking?
It was all done live. You know, some of the songs, change in terms of volume and tempo etc. It’s pretty important to get a really good take. For some songs we did maybe 5 takes, maybe 6 takes or something. After that, everyone’s kinda like “fuck this”. Either we’re going to come back to this, or just pick a good take. We made it so that we could kinda go back and do those touch ups.

What’s the plan for releasing the album?
We’re looking for someone to help out with cash and that whole marketing aspect. As it is there’s not heaps of interest at the moment haha. We’d love to do the vinyl again. Maybe make a bit more of a package.  Maybe like a gatefold thing. There’ll be a big old Melbourne launch. I’m pretty keen to head around Australia again. It’s been a while since I’ve played in Sydney.

In 2008 Patto started a new bass and drums duo along with Jem from Fire Witch called Inappropriate Tough Guy Behaviour. Apart from having an awesome band name, they totally rocked hard, albeit for a fairly short time. Check out their sole album on We Empty Rooms if you can find a copy.

How did Inappropriate Tough Guy Behaviour start?
Fire Witch had played for a while and I was really ready to start a new band. I was sticking with Jem on drums. I was getting into bands like Lightning Bolt and also the Ryokuchi thing. Not stylistically, just sonically. I was like, “I reckon we can do this”. Tom was outta town. It was cool in Wicked City playing that rock stuff, but I was like, I wouldn’t mind playing something a bit more experimental.

How did the material develop?
Some of it was improvised; mostly it was a similar scenario to Fire Witch. Jem and I were the main songwriters in that band. We both had a similar idea of what we wanted to do, to a degree. The first song we wrote was recorded in a jam. We were like, fuck this is an entire song. We then recreated it.

You started to play gigs fairly quickly?
I started booking the shows, which had always kinda been Jem’s domain. I had ideas about what I wanted to do and how I wanted to be represented. I wanted to be a bit more in control of how it was going to proceed and be delivered. Jem and I were both passionate about what we were doing and Jem is great at organising things. I was writing the songs and booking the odd gig, but in terms of having external contacts…I knew I didn’t want to play with shit bands. I was like, what’s the point.

What were some of the highlights for you?
We did a Hard Ons support in Sydney. That was really cool, did the sold out thing after Hard Ons hadn’t played for a while. We didn’t know how that was going to go because Hard Ons fans are kind of, straight down the line. We played some gigs shows – played with Nunchukka and bands like that at the Annandale. Didn’t make it to Brisbane, maybe to Adelaide.

The album?
That was one of his early releases (Jem’s label We Empty Rooms). I was really into the idea of doing a weird, unique CD package with stickers put on the spines. With a hidden booklet for the insert, all done on transparent paper. That was the first band that I’d been the lead singer in. The lyrics needed to be printed as well. I was pretty passionate about that.

Did you focus more on your own playing being only a two-piece?
I was a bit more emotionally involved than Fire Witch. Booking the gigs and making sure that every single note was important, as the only guitarist in the band.

Upping the ante?
Definitely. Some of the songs were a stretch technically. Trying to play rhythm and melody at the same time. I’m constantly adopting a finger-picking technique where I’m playing palm muted notes and playing harmonics. So you’ve got this extra element going on. Using more effects like reverb. Towards the end we had a thing where we would plug a microphone into the bass amp and run it through delay pedals and manipulate Jem’s drum sounds. Adding another vibe to that band, realising that it’s kinda cool when only one person plays. Adopting different techniques to make it interesting.

How did it end?
We had our differences writing music as well. There was definitely this kind of unease when writing tunes about what direction we wanted to take. I was pretty bipolar with what I was writing as well. At one point I was like let’s be as experimental as fuck and just brutalise people. And then on the other hand be like let’s do some Midnight Oil covers haha. We both agreed that maybe we couldn’t progress anymore than what we’d done. Maybe we both just wanted different things.

Any unreleased material?
Nah. It took ages to write songs in that band. What was written was recorded.

For a while Patto played in a very different sounding band with his then girlfriend Jess Cornelius.

Tell me about Teeth and Tongue?
Yeah, it was a totally different thing to anything I’d ever done previously. She was a singer songwriter playing tunes. I was playing bass for songs that she wrote, songs completely written by her.

She was the leader in that band?
Yeah that was the first time I had a purely bass playing role, and filling a niche.

Do you think anyone went to see Teeth and Tongue because Patto from Fire Witch was in it?
No. I had a bloke after an Old Bar gig, he was an old Fire Witch fan. He came up to me after a gig and he was so honest about the whole thing.  He was like, “didn’t like it at all…no good”. He was so fuckin’ honest. I was like “fuckin’ kudos to you”. He was like “didn’t like the sound, didn’t like the songs “ haha. It’s not anything that I regret or anything.

What was the output of that band for you?
I never played on a full album. I just recorded a few tunes for the first record.

Did you tour?
Did some interstate stuff. I played some of the biggest shows I’ve ever played. Played Billboard supporting The Mountain Goats, Falls Festival …Laneway festival.

It was probably the most amounts of people I’ve ever played to, in a band I’ve been. And one that I was the least emotionally involved in.

I played with some awesome dudes. This dude Mark….unreal guitar player. This dude Steve who played in Bird Blobs. It was a really really good band, which just made it totally worth it.

Pollox B is another band that Patto was involved with for a while, although I never went to see them play due to laziness.

Tell me about Pollox B
Yeah it was an interesting band. There was a bloke that I used to work with in kitchens where he played me his record. And I was like “this is awesome shit”. He was an older bloke and he grew up on My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver and bands like that I’d never even heard of. This music that I’d never really listened to, but from his generation was just huge. This shoegaze thing which you know, yeah.

Was it an established band?
It was pretty much one dudes’ recorded material that had never been played live before and had just been recorded on 4-track with drum machines and heaps of guitars.

There were 3 guitar players and a drum machine?
Yep.

What’s the score?
It’s on an indefinite hiatus. Did a handful of gigs. It was a cool band where the rehearsals were a slab of beer and playing the tunes. In my eyes we were super gig ready and we did a few.  But it was a case of just not rehearsing so much that every time you got back into a jam room you had to start from the beginning. Just because it wasn’t a constant kind of thing.

Did you do an album?
It was all home recording stuff. We recorded but never in a studio situation. It was just a style of music that I was so unfamiliar with. The idea of playing this, adapting to that style was just really exciting.

Patto is also working on a new project called Ageing.

What else don’t I know about?
Presently I’m working on some shit. Writing music for what will eventually be…Originally I was going to play guitar and sing, but my brain doesn’t really separate singing and playing guitar as well.

I’m taking on this role as lead singer guy, but within this 5-piece band scenario. But yeah, two guitars, sometimes keyboards. I’m gonna call it Ageing.

Who’s in it?
Tom from Fire Witch and his brother Billy. Another bloke Paul, the drummer from the National Blue, Dan. But, this is a thing that I’ve kinda been working on for maybe two years.

Are you playing bass?
In the live context, just singing.  But I played all the instruments for demoing.

Drums?
Yeah I played a bit of drums, not very well haha.

What does it sound like?
For the most part it’s an extension of everything that I listen to that goes into my brain and comes out sporadically. It’s generally heavy. I had a year where I basically listened to Captain Beefheart. I’ve got no idea how to play the blues or anything like that haha. This dude is just like a fuckin’…that band are just idols.

You just approached people and you just asked them to join your vision?
Definitely. It’s fuckin’ awesome to hand pick people who you get along with personally who you know that musically and technically can pull it off.

Is there an album yet?
No album in the works, just rehearsing the tunes. It’s slow going trying to write out tablature for people. It’s real interesting just writing out a whole bunch of music for people and giving it to them to learn. In a live situation people that don’t know you that well – this shit can take time.

It’s your dream band right – are you gonna push it more than anything else before?
Yeah, definitely. It’s really personal. It’s exciting shit.

Generic Stuff

How do you find bass fitting in with a band as a rhythmic instrument as against being a melodic instrument? Do you differentiate your style based on whatever band it is?
Yeah it’s totally contextual. I’ve always adopted that approach where you need to kind of take a step back and actually listen to what the song needs. And if it needs you to kind of thrash out uncontrollably and make the fiercest sounds you can possibly do, then off you go. But for sure you’ve gotta think about other instrumentation and enhance what’s already there. I reckon I constantly question myself. Does that fit, or should I play that high, or should I play that an octave down.

How do you balance locking in with the drummer as opposed to focusing on the melody? Do you tend to lock in with the drummer more or focus on melody?
On a song by song basis. Sometimes you want it super thick, super chunky and just play exactly what the guitar is doing to create that meaty brutal sound. There’s something to be said for just slipping between the cracks, for sure.

Jem can be a whole orchestra by himself
I love just laying in with a drummer and that sound where the guitars are totally on top of the rhythm section that’s laying it all down and they’re kind of two separate entities.

When that opportunity is there, to just slip between the cracks and take a bit of glory haha. And in Wicked City that’s kind of how it works. So many times we are like, how are we going to start this song, how are we going to build tension? Maybe the bass should just start the song, that opening riff, to create that trepidation where there’s one instrument playing. Surely these guys are going to have to come in at some point and it’s going to be brutal.

How about Goat Witch? That was a monster of a band. How did you find space in that band?
As a totally improvised thing and nothing more, it just depended on how well you communicated with each other. Some gigs were just fuckin’ shithouse. Some gigs were woeful.  Sometimes it just wouldn’t work. But that said, it wouldn’t work for 30 minutes, but for a selected little 5 minutes it would just be fucking gold.

If no one is driving it then…
It’s totally dependent on the venue. I preferred the quieter moments, where for the fact that sonically it was a bit more understandable. You know, when everyone’s balls out just making the most fucked up thing they can do on their instrument, it’s got it’s perks as well.

How do you balance your personal life and music?
Well, recently after coming back from overseas and whatever…music is fuckin’ so important to me. In particular getting this band where I’ve written all the music and I’ve got this direction where I want it to go.  You know, it’s the fuckin’ be all and end all. If I could write music and rehearse, as a thing, I’d fuckin’ do it. I’ve got no career aspirations really haha.

Part-time jobs and shit are all balanced around trying to do music?
Yeah, at the moment for sure. That will probably change haha.

What are your biggest successes? High-water mark?
All the overseas/interstate touring with Fire Witch and Wicked City is the high water mark for me. Being able to document all our work, and in particular, pressing wax.

I made a conscious choice to not work all the time and not work at night, for the fact that I could go out and see bands play. It’s fuckin’ totally worth it.

Patto’s Rig
Fender P-Bass – 80’s Japanese
Sunn 300T – head
2 x Lorantz 4×10 quadbox
Boss ODB-3 Bass Overdrive
Rack Tuner

Patto’s Current Top 5 list
Goat – World Music
James Plotkin – The Joy Of Disease
The Psychic Paramount – II
Roky Erickson – I Think Of Demons
Dr. Dooom – Dr Dooom 2 Instrumentals

Patto Millman Discography
Fire Witch – Live At The Townie CD – 2004 (self-released)
Fire Witch – Critter/Kritta 3” CD – 2005 (We Empty Rooms)
Fire Witch – Ryokuchi & Fire Witch Split CD – 2007 (S.M.D. Recordings)
Fire Witch – I Spit Lies CD – 2007 (We Empty Rooms)
Fire Witch – Japan -10” EP– 2009 (Wantage USA)
Fire Witch – LIARS! CD – 2010 (We Empty Rooms/Bro Fidelity)

Goat Witch – Live At Cumbersome CD – 2005 (We Empty Rooms/Chairfish Recordings)
Goat Witch – Blind CD 2005 (self-released)
Goat Witch – Naked CD– 2006 (self-released)
Goat Witch – On Fire CD – 2009 (self-released)

Inappropriate Tough Guy Behaviour – Self Titled LP/CD – 2009 (We Empty Rooms)

Wicked City – Autenticos Esquisitos  CD – 2006 (Brown Note Recordings)
Wicked City – Nothing Tastes The Way It Smells CD – 2008 (Afterdark Records)
Wicked City – She Burns 7” Single – 2009 (self-released)
Wicked City – With Wings LP/CD – 2010 (Impedance Records)