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

 

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