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?”
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…
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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…
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.
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…
…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…
…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.
Where 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.
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.
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…
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
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”.
What 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.