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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xavier bass

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

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

That was around 2001?
I think was about 2000.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xavier Amp

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

Do you have a fridge?
No just a 4×10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You guys went overseas?
Just the States.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah Birushanah or Ryokuchi or something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Xavier Rig

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

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

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

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

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

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