The Gear Used on ‘The Buried Life’

I get asked about guitar tone occasionally and it’s one of those topics that every metal band has to give an opinion on at some point. I thought I’d cover it here as my setup rarely changes, and I’d go over some thoughts about getting a guitar sound as I suspect mine’s a bit different from most players.

OK, dry technical stuff first. I play a West 6-string guitar. West is a manufacturer in Adelaide, Australia who I had never heard of before and have failed to find again. I replaced the EMG pickups with Seymour Duncans (god knows which ones, this happened nearly 20 years ago). The guitar itself is very heavy in terms of weight, with large fret spacing. The strings are those super-heavy Zakk Wylde ones with nothing smaller than .69 gauge for the E-string (or what is normally the E-string….I tune to A concert pitch). I run into a POD-XT and use the ‘Big Bottom’ tone, and record that into Cubase SX on an old HP laptop from 2007. Soundcard? No idea.

And that’s it.

I look at other guitarist’s setups and they totally mystify me. The have double-tube this and reamp that and mounted racks full of all sorts of shit, and nine times out of ten I can’t hear a difference between them and someone running a basic board into an amp and using their ears. I’m no gear junkie. To me that takes away precious time that can be spent actually playing your instrument and precious money that could be spent recording albums and having a life.

I was wanting specific things from my tone on ‘The Buried Life’. I wanted the power and thickness of Bolt Thrower, enough responsiveness and crunch to be able to play at high speeds without the sound getting lost, that ‘infinite’ sound you get from fast picking without mid frequencies getting in the way (such as the intro to Decide’s “Sacrificial Suicide”), and enough clarity so I didn’t sound like a garage band. The ‘Big Bottom’ tone gave all of that. Normally the tone totally has a gigantic arseload of bottom-end, but I thought of it as handing the mixer a large block of marble for them to chisel the album sound from. It seems to work better letting them reduce the bass to an acceptable level instead of having to insert it at their end.

My setup on ‘The Floating World’ was a bit different. I was using an ESP guitar with EMG pickups and crafted my own tone on the POD-XT. I thought this was the more ‘professional’ thing to do. I was happy with the tone on that album but it felt light and bright and playful, whereas I wanted something thicker and darker with ‘The Buried Life’, hence the change-up.

Here’s the philosophy which guides why I approach my guitar setup like I do:

  • It gives the best sound for the lowest price. You can definitely get a better guitar sound on an album using something other than Line 6 gear, but then you start talking tens of thousands of dollars. What you hear on ‘The Buried Life’ is me bashing away for a under a thousand bucks in my lounge room. The next stop to getting a better sound is grabbing a Colin Richardson, some great expensive gear, and booking studio time. That is a financial abyss to cross and quite frankly, death metal will not pay enough to make that break even
  • No octave guitars or seven strings. People have pointed out that it would be the natural step for me seeing as though I tune to A, but they just have a vastly different sound to them than the 6 string. And I don’t think octave guitars handle speed well. Think of Portal tearing it up on their guitars and what a ruckus that creates. Not all of us can play like Tosin Abasi.
  • The focus is on playing not becoming a gear-obsessive. No gear can hide an unimaginative riff or a poor performance. A good well-practiced musician can make any gear they play on sound unique. Some people are like “spend your time on both practice AND gear”, but I’m a man of many hobbies. Find the gear that gets you 90% of the way there, and stick with it

And here’s some of my tricks for getting a guitar sound. Again, this is all non-technical, and there are plenty of articles from beardy hipster producer types talking specific frequencies and rack mounted analogue tube-driven whatever. Fuck that. Shortcuts!

  • If you use distorted bass, use the same distortion as the guitars. It doubles the overall power immediately, and the bass will still be present in the mix as a separate instrument. I used a cheapo BC Rich on ‘The Buried Life’, using the exact same settings as the guitar. Any time you shadow a riff an octave up it’s like a third guitar comes into play. It also seems to allow melody to shine through even with a horrid ugly thug tone, as opposed to something like Morbid Angel’s “Kingdoms Disdained” where any melody or tone gets eaten up
  • When crafting an album (particularly all by yourself), start with the guitar sound first and work everything else around it. Sometimes you can come up with a great tone and try and integrate it into existing band setups, and the guitar just disappears. Working it the other way around is more successful
  • Perfecting your playing and performance will always beat a subpar performance even with the best tone
  • Some people change strings daily when recording. I’ll use the one set over the space of a month. Nobody needs that much clarity or spankiness.
  • When trying to decide on your tone, jump back and forth between your tone and others. Ears rapidly become used to sounds, and what you come to think of as sharp and powerful may actually be tinny or muddy when compared to other sounds
  • I’ve never experienced success with reamped guitars. I know some people do, but I don’t. It just doesn’t come across as exact or responsive as a performance ‘in-tone’ and doesn’t handle speed. Again, some people swear by it so by all means give it a try, but if you find after a few hours of experimenting that it flat-out sucks in comparison to just going through a POD, rest assured you’re not the only one
  • Have something of an idea what sound you’re after before going hunting for tones. Worst recorded guitars I’ve heard are from guys who used whatever or copied their favourite band, then just left it vaguely in the hands of the mixer. These were guys with guitar and equipment collections, using $10 grand famous mixers.
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Advice on Moving to the UK

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I was asked for some advice from a fellow Aussie musician about moving to England. Yay! Advice! I love giving advice. I diligently considered the question and realised that I had more information than could be summed up in a brief reply, so thought I’d lay it all down here. My advice is this:

Don’t go.

Fucking seriously. If you want to be neck-deep in a happening music scene, stay in Melbourne. There are more gigs happening. There are more musicians. There are more bands, and they’re of higher quality. There are more movements, and WAY more social crossover between them. There are more venues and art spaces that will put on a gig. There are almost as many international bands touring through the east coast of Australia than anywhere in England. And even though Melbourne is supremely bastard expensive, it’s still a far easier place to live than the UK.

Notice that I’m talking about Melbourne and not Sydney. Everyone knows that the Baird Government Anti-Fun Measures have largely managed to eliminate Sydney’s live music scene. What the government hasn’t outlawed has been chewed to bits by rampant developers, dodgy promoters, and fuck-knuckles who move next to live venues and then complain about the noise, forcing those venues to shut down. Melbourne has had a taste of those problems but has managed to push through enough measures to keep those rapacious bastards in check. Hobart has a better after-hours art scene than Sydney. Sydney was advised to look at fucking Adelaide for advice on developing a thriving nightlife, for god’s sake.

So if you’re an Aussie musician looking to take the next step in your career, I reckon it’s best to do it right here. Assemble your band from the millions of awesome musicians floating around here, or join one of the many established bands already touring. Tap industry figures here for advice, or pop into ARMI for one of the many information sessions that they hold. Listen to the Andy Dowling podcast to get advice. Play your gigs around the country then take that shit on the road overseas. There are return flights to Europe with Philippines Airlines on at the moment for under $1000. Once upon a time, you HAD to be in England to get in contact with booking agents and record labels but thanks to the internet, you can do that from anywhere now. If you can’t get your music career happening from Melbourne, you’re not going to be able to do it from a toilet like England.

Sigh. I can give the most amazing advice ever, but it’s like anyone ever follows it. OK. You’re going to go to the UK to live and there’s nothing I can say to talk you out of it. Fine. Here are times when it’s a good idea to go to England:

  • you have absolutely nothing at all happening for you in Australia
  • you have a normal non-musical career you wish to develop (you get more opportunities to break into industries in the UK than Oz)
  • you have a large amount of unnecessary cash you need to rid yourself of
  • you wish to use your Australian accent to hook up with and shag as many people as possible

That’s it. Be brutal with your reasoning. Going to England only to further your music career? Wrong move. Moving there to have access to Europe? Either move direct to Europe instead, or use the thousands of dollars that England will hoover out of you to go on an extended trip.

Now that I’ve failed to talk you out of going to England, here’s the advice part:

  • Organise a bank account before you go. This will smooth the way to getting a National Insurance Number, employment, and accommodation. Don’t think you can just sort it out when you arrive. Services are less effective on the ground there than when online
  • Have some accommodation waiting for you when you arrive. Do it through a friend or relative if possible. Or a relative of a friend. You can spend months trying to find a place of your own, and a place like London can drain your bank account in weeks if you’re not earning. Employers are hesitant to hire you if you have a transient address
  • Get that National Insurance Number as soon as you can. Employers tend not to hire without an address, bank account, and National Insurance Number. Until you get all three, you are treading water
  • Don’t arrive during their winter. Trying to set yourself up when it’s icy and raining and dark by 4pm is the most depressing thing on the planet, and the terrible impression will remain with you for years
  • Know that UK musicians seem unaware that they live next door to Europe. They treat getting a ferry over to the Netherlands like a trip to Mars. Any flight longer than 2 hours will have them disembarking and rubbing their backs, complaining about how long it took. English musicians are generally the most do-nothing bastards on the planet. If you want to be a touring musician who hits Europe up all the time, join some established guys who already tour a bit.
  • Don’t believe a word those English bastards say. Australians are Bambi-level naive, and the English are generally hustlers. Switch your wits on. People – including friends and work colleagues – will try and scam you out of favors and cash. Not ‘might’ – WILL. People who were offering favors to you while you were in Australia will vanish the minute you land. Every service will be useless. Anyone you rely upon will be unreliable. When you find an exception to the rule, do whatever you can to hang onto them. They are diamonds. The friends I’ve got in England are the coolest people on the planet, just you have to wade through twice the amount of motherfuckers you normally would in order to find them.
  • When you are in England, money does not belong to you. It merely flows through you on its way from one point to another. Adjust your expectations accordingly. Outside of London, a good salary is about £21,500 or just under AUD$40,000. Minimum wage there is £6.50 or 12 bucks an hour. This in a place as expensive as Australia, if not more
  • If you end up in London, get The London Hustler. This will give better advice than I ever could.
  • If you’re looking for places to live outside of London, I recommend Leeds and Bristol. Leeds is a student town with cool architecture, home to Damnation Festival, and is less of a toilet than most other cities. Bristol has an awesome arts vibe, has a bit more get-up-and-go, and is close to Cornwall and Wales (beautiful parts of the country to holiday in and explore). Both cities have airports as well so you can enjoy the best bit of England: flying the fuck out of it

This advice of mine is kind of like one of those mystical chain letter things. If you don’t read it, all the horror in the world will rain down upon you. If you do read it, then you’ll arrive, find a sweet apartment in Warwick Avenue in your first week, recruiters will actually respond to you,  you’ll score a high-paying job with plenty of free time in suburb one train stop away, and you’ll have a great group of friends who go holidaying with you to Europe all the time.

Anyone else with advice? Hit us up in the comments

Saying ‘No’

The Corporate No

I’m a normal job person at heart. The wild virus that infected me with a love for evil music was stopped from running its full course by a combination of upbringing and conservative schooling. This has left me in a twilight zone where I belong fully to neither area; normal corporate work is by itself a meaningless endeavor, yet I’m unable to embrace the romance of being a broke-ass musician. Not a day goes by that I wish that the Wheel of Fortune that defined my music tastes had landed on ‘house’ or ‘trance’ or something more lucrative.

I used to work in utilities around the time Berzerker started playing as a live band.  I fell into the industry when it was deregulated and privatised in the late 1990s, and quickly found myself working some decent jobs for the first time ever. My university degree in Japanese, Marketing, and South East-Asian Politics seemed barely sufficient to get me work as a waiter for the first few years after graduation, so I was enjoying not being as destitute  as usual. Ever want to have enough rage and hatred and misanthropy to write first-class death anthems? Work in hospitality. Trust me.

 

waiter

“I wish I could vomit blood on you people”

 

My dream at the time was to have my career in utilities and be able to balance that with the occasional Berzerker tour. It was my own version of work-life balance; I couldn’t commit to being a full-time company employee without a sideline creative endeavor, and I couldn’t commit to being a full-time homeless jobless bum musician.  I like food and sleeping in beds too much. We planned to play only the occasional show or tour overseas. We were still very much into the idea of keeping our identities a mystery, and making rare appearances that would be big events. Shows were meant to deadly and rare, like ebola. The first time we saw the Dethklok ‘Duncan Hills Coffee’ episode we were like “somebody understands”.

I was happily working through an agency in wholesale electricity when we had a new manager come in. He’d barely put his bags down when he announced his edict: all the agency staff had to go. It took almost a week for the supervisors underneath him to explain how quickly the company would fall apart if he went ahead with this idea but  it was too late for me by then. My hospitality life had been one arbitrary sacking after another, and like a refugee from a war zone I was in the habit of running before the executions started. I immediately found a job with another company and jumped ship. It was as a process mapper with one of Australia’s largest electricity companies, and they were agreeable to me taking time off to tour. I started there a week later.

Things fell apart almost immediately. I was supposed to process-map their billing and accounts department to ‘audit-proof’ them, but when I turned up the place was in absolute disarray. Billing was up to six months behind. Systems were broken. Staff morale was through the floor. People would burst into tears at meetings. I hadn’t done enough touring by then to properly enjoy people crying, so I found this uncomfortable. And they were taking me for a ride. I wouldn’t so much be mapping process, as trying to invent it on the fly in a lot of cases. There was no process, just a slow-burning dumpster-fire.

To add to that, a manager I had never met approached me on my first day and said hi, you’ll be managing a billing experiment for some LPG customers somewhere. I said, “who are you” and “what” and then a lady called Kate came and dumped a four-foot high stack of billing documents on my desk. She never did explain the documents, the project, or the applications I was supposed to use to process all this shit, and seemed actively annoyed when I’d ask. She was a British chick who apparently managed her workloads by moving from project to project and dumping them on other people before they were finished. I went to the manager who hired me and was like, what the hell is going on? The manager said don’t worry about that project, just focus on the process-mapping.

I tried to balance both. I tried a bunch more times to get Kate to explain this workload she’d dumped on me, but she’d get snooty whenever I asked questions. To add to the fuss, Berzerker had secured a US tour in a few month’s time and it suddenly seemed that work wasn’t amenable to me taking time off for it. I struggled with the process-mapping for another month when suddenly all these experimental LPG customers had their bills due. Of course they didn’t get them, and the shit hit the fan. I was dragged into a management meeting for a bout of blamestorming with Kate and our managers.

Kate threw me under the bus. She said I didn’t ask any questions about the workload, that I wouldn’t take direction, and that she’d been offering to help me but I’d refused. My jaw dropped at how brazen she was. Her manager backed her up and said, yes, Kate has been keeping me informed about this problem for the last month. And I said, well I’ve been keeping MY manager informed about how this workload hasn’t been properly transferred, there’s been no training, and no documentation, and Kate isn’t amenable to handing over any knowledge. I looked at my manager expectantly, shaking with fury and ready to fucking rumble.

My manager meekly began with, “well, we shouldn’t be pointing fingers at each other…” and it went further downhill from there. She didn’t back me up and I ended up taking the blame. For the rest of the meeting, my brain was stuck in a loop between “I must murder everyone in this room” and “I can’t because it’s illegal”. I asked my manager if she could stay behind afterwards, and asked if I was still in my three-month probationary period. She said yes, but that my job was still safe and I’d just have a disciplinary mark against my record.

I said, you misunderstand me. I’m allowed to give only a fortnight’s notice that I’m quitting while still in my probationary period, and I’m giving you that notice right now. I wrote a quick “I quit” message on a pad on the table, dated and signed it, and handed it over. Her manager called me half an hour later to talk me out of my decision. They were now exposed to any incoming audits with absolutely no plan, staff, or backup in place. Wasn’t there anything he could do to get me to stay? My answer was No.

I left work that afternoon, cried for about twenty minutes in a corner of Melbourne Central station from relief and stress, then made my way to the Punters Club in Brunswick street. I had a show to play. One month later, I started my first US tour. Six months later, the billing and accounts department of the utilities company was dissolved and outsourced to a location over six hundred kilometers away.

 

The Music Industry No

The Senseless signed to a small independent UK record label called Anticulture back in 2007. They had some juice back then. There were a bunch of solid UK bands on this label, and their European representative had approached me with the deal. I knew the UK label head from an incident a year or two beforehand. Some mad-keen Berzerker fan decided he was going to act as my representative (without telling me), and started approaching label heads trying to get them to sign my solo stuff. This particular label head contacted me to let me know what was happening, and I messaged this kid to tell him to cut it out. Now here I was a few years later, signing to this label for realsies.

I was relatively optimistic despite my experience with Earache Records. This smaller label promised total transparency both in communication and money. The contract stipulated that royalties would be be split 50/50 once the label’s costs were taken care of. They’d let me know what sales were needed to reach that break-even point. They’d even let me know where their promotional spend would be, in case I had contacts that could replicate the job for free or a discount. I was optimistic about hitting any break-even they could name. The European representative was enthusiastic and competent, my UK reputation was solid, and most importantly the label’s catalog was distributed in the US by The End records, so we’d be able to tap the large number of Berzerker fans in the States. For my part, all I had to do was provide them with an album, the artwork, and forgo ‘mechanicals’ (the publishing money a label owes the artist in exchange for printing their CDs regardless of how many are sold).

 

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“And they’re going to give us royalties, and fresh air, and all the pudding we can eat!” 

 

It all sounded pretty good. I flew back to Australia to mix and master the album with Luke. We took footage of recording, and sent it to the label for promotion. I made a flash website for the band. I instigated a bidding war between the world’s two most eminent surf photographers so I could use their shot of a monstrous wave on the artwork. I found a film student who made me the filmclip for ‘Vacation’  as a favour. He went on to win multiple awards for his later work. I got master mixer to the stars Russ Russell to master it, and star guitarists Ol Drake and Matt Wilcock to contribute a solo each.

I handed all of that work and star power to the label for free, and they completely fucking blew it. They lost their distro through The End before the album came out, and didn’t find a replacement in time for the release so I wasn’t distributed in the US. They organised a ‘press day’ in London, which consisted of one in-person blog interview, and two phone interviews (one of them with a mate of mine at Terrorizer). They paid the agency they engaged something like 400 quid for this without clearing it with me first. The agency was run by a mate of Berzerker’s. Then they gave exclusive rights to the filmclip to Play.com and paid them 200 quid to stock my CD, again without clearing it with me. Play.com carried eight copies of the CD, sold out on the first day, and didn’t re-stock. I chased it up again and again, but no more stock went out to them.

 

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Music industry PR circa 2007

 

It got worse. The CD was being carried in HMV records, but haphazardly – I was getting contacted from people all around the UK complaining that it wasn’t in their local shop. Sounds so quaint these days, doesn’t it? People actually using the internet to tell you that they walked into an actual retail store to buy your physical CD, complaining that it’s not there.  The album was sent out for review without any sort of promo or follow-up. Normally, a label releasing an album will follow up with the relevant magazine, talk about the music, work out who would be most suitable to review it. These guys just scatter-gunned it, and as luck had it I received reviews like the ‘2K review’ from Kerrang where they did things like accusing the drummer of being out of time (I used a drum-machine), and complaining about every track being too fast. This is the album that finishes with a straight-up 120bpm chillout tune . The review was straight bullshit in other words, a hatchet job done by some hack had hadn’t made it past track 2.

In the meantime, the label reassured me that all was well and over one thousand units had been sold, which was all good but I hadn’t received an official sales breakdown sheet OR their break-even figure. They seemed to keep forgetting. Shit, they even forgot to invite me to the annual Christmas party. Something like six months later after much hassle, I received my first sales sheet showing about six hundred sales but only for a few territories and a three month period. Where were the full figures? I tried getting some email responses but by then the label had gone ‘Full English’ and weren’t responding.

And while I was starting to froth, there was something called ‘returns’. The deal with PHD, the distributor, meant that any albums not sold in stores were returned to the label and they were charged for it. They passed that charge on to me. The charge amount was larger per CD than what I would have received had I sold it. And the absolute best thing ever was that when I dug into it,  the stores returning unsold CDs were the locations where fans were complaining of being unable to find the album. I wasn’t a fun person to be around during this time.

It wasn’t all bad. The reception outside of the UK was great, especially in Europe where the territory representative had done an amazing job. The label had given me something like 100 CDs for me to sell on my own, which I never paid them back for. So there was that to consider. However, I decided things would have to be different with the next album especially as I was using a real drummer (this is the album that became ‘The Floating World’). A half-assed unpaid label effort wouldn’t cut it for me, let alone both of us.

Email 1:

G’day,

How’s it going? I remember you were cooking up some year-end figures back in December, are those available? All the figures I’ve heard so far have been incomplete, so I’d be after something that covers all territories, CD sales and iTunes (and any other point-of-sale I’ve missed). Additionally, I’m still chasing you for the break-even sales figure so I know if we’re ahead and making profit or still in the red.

Which brings me to this year-

I’ve written enough material for 1.5 albums, so now I’m looking ahead to doing the next album. Contract-wise, the main differences  I’d be looking at are:

a) I want to claim mechanicals for album 2.
b) I’m after an advance for album 2.
and c) I want to hear your plans on promoting the future release in the US and the UK (I can’t fault the Europe promotion)

In return, I deliver the red-hot album of the decade full of raging-unadulterated genius, complete with a couple of solos from the usual suspects, and a drum performance on it that will not only drop jaws but convert the hordes of knuckleheads who cannot enjoy music which features a drum machine.”

They wanted to know what became of our three-album licensing deal. I told them straight-up that I wasn’t going to give them another album for free. There was a bit of back-and-forth, including them pointedly wanting to know when I was going to tour to support the album, and me pointedly replying that I wasn’t – just as I told them before they signed me. The point of The Senseless was to do metal music which was impossible to reproduce live, something I felt restricted most extreme bands.
This is what’s known as “a shot across the bows”. It might strike some as being rather bold. I saw it as nothing of the sort. The label had been talking about ditching CD releases and going all-digital, and between that and their slipshod release, I believed they weren’t doing anything as a label I couldn’t do myself. I just wanted to see if they were going to stop taking the piss and come to the table with an actual real offer and not these ephemeral in-the-future promises of support.
The answer was no, as it turned out. We had the following emailed exchange:

Labelyou haven’t been chasing sales figures for a year, it was only released in May last year.  We agreed that we wouldn’t report in June last year as none of the returns had been taken into account.  The latest report is due by March 30th, and it’s only March 19th so I’m not sure what your beef is here.

Me: You are right – I haven’t been chasing sales for a year, I have been chasing the break-even amount for roughly that time. We have both invested time, money, and effort in the initial release. The contract is set up so that royalties only come back once your expenses have been taken care of, then we receive a royalty split. By asking for a break-even (ie; what your expenses are and what their sum total is), I have been asking so that I know how far away I am to getting my expenses taken care of.

It’s not a ‘beef’, it’s something that I’ve been promised on a number of occasions and am yet to receive – as recently as December. My obsession with the break-even is knowing if I’ll be a) able to cover the expenses of making an album, and b) if I’ll make profit by making another album.

Label: UK promo hasn’t been reattempted, as you’ve been busy with the Berzerker and other stuff.

Me: I’ve only been out of the country on Berzerker business for two weeks , and I spent the majority of that time promoting Senseless. Trust me, I’m happy to get involved in any promotion for the Senseless, anytime, and I’ve always said as much.

Label: As soon as you’re ready to do something worth promoting in the UK then we will do something.  Same for Europe.  We can’t make people interested in something that has been out a year though. We’ve now invested a substantial amount of time and effort establishing an unknown artist, with no live promotion.

Me: I’m not an unknown artist – this album has been promoted as being done by Sam from the Berzerker. With performances from Evile and Akercocke, production from the Berzerker, and mastering from Russ Russell, rah rah rah rah rah.  That is pretty far from establishing an unknown. The next album comes with one Leon Macey playing drums, there’s another ‘unknown’ name for you. Additionally, I’ve made the ‘no live shows’ part known from the beginning.

Label: And now you’re basically saying either we pay for the album or you’re not going to record it.  Which leaves a pretty bad taste in my mouth personally – I can’t speak for the others.

Me: Without a break-even and full sales figures, and a label manager getting shirty when I broach those topics, my sum total of music industry/label experience indicates if I record another album under the same conditions then I’ll be short of a break-even and royalties, and will receive no money. I’d be making a leap of faith without any evidence to hand to show that anything would be coming back from the effort.
I’m sorry discussing this leaves a bad taste in your mouth – the object of this communication is not to offend, but to negotiate an outcome.

Label: Which is fair enough i guess – we’ve given you an ultra fair, open contract and there is no stipulation for you to actually make another album.

Me: I’ve given you one free album, with the option for you to licence further albums I make. Your glass is half-full.

Label: I must say though, it’s a vastly different outlook from when you came to us for the second time to ask us to licence the record after I turned you down the first time, and I’m disappointed you’re trying to change the terms of the deal now that we’ve invested our part.

Me: As said, we’ve both invested time and effort and up until now your investment is being realised by sales while I have no idea how far away any return on my effort is.
As for that “turned you down the first time” line, what the fuck?! Are you serious?! You are talking about that random kid on the Berzerker forum who started mailing labels searching for a deal for me, where the first I knew about it was you emailing me going what’s this about? And as for the second time, <European representative> approached me. I don’t know what you’re playing at saying stuff like this, but that’s the kind of talk I’d expect from someone like Dig.

***

Ding ding ding! Everyone went back to their corners. I was simmering. I wanted to go back to past-me who had given them all this work for free and beat the shit out of me. I had decided to leave already and was meditating on how to do it when I received one more email from the label. It was slightly more conciliatory, but finished with the following:
“If its not financially viable to record another Senseless record, then…that’s that.  If you’re not confident to risk your own money, don’t ask us to.”

What is a label for, if not to bankroll recordings? I was thinking to myself what the fuck are you guys for. I sent a final mail on April 1st 2008 which opened with “Rest assured, this is not an April Fool’s joke” and notified them that I was leaving the label and the legal basis on which I was dissolving my contract. If they wanted to make any fuss I’d dissolve the band and release the next album as ‘The Less Sense”.

A counteroffer was made for a thousand-pound advance on the next album, but my answer was “no”. By then I’d had it. We managed to get it together enough to amicably dissolve the contract. Within a year, the label and its catalog had gone digital. Within two years, the label was no more.

***
What’s an article if it’s not wrapped up with some little homily or a cartoon character going “I learned something today”? Much is made about the power of saying yes and trying everything that comes your way. But the older I get, the less energy I have, and I get choosy where I spend it and I’ve learned the power of saying NO. Both the job and label wasted my energy and foreshadowed wasting more of it. I often wonder about what might have happened with some situations in life, how things may have turned out if I made different decisions. I never wonder about that job and label though.

I Probably Hate Your Band and Ne Obliviscaris

Ne Obliviscaris. Goddamit people. Will you stop making me defend this fucking band?

A couple of weeks ago, the band ditched longtime bassist Brendan Brown for that old chestnut “irreconcilable personal differences”. Australian radio host Lochlan Watt and blog ‘I Probably Hate Your Band’ (IPHYB) revealed that this was because Brendan has allegedly beaten up a number of ex-girlfriends as well as his mum. They continually harangued Ne Obliviscaris until they decided to part ways with Brendan. Job done, cue applause. It probably never would have happened without their involvement.

It was at this point where I was going HELL YEAH. Guys who bash chicks are the WORST. Can’t we tar and feather him and run him down a big public street somewhere and whip him a bit? Everyone else seemed to be of the same mind. Honestly, there wasn’t enough popcorn to go around.

popcorn

MOAR

In the midst of all this delicious fluffy schadenfreude, I had a couple of chats with friends that unnerved me slightly. The gist of them went something like this.

“It’s all fun and games, but that blog IPHYB are treading on thin ice.”
“What do you mean? I’m sure they wouldn’t print something without proof?”
“Have they come up with anything though? Like court dates, convictions, that sort of thing?”
“Well….no. Not that I’m aware of. Maybe in the comments section of one of their posts somewhere?”
“Anything else more solid than that?”
“I don’t know. A lot of musicians I know and respect seem to know something about these allegations, and were fully behind Brendan getting kicked out. Everyone seems to know someone who has been assaulted by him.”
“Any names or details or anything like that?”
“No. But c’mon man, there’s a lot of smoke around this fire. And I’m pretty sure his band of thirteen years wouldn’t toss him out if there was nothing behind it.”
“Mate, they’re getting by on a Patreon pledge campaign. They probably don’t want anything messing with that flow of money, even bad press. Sounds right now like no-one actually knows anything.”

Hmmm. Maybe. I thought they were giving the guy too much benefit of the doubt. In any case, justice of a sort had been done, and that was that.

Until yesterday.

iphyb

Singer Tim had confirmed somewhere on social media that he hadn’t known anything about Brendan’s history of hitting women. Then Brendan’s mum commented underneath that Tim had actually accompanied Brendan to a magistrates for the case where he was charged with assaulting her (found guilty but conviction not recorded). IPHYB took this as proof that the entire band had been covering for Brendan over the years and has called for everyone to boycott the band’s Patreon account with the aim of driving them out of business. As before, other bands and musicians I respect are taking up the call.

But this is where you’re all losing me.

IPHYB went public with all this and got Brendan booted. Cool. But now they are actively financially attacking the entire band and calling for a public witch hunt. Well, I’m one of the public and I’ve got a question:

Do IPHYB have anything more solid than text messages and facebook posts?

Because if they do, then they need to put-up-or-shut-up pronto and if they don’t, they’re getting sued into oblivion sometime in the near future. Which is a shame, I have a new CD coming out and I would have loved them to review it.

You know what I hear from everyone who seems to be in the know about this? That they’ve “heard stuff”, that it “definitely did happen”, that “an ex-girlfriend knows something” but they can’t talk about it, and out of respect can’t name names, and vague details like that. And you know what? I totally believe you guys, but if you’re graduating from getting a dude sacked to then financially ruining the rest of his band you need something more substantial to go on than text messages and facebook posts and I-heard-something.

This to me seems self-evident but by the sounds of it, some people need more convincing. The general public, particularly those younger than me, don’t trust the media these days. Quite often the complaint is that they have an agenda. Media is nothing more than information dissemination. Want to know who else is in the information dissemination business these days? Blogs, like IPHYB. I would gently suggest that blogs are no more free of agendas than traditional media. I would also say that traditional media also has a particular standard of reporting that they are careful not to fall below, and that is NOT to accuse someone of doing something without substantial proof, and NOT to agitate for a form of justice outside of what’s provided by courts.

IPHYB has fallen foul of both of these last points. They’re using their own reporting to agitate for a pogrom against these guys so now they cannot be seen to be an unbiased source. Although they have lots of in-person proof, they don’t appear to have some rock solid charges in hand. And if they do, they haven’t put that out into the public space with the rest of their accusations, for some unfathomable reason. Christ, in the earlier screenshot of their call-to-arms they even acknowledge that the violence is “alleged”. Since when do you go after third parties off the back of facebook allegations? Do they seriously not know what happens when you request punitive action in a public domain off the back of nothing more than allegations?!

denuto

“In closing Your Honour, it’s the facebook posts, the text messages, MABO, the vibe….yeah, that’s it, it’s the vibe.”

The reason why Australia is a civil society and not a basket-case of vendettas, corruption, and mob violence like Egypt, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and so on, is because we manage to control our base instincts for revenge and justice and let our imperfect legal system do the work and we are largely able to live with the results. Whoever Brendan has thumped should be taking it to the police and dragging him through the courts where justice will be done and endured by all parties. A police station is the correct forum for this kind of issue, not a fucking metal blog. If there’s a history of women who have been assaulted, then they need to get together, come forth, and get some charges laid. And if that’s exactly what they’ve done, AND IPYHB have actually got their consent to provide the evidence of charges and subsequent convictions, then witch-hunt away.

Oh dear, I just had another thought. Have they….actually got the consent from these women to report on this and push ahead with the anti-Patreon campaign? Do they realise that if not, these women may have this unpleasant bit of their history aired against their will as a direct result of what they’ve started? You can’t have it both way fellas. You can’t be like “we have proof of wrongdoing, and we call everyone to take action over it”, and then be like “we can’t release that proof to protect the victims”. Having proof that can’t be aired publicly basically means you have no proof.

Domestic violence is a horrible weird enigma of a thing, and quite often how you think you’d want things to play out if you were on the receiving end isn’t actually how the victims want to play it. I’ve had cases where a guy is shoving a woman around in public, stepped in, and then the woman has kicked off at me. I’ve had another case where I heard a thug beating his girlfriend all around the house next door with her shrieking at the top of her voice. I’ve knocked on the door, threatened the little shit with the cops, offered her a room, a lift to services, a lift to a friend, anything, and she begged me with everything she had to let it go and leave. The country should rally against domestic violence. Abusers and people who enable them should be held to account, one hundred percent. But this should be done with the law, the police, the courts, and not with mobs. Justice is for the victims to have, not you smelly long-haired musical-instrument-playing freaks.

This is all moving pretty quick now. Ne Obliviscaris have issued a statement. My eye is drawn to the following sentences:

Yesterday a certain website published an article claiming to have proof of a grand conspiracy by the band to cover up these allegations over the years. This is completely false and we will be taking legal action against those involved.

The last time I mentioned this band, it was to discuss their Patreon campaign. I noted that money made in such a way came with strings attached, and that relying on goodwill was a ticking clock. I didn’t see things turning out this way though.

Lastly, the title of the piece is ‘In Defence of Domestic Violence’. If there is a defence, it is that offenders are afforded the luxury of being trialed within the confines of the legal system and not at the hands of mobs. That’s the defence, and nothing more. It’s not sexy and does nothing to cool the blood, but that’s the best option we have without making our society that bit more fragile.

update 7/2/17: I Probably Hate Your Band have taken down the article calling for the Patreon campaign to be targeted. John from the site has further thoughts on the issues involved in the comments section of this article, and are worth a read.

What I did in 2016

I’ve had the third Senseless album written since the start of 2015. It was recorded, mixed, and mastered by April 2016. For the three or four of you paying attention, you’ll notice that this album has not been released. I feel that this requires an explanation. In fact, the entire wretched year requires an explanation.

Lets start back in 2015. I was working in Adelaide, South Australia as a mainframe computer operator. We were migrating massive amounts of work from expensive-as-fuck Sydney down to cheap-as-chips Adelaide, and saving huge amounts for our company on labour costs. I was salivating at the idea of what my bonus would be like or indeed being paid any bonus at all. At the very least a pay rise would be coming our way. Among all this corporate goal-kicking I managed to take two weeks out during August to go to the Gold Coast to record my new Senseless album. The plan was to stay with Luke from Berzerker, crash in his flat, mix the album in four days or so, master it in another day, and go visit my parents who live only three hours drive away.

It was a good plan. Naturally, things didn’t work out. I had recorded everything except the vocals and demoed everything up before I arrived. There was one factor I hadn’t accounted for though: Luke was totally over music.He had no interest in it at all. In fact, his experiences with Berzerker were so traumatic that trying to force him to sit in front of his computer to get even the arrangements in place was like trying to put a cat in a bath. He just had too many bad associations with recording music and his body treated the producer chair like the electric chair. After a full week, only three or four songs were mixed.

I went to visit my parents, and cut that short to return to the Gold Coast and try and finish things off. Same problems happened though and when I left the album still wasn’t mixed. Even worse, some mysterious random things had happened to the existing tracks and fucked up their arrangements. I left five pages of mixing notes and headed back to Adelaide.

Come the start of 2016, there was still no album and I let Luke go as a producer. Soon after that, work notified us that there to be no pay rises or bonuses that year. I was like, fuck everything. I had no idea who to use as a mixer for my album or what to do about work. This was the fourth year in a row that pay rises and bonuses had been either minimal or cancelled. Additionally because of the new workload we had brought onboard, taking holidays was banned indefinitely. I decided to right at least one wrong and return to my parents to give them a proper visit. I figured that if someone got pissed about me taking a holiday, I could at least fly back in a few hours or so. I also arranged to end my trip in Melbourne, catching up with my old friends and going to White Night, an all-nighter citywide event of arts and festivity.

Things kind of came together pretty quick in February. I spoke to Leon from Mithras to see if he was interested in doing the album mixing (he did The Floating World, the second Senseless release). He couldn’t, but he recommended an excellent producer who could: an unknown dude called Adam who plays for a Swedish band called Murdryck. I contacted him and he mixed a track to perfection almost overnight. Without any further ado, I hired him and he got straight to work. Around that time, I was also contacted by an Italian metalhead who had just moved to Melbourne and wanted to buy a Berzerker hoodie. I didn’t have a hoodie for sale, but offered to take her to White Night with me and my friends. She accepted.

I went to White Night, had a great time, and got along well with my new Italian friend. I was woken up at 10am the next day by a phone call from another mate who wanted me to go party with him. I jokingly upbraided him for waking me up and demanded he make amends. “Uhhhhhhhh…..want a job?” he replied. He ran an IT support company that was requiring someone to come in, shore up the helpdesk, and help refine procedures. Starting pay would be $5k more than what I was currently earning, to be increased another $10k after 6 months. I totally agreed. In the next few days I went and interviewed formally for the job, then went on a few dates with the Italian girl. When I returned to Adelaide I gave my notice at work, and prepared to move to Melbourne in a month’s time for a new job, new house, and new girlfriend.

The month prep leading up to the move was complicated by one thing: I had to re-record all my vocals for the Senseless album. I ended up doing the majority of them in one whopper seven hour session in a tape room out the back of a data centre, which was the only place I could scream my head off without people calling the police or knocking on the door. My ‘vocal booth’ was as MacGuyvered as it gets: recording on a Shure SM57 mic into a POD XT then a laptop balanced on some cardboard boxes. The mic was wedged into a tape rack and held into place with bubble wrap. By the end of the session I had all the vocals I needed but had traded them for my ability to speak. All the files were sent to Adam in Sweden who started mixing them into the songs.

I arrived on March 31st, moved straight into my flat, started work on April 1st, and had the girlfriend stay that evening. Damn right I was making up for lost time. I discovered that the flat required a bit of work. Despite sending people around to check it out for me at inspection, they had missed bedroom lights and internet sockets not working, shower handles not attached, and the toilet flush broken. I complained to the agency and in true Melbourne Real Estate Agent style, they shrugged and went “good luck fixing it”. In the meantime, Adam started sending me back album mixes which I would download at work, listen to at home, then provide notes on the next day.

The job turned out to be rather crazy. The company was a small outfit that serviced a bunch of customers but also had one great big gorilla of a corporate customer, who paid just over half the revenue but demanded all of our time. It became apparent I had parachuted into a total bushfire. I set to work trying to help out wherever I could. It didn’t take long for work time to start leaking into evenings and a bit of weekends. I worked hard, kept providing my mixing notes for the album, and moved the Italian girlfriend in with me.

A few months into the job and I was getting pretty exhausted. I had transitioned from a relatively easy career with lots of time off to an all-hands-on-deck IT company. Melbourne car traffic had increased exponentially since I had last lived in the town and my commute could sometimes take up to two hours. I became pretty sick a few times including a spectacular occasion where I got an abscess on my ribs. I also was having trouble talking: I had damaged my voice in the seven hour vocal session in March and developed vocal nodules. I saw a throat specialist and after performing an endoscopy he commented “it has been a long time since I’ve seen anything like this”. He recommended speech therapy with the possibility of surgery in the future.

My friend at the company who had hired me was pretty erratic, battling some significant inner demons with KFC and vodka as his sword and shield, and every day it was a dice-roll whether he’d turn up. Additionally, his younger brother who was the company manager was requiring some holiday time. With some preparation, the brother went off on holidays for two weeks. Customers decided to spring their most fiendish requests on us during that absence and it was a fortnight of total shitfighting. We managed to pull through though and against the odds, the company was still standing when the younger brother returned.

Then we had a week that I am going to remember for a long, long time:

On the Monday, I pulled the plug on a data retrieval job gone wrong and put us on the hook for a few thousand dollars.

On the Wednesday, we lost our biggest customer.

On the Friday, my friend – the one who had hired me for the company – died of heart failure.

There is so much more detail to all this – calling absent company workers to let them know what had happened, the heartbreaking grief of the brother, sending everyone home and manning the phones until close of business, watching my mate get buried and crying so hard I could barely drive – but it’s just too much of a bummer. The next month was a process of trying to help keep the company running with my friend gone and his brother grieving. And somewhere in misty centre, the new album was mixed and mastered. I was proud of it, it sounded great, but it wasn’t the time to release a bunch of death metal.

Two months later, there was a company meeting where it was revealed that the money was about to run out. I gave my notice and resigned later that week, right near the end of August. I had plenty of savings, and was looking forward to getting some sleep and finally putting the album out. I put some job feelers out into the marketplace to give it a bit of a tickle – thinking that it would take me at least a month to find work – and astonished myself by landing a job immediately.

Three days later, I was starting work at a cloud computing company. They needed a little bit of documentation done for a new helpdesk they were launching. I was looking forward to some relaxing typing and research but it turned out they had different plans. Within two days of starting I was notified that I was actually the project manager. I was required to create technical service exclusion documents for everything the helpdesk did within two weeks, including crazy shit like Office 365 and Sharepoint migrations, write up all the how-to documents so even simpletons could understand how to do the work, and then create the helpdesk from scratch to go live within a month. In brief, this was a ridiculous amount of work.

I did it, but not without some cost. After a week of working and researching around the clock, I started getting anxious. REALLY anxious. I didn’t have a desk at this place and would bring my own laptop to work on and would try and find a spare surface to sit at, and start the day by nearly blacking out with anxiety. I’d have to focus on breathing for about five minutes just to get started. I’d usually sit in the area of an existing helpdesk where people would have loud arguments each day and occasionally shed a tear. I had been assigned technical assistance for the work but that was a contractor who I had doubts about having done migrations before, and he only stuck around for a few days. The anxiety also had an existential aspect to it. I was realizing that my long-awaited return to Melbourne had happened five years too late. The cost of property and living had risen astronomically, and all I had to look forward to the rest of my life was living in small tiny dogbox apartments, saving scraps. After another week the panic was so bad that I hit up a doctor and got some medication for it.

The goalposts seemed to shift outwards almost on a daily basis. I went from documenting, to project management, to creating a helpdesk, to then getting a bollocking because it hadn’t been fully automated upon inception. The final straw to me was when I asked how soon could we start interviewing people for the helpdesk especially as it ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The company was like, we’re not hiring anyone yet – we want to see how many people actually require this helpdesk first. I was like, well who’s going to take the calls for it then? And they were like, you.

That’s all I needed to hear. I gave my notice, handed them the completed project, integrated it with their existing helpdesk, and left. By then my nodules were so bad I could barely talk. I went to a Halloween party and after twenty minutes of talking in a crowd, no sound would come out of my mouth no matter what. Vocal therapy wasn’t working. Doctors were saying that I’d require surgery to fix the nodules and that I wouldn’t be able to sing again. I forgot about trying to find work and booked some weeks off in Tasmania. I traveled there with the girlfriend. We hired a rental car at Hobart Airport from a dude who used to be part of the whole Norwegian Black Metal scene back in the day. He told us a funny story about getting interviewed by the police long-distance on the phone after Euronymous’ death. We drove to remote places and got caught in blizzards and played Incantation nonstop on the car stereo. I returned to Melbourne and did some contracting work then headed to Europe for December.

I ate pork in Spain. I stayed with my girlfriend’s family in Rome, where they attempted to kill me with love and good food. I stayed in medieval mountaintop towns in Tuscany. I saw Gojira blow everyone off the stage in Bologna. I became sick with flu, traveled to friends in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, and drove through amazing mountain passes. Now I am back in Australia in my dingy little rundown flat. My girlfriend is still in Italy until February. I have no fulltime job. My voice is slowly returning. I have been able to speak again over the last few weeks. And now, finally, it seems like a good time to release the album.

‘The Buried Life’ release date will be March 1st 2017.

*postscript: It’s funny what perspective does to you. This could so easily have been the story instead: I get various friends to do me favours. Then I move back to the city I’ve been moaning about wanting to return to after scoring a nice leaving package from my job. I easily get an apartment in a city where spare rentals are tight, meet a girl worthy of a full article all on her own, then get showered with job opportunities, before spending the last three months of the year holidaying. My family is alive and healthy and well, and I’ve even had a new niece arrive. 

If this year reads like a tragedy, then that tragedy is that I lost the ability to appreciate all of this.

The MetalSucks manifesto

I’ve been absent for a while, I know. The excellent and plentiful reasons for that will be covered in an upcoming post. There was absolutely no way I could keep quiet though when Metal Sucks decided to publish a manifesto. We all know how much I love manifestos, right?

Go get yourself some context over at the MetalSucks site, have a read, finish either banging your head against a wall or pumping your fist going “fuck yeah!” and then strap in because – surprise! – I don’t agree with it. I don’t think I’m going to be the only one either. The problem is, I reckon what’s wrong with this manifesto requires a nuanced explanation which is a bit different from my normal method of napalming shit on a subject from a helicopter. After having a quick peek at their comments field, I think it’s past the ability of most people there too.

First, a disclaimer. I’m not some Alt-Right fan. I’m from Australia so I’ve only the vaguest notion of what that sort of shit is anyway. And I’m no fan of Trump. I think anyone cheering him on in “smashing the system” or “draining the swamp” is in for a rude shock. The dude’s a con-artist, always has been, and isn’t fit for mayor let alone president.

I have to make these sorts of disclaimers because their manifesto begins by making the ham-fisted link between anyone they’re opposed to and Trump supporters, conservatives, or white bigots. It speaks volumes about their political acumen that they lump conservatives in with this bunch. “Conservatives, terrified of change, lash out….” – and Trump doesn’t represent that change? I thought that was the whole point behind people voting him in, lots of change to everything? Anyways, my disclaimer is because by dint of being a white middle-aged dude I have to make it explicit that I’m neither a Trump supporter, nor a bigot, nor a fan of some political-news movement that means nothing to anyone who doesn’t live in what’s soon to be known as the Former United States of America*.

I was going to address their manifesto point-by-point, but then decided to try and keep things brief. My arguments against this manifesto don’t so much boil down to the individual points as the entire vibe, and it goes something like this:

Under such ideals, there is no place for Cannibal Corpse in metal. Their songs are the last word in brutal misogyny. There is no place for Slayer. They sing about Nazis and use SS imagery. There is no place for Morbid Angel. Their song ‘Bleed For the Devil’ has a bit where a girl is dismembered for a satanic ritual. Kreator have that song ‘Twisted Urges’ where they talk about people selling their kids as sex-slaves. There is no place for S.O.D. Their song titles immediately ‘mis-align’ them with the ideals expressed in the manifesto. There is definitely no place for Infernal War. Their music is a veritable feast of anti-semitism. There is no place for Manowar and their neanderthal objectification of women. There is no place for Pungent Stench. There is no place for Dismember. There is no place for Gorgasm. There is no place for a lot of fucking awesome music.

And when you drill down to the personalities of the people involved in the bands and start examining the people making the music and how they behave in our Brave New Highly Visible World, then the grounds of exclusion blow right out. You can forget about Burzum, or a large chunk of the black metal scene for starters. Forget anything that gay-stabbing Faust has done. Glen from Deicide shot that squirrel, so he’s probably on the wrong side of whatever fence MetalSucks are building. Lemmy was into collecting Nazi memorabilia. And despite Pantera having done songs about unity and equality, Phil has caught the ire of MetalSucks square-on for acting like a white supremacist bonehead. Look, nearly anyone in a metal band is, or has been ghastly at some point.

See what I’m getting at here? A lot of the great metal bands and artists would have no place in the direction these guys are pushing in. MetalSucks contends that the roots of metal are in “proletariat ideals and political protest”. I contend that the roots of metal are actually in idiots. And if part of your new direction is to turn your back on the idiots then you are turning your back on the majority of metal.

Here’s the funny thing. I agree with a lot of the manifesto points when applied to the real world. Bigots should totally be mocked whenever possible, lest they start thinking their views are normal. If you have an online blog or news site, you are under no obligation to cover anything you don’t want to. But these guys are going past that and are talking about deciding on a new direction for metal, under the cover of pushing back against what they see as global political conservatism. I lived through the years where metal was actually under attack from actual-conservative mainstream forces trying to censor, ban, and decry it at every turn. That was fun. However these guys are talking about the metal world censoring itself which is more insidious. It goes against everything metal is about to be second-guessing yourself when you write songs or think thoughts.

For me and a lot of other people, metal is not the real world. It’s the escapist safe-space for freaks, where you can float any stupid idea all the way from your crazy brain and out of your mouth no matter how horrible it is. The music and genre is set up basically to scare away anyone who would police these thoughts. The whole point of the music traditionally has been to offend, transgress, and get up people’s noses. A lot of this is done by measuring themselves against the current mainstream standard and standing in opposition to it. This manifesto is clearly aligning itself with the mainstream standard.

MetalSucks may think well, fucking good. If taking this stand and making the world a better place means less Waco Jesus, then whatever. However this doesn’t achieve that. This means that in the last area where people with a head bursting with shit can actually release that out, they are now policed by people who once upon a time used to be their co-conspirators.

I suspect the real ideal  behind this manifesto is because they run a popular website, and once you’re popular and online you get swamped by the utter dregs of fuckwittery. Online trolls are anonymous, they’re just a bunch of words on a screen, but goddamn they can get you down until you develop a thick skin. And fuckwits are everywhere online, drifting away from talking about A.C. lyrics to give their demented opinions on women in the gaming industry and so forth. It feels great to have a target you can actually punch sometimes and that’s what this whole direction they’ve taken is about. The want to identify some highly visible targets in the metal world and give them a good whack. Problem is by whacking visible metal targets you’re missing the point. The reason for their existence is to offend, transgress, and provoke. To deny otherwise is to deny the history of metal up to this point.

Seeing the world strictly through the lens of politics ruins fucking everything, particularly art. I believe that to remain a healthy functioning human, you need to sometimes indulge or express in ways that totally don’t make sense. Yes, you need to give those irrational feelings full reign over yourself sometimes. Metal is the space to do that in because it is expected of you in that space, the world has grudgingly made way for that space to exist. The response to art (and much of metal is great art) is a very niche feeling and sharing that feeling is what will transcend borders and barriers and spark conversation – not manifestos.

I am 100% against anyone who defines themselves by what they’re offended by. Fuck off. Our common ground is in the opposite direction. Meet me there, or have pictures of  Ronnie Radke posted at you.

fags

Over. My. Dead. Body.

*I’m pretty sure this is a joke

Someone Is Making The Money

I shouldn’t be writing an article right now. I’m at work, I’m wrapping up a job, I’m moving house to a new job and new flat 700km away, I’m halfway through having the new Senseless album mixed, I’m negotiating new contracts and redundancies and all that shit, but GODDAMMIT I’ve seen some stuff that I simply must pass comment on.

Yesterday, I saw this:

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That isn’t some kid on his way to a show. That is fashion designer Avalone premiering their new Fall/Winter collection of sportswear, and what you’re seeing is a model on a catwalk sporting a shirt that has blatantly ripped off the Mortician logo.

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for comparison

Roger from Mortician has an excellent article about it on his wonderful blog, and I read it and thought my usual thoughts about it being interesting and all that. Then today, just as I was getting a coffee into myself, I saw THIS:

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To make it totally clear, that is deadmau5 opening his set to a gazillion people by playing a Psycroptic track. At first I thought someone had merely dubbed some Psycroptic concert audio over a deadmau5 set, but then I saw some people headbanging in time, and the sound dopplers a bit when the phone is moved around. Then I saw all the comments from people who were at the set, half thinking it was fantastic and hilarious, the other half thinking WTF WAS THAT?!

My first reactions to things are usually the stock-standard death metal reactions. Sue them! Get the lawyers! Beat the shit out of them! Etc, etc. My next thought was, Avalone’s got some fucking stones. Do you really want to mess with the artistic copyright of someone like Will Rahmer? Mr.Jailed-in-Poland-for-a-Machete-Freakout Rahmer? Have you fucking seen Will Rahmer?!

will

And I do my little turn on the catwalk, yeah on the catwalk

And then I had a bunch of other thoughts percolate, and they went like this:

When both a fashion designer and the world’s largest electronic dance music are referencing death metal, this should be telling you all something.

And I believe that something is this: that the music and its imagery are more popular than people make it out to be. A large reason why death metal is on the bottom earning rung is because the majority of the artists believe they are underground, and actively reject any form of popularity. My ears are resounding with the sound of the entire metal scene going “DUH”, but think about it. I did an article only the other week that touched on the fact that metal bands are giving up because of money issues left right and centre, and that some bands are resorting to patronage (or what some people call ‘begging’) in order to keep functioning.

Folks, death metal appears in movies, ads, shows, and the sets of the biggest and most untalented DJs in the world. Metal imagery and shirts are referenced by the biggest outlets in the world. Even ‘Lords of Chaos’, the book about the most underground possible bit of an already underground scene is getting turned into a movie. Death metal clings to this pre-pubescent notion of unpopularity as if that’s the only way to define its image. This is utterly outdated, and totally unhealthy to the scene.

The scene operates in a context defined some thirty years ago, with booking agents, venues, managers, and labels all living in a past that doesn’t recognise the fact that the world has moved on. Want to know why people are turning up in droves to these shows with shitty music? Just look at the deadmau5 clip. This dude climbs onto a stage with a backdrop in the shape of a mouse’s head playing swirling images of LAVA, then when he starts his set proper he fires off enough lasers to bring down the fucking moon. Want to know why your gig in Melbourne the other week only had fifty people, but five thousand drove off into the bush for a show? Probably because it looked like this.

I love death metal. I love Mortician’s “Chainsaw Dismemberment”, I love the crazy bastards in the band, I love the fact that every member of Psycroptic is a better musician than I could be in a hundred lifetimes, but if I’m faced with seeing another gig of four guys in black tshirts on the same stage setup with a backdrop in some stinky old venue with a crowd of bonged out smelly boys, I’ll choose the hours of lasers with the crazy PA and art installations and flocks of gorgeous hippy chicks. Death metal, this is your competition.

All these DJs with their shit music and these designers with their shit clothes and lack of talent have all found success, renown, and income. They do that because they assume popularity, and they choose to work in a context of popularity. They assume everyone in the world can potentially like and buy their stuff, and that’s how they operate. There will always be room for the underground, and there will always be a place for those who are so developmentally impaired that they carry an identity of “nobody likes me so I’m going to be unpopular” all the way out of high school and into adult life. There will always be a place for art that is so dark and cutting edge that the mainstream sensibility shrinks from it. But Slayer and Metallica have Grammies, bullet belts are now modern couture, and Gaahl runs a fashion label.

Death Metal, you’re not as unpopular as you think you are. Someone is making the money.
It might as well be you.

UPDATE 3/3/17: Some scrappy publication known as the NY Times influenced by/inspired by/steals Carcass artwork.

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Ne Obliviscablovarblarbulus Ask For Money

I first became aware of Australian band Ne Obliviscaris asking for funding through campaigns via this delicately worded post on the facebook group”Heavy Metal Clüb” :

neo-ob

I read this post, the band’s press-release, and all related comments, and realised that what I had here was something the military term a “target-rich environment”. Melbourne progressive metal band Ne Obliviscaris are running a pledge campaign to achieve a minimum wage (by Australian standards), and to help pay off debts incurred from touring so far. When Matt from Berzerker/Akercocke/Antichrist messaged me to encourage me to rant, that was the final nudge I needed. So I say this!….

GOOD ON THEM.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fan of their music. I’m not a fan of them. I hate almost all metal that wasn’t made in the 90s, or made by me. I don’t think this funding suggestion of theirs is good value. I’m not sure if this campaign will be successful. I think if they want to be a viable band then they probably need to kick out two of their members. I think their career is starting to rest a bit heavily on crowdfunding. I think flamenco can get the fuck out of metal (except when I do it). But am I going to begrudge them putting a mechanism in place to deliver them a wage? Absolutely fuck no, good luck to them, and I don’t see why all the metalheads are getting their panties in such a sookie-bub bunch over them trying. But don’t worry, I’m going to whip around and give everyone a flog by the end of this article. I shall be harsh but fair.

 Let’s look at their press release first. The first line pisses me right off: “From the minute they first stepped onto the Aussie music scene, Ne Obliviscaris knew that it was always going to be hard for a progressive extreme metal band with a violin player to make money“. My Dying Bride, bitches? If there was a dole queue for metal bands with violin players, Ne Ob would be holding a ticket saying “#1000,056,741”. By the way, I HATE writing ‘Ne Ob’ but I hate having to write out their full name even more.

They talk about the trials of making money in a “broken system”. They are 100% right. Does anyone doubt that the music industry is broken as fuck, particularly for metal bands? ALMOST EVERY MONTH you’ll get another wordy pompous press release from someone in some band I don’t care about announcing how they’re quitting music because of financial pressures. Everyone knows music sales barely make money, if at all. Everyone knows that touring is high-risk hard work with diminishing financial returns. Didn’t we all see that article from Behemoth’s bassist the other day talking about the outrageous percentage venues are now claiming from merch sales? In my day it was zero percent. There would maybe be one or two venues on a thirty day US tour who would charge twenty percent, but that was it. Now it’s FORTY percent in some places, with percentage takings turning into the norm at venues. So anyone telling me that a band can solve its money problems by getting in the van and selling some t-shirts can suck a dick. I credit Ne Ob for not immediately saying “we’re quitting for financial issues” like a million metal musicians before them, but for trying everything to fix that situation. The system which delivered money from CD sales and touring no longer delivers on CD sales, and the takings from touring are diminishing every day.

They speak about the funding being not only for themselves, but for families and mortgages. For anyone reading this and starting off in a metal band, forget families and mortgages. Music is a steamroller that will crush anything excess in your life, from relationships to finances to responsibilities. If you want to have any semblance of a normal life, stay at home, record music, and stay the fuck off the road. If you want to go on the road and live the dream then go for it, but you are leaving the normal world and its comforts behind, and you only get to return to it when you quit or if you win the lottery ticket called ‘success’. And make no mistake, it is a lottery ticket. You not only have to be relentlessly hard-working, but extremely ridiculously lucky. So a kick in the balls to them for this. I’d be cool keeping them from starving, paying rent for some place, and able to buy a train ticket to the airport so they can go fly somewhere and play the fiddle at someone, but if they want a life and a house? This has never been the deal for anyone ever. I can number the extreme metal bands who can use their career to own their own place and have a family life on both my hands.

THIS LINE: “The fact that one of Australia’s biggest metal experts must resort to charity to keep their careers afloat is a mark of how screwed up today’s music industry has become.” OK, I don’t give a fuck how many times their PR dude trots this line out, they are NOT one of Australia’s biggest metal experts (or even exports, as I’m sure they meant to say). I’ve been on three international labels with three separate bands, toured extensively domestically and internationally (300+ shows), headlined in UK and Europe, will release my eighth album this year, never needed to resort to crowdfunding to do any of it and actually made some money, and I wouldn’t even call myself one of Australia’s biggest metal experts. I fucking hate lazy PR. Besides, the guy on their promo video sounds American and they’ve got a French guitarist. Newsflash: you are now an international band, not the Little Aussie Band That Could. Start pitching yourselves as an international act, it sounds better. “Australian progressive violin flamenco metal” sounds as awkward as “Swedish gangsta rap”.

And besides, they’re not having to resort to charity. They’re choosing to resort to charity. Small difference, but important. What’s their option otherwise? Become a recording outfit. Scale back touring as an activity that is done on breaks from a day job. My god that sucks as it means a life with no real holidays, but there it is. Focus on markets where you do make money on tours, and explore the others either with one-off festivals or mini-tours. Sack half your band for touring, or use that massive surplus of manpower to do the jobs that you’re currently paying other people to do: merch table, driver, sound, roadie, etc. Cut every corner…..EVERY corner. Paying onto a package so you can be on a nightliner bus? Fuck you, hire a motorhome and drive it yourselves for half the cost. Manage yourselves. Book yourselves. Don’t rent entire backlines, borrow what you can. Anyone going “yeah, right, impossible” should know that the only reasons I make these suggestions is because they are things my bands have done and we made money. In the pledge page, there is an acknowledgement that this is an option. My opinion is, make it work on the cheap first and build up to more expenses on tour before you decide what’s possible or impossible, or what income you do or don’t need.

There’s talk of market forces in a lot of the commentary. This is a tricky and complex subject which I’ll try and sum up as clearly as possible. The general idea is of supply and demand: if there is a sufficient demand for Ne Ob’s music and shows then the market will keep them funded in baby booties and cribs. If the demand isn’t there, then no-one likes them and that’s why they’re not making money and they should pack all their stringed instruments away and fuck off.

In the case of metal though, the market is distorted (just like the music). Markets normally express themselves by reflecting fluctuations of success with fluctuations of income. But in metal the market can’t correctly express itself through music sales; metal as a demographic has a higher percentage of downloaders than others (16-25 years old/male/white/assholes), and most stores have stopped carrying metal CDs, streaming sites pay fuck-all. And the market is struggling to express itself through touring income. Labels have 360 degree deals where they take the merchandise and show income. Booking agents now run packages where you have backline and transport and everything taken care of, but for excessive costs. And as mentioned, venues are now getting in on the act and taking a slice of band’s traditional touring income too. A band can have many fans, everyone can have their album, and their shows can be well attended, but with this busted-ass market none of their money will make it to the band itself. The market doesn’t reflect with income the success a band’s experiencing – the market is distorted.

On the one hand, I think there’s too many metal bands out there and too many metal bands doing the same old boring thing. You could listen to a new metal album every hour every day for the next ten years and barely dent the amount of releases out there. I think the market reflects that. That’s part the reason why barely anyone buys metal anymore,  and that’s why the metal market flips out and goes wild for anything even minutely different, like BabyMetal…..whose success I despise and blame entirely on Metal Hammer, bunch of fucking paedos*. On the other hand if a fanbase is consuming product and paying cash for it and that money is getting lost in the absolute car-crash that is the modern music industry before it reaches the band, then that isn’t reflecting that the market doesn’t want the band or that the band should stop. It reflects simply that the market is broken. Fan funding is a possible answer to that and in this instance, is perhaps the most accurate reflection of whether the market wants you around or not.

I admire Ne Ob’s balls….

look

those farkin balls!

…and hats off to them for trying a very traditional way to make a living from this. Something a lot of people don’t realise is that your Renaissance artists, your painters, your composers and musicians through the majority of history were funded by patronage. They’d have a couple of rich guys who would pay for them to do their thing, sometimes even a small group of people doing the funding. Ne Ob are no Da Vinci, but they are basically reviving the same long grand tradition of patronage in a modern way. This is not new ground for the industry, this is an old form of funding that is re-emerging into a vastly different world.

I do think that Ne Ob need to be careful in three areas: transparency, goodwill, and viability. Most money you make, you can do whatever the fuck with it you want. If someone is pledging you a living wage, they’re probably going to want to know what your costs are. The money isn’t quite as no-strings-attached as money can be, even with an explanation that the band merely wants a minimum wage, even with the variety of pledge rewards. A degree of transparency is required. Fans are happy to pay for new leads, food, gas money, seed money for a merch run. They mightn’t be happy to pay for your kid’s tuition, the latest $5000 amplifier, or new curtains in your pad back home.

When asking for funding you’re also asking for goodwill. Ne Ob have been massively successful with campaigns in the past, but how many times can they draw water from that particular well? Goodwill is fickle and finite. Which brings me to viability – unless they are planning on being professional minimum wage pledge musos for the rest of their life, they need a plan to get away from the crowdfunding. Any of the traditional problems they’ve encountered so far that ALL bands encounter, they’ve dealt with by throwing crowdfunding at it. At some point, they need to increase traditional income somehow or cut their operating costs and I haven’t seen anything (admittedly, from a distance) that indicates they’ve got the ability to slash those costs. Otherwise, they’ve got minimum wage to look forward to until even that is no longer viable. They’re trying the ‘fake-it-til-you-make-it’ route. That is a ticking clock, whether on your own dime or someone else’s and I suspect that these days, that particular route leads to a dead end. I’m having trouble thinking of the last band who were successful with that approach.

And now to address some of the comments the general public made on this pledge campaign. Naturally they’re all idiotic, because metal fans are halfwits.

  • Don’t support these entitled douchebags, use your hard earned to give some actual hard working bands with talent a break.” I’m no fan of Ne Ob, but if touring internationally ten months out of the year isn’t hard working, I don’t know what the fuck is. Making snide comments about bands on social media, perhaps?
  • Market forces haven’t changed in hundreds of years and are unlikely to any time soon” Actually, it’s because market forces HAVE changed drastically in recent times that bands are resorting to crowdfunding. Heard of this “internet” thing?
  • I don’t understand why they’re asking to achieve minimum wage while they tour the world?I mean I just genuinely don’t understand it. Wouldn’t it make more sense to stick to Australian/Asian tours for the time being? I mean they only have 2 albums...” Because they need to eat, fool. As for sticking to Australian/Asian tours, your career as a professional band only BEGINS once you have played that first overseas tour. Your time in Australia and the region counts for fuck-all. No-one on the planet cares how many times you played the Bendigo Hotel or Newcastle fucking RSL. Your career goes nowhere. NO-ONE CARES. And the number of bands that played internationally on the back of their first album is a massive list. We were one. Fear Factory’s another. Most Aussie bands don’t do that, because they are stupid. The ones who do it and find a way to keep doing it tend to be the successful ones. Ultimately, that’s the crux of the debate – can Ne Ob keep doing what they want to do cashing in on goodwill?
  • Regardless of what you think about Ne’O, they are actually one of THE MOST SUCCESSFUL HEAVY METAL BANDS IN AUSTRALIA” Not making any money? Finishing up in debt whenever you try to do anything? Sorry, but that is the opposite of successful. Then again, if success can be measured as a proportion of the spluttering knucklehead fury directed at you on social media (the Sam Bean Success Equation TM), they ARE pretty damn successful.

 

tramp

“Loan me a Grammy”

I ripped on the band’s PR earlier for laziness, but realised just now that all the discussion about this campaign has created another wave of attention for them. Sneaky bastards. Fuck, I’ve written over 2500 words on it. And they’re around halfway to their pledge amount already. If they pull this off, that’s quite a coup. What the hell do I know. Want to pledge? Head to: http://www.patreon.com/neobliviscaris

* Metal Hammer are totally not paedos. Love you guys! Hugs xx

pedo

Pictured: one totally normal Metal Hammer staffer

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Post-Touring Health, an Infected Ball, Death of a Dream pt.Whatever

I found touring was not particularly good for my health. The blame, were it to be apportioned, lay equally with myself and the touring lifestyle. I know guys who managed to fit in jogs on tour, or go vego, or swear off alcohol. I was not one of them. I didn’t actually believe it was possible to do such things on the road until I saw others do it. You have to be quite driven, or be in a band who’s happy to tolerate your crazy ‘health’ thing.

“Whaddaya mean this isn’t good enough to eat? ROCK-STAR”

A band has to accommodate someone if they want to tour healthy. It wasn’t like we could all go our separate ways and head out for jogs, or have multiple food stops so someone could pop into Wholefoods and get their essential organic whatever. In Berzerker’s case, everyone else ate burgers and drank. The masks made our already energetic shows fucking ridiculously draining to play and quite often we’d come off stage, squeeze our t-shirts out, and fall over. We’d also drive and manage ourselves on tour. If we were exceptionally luxurious, we’d get one extra guy on board to help out with the driving and merch table. A few guys came on tour as ‘tour managers’. The only time I remember one making a true difference was when ex-Akercocke bassist Pete Theobalds came onto a UK tour for fun, and found himself stepping into the breach when the tour manager went AWOL.

What am I getting at? We were in a constant state of exhaustion. The rare sleep we experienced would be fragmented, brief, and without any sort of rhythm whatsoever. Our bodies would be pushed to the limit each night. Instead of recharging on soups, water, salads, we’d be getting by on beer stolen from the venue and the Wendys $1 menu. Then we’d shake dozens of sweaty hands after gigs and catch whatever the hell was going around. If you’re in an international touring band? NO HANDSHAKES. Go for fist-bumps, Japanese bowing, or ceremonial head-butts, just no handshakes. We tried using disinfectant hand lotion when we’d get in the van. It doesn’t work, you’d still get some fierce flu that would batter your frail foreign body. When you caught the inevitable illness, there was no recovery time. You had to get on with driving, playing, loading in and out, and the merch desk.

                               “It puts the lotion on the skin or else it gets the lurgy”

I live pretty healthily these days, but I’m prone to illnesses. I can basically split my life into two periods, pre-2002 and post 2004. When I was younger, I was superhealthy and unstoppable. Then I did a big block of touring and….now I’m not quite so unstoppable.

There was a big touring block where I caught the flu. Then I got conjunctivitis, and we were too busy to go get it treated for three days or so. I remember feeling like I had some grit in my eye after a gig in Chicago. I managed to grab some sleep, and the pillow was glued to my face when I woke up. My face oozed crust. You know in the movie ‘Aliens’ when they find those people who are cocooned to the walls with that gluey alien spaff? It was 100% like that. The James Cameron connection continued when Napalm Death said I looked like the Terminator due to my red glowing eye, and Nile started calling me ‘Pinky’. When I finally had the eye treated I had to buy some sprays and disinfect the entire motorhome we were travelling in, from stern to bow. My chin was starting to react from getting bashed nightly into a germy microphone and was breaking out in weird pustules. Every gig when I grazed the mic for the first time it would send a bolt of lightning through my face, which would go hot, then numb. A week or so later was the unbelievable stress of our drummer breaking his foot – we had to keep touring in order to make it out of the country – and that was followed by me getting a horrible case of sunburn in Miami when I passed out in a park.

Then we popped over to Europe to tour for a month straight in a bus with dirty bunk beds, and an exhaust outlet leading into the lower lounge.

When I arrived back in Australia, I slept for a week straight. I found it hard to have conversations with people at first; I was used to holding court and strangers shutting up when I spoke. I had absolutely zero interest in hearing about how someone’s day at work was, and couldn’t relate to normal everyday things. I felt like I had done the most amazing thing ever, and planned to organize my tour diaries and notes and write a kickass book about being in a band. I felt no-one could possibly top some of the stories I had to tell. Anyway, once I’d had a few months of regular sleep and meals and started work again, my body came out of hiding and got really fucking weird on me.

My eye – the one that was affected by conjunctivitis – would swell right up and go red. Then just as I’d be prepping to get an ambulance, it’d suddenly go back down. Or I’d wake up and there’d be a chunky discharge all over my face from my coy and slightly pink eyeball. Then I started getting mystery lumps bulging out of my head which would vanish within 48 hours. I caught a series of colds. Crops of mystery zits would come and go. My dick started leaking. I went fuck this, and headed to the doctor for an explanation.

Although I headed to my usual health clinic, my doctor this time was an unsmiling woman I’d never spoken to before. I explained all my symptoms to her miserable face and she asked me if I’d had any “changes in lifestyle recently”. I went uh, I’ve been on the road travelling with a band overseas for a few months, and….

“Oh, it’s probably VD” she said. Then the evil bitch gave me the most comprehensive STD test I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience, and sent me on my way with “we’ll have your results in three or four days”. Australian healthcare can vacillate unpredictably from fabulous to hopeless, hey. I went to sleep that night packing shit, thinking of some uncomfortable conversations with previous partners I had ahead of me.

I woke up the next day and I wasn’t quite right. It felt like I had a mild fever. I went to work anyway, trooper that I am, and made it to the afternoon. I went to the loo sometime after lunch and when I had a pee it looked like milkshake. I kind of watched in disbelief as the sediment hit the water and slid to the bottom of the bowl. I left work for the day, headed home, had some panadol and went to bed early. I was starting to feel like shit.

I woke up just after midnight. My left ball was aching. I suspected I had somehow trapped it between my legs in my sleep and then done somersaults or something. I found with a bit more panadol and some maneuvering, I was able to get back to sleep.

I woke up in the morning completely fucked. My crotch throbbed like someone was tapping my left ‘nad with a hammer. I was feverish. I stumbled to the toilet and pissed out a gallon of thick milkshake. The pain was quite something. I called the doctor’s clinic and asked if they had my results yet. They said no. I described my symptoms to them and there was a pause. Could I come in immediately? I said yes, and phoned a friend of mine called Steve who was flexible enough to give me a lift.

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I limped into the surgery. I told them what was happening again, and they performed a quick examination. There was a brief wait and then they came straight back: Could I pop into a clinic around the corner and get an ultrasound scan of my bits done? There’d be someone waiting for me. I said yes, and hobbled back out to where Steve was waiting. The pain seemed to have actually increased in the space of twenty minutes. He gave me a lift to the ultrasound clinic. Every time the car went over a speed bump or pothole, I whimpered.

To any women reading this, testicle pain requires description: It’s like the nerve ganglion for your balls is connected to one’s kidneys, or liver. So when pain is experienced in your jewels, it gets a x2 multiplier effect that is shared between a few other vital organs. The usual reaction to such pain is immediate and uncontrollable vomiting. On this day, the only thing stopping me from puking everywhere in crotch-agony was the steady slow incremental increase in throbbing.

Steve dropped me off at the ultrasound place, laughing his head off at me gingerly limping along. I crab-walked in a wide stance, like a cowboy or a disgraced US senator. I was immediately received by the clinic, who lubed my nuts up and ran a scan over them. The swelling was profound. I was half expecting the nurse to cry out “Congratulations, it’s a boy!” Instead, she informed me that I had scrotal epididymitis, and that a hospital bed and doctor was waiting for me at another location, and was some available to drive me there immediately or could they call me an ambulance? I passed on the ambulance, got the details, eased myself slowwwwwwwly back into the car with Steve, and we headed to the hospital.

The hospital didn’t fuck around. I was straight into a hospital gown, had a bag full of antibiotics rammed into my arm via drip, and wheeled into a room shared with one other person, an old fella who didn’t say much. A doctor explained that if left untreated for another day or two, I could have lost my balls. To this day, if I’m run-down and tired or the weather is changing, I get that dull throb in my left kidney. The nurse told me that I’d be here for three days or so then departed. All I had on me was my mobile phone. I had left home in a bit of a rush. Steve had already returned to work. I felt like shit, and wondered how I was going to pass the next few days.

I received a phone call. It was from my health clinic. They were happy to inform me that my test results for STDs had all come back negative. I was like, you sure? I’m banged up in hospital right now with a stiff case of scrotal epididymitis, a case so nasty you’d swear I caught it screwing trash-cans. They went, guess it’s bacterial then. Toodaloo! As I say, the post-touring body does some weird shit when getting back to the normal world.

Anyway, that chat lifted my spirits. I was no longer going to have call people and give the better-go-get-checked speech, thank god. I started calling around my friends, seeing if I could get any visitors. I may have received a few people but one stands out: my good mate David Cohen who, understanding my needs, brought me a book to read, Motley Crue’s ‘The Dirt’ by Neil Strauss. And as my body recovered its health, it was my dream of writing a book about my touring stories that died instead of my balls. The whole basis of writing my stories was how ridiculous and full-on and dramatic they were, or so I thought. But when I read about Vince Neil eating a martini glass, or killing people in a drunken car crash, or Nikki Sixx overdosing on smack then coming back from the dead to shoot some more junk like an opiate-fuelled zombie, I gave up. I was an amateur. There was no way I could compete with this. How can you? Anything I’d done, they’d done a million times bigger and crazier, to the horizon of death and beyond.

You win, you magnificent bastards

                                                    You win, you magnificent bastards

I kind of wish I could go back to my younger self, and explain that stories aren’t just about how big and fucked-up you can be. They can also be about connection, explaining things in a way that people can relate to. In fact, that may be the secret to most art. There will always be a place for the Titians and Rembrandts, the Dahls and Strausses, the Beethovens with the big notes and a shock-and-awe impact, but sometimes people merely want something that makes them feel less alone. McDonalds may one day release the book on making hamburgers and it’d be some wild burger shit in there, but I’d be more interested in the small book done by the Burger Theory food-truck that I see around the corner from me occasionally. People want connection and as much as they may crave escape, they also crave the occasional reassurance of reality.

Two more anecdotes, then I’ll let you go.

When I broke up with a long term relationship in England and was prepping to dive back into dating, my first step was to go do an STD test and get my licence to thrill. The doctor I ended up with was a Romanian woman who handed me a questionnaire to fill out. It was pretty comprehensive, not only about sexual history but also about any trauma your bits may have suffered in the past. When she saw that I had experienced a case of scrotal epididymitis, her face lit up like she had discovered a unicorn. Apparently she had heard about it before but never met anyone who had it, and she peppered me with a million questions. She genuinely looked so happy. I think I made her day.

And now, the second anecdote:

When I was released from hospital after my three days of antibiotics, I was still slightly achy-breaky but well on the mend. I arrived home around midday, and turned on the computer to catch up with whatever had been happening in the world. Heads-up, what I’m about to tell you is rather gnarly. If you’re eating breakfast, or have a mild constitution, are a family member, or merely think of me as a good pure lovely person, then perhaps finish this article here. If you’re the kind of dude who read my story about lacquering Devin Townsend’s hair and loved it, then proceed.

So here I was, at home by myself and at that point it had been about a week since I had any ‘relief’, so with a live computer and internet connection I took care of that shit. However….the end result was, shall we say, unpredictable. You know when you catch a nasty chest-cold, and the infection passes and you start coughing up thick chunks of green and brown crap? That, my friends, is exactly what I ejaculated. It was like a Predator had bled into a bowl of flour and chicken eggs, and whisked that to satisfaction.

3_men_missing_after_huge_mudslide_ID_d_1644520000_5262685_ver1.0_640_480[1]

Still alive

I just read an absolutely smashing piece on creating value with your music called “Why Your Music Is Worthless“. With a title like that, you can probably see how it really speaks to me. The dude writes like I wish I did. If you want to get on my good side, tell me that the article reminds you of something I wrote.

Speaking of writing articles, you’ve probably noticed I’ve written fuck-all this year. Even writing this little piece is like pulling teeth. This is for no reason in particular. I seem to have lost the need to turn everything in my life into a narrative, which reduces the urge to lay every thought of mine down into print. If there was any particular reason for this, it probably came down to a few events.

A niece of mine died around this time last year. For the first time ever, I found myself dropping everything and travelling to be with my family and having to think of other people. This is pretty unusual for me. Serious amounts of shit needs to be done when someone passes away, and if the death happens to be traumatic then the job only really starts once the funeral is over. This death was, unfortunately, rather traumatic. And in the midst of all that, whenever I started thinking about writing articles or music, it all just seemed rather indulgent. People close to me were dealing with some heavy stuff, and I was going to do what? Write another article about pushing girls from moving buses, or record a song about getting drunk? Fuck off.

Earlier in the year, I stopped writing for Heavy magazine. Until then it felt like writing actual articles for actual magazines was the logical progression for the effort I was putting in blogging. Heavy was the third publication I’ve written for and I was thinking, heck, journalism could even become a hobby! When that fell apart (and how that happened will be an upcoming article) I just could not be bothered writing anymore.

Then there was the Antichrist Imperium. Let me explain. For the last however many years with the Senseless, I’ve struggled with releasing albums, getting exposure, and trying to get any attention whatsoever from the music industry. I sent out endless submissions to record labels, and barely received a reply. I imagine a lot of that just comes down to the fact that I look like a happy well-fed accountant, and unlike someone like Cloudkicker my job is not interesting enough to create a ‘break through’ narrative. People buy the trappings of personality, whether that is clothes, food, music, or whatever. Want the audience your amazing tunes don’t seem to generate on their own? Shave off half your hair, then get trepanated. Talk about how you write music by ramming your finger in the hole and wiggling it.

I digress. I do my Senseless stuff for a small appreciative band of awesome people and by gum, it will stay that way. Then at the start of this year, I ended up signed to a record label. Not for the Senseless though – for the Antichrist Imperium. When I was in London last year, I caught up with them and did an evening’s vocal recording. This went onto their album which was picked up by Apocalyptic Witchcraft, the new label from the team at Candlelight. Suddenly, boom! Signed. And it seemed that I had casually fallen in with London’s metal ‘It Boys’: Sam Loynes and David Gray. I’d include Matt Wilcock in that, but Australia has claimed him back. After hundreds of hours of banging away at the Senseless, I was suddenly on an album signed to a label, getting great reviews from a rapturous metal media – and I had done about five hours of effort.

It has been a confusing year.

The new Senseless album has been mixed for the last two months. It may still take another two weeks, two months, a year. Who knows? It’s coming. It’ll be here when it’s ready. You can’t rush good pizza. Articles on this blog? There will be more of them, and soon.