This article is a tad NSFW
Please do not read if you have delicate sensibilities
Berzerker did a gig back in 2001 at the Tote with Bowelmouth, Resistica, and FMC….a band whose initials stood for ‘Filthy Maggoty Cunt’. There’s always got to be one, eh?
I don’t remember much about the gig except for the low turnout and FMC doing a song called ‘Arse Maggot’. Tote shows were like rehearsals to us. We had our eyes on playing overseas and used Australia’s isolation from the rest of the world to try to work the kinks out of our gig before touring. Funnily enough, we’d actually rehearse at the Tote as well as perform there – the band room could be hired as a rehearsal room during the day and it was cheaper than a normal rehearsal centre. We’d been using the Dane Centre, or something like that previously…a grim, dingy place favored by metal bands and run by a guy who was physically and spiritually like the Nazi leader in The Blues Brothers.
I think it cost fifty bucks to rehearse there but only twenty at the Tote. Plus we could practice on a stage, get the hang of the PA and mixing board, and practice playing to the occasional drunks who’d wander in to see what the ruckus was. They weren’t too different from our usual audience. Oh, plus we could buy drinks at the bar after rehearsal, something that you couldn’t do at a normal rehearsal centre. I remember we had just finished rehearsing when we were told that we’d scored a booking agent in the US, and I bought everyone a rum and coke to celebrate.
This story isn’t about the show or rehearsals. It’s about the lead-up to the show and the flyers we made for it. See, we were going for the reputation of the world’s most extreme band and FMC were gunning for the reputation as the world’s most disgusting. The singer was one of those post-G.G.Allin types who’d do anything to cross the line with the audience. I’d heard a rumor he’d done a gig smeared in excrement. At the time, I had a reputation for leaping offstage and assaulting the crowd or running off into the street and into traffic all masked-up mid-gig. And I haven’t even mentioned one of the support bands, Bowelmouth, who had songs like ‘Mexican Facewash’ and ‘Spacedocking’*. So we needed a flyer that reflected the range of dynamic artistic possibilities represented by our show. Something strong and visceral and muscular, like the music.
I don’t know who came up with the flyer but it was a beauty. There’s absolutely no delicate way of describing it: the picture was of a japanese woman lying on her back in a bathtub, naked except for a pair of stockings. Her legs were raised back over her head and she had received an enema of what appeared to be custard, which she expelled in a big looping parabola into her own face. The photo was taken just at the moment it was splashing into her mouth and appeared to contain a fair portion of excrement. Some colour posters were made and a truckload of black and white flyers were created for everyone to hand out. Luke uploaded the poster design to the Berzerker website, which earned me a rebuke from my dad who unfortunately saw the new poster design before I did. I received a phone call from him where he mentioned he’d seen it and “it lowers the tone of your band and website greatly”. Doesn’t matter how big you think your band is, you get a call like that from your father and you feel five again.
We did what we could to alert the entire city of Melbourne to our upcoming gig. Posters were plastered everywhere, and removed shortly afterwards by a combination of disgusted private citizens and councils. We took heaps of flyers and left them in shops and handed them out to people. This was before we realised that posters and flyers don’t work for bringing people to your shows. It’s a costly and high-intensity effort that reaps next to no results. It might go down a little better these days since almost no-one does it anymore. It might even go better if you don’t have one of the world’s most revolting images as artwork **. But it’s time and money wasted that should be spent on mailing lists, press releases to metal media, or buying ad space in local street press.
So one night after rehearsal I was on my way home. I’d usually go straight from work to rehearsal and I’d be wearing my work suit. I’d turn up, lose the tie, untuck the shirt, and go for it. This particular rehearsal had been at Luke’s place in an outer suburb. I lived in the city. It was late by the time my train arrived back in town and I couldn’t be bothered lugging my work case and bass to a tram, so I treated myself to a taxi outside Flinders Street station. There was a large queue waiting for the cabs, mostly people dressed nicely. I guessed that there’d been a show at the nearby Arts Centre and it had probably just let out. I kind of fit in…by then my shirt was tucked back in, my jacket was back on, my tie was done up, and the death-metal insanity had left my system. I could now pass as a ‘normal’ again. I got closer to the front of the queue. I was looking around kind of aimlessly while waiting and noticed there was an older gentleman with a lady standing behind me. There was something kind of familiar about him. I did a second take and he noticed and said ‘Hello’. I said ‘Good Evening’ and then realised who it was.
It was the Honorable Barry Jones. For anyone who is neither Australian nor of my particular vintage, the first page of his Wikipedia entry reads: “Barry Owen Jones… is an Australian polymath: writer, lawyer, social activist, quiz champion and former politician. He campaigned against the death penalty throughout the 1960s, particularly against the execution of Ronald Ryan, and remains against capital punishment. He is on the National Trust’s list of Australian Living Treasures.”
He was regularly on both TV and radio either in debates or discussions and he looks like an eternally respectable wise old man, which he basically is. He’d usually be brought in when a show required someone with authority to NOT talk like a moron. The dude has a ton of awards and commendations to his name. He even has Antarctic territory and marsupials named after him for god’s sake. His intellect and recall are so fierce that I dread him reading this anecdote then contacting me to correct the details.
After the brief pleasantry-swap, I turned back around to face the front of the queue and thought, gee, Barry Jones. The person ahead of me got in a cab and I was now at the front of the queue. I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked back around. The lady with Barry congratulated me on my performance, said it was beautiful. I thought eh? for half a second then realised – they must have seen a band or orchestra play at the Arts Centre and assumed I was one of the performers! Cool.
“Oh, thankyou very much” I replied. It seemed simple enough to just go with it. My cab was pulling up. I didn’t want to correct them or get into an explanation of where I’d been or anything. The moment before I climbed into the cab I remembered that I had a bag full of flyers for the upcoming Berzerker gig with FMC in my work case, freshly collected from Luke’s place that night. Hundreds of the evil things, sitting in my bag. I took two out.
“If you’re interested in seeing me play again, feel free to attend this upcoming show” I said, and handed them both a flyer. They smiled and thanked me. Bless. I jumped into the cab and gave my home address. As we pulled away, I sneaked a look out the window. They were both turning the flyer around this way and that, trying to work out what was happening in the picture.
*One of the highlights of my life was telling the members of Bowelmouth what ‘spacedocking‘ meant, and having them turn it into a song. I’m credited on one of their CDs as ‘Lord Denim’.
** Want to know what the picture was on the front of the flyer? It’s the first picture at this link…..but think twice before looking. May God have mercy on your soul.