Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Advertisements

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

The Senseless Update 11/2/15

Anyone following my personal band The Senseless knows I’ve got a new album in the works. It’s called ‘The Buried Life’ and simply put, it’s fucking awesome. But I realise that people who like The Senseless probably need a bit more information than that. If I was making goreslambrutal metal, I could probably just go “IT’S FUCKING BRUTAL” and everyone would erupt in raptures but it ain’t and you won’t, so here’s more detail.

You may be wondering how far along this album is. That’s a fair question, I’ve been known to take up to ten years squeezing these buggers out. I’ve written thirteen tracks, over an hour of music. That’s a fucking LOT of metal right there and it’s not all going to make it on the album. Naturally I think it’s all solid gold so you’ll get to hear any tracks which aren’t on the main release, whether they get released as an EP, on a japanese CD release, or just as bonus downloads further down the track. I’m trying to work out what songs work well enough with each other, and what order they should go in. Track order is a mysterious thing, and some songs that are fucking balltearers can suddenly sound uninspired when put next to the wrong track.

All guitars, solos, and bass have been written. Half the vocals and lyrics have been written. This is just for pre-production demos. Writing and arranging this bullshit takes years, but once it’s done then recording happens pretty quickly. I was aiming for it be recorded next month, but I’ve decided to go to the northern island of Japan and ski on a volcano instead . I’m turning forty as well and will be celebrating for about two months (read: getting smashed enough to forget my age) so that’s put a little bit of a dent into production as well.

In an effort to reduce the time spent doing this thing, I’ll be using programmed drums again. I was planning on using Todd Hansen, who’s more than capable and keen to do it, but the boy is currently touring like a bugger with King Parrot. I don’t want to interrupt his schedule, he is the kind of guy who would somehow try and record drum tracks while on the road internationally with other bands. Although I’ve decided on the producer, that’ll be announced once recording is actually done. I’ve got to leave some surprises!

I don’t plan on any guest appearances, and this one will be all me. This is for a bazillion reasons, mostly just that I want to save time but also so I don’t have record companies launching publishing claims on my material (cough, EARACHE) and I’m also over retard metal media who can’t read press releases or liner notes attributing all my work to the guests! Seriously, after two albums of this shit there are people who still think that I just play bass on The Senseless. Sheesh.

As for the material itself? It’s rather different. There are some long tracks on this, like 5-6 minutes. There’s a few more songs that lack blastbeats, and I don’t think I shoot into the 300+ bpm stratosphere this time. There’s a song that sounds like Bolt Thrower with a bit of jazz. A long grind song that transforms into blissful black metal. One grind song with riffs straight out of 90s Florida, where I try and recreate the Trey/Brunelle ‘noise vs blues’ solo trade-off. A song which starts with a sequence that sounds like something you’d use to advertise rolex watches or expensive cars. Flamenco clapping. Subliminal shit. Although a lot of it is still happy, this album is even more depressed than ever before. There isn’t the overt humour like there was on the two previous releases. There are also about four tracks which are kind of like ‘Magnificent’ off ‘The Floating World‘. Fear not, there’s head-crushing aplenty but also more melody. This is extreme metal written by a dude who’s nearly forty and isn’t trying to write hormone-drenched teenage ball-swingers.

This won’t be the last of the updates. Things are starting the slow roll towards the finish line. Track titles, artwork, all of that stuff is still to come. Keep an eye out on the Senseless facebook page for immediate news. And in case you were wondering – still independent.

Compilations, Context, and Melbourne

I absolutely hate it when I receive playlists or mix CDs. Even when I received free CDs or demos on tour I barely ever listened to them, so I’m not the most open person when it comes to appreciating other’s musical recommendations. If you’re the kind of person that conducts conversations by asking if I’ve heard any number of obscure bands, then scram: you’ll get no pleasure from my company.

I’m the worst with playlists. People’s massive hundred band-long recommendations on music forums make me want to punch the screen. Magazine cover-mount CDs bore me to death, and somehow manage to make even the decent tracks on them sound dull. There may have been a time years ago when I extracted some enjoyment from them but these days cover mount CDs serve as beer coasters or musical liferafts when driving long distances. I know I’m in the minority here, but that’s cool. I’ve worked out why playlists and compilations so often get my goat.

For me, music is contextual. There are times when a song gets me through sheer brilliance alone, but mostly I love songs for vividly recalling feelings I had at the time I got into the songs. Slayer’s entire Reign in Blood album reminds me of feeling nervous before playing Australian Rules football matches as a kid. Kreator’s “When the Sun Burns Red” takes me back to my last few years of high school. Anything by Lamb makes me think of when I first moved to England, and Cartman’s rendition of Sailing Away takes me back to a particularly painful breakup ten years ago. It’s almost like there needs to be some residual emotion in my life to hang some music on. Do I need to explain how important time and place can be? I developed an infatuation for Kanye West’s track Flashing Lights during a week-long trip to Paris a few years ago and I swear to everything unholy that there was no way I would have enjoyed it if I had been anywhere else. The aspirational vibe to the song just fit with the insane wealth and beauty of Paris perfectly. If I had heard that track in Baltimore I probably would have written it off as Kanye’s usual talentless trash. I mean, the guy can’t rap for shit and has to whip out a vocoder when he ‘sings’. Come on. I can’t be the only one who has noticed this.

The Café Del Mar CD compilation series has to be one of the most successful and ubiquitous out there. It succeeds where other compilations fail in that it provides you with the entire context you need – a Mediterranean holiday location, warm Ibiza seaside locale populated with exotic hot Europeans gagging for it. The bar Café Del Mar is known for its sunset parties and one of the CD covers is a sunset painting. The opening track on that same CD is A R Rahman’s ‘Mumbai Theme Tune’, and between those elements you have the entire context you need for that brilliant piece of music to utterly shine. You can almost hear the sun setting over your mixed drink.

The Back to Mine compilation series works as well, if not quite as spectacularly, and again it’s due to setting the scene: what do you play in your flat after you’ve been out clubbing when you’re drunk, hanging in your lounge with chain-smoking strangers with the lighting on low, trying not to disturb too many neighbours, and feeling your eyeballs vibrate from partying hard? That’s an urban experience laden with an assortment of feelings that just about everyone can dip into, and it gives whatever music that appears on the compilation a setting familiar to the listener.

This is why almost every heavy metal compilation brings me no pleasure whatsoever – because they’re mostly picks du jour, or someone trying to display contextless personal preferences or eclecticism. There’s no life there to hang the music on.

I think I’ve probably made my point.

 

A song by Melbourne grindcore band The Kill is absolutely slaying me right now. Apart from being a total holocaust of a track, it is actually sending me back in time. I can remember the venue where I first saw the band play this song. I can vividly remember what I was drinking, what the venue smelled like, who I was talking to, how warm the air was outside the gig. Most importantly for a Melbourne expat in his thirties, it sends me back into the body of a younger me running around the amazing place that was Melbourne in the 1990s. There was so much I had forgotten and it shocks the life out of me how sharply it all returns, like a benign flashback. I took everything for granted; I thought at the time that was how growing up in a city was for everyone. It has taken me almost twenty years, a few continents, and a lot of living to look around and realise that I was witness to a time and place that was very, very special.

I have decided to make a compilation of metal bands from Melbourne from the nineties as a sort of time-travel machine for myself. It encapsulates everything that made the metal bands coming out of Melbourne special, and defines the era…for me at least. It can’t be summed up with a few neat adjectives, nouns, or experiences. And there is no way I can describe the bands, the music, and what it all means, without describing Melbourne as well.

Melbourne is an amazing place and like all things truly cool, does not let you in on how fantastic it is at first. Sydney is all upfront with the bridge, the beaches, and the opera house. Perth is the epitome of Remote Australia. Even Adelaide and Brisbane are accessible to tourists, their charms evident upon arrival. But Melbourne plays hard to get. You’ve got to hang out there for a while to get to know it and love it, and you’ve got either be lucky or have a local show you around to fall for it. It doesn’t care if you like it or not. It’s a bay side town, but the beaches aren’t as stunning as Sydney. The weather – quite famously – isn’t as nice as Brisbane or Perth. The wineries are further from town than Adelaide.

But once you become familiar with the place, you’re hooked. There are gorgeous bars hidden in every nook and cranny. There are cinemas on rooftops, in lush botanical gardens, in old restored theatres with leather seats. There are alleyways exploding with amazing graffiti – not tags, but full multicoloured stencilled explosions. There are fantastic restaurants doing every cuisine under the sun. There are stores selling crafts with soul, second-hand rags, artisanal cheeses, cassette tapes. I found a side street in the centre of Melbourne where all signs had been replaced by Zen sayings. Instead of “no standing” there’d be something like “embrace nothingness”. I had walked past the place for over a decade until I realised it was there.

And the music venues are the best of all. A nonstop 24/7 place like Revolver – where it’s possible to go in for a drink Friday night and subsist on Thai cooking and alcohol without leaving until Sunday night – can have a pop band followed by a grind band in one room, while a house DJ follows a hip-hop DJ in another room. The Esplanade Hotel in seedy St.Kilda has three rooms booked with bands most nights of the week. Over the road from that was the Palace for larger bands, and the Prince around the corner would also have a different major act on every night of the week, all music styles. If the band was boring you, you could step outside and avail yourself to sushi, hookers, kebabs, lentils, or roller coasters at Luna Park. When I was older and learned that so many towns had their live music venues miles away from any sort of life, I’d think back to the venues of St.Kilda as a gleaming Valhalla.

I’ve barely scratched the surface. There was Bennett’s Lane, a tiny hidden jazz bar where you could luck in on travelling superstars playing shows under pseudonyms. The Arthouse would have punk, metal, or grind bands almost every night of the week. It had a big patterned duvet attached to the roof for soundproofing. There was the Corner Hotel, the Metro, the Tote, Punters Club, Edward’s Tavern, the Greyhound, Festival Hall, the list goes on, but the point is this – on any night of the week, whatever kind of music you were into, there was a gig happening somewhere in Melbourne that would be right up your alley. Melbournians often boast that the city is the live music capital of the world. That’s a claim I’d agree with.

Why this is so, I don’t know. I mean, the place is miles away from anywhere. Whether you’re visiting from New York or London, you’re going to spend a day on a plane getting to the place and that doesn’t make it easy or profitable for internationals to travel to – unless they’re getting paid a truckload by the promoter. Thinking about it now, a lot of the performers and acts are home-grown, and fair enough. The city hums with creativity. I get more inspiration walking down the street in Melbourne than anywhere else. You are witness to so much creative genius that you can’t help but get inspired yourself. Until the last decade, it was easier for your broke artistic type to find their feet in Melbourne as well. The cost of living was low, but the standard of living was high. Work of all types was plentiful and it was perfectly possible to eat well, own a car, and live close to the city centre on a small wage. You could actually spend your time perfecting your art instead of endlessly struggling to find ways to pay the bills. Instead of a subsistence existence in an ugly environment it was possible to have a decent quality of life. This may be less so now, but this is definitely what it was like in the nineties.

I moved to Melbourne in 1993 from Geelong at the age of seventeen. Geelong was a smaller boring town of no variety, where the people  generally had no ambition and came adorned in blue jeans, blundstone boots, trucker cap, with an appreciation for beer, rum, and Australian rock. Well I say this, but bumped into my next door neighbour from Geelong in London a few years ago, a wildly successful banker living near Warwick Avenue and of impeccable taste in all things. Whatever. The point is, I didn’t really fit into the place. I was one of five or six guys in a school of seven hundred who listened to metal and didn’t drive a utility truck, so I was glad to get out of there.

When I arrived in Melbourne I moved into the suburb of Prahran and started university. Prahran contains Chapel Street, a shopping precinct laden with bars, record stores, skate pipes, and food. It was the perfect place for a broke student. The Astor Cinema ran double features for $10 that changed daily. If I had $20 on me, I’d visit a nearby store and buy a second-hand novel and a second-hand tape and that’d be my entertainment for a week. I remember picking up Alice in Chains “Jar of Flies/Sap” and “The Untouchables” by Eliot Ness and happily surviving off them for a month. Even if I had no money, things were great. The people watching down there is outrageous, and I could always pick up free copies of the ubiquitous street press papers – Inpress and Beat. These two weekly papers ended up forming the backbone of my university social life.

Inpress and Beat covered absolutely everything going on in Melbourne. There was so much in them that reading them from cover to cover would keep me going for a couple of days. Apart from regular appearances from the obscene cartoonist Fred Negro or columns by the entertaining drunk James ‘Jim Bob’ Young, there were listings and reviews for absolutely everything happening in Melbourne – store openings, fashion shows, festivals, and gigs. Especially gigs.

It didn’t take long for me to realise that a lot of the metal gigs were happening half an hour’s walk from where I lived, for very little money, at a venue called the Great Britain Hotel in  Richmond. I ended up going to a lot of gigs at this place. The interior was dark and had paintings of ghosts and nonsense all over the interior walls.  There was always a certain smell in the air, a mixture of patchouli, cheap detergent available from coin laundrettes, and hemp soap. In other words, it smelled of hippies. As far as I can recall the room fit about a hundred punters in and was packed quite often. There was some lank-haired druggie running the place and I believe that on a couple of occasions if I was short of the door charge they’d let me in for whatever change I had at the time. If  you looked the place up online – it turned into a fashionable wine bar over ten years ago now – its history is described as a “less-than-desirable metal joint”.  The place finally went under when the owner got busted for dealing coke, or so the rumours went. When I moved to Melbourne, the Great Britain was ground zero for metal in the city. The baton had been passed from another venue, the noble Sarah Sands Hotel.

The gigs I saw in this place! I saw Christbait rock out plenty of times before members went onto bigger and better things. I saw Necrotomy play their indecipherable brutal noise which even my ears of iron still cannot make sense of. I saw Magnacite play sets where every song the band would swap instruments. I saw Blood Duster play and try and break records for how many dildos they could adorn a drum kit with. I saw the singer of Undinisim  smash a bottle and stab himself in the head with it during the first song of their set. I witnessed Damaged, a band of savants, junkies, and savages who despite being truly and certifiably insane managed to stay focused long enough to play the most amazing sets of music I’ve witnessed, before inevitably falling apart. I’ve got to stop here. I could really go on forever. But the essence of what I’m saying is that every venue, every band and every show had an extra volt of electricity running through them and these cultural Frankensteins ran around being shockingly amazing.

***

I wrote everything above four years ago while living in England, on a late-night nostalgia trip. It might have been even longer ago than that, I’m not sure. It’s now 2014 and I returned to Australia over two years ago. Since those amazing days in the nineties, I joined a few bands and have lived in Japan and the UK, and travelled to countless other places, met legendary metal bands I’ve read about in magazines, and lived a variety of lives. Nothing comes close to being a metalhead in Melbourne in the nineties.

Australia is now more expensive. Melbourne isn’t the bohemian hangout it once was. Living there is as costly as living in London. Some of the venues have disappeared and some have changed hands. The Esplanade Hotel is currently for sale. Everyone’s expecting it to be turned into apartment blocks. The developers have been hovering like vultures around the site for over a decade now. The Palace burned down some years ago. Nearby venue The Prince looks like it will be turned into a luxury hotel, with bucketloads of apartments attached. Inner city venues are currently under siege from people moving to nearby residential properties and then complaining about the noise. You can’t be a bum anymore and get by. That time is gone.

There’s one small spark of optimism out there. The Great Britain went from fashionable wine bar back to a live music venue. I remember when some of my house-music friends suggested we catch up for drinks there a few years back and I thought Christ, you wouldn’t have been seen dead here a decade and a half ago.  The management for the Great Britain decided to leave this year. Everyone feared for its future but I read in an article recently that a large venue management company has picked it up, and the live music is staying.

So there’s that.

 

My compilation of Melbourne nineties metal, spanning the full decade. Many legends have been omitted. Don’t like my list? Post your own in the comments.

The KillMetal Spastic
BeanflipperRemove Skin Before Use
DamagedPassive Backseat Demon Engines
Necrotomy
Doors of Perception
ChristbaitSphagnum
Corpse Molestation – At The Graveyard of God
Blood DusterKill Kill Kill
The Wolves – Kill It (not sure if this is the correct song title – corrections welcome!)
AbramelinStargazer
SuperheistRetarded Barbie
FrankenbokLinguistics

THE SENSELESS ‘THE FLOATING WORLD’ MEDIA ROUNDUP, end of 2013

G’day – here’s a round up of all the press I received for ‘The Floating World’ that I’m aware of. If I’ve missed anything anywhere, let me know. This will be the last repository for press for this album….it’s time to get to work on the next one!

Reviews: (score shown when available)

Ave Noctum  8/10
Worm Gear
Thrashocore/Chronique  8.5/10
ThirdEyeCinema
Disctopia  9/10
Darkview  7.5/10
Necroweb 8/10
Maxazine  9/10
Violence Online
The Joyful Gadfly
Zwaremetalen  87/100
Metal.tm  7/10
Deathportal  5/5
Metal-Daze
Metal As Fuck
No Bollocks Brutal Reviews 5/10
Flight of Pegasus (Greece)
RockCor magazine (Russia) 4/5
Chaos Vault (Poland) 4/10
Grave Concerns
Crossfire (Germany) 5/10
Concrete Web (Belgium) 70/100
LEGACY magazine issue 85 (Germany) 12/12
MetalHead (Italy) 8/10
MusikReviews (Germany) 10/15
Masterful Magazine
1 user review on Amazon (5 stars)

*note: Zero Tolerance magazine didn’t review the album in issue 52 as notified. Should be in current issue (56?) but haven’t received confirmation

Interviews:

That Ruled podcast interview (US)
Sludge Factory (AUS)
Lurker (Finland)
Uberrock (UK)
COREandCO (France)
Death Portal
Zero Tolerance magazine issue 52 (UK)

Media:

Metal Hammer july 2013, mention in ‘Thunder From Down Under: 5 Modern Aussie Greats You Need To Check Out’
AndrewHaugRadio (Australia)
TripleJ THE RACKET (Australia)
Three D Radio (Australia)
WORT Moshpit Radio (USA)
Mention on SMNnews
UndergroundDeathMetal bands
NME TV (Walk – unmixed)
‘Amazing Pain’ played on PlanetMetal

Videos:

In Our Hearts (the floating world)
Walk – unmixed version (the floating world)
The Senseless rehearsal video with Leon Macey and Sam
Vacation (In the Realm of the Senseless)
Happy Ever After (In The Realm of the Senseless)
After Happy Ever (In The Realm of the Senseless)

Buy From: The Senseless website, Bandcamp,  CDBaby, Amazon, iTunesfacebook

Usual SitesLastFMmyspaceencyclopaedia metallummetalstorm, Spotify, Simfy

Lastly, a bit of analysis:

Trends

Next to none were apparent. Europe had way more reviews than anywhere else. UK and the US tended to ignore it. This was reflected in the sales to the US but not in the UK, which had the greatest sales by far. Web media embraced it, traditional print ignored it except for a couple of noble exceptions (even mags where friends were getting greased up with promo). The majority of reviews were very positive, but in the last three months of the promo cycle they were uniformly negative.

Surprises

I hired PR to pimp the album out after doing some work myself. This included making a digital promo available to worldwide reviewers. Although I received increased press, this actually proved detrimental in a few ways…reviews were coming from people who were unaware of extreme metal (with complaints about speed, vocals too soft/too hard, music too complex). The BIG problem though was that suddenly, dozens and dozens of torrent sites carried my album and album sales stopped almost immediately.

Lessons – what to do better next time

I totally shot myself in the foot with this album in terms of how it was released. There was press build-up in 2010, and that was left to percolate way too long before the album was released.

The worst way to release an album is to digitally release it, then start promoting it, then release a physical CD a year later. …which is what I did. Feedback from print media was that they couldn’t run an interview or review, because the CD simply wasn’t new. The best way to court the media is to give them exclusive access to your stuff before the hoi polloi. I kind of already knew this, but had sat on the album for so long that I just wanted it out. Three months of promo before release is required next time…perhaps four months, to allow for hassling and re-sending lost CDs.

Torrents killed my sales, period. It’s easier to get promo by shotgunning (sending mass promo) to small random online blogs but that guarantees lots and lots of torrents. I’ve got a good collection of magazines, blogs, and writers who can be trusted not to give my stuff away and to give a fair review,  and I’ll be tapping them next time. I confused quantity of press with quality.

Speaking of small blogs, I noticed that whenever I was approached by anyone with a tiny online blog or zine asking for promo to review just to get them started….I’d get at best an average score, at worst a pretty crap one. I don’t know what the deal is there! Next CD, I won’t be avoiding the starter-uppers…but I must change my approach. The small guys are a high torrent risk plus high bad-review risk for really low reward.

Media still appreciate getting sent a nice, solid physical CD. This method of approach gave the best result, by far. And I was touched by the feedback I’d get from reviewers around the world who sometimes went to the effort of getting in contact and letting me know the effort was appreciated. Next time I do a mailout, I want to spoil reviewers!

And lastly, my big fail was staying away from YouTube and not using it. That’s how EVERYONE is checking out new music these days. The next release will have a truckload of vid to go with it, even if it’s just me playing bongos with the song audio slapped on top. Well…hopefully better than that  😀

The 5 Best Metal Interviews of All Time

It has been a while between articles, I admit. I’ve got a few more tour stories, recent achievements, and some educational blurb on the way. Thought I’d limber up first with a good old list of stuff. Interviews!

1. George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher of Cannibal Corpse

George maintains fairly well during this interview, and talks as sanely as one might expect of a man who sings songs such as ‘I Cum Blood’ with the vocal stylings of a wounded satanic water buffalo. He discusses matters sensibly, talking about touring, his wife….

Then the topic of World of Warcraft comes up, and he goes off his nut.

You see, George is a passionate gamer. I met him in person while he was in the grip of a Grand Theft Auto gaming bender and he talked excitedly about how if he was driving a car in the game and ‘Angel of Death’ came onto the radio, he was compelled to abandon mission and just run down as many pedestrians as he could.  By the evidence of this video however, his passion for GTA has been utterly and completely obviated by his ‘thing’ for World of Warcraft. He rages. He rants. He goes completely off his head, and every time it seems as though he has calmed down enough to continue the interview, his hatred at ‘The Alliance’ resurfaces and he begins compulsively blurting disgust. He has no time for people playing as ‘good guys’. He’s a bad-guy Horde-dude to the core, seven gaming accounts-worth, son. There is so much raw passion evidenced in this interview that if Tony Robbins saw it he’d be like, “Steady on there, George”.

And the most amazing thing about this interview? Apparently he was 100% sober for it.

2. Mayhem

…Unlike these guys.

Mayhem came from that era of black metal where, to quote a friend of mine, “everyone tried to murder each other and unfortunately a few survived”. Their third vocalist killed himself, the first guitarist was stabbed to death by the bassist, the fifth vocalist was kicked out of the band via a flight of stairs, and the most recent vocalist sounds like he is channelling the other guys.

This probably explains why in this interview in ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey’ bandmembers Necrobutcher and Blasphemer drunkenly invite the entire metal metal scene to go fuck itself while sitting in the middle of Wacken Air.  If I survived years of playing in a band like Mayhem, I’d probably feel invincible too.

3. Gaahl of Gorgoroth

Words cannot describe the many ways this interview is awesome but damned if I’m not going to try.

Supremely evil Norwegian singer Gaahl from Gorgoroth was at the height of his black-metal cred when this interview was done. He had done a few stints in jail for torturing guys on a few separate occasions, collecting his last victim’s blood in a cup. He lived in the middle of fog-enshrouded black-metal nowhere in Norway. When the interviewers came to meet him, he made them walk to all sorts of frostbitten and snowbound landmarks despite them not being dressed for the weather. He also showed a penchant for unexpected surprises when he revealed a number of paintings he’d done, which showed a decent level of taste and artistic skill. This wouldn’t be the last time Gaahl sprung an unexpected surprise on everyone.

The highlight of this interview came down to one word. The interviewers were hanging with Gaahl somewhere dark and grim and everyone was drinking goblets of red wine. One of the questions posed was “What is Gorgoroth’s music about?”

To this, Gaahl remained silent for seemingly ages. Finally he replied in a deep voice with one word: “………………..Satan”. Then he took a theatrical sip of his wine and let the long silence set sail for Awkwardville.

It made a lovely change from the earlier death metal bands who would dance around their flirtation with satanism in interviews (Glen Benton excepted, of course). There was none of this “hey, you know, the lyrics are about our personal beliefs, we don’t really discuss this” nonsense. What’s your music about, Gaahl? “SATAN”. BOOM! He wasn’t leaving anyone guessing.

I saw this interview near the start of a Berzerker tour and we thought it was the funniest thing we’d seen. We took to using Gaahl’s response for absolutely everything.

Promoter’s grabbing food guys, what would you like?”
“……………………..Satan”
I’ve turned the snare up in the foldback, need anything else in there?”
“……………………..Satan”

And so on.

The best part of this interview was the epilogue. Gaahl made the Terrorizer front cover and became a world-famous black-metal identity. His band was under investigation for a gig in Poland which featured a row of pigs heads up the front of the stage, and naked mock-crucified models up the back of the stage. He was as trve and kvlt as they come. Black metal as a scene is comprised of a large number of homophobic bigoted little boys, and Gaahl was their figurehead.  I really can’t express what a dodgy scene black metal can be in terms of ideology. It seems like every hate group has found a little nesting space somewhere in there at some point.

In 2008, Gaahl came out of the closet identifying himself as homosexual and revealed he was doing a clothing line for women with his boyfriend.

4. Pete Sandoval of Morbid Angel

David Vincent was traditionally the spokesman for Morbid Angel, and was a convincing and powerful messenger for their music. The other band members benefited from remaining in the background, appearing to be mysterious characters with a sorcerous command of their chosen instruments. When David left the band, guitarist Trey Azagthoth was thrust to the forefront as band’s spokesman and there was an awkward moment when everyone realised that this musical genius vampiric-Steve Vai looking dude was actually a nerdy sounding online gaming geek.

Nobody was prepared for when Pete Sandoval started appearing in interviews though. Trey’s geeky shtick was Captain Awesome Smooth compared to the mess that Pete appeared to be. All it takes in the above video is for Pete to introduce himself and you KNOW that you are in for an entertaining ten minutes. With pornstar Jasmin St Claire handling the interview duties, it was never going to be a normal interview….but jesus. I was expecting mild flirtation and a bit of dick swinging, not this Blues Brothers car-chase finale pileup of a human car-wreck. The returned Dave Vincent does his best to shepherd the dialogue along, but it keeps getting crashed by the crazy force of nature that is Pete. One of my favourite bits is where each band member names his favourite track to play, and Pete….lists almost half their set. After that both interviewer and cameraman successfully endeavor to exclude Pete from the rest of the interview.

Lovely guy and an awesome drummer though.

5. Oderus Ungerus of GWAR

Nothing I say about this can possibly do this justice.

Just. Listen.

**********

A big credit to ‘A Headbangers Journey’ for so much golden footage. An honorable mention must be made for any interview with Deicide’s Glen Benton. For written interviews, I must refer people to every interview done ever by US zine Grimoire.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Portugese Sleeping Arrangements

You’ve got to feel for festival organisers. These happy dreamers merely want to put on seismically huge parties for thousands of people showcasing the bands they love, yet they’re required to take on enormous financial risk and have the organisational skills of five-star generals. They organise the festival site, hire massive squadrons of people to set it up and staff it, find funds, organise artwork, manage the press, keep the local council and government at bay….and this is before we even mention the bands.

rammstein

If you book them, they will come

Who to book? How much do you pay them? How do actually get in contact with them? Are they going to drop out on you at the last minute? Who’s picking them up from the airport? Will they throw a tantrum if you put them on at night? Will they burst into flames and dissolve into ash if you put them on during the day? You’ve got to feed the bastards as well. AND you’ve got to keep them drunk without letting them go completely berserk on alcohol. Bands can drink as much as a festival can afford so you’ve got to give them a bit of alcoholic rope to play with, without giving them so much that they wreck themselves and bankrupt the organisers. Now the festival organiser’s CV also reads one part bartender, one part zoo-wrangler. And don’t forget, the band will need somewhere to sleep as well….

Portugal’s SWR Fest had an ingenious solution to that particular problem when I played there with Mithras.

We wanted to play that festival basically because ex-Berzerker guitarist Matt kept on telling me how much fun he had playing there with Akercocke. They’d keep getting invited back over to SWR and would be put up in a nice hotel, plied with alcohol, and well-paid, plus they’d get to play on a large stage to a few thousand people. That sounded pretty good to me, so Mithras put in an application to play there and were accepted. Perhaps what I didn’t realise at the time was that this festival loved Akercocke and treated them accordingly. All the other festivals I’d played at tended to have generic arrangements for the bands: same catering, same accommodation, same wranglers. Things played out a little differently this time around.

SWR was pretty good for the most part. We were picked up from the airport with UK three-piece Taint. I liked Portugal almost immediately. The eucalyptus trees reminded me of Australia, and I loved the little sweet pastries sold everywhere. We arrived at the festival and were shown backstage, then given a slot on a small indoor stage. We played alright except for one moderately obvious stuff-up that only the fans would have been able to pick. It was one of those strange times where we got our gig out of the way fairly early in the day, I think it may have been mid afternoon when we went on. But the band was generally happy with the show, and even our notorious sound-man Bob seemed like he didn’t hate everything as much as usual. We had sandwiches backstage, and an Irish band had brought along a bucketload of alcohol and were happy to share. It’s funny when you’re in these general band situations. People’s faces are kind of familiar. You know you’ve seen them in some magazines or video clips somewhere, but you can’t quite pick them.

"Hey, aren't you the guy from that band that did that song?"

“Hey, aren’t you the guy from that band that did that song?…loved it, by the way”

I met a couple of couchsurfers, one english guy living in Portugal and a ginger film-maker. I’ve stayed in contact with them both. Couchsurfing is the website organisation that hooks up travellers with people who want to host them in their flats, and the people you meet tend to be either unique legends or utter losers…there doesn’t really seem to be any mid-point with them. The film-maker guy fell into the former category. He looked like a ginger bearded Wally from “Where’s Wally” and is the guy who now runs the Blood Music record label out of Finland. Some day he will write a book about the months of random couchsurfing he did through Europe and it will blow away all of my stories. And one day he’ll let me blog some of the things he has found out about the metal industry since starting Blood Music, and it will destroy numerous record labels.

Anyway,  so we hung out chatting for hours. I watched Taint play their set, thought they were amazing, made a mental note to look up their music, and have failed to do so since. I hadn’t seen the rest of the band for a few hours by now. I hung around and watched Kreator on the main stage. I must have had a few beers, because I was compelled to do an impression of Kreator’s Mille which consisted of taking off my shoes and kneeling on them so I looked like a dwarf, and screeching “fucking fucking fucking” in an angry Teutonic voice. I’m not sure how that would have gone down with everyone else, in retrospect.

note: It’s at this point I have a confession to make. I don’t really remember too much from the afternoon of the festival. Actually out of a lot of things I’ve done in music, this afternoon rates as the least memorable. Not that it was boring or unpleasant or anything, just that my recollection of it is fuzzy. I had a dim memory of the rest of the band walking a long way from the festival and leaving me there. I was probably too busy telling every english-speaker in an audible radius stories from my time in Berzerker in a desperate attempt to be relevant*.  What I didn’t realise is that the rest of the band had been trying to deal with the money and accommodation all afternoon. To my eternal shame, I didn’t realise this until asking Leon to proofread this article and fill in any of the gaps.

We were supposed to be paid and sorted for a hotel straight after the show, with transport to take us when we were ready. So after the show, the guys went to collect payment from their designated payment dude. The festival people said he wasn’t there, but it turned out he was hiding behind them in a portacabin. The band hunted him for hours. When they eventually got hold of him, they were then stonewalled for a few more hours. It appeared accommodation-wise that we had been ‘bumped down’ from a hotel to…something else. We didn’t know what. They even seemed reluctant to pay us. This was the point where Leon and the other guys decided to walk away until they could no longer hear the festival, which turned out to be a town three miles down the road.

Eventually the rest of the band returned. It was now late. I was tired. We’d left England early in the morning, travelled across half of Portugal, played our set, and now it was time for a bit of sleep. We’d have to leave for the airport mid-morning the next day, and we didn’t want to be completely fried for that. Although we still didn’t exactly know where we’d be staying, the rest of the band seemed to know at least one important bit of information which they shared with me: we’d be taken to our sleeping quarters at four a.m. – after the last band had finished.

Obviously this wasn’t going to do. We were already droopy and over it and needing sleep. We couldn’t hang around for more metal. We begged with them to take us to our place now. They said no, sorry, all the bands had to leave together at the end of the night. We couldn’t get a taxi because we were in the middle of nowhere, and we had no idea where we were supposed to be staying. We were stuck.

It was at this point that Bob started to lose it. His neurochemistry is rather exotic, and where tiredness turns me into a dozy sooky-bub it seems to turn Bob into a full psycho. He’s a sweaty, evil, bald, foreigner-hating Englishman, and his face was starting to go red at this point. He began yelling “this is FUCKING BULLSHIT” and throwing bottles. He popped outside to ostentatiously piss on the tent, the popped back in to rant some more. Normally I’d be uncomfortable at one of my crew losing it but I thought, let him do his worst. I’d never heard of a festival just leaving a band to fend for themselves after their show. It was indeed, as the man said, fucking bullshit.

I think Bob was looking at the festival tent with an eye for disassembling it when one of the festival crew approached us. There had been some huddled Portuguese chat in the corner where obviously the idea was to deal with the crazy ranting english guy and his cohorts as quickly as possible. At the time I suspected his display was just a balls-and-all tactic to motivate the organisers into taking us to our beds but it appears that Bob going nuts was possibly what prompted them to pay us. Great tour skills, that guy. No, seriously. Live music is a funny place. Being reasonable likeable fellows with photocopies of all your contracts and agreements will only get you so far. There always needs to be a lunatic in your midst who can kick right the fuck off when necessary, and Bob was our man.

Eventually the band-bus arrived to take us to where we were staying. It was the general metal bus meant for the bands who were staying for the entire weekend. It was stupendously late and the bus was a rickety bastard thing. It took over an hour before we arrived at our destination. Everyone was dropped off on one side of Portugal, and it appeared we were staying somewhere on the other side. We were the last passengers. It was late when the van pulled up at a harbour and there, docked proudly, was a great big ex-hospital boat.

“You’ll be staying on that” said our festival guy.

Normally I’d be pretty excited to stay on a boat. It looked like some old Navy vessel. It sounds cool, doesn’t it? But here was the reality: each of us had a couple of items of heavy musical equipment. We had to walk that up the gangplank, over the water, and onto the deck. We maneuvered around the various obstacles, and up and down the small ladders that linked these decks. Naturally, the gangplank was at the opposite end of the boat to where we  started going downstairs towards our cabin, so we had to human-chain our crap across a hundred meters of this bullshit. The stairwell leading down to our cabin went down three levels, with a steep staircase barely wide enough to climb down by ourselves let alone armed with guitars and bags. The interior of the ship was damp. I slipped at one stage and skied a few stairs down, upright and clutching my guitars in terror. Once we arrived at our floor, we navigated the maze like corridors until we stumbled across our cabin. The door was locked. We banged on it for ages until someone let us in. The lights were turned off, and there were rows of navy surplus stretchers along each wall. This obviously wasn’t constructed as a sleeping cabin. Probably was either a leper-pit or the amputation-room. A Russian band was trying to sleep in the cots on the left hand wall. We looked at the stretchers along the other wall. On each one were folded sheets, a pillow, a pillowcase, and a blanket. We had to make our own beds.

We pushed all our equipment up towards the end of the room, and attempted to make our beds as quietly as possible in the dark. Our dissatisfaction was palpable, we could hear it sizzling off each other. We heard some not-so-quiet groaning sounds from the Russians. We had woken them up. I draped my sheet over my mattress, stuffed the pillow, and tried to arrange the sheet and blanket in a fashion that wouldn’t leave me too cold. I slowly lowered myself into the cot. It squeaked like tortured mice. I heard other squeaks as everyone else tried to climb as quietly into their beds as possible. Bob was on my left, Leon was on my right. There was a damp musty stink in the room. I lay there thinking, well this sucks.

Then just as I thought things couldn’t get worse, Bob farted.

"You sunk my battleship!"

“You sunk my battleship!”

We pissed ourselves laughing. We couldn’t help it. It was so magnificently horrid. It was like the cherry on top of the awful cake. The smell wafted over me. The air was now hot and sticky and smelled like Oswald Moseley’s tidal breath, a salute to fresh air long gone. My watering eyes had adjusted to the dark sufficiently to see riveting in the walls, lending the cabin a decompression-chamber style feel. We laughed some more, and eventually I slept.

I woke first out of everyone. I’m a light sleeper. The Russians were awake and making deliberate noise to get us back for waking them the night before. I climbed up out of the bowels of the boat. Everyone seemed keen on sleeping in, having showers, and so on, but I wanted to explore the small town before we had to leave. I had seen it as we drove to the dock the night before. It was a lovely little place, where the main street rose steeply upwards away from harbour, and there was a beautiful building at the top of the hill overlooking it. I walked up and down the main street, and there was a cafe that everyone seemed to be heading for, so I joined them. I used the two or three portuguese words I knew to get a coffee and some of those yummy sweet pastéis de nata I was rapidly falling for. I sat out in the sun, ate them, and felt happy. I guess this is what I miss most from living in England and playing festivals, being able to grab easy moments like this in other countries.

I arrived back at the boat just as everyone was getting out. The guys told me our lift to the airport was on its way. I dragged my stuff back out of the boat. It was entirely possible that this so-called accomodation was the most inconvenient and tricky structure in the world for anyone carrying musical equipment to navigate, short of perhaps a field of landmines or a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. We were picked up, I remember the driver was a cool young guy from the festival. I sat in the front passenger seat. As we drove out of the town I asked him what the building was on top of the hill. He replied it was a church.

“Church of Satan?” I joked.

“Jesus CHRIST Sam” Bob exploded. “Did you have to say that?”

“Eh?”

“You can’t say stuff like that!” he said. “You don’t say things like that to people here!  You don’t joke about devil worship in these places!”

“Come off it”, I scoffed. The driver was smiling. I thought of the festival itself, with models of ten metre high witches next to the main stage and satanic imagery everywhere. I also thought of Bob and the time in the Czech Republic he’d spoken in nothing but Borat quotes to everyone we met. Was he trolling me?

“You just don’t behave like that in other countries. People take things like church really seriously over here.”

It was too much for me. I turned and laughed at him. “What, are you Mr.Cultural Sensitivity all of a sudden?” I couldn’t take him seriously. Had I actually managed to offend Bob the sex-fiend überbigot, with a jibe to a fellow metalhead about a church? I sometimes remember that exchange when I need a quick laugh, and it cheers me up no end. It’s also entirely possible that he was just winding me up, in which case I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

We bumped into Taint when we arrived at the airport and were all waiting for our flight back to the UK. They asked us how our night went. We complained about Das Boot and asked them how they fared, half expecting to hear a horror story of their own. Nope – they were picked up at a reasonable hour, taken to a house just down the road from the festival, stayed in the garage which was empty except for three beds, and were given a cooked breakfast. Oh.

This was the last festival I played with Mithras.

* Yep. I realise what I did there

Footage from the festival here, here, and here.

Mithras are currently recording their upcoming album ‘On Strange Loops’, with original bassist/vocalist Rayner Coss back in the lineup.

Tagged , , ,

Nebraska Strip Club, US Tour 2001

You’re young, male, in a band, travelling in a foreign country, and you have some time off. Where do you go? You head right to the strip club.

Boredom is a big problem on tour. People have theorized that this is why so many musicians turn to drugs. Eight hours of travel a day, staring out a window. Boring. Waiting for the venue to open up (always two hours later than the time you were given). Boring. Waiting to soundcheck. Boring. Waiting for doors to open. Boring. Playing your show. Well, that’s between thirty minutes to an hour of excitement. Sitting on merch for the rest of the night. Boring. Packing up, loading the van. Strenuous and boring. I’ve got to stop here before it becomes “reading thesenseless blog? Boring”.

But the long and the short of it is, touring is like groundhog day; the same routine again and again and again. We had a phrase for touring : “hurry up and wait”. Everyone would be telling you how important it was to be at the venue at this time, to be at soundcheck this time, to be offstage by that time…but you were always left sitting around waiting because every single fucking entity in the music business is unfailingly late. So you’d hurry up to get your shit together at the behest of someone else, then sit around for ages waiting until they turn up late and mosey on in like there’s all the time in the fucking world. You’d be wolfing down your $1 wendys burger like an animal and sprinting back to the venue for soundcheck, but the PA hadn’t arrived. Or the soundguy wasn’t there. Or the rest of your band had vanished to go have a good time somewhere else without telling you. So when you all get some time off to go enjoy yourselves together, you grab that opportunity with both hands.

That’s how we ended up at a stripclub at a truckstop town in Nebraska in 2001. It was the first Berzerker tour in the US and we had the Alarum guys in the band back then: Evans, Palf, and Racca. It was over a week into the tour. Our tour manager was a big fat Puerto Rican called Tito Piccone. Sounds like a gangster name, doesn’t it? Jesus I could write a dozen stories about this fella. A good half of them would be spiteful, vengeful, and libelous, and I’m sure I’ll squeeze them out at some point down the track, but for now I just remember the good things. He introduced me to At the Drive In’s “Relationship of Command” album which I adored, but the rest of the band hated. We were driving around the US in a splitter van and when he put that CD on I’d clap for joy but everyone else would start bitching. They all wanted to listen to that silly ‘musician’ music like Frank Gambale, or some jazz metal stuff. When I heard the first track ‘Arcarsenal’, to me it sounded like the United States of America, right there.

 

the pride of aussie metal

pre-tour: nourished, washed, excited, and conspicuously not hating each other

He was also the first person to play me Deftones and describe the music perfectly.
“Hey Sammy” he told me in his breathy high pitched voice while driving one fine day, “if you’re ever making it with a chick, you stick on Deftones, right? Because chicks LOVE Deftones. And then while they’re getting off on the Deftones, you’re eating them out, and they’re like” – at this point he put one hand on the ceiling, arching his back while driving with his spare hand – “oh! OH Tito, daddy! Oh my god TITO! Oh! OH!” I could see a few rolls of Tito’s stomach emerge from under his t-shirt while he impersonated female orgasm.

Come to think of it, it took me a good five years to try listening to Deftones again after that.

Anyway we were on a big drive through Nebraska and Tito decided that was enough driving for the day. We pulled into a tiny truckstop town. I call it that cause it was like one truckstop, one hotel, a few houses, and a stripclub. I don’t even know if it had a name. I didn’t even realise the stripclub was there at first. I went straight to the hotel room and started washing my underwear and socks in the sink. This was still the part of the tour we could afford hotel rooms. I stuffed up washing my socks in the sink and managed to give myself huge blisters on the inside of both my thumbs, right where they rested against the guitar. I burst them and put bandaids on them, when Palf walked in and told us he’d found a stripclub next door. I’m not sure if we all went but most of us pretty much dropped what we were doing and headed over.

The guy checked our ID at the door and saw we were all Australians. He asked what we were doing in such a remote place. One of us replied we were a metal band on tour. The dude loved this, he thought that was awesome. He let us all in, waived the cover charge, and told the DJ to play some metal for us. I think the DJ put on In Flames. Fortunately it was one of their older albums from back when they were heavy.

It was great. We were the only guys there apart from the staff. The strip club was one room and it smelled a bit weird. We got drinks and sat right up at the stage. There were a couple of mediocre strippers who were finding themselves having to dance sexily to Swedish Melodic Death Metal. I had brought some $1 bills along and coaxed one of the girls over to muster up whatever sexy-dance a $1 bill buys. She was topless and still wearing panties. She danced a bit, got up nice and close. I freed up another $1 bill, then another. I wanted to see them panties off and I was going to dripfeed her dollar bills until they disappeared. I think I finally realised that strippers weren’t allowed to remove panties in Nebraska roughly at the same moment I got a massive shock.

Without warning, around the region of my balls, there was a loud noise. The noise was like savage growling and yelling. Keep in mind this is a guy from a death metal band saying “savage growling” so you can guarantee the savagery quotient of that growling. I was sitting right up at the stage, all the better for the stripper to drape her legs over my shoulders and I looked down to see what the noise was. Underneath the stage was a cage and inside the cage were three german shepherds. The dogs had decided to start barking at me, right up against the cage. THAT’S what the smell was in the place! Dogs. The stripclub smelled of dogs. The owner kept his dogs underneath the stage the girls danced on. I wondered why they were barking at me. Maybe they were jealous.

We didn’t stay there that long. We were tired from travelling and were only on $10 pd’s a day. It didn’t take long to use all of them up, and I was bored again. I thought of one of the pre-tour goodbye parties I’d had back in Melbourne, where we went to Goldfingers. That place was clean, and big, and all glowing and shiny like a little casino. The girls were all hot and in the main room they were all totally naked and convincingly acted like we didn’t repulse them. This little truckstop place just didn’t measure the hell up. On the debauch richter scale it barely rated the thud you get on a sidewalk when you push a small child over.

The next night we were playing in Colorado. We were about fifteen minutes into our set and I noticed the front row was staring at my hands. I looked down and saw that the band aids were hanging off my thumbs, as well as two complimentary flaps of skin. I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed them. The flesh looked very, very raw. I think the red mist of performance had sent the pain offstage to get its autograph later. I waited til the end of the song then ripped the bandaids and skin off and threw them into the crowd.

Tagged , , ,

Destroying Haters

One of the things I struggled with when Berzerker started getting big was haters.

I didn’t get it. People would rain hate on you basically for being known. You’d get emails telling you to die, guestbook entries instructing you to fuck off, and just all sorts of horrible bitchy chat. Even people who hadn’t heard us would stomp us in forums, basically because they saw a picture of us in a magazine somewhere wearing masks. We’d get called fags a hundred times a day. Local bands would bitch about how we weren’t deserving of an overseas tour, not realising that these things work on effort not merit. Hell, I even remember someone putting it out there that they knew who we were (we were anonymous at the time), and that we had rich parents who paid for us to go on tour. I read that after working two jobs and living in a squeezy share household and saving a year for tour. Mold grew on the ceiling in the loungeroom.

It drove me nuts at first. It really got to me. I was new to the world of online posting as well, where communication is a hundred times more raw than the real world. Reading some of the stuff made me feel sick, or got me so angry I’d nearly gnaw my own tongue off. I had trouble dealing with it.

I fortunately received some advice which changed how I felt pretty quick. I think I mentioned it to someone from a more experienced band, and he said words to the following effect:

“Treasure the haters. They’re the first sign that you’re becoming successful. If you don’t have a bunch of strangers who have never heard you spending their time defaming you online, then you’re nothing.”

So I learned a new equation: the more hate you attracted, the more successful you were. That made sense, and even if it didn’t made sense it made me feel better getting all these missives speculating on my sexuality or heritage. Once I started feeling better about it, then I could deal with it, and after a year or two I relished getting hate. It was like someone giving you carte blanche to kick them in the nuts.

The best hate to receive was via email. You’ve sent me an email? From your personal account? Oh goody good good good. Now I can drag out your name, find every site you’ve joined, and mock you in a spectacularly public way. Out of all the idiots to email us – from their personal email address! THEIR PERSONAL ADDRESS! – one stood out above the rest. A young moron called Jonathon Coonrod, budding artist on deviantart, decided to email Luke Berzerker one day to share his opinion on our music. The exchange went like this:

******

LUKE TO SAM :
Hahahahahahah check this
hahahahaha

“Forwarded mail:
From: removed
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 2007 23:00:08 -0600
To: info@theberzerker.com
Subject: Techno Horror

To whom it may concern (hopefully all death metal fans),

You should be ashamed of yourselves and anybody that helps publish your music.
Please don’t bind death metal with techno, it’s embarrassing, especially if your remixing songs from Morbid Angel. For shame.

Best Regards,
Jonathan Coonrod”

SAM TO LUKE:
hah
is it a mate of yours?
Let me know if I can fuck with him some

LUKE:
Not a mate of mine. Feel free!

SAM TO HATER:
G’day Coonrod,

Thank you for your encouragement.
Based on your mail, we have decided to release our version of Morbid Angel’s ‘chapel of ghouls’ on the next CD.
 
By the way, I put your email on the morbid angel board (link out of date)
You don’t mind, do you?
  -sam, berzerker bass.vox

HATER TO SAM:
Aw, your mean

******

Now I wasn’t kidding. I did actually post his email up on the Morbid Angel bulletin board. It seemed like a good way to promote our cover song on the next CD as well as messing with the dude. The post quickly became a popular object of scorn, especially once all his personal details were uncovered by the board, and his last name was widely remarked upon. Someone found his deviantart account and we spent a merry few days critiquing his art. It was kinda fun. I came to understand why people rip on other people’s work.  Two days later, he came back with this:

******

HATER TO SAM:
After reading the posts in the morbid website thats really not cool what you
decided to do. Why do you have to get all personal? Of course everybody’s going
to back you up because not all death metal fans will agree with my opinions. And
I can’t even register to the webpage to defend myself whats with that. Well if
you want to get personal let’s do that. Come to Phoenix, we can meet up at a
park in Ocotillo. You got a band, you got money, come aussie.

SAM TO HATER:
Thank god! For a horrible moment there I thought I hadn’t pissed you off at all.
 
You’re right, everyone has a right to their opinions. For example, I am of the opinion that emailing a band to tell them to stop making music is possibly the most  homolicious thing a person can do. But that’s just my opinion.
 
Come to Phoenix? To a park? To meet you? Pffft.

Should I spend my rockstar megabucks flying across the world to take on some sappy child who cannot draw, or stay here in the UK, soak up some more adoration from metal fans, and buy cocaine by the bucketful?

Wow, hard choice.
Happy scrawling, picasso
-sam bass.vox

HATER TO SAM:
Alright let’s say I’m a sappy homolicious child. So your just going to talk shit
to a little kid and not come to face him when he’s giving you a challenge? Your
a pussy by my book, I’d say by a lot of other people’s too

SAM TO HATER:
Whatever you say, Monet.
 
Because when I’m not working, travelling, hanging with my friends and girlfriend, touring, recording – and making AWESOME morbid angel crossover tracks – I like to spend $1000 on a plane and two days of travelling to kick the ass of children. Just like everyone else in the world.

Best for you if we don’t fight. If you punch like you draw, you’ll only hurt yourself. Has anyone told you that you have the aesthetic sensibilities of Helen Keller?

Can I tell you how wonderful it is to insult someone with a dumber last name than me? I can?
Thank you.
 
-sam bass.vox

******

All these email exchanges in the meantime were going straight up onto the bulletin board, onto the Berzerker forum, and getting broadcast from Myspace to an appreciative audience of thousands.

******

HATER TO SAM:
Go ahead and keep talking shit, your not gonna back it up. You don’t even know
how I look. Hey, what if I came to you? Will you tour in US soon? Will you still
try and talk your way out if I confronted you there?

SAM TO HATER:
Of course I know what you look like.
You’re the doughboy with “own3d by beandork” all over his ass.

As for touring the US, how about never? Is never good for you? Sure as fuck works for me.
God it must frustrate the fuck out of you that I can piss you off, and there’s nothing you can do about it except amuse me with your crippling illiteracy.
 
Now go fingerpaint a bowl of fruit while I do a gabba mix of ‘Domination’.

HATER TO SAM:
But your not taking action, maybe it’s because your foreign? You see, the stance
your taking is kind of like saying your going to jump in the boxing ring and win
the fight, but you never jump in. If your not going to meet then quit talking fool.

SAM TO HATER:
My god, you’re still there?
Haven’t I stripped you of your dignity enough?
 
Can a foreigner help you with the english language? The abbreviation of “you are” is “you’re”. So your sentence “maybe it’s because your foreign” is an ungrammatical example of what passes for the squalid uneducated miasma that you call your brain. You seem to have got the hang of “it’s”, maybe there is hope for you yet.
 
Perhaps this will help?
(extinct link to a gif showing an apostrophe landing in the word ‘your’)

Pardon me if I don’t drop everything to fly to the other side of the planet to fight some random wanker. Us foreigners are kind of funny like that.

I’m not going to quit talking shit to you, and it looks like you can’t stop me. What do you think of that, oh stony broke phoenix boy with bitch tits?
-sam
 
ps: the morbid angel board is LOVING your correspondence, and encourage you to sign up.
 pps: and why not fly to the UK to meet me? You seem to have the big hard on to fight. You go book that plane. I’ll wait here.

******

And there you have it. That pretty much did it for the bulk of our correspondence.  The funny thing is, Berzerker did another tour of the US after this…but I wasn’t on it. I was replaced by Damo, a hardcore surfer and even more hardcore kickboxer. Although I relished the idea that Jonathon Coonrod would mistake Damo for me and turn up and start something, he never appeared.
Most disappointing.

Why a blog?

I’m a death metal guy who isn’t metal. I do death metal albums for fun. I’ve spent the last twelve or so years touring around blasting people with brutal music. I yell at them in a demonic growl, and occasionally smack them in the face to get our point across. I’ve got a website and a facebook page, and I blurt out all my innermost abstract thoughts on emotions on recordings. What do I want with a blog? Aren’t all those other outlets enough?

Nope. I thought long and hard about doing a blog alongside my latest release (The Senseless  ‘The Floating World’), and have some pretty specific reasons for doing this.

The band website is like a sales portal, with plenty of yummy retail window-dressing like pictures and mp3s. The facebook page is for direct interaction with the people who are into my mental music. The recordings are me searching heaven and earth for ways to get people off on sounds they haven’t heard before. In between all of this and my experience lie a bunch of yummy stories and wacked-out thoughts that I share with friends at the time. I’ve been reading back over them, and they’re pretty ridiculous. It seems a bit selfish to keep them hidden on my drives and emails, so I’ll chuck ’em out here.

Last time I released a Senseless album all sorts of bizarre music industry stuff happened. I reckon this blog – one step removed from the ‘professional’ face of the band – is a good place to document it. I’m no longer behoven to a label or distributor, or have any media figures to keep onside, so I can let my mouth run free. It may prove illuminating! – but honestly, it’ll probably better serve as a destination for some hot rants that I will feel mildly embarrassed about later. The music industry has always been a bus shelter jammed with rotters and it will be fun to recount some candid experiences instead of gnawing on my tongue.

And lastly, I get asked a bit by other bands and musicians for advice. God knows why, they probably want to ask Lamb of God or Cannibal Corpse, or someone who actually makes a living from their music instead of doing it as a hobby. However I do have the odd recommendation that isn’t completely retarded. My experiences in music have been an exercise in making a lot happen with very little time and next to no money. This has forced us to focus on what is efficient and effective, and to think clearly about how to achieve your goals in a band as quickly as possible. Plus I’ve had the luck to work alongside some geniuses and have nicked their working methods. I may ask for the odd guest to offer a few gems of wisdom. Again, a blog seems the best place to share.

Anyways, enough faff. Time to get stuff up.