CHRIS PRATT & ZOE SALDANA
While Marvel may wish that I was saying this about the latest Avengers film, or Spider-Man, there is little doubt that one of the most eagerly anticipated comic book movies of 2017 is Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. The succsess of the original movie even seemed to take Marvel itself by surprise… after all who expected a film based on characters that only the hardened comic book fans knew about was going to become just a raging juggernaut. Despite audiences at first raising an eyebrow at the film which contained a talking tree and a racoon the original Guardians film became one of the Marvel’s biggest pay days at the box office.
Now Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 has landed and to the producer’s credit they’ve been able to keep director James Gunn at the helm while the core cast of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel and Dave Bautista also remains.
Aside from box office success Guardians also announced Chris Pratt as a genuine star. The one- time funny man was now a bankable star – something he has continued with Jurassic World and Passengers. But even he admits the rise of the first film even surprised the cast. “I think that everybody was at least a little bit surprised at the amount of success that the first movie had,” he says seriously. “I know that in making the movie we all thought we were doing something special and it was a great script but you just never know with projects that you are on. And this being an untested title and not one of Marvel’s quote-un-quote ‘first tier’ superhero stories… you know we were surprised.”
Pratt is also well aware of the huge gamble that Marvel took having him play the lead role of Star-Lord. “It’s hard looking back now and seeing what Star-Lord has become through the collaboration of James and myself working on it and what it was to begin with,: he says. “It is hard to imagine the differences, but what appealed to me the most was that this was a character that I could bring my own personal brand of humor to and bring that into the character.
“It was something that I knew I could do that was unique to me and I had been dying for a situation like that and I thought it could be more of an action hero with comedy. After seeing myself in Zero Dark Thirty I was forced to realise what I was capable of as an actor because there was a certain physicality with that role that I had never had in previous roles. I saw that… because you are constantly re-evaluating how you see yourself and how people see you in roles… so I saw that in Zero Dark Thirty and I thought I want to do something that is physical but also has comedy – something I could bring my own brand of comedy to. So then I met James and had an audition and I felt like this was going to be a comfortable space to do that. That’s what was so exciting for me… I could just do me. The best version of my own stuff and that was okay with him… that was pretty cool.”
So what does Pratt believe that audiences should expect from Vol. 2 “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 picks up a few months after the first movie so it is very much a continuation of that story,” he says. “We find Peter Quill aka Star-Lord in that role that he adopted at the end of the first movie, the role of looking after this band of misfits and being the ‘hero’ of this group. He’s doing that but still having to deal with Rocket and the way that he is and Drax, and all of the characters with the way that they are but he’s taken on a leadership role and is just a little inkling more responsible.”
While Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is very much the story of Peter Quill (Star-Lord) delving into his past and working out exactly who he is there is also someone very much in his present – the faithful warrior Gamora played by Zoe Saldana who may or may not (okay does) have a thing for Star-Lord.
While the romance is certainly still there Saldana says audiences should expect to see a different side to Gamora this time around. “I feel that if I could describe Gamora’s story arc from the first Guardians it would have to be through Queen – Break Free,” she says smiling. “She just wants to be free or to die because she is over it. There is a bit of a selfish essence to her and it makes her prerogative very personal. Where as in this film she is one a path of redemption so she wants to be very present in trying to do good.”
A key plotline in this film is also further exploring the strained sisterly relationship between Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Saldana says Gamora has a lot of realisations about it this time around. “Gamora is realising that Nebula’s strength and power is much greater, just much greater than hers. So she wants to be able to inspire Nebula not to put bad feelings into what is already hers and her power because that is a Molotov cocktail… that’s a really dangerous weapon there. I think Gamora is the one that kind of senses that and realises that as the older sibling it’s her role to kind of do that. I think making peace with my sister is part of that redemption – she’s the only family member that I will ever know, there is no other like me – Thanos made sure that he wiped that – so if Nebula is all I have than she is worth the sacrifice and the work and the pain. That is where I feel Gamora is at when it comes to her and her sister.”
So the romance with Star-Lord where does Gamora stand on that? “I think he likes her more than she likes him,” she says smiling. “But I don’t think that is because he’s not the one for her according to her I just don’t think she has thought that far ahead – not for love for herself. At the moment she is trying to make amends for the wrongs that she has done. The last thing that she is going to feel that she deserves is love from a partner. So Quill takes the position in her brain as just a family member. This film does explore relationships though – relationships with our fathers, relationships with our siblings, relationship with our friends. The big question asked is – what is family to you? There’s also a lot
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol 2 is in cinemas now and is reviewed at www.heavymag.com.au
Written by Dave Griffiths
For over ten years now, Australia’s most adored alternative radio station Triple J has been hosting a brilliant program entitled, ‘Like A Version’. For the ill-informed, it is a segment where musicians are invited into the studio to do a live-to-broadcast cover version of a song by an artist/s which they admire (as well as a stripped back version of an original track by the band). An invitation to perform for the nation and the JJJ hosts is an unquantifiable honour, and throughout its history, it has certainly delivered some unforgettable renditions.
For Sydney’s melodic hardcore punks, Hellions, March 2017 has become one of the most prominent months in the quintet’s history. This date signifies when the band were invited onto the show to perform, and as the drummer, Anthony Caruso enlightens HEAVY magazine to an experience the five-piece will never forget for both the right and wrong reasons.
“It was one of the scariest things we have ever had to do as a band. We were really stoked on how it came together, but I mean, writing something or changing one of our songs and stripping it back to that level put us very out of our comfort zone. It was definitely nerve-wracking but really awesome in a sense that now we have a bit more confidence to explore that level of artistry and experimentation with our music.”
Whilst the hesitation to reimagine the outfit’s hardcore punk formula into an acoustic setting of sorts would certainly create a stressful environment – they performed their single “Thresher” rather superbly – the “pressure” factor was only intensified further when Hellions decided upon Amy Shark’s remarkable song, “Adore”, to undertake as a cover in their own style.
“Truthfully, covering someone else’s song is really stressful. In our exact words, when we began working towards it, we said: ‘We do not want to fuck this up’.” Anthony laughs – “If Amy (Shark) hated it, we would have been devastated. It turns out, she didn’t. She loved it, which was awesome and a huge relief. But it was terrifying; I’m not going to lie. We had three different versions of it and we were so critical of ourselves that the closer we got to performing it, we were adamant that we could not do this.”
He elaborates further and intensifies his tone, “We had a mindset that we had fucked up and we were going to fail – we had no idea how we were going to pull it off. I think we did it though and it was to the best of our abilities (laughs).”
But how do Hellions feel about the experience now in reflection?
“Honestly, it is just a really nice song and when we were discussing it we had a few different ideas, some of which were the polar opposite to what her music is like. In the end, we made the decision to do something that was completely out of our comfort zone and if we were going to do something this extreme, why not do it on live national radio? (laughs)”
Although the undertaking pushed the quintet well into discomfort, the five men have walked away nationally embraced for their stunning effort, and, as they believe, better musicians for it.
“Not that we are going to do an acoustic record or anything like that, but it has opened us up to some more ideas. We know we are capable of doing something along those lines, so it may trickle into our future writing. It was a pretty insane experience.”
National adoration is just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg which these New South Welshmen have deservedly attained with their third album, “Opera Oblivia”. In fact, the record has achieved such monumental esteem that Hellions were recognised by the Australian Recording Industry Association and in turn awarded an ARIA nomination for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal album of 2016 (which, sadly, they were not victorious with). More importantly, however, how did this news sit with the five-piece when they were notified?
“Being nominated was beyond our collective belief. That alone was something we did not think would be on the cards for us for a few years, truthfully EVER! So it was hard to believe it happened. We were pinching ourselves because it was so mind-boggling.”
What about the ceremony?
“To attend the awards and be physically there and see everything and everyone, it was an absolutely insane night. I don’t think anyone left until the very early hours of the morning, or even late morning. It was so cool, we met people who we did not think we would ever meet and some people knew who we were which was extremely hard to fathom: we were baffled as to how they knew who we were. It was so crazy, we hung out with Shannon Noll, Molly Meldrum, and so much more. Truthfully, it is all a bit of a haze to me, sorry (laughs). It was very humbling and exceptionally fun, that’s the best way to describe it.”
Anthony continues with an elated voice, “We were half-expecting to be the odd ones out but everyone was really welcoming. There was no hierarchy or anything like that, no one had a ‘prima donna’ attitude and the ‘fame’ aspect was not apparent. Having the Violent Soho boys and DMA’S there helped break the ice a bit and allowed us to feel a bit more comfortable.”
Australia has actually been lower on the priority scale for Hellions at the beginning of 2017 as the band ventured overseas to tour Europe again. Not an outfit to shy away from a challenge, however, the five-piece commenced a headline tour after their support run with friends Deez Nuts and Comeback Kid. This again was a completely new enterprise and one which instigated some reluctance, understandably.
“The response was excessively overwhelming. We went in with very low expectations, and honestly, we had no idea what to expect, but we were very blown away by the whole adventure, really.
“It was so nerve-wracking but exciting all the same. We just wanted to show those fans that attended our ability at our absolute best, because we were really thankful, you know? It was completely humbling for people to come out to OUR shows rather than just seeing us as a compilation prize because we were supporting someone else (laughs).”
So Europe is accepting Hellions to a high regard?
“The UK is starting to feel like our second home, almost. I am kind of lost for words on how to describe it. Honestly, it was that good. It feels like it was a while ago now which is weird because it was only a couple of weeks ago, but I have a big smile on my face talking about it so it must have been amazing (laughs).”
Thankfully Australia is finally about to be rewarded with the band’s proper headline tour for the acclaimed third LP, and while this is great news for the aficionados of the party punks, the band themselves are beyond delighted to take to their home nation’s roads again. In retrospect, this is completely logical: after three albums, supporting some of the world’s best heavy bands (Of Mice & Men, Enter Shikari), achieving a Triple J feature record, critical acclaim, global touring and numerous other achievements almost too exhausting to list, it is Hellions time to be the premiere act.
“It definitely feels that way, especially with this tour we are about to embark on. It feels like we are now supposed to be at this point. I mean the UK headline shows were fantastic, but this upcoming tour is the one we are anticipating the most! We could have done it straight after the album was released, but we decided to wait on it for a little while, just to see how it was received and how the public reacted to it.”
He continues, “Now it feels like the right time and we are all jumping out of our skin; we are practically desperate to play these shows, in a good way. We are over the moon to play headline shows here and now that the record has been out for a while, it has just pieced together beautifully to launch it to the best effect, you know?”
With their hometown show selling out much faster than anticipated, the boys have added a second show to really thank their fans properly. However, this is an icing on the cake for the sequel: “We are performing both “Indian Summer” and “Opera Oblivia” in full. That was kind of an easy decision in the end. Sydney is our hometown and we were very overwhelmed with the response. To sell out the first show was pretty massive for us.”
Written by Will Oakeshott
“It’s way, way worse,” voiced Frenzal Rhomb vocalist Jason Whalley when asked how their upcoming album, “Hi-Vis High Tea”, stacks up against previous releases. “It’s actually… well, every band says that their most recent record is the best thing they’ve ever done, but in our case, it’s our fourth best. Out of nine records, that’s pretty fucken good! That’s deep into the top four. But aside from that, it’s good. I think it’s good, very good. It’s got some decent songs on it. It’s fast, it’s loud, it’s stupid, and it has a very deep message which is ‘don’t be a cunt.’”
With a plethora of instantly classic titles at the ready, including “Cunt Act”, “School Reunion” and “I’m Shelving Stacks (As I’m Stacking Shelves)”, Whalley says Frenzal Rhomb has not lost any of their edge after celebrating 25 years in the industry last year.
““Cunt Act” is actually one of Lindsay’s songs,” he deferred. “When I heard the demo of that it was like he had actually written my favourite Frenzal Rhomb song of all time. It’s got the perfect balance of ridiculous and comical, and it’s catchy and says ‘cunt’ a lot. It’s got guitar solos that I like and the other stuff, I dunno, we just come up with it from time-to-time. I never went to my school reunion but I think I shame some people within the verses but I can’t really say if they are real, actual people or not. I’m not at liberty to say that at this point because they’re gonna be trolled. If they do indeed exist, I don’t want the wrath of Frenzal Rhomb fans ruining their lives.”
When it comes to “I’m Stacking Shelves”, however, the answer isn’t as ambiguous.
“Yeah, that was a time when I was working at Coles and I used to shelve ecstasy pills as a way of getting through the night shift, so I was basically putting MDMA deep inside my rectum and it was a really good way of getting through the boredom of the midnight-to-dawn shifts. It’s basically a song about sticking drugs in your bum.”
With the aforementioned song titles and relevant subject matter, Whalley still seems stunned when I ask if the band has finally given up on getting commercial airplay.
“No man. No way,” he retorted. “”Cunt Act” is for Kiss FM and Austereo. I feel like this is the one. We’re gonna crack it with this one, man, come on. We’ll get a Logie even!”
“Hi-Vis High Tea” is a step back in time for Frenzal Rhomb, with the majority of the twenty songs coming in at under two minutes and returning to that short, sharp, punchy feel that defined earlier albums like “Meet the Family” and “Coughing Up a Storm”.
“It has,” Whalley agreed. “It’s not like our middle era when we were writing progressive rock songs that went for eleven minutes. We’ve really returned to our roots. I was listening to “A Man’s Not A Camel” recently for some reason and realized that, for whatever reason, we always wrote third verses and there’s no need for that. There’s absolutely no need for a third verse. If you can’t say everything in one and a half verses, then there’s something going wrong.”
When discussing the title of the album, Whalley becomes (almost) serious for the first and only time of the discussion.
“It has to do with the fact that we’re all complicit in the inevitable destruction of our planet by digging up our resources and selling them,” he spat. “Everybody is just trying to look after their kids and do the same thing and make money and what not but what we’re actually doing is ruining our future by destroying our planet. It’s fucken death to the planet while we rip it up and drink cocktails on the fucken corpse of our Earth.”
So what is his proposal to fix it?
“We stop fucken mining up bullshit and destroying our natural resources by digging up our planet and selling it to make nuclear weapons, and instead we all get nude and live in the jungle.”
To celebrate their ninth album, Frenzal Rhomb is embarking on a national tour starting in Perth on June 16th, and returning to the scene of Whalley’s most recent brush with fan adulation where he was literally punched in the face while singing the song “Punch in the Face” at the Miami Shark Bar.
“Oh, yeah, that was fun,” Whalley grimaced. “I like the Shark Bar because I stand on the rooftop and pretend I’m a war correspondent. That place is like Beirut in 1982! You have to be careful there and watch your back (laughs).”
But will that assault on his bodily person stop him singing that song next time?
“No, shit no,” he laughed defiantly. “Of course, we will play it.
Throughout Frenzal’s 26 year history, Whalley has often gone to pains to let the music loving public know that his band isn’t very good and should be treated as such, but it appears he has recently had a change of heart.
“I always pretend that I have this air of humbleness about me,” he professed, “but, actually, we’re the best band that’s ever lived and we’re the best band who’s written the best music and put out the best albums of any band on the planet but for me to say that out loud doesn’t sound very charitable to all the other shit bands on Earth. You have to be humble sometimes otherwise you look like a fucken cunt.”
Having recently been blacklisted by the Chinese government, Whalley admits that while Frenzal Rhomb is a self-professed good time band, sometimes their antics and what they stand for are blown out of proportion.
“Well… nothing… except for we played at a Taiwanese Independence Festival,” he revealed of the reasons why China have ostracised the band. “Apparently they didn’t like that. So now we’re on this Ministry of Culture blacklist, which I think basically means that we can’t get played on the equivalent of Today FM in China, which we probably wouldn’t have gotten played on anyway so I don’t really think it’s a massive deal. I don’t think that we’re gonna go to jail or be disappeared in some sort of Chinese gulag, but you never know.”
When pressed if Frenzal Rhomb is the type of band who goes looking for trouble or are just unlucky, Whalley remains indignant.
“We’re neither,” he shrugged. “People are just generally stupid. People like to make mountains out of molehills, especially these days when you might get 2000 likes for putting some kind of mysterious fact on Facebook. I dunno, I guess people just love a good outrage.”
Fans hoping for a live DVD or album are sadly out of luck, with Whalley defending the bands right to be bad in the moment rather than for eternity.
“I love living in the midst of our concerts,” he expressed. “I love keeping the memory that they were awesome. I fucken hate YouTube because all of a sudden you look on there and there’s some guys phone footage of what you thought was the best show that you’ve ever done and you look at it and go, ‘Oh man, we were shit’. I’d way prefer to live with the memory, even if the memory was a lie. The only way we’d ever do a live record is if we did it and then replaced all the instruments and the only thing we kept from it was the audience clapping.”
Written by Kris Peters
Disclaimer – Jason Whalley has never been serious about anything in his adult life, except maybe the birth of his son, so anything that comes out of his mouth should be treated and received as such.
“That’s one of those things that I try not to even think about,” dismissed Against Me! drummer Atom Willard when asked how the band manages to stay relevant in the modern music world.
“I feel if you start trying to make new music that’s trying to fit in with what is happening today, and that’s your intention, I don’t think it will come off as genuine. It’s not gonna be something that is really your thing. If you are listening to and being influenced by music and that starts to show itself on your own then I think that’s a different thing. It’s like a natural progression. I’d hope that as long as we all have good music taste then we’re gonna make music that’s still relevant because what we like and what we love to listen to is obviously going to manifest itself in our own music.”
With their seventh studio album, “Shape Shift With Me” being released last September, Willard says that although the feedback has been positive, the band have not had much of a chance to road test the new material on their fans.
“It seems like it’s going really well,” he said of the response. “We haven’t played nearly as many of our own shows as we have played shows with other bands. Headlining shows are really where you start to see your own fans and their reactions. Probably about 25% of the shows we’ve played since it came out have been our own shows; everything else has been things like opening for Green Day, plus we went on tour with Bad Religion and that’s not the best way to gauge things. You get a shorter time to play and you can’t play as many new songs. The response that we’ve got has been good so I’m cautiously optimistic (laughs).”
Unlike many bands, Willard says that Against Me! don’t really set themselves goals for their albums, preferring instead to allow natural creativity to flourish.
“Oh man, goals are a tough thing to put on yourself when making a record,” he stressed. “From my experience, I never want to say this is what it should be: I want it to kind of show itself. I want it to make itself known over the course of the songwriting and recording, so as we were writing the songs and as things are coming together more and more, it was like it was really a travelling record. It was about being in different places and being lost and found and lost again – that kind of stuff – but that wasn’t the intention, to begin with. We just wanna write good music, that’s what it comes down to, ultimately.”
Willard came into the band in 2012, replacing current Slipknot drummer, Jay Weinberg. Not only did he have to go through the usual trappings of joining an established band, he also took up the skins around the same time vocalist, Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender and began her transition. It ignited a period of uncertainty for the band that was only stifled when the groundbreaking “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” was released in early 2014.
“There was definitely a lot of things going on and a lot of things changing,” he said of his early days in the band. “Ultimately, it was just a period of growth with me coming in. The other guys had years and years of experience with each other and I had a fresh attitude on everything. It’s easy for me to be optimistic and be like, ‘Oh, this is gonna be great, nobody’s gonna worry about it’—just whatever to keep the spirits up and that sort of thing—but it was a period of growth that I’m really happy with where everybody stood up and came through the other side.”
While being an extremely personal journey for the band, and in particularly, Laura, being in a high-profile band inadvertently drags even the most private of situations into the public spotlight, and Willard agrees that it was no longer just the music that was being scrutinized.
“I’m sure there are people out there that will never look at Against Me! the same way again,” he sighed, “and that’s sad. The amount of positive support and positive feedback from old fans and new fans alike was amazing. It just doesn’t matter to them. Anyone who went away from the band because they couldn’t deal with Laura’s evolution, there’s really no loss there. The new fans are so heartfelt and so supportive and passionate about everything because the band and her lyrics have helped them through something or because they think they can be in a safe place when they come to one of our shows. Whatever it is, I imagine we have those types of fans anyway. The thing is, Laura is the same person she’s always been. Everything is written the same way. It’s always been from her heart – she just wears her heart on her sleeve – and it’s all out there in the open and none of that has changed. It’s still very much the same band it has always been.”
While much of the world has embraced technology and the ever increasing ease of producing your own music, Willard feels that the true essence of punk music has been lost a little in the process.
“I’m pretty passionate about the whole punk scene,” he defended. “In this age of computer and recording and the way that people really just… dissect and nitpick and go over every tiny little detail in the recordings, it’s like you take away the human element and it takes away the human energy. So, ultimately, when you listen to many of my favourite records from bands like The Clash or any band before 1998 when you put on their record there are mistakes on it. There are little glitches and little things that just aren’t perfect but that’s part of the character. I think as people become more accustomed to that perfect sound or that perfect moment in time that is a digitalized version of whatever that music is, it just becomes soulless. It doesn’t have that thing that holds you and you don’t know why but I can almost guarantee that it’s because it’s been completely manicured.”
It’s not only the way that punk is being recorded that has raised Willard’s ire but also what the genre stands for in the modern climate.
“What is punk rock?” he asked. “Is it because you play fast or have a mohawk or wear spikes or have tattoos? For me, that has never been the essence of punk rock. What is the essence is speaking out and doing things that not necessarily are very political or serious, but as long as it’s something that isn’t part of the norm and it’s against the grain and it’s against the bulk of what society is doing, it’s like you are a rebel; you are a punker; you are doing something that is outside the normal. And Laura’s lyrics and Laura’s whole approach to the way she stands up for what she believes in; the way she puts that to music, and the melody and everything else, it’s such a true stand up for what you believe in type of moment. That’s what keeps you coming back again and again. It’s just true and genuine and is really against so many parts of society and so many things that are wrong today and actually saying something about it.”
Written by Kris Peters
“The early ideas I had for the band were very simple,” explained former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett on his influence over the band. “I saw them play live and I thought in a way it was very folky – very dreamy – but I didn’t think it had the punch that it needed; I thought that Genesis needed a harder edge. I tried over the years to give them that, but at the same time, I was just as interested in 12 string guitar and nylon stuff. So, over time I managed to influence as I was influenced by them and it was a wonderful time. It was great to see the band grow from doing free lunchtime concerts and doing clubs and colleges to where we were lucky enough to play to 60,000 people in London the last time I played with them there, and then I moved on to solo stuff. I wanted to work with other people, and having a fully fledged solo career was not on offer from the band: at the time I felt even though I was playing guitar in arguably the world’s greatest band, my allegiance is first and foremost to the music itself. So, I moved on and worked with other people. I dip in and out of the Genesis thing. I’m proud of everything that I managed to achieve with the band but there was an afterlife: different places, I do different shows. Sometimes it’s a Genesis show, sometimes it’s a solo thing; and I’ve been involved with lots of different kinds of music over the years, particularly with the current album that focuses on so many different genres. I had this pan-genre approach. I think Genesis in the early days was quite romantic but I did manage to do some atonal stuff, as well. There was the influence of jazz; there was the influence of classical. I would have liked to have gotten some blues into it, as well. I started out life as a harmonica player and was hoping that Genesis might crack under torture (laughs). I got my way with other things. I had to twist a few arms and shout and scream – like Chinese torture. I managed to get the band to get its own light show and the Mellotron synth and all of those things that were cutting-edge at the time. Sometimes you have to make yourself unpopular to be popular, and I think in and amongst the close group if you’re going to expand the ideas you have to run the gamut of objections in order to take things forward. These days, in order to make a decision, all I have to do is turn up myself and I can agree on all sorts of things very, very quickly (laughs). I remember the last time that Genesis worked together with a retrospective of group and solo stuff, my God, it took about three years to decide the colour of the cover I seem to recall. It’s one of those extraordinary things that makes you appreciate being solo. It’s not the quality of the music it’s that I’ve always loved the Genesis music – it’s absolutely wonderful – but it’s nice when the body can keep up with the brain if you know what I mean.”
Hackett is preparing to bring to Australia ‘Genesis Revisited’ in August and says fans of not only the band but also his extended solo career will find something of note.
“It is basically classic Genesis from the 1970’s, the time that I was involved with the band when Peter Gabriel was the lead singer and Phil Collins took over. I’ll be doing songs from Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England by the Pound and a little bit of stuff from The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway; A Trick of the Tail; Wind and Wuthering; and there will be a bit of solo stuff, but in the main, it’s an authentic Genesis show.”
Hackett was around and responsible for some of Genesis’ biggest hits and believes that the era that he was in the band has much to do with that success.
“At that time you had a number of guys – particularly when we were a five-piece – that were all pulling in different directions and all listening to different artists, but fortunately most of us agreed that we really enjoyed the work of Jimmy Webb, and as a consummate songwriter he himself was influenced hugely by British music. He was someone who had a grasp of harmony, and then, of course, Tony Banks and I would have conversations about harmony. Pete would be much more experimental. He would be interested in everything from pantomimes to music coquette. Phil would be interested as much in Tony Bennett and Mel Torme as the Beatles, so we had the big band aspect with all the accents and the syncopation. Throughout the ranks, the guys were all capable of writing songs on their own and capable of writing something that was either exciting or something that could break your heart, so I think as a collection of songwriters, it’s hard to beat Genesis. Of course, there’s a whole ton of stuff over the various incarnations of the band and I think the band was harmonically a tad more sophisticated than its peers.”
Hackett has been playing the guitar now for over 40 years and says that his main love of the instrument is its adaptability and limitless potential.
“It keeps revealing itself to me,” he soothed. “Over time I think the guitar isn’t going to make any more sounds. It’s then I discover that just by using the mechanical devices that are around, that not everything has been explored yet. So I’m still looking in the corners of the instrument and coming up with things that I think sound quite extraordinary to me. I do it at sound checks. Sometimes I’m using an intelligent harmoniser and an octave thing and I’ve got a guitar that eliminates percussion and decay so you’ve just got a continuous sound of a note that sounds perhaps more like woodwind or like a violin. The combination of all those things makes something that sounds very spacey and quite strange, but alluring. Just when I thought that I’d heard all the possible guitar sounds that I was ever going to hear, suddenly there’s a quiet revolution going on that makes you think, ‘hang on, there’s still more to this.’”
While music is a personal experience, Hackett maintains that from a writing perspective you have to be selfish to make it appeal to a wider audience.
“You’ve got to be true to yourself,” he stated. “I never really learned how to create where I’ve thought, ‘I think this is what people want to hear’. I do stuff that I would like to hear myself, so pleasing yourself and doing something that is personal is the shortest route to doing something that is universal. I’ve always been surprised when I do a track on an album that I think is just for me that no one will like and invariably it is the one others enjoy the most. I like music that is full of surprises. Some are a surprise to even me that they work at all, but that’s the whole point. You are creating something that’s the most unlikely thing and you have to make these joins seamless and have moments of silence that make you think: do these moments work? There are two ways of looking at every piece of music: the listener has a subjective experience: love it or hate it. The writer that plays it has to be objective and think I’m not going to get everyone with this because not everyone will like it. Even if I manage to get the voice sounding like Pavarotti, someone else might prefer it to sound like Howling Wolf; and each is the owner of the true music which is essentially the stuff that affects him or her.”
While not denigrating the path that modern day musicians take to success, Hackett says that when Genesis first started times were different, and in many ways, you had to work harder to have your music heard.
“I can’t speak for younger musicians,” he asserted, “but I assume there must be much more people like me just dying to get an audience, and I think because there’s no longer the monopoly of record companies. It is possible to have an indie setup and any garage band in the world has a fair crack at an audience. You don’t have to play the game and audition to the big three companies. You can go your own route now that the monopoly is broken. In many ways, it was tougher when we were starting out. I realise music is more disposable these days, but is it disposable to you or is it precious? Are there things you couldn’t do without? That Beatles album that might still get through to you in the way that it did when you were a kid? The milestones that are there? Sure, for those that are not into music it is disposable; as are old films and all examples of media and every book that was ever written to be burned. But, on the other hand, there are things that are etched in memory that is a part of your DNA (stamped on your heart) and those things are reminders to people. Music can say something that… even to me now, it can reveal my feelings that I will later put to practice or into words but it might be music that informs me first of all. There’s something about it. It’s the ultimate language – the international language – from shredders to love songs. There’s something about it that speaks to everyone.”
Written by Kris Peters
Wolfmother is hard to come by at home these days. The beloved Aussie rockers are more likely to be found touring internationally, headlining across the globe with only the occasional look in at home. Back in January, Wolfmother headlined an at-capacity show at renowned Sydney venue Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice, as part of the establishments fourth birthday celebrations. This, as frontman Andrew Stockdale confirms, was just one of some very few Australian appearances in the last year. “Well, I mean Frankie’s was the second show – we’ve done 120 shows and only two in Australia.
“The plane [journeys] are pretty long and jet lag and flying from Oz to Europe and back is tough and we just take a couple of weeks off between tours – I’m sort of using that as my reason for not flying. Once we reached 300,000 [air mile] points, I went business [class] because I was sick of being jammed up the back for hours and hours on end.”
That should make it pretty self-explanatory as to the name for upcoming Australian tour, ‘Gypsy Caravan’. In case it didn’t, enigmatic frontman Andrew Stockdale explains the band’s recent movements. “Ah well, we’ve not played at home [Australia] for three years, I think, not like a comprehensive tour where we’ve announced it two months in advance. Before it’s been all spontaneous shows here.
“I guess it’s like a nostalgic notion of the band being in a caravan travelling around being gipsies, that’s the sort of poetic way of looking at touring. The first show anyone ever offered us was in Brisbane and it was offered by a guy called the ‘scare’. He managed the zoo and said he’ll fly us up to play at the zoo. We were like, ‘Man, someone is offering to pay for our flights to play at a zoo!’ Pretty crazy, right? That was the first time we played anywhere outside of Sydney.”
From the zoo to Frankie’s, in just ten short years, it’s no wonder that Stockdale seems so, shall we say, chill? From such humble and strange beginnings to international fame and touring, he is, of course, allowed to ‘bake’ a little in the day’s sunshine to relax, and indeed, like talking to a wise guru, Stockdale’s relaxed state proves most opportune for hearing some choice stories – how he’s done it, got where he wanted to be, the relentless beginnings; it all makes for an intriguing and enjoyable chat and it’s best just to roll with it, let the excitable Stockdale take a trip down memory lane.
“When we started out in Sydney, I had a studio in the Spanish Quarter and I used to order taxis to cart our stuff around town, right? Going to the Bindi Hotel and I had two station wagon taxis for all the amps and shit!
“I remember saying to the drummer Myles, saying, ‘Man, I think this is going really well, we can get a gig a week,’ and he was like, ‘No way, man!’ Fast forward ten years and bam! Here we are, crazy man!”
“[Back then] someone wants a publishing agreement and I’m like, ‘What’s publishing?’ ‘You guys should have a tour manager’, ‘what’s that?’ We were, like, clueless.”
Clueless they may have been but those fumbled beginnings grew to solid innings. And many young bands in Sydney, and indeed the country, find themselves today in a similar position to where Wolfmother began, wanting to play music with their mates, to entertain an audience, to travel. But with so many Sydney venues shutting their doors, blaming the restrictions of the lockout laws for their closure, and the threat for the same happening in other cities very real, Stockdale has, of course, a stance on the matter: one of both wit, wisdom and showing a true gipsy soul.
“I mean culture grows from these places – it’s not like everyone can play the Enmore [Theatre] and fork out $20,000 for security and venue hire. Bands need somewhere where there are no expenses and their payment is free beer,” Stockdale chuckles. “You really need that kind of stuff to get in front of people. It’s pretty intimidating, really, if you have a party at your warehouse [shut down] because you had council restriction, you have to be a real logistics master to play your first show.
“When I first started playing, it was a miracle to get four people into your rehearsal space. The fourth person would show up then gear would break, so you’d waste time there. Starting a band is a miracle and if the venues are disappearing, all the elements of starting a band are stacked against you.
“I remember leaving a rehearsal studio when I was 18 and I heard Radiohead on the radio and was like, ‘We need to quit, we suck’. I learnt my lesson then, like, it doesn’t matter how bad you are or what gigs you play, it’s just small steps. Even if you’re terrible, don’t worry about it: one little bit here, here, here, it builds up.
“I look at these bands on stage and it’s perfect, people are so good, programs are amazing, everyone is well-edited and this era is a highly competitive era even now. Yeah, I guess it’s a bit of luck but you make your own—I took the risks—I remember starting a band with a crowd before Wolfmother – you turn up to rehearsal, these people would get there at all hours, these hipsters of Surrey Hills, they were “too cool”, you know? I said to one guy I knew: ‘We gonna book a gig? Record a demo?’ And I felt like a stiff for saying this stuff to mega-hipsters and he was like, ‘You know what, it’s gonna happen.’ And you know what happened? Nothing! [raucous laughter]”
“My thing is book the show, hand out flyers on George Street [Sydney] – I bought a computer with a credit card and recorded the first Wolfmother EP before we had any air press. Yes, we are fortunate that we can do this, but half of it is making your own luck, being at the venue you don’t wanna be at in Melbourne at 2 am, loading your gear in and out, most people wouldn’t do it, whereas I do it because I have the disposition and the patience to do this crazy thing.
“I think I could be completely domesticated and cook and clean and stay and home, and that’s nice; or try a different profession, a job or anything, but I don’t need to work. I’m in a good position now so I don’t have that kind of pressure. I’m doing this because I want to do it. I think it’s good for me, playing shows is good for the soul – it’s good to have a purpose in life. You can get stuff in limbo. I’ve had some amazing experiences in some amazing places just following the process – well, that’s my take on it.”
Written by Anna Rose
TAMI STRONACH from THE NEVERENDING STORY
One movie that most thirty-somethings would have seen as a child was the cult classic, The NeverEnding Story: a German production that ended up taking the world by storm. Wolfgang Petersen’s family science-fiction film has since then made tens of millions at the box office and is a film that most hardened film lovers also have on DVD.
One of the most memorable characters from The NeverEnding Story was The Childlike Empress, played by Iranian-born actress Tami Stronach. HEAVY’s Dave Griffiths recently caught up with Tami to see what she is doing some thirty-three years after the film was released.
Much was made about the fact that Tami was a newcomer when it came to acting on screen when she was cast in the role of The Childlike Empress, but she says she was not entirely new to acting. “I was heavily involved in community theatre and dance as a child, but I was not a Hollywood kid and I didn’t have an agent,” she explains. “It was all a happy accident. The casting agent from the film was slated to have lunch with her friend on a break from casting. Her friend ended up being my acting teacher. She showed up early for their date and saw the tail end of the acting class and asked me to audition. I loved the script: I thought the story was really magical.”
Like many of the people who first saw the film when it came out, Tami also had no idea that the film would go on to be as popular as it did but she said the novel the film was based on did help her prepare for the role. “No, I had no idea,” she says. “But while I had no idea that the film would gain the popularity it ultimately gained, I did know right away that it was a really special story and that I was really lucky to be able to play this part. I collected adjectives that I felt described who she was from reading the script and the book and I scrolled through those adjectives in my mind to keep me rooted to the character. I also played her as if she was 300 years old. The nice part about playing this character for me as a young girl was that her inside and her outside didn’t match. The Empress was such a juicy role because redefined what strength was—she was powerful because she was wise and compassionate and empathetic. She didn’t have to move at all to exert this power. I love that it flipped the definition of strength on its head.”
Tami doesn’t keep in contact with any of her castmates from the film and while she isn’t recognised often by fans, it still does happen occasionally. “Fans don’t approach me today,” she says. “No one really recognises me in daily life—I leave my tiara at home. My most memorable meeting with a fan happened in my twenties when I stopped to check out a new theatre that was being built where I was living in Brooklyn. The man in charge of renovating the theatre was convinced he knew me and started naming various schools, weddings, bat mitzvahs to try to find a common link. This game of searching for ‘how do I know you?’ actually does happen to me quite a lot as opposed to straight recognition. But in this case, he was unrelenting and very sweet in his desperation to find out when and how we previously met. I finally asked him if it could be that he recognised me from The NeverEnding Story and his head almost exploded: it was his favourite film. I ended up spending a lot of time making work in that theatre and this fan turned into one of my best friends. In fact, I officiated his wedding. He, his wife and son are coming over for dinner this week.”
One of the things that most people found surprising after the success of The NeverEnding Story was that Tami never appeared on screen much after that. “I wanted to do my ‘own’ work,” she says. “I didn’t want someone well known to legitimize my work. I got into a ‘big’ dance company after college but I turned it down because I just didn’t love the work they were making. In terms of acting, I also chose to act with an ensemble theatre company called The Flying Machine in NYC – that I thought was just thrilling in terms of the quality of what they were making – instead of pursuing the opportunity to go to LA and work with a commercial agent. The founders of The Flying Machine were trained in Paris at a clown, mime and physical theatre school so joining their troop exposed me to a lot of new mediums. I liked the challenge of that as well as the visual poetry it produced. I wanted to be a part of an artistic community. I wanted to feel that weird mix of excitement and terror live performance provides and the team spirit that being a part of a company that works together for years makes you feel. In terms of dance, the standard for me when considering who and what to work on was do I like this product AND will the director of this project value and invite cast members to contribute their own ideas to the process. This led to many lasting artistic relationships I’m grateful to have experienced. Also being in NYC was important in terms of starting my own dance theatre company. It gave me access to incredible dancers and designers. For me, directing was important. I wanted to be in charge of the kind of content I was bringing into the world. Of course stepping into the uncharted territory is always really scary and being the one in charge also puts you at risk of being humiliated if it doesn’t go well. But it’s worth it. I think the greatest gift you can give yourself is to validate your own creative impulses. As a teacher, I tell my composition students that if they nurture their own idiosyncratic, creative nature and keep working hard then they will have already won what there is to win in life: the opportunity to grow. As a young person, the triumph lay in making my own oasis and defining my own values. Having said all that I feel a shift coming on. Film work seems really attractive again. I just did two days of filming on the indie film ‘Ultra Low’ and it was a blast. Maybe as I get older I am less anxious about defining myself. I’d love to have some fun doing more work like that now.”
That work that Tami is doing now involves a number of projects, including her own company Paper Canoe, that she is only too happy to talk to us about. “Paper Canoe stories all emphasise the importance of being inquisitive,” she says. “Our stories ask kids to consider the limitations of what adults tell them is or isn’t possible and our heroines or heroes find a way to build a better world for themselves through having unbreakable imaginations.”
“We just released our first album, “Beanstalk Jack”. I love the idea of telling a whole story solely through music. We also gave the classic tale a boy-meets-girl twist. I wanted the moral to be that Jack defeats the big bad greedy giant by stealing his daughter’s heart—not his stuff. In our version, we gave the giant a daughter named Harmony and she is the giant’s prized possession. She’s lonely living in a gilded cage with no one to talk to. But when Jack knocks on the door she falls in love and runs away with him to make a band. Both Jack and Harmony are characters that follow their hearts even when it seems crazy but it pays off.”
“It’s pretty funny… one 4-year-old girl who loves the album asked me last month why they don’t just kill the giant and move into his castle so Harmony can be a princess. I told her that Harmony doesn’t need to be a princess because she has music and love and her freedom and she’s pretty tired of living up in the clouds. She was not convinced that that was a good trade at all—she still wants Harmony to end up as a princess somehow. I suppose it is funny for me, the ‘Empress’, to be discouraging girls from wanting to be princesses.”
“I started Paper Canoe Company after the birth of my daughter. At the time I was a full-time professor of dance in addition to running my dance company. I was working insane hours and I felt my own creative life eroding. I asked myself how I might bring all my passions under one umbrella: being a choreographer, an actor, a teacher, and a mum. I also wanted to make things that would contribute to my community—which is now made up of a lot of parents with young kids.
“Like any leap of faith, when you take it, you feel nervous but I really do believe that you should ‘do what you dream’, and fight for that. I love The NeverEnding Story for delivering that message and took it to heart. It’s pretty much guaranteed that it will be hard at times… but things that are worth doing always are. Founding Paper Canoe has been like coming around full circle—I am acting, singing and making family entertainment again—which was a huge part of my childhood. Our first two Paper Canoe projects started out as live shows – a sock puppet show called ‘A Sock’s Fables’, based on Aesop’s Fables (ridiculous fun!) and ‘Light, a Dark Comedy’ which was a sci-fi dystopia play for tweens – but I’d like to take ‘Light’ to print in the form of a graphic novel and venture into making more digital media projects in the future too.”
And while there has been a rumour around Hollywood that there is a new The NeverEnding Story film in the pipeline, it seems Tami would not to take up the role of The Childlike Empress again.
“I would not choose to play the Childlike Empress because I am not a child anymore and I do think that an innocent fragile exterior that clashes with a wise and strong interior are key to the success of that part. I’d love to make a cameo as someone else though,” she says. “The Childlike Empress is still there in all of us – guarding the world of our imagination, watching over, and nurturing our dreams and wishes. And, just as she is protecting us, we need to protect her too… I’m trying to do that. My hope is that my story might inspire others to trust their own inner compass even if it doesn’t point in the most obvious direction.”
If people want to reach out to Tami they can on social media:
The NeverEnding Story is out now on DVD and Blu-ray and occasionally screens at cinemas like The Astor in Melbourne.
Written by David Griffiths
When infamous glam rockers KISS shed the makeup back in 1983 and the alter egos of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley was laid to rest for a time, the focus on the band moved away from their groundbreaking get-up and stayed heavier on the music. Bruce Kulick stepped into an exalted position in one of the greatest bands of our time. Arguably one of rock ‘n’ rolls most versatile and skilled guitarists, it was Kulick’s presence in KISS that helped produce more great music that would solidify the band’s position in music history, elevating them to legendary status. And the best thing about a living legend? Why, the stories they have to tell and the knowledge they have to share, of course.
Where better place to meet a rock ‘n’ roll legend, hear them play and share tales of days-gone-by than at KISS Konvention? Kulick and fellow member Peter Criss are making the media rounds for the massive event set to take place in cities across the country this month. “All of a sudden, I’ve got all these interviews for my upcoming trip, so I’m very excited,” Kulick exclaims. “This time I’m going to more places, we’re hitting places I’ve never been before and that’s very exciting.”
“No matter where you do them, the conventions are the best place for a fan in many ways to get up close and celebrate all things KISS,” says Kulick. “If you’re familiar with the band, KISS is one of those groups with obsessive fans and they’re incredible – they’re so detailed about their passion for the band. I represent the non-makeup version of the band.
“We did go to Australia in ’95 and Peter [Criss], having his history as an original member, then going back and doing the reunion tour, the fact that they can see two members of the KISS family, no matter if they have to travel or not, is pretty cool. We both do Q and A’s; we’ll both perform, and, of course, I get an opportunity to sign and to meet the fans.”
Kulick’s enthusiasm is evident, but what’s even clearer is the observations and awe he has for his fans at these types of events. In fact, Kulick’s humility around his fans is incredibly endearing. “I do notice though,” begins Kulick, “that this is a band that kind of attracts generations. The parents pass it on to the kids and then all of a sudden, I get these looks from these kids who are completely freaking out and some of them, you know, they weren’t even born when I was in KISS – that’s really rewarding.
“In the same way, I got to see a lot of amazing stuff growing up in New York and being a lover of the British Invasion – I got to see The Who, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix – but those are the bands that will carry on forever and even if you started to see The Who in the last five years, they’re still incredible and exciting, but how ‘bout seeing them watching them in 1967?!”
“I know the power of YouTube and what’s available now for people to share, and it’s so easy with our smartphones that you can instantly become a fan of KISS by just exploring things. It doesn’t matter how they found out about the band, as long as they’re willing to explore they will find something that will turn them on if that’s how they’re wired.”
KISS, who are massive in the sense that they revolutionised the glam rock outfit, hadn’t enlisted Kulick for that part of their history. Instead, Kulick was present when the focus was shifted more on the music and it’s a colourful point of discussion to discover Kulick’s take on whether he feels he had bypassed a large part of the KISS label that is perhaps in many ways, still important. “I always sense the shadow of it, that’s how I refer to it,” Kulick says, with no hint of animosity whatsoever.
“That start for them, they really wanted to come out of the box completely different. They knew they were competing with Led Zeppelin and The Beatles and all and those guys just had this idea, ‘We’re gonna do this and we’re committed, wear makeup, and we’re gonna wear these outrageous costumes’. It was really lightning in a bottle what they developed there.
“Ultimately, if the music stunk and they weren’t talented it wouldn’t have mattered – in fact, it would have made it a joke, to be quite honest – so they became huge. There was a little resistance there, but by ’75 they were gigantic. They carried on, and like a lot of bands that hit it really big, problems happened; sometimes they may take a wrong turn and by ’83, they realised it was time to take off the makeup.
“They were kind of rebranded in a way, in a very exciting rock style – big hair, outrageous clothes in a different way – then you have two super talents like Gene and Paul who are unbelievable performers: writing great songs, singing, so perfect for rock ‘n’ roll and total rock stars in every way. I feel like when I joined for “Animalize” and “Crazy Nights” that, yeah, we weren’t that makeup-looking band but we were so really damn unique there was still something about us that stood out.”
“Many of my fans, they were turned on to KISS post-makeup,” Kulick continues, “They saw me and I was the first guitarist and it meant a lot to them, and that’s why I’ve continued to be asked to sign so many “Asylum” and “Crazy Nights” and “Revenge” albums.”
The rewards of such an enterprise, and, indeed, Kulick’s skill as a musician prove again to be a point of humility for him as he says: “I’m very humbled and I do have big shoes to fill. Ace (Frehley) is a legend—he’s an icon—and being the new guitarist of KISS at the end of ’84 was an awesome burden for me to embrace and to perfect. I was up for the challenge – looking back at it, it was much bigger for me than when I was doing it if you get what I mean?”
There’s a domino effect in place when it comes to a musicians icons and mentors – Kulick certainly had his in late ’60s British rock bands, then to join such a prominent group filling the place of an already legendary guitarist, Kulick can only now pay it forward. At KISS Kovention, Australia’s own Sisters Doll will take to the stage and perform their own brand of classic glam rock, reborn for the 21st century. Performing on stage with them in a more than special appearance will be none other than Kulick, the icon and mentor for this next generation group. “Yes! I met them in 2015 when I did the expo in Melbourne and we wound up in Adelaide and did a regular gig – these kids are amazing!”
“They’re three brothers, they’re so talented, big fans too and so respectful. I am brutal when you rehearse with me, I am the boot camp sergeant you don’t want because I want it right and I want them to understand it. I want them to know the song like they know their phone number and they know their parents’ names. I know how to whip it into them but I’ve never had better students than these three young men. To me, they’re like family and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them again.”
Hearing about young bands like Sisters Doll having mentors and indeed fans such as Kulick is rewarding for any old school rock fan to hear – such guidance and admiration helps turn people on to a genre that isn’t necessarily dead. Even today, with the touring and playing he does, Kulick says he still finds a massive demand for the glam rock style, despite the industry being temperamental. “Music is so all over the place now, as you probably know, it’s very single orientated. If you’re talking about new artists, they’re usually young and they usually dance – I don’t pay a lot of attention to that because it just doesn’t have that kind of hold on me.
“Yeah I respect some of those artists and I’m aware of them but the point is, with Sisters Doll and the attention they get – KISS will always get attention, that’s a given – but they really plugged into something that is a complete throwback in many ways and I applaud them for their dedication and love of it.
“It isn’t a new thing that would have been happening in the ’80s or something, but they’re revisiting it their way and I’m hoping it keeps catches on! Because you know what? It’s good to have rock ‘n’ roll. It’s more about young crushes and looking good and having a good time and it’s all in a good spirit and is very close to what KISS’s creed is – you know, I don’t want to say it flippantly but I wanna rock ‘n’ roll all night and party every day. It’s an attitude about believing in yourself and enjoying life, living it to the fullest and I do see a lot of that energy in these kids and it’s great.”
But what a thing for Kulick to know that he was a part of the reason Sisters Doll ever took to music. “It was probably very surreal for them but to see how they hung on every word and every direction, I nearly cried when I remember coming back and seeing Austin, the bass player, exactly learn what I told him – ‘You go study this’, and he came back and nailed it, perfectly! I was like, ‘Wow!’ It really meant a lot to me – this is unique, very unique.”
Clearly, Kulick is all about the giving back, and who more to give to than his fans. His profound thanks to his Australian fans is unwavering and Kulick is anxious that they know he holds them in high regard and hasn’t forgotten them. “I certainly want everyone to know I can’t always come to Australia because for one thing, I’ve been playing lead guitar for Grand Funk Railroad, touring with them since 2000. The band is tremendous but that’s my main gig, and also why I don’t have a band so when I go to Australia, I’ll pick up a band when I’m there. In this case, Sisters Doll.
“A lot of people ask me: ‘When are you going to put out some new music?’ and I have teased with some pictures online of the studio, a microphone, guitars, and a new single is coming out soon. I do know a lot of fans are asking about new music and I am very proud of this.”
All new Kulick on the way but for now, your best bet to witness the mastery of Kulick’s playing and the fascination of his stories is to get on down to KISS Kovention.
Written by Anna Rose
In discussing your staples of heavy metal listening, the name Brother Firetribe is not likely one you’d mention. But as these melodic metalheads continue to break ground on a global scale, they’ll soon become an essential element in your heavy listening routine. Already 15 years into a successful career centred predominantly in Europe, the embers of Brother Firetribe are spreading like wildfire out from their native Finland to conquer the metal forests of the world. With their latest release “Sunbound”, Brother Firetribe generates a warm buzz of music that borders on glam, heavy rock, and strong Nordic metal.
“Sunbound” is the release set to put Brother Firetribe on the global map as it dips into elements of all the best of metal’s subgenres. But, as vocalist Pekka Ansio Heino explains, from a production perspective the band has done nothing differently with “Sunbound” compared with their previous three studio albums. “It’s always gone the same route in a way,” Heino says. “Me or Emppu [guitarist Erno “Emppu” Vuorinen] write the songs – it’s really spontaneous how it all starts. Either one of us comes up with a chord or melody and we start sparring.”
With “Sunbound”, it’s that aura of positive energy surrounding the band’s musicianship and each aspect of the album that is surely putting an ‘X’ on the Brother Firetribe map. From conception to promotion to their fantastic new production team, Heino asserts that this release is centred on happiness and good vibes. “All in all, as to the title itself, it’s all about the vibe and mood of the band ever since we sat down and started throwing around ideas – every time we sat down to come up with a song, it sounded so good it led us to write the next one.
“It went on until the day we got the mastered version in our hands and everything was rolling along really nicely. We have people now who are making things happen for the very first time in the band’s career. We have the new mixer guy putting down. The guy who had mixed the previous album couldn’t make it so we had to find a new one and thank God we did! We ended up using Mikko Karmila, an old friend and a huge name. He has done Rammstein, Dreamboat; we know him because he’s from the same small city we are from – he got the hang of it pretty quickly and came up with the sound for the album. You know, Brother Firetribe has never sounded this good! We really felt like we were walking toward the light, so that really is what the title is about.”
The subtle hints at big things happening for Brother Firetribe don’t go unnoticed and as Heino elaborates on his hints, the news should have Viking-metal fans knocking together their many tankards in celebration.
A little probing into Heino’s subtle nods of big things happening for Brother Firetribe and he reveals the true rate at which things are finally speeding along for the band, unveiling yet more possibilities for their newfound infamy. “Basically, we have a manager, plain and simple. Our songs have been put out everywhere, tours have been put together and that has never happened for us before.
“We’ve always suffered from us being the only ones doing anything and this time it seems a bit different – I wouldn’t be talking to you if it wasn’t for our manager arranging stuff, it’s great!”
Melodic metal of the calibre of Brother Tribe is extremely successful in Europe and, indeed, Finland, but with nothing but the influence of original rock seeping through their sound, Heino is loath to go with the categorization assigned to his band by his peers. “I do understand you have to categorise music and people need to know what they’re talking about,” says Heino, “but I don’t really consider us a metal band, quite far from it, in fact. But we do get dropped on that box quite easily and that’s fine.
“Metal in general here in Finland is huge. I think Finland is probably one of the leading countries for it, but the kind of music that we do—the melodic rock thing—it’s pretty much marginal music. You have your power metal which is pretty big in central Europe but people call us AOR, and that’s fine with me.
“Melodic rock is not really big in the sense that we do it – it’s based on the late ’70s and early ’80s where keyboard and guitar are equal in the mix.”
With those heavy ’70s and ’80s glam influences so prominent within Brother Firetribe’s sound and the band avoiding a pigeonhole, when writing new material the band will shy away from anything going on in current times; preferring instead to draw on the past and honing in on rock music of old. “I can only speak for myself but it’s in my DNA,” says Heino. “Everything I know about creating a melody comes from that period of time, but everything else, we never sit down or talk about influences or whether we should take a certain direction or whether we should sound a bit modern. All we do is come up with a song and when it sounds good to our ears, we put it out. And for some reason, the kind of stuff that sounds good to our ears is the music you hear on the Brother Firetribe album.”
“I’m not against modern music, not against modern rock, I just don’t follow it that much.”
Brother Firetribe certainly does have a uniqueness in its melodic rock route, addressing a small niche in the market that could certainly use bands such as this to inject a dose of imagination into an—at times—repetitive industry. Perhaps there’s something to be said for the classicism of the ’70s and ’80s that seep through this band. That being said, disappointingly, the greatness of Brother Firetribe is not yet great enough for the group to shake up our shores… yet. “Obviously, we’d love to, no question,” exclaims Heino. “But first of all, I didn’t even know our records were being released in Australia and the fact I’m sitting here talking to you is unbelievable. It’s great.”
“I can imagine that if we were to come down there, say, tomorrow, there’d be an audience of you and, maybe, a couple of friends I know there – I don’t know, it could be a riot!”
Written by Anna Rose
It couldn’t be truer to say that the new album Graveyard Shift from Motionless In White is a play on words for the point they’re at in their careers. “I’m not even sure if it’s a straight metaphor for how we’ve been doing this for 11 years, muses frontman Chris “Motionless” Cerulli.
“11 years, constantly pushing and grinding and working our assess off and last year when we came up with the album title we were proud – it works aesthetically with the band and works to our deeper mean with that title.”
Graveyards, ghouls, goths and other dank things, Motionless In White have certainly plastered themselves a stellar career as goth rock stalwarts, up there with the likes of Wednesday 13 and DOPE. And of course with such a bleak, gloomy mantra comes the look to match – never ones to shy away from dressing how they feel comfortable, Motionless In White sport a fine range of gothic attire in their latest music videos, Motionless himself donning a rather nifty jacket that’ll make even the most “normal” of gals jealous. Laughing, Motionless admits, “We would only go to a stylist if we needed something specific, that’s just not how we are.
For us I think it’s a matter of everyone trying to show their personality and each one of us does look different to one another and that’s because we have a personality rather than having a uniform, so to speak.”
This is said with no hint of irony but yes, there really can be varying shades of black, and the freaky fashion show of Motionless In White is as fun as it is far out. That being said, the new album is just as eclectic within the bounds of rock ‘n’ roll as the band’s wardrobe. With Graveyard Shift, though they retain that dank misery so fitting to their style, Motionless In White dip their liquid eyeliner in to the pots of other genres. The bluesy hard rock opening to single ‘LOUD (fuck it)’ doesn’t really draw influence from anywhere, rather it takes all this different elements to form an attitude. “It’s definitely a song that lyrically, has attitude,” says Motionless.
“We worked on the song before the lyrics and had a punk rock energy that felt right, this punk rock fuck it attitude to it, and I don’t know, it just feels loaded with attitude. Most of our music is either angry or moody or scary and this one just has a fucking attitude, a snarl to it that makes a noise.”
And what indeed are such a band saying ‘fuck
“[It’s] not just maintaining the look or the sound, it’s about keeping people interested in the music – it’s really fascinating to me that people seem so eager to hate the music and be negative before they hear it or know anything about it.”
Taking that message of music across the globe, Motionless in White are
Hold up. Where’s Australia in this grand tour of the globe? Chuckling again Motionless says, “I got overexcited about a lot of things last year and then they didn’t work out that way [I’d said] so I’ve very much learned my lesson to not say things about things I’m not 100 per cent sure about – but we have been in touch with our agent and we are working heavily on getting to Australia,
“We for sure wanna learn from mistakes in the past and spend more time and put ourselves behind the magic 8 ball of time and write more, but I know a lot of Aussie fans have expressed frustration about us and I just want them to know we are always actively trying to make it to Australia – Japan, the UK, don’t think we don’t come because we don’t want to, when it happens it happens – we are fighting for it.”
Written by Anna Rose
When you watch a movie at a film festival as prestigious as the Melbourne International Film Festival the one thing that you don’t expect to get is an audible reaction to a film during the actual screening. These are serious, seasoned film lovers watching the movies and while you may get a round of applause or a standing ovation at the end of the film, during the film, it is dead silence – no crinkling of chip packets (which is bliss) and very little reaction – something that can be a little daunting when nobody is laughing during a comedy. You could imagine the surprise then when the Australian thriller Bad Girl, directed by Fin Edquist (Little Deaths), had the audience gasping when it delivered a twist that nobody saw coming.
Starring Samara Weaving (Mystery Road) and Sara West (The Daughter), this great Western Australian thriller keeps its audience on edge all throughout the film and helping raise that suspense is the score from legendary Australian composer, Warren Ellis, who in the past has worked with Nick Cave to create the film score for films such as Lawless, The Proposition and The Road.
For Ellis, the fact that for Bad Girl and his last film, Mustang, has been made without the help of Nick Cave he says has given him a new sense of ‘freedom’. “When the producer sent me the script, I sat down and read it and I found that it was a different kind of film and the kind of film that I haven’t worked on before,” he explains.
Bad Girl – Warren Ellis: “In the past, a lot of the films I’ve worked on with Nick (Cave) have been about men lost in wildernesses or trying to figure something out. So we have always been wanting to get different things to come in and sometimes that hasn’t always been available. But with this one there was just something about it – it was great to read and it had a great energy about it – and it came after I had just done another film called Mustang, and it was something I could tackle on my own. Up until that point, I had always done my scores with Nick and Mustang showed me that I could work in a certain way, that I could work on a small budget film… and I like the economy of that; I like what that provokes in you because it forces you outside of your comfort zone. Doing Mustang for me was a huge learning curve, it was a very different film and I found myself working very, very quickly, actually, and it showed me that I could take the training wheels off in a way. Similarly, Bad Girl was a very lean affair and I really like the energy of smaller budget films, there just isn’t that flabbiness that can be contained in the big studio films and there’s a different energy in the way that the directors and the producers are working. I had a few rules with this one: I couldn’t go into a studio because I was on tour with Dirty Three, so I wanted to just do it on my laptop because it was all I could really do with it and they were really into that idea. So I just started throwing ideas together based on a really lengthy discussion with the director about approaches and how the music would be used and my reference, I guess, was a kind of Mad Max very-impacting score that comes and goes out of nowhere, which was kind of wild for the editing of the film. So I guess I had a couple of ideas and then just started making it and I got addicted to the process. I didn’t sleep much in January, I just sat in my hotel room rehearsing by day and making this score by night with a couple of synthesisers and old pieces I had laying around. It was pretty liberating, actually.”
While the theme of characters being ‘lost’ has always been a big thing in the films that Ellis has worked on he says it is different this time around. “I think there is a real strength and independence with the female characters in both Mustang and Bad Girl,” he emphasises. “I’m not sure the girls are really lost, but more victims of their environment. But someone like Lale in Mustang is definitely not lost—she’s anything but lost—she’s trying to make sense of everything and trying to empower herself and her sisters… she doesn’t want to be a victim of her own environment and that was a very different scenario to me. There’s something very empowering about these two films. I love the energy of Bad Girl. When I eventually saw it, I loved the staging of it and the editing of it.”
As talk turns to how a composer goes about putting music together for a film, Ellis says there really are not any set rules. “For me, I’m not sure how my approach is different or the same to other people (it depends on the film), but generally there is a discussion and if I’m working with Nick we might have a discussion about the sound and what will be necessary… certainly what the sound palate will be,” he explains. Then you might talk to the director but it is very different with each film, like with The Road, for example, we had a discussion with John (director John Hillcoat) about the sound and what would be generated. Then we tried to make sounds that we thought would exist after an apocalypse, so things like wind going through wire, bottles, water boiling and stuff. I sat around the house making sounds. All the backing sounds were generated using things that I thought might exist after the apocalypse – what sounds might be coming out. It’s a little general idea but it gives you something to aim towards and then you can go from there. I guess with every film you just try to get a sound palate going on and then you sit down and start working. Normally, it’s with Nick, and we just start making music and let some accidents happen. This, to me, is not a job. It’s something I love doing and I still feel like an outsider in this world. I’ve made some films but it’s not my job. With Bad Girls, I wanted an energy and I wanted it to be impactful. I wanted it to be economical and I wanted it to be something that was minimal, but something that would help with the energy of the film and I wanted it to be loud… I wanted it to be overwhelming.”
Bad Girl is out in cinemas now and has been reviewed at www.heavymag.com.au
Written by Dave Griffiths
INTERVIEW WITH LILY COLLINS
Howard Hughes has to be one of the most intriguing characters in American history. While a majority of his life was explored in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator—in which Leonardo DiCaprio played the eccentric billionaire—now, Hollywood legend Warren Beatty takes a look at the latter stages of Hughes’ life with Rules Don’t Apply.
The film sees Beatty return to directing for the first time in more than a decade. Here, he also portrays Hughes as a man who wants to shun public life but has just hired a new driver, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), who dreams of becoming a businessman himself, along with a young actress who has stars in her eyes named Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins).
Rules Don’t Apply is a change in direction for Collins (the daughter of music legend, Phil Collins), who, up until now, has appeared in big films such as Mirror Mirror and the ill-fated The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones. Collins says it was almost fate that she landed this role, seeing she knew about this film when it was still in concept stage.
“I first became aware of this film five years ago when a friend of mine was telling me about these magical meetings that he was having with Warren Beatty at his house and spending time with his family. He was telling me all these amazing stories and I just sat there in awe thinking, ‘Oh, my God, that is the dream; that’s crazy. That is something I’ll never get to do, but just, wow. Good for you.’ Then, cut to five years later and I got a phone call while I was prepping for a premiere of a film that I was about to premiere and they said Warren Beatty wants to talk to you about his film, and I just would never have thought that five years later I would have come full circle.”
It is obvious as Collins talks that she really admires Beatty and is proud of the fact that she has now had the opportunity to work with him and she says that she became aware of Beatty’s work at a very early age. “I was very aware of Warren Beatty’s work before the film,” she explains. “One of my Dad’s favourite movies is Heaven Can Wait so I’ve been hearing about Mr Beatty since I was a little kid. After I was cast, my mum and I rewatched all of them to just update me again and I loved seeing them a second or third or fourth time… they never get old.”
Collins wasn’t awestruck though and admits that she saw the chance to work with a screen legend like Warren Beatty as something she could gain valuable lessons from. “I can’t count on one hand the amount of stories that Warren told us, and every single day as I heard them, I soaked them in and thought: ‘I’m going to want to remember these when I’m older so I might write that one down.’ I actually kept a journal while we were recording of these interesting tidbits of information that he told us, the wisdom that he imparted on us—stories—as well as creative critiques that he gave me throughout the shoot that I wanted to remember because I would be doing myself a disservice not to remember those, because he was really like a mentor, as well. I was constantly getting the note from Warren to ‘let go more.’”
“It was something I had never been told before so I was hyper-aware of it when he said it and I didn’t realise how useful and magical things can get when you just let go, especially when you are doing take-after-take-after-take. You have to start just relinquishing all self-control in a way and really stop thinking about what you planned to do. Even as an actor, I know it is all about spontaneous moments, but you do have to have a bit of a guideline to where you are going. But once you get to that fifth, sixth or even seventh take, you have to start playing around with ways that you weren’t even expecting and it is in those moments when some of the most brilliant things happen that would never have happened on take one. So I think I will always take that with me.”
She also says that Beatty really did put his own stamp on the story and the film. “What is so brilliant about what Warren created in this tonally is that it is what one would call a very dramatic story, but he has such a lightness to the tone. He adds a sense of humour when you are least expecting it. Part of what you are not expecting is this romantic relationship between Mr Hughes and Marla and that is what makes the film so comedic. Our scenes together, especially the drunken scene, are epically long – I think it was a twelve or thirteen-page scene that is just so funny and I love that you can mix a drama with comedy in such a beautiful way and have it become something that people not only enjoy but are constantly surprised by.”
The film’s title raised some eyebrows when it was first talked about in the States, but as Collins talks about her character, she says the title fits perfectly. “Marla Mabrey is a young, very religious girl that comes from Virginia. She is contracted under the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes to become a Hollywood star and she comes under the assumption that there are a certain set of rules that a young woman must abide by in the entertainment industry to be successful and it’s throughout her journey in Los Angeles and throughout the important lessons that she must learn. It’s also through her relationship with Frank, who is also a contracted driver under the Hughes Corporation, that she, throughout her experiences, realises that the rules really don’t apply to everyone and it is about their interactions with the craziness of Mr Hughes. I think it’s really interesting because at the start of the story, Mara comes to Los Angeles with her mother and she is very naive, she is very religious, and she kind of thinks she knows it all; which I think anyone coming to L.A. at that age would have thought the same thing. But throughout the story and throughout the lessons that she learns and through her relationship with Frank and her interactions with Howard Hughes, she really becomes a strong and independent woman. And it’s throughout those experiences that it really defines her character as strong. She has to become independent because she is no longer there with her mum and it’s through those roadblocks that she is thrown that she realises that she is in a sink-or-swim situation and she develops an individuality from that.“
Rules Don’t Apply is in cinemas right now and has been reviewed at www.heavymag.com.au
Written by Dave Griffiths
Bad movie! That is a term that it
The film is based on the best-selling novel by Diane Ackerman and has been brought to the screen by director Niki Caro who has wowed audiences over the years with films like Whale Rider and the brilliant North Country. The Zookeeper’s Wife sees Chastain play Antonina Zabinski who alongside her zookeeper husband tries to protect a number of people at their Warsaw Zoo during the Nazi invasion.
“You know whenever I play any part it is important to do as much research as possible,” Chastain explains when asked about The Zookeeper’s Wife as a novel. “I read the book… The Zookeeper’s Wife… and it was very informative, especially when thinking about what she was going through because it is in her own words… that is what the book is based on. – her journals. It helped fill out the interior of the character. I started by reading the book to try and get into character and I went to Auschwitz in order to … I had never been to a concentration camp and I wanted to feel the energy of that place and to understand the sadness. I don’t think you could ever fully comprehend that or what happened there or what that is but it was important for me to go. I went to Warsaw and went to the zoo and I met with Teresa, Antonina’s daughter, and I saw the house that they lived in and I looked at pictures. It was definitely an immersion.”
When asked to describe her character in her own words Chastain says “Antonina Zabinski is married to Jan (played in the movie by Johan Heldenbergh) who is the zookeeper at Warsaw Zoo… the two of them run the zoo. During World War II when her zoo is bombed and the Jews are being forced into the Ghetto her and her husband decide to risk their lives, and the lives of their children, to smuggle people out of the Ghetto and hide them in the zoo.”
Chastain also says that director Niki Caro also brought a lot to the film. “I loved working with Niki,” says Chastain. “She is so incredibly intelligent and fierce. She has a very strong point-of-view and that is important for me when I’m finding a director to work with. She was so good at kind of wrangling in this huge group of people and animals and of course this whole period drama. You never felt like the set was getting away from her and I felt that she was a great collaborator that I could come forward and try whatever I wanted to. I could take risks and she was always there to support me.”
The other major player in this film is Daniel Bruhl who for the lack of a better term plays the bad guy in this film but Chastain says he was a major help with morale on the set. “I’d been a huge fan of Daniel Bruhl. I loved him in Rush and all the incredible films that he has done. One thing that really shocked me about working with him was how funny he was. He brought this great sense of levity which I think was really important for the story because every scene was so important and rich and heartbreaking and you feel just really depressed but then in between takes Daniel is there to lighten the mood and think that was really important for the morale on set, but also important for the character that he is playing because he is playing a pretty dark person and he’s able to give it a sense of humanity that you may not be able to get with someone that just came in with only darkness.”
Chastain was also impressed that The Zookeeper’s Wife shows a different side to being a hero as well. “I think with heroism there is a stereotype that it comes with violence – that you are defending someone or that you are fighting to protect your country. That is our definition of what a hero is but there are many other ways that somebody can be brave and strong and I think that Antonina shows that. She shows that compassion and is an incredible form of strength. I think it is important for people to see this film because it tells the story from another perspective and another point-of-view. Going to school in the United States I didn’t really read that much about women and history. I read a lot about men in history but not so much about the incredible women and the sacrifices that they had made in history. I was so moved and inspired by Antonina and the empathy that she has for other people. At the end of the
The Zookeeper’s Wife is in cinemas now and has been reviewed at www.heavymag.com.au
Written by Dave Griffiths