Welcome to HEAVY DIGI-MAG #21! FREE EDITION
In this edition, we are opening it up for FREE! It’s a mini-edition due to the lack of interviews done this month because of the holiday season. Even musicians need a holiday!
It’s a mini-edition due to the lack of interviews done this month because of the holiday season. Even musicians need a holiday!
Feel free to shoot us an email to let us know your thoughts about the HEAVY Digi-Mag at [email protected].
Enjoy HEAVY Digi-Mag ISSUE #21
The HEAVY Team \m/
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Listen to TFN while you read.
In ancient Japan, Ninjas were known as masters of the martial arts. Nowadays, the Ninjas we look up to masters of a different type of art that we like to call metal. Those practitioners hail from Melbourne under the pseudonym Twelve Foot Ninja, who released their second full-length album “Outlier” last year and are currently on tour once again, in support of the record. Speaking with the band’s vocalist Kin Etik about the record, their witty music videos and their most recent tour stories that had been going down for Twelve Foot Ninja.
“The first show we did this year was on the 7th of January, which went well on a 50-degree night onstage at the Corner Hotel” he begins. “We played with Ecca Vandal and Figures, and they were both fantastic. It was a pretty good way to kick off the year. We had also done a tour across the country with Disturbed, which was great insight into what the stadium tours are like. We played to the largest indoor Australian venues and crowds across the country, and it exposed us to a lot of people that probably never heard of us. We were really wrapped with how it all turned out, not to mention that the guys from Disturbed are extremely friendly on tour.”
Twelve Foot Ninja’s success in the past landed them several tours across the United States and Europe, touring with acts such as In This Moment and good buddies Periphery, who are returning for an Australian run in February. With Periphery coming over, Kin mentions how much an important group they were, especially with them being most responsible for Twelve Foot Ninja’s popularity in the states.
“Periphery and also Jose Mangin from Sirius XM helped kick the door open for us. Fortunately, it gave us great access to getting tours over there, and the US has a much larger scene and market over there. So, to get over there and perform at festivals and be seen amongst the lineup of all the giants of that ilk is really incredible. Hopefully, our dates aren’t conflicting with Periphery’s when we’re on tour, because we love catching up with those guys. They’re all great friends of ours. Our first American tour was with Periphery and they were gracious hosts, and they have the same quirky humour as we do. If we were able to get some shows with them again in Australia, it’d be incredible, because they’re such great guys.”
With the Melbournian quintet being successfully known for their hilarious music videos, Kin announces that guitarist and songwriter Stevic is the one responsible for all the crazy visuals being brought to life. And of course, with Twelve Foot Ninja’s latest video being for the song Sick, Kin talks about how it all began and the process of the shooting for the short music film.
“God only knows where he gets the inspiration from” he laughs. “He has a very twisted sense of humour. He just had this awesome idea and played this hideous character which we affectionately named ‘Geezer’. It ended up becoming a crazy and long video shoot in Strzelecki Ranges in the late hours, where it was really cold. But, it was a pleasure to shoot, and I lay the blame particularly on Stevic for our clips.”
One music video that the Ninjas are known for was for One Hand Killing, which featured the band’s alter-egos under the moniker Ferret & the Sickos. Having made recent cameos, Kin is quite confident that Ferret & the Sickos will be making an onstage appearance to jam some Twelve Foot Ninja tracks.
“You know, there’s a good chance. We’ve been throwing around the idea quite a bit because the universe of Twelve Foot Ninja and Ferret & the Sickos are definitely intertwined, so there’s a good chance that may happen in the future!”
With “Outlier” being released to the public in late August last year, Twelve Foot Ninja have since met with a great response from critics and fans around the world, and feel that it’s become a much more successful LP about their exposure as a band.
“It’s been well received and especially going to the States and touring immediately after it was released, it was a good gauge for us. Overall, the reviews have been glowing which is always great. You know, all the hard work you put into a record makes it all seem worth it and paid off. It also allows us some exposure here in Australia on Triple J, with them spinning Invincible. So, it’s great that we’re finally getting reception here in our home country.”
Now that 2017 has just recently begun, Kin announces that he and the rest of the group have plenty of touring plans, along with hinting a possible chance of getting another Ninja record, but sooner than the four-year gap between Silent Machine and Outlier.
“So far, we’re looking into doing more touring overseas. At the moment, we’ve been in the negotiation stage, but we’ve been talking about it. The same with our plan for future releases. We’re getting the ball rolling early into releasing some new music. So, everything’s sort of on the table at the moment, but we’re just gonna take it one tour date at a time, and then we’ll take the next natural step. But, we’re looking at creating new music in the next year or so, so people don’t have to wait three and a half years for the next album.”
Wrapping up the interview, Kin shares what he felt was a valuable experience that he and the rest of Twelve Foot Ninja got to be a part of. A terminally-ill fan named Jenny Cooper from the United States had asked for a chance to meet Twelve Foot Ninja the next time they were in her area. And the band fulfilled her final wish and got to understand a valuable lesson with life and the acceptance of death.
“For myself, we came into contact with a lady by the name of Jenny Cooper who passed away at the end of the last year from cancer. The last part of her bucket list was to meet us and see one of our shows. So, she happened to come to one of our festival shows in Texas and we got to meet her and her family backstage. We also brought her onstage so she could watch us from the side of the stage. It was one of those moments that was magical and touching, as sombre as it was. It definitely left a lasting impression on me for me to do that for someone and be part of it and Jenny was such a lovely, warm person. It was an honour to meet her and to be part of her life for a moment.”
“You learn so much from experience as well. When people are that stage where they’ve accepted that they’re not gonna be around for very long, they’re very honest and earnest about what life’s about, and they give you a reflection of what’s truly important. So, Jenny gave us a gift from that experience, and it will have a massive impact for the rest of our lives, and I can’t thank her enough for that.”
Written by Callum Doig
Listen to MOTHER’S CAKE while you read.
Austria’s Mothers Cake has taken a less conventional route to the music world, bypassing the traditional means in favour of a lesser taken, but still an effective path.
After coming close to winning the International Live Awards featuring Austrian Band Contest in 2009, they won the Local Heroes Austria 2010 Band Contest, in which they not only won the gong for the best band but each member separately won their slots as best singer, best bass player and best drummer.
From there the talented trio set their sights on world domination and with the recent release of ‘No Rhyme, No Reason’ are set for their second tour of this country.
“It was a very good start for us,” agreed drummer Jan Haubels o winning the competition. “It definitely started our career. We got a label that way but as far as preparing us for the music industry I wouldn’t say it was the ideal preparation. Every band needs to make their own steps in the industry and learn from that so I wouldn’t say the path we took was any more easy or difficult than what we expected it to be. If I started a band again I probably wouldn’t go through a band contest again but not because it’s a bad idea. It would be more a case of trying to get our music out through things like the internet. It was a good experience but not something I feel you have to do in order to be successful as a band.”
With a sound described as a blend of Mars Volta, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Led Zeppelin, Haubels agrees finding the line between inspiration and imitation was difficult to separate at times but is confident Mothers Cake have successfully used this music as a guide rather than a direct approach.
“Red Hot Chili Peppers were certainly a band who inspired me when I started playing,” he conceded. “In the beginning there was maybe even parts of imitation there because I was so amazed by them and Mars Volta. Listening to them helped me understand what kind of music I wanted to do and I had to find my own sound in music without sounding exactly like them. In the end… the thing is we have such a creative mastermind in the band with Yves Krismer, our singer and guitarist, and he would be too proud to imitate anyone. It’s very important to step back and make sure you have your own ideas and sometimes those ideas come out and sound similar to your influences. We have a song called ‘Gojira’ and it sounds like the beginning of a song from Rage Against the Machine and the boys laughed and said it sounds like ‘Bulls on Parade’ and I had to agree! Sometimes that music is so deep inside of you that you don’t even realize when you make it. Certain songs are stuck deep inside your head but you think it’s your own idea which can be hard. As long as it’s not intentional imitation I would say it’s fine (laughs).”
Having finally settled into somewhat of a groove with this third album, Haubels firmly believes that Mothers Cake are growing into their career.
“We took our time with this album,” he confessed. “With our second album we rushed it a little bit but with this one we took our time and did everything we wanted to do. We had two main goals with it. The first was to make a record that we all feel good about. We want people to really enjoy it and hopefully have as much fun listening to as we did recording it. The second was it would be nice to get some airplay for the first time too (laughs). That’s a problem for a lot of bands because that getting that airplay gives a band the opportunity to reach out to more people but you can never force that so it is a goal I won’t be too mad at if it doesn’t happen.”
Over the course of the journey Haubels also feels that Mothers Cake have reached the point where the music is a true reflection of where the band is at and as such sound more natural than anything previously released.
“I would say we’ve changed musically definitely,” he agreed. “We’ve been through the getting to know each other period where everything felt exciting and new. With the second record it was written when things were not so good with the band. It was the first time in our time together when things were a little stressed out and you could tell in the music. This time around things have changed a lot. It’s also a bit more dirty sounding and disturbing musically. The first time around our approach was to figure out what we could do with an idea without changing our sound too much. It was about taking simple steps. It wasn’t about getting commercial success, it was more a challenge of doing great songs without always playing completely new ideas. We tried to focus more on each individual song. We didn’t want to be a band who changed things too much musically or changed who we were. Over the course of the albums we have experimented a bit more with our personal growth so we have changed in a sense. Not drastically but we have grown up a bit.”
Written By Kris Peters
Listen to OPETH while you read.
With their twelfth album ‘Sorceress’ having been out for just over four months now, guitarist Frederik Akesson from Swedish metal behemoth Opeth says that in reflection, he and the rest of the band are still delighted with the result.
“Yes, I’m really happy with it still,” he delighted. “I think it’s slightly heavier on some of the songs than the previous two albums. It’s also a bit more guitar driven and as a guitar player, I like that (laughs). I think overall it is a strong album, has had a good reception when we play the songs live and it seems like people already recognise the new songs which is always a good sign.”
Having mentioned the extra guitar present on the album, Akesson admits that this time around it is something that the band set out to do in the early talks on the direction of ‘Sorceress’.
“After Pale Communion, we talked about doing a really doomy album but it really didn’t turn out that way,” he offered. “There were some doomy sections there but we talked about making it have more grunt and being meatier and having the guitars a bit more chunky so it was something we planned. Then when it comes time to mixing it’s always difficult bouncing back and forth with different mixes but the recording went really smooth. The actual recording of the album took only ten days which was a great effort.”
For their upcoming ‘An Evening of Sorcery, Damnation and Deliverance’ tour of Australia, Akesson says that despite the supernatural sounding name, fans can expect all of the things that Opeth have staked their live reputation on in the past.
“We will blend a lot of old stuff with the new,” he said. “Of course there will be a few songs from Sorceress there. We try to play one song from each album but there’s twelve albums now so it’s difficult to do. We do songs from every album apart from the first two unfortunately but in Sydney we are doing this special show which is extremely long where we play a selection from Damnation and Deliverance so there’s songs in there that we’ve never played before. We haven’t played now for about two months so we’re going have a few rehearsals before we get there. We are anxious to get back on the road again, especially to Australia.”
Opeth are known the world over for live performances which have been described as deeply emotional yet exhilarating, with Akesson saying the key to keeping things interesting for the fans is in keeping the music and the feel on stage fresh as well.
“The way Mikael (Akerfeldt, vocals) interacts with the crowd is one thing that comes through in our show,” Akesson enthused. “He can be a bit of a stand – up comedian sometimes. He plans things out and sometimes they go across pretty well and sometimes there’s silence (laughs) which we find funny in the band. We leave a lot of stuff open for the evening with the way things work out so we never know what’s going to happen. We know what songs we are going to play but it does happen that we throw in extra songs every now and then as well. We’ve done a lot of touring so we have a lot of songs in the back pocket that we can pull out on the fly. In the States we had it so people could request songs they wanted us to play and that was fun. Sometimes we really messed it up and made a lot of mistakes (laughs) but it was fun.”
As a special performance on this tour Opeth will be playing at the Sydney Opera House and in the process will become only one of a limited number of hard rock or heavy bands to have graced the stage, a remarkable achievement that isn’t lost on Akesson.
“It means a lot to the band,” he gushed, “it’s amazing. We talked about playing there last time we came to Australia but it didn’t happen but now this time we have managed to pull it off and we’re so thankful for that. It’s mind blowing. I know Foo Fighters played there before and they said it was amazing. The Opera House is like an iconic symbol for Australia. Back here in Sweden when you see something about Australia there is always a picture of the Opera House. We’re really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a different show too because we have released tickets at the back so now it’s going to be on a round stage.”
Over the journey of twelve albums Opeth have incorporated many styles into their music with progressive, folk, blues, jazz and death metal all combining to create a unique sound. On paper these genres shouldn’t mix, with even Akesson admitting he can’t pinpoint the exact reason why.
“I think we try to have a thread through everything,” he mused, “even though we space out a lot. We don’t space out as far as to play disco pop or anything like that so there are certain limits (laughs). I guess it has to do with the mix of it all. One thing feeds off the other. If you have a soft part and then a heavy part verses it, it gives the entire thing dynamics and we go from the heavy to the soft and delicate parts as well. I think that’s one thing that’s been with the band from the beginning is that willingness to experiment. It’s more about letting the music guide you. Whatever happens, happens. It’s not like Mikael plans out a big song or a string section or a piano or bluesy part or whatever. I think it’s just something that takes form when an idea develops. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath from Black Sabbath is one of our favourite albums and that had a lot of progressive elements as well but was considered a metal album. It has a lot of keyboards and different arrangements along with the heavy stuff so I don’t think incorporating so many different sounds within the music is that new when you look at it that way. We’re just trying to make something different and unique.”
One advantage of blending so many different elements through your music is the ability to make every release sound fresh, which is one feature of Opeth’s music that Akesson maintains has been evident through each album.
“I believe every Opeth album has been different from each other,” he stated emphatically, “and it is something like a key ingredient for the band to try and develop new stuff for each album. When we did Heritage it was a big step between Watershed and that one. I think the last three albums go hand in hand in a way. The latest one is a little more heavier so we don’t even know what’s going to happen on the next album! It always feels fresh when we go into the studio. It’s exciting how we manage to capture that feel within ourselves on each album we record. For Mikael, the pilot of the band, he has an aim to always push the boundaries and do new stuff. It’s not about maintaining a business and putting out similar albums for him. Some bands work like that but Opeth is not one of them.”
Written by Kris Peters
Listen to Ocean Grove while your read.
Melbourne’s Ocean Grove are no strangers to Australia’s hardcore scene. Kicking on for almost 7 years now, I’d venture to say that they’ve performed in nearly all of the country’s small to moderately-sized live music venues, with 2016 providing the band with the opportunities to play to some of their biggest audiences yet. It goes without saying, then, that the release of their debut full length (that’s right, not just an EP!) The Rhapsody Tapes in February this year, and their online phenomenon of The Rhapsody Manifesto will give them that well overdue boost of momentum that will propel Ocean Grove out of Australia and well into the stratosphere. Or perhaps Europe or America, somewhere a little less far-fetched than an atmospheric layer of the planet. HEAVY had a chat to vocalist Luke Holmes from his humble location in the Wet’n’Wild car park to catch all the details about the new album, the band’s increasingly exciting future, and just what on Earth is behind the The Rhapsody Manifesto.
“[The Rhapsody Manifesto] comes from an idea that we had in our heads to put out something like a mission statement, to tell the world what we’re about and what we want to achieve. While it is related to the upcoming album, it’s more of just an all-encompassing statement or set of guidelines that we want to operate within and stick to going forward. It’s us trying to be true our passion and our dedication to what we’re doing, but it’s also to try and create a culture between our fans and our expression, about caring less about some things and more about others. Signing to UNFD, we knew we’d have a bit of a fan base through that so we thought this was an opportune time to release the manifesto, put it all on the line and say ‘this is who we are, this is what we’re about, this is what you can expect from us.’”
It’s abundantly clear that for Ocean Grove, self expression and growth lies at the heart of the band and as a result finds its way into their music. Leaning towards discussion of the The Rhapsody Tapes and the production involved with the album’s creation, Holmes reflects on the extent of the changes undergone by the band over the duration of its lifetime.
“We started doing this when we were little kids at high school, 14, 15, 16 years old. It took us years of playing to no one, practising and writing songs to get to a point where we felt ready to tour. There was a lot of soul-searching and figuring things out, trying to get become stronger as people. All of the time it’s taken right up to now has really helped us write this record.”
“We began writing a fair while ago. It came about when Matthew [Henley, side project: Running Touch] had to stop touring with the band because he signed to Universal with his EDM project. He’s always written a lot of music, and he started writing these really short demos that were very electronic-sounding. He showed us a few riffs while we were recording and we took these with us and it led to [The Rhapsody Tapes] being a very experimental album. All 12 tracks are somewhat different from each other and I think they can all stand alone. They’re all quite purposeful and have the ability to be someone’s favourite song. We had no time constraints during recording and that made it almost a maddening process. Any time we weren’t using in the studio felt like we were wasting it, but we eventually realised that it wasn’t about putting in a million hours, just that we make those hours count. The ideas just kept flowing.”
As we discuss the artists and genres that inspired such broad experimentation, Holmes acknowledges that these outside influences were not primarily hardcore. He cites his own insights as being derived from “early 2000s, sample based songs,” with artists such as Fat Boy Slim and Air though to French electronic group M83 playing key influential roles. Consequently, the creation of The Rhapsody Tapes was made possible by an outpouring of ideas from 6 different people, each with their own musical preferences and visions.
“I’m not much of a heavy music person. It’s not something that I really listen to in my spare time. Obviously I can’t say the same for everyone in the band, but the beauty of it was that the record is basically a sum total of all of our differences. We haven’t done a full length album before, so we haven’t been able to fully explore different tastes and the whole spectrum of what interests us, not only in music but in film, theatre, musicals, lyrical content, all these different things. We had six very different people in a room, all with different ideas, and somehow it just worked for us.”
Following on from his comment about the vast plateau of inspiration that shaped the formation of The Rhapsody Tapes, Holmes cites the unexpected role of unusual, sci-fi oriented film and TV on his lyric writing, and by extension expresses his sheer elation about the album’s creation.
“Intimate Alien is a song that almost straight away you can tell I was binge watching strange, strange things. I was listening to M83 and watching Black Mirror and it became the most sci-fi song I’ve done, it’s all sort of about hyper-reality and this journey. It’s funny how these things can leak into what you’re doing.”
“A lot of the record is about hyper-reality and standing, looking down at reality in search of something. I’m often blown away by the other guys in the band and what they’re into. It’s a really great sharing experience.” He summarises, enormously proud of their collective achievement.
The Rhapsody Tapes is a bold assertion of Ocean Grove’s comfortable inclination towards boundary pushing and relentlessly experimenting with their sound. On tour with The Amity Affliction and Hellions currently, we discussed the increasing popularity of experimental hardcore as a new direction for Australian bands, something that Hellions are also recognised for.
“Hellions have a very cool theatrical thing going on. They’re doing something completely different to us, no one’s stepping on each other’s toes; that’s what we’re hoping to get out of this, and I think Hellions are quite the same when it comes to doing something different and expanding people’s horizons. We all realise, hey, we don’t have to play in a box and we don’t have to play what we think people will like. We just want to question people and have people say ‘this band is going out and taking these risks, why can’t we?’”
With such enormous potential behind Australia’s local scene, we concluded the interview with Holme’s visions of the future for Ocean Grove, a future which is looking bigger and brighter than ever before in the band’s 7-year career.
“We actually sit down and write goals on a piece of paper and go out and chase them. One of the things we wanted to do was reach Triple J’s feature album. Now we’re sitting four weeks into the New Year and we’ve done that, so we’re ticking things off already. I think the next step is to go overseas and take our music to a new level and to new ears. As people, we’re really excited to be able to go and see the world and to use music as a passport. We feel so blessed to do what we’ve been able to do and work our way up.”
“Releasing this album is the biggest milestone to date and we’re just taking it one thing at a time. If we could play some headline shows or festivals in Australia as well, that would be great. At the end of the day, though, we’ve ticked so many things of our list already and anything from here on out is a bonus. We’re happy with what we’ve done and we aren’t really expecting anything. I think that’s the best way to be.
Written by Sam Sweeney
We loved UNIFY ’17 so much we thought we’d take a trip down
memory lane and remember the good times we all had.
We have a two-day review, photos and a bunch of
video interviews we did with the bands!
A TWO-DAY REVIEW
Regardless of one’s identity or one’s preparedness, at an outdoor music festival, everyone and anyone is vulnerable. It is an unfortunate scenario, but in turn, it also adds to the adventure and excitement of the event. Within minutes of the official opening to the grand gathering that is Unify, mother nature reared her ugly head, and the elements engulfed Tarwin Lower. Actress Ilka Chase certainly put it best when she said: “Among famous traitors of history one might mention the weather”. Besides the literal flood which attacked the festival and all those involved, the fans clearly undeterred flooded into the main arena and spirits undeniably remained high, but not necessarily dry.
Victoria’s Ocean Sleeper had the honour of opening the event, but it was far from a dream start, truthfully for the quartet, it was a nightmare (Congratulations if you picked up on the sleeping puns). The four-piece were able to get through almost two songs from their recently released EP Breaking Free and Hold On Stay With Me when electricity became non-existent. However, this was not taken as oppressive, more-so an opportunity. Even in the torrential rain and wild wind, the audience maintained the energy without Ocean Sleeper acting as their catalyst. Chants of Queen’s We Will Rock You and DJ Otzi’s Hey Baby! (If You’ll Be My Girl) elated the entirety of the festival and eventually the power returned and OS finished their set. Not necessarily a rain dance or chant, maybe a current chorus? Who cares, it worked.
Sydney’s Justice For The Damned provided the soundtrack for the ninja moshers instantly afterwards with their deathcore influenced metalcore. A far from the original recipe with obvious nods of influence from Emmure or Chelsea Grin; but the response to Deep Rotting Fear was beyond voracious, so it was abundantly clear the quintet are superlative in their niche.
Arguably the outfit with the toughest position on the entire festival, Brisbane’s Columbus was required to inject melody into what had been a predominantly metalcore show thus far. It was established very quickly though that this pop-punk trio were the men to do it, as the finesse of the musical transition, the three-piece executed this with was of a prodigious standard. Replace Me and Downsides Of Being Honest demanded attention which they thankfully received and honestly for this writer at least, Columbus have eased the pain of The Swellers’ hiatus to a remarkable effect.
The melodic intermission was undoubtedly brisk and like a bullet from the chamber Sydney’s Polaris exploded to mark their introduction and the festival’s return to the heavy music version of the event. Unfamiliar was a distinct fan favourite, and there is simply no denying this five piece’s impressive offensive in a live setting; distinguished would be an accurate description. Their similarity to the UK’s Architects is rather apparent to the point of being a younger-brother type scenario, but their presence is infectious, so it is an endearing pathway Polaris are undergoing.
Now was the time to administer some “putrid” into the “polish” that the festival had only contained to this point, enter the Kingstigators of unbelievable ugliness to an astounding platform, King Parrot. These Victorians were victorious in disturbing an unsuspecting audience, but like a rabies-infected bite, it was overwhelmingly contagious. The quintet’s grinding thrashin’ punk extreme musical amalgamation was a sense of maturity that had no heard yet, and if a visual metaphor could be placed on the performance, the best this scribe could conjure is a VB shower on a vegan festival. Matt Young as always was livid both on and off stage whether he was fully wearing his shorts or not and if highlights had to be mentioned BRIEFly, the Wall Of Death and Need No Saviour were it.
If King Parrot injected the shock into the festival, Canada’s Counterparts provided the solace. The band’s noughties inspired metalcore à la Misery Signals and Poison The Well restored windmill warriors back to their happy place, and hardcore enthusiasts shouted along with glee. Sinking, Stillborn, Witness, Compass and The Disconnect roused the biggest reactions and conclusively it is exhilarating to see Counterparts receiving the honour such as this for their passion.
Suddenly the conditions became comfortable as if premeditated the wind and rain subsided and a calm overtook Unify Gathering. Essentially this was the opportune time for a dose of “strange”. Enter the oddballs Ocean Grove from Melbourne and what an unforgettable crowd response this five-piece received; possibly the best of the entire festival. A band hellbent on “peculiar” presenting a combination of Wes Borland, Drowning Pool in 2001, hipster aesthetic, Hellions and Cheez TV; it has to be witnessed to be almost understood. It sounds otherworldly, but the enthusiasm the quintet received from their single These Boys Light Fires was out of this world.
If Ocean Grove brought the past to the present, Melbourne’s House Vs Hurricane brought the present back to the past (to a degree). As thr vocalist, Dan Casey shouted at the start of their set “Welcome to 2012” before the five-piece launched into 40 Deep and the audience happily welcomed HvH back into their world. Get Wrecked, Give It Up, Dead Lizard, Forfeiture and Haters Gonna Hate stimulated the crowd into a celebratory bliss and even though it was far from perfect, it was, without a doubt, memorable. This was of course accentuated by the announcement of guitarist’s Ryan McLerie’s engagement which occurred just minutes before HvH’s performance.
Continuing with the theme of Melbourne bands and rewinding the clocks, the endlessly adored quartet known as The Getaway Plan cast a spell and hypnotised the entirety of Tarwin Lower with their album Other Voices, Other Rooms being played in full. Unbelievably like Daniel Craig, TGP, this record and their performance of these songs just improves with age, and although this was a change of pace, it has become apparent that these anthems from 2008 are unforgettable.
If The Getaway Plan had provided the soulfully moving soundtrack, California’s letlive were ready to blast soul punk into every attendee present. The eruption of Renegade 86’ was equivalent to Haskins the Gremlin meeting his demise in the microwave from the 1984 “Gremlins” film; except for one major difference, it did not stop. Frontman Jason Aalon Butler was a man possessed bringing new meaning to the word “hyperactive” which he maintained at different heights during Another Offensive Song, Younger, That Fear Fever, Banshee, Muther (which Mr Butler movingly declared that “real manhood comes from women”) and Good Mourning America. If Letlive’s music wasn’t the art to impress, there was irrefutably an impression made with Jason climbing the stage ladder frames dozens of metres in the air or his crowd surf inside a wheelie bin. Unify had reached an impressive summit but arguably still not its peak, inconceivably more was still to be enjoyed.
If letlive set the event alive, then Buffalo’s Every Time I Die were responsible for killing it in the best way (figuratively speaking). What better soundtrack to initiate this assault than Underwater Bimbos From Outerspace? For nearly 20 years ETID has been destroying stages throughout the world, and the machine they have created is still burgeoning and shattering ETIDiots at an alarmingly beautiful rate. Decayin’ With The Boys, Glitches, Floater, We’rewolf and Map Change bewildered all, and the band’s authenticity left an undying impact which will be alluded to at this festival for years to come.
It had been a long, eventful, enjoyable and challenging day so of course, it made practical and perfect sense to close with UNFD’s darlings of progressive metalcore Northlane. Vocalist Marcus Bridge is nearly unrecognisable as the man he has become, his duty as Northlane’s frontman is now part of his biological build, he has become THEIR requirement. This is no easy feat as his tenure with the band is still stupidly one which sparks conflict; sincerely though he is a weapon of incontestable power and Rot showcased his supremacy in a poetic manner, this was further justified by the new song Intuition which sparked positive havoc from all who witnessed it.
With surely an abundance soreheads clambering around the main arena, an early start was probably not what most would have wanted; genuinely a few would have preferred possibly an early death. Melbourne’s Pagan had the deserved privilege of opening the second day and improve these deteriorated feelings with their proclaimed “Death & Roll”. To be frank, this scribe believes the quartet could have easily played a later time as their brilliant artistry and flair required more attention; but this was a magnificent opening, and if Oathbreaker is to tour Australia soon, Pagan is THE band to support them.
Sydney’s Bare Bones then brought a sleazy southern punk party vibe which seemed to enhance the celebration, including songs such as Outlaw Blues, Humble Wasteland and Road Worrier. However, it was their cover of Rage Against The Machine’s Guerrilla Radio that actually provoked movement and sing-alongs. Bare Bones were not quite the hangover cure but more-so “hangover pure” and the suffering was certainly easing thanks to them.
As the rains had subsided somewhat, the drenching would have to come in a different form via post-hardcore meets metalcore sweethearts Melbourne’s Drown This City. Exhibiting an engaging, professional and polished live show, it is very difficult to believe that the quintet is only just over a year old. Featuring tracks from their EP False Idols, the five-piece acquired deservedly the attention of the gathering. Front-woman Alex Reade is admired in her role and her melodic moments have the strength and reminiscence of Amy Lee, but with just a little more originality in their music, DTC could really carve a proper identity and steal the spotlight.
Brisbane’s The Brave did not quite hit their stride in their early time slot, perhaps their slight Architects inspired melodic metalcore comparable to The Here & Now era was just not the musical concoction needed that this particular time, but their effort was valiant regardless. The appearance of Marcus Bridge for the song Dreamless was the pinnacle.
Canada’s punk trio The Dirty Nil were criminally unappreciated for their set of infectious punk tunes but admirably powered through and accomplished stealing some new fans with their sterling hits from their High Power LP.
Every aspect of sublimity seemed to combine exquisitely for the appearance and reunion of Perth’s Saviour. The audience hung on their every move thanks to their blend of metalcore to electronic spiritual euphony (thanks mostly to keyboardist Shontay Kennedy Snow) and best of all the festival coincided with their new album release Let Me Leave. The direction the sextet have taken with the new songs is unquestionably the right move, and hopefully, an ascension is rewarded to Saviour for their resilience and progression in the not too distant future.
The path to once again get wild had now been established with ease, thankfully the boost was to come from Deez Nuts. Suitably JJ Peters and his party arsenal kicked this off with Like There’s No Tomorrow which instigated rave enthusiasm. Stay True was testament that the quartet are the leaders in this niche of hardcore music and honestly this writer has never seen Deez Nuts at such an elite level. The anticipation for the new LP should be practically immeasurable.
UK Emo outfit Moose Blood provided a graceful wind-down score with their heartfelt tracks Honey and Glow. Even if the quartet were musically slightly out of place at Unify Gathering, they managed to harmonise without issue which exemplifies the four piece’s ability to write first-class songs.
Newcastle’s Trophy Eyes were thankfully back in Australia to promote their new record Chemical Miracle and the reception for them was their biggest yet. Heaven Sent had the quintet at full flight, but more like a young pterodactyl’s first flight attempt than a grown white-tailed eagle. This awkwardness, however, is Trophy Eyes’ captivation and exactly why so many people gravitate toward them, quite similar to the early days of Title Fight. Hopefully, the New South Welshmen can spend more time home than abroad for Australia’s sake.
Exposing the best from our wonderful nation, even more, it was time for the current finest in Tasmanian punk Luca Brasi to get their “mates” (in other words, the entirety of the festival), singing as loud as they can to their Hot Water Music motivated choruses. With an Australian flag waving the entire time the four-piece were onstage, it felt as if Australia day had arrived early. Say It Back, The Cascade Blues and Anything Near Conviction incited volumes louder from the audience than the four Taswegians could exhibit themselves and fortunately if they were missed by the readers, they will be touring soon with Laneway festival for more of their mates to enjoy.
Melbourne’s Storm The Sky transformed the artistic atmosphere to a “left of centre” direction with their death-pop-rock; although perplexing, this confusion increased their intrigue to an elevation the now quintet have probably not experienced in their career yet. Wake Up Sleeping and Jaded Ghost roused the best responses from the attendees and truthfully with a more intimate setting and lights show, this new musical direction live would be hypnotic.
The departure of I Killed The Prom Queen from the festival was one which upset many fans who were eager to see the metalcore mainstays; however, to fill the vital time slot thankfully UNFD organised Australia’s finest pop-punk outfit Bodyjar. These Victorian gentlemen were here to educate, stimulate and best of all fascinate whoever was caught in their grasp. One In A Million, You Say, Is It A Lie?, Fall To The Ground, Hazy Shade Of Winter, Role Model and Not The Same delighted predominantly the more mature punters present, but the younger festival-goers were ecstatic to see The Amity Affliction’s Ahren Stringer joining the quartet onstage numerous times to sing his favourite songs.
If there were one band no this entire line-up which could be classed as the “hot topic” of questioning it would be Sydney’s deathcore titans Thy Art Is Murder; simply because it was unknown as to who would be fronting the outfit. To answer the question, the five-piece introduced the vocalist in an absolute blaze of glory: Darkness, smoke machine and a hazy inauguration to reveal CJ McMahon had once again rejoined the ranks to the satisfaction of thousands. If there was any trepidation about CJ’s return, these were thrown far aside by the live execution of Purest Strain Of Hate which was thunderous, haunting and brilliantly brutal. Welcome back Mr McMahon.
After completing the largest scale tour of their lives and performing at the ARIAs as well as winning awards for their latest album WACO, it seemed logical for grunge punks Violent Soho to rejoin the festival circuit in Australia to exercise what they do best. This was pandemonium simply put, bodies were flying about for what seemed to be hundreds of metres, dancing had become an entire crowd synchronisation, and Soho was thankful for all of it and more. Covered In Chrome was deafening due to the audience’s participation and honestly, the whole performance felt unrealistic it was that supreme. The boys from Brisvegas have unmistakably proven themselves to be one of Australia’s premiere rock acts.
In 2011 the post-hardcore fans of the world became collectively distraught at the announcement of the demise of Canadian supergroup Alexisonfire. In 2015 Australia was left disappointed while the remainder of the western world rejoiced at the declaration of the band’s reunion which was completely missing “down under” altogether. In 2017 the fine folks at UNFD decided Australia were due for their turn and the Canucks happily obliged.
Upon taking the stage at unify gathering, the grasslands had completely disappeared from sight; all that was visible was an ocean of hands and heads of devotees above elated to see their favourite Ontarians play possibly one last time.
Young Cardinals opened proceedings but honestly Alexis could have just provided the musical backbone for the song, Tarwin Lower had become the voice for the track. Boiled Frogs then allowed for some moshpit aerobics with the ground nearing earth-quake status from the bouncy anthem which came to a less dangerous scene when the Australian unify gathering choir was required again for This Could Be Anywhere In The World.
The Canucks were in unrivalled form throughout their entire performance: We Are The Sound, Drunks Lovers Sinners And Saints, Rough Hands, Dog’s Blood, Pulmonary Archery and Happiness By The Kilowatt were presented as if it was written into each members’ DNA and with the passion to boot.
Even though it felt as it was all over all too soon, the best way to summarise is through an Alexisonfire song itself entitled To A Friend; this address is exactly what unify gathering is: A friendship and family first, above a festival. So in return to UNFD and all the bands who took part Australia thanks, YOU, January 2018 cannot come soon enough.
Photography by Bethany Mafrici
Listen to HANDs LIKE HOUSES while you read.
Canberra post-hardcore outfit Hands Like Houses had the year of their lives in 2016, with the success of their latest album Dissonants rocketing them nationally and internationally. Coming home from the chaos of success temporarily is something that’s been much needed for frontman Trenton Woodley, who started his 2017 seizing the opportunity to take a breath. “It’s been fairly quiet”, he admits. “But it’s been a nice little change to rest and recuperate from my side. My sister’s getting married this week, so it’s all hands on deck at the moment”.
Reminiscing on his highlight of 2016 following his return to normality, he starts describing playing to “20, 30, maybe more, thousand people”. “Playing Rock On The Range in the US last year, we had this absolutely monster crowd which was pretty cool because we were early on in the day on a side stage. Five minutes before we were about to start the main stage band had just finished…it was one of those moments where you’re just like, ‘holy crap. That’s a lot of people’. We didn’t really have time to think about it beyond that, we just had to start playing”.
Despite their worldwide success, what’s also been a nice surprise for Hands Like Houses is that Australia has finally started to latch on. “It feels like with Australia now, people have this sense of ownership of us, being this Australian band doing what we’re doing on a world stage. There has been a sense of 110% coming from Australia because people have been proud of what we’re doing as well as actually enjoying it”.
It wasn’t always that way. Having started on the American powerhouse label for alternative and core, Rise Records, Hands Like Houses didn’t originally capture the hearts of an Australian market despite being embraced by the Warped Tour scene.
“Americans like to think that they know how to handle the rest of the world”, Woodley notes. “But most of the time they don’t. So our strategies and stuff from a marketing perspective were never quite suited to Australia”. He credits working with UNFD as contributing to why Dissonants had such success. “For us, working with UNFD has obviously been the kind of nudge we needed to get into the right frame of view, triple j and audiences in general…it’s a happy convergence of timing, the right album at the right time and obviously the right people behind it with UNFD”.
Having originated in Canberra and looking onto Australia’s current musical climate, Woodley does see issues for musicians in terms of making it as far as Hands Like Houses have.
“Coming from Canberra, it’s a small place. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for musicians because venues have been closing left, right and centre over the past ten years, which is really kind of making it harder to build a community around”. It has always had something: “musicians. And some really great quality ones”. But the lack of community makes it harder for those musicians to get the boost that they need. In addition, “there are bands like Safia and Peking Duk who have absolutely killed it on a national stage but are still just starting to get their feet overseas”.
It’s unsurprising then that doubts do arise about being in a band when it doesn’t bring overnight success or any sort of stability. When asked about these uncertainties, Woodley admits that “it’s a pretty regular part of being a band”.
“We do have to be realistic about how we do things and that thought in the back of your mind pushes you to make smarter decisions and think about the best way to operate the business side of things….it’s certainly not the lucrative career that it used to be. Even at the level we’re doing we’re only really kind of starting to see actual return on the investment of time and energy.” Eloquently he notes that “it’s always a question in the back of our minds”, whether to give up, “but it’s more of a motivation than a crutch”.
Continuing to do it will mean a new album at some point, but for Woodley, that’s not this year. “We’ve already jammed out a few new tracks, but immediate plans are not for an album”. Nevertheless, they “will have some new music coming in the next 12 months, just little bits and pieces here and there which I won’t say too much about. But an album is more of a mid to long term goal, we want to really knock it out of the park.” “We want to kind of give ourselves the opportunity to not have to throw ourselves into the deep end the way we did with Dissonants”.
The next year is going to be just as crazy for the post-hardcore giants as the last one was, with a headline tour and a support slot for Bring Me The Horizon lined up for the next few weeks. In terms of where they are, Woodley describes it as a “rabbit hole”.
“For us, we’ve certainly ‘made it’ so much further than we ever thought we could or would”, he explains. “So it’s about seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes, and that just means keeping on our toes and keeping focused, and if the time comes when we’re not enjoying it I don’t think that we’re going to want to keep doing it”.
Written by Peyton
Listen to PANIC! AT THE DISCO while you read.
It’s been thirteen years since PANIC! AT THE DISCO changed the alternative scene forever, digging their heels into the ground and continuing to remain the royalty of a pop-rock empire. “I just want to share as much as what I have as possible, with as many people as possible”, frontman Brendon Urie comments. It’s sincere, and it rings true with Panic!’s mission to tour until they can no longer.
“That was the thing presented to us when we first signed with Fueled By Ramen. They were like ‘hey, you know, touring a big deal and if you don’t want to tour don’t expect to be able to tour for a long time or be in a band for a long time’”. It doesn’t seem to be taxing on an artist that clearly loves performing, and that reaps the rewards of dedication to it with sold out shows and adoring crowds. “It’s always surprising”, Urie adds, to sell out a tour. “I don’t know if that does happen a lot because every time I’ve heard it it’s shocking. I never know how a tour is gonna sell, you never know what a show is gonna do, so to hear something like that is incredible”.
Fortunately for Australians, Panic! At The Disco’s travels have brought them to Australia this year for their first headlining tour down under in a while, postdating a stint on Soundwave and (if you can remember it) Counter Revolution.
“Australia is by far, hands down, one of my favourite places in the world to go”, Urie compliments. “There’s a few reasons for that. From the first time Panic! went there we just immediately noticed how nice everyone was, how everybody is just down to have a good time, and that’s just how we were, and that’s how I still continue to be. So luckily there’s an affinity there for just wanting to have a good party. And I just was blown away by how gorgeous everyone is, so there’s that as well. And the food is really good”.
Though doing a headline tour that’s sold out dates is, of course, an achievement, Urie recalls being somewhat pleased with the past networking opportunities Soundwave offered for someone who was just a genuine fan of music. “The lineup was a lot heavier bands than Panic! would ever sound like or ever tour with so it’s cool to meet a lot of those bands. And most of the bands I’ve looked up to for a long time, like Eagles of Death Metal, and I think Slayer played with us one time, and Korn played”.
It’s funny to think of moments where Urie would feel inferior in status to the artists around him considering the fact that he’s now a Grammy-nominated artist. “My wife and I watched The Golden Globes yesterday”, he laughs. “It definitely put it on my radar more; the awards show thing”. But it isn’t all fun and games, and if Urie’s adventures in the mainstream have taught him anything, it’s that. “After you’ve been to an awards show, it’s different. You know, it’s a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’, and they edit it so tightly on TV and even then it looks sloppy, and then when you’re there, it’s like a million times worse. It’s crazy. You’re being herded around like cattle; people are forced to talk to you and ask you a bunch of crazy questions regarding the night or whatever. It’s a very odd ritual, but I couldn’t be more honoured to be a part of it”.
Despite the prolonged ‘up’ that is Urie’s career right now, there are still downs, something that he’s learning how to handle as the years go on.
“When things get hard for me I get so frustrated… I think of just taking myself out if something becomes too hard. I’m like, ‘you know what? I fucking give up. I’m just gonna lay here and not eat food until I just die’. [Laughs]. I get so fed up and so frustrated that I get hyperbolic and I say things I don’t mean. I think everyone gets those moments of frustration and self-doubt”. There are better methods of dealing with it than refusing to consume edibles.
“I get over it pretty quickly, and I’ve gotten a lot better at it”, he explains, “because when I feel those moments I don’t usually like how that feels so I work through it and I like to save those doubts for meditation. Whenever that comes into play, it’s a little better to hold onto those until I can properly process them”.
There’s plenty to look forward to in 2017 for Urie, so much that hopefully any negativity that comes to mind will be promptly quashed by excitement. In fact, one of his New Year’s Resolutions is “just trying to get better at picking up on the slack” of the “empty drunken promises” that come up when you “go out and have a nice dinner and a nice round of drinks and you get a little toasty”. “[You make] promises like ‘Dude we should totally get a band together or write our own movie’ and a lot of them fall to the wayside”. He confirms that he is looking to pursue creative outlets that aren’t necessarily going to be under the Panic! banner. “I want to see what outside of music I could accomplish”, he notes. “Something I’ve really wanted to do is write for a film, like, score a film, like Hans Zimmer”.
Nevertheless, fans shouldn’t think that’s going to distract Urie from his current activity, “constantly writing for a new album”. “With the last album the first song I wrote was ‘Hallelujah’, but that came about because I was wanting to write a single. I didn’t have an album in mind and then when the video was just finished the label was like ‘hey, you need to work on an album now’. And I was like ‘okay, shit’. So now I’m just trying to beat them to the punch and clock up a bunch of work and archive a bunch of ideas, so I’m ready once I’m feeling like I wanna make a record”.
The inspiration for that output doesn’t necessarily come from conventional places. When asked if he’s seen something that spurred him to write of late, Urie responds that it happens “more often” when he’s “watching Netflix”. “I know it sounds weird, but it’s true. I just finished a show called ‘The OA’, and that’s one that when I asked a couple of friends about it, they were like ‘yeah, that’s fucking lame’. But I really loved it, and it just touched me so deeply that afterwards, it was like 3 am, and I had just finished binge watching the whole season and I went out to the studio, and I just had to work on stuff because I just felt so inspired that moment”.
It’s a pleasant surprise to find that Urie is still both humble and grateful, that he still believes in the entertainment industry he, at this point, should have been jaded by. That’s why fans flock to his shows, and it’s what, luckily for us, is grounding him where he is for that to continue to happen. “There’s something so pure about music that I can’t leave”, he states. Hopefully, no one ever asks him to.
Written By Peyton
Interview with Vin Deisel
Vin Diesel fans haven’t exactly had a lot to complain about over the past few years. Thanks to the on-going Fast & Furious franchise they have been able to see their idol on big screens almost annually. Then, of course, is the fact that over the next few years they will see him in 3 more Fast & Furious movies and voicing the lovable tree Groot in both Guardians Of Galaxy 2 and Avengers: Infinity Wars. But they have always seemed to have one gripe – and that is they wanted to see the 49-year-old action hero get another chance to play Xander Cage.
Cage was the Bond-with-balls spy that Diesel played way back in 2002’s XXX, but he was then overlooked for the sequel, something that hardcore fans of the franchise saw as an absolute tragedy. But last year that was all changed when it was announced that Diesel was returning to the role for XXX: Return Of Xander Cage.
With stories always changing on why Diesel never did the follow-up to XXX he wears a broad grin when he explains why he now fourteen years later he has decided once again to re-visit the character. “I just think that there is a need to re-visit this type of hero archetype,” he says. “He is in some ways the reluctant hero and in some ways the anti-hero, but his individuality just shines. I walk away from this experience thinking that is who I could be. I could be Xander; he could be me. I think there is something timely about that and something cool about that. I feel that when we first made this movie, people were calling it the Bond killer because it had beaten that year’s Bond and nobody expected that. I think that we have seen very many variations of spy movies and secret agent movies, but I think there has been a desire to return to this. He is definitely a unique and very different type of secret agent. And I’m so happy to come back to Xander. I always felt that I owed it, I always felt that I was in debt and that sooner rather than later I would have to return to this character and right the wrongs of the past. I am so, so happy and so blessed that I have had the opportunity to do it, it’s not something that happens every day, and by doing all the other work in my life, I was able to pull this one off. I feel very, very excited and very, very proud of this film and of this franchise.”
So that leads to a big question – what is Xander Cage like almost fifteen years on. “He is definitely still consistent, and he has definitely had more experiences,” says Diesel after thinking for a moment. “You know he is different in the respect that he did try to comply with working with the Government and didn’t cry when it didn’t work out for him. I think what you will see this time though is his willingness to bring on a team and the fact that he values the team that he has and that it makes it incredibly different from the first outing because then he was just a solo lone-wolf, and I think in this movie we see that he has learnt to rely on people. I guess that makes for a better Xander in some way.”
Aside from the fact that Vin Diesel back most of the press surrounding XXX: Return Of Xander Cage has been about the quality of the actors and actresses that help make up Xander’s team – Ruby Rose, Nina Dobrev, Toni Collette and Kris Wu just to name a few. “It is very much assemble-all-parts this time,” laughs Diesel. “One of the fun and entertaining things about this film is that this team of misfits come together and work together as a team. It’s the love of the lifestyle that brings them all the table. They wouldn’t necessarily worry about being heroic, but they are heroic because of the circumstances, and what is interesting about that is the room to grow that their characters might have over the franchise. And that is something to think about not just what happens in this chapter but what happens in subsequent chapters. There are two teams formed during the movie, but the first team is there because of all the good times they have had with Xander because Xander is such a fun person to be with, they are there for the mission but also just to have a great time. As the team grows, we see another component… a component that makes the mission more serious.”
Of course having such diverse characters means that the cast comes from all corners of the globe and Diesel played a very big part in that. “Incorporating this multicultural tone to the Fast & Furious franchise has worked with great success and I wanted to push it even further on XXX, to the point where I wanted to go to not only go to all the multi-cultural actors who live in California, but I wanted to go into entirely separate film markets, entirely different regions and celebrate their heroes and their actors. Not only is Deepika (Padukone) an example of that but Donnie Yen is another amazing example of that… we actually went to China. Then there is Kris Wu who speaks to that, Ruby Rose speaks to that, Rory McCann speaks to that, Tony Jass speaks to that, even Nina Dobrev is from Canada. We really did travel right around the world, and that was very, very exciting. I knew that we were onto something when we looked to the world to cast this movie.”
Now, of course, fans of the franchise will know that there has been a reference in the past to Xander being dead, so how do they bring him back for this time around. “This is essentially a story about a man being called back into action,” says Diesel thinking carefully. “The NSA is up against a group that we learn more about throughout the picture, but it is a group that they can’t take down, that they can’t handle. They have this old and archaic way of dealing with things and this new team; this interesting team is so much of a threat that they have to now go back and get this wildcard called Xander to go up against them. And how the two teams work against each other and then ultimately work WITH one another is where the stories lie.”
With the interview winding up the last thing to talk about was the action of the film. The first XXX movie was made famous by the legendary stunt of a car going over a bridge with Xander jumping free so what do we have in store this time around. “You can’t talk about an XXX movie and not talk about the action,” says an excited Diesel. “There were a few things that were very important to me with this movie. As you know I was going through a very specific time, all the weight of Furious 7 and all the weight that came with that and I needed to play a very happy character, and I needed to play a character that could smile and I needed to play a character that could laugh, that could tell jokes and that could do things simply for the thrill… just for the thrill and that is why this character is alive. So it wasn’t only fun doing the stunts, and the stunts were great you can see that in the trailer. But for this conversation, I should add that I had fun just practising. I can’t tell you how much fun I had just prepared for this because I got to do jump, got to do stunts and while they were shooting they would hear…(Diesel does a motorbike noise)… and that was me getting ready for a sequence. And I want the audience to just have that fun as well because that is what this movie is all about. That’s what you are going to say you are going to say to people ‘go and see XXX because you just have fun. That’s the primary, but if you do take something else away from the film, then that is even better.
XXX: Return Of Xander Cage is in cinemas now.
Written by David Griffiths
Listen to NECK DEEP while you read.
It’s not often in this day and age that a band can be discovered accidentally.
Sure, social media platforms have made it easier and more accessible, but even then such ventures are usually planned out with an end goal in mind.
Not so with Welsh pop/punk band Neck Deep who in 2012 were thrust into the musical spotlight after putting the song ‘What Did You Expect’ up on – line more out of curiosity than intent.
“It actually was kind of as easy as just posting a song,” vocalist Ben Barlow laughed on reflection. “In terms of getting started as a band it is usually a lot of work but for us it was as easy as putting a song on – line and hoping that people liked it. We didn’t plan on anything more and at that stage it was just put the song up and see what happens and it took off from there (laughs).It’s pretty amazing when you think back and see where we are now. People liked that song so we put out an E.P and people liked that so we put out another E.P and started touring. It all happened very quickly, within six months it turned from writing songs for fun into a full time touring band.”
While it was exciting to go from keyboard warrior to full time musician, Barlow says the experience was not as cut and dried as get popular, form band, tour the world.
“There were definitely problems associated with the rapid rise of the band,” he stressed. “We got to where we are rather quickly and as such we had to learn how to be a band really quickly. People expected so much of us and thought we must be really good but in reality we hadn’t really played that much (laughs). Most bands have had a year or two of playing their songs and they tighten up over that time and get used to playing but we just had to learn real fucken quick. Some of us were in university or had jobs and it was pretty much a case of you have to leave all of that shit because you’re gonna be on tour with the band. It was a very steep learning curve especially for me. Most of the guys had been in bands before and had done touring but I had literally only ever done solo and acoustic stuff. I had never actually been in a band, I was just asked to sing because I could write good lyrics so they thought I must be able to sing too (laughs). I was just winging it for a long time. It would have been nice to have more time to wing it before having a crack but other than that it was cool things happened so fast. It gave me the belief in life that I was looking for I guess. I wasn’t necessarily happy with being in university and doing something I didn’t want to do. Obviously being a 17/18 year old guy joining a band and touring the world was more where I wanted to be. People might think we didn’t have to work for it because it happened so quickly but believe me we fucken worked. We went hard for those first few years. People knew who we were but for two years it was fucken relentless. It was like record as much as possible, tour as much as possible and do as much as possible which was a lot of work but has paid off. Within five years – we’re not even five years old – we’ve had four releases and toured parts of the world many times. It’s crazy.”
Growing as a band in the spotlight also taught the members of Neck Deep to grow themselves in the public eye to a degree and as such has forced them to concentrate more on the little things that go into music. They have had to grow before their fans eyes and in doing so grew behind the scenes together.
“I think over the years we have learnt to think things out more with our music,” he surmised. “I guess a lot of people would say – and I agree in some cases – that bands earlier stuff is their best stuff but I think as much as there is beauty in thrashing out a song and it being an organic thing that just happens I think with us the songs are more thought through now. We realized the mistakes that we made in our earlier records maybe and have dialed that back a bit and refined it to the point where we are a lot smarter with our songwriting now. We know what to look for and what we like with music. We’re critical of music so we have to be critical of ourselves whereas back then it was more ‘yeah, this is the song, you’re gonna write vocals and sing over it and that’s that’ but now we are very fucken critical. I think generally now we’re a bit older too – not a lot, but enough. Shit changes with your own life so the shit I wrote about when I was 17 isn’t necessarily the shit I’m gonna write about now. As cliché as it sounds we have matured.”
One component that Neck Deep have retained above all else is their carefree spirit and willingness to enjoy their career, a fact which Barlow feels contributes greatly to their success.
“It’s very important to be honest,” he said. “Obviously there comes a time when you have to take it seriously but there’s a difference between… I think we take it seriously when we need to but the main thing is we do know how fucken lucky we are to be in this position. Why ruin that by getting all serious? The vast majority of the time we are just having a laugh. We’re very normal dudes. There’s no chips on our shoulders and no ego’s in this band. We just wanna go out, play a gig and have a fucken laugh and make the most of it. It could be game over before you know it so have fun while you can. If we can send a positive message I guess… and maybe that’s kind of the point as well, passing that mentality on to our fans and our listeners is important. When we make records we don’t wanna make people sad we want them to be happy. I couldn’t imagine letting all of this shit go to my head because I’ve seen people like that and I fucken hate those people. None of us want to be celebrities. We’re very happy with our lives at this point.”
With their last album, Life’s Not Out to Get You, coming out in 2015, Barlow is pleased to announce on the eve of their upcoming Australian tour with All Time Low and The Maine that work on the follow up is well under way.
We’re deep into it man,” he assured. “We’ve got a good, good chunk of the writing done. We’ve got thirty to forty demos and a good, strong handful of songs that are almost there. We fly out to record the album in probably early February.”
As for the musical direction, Barlow says it will be a typical Neck Deep album with perhaps the odd surprise here and there.
“It will be a bit of both,” he laughed. “I wouldn’t necessarily say… if there are surprises they will be planned surprises. I don’t think we’re gonna make a black metal record (laughs). It’s going to be a Neck Deep record and that will clearly come through. Maybe there will be elements that people aren’t expecting or maybe have been wanting to hear. Like I was saying before we have matured. We don’t wanna be a one trick pony where we keep writing the same record. Maybe it’s time to push the boundaries but the bottom line is it’s still a fucken Neck Deep record.”
Written by Kris Peters
Listen to AVERSIONS CROWN while you read.
Taking over as vocalist for an established band is always a challenging proposition, particularly in the death metal genre where fans seem to be more passionate than fans in other forms of music.
When Mark Poida took over frontman duties from Colin Jeffs in Aversions Crown he knew he had big shoes to fill but also knew he was up to the task.
“I was a bit nervous to begin with,” he admitted, “because I knew vocally, I didn’t sound much like their old singer and I didn’t know if that was the sound they wanted me to go for but as I got into the band they said just do what you want to do, it’s your spot now, which gave me confidence. They encouraged me to put my own influence into it and make it the way I wanted it to sound which was cool. Everyone has been super supportive of what I’ve done and I’ve gone to the rest of the band to see if some things were okay and they told me not to even ask and just do what felt right. I feel right at home with the band now and it’s been an absolute pleasure writing an album with them.”
That album is the recently released Xenocide an album which Poida has had a massive input on from both a performing and writing perspective.
“I just wanted to do what I do vocally over Aversions and see how it all sounded,” he said modestly, “and it came together really well so that was basically my goals for my first album with the band. Record an album that sounded like me over Aversions Crown and also make sure that the album was hooky and sounded good which I believe it is. It’s mixed really well so the goal was pretty simple: just make a good album. It’s simple, but it’s true.”
Rather than preside over a generic metal album for his first effort, Poida decided to make the album conceptually based, with a major emphasis on extraterrestrial activity.
“The concept is basically one big story,” he explained, “that spreads over all of the tracks. It tells the story about the lives of an alien hierarchy and the fall of it and the creation of humans and then what happens to the aliens within that hierarchy and why they split apart and why they decide to fight against each other. It’s based more from the alien side of things as opposed to the human side.”
Writing music and lyrics can be hard enough when based on personal experiences, but when writing about something you have never experienced and will probably never be subject to things can be more difficult. Topics like science fiction, while based in reality, are still unchartered dimensions but Poida says when you have a passion for something it doesn’t matter whether it is real or imagined.
“I’m a massive science- fiction fan,” he acknowledged, “I love films and I love video games and books and documentaries so basically I just look up and watch a lot of things and I take inspiration from random moments in my life where I’ll look at something and think it would be a cool idea to put into a song and make it about aliens. I remember I watched a documentary and it was a show called ‘How to Survive the End of the World’ and there was six or seven different scenarios on how the world will end and how you would survive it and I actually got a few more ideas from that about how aliens would come to Earth and make us all die in a way that would be very easy for them instead of the hard way of coming down and killing us all one by one. It threw out ideas like destroying the moon or throwing the Earth off its axis and crazy but simple things like that. I use these inspirations and ideas and put it together to make a story in my head and then find a start and a finish to it and fill in the in between parts.”
While the majority of the inspiration comes from movies and television, Poida concedes he has had unexplainable events happen to him personally.
“I’ve had experience with it but I can’t say its 100% extraterrestrial,” he laughed. “I’ve seen things in the sky that obviously can’t be planes or anything like that. One time, I think it was New Years, the actual New Years day, as soon as it ticked over to the next year – maybe 2014 to 2015 – I saw a huge red light in the sky and I got my Mum and she saw it as well and we both filmed it and to this day we still both don’t know what it was. We saw a lot of people around our area talking about it but we never saw anything come from it and we never saw any explanations.”
He laughed again when asked if any of this was inspiration for the album.
“No it wasn’t unfortunately. It probably should have! To be honest I actually forgot about it until this exact moment (laughs).”
In keeping with the alien theme, Xenocide’s cover also bears relevance to the storyline, with Poida reluctant to go into too much detail.
“Basically the album has seven different main alien characters,” he offered, “and the cover is one of the main characters in the story which is actually the most evil one, but I can’t tell you anymore without spoiling the whole concept. To put it simply, this alien does something very bad and none of the other aliens wanna be with him so he tries to destroy them because they won’t be with him on his quest or whatever it is. He’s a very naughty alien with bad vibes (laughs).”
As well as putting his own stamp on Aversions Crown as a vocalist, Poida says that the band have progressed musically as well since he joined, with Xenocide not only staying true to what drew fans to the music in the first place, but also adding different layers and dimensions as part of their musical growth.
“For the last two albums they went for a really death core kind of sound,” he said, “with a lot of chugs and breakdowns but also a lot of metal elements. I believe with this album we all tried to move things forward. We wanted to make it more metal – we wanted to be a death core band still but have more metal elements with a lot more blasting and a lot more riffs. We didn’t want every third of each song to be a breakdown. We wanted to make it riffy and more groovy. We went with a more metal style mix with Mark Lewis and we told him not to make it sound overproduced. We tried to go for a much rawer but not too polished sounding album so more of a hybrid between the two.”
Written by Kris Peters
Listen to BLACK STAR RIDERS while you read.
“I think it got to the point where… we’d been very successful and a lot of journalists were asking us when are you going to write new material,” explained Black Star Riders vocalist Ricky Warwick about the bands decision to record their debut album All Hell Breaks Loose in 2013 under that name and not Thin Lizzy as they had been playing previously. “It got to us after a while and we ended up thinking maybe that would be a good idea. Nobody seemed to want the pressure of what to write so myself and Damon Johnson – we were both songwriters from our previous bands – thought we would get the ball rolling. We wrote a few ideas and took them to the other guys to see what they thought and the guys loved them! We went in and demoed those songs and talked about recording as Thin Lizzy and I think once the recording date started looming it was like, hang on a minute, playing these great songs live that are amazing and taking them to a whole bunch of new people or people that hadn’t heard them in many years is great and that’s one thing but to put out a new Thin Lizzy album without Phil Lynott, without the man’s stamp of approval, seemed a bit contrite and a bit wrong. It was like the elephant in the room but when somebody brought it up we all felt that and myself and Damon – who were brought up with Thin Lizzy as fans – our heads were going one way thinking about new Thin Lizzy record and how it was gonna be great, but our hearts were saying no, no, no it’s the wrong thing to do so when I mentioned it we all felt it was a step too far and it wasn’t right. We were left with fifteen songs that we really believed in and it was like, what are we gonna do with all this material? That was a jumping point for Brian Downey. He decided to retire from the road and Darren Wharton decided to go back and be involved with his band Dare so it was only me, Scott, Damon and Mark that were left so we said why don’t we just change the name and give it a go and see what happens and that’s what we did.”
With the decision to retire the Thin Lizzy name and replace it with Black Star Riders made, Warwick admits the next thing was trying to establish the newer version of the band in their own right and not just be remembered by Thin Lizzy’s glories.
“What’s funny,” he laughed, “ was I think the eight or nine songs that we wrote before we decided we were going to change the name are to me the most highly influenced of the bunch because at that stage we were writing for a Thin Lizzy record. So at that point we definitely wrote to that style but once it was decided to change the name it was like different roads had opened and we didn’t have to stick to one vibe and I think that’s when we started writing for Black Star Riders as our own band. Yes, we’ll always have that energy and influence because of Scott Gorham and because of where we come from but we don’t have to stick to any rules or any particular sound or guidelines.”
With their third album Heavy Fire recently released, Warwick says that it feels as though Black Star Riders are finally beginning to shake free of comparisons to their former band and are now able to focus on carving out their own niche in the rock and roll yearbook.
With their third album Heavy Fire recently released, Warwick says that it feels as though Black Star Riders are finally beginning to shake free of comparisons to their former band and are now able to focus on carving out their own niche in the rock and roll yearbook.
“It’s our third record,” he offered, “and the band has been together four years so we wanted to release something that would really establish the band away from the mindset of Thin Lizzy and I think we’ve done it. I feel it’s our most accomplished record to date. We always try and make the best record we can and we wanted to take this one even further and write the most dynamic songs we have written. Lyrically we like to cover what’s going on around us and our thoughts on the world, our friends and family and stuff that’s happened. I’m always a big fan of lyrics that tell a story as opposed to… I’m not a big fan of people who let you make your own interpretations. I like my lyrics to mean something. We talk about the gun laws in America and there’s a song there about love and heartbreak. There’s some dark stuff on there as well so I think we have covered a large spectrum.”
Despite doing their best to have the name Black Star Riders stand on its own merits, Warwick is also smart enough to realize that the comparisons will be lifelong, and as such has learnt to embrace the compliments for what they are rather than try to fight them.
“It’s completely flattering to be in this situation,” he gushed. “The fact that we were part of such an amazing, legendary and influential band as Thin Lizzy and we’ve managed to come out of that and pull it off is a testimony not only to myself and the guys in the band but also to everybody out there that believed and bought in to our ideals and our songs. It’s a real testimony to them that they got us to this point. We didn’t know what was going on with the first album. People might not have been interested or not liked this band but to turn it around to where we have has been wonderful. We’ll always be indebted to Thin Lizzy and we’ll always have a part of it with what we do and I don’t think we’ll ever lose that but to now be talking to you on the third record and about to go on the road and still be playing 95% Black Star Riders material is pretty huge.”
Having formed and fronted The Almighty in 1988 and then taking over vocal duties of Thin Lizzy in 2010 before now fronting Black Star Riders, Warwick has been around the music industry long enough to see many changes come and go but there is one thing that has remained a constant throughout.
“There’s always been an element of freedom in music,” he enthused. “I think that’s what liberated rock and roll when it first came out. It gave people an outlet and a chance to speak out against things they didn’t like or didn’t agree with and that is the beauty of it for me. I think it will always be there. Obviously with the internet things have changed with the way people listen to music. The way radio stations work now is a lot different but people will always want rock and roll in their life.”
Written by Kris Peters
As an actor Kieran Darcy-Smith announced himself to audiences with roles in great films such as the award-winning Animal Kingdom, The Square and the thriller The Reef. Then in 2012 Darcy-Smith ventured into a new side of his career when he directed his first feature film, the crime thriller – Wish You Were Here which starred Joel Edgerton and Teresa Palmer.
The film received rave reviews from critics and even saw Darcy-Smith nominated as Best Director at the AACTA Awards. Flash forward to 2017 – Darcy-Smith is now living in L.A. and his new film The Duel, starring Woody Harrelson and Liam Hemsworth has just been released. He caught up with Heavy Mag’s Dave Griffiths to talk about his journey of becoming a filmmaker on the other side of the world.
Darcy Smith is quick to admit that everything started with the success of his first feature film. “It all started with Wish You Were Here which got into Sundance,” he explains. “Then even more fortunately it was chosen as the Opening Night film there. SO many crazy things happened on that night and subsequently when we got back to L.A. that it really was a game changer for us and we realised that we had to come back here and take up the opportunity that had just been gifted to us. So we went back to Australia and did the tour for Wish You Were Here and then headed back to L.A. with a one year old, a three year old, six suitcases and a massive credit card debt. We rented a little house and just got on with it. Initially I was shopping around a script that I had written which we weren’t able to get finance for because it was a tricky one to cast. In the meantime I was being sent a ton of scripts and it was quite remarkable the core quality of some of the scripts that were being shopped around here, so it was really surprising. I think if you just wanted to make money as a director you could just take one of these scripts, Saw 15 or Final Destination 35… something like that, make the movie, be a director for hire and just keep making movies and just make some money. But I really wanted to retain the integrity that we had gained with Wish You Were Here so I wanted to be really careful. Then this script came along which was called By The Way Of Helena back then, that was something we fought Lionsgate about because we really didn’t want them to change the name but we couldn’t do anything about it. It was a Black List winner over here, meaning that it circulated all around town and people were aware of it and loved it but it was a tricky one to make.”
“So then I spent two years with Matt Cook the writer developing the script to turn it into the film that we really knew it could be. When I first got the script it was loaded up with characters and themes, both political and social and cultural… things I was really attracted to and it had this big grand sensibility about it, it was like a parable. But it was also very untraditional and it would have been hard to get going so we had to work on it for a long time to find a narrative that we thought we could finance. That took a long time, so in that time I was also looking at other scripts and i got some writing work at Warner Bros. to get us through. Then the finance came through and two years after reading the script I finally found myself on the set making the movie.”
With Kieran reading so many scripts I asked him what made The Duel stand out to him as the film that he wanted to make. “Just the integrity of the writing,” he says. “It was a unique story to me. There’s a huge theme about immigration and race which is a very hot-button topic right now. I’ve always found border-regions very interesting and I’ve always been drawn to them and this was set on the border between Mexico and Texas and it was about the border and it was about Mexicans crossing over the border. I was also having my own experience of coming into a new country and discovering what America was which was quite disenchanting. SO I was going through this new cultural experience and discovering that America is very different to Australia and then American society turned out to be something that I was really fascinated by and I thought I could express my opinions and observations on that through this film so it just gave me a vehicle to express myself.”
When you consider that the final cut of The Duel stars Woody Harrelson and Liam Hemsworth it came as a bit of a shock when Kieran told me that they weren’t the original choice for the film. “Casting is really a tricky thing here (in L.A.) because so much of it rests on actor’s availability. Ultimately you go to one actor and they aren’t available so you go to another one who may be available but then they have issues with this and that and then there schedule changes so this had gone through that process and to be honest we had cast the role of David first and Emilie Hirsch was attached to play David. I loved Emilie, loved his work, he was happy and he was right into it and we were going down that road and then we got Vince Vaughn attached to play Abraham and it really was him coming on board and his enthusiasm that triggered the finance ultimately and then at the last minute Vince had to bail and go and do post-production on another film he was attached to so the producers said to put everything on hold and come and re-visit it later on and I said ‘no let’s go right now, Woody is available, please.’ When Woody had read the script he had rung me from Berlin, and he had just watched Wish You Were Here and he was like ‘no let’s go with it.’ And that was still with Emilie, but then we went through this awful time where people weren’t prepared to pay the money for the film with Emilie attached in the lead role, and it was nothing to do with his talent or anything like that it was just down to that simple thing of does a Grandmother in India know Emilie Hirsch’s name? No probably not, but do they know Liam Hemsworth’s name? Yes because of The Hunger Games franchise… that is how it works. It all comes down to international sales, so if you can get somebody like Liam who has enormous foreign sales value because of the franchises that he has been in then the financiers will okay that. But I wanted to look into his work, and after I had watched a couple of his movies, I could see that there was something in him and I knew that I could draw something really solid out of him. I ended up going over to his house and talking to him, and he came on board, and when he came on board I said ‘I need somebody that will jump off a cliff for me’, and he said ‘I’ll jump off a cliff for you’ and to his credit he did. Not only can I not speak highly enough of Liam, I think he and his brother get a bit of bum wrap around town because people think they aren’t really actors they are just pretty boys who made it because they are good looking but I defy anybody to watch Chris in Rush for example and then Liam in this movie. Because in this movie he holds this movie in the palm of his hand from woe to go, and he is commanding. To me it was like working with a young Clint Eastwood, he just has that incredibly heroic strength and also vulnerability which is just so beautiful. And he had that gaze and that sort of Western hero stuff which isn’t easy to do. I just think he is amazing in this movie; there is one movie where he holds the room for eight minutes, and there aren’t many actors out there that can pull that stuff off… it is really hard. Full credit to him, I love him.”
So that leads to another big question what was it like working with Woody Harrelson who appears to go into a full-on method-acting persona as Abraham the cult leader. “He was fun,” says Kieran. “If you go back to movies like Rampart or Natural Born Killers this guy has so many different shades within him. Look Woody Harrelson is like Vince Vaughn they aren’t movie stars by accident. They walk into a room and you are immediately drawn to them – it’s that X-factor that only movie stars have and Woody has that charisma but he is also funny and whip-smart. He and I just played around with the character and I had a bunch ways I wanted to introduce his character. I was inspired by Apocalypse Now. I went through that with him and a bunch of other references and then he read about ten books for me which was great and then just before we were heading down to do pre-production he rang and said ‘I shaved my eyebrows off but I’m not sure I like it’ and then I did see him the next day and while it looked really weird it also looked really cool so we played around to find what his character would do and we came up with the idea of Abraham painting symbols onto his eyebrows for different occasions. So yeah there is that whole physical and external side to his appearance. Woody really got into the role and it really shows. These guys did this film we about $60,000 where normally they warrant millions of dollars but they did it because they liked Wish You Were Here and I find that really humbling.”
The Duel is available now on DVD and VOD.
Written by David Griffiths
Listen to ROSE TATTOO while you read.
For forty years now Rose Tattoo have been synonymous with Aussie rock and roll.
Their front man Angry Anderson epitomizes the spirit and fight of the working class Australian and through songs such as ‘Bad Boy for Love’, ‘Rock n Roll Outlaw’, ‘Nice Boys’ and ‘Scarred for Life’ the band have embedded themselves in the very fabric of Australian music.
Put simply, Rose Tattoo symbolize everything that is Australian and with the recent release of their live album Tatts : Live In Brunswick, a new generation of fans can listen first hand to music produced from an era that shaped the future of the industry in this country.
“There is a very valid reason why we chose to release a live album from this era,” explained Anderson. “We’ve never really been big on releasing live albums because I think releasing a live album is like a farewell tour or a comeback tour – you should only ever do it once in your lifetime. Live albums are relevant to a timeframe which brings me to why release this one from 1982 and there’s several good reasons. The first – and it’s rather romantic – is that it is an album that was lost but then found (laughs). There was boxes of tape found in a warehouse and we knew through the memories of several present and past members that there was several recordings done live in this collection. We transferred it onto hard drive and this album was among those recordings. We knew these tapes existed we just didn’t know where they were.”
“Around the same time I was dealing with Mark Alexander – Erber from Golden Robot Records and he is passionate – as passionate as any of us players – about music and he loves Aussie music,” he continued, slightly off in a tangent. “When I first met him we were talking about a solo album for me because the Tatts are over pretty much. When I say over I mean one of our key personnel, Paul DeMarco, our drummer, is still in jail. After Mick Cocks died in 2009 I sat and thought that was it. I’d had enough of death to start with. All of my ex band members were dying almost yearly and I thought it was time to retire the band and put it off the road. I made Pete Wells a dying promise that we’d never finish the band but we would be more like a phantom that could re – appear at any moment so I didn’t officially fold the band up, it was more I said the band is gonna stop playing. The thing that really brought this album back for me is it was a certain line up which is a key feature. Robin Riley, the guitar player in it, he’s still alive but he has his own battle with cancer. He’s holding his own so far but we’ve got our fingers crossed. Geordie Leach, our bass player, he’s still alive as well. Dallas ‘Digger’ Royall, our drummer, was first to go in 1991 and then Wellsy in 2006. This album was recorded at an iconic venue called the Bombay Bicycle Club but it got burnt down and was renamed Bombay Rock but we first started playing live when it was called the Bombay Bicycle Club which I thought was one of the coolest names around. It relates to an era. There was about four or five other live albums on that hard drive that weren’t recorded around the same time but we went with this one. They are all different line ups with different set lists so it will be relevant to release them periodically for the real staunch fans to have because they will, in a sense, document the bands history. We are yet to find an album that is good enough quality to release pre 1982.”
That was such an amazing gig. The tuning on the album 99% of the time is good. Unfortunately, if you listen to it as the album progresses over the night, you can tell that I’m drinking more and more (laughs) and you can tell I’m suffering the effects of having a great time let’s put it that way! Without being snobby talking about ourselves in the third person but this is an iconic Aussie rock band in full flight. It’s a terrific representation of Rose Tatts, and it’s a fucken great live album.”
As well as releasing the live album, Rose Tattoo will also be supporting Guns n Roses for the third time on their current Australian tour, with Anderson admitting the Tatts and the Gunners have a healthy relationship that stretches back many years.
“When we first met them way back when…,” Anderson recalled, “I’m actually not sure exactly when (laughs) because there’s several different stories about how and why and when we first met them and those sources are probably more accurate than mine! (laughs). But I remember we were touring over there in the early 1980’s and Guns n Roses were still a fledgling band. They were very young and were what we used to call ‘hair bands’. The glam bands at the time in America were bands like Motley Crue and Cinderella and they would tease their hair and wear make – up and women’s clothing and I remember going to see a bunch of them while we were there. Some of them were really good rock bands – of course the top of the heap became the mighty KISS – and the good thing about KISS was they went full make up and you didn’t even know who they were! Instead of going glam they went the other way which is why I think they worked. Even though the whole glam thing worked for a lot of bands KISS went metal and they dressed as a metal band which was fantastic. When Guns n Roses first became aware of Rose Tattoo as fans they were heavily influenced – as were so many other American players including bands like Metallica – by the Australian rock sound. Most musos look further afield than their own backyard for sounds and influences to hear what people in other parts of the world are doing and what happened was the Gunners were looking for something that was not run of the mill or what everyone else was doing and they came across this crazy band called Rose Tattoo from a crazy place called Australia who in their own words played like no – one else. They were influenced by our sound but they also loved The Angels and AC/DC and the one thing all of those bands have in common is they all belonged to the same label which was Alberts. With touring with the lads and in all of the years we’ve been close and great friends we’ve talked about those early days and they said what mesmerized them; what fascinated them was the way the Alberts could record a rock band like no – one else in the world and have it frighten the fucken shit out of you as Slash once said. He said what they were hearing on record really excited them and the bands sounded so frightening in the way they did their sound and it was because Alberts didn’t pretty up everything.
“In America, by way of explanation, I did an album years ago called Blood From Stone which the ‘Bound For Glory’ single came off and it was a big hit for me as a solo artist and it sounds like a record made in Las Angeles because it was. It’s a way of describing the different techniques between recording. Alberts recorded their bands with as little frills as possible, knowing full well, as we all do, that you can’t record or reproduce what’s live in the studio. It’s in the studio so it contradicts itself. What you have to do is get down on tape as close to the live essence as you can knowing that you are working with those restrictions so instead of letting the restrictions of the studio work against you George Young and Harry Vanda were very clever in that they used it to their advantage by getting huge drum sounds and huge guitar sounds but they really isolated the vocals. They created some of the best recordings ever made and the bands in America were just fucken blown away by how good our bands sounded. It was easy then for them to take the influences and use them. Now, with Rose Tattoo of course, they not only took the influences of the sound but we were the one band that they wanted to look like as well. They didn’t wanna look like The Angels or AC/DC or KISS or whoever but they looked at Rose Tattoo and they thought yeah, that’s our look. The bad boys, the tattoos, the rock and roll sphere so to speak. Slash and Axl – to their credit – have always acknowledged Rose Tattoo as their greatest influence because they were influenced by others with sound but it was us they took the image from.”
With forty years of music under his belt, Anderson admits that occasionally nostalgia gets the better of him and when he gets the time to look back on his career he does so with pride.
“I’ll be entering a new phase or era of my life next year because it’s a milestone birthday but I think at our age, even blokes that are younger –my band that is going to play under the flag of Rose Tattoo for the GNR shows is my band The Angry Anderson Band and they are all younger blokes than I. They are in their 40’s and they are starting to reflect on their own musical career. Since they’ve been associated with me they have started to absorb my history and Rose Tattoo’s history in an effort to identify with the music they are playing. I think it’s only natural that people of my age with my experience and looking back at the experience of spending forty years with one band… I’ve been in Rose Tattoo longer than I was alive before the band (laughs). I have been the singer in Rose Tattoo longer than half my lifespan and that’s quite a significant thing. Yes, I have been reflecting in recent years and my only regret – people say do you wish you made it big like AC/DC and I would be lying if I said no – is I regret that Rose Tattoo didn’t become a bigger band but that was down to its own lifestyle and life force. It was the life it wished upon itself. It was a deeply troubled band as far as people in it went and it had its own problems so that never happened. The other thing to compensate that – and Pete took comfort in this because he was a very romantic rock n roll outlaw and he always had a romantic view on life – and he died knowing Rose Tattoo and the band he created not only influenced some of the great rock and roll bands around the world but we were also notorious for our live performances and for our recordings. It was great comfort to Pete that he died knowing that the band he put together and that we took to the world would be remembered for years and years and years to come regardless of the fact that we didn’t sell 10 million records. In other words, the effect that we had and the legacy we will leave is not about monetary gain or economic or material success. It was something far greater than that. It is spiritual and it’s about music and that’s the thing we always wanted to create was something that people would always remember.”
Written by Kris Peters
With so many people these days commenting on the theory that there are no strong roles for actresses in Hollywood you have to wonder if they have been under a rock when it comes to the Resident Evil franchise of movies. The franchise has now spawned six movies and has introduced two of the toughest female characters we have seen on the big screen. Milla Jovovich’s Alice has appeared in all of the movies as has kicked and punched her way through an army of the undead, mutant dogs and corrupt businessmen as she takes on the evil empire known as the Umbrella Corporation. Alongside her during several of the films has been Ali Larter playing the rough-and-ready Claire Redfield.
With Resident Evil: The Final Chapter now in cinemas both women were very excited to sit down and talk about the film.
“Coming back to the world of Resident Evil after a three-year hiatus was just so fun and so exciting,” says Milla Jovovich. “I loved the script, and I loved getting back into Alice’s shoes again. She’s kind of the best of me; she’s what I would imagine I would do in a survival situation or in an emergency… I would become Alice, but regardless, in reality, I would probably be like… ow, ow, ow (Milla also cowers in her chair, and she explains it) but in my head I become Alice so in a way she is my hero as well, and as long she remains my hero she will be a hero for other people to.”
So what made Milla love the script for this instalment of the franchise? “Alice is coming back above ground from some insane battle between the ending of the last film and this instalment,” explains Milla. “At the beginning of the movie she comes out from underground to this absolutely desolate Washington D.C., so you know that that battle from the end of Afterlife happened and it has devastated everything and it feels like she is pretty much the only survivor and from that point onward it is non-stop.”
“It’s quite amazing that Resident Evil is going into its sixth instalment,” says Jovovich when asked what her thoughts are on the franchise. “It is literally the longest-running, female-driven action franchise ever made up to this point, so it is inspiring that it has resonated so much with audiences and they have wanted to come back to the Resident Evil world over and over again and see the adventures of people that they know and love. This movie to me is the best movie in the franchise. I mean there are so many amazing stunts, and the visuals are so amazing. Then the story is riveting, and you find out things about Alice and the Umbrella Corporation that they never knew about them and I think that there are so many secrets revealed and it brings this amazing franchise to this great close… a closure that I think the audience is going to love.”
With Ali Larter playing such an important role in the Resident Evil franchise it is not surprising that Milla is full of praise for her co-star. “Ali Larter plays Clarie Redfield, one of the most popular characters from the game, and it has been great. Ali has done three films with us at this point, and she is just an incredible actress, and she really brings so much life to Claire, and she has really done justice to her.”
Ali Larter then explains that doing these movies is so different to any other kinds of acting. “Doing these movies, they are actually action films,” she explains. “So we are doing stunts and keeping up with the guys… in fact possibly even doing better. And so we’re in there, and I learn it, and then I watch Milla, and it just blows my mind seeing her do the stunts, she is incredible. And not only is she physical when she does it, she is graceful. She is amazing at it, so that to me is what makes this movie different, yes we have strong female characters, but yes we are also very physical, and it is stunt and action orientated.”
Apart from that gracefulness, Ali says she is also blown away by Milla’s passion for playing Alice. “Yeah there is a passion there, and she knows that it is all about getting in there and doing the stunts but also knowing this character that is trying to figure out her past and put the pieces together of that puzzle and constantly driving forward. But it’s like she just keeps up that energy, but she is always asking and always looking just to push it forward.”
As Milla pointed out Claire Redfield is one of the favourite characters for those that play the Resident Evil series of games so what has it been like for Ali to play such a well-loved character. “I’ve always loved having her there, and I feel so lucky that they keep bringing her back,” she says with a smile. “I love playing Claire Redfield, and I love that the fans are so excited. That to me is… it makes me giddy because I do all kinds of movies and play all kinds of roles but Clarie Redfield, like she is for lots of people, maybe one of my favourites.”
So does she have anything she would like to say to the fans before they sit down and watch the film? “I think that Resident Evil: The Final Chapter will surpass all the ones before it. I think it captures excitement, fear and maybe a little bit of love, power and I think that you are going to get that and you are going to get to see all your favourites again.”
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is now showing in cinemas.
Written by David Griffiths
Listen to TIGER ARMY while you read.
Sometimes, despite all of the talent in the world and how much effort you put into something, you just need a little bit of luck to get a project over the line.
Vocalist and guitarist Nick 13 found this out early in his career in Tiger Army when by chance one of his recordings made it to the ears of one Tim Armstrong of Rancid fame who liked what he heard and provided that spark and impetus which can only benefit a fledgling career.
“He didn’t see us play live,” corrected Nick on how the introduction came about, “but we recorded some stuff which ended up being our first E.P and was actually our 7 inch and a friend of mine Adam Carson from AFI played drums on that and he passed it on to a friend of Tim’s who was actually Tim’s roommate at the time. Tim liked it and gave me a call. At that time the first bass player had just left the band to concentrate on university and I didn’t really have a line – up but Tim asked me some questions about the songwriting and when he found out I wrote all of the songs including the bass lines and everything on it he suggested we put together a band so I could make a record. It took a bit of time – it didn’t happen for about a year and a half – but it did eventually. There is no question that the whole situation was a huge help to me but I would have been playing music one way or the other (laughs).”
As the only original and constant member of the band since 1996 Nick has had to endure Tiger Army’s entire fortunes and tribulations on his own shoulders, but is adamant that he is happy with where the band is currently at.
“Very much so,” he enthused. “There have been quite a few players over the years come through the band but right now the band is Mike Fasano on drums, who actually played on our third album Tiger Army III : Ghost Tigers Rise, and a very talented stand up bass player –one of the best I’ve seen actually – named Djordic Stijepovic. We’ve been touring here in the States for over a year now and I’m really happy with where the band is and where the live show is at. The vibe I think is great. On stage we really gel together and we’ve got over 100 shows under our belt so by the time we hit the East Coast of Australia we’ll be in fighting form.”
As alluded to by Nick, Tiger Army have had almost a revolving door of members in the past, and although agreeing that it has caused distractions over the years, Nick believes much of that can be contributed to the growth and evolution of the band.
“Yes and no,” he mused on if the changes had affected the flow of the band. “The sound always evolves and part of that is more where I am at. I think with our fourth record Music From Regions Beyond there was some stuff that I was able to do for the first time because the rhythm section could actually play it. There was some ideas that I wanted to try out for a while but maybe didn’t have the right situation to try those ideas in and then by the latest record V, some of the growth in that had to do with my development as a player. Things like early rock and roll and artists like Roy Orbison have always been influences on me going back to the beginning of Tiger Army. My playing level – certainly when the band started – couldn’t always reflect that. Playing and singing at the same time is a thing. There were always things I could do as a guitar player if I didn’t have to sing over them and a singer if I didn’t have to play at the same time but being a three piece put constraints on things as well. Now, I’ve gotten to the point where I can reflect some of those influences that I’ve had all along but couldn’t pull off live so that is part of the bands evolution and sound as well.”
Another constant of Tiger Army has been their consistent use of stand up bass players, and this is one part of the band that Nick believes strongly is a key component of their sound and success.
“Even though our sound has evolved over the years I do think at the core of it there is a Tiger Army sound,” he explained, “and the stand-up bass is just part of that. At the beginning of rock and roll, it was something that was a little more common – I think there’ something at the heart of our sound that has to do with taking that early rock and roll and infusing it with the energy of punk that I couldn’t really imagine doing in this band without the double bass.”
When V came out in May last year, it was Tiger Army’s first album in nine years, with Nick admitting to feeling some trepidation after such a long absence.
“It’s cool to see people’s reactions to the album grow and change over time since it’s been out,” he offered. “I don’t know if there’s ever been a new album that we’ve done that people have taken to straight away. The third album in particular, Ghost Tigers Rise, a lot of people didn’t know what to make of it when it first came out but it wound up being an album that stayed with people and I have a feeling V is like that. People didn’t know what to expect or what it would be like after a certain number of years away and I would rather make an album that grows on people and they listen to it year after year than make an album of the sort that when you get it it sounds great for the first year and then you put it on the shelf and never think of it again.”
“I did feel some pressure,” he continued, “since it had been so long between it and the last Tiger Army record. I felt like it had to have… it had to be a new step. It had to be the next step and it had to show some growth and some change but at the same time remain true to the roots of where we come from. That was one of the reasons it took me a while to write it because I knew I wanted to take the music somewhere new but I had to work out where that was, somewhere that I could be excited and passionate about. I didn’t want to be in that trap of putting out an album because it’s time for one or to keep up with a tour schedule. I really believe in standing behind every record I make. Even if there are things I would do differently now after reflection they are still exactly what I wanted to do at that time.”
With Tiger Army’s first Australian tour in eight years kicking off in Brisbane on February 19 Nick says while he sends apologies to his fans Down Under for their extended absence they haven’t been the only ones missing out.
“It’s not just Australia,” he laughed. “We’ve really neglected everyone for that long. The band has only played shows in Southern California for the most part of all those years. We’ve been doing our annual October Flame shows every year but we hadn’t been to the East Coast or anywhere else in the U.S or Europe or anywhere for the last eight years. Part of that was because I’d been doing my solo stuff and touring that and part of it was writing and figuring out the next step for the band so really 2016 was the first year in a long while that we had been out on the road properly. As soon as we started touring again we started thinking about coming back to Australia because it is honestly one of my favourite places to visit and favourite places to play in the world.”
Written by Kris Peters
Listen to SISTERS DOLL while you read.
It is not uncommon in the modern music age to have high profile guest artists contribute to each other’s albums.
It is a practice that has been working well for some years, but usually, you only hear of well-known musicians playing on other famous artists projects, not relative unknowns.
Sisters Doll, from Melbourne, bucked that trend on their recent album All Dolled Up with a special appearance from Bruce Kulick, better known as the guitarist for KISS between 1984 and 1996.
“Back in 2015 we got the chance to play live with Bruce as part of his backing band,” explained vocalist/guitarist Brennan Mileto – a.k.a B.Monroe. “That was a great experience for us, and we have kept in contact with him since then.”
“We mentioned it when we played with him back then,” added bass player Austin Mileto (Foxxx), “that we would love to have him play on our next album and he was into the idea.”
“We sent him e – mails and demos of the songs,” continued drummer Bryce Mileto (Lipz) “and he picked his favourite – which was ‘Young, Wild and Free’ – so once we got the rough parts down in the studio we sent it to him and he put the solo on it and that was it. It was a great honour to have him on the album, and it boosted our name in the KISS world, so hopefully, their fans dig it which would be even better.”
Originally hailing from Western Australia, Sisters Doll has been plugging away in the Australian music scene for the last seven years but are hoping with their sophomore release all their hard work will finally pay off.
“We started in a small town called Collie, and there wasn’t much to do there besides play music, work in the mines or play football,” laughed Monroe, “so we chose the band. We grew up listening to old school music – Dad was into KISS and Motley Crue and Van Halen – so it was pretty much in our blood. We took a plunge and entered in a few band competitions and won one who gave us the opportunity to record our first album Welcome to the Dollhouse. From there we went to America and toured independently over there. Then we moved to Melbourne and toured around Australia on our budget, and then the Australia’s Got Talent thing popped up so did the Bruce Kulick support, and now we have just released our second album and we plan on going to Europe and America late this year or early next. Before then we are going to tour the East Coast of Australia, so it’s pretty exciting times.”
Sisters Doll became the first rock band to make the finals of last year’s Australia’s Got Talent and in the process won the hearts and ears of people from all parts of the country, with Lipz admitting the show was a huge boost to the band’s marketability.
“It was a lot of fun,” he gushed. “The exposure was great for us, but we went in thinking we would only get the one show maybe but it snowballed from there, and we got to the final five which was amazing!”
“They only announced the winner out of the top five,” Monroe laughed, “so we’re telling everyone we got second.”
“It built a lot of our social media side of things,” added Foxxx. “Our Facebook got a great boost, and we sold a lot of albums in the time we were on there. Lipz scored his Ludwig endorsement too which was great.”
“We’ve had some interest from some labels too,” continued Monroe, “who have been waiting to hear the new album, so we’ve sent them out, so we’ll see what happens from there. It was just great exposure for the band in so many ways.”
While Welcome to the Dollhouse established Sisters Doll among the up and coming rockers of Australian music, their follow-up, released January 21, looks set to raise their profile even more.
“It’s been pretty exciting so far,” enthused Monroe. “Everyone who has bought the album has loved the whole album and not just one song which is cool. It was a long time coming – four years actually – but it’s finally out, and we couldn’t be happier with the result.”
After peaking in the top ten of the I Tunes rock charts, Monroe says the band are hoping All Dolled Up continues to grow on their fans, with it already out performing the debut.
“It was a funny story actually,” laughed Monroe. “We were just sitting at home talking about the album and someone suggested we look in the I Tunes charts just to see if it was in there at all. We had a look for a laugh and at that stage we were at number 50 and we were shocked! We put the post out on facebook and more people started buying it and it jumped up even more (laughs).”
“We didn’t even think about it earlier,” interjected Lipz, “I never thought we would ever be up there. Everyone bought a copy at the album launch so we didn’t even think anyone would download it but they obviously have.”
After sitting on the one album for four years– which was written and recorded while the band were still in their teens – the band knew that their follow up had to reflect on the many changes within their lives, something Monroe admits played on their minds.
“Our main aim was to show our progression and our growth from the first album,” he said. “Which I think it does, especially with the songwriting and in our voices and the structuring of the songs. That was our main goal. Production wise we wanted to step things up a little bit more and make it stand out and be more listenable for these times. I think musically the melody is still there with the same sort of chord progression. Structurally, I think more thought has gone into the songs as well.”
“With the first album you write a song and think it’s awesome and you don’t go back on it,” added Lipz, “but on this one we worked on them all and picked out the best parts and made them radio friendly and melodic so hopefully radio picks them up.”
If there’s one thing other bands could take from Sisters Doll is their relationship with their fans. From day one they have stayed behind after shows and spoken to their fans and signed merchandise and are constantly updating their social media sites and having as much interaction as possible.
“Things like that are important,” Monroe stressed, “especially with the way it is in the music industry at the moment. There’s not a lot of label support and it’s not like it used to be. I think if we can keep doing the groundwork with our fan base it will help. Even the label people that we have spoken to that were interested their advice was to keep building that base and then they will come so it’s pretty much…”
“You’ve gotta do the work yourself these days,” Lipz picked up. “By building that fan base people will keep coming to your shows and keep buying C.D’s and supporting the industry because unfortunately the industry is tough right now and the fans are the only thing keeping it going. If we keep building that core fan base then we can call the shots a bit more if a label does come knocking one day.”
“We take pride in keeping that side of things active and making everyone feel equal. We genuinely appreciate the comments people leave us and I remember what I was like when I loved a band and you sent a message and didn’t get a reply so we try to reply to as many as we can,” continued Foxx.
“Some people get real fan struck with us,” Monroe laughed, “and they can’t believe that we replied but we just try to be ourselves. We’re just three normal guys. We don’t try to put ourselves on a pedestal so to reply and make someone feel good makes us feel good as well.”
Written by Kris Peters
HEAVY LEGENDS: BAD COMPANY / SIMON KIRKE
Listen to BAD COMPANY while you read.
Simon Kirke is an icon in drumming circles having made his name in not just one but two legendary British rock bands. Following his UK tour with Bad Company, I was privileged to get the chance to have a conversation with Simon as he looked forward to the promotion of his new solo album and subsequent live dates. I began by addressing the immediate question regarding the health issue which had affected the band’s bassist Mick Ralph’s following the completion of those UK dates. Mick, unfortunately, had suffered a stroke, and despite featuring in the obvious subsequent media coverage, here had been no recent developments or news on the subject.
Simon was able to update me on Mick’s condition in that he is coherent and has some paralysis on his left side which is typical of suffering a stroke but his condition remains a day-day process and is treated as such. Bad Company have one date scheduled for February and for that Howard Leese will be doing guitar duties but he did not inform me who would be stepping in on bass guitar duties.
Simon is quite the workaholic but still surprised me when he informed me that although he is currently promoting his next solo album ‘All Because Of You'(out in February)he is actually also writing songs for its follow up. He explained that Bad Company as a band did not have a particularly structured next few months. The nature of the band itself is an on-off one which allowed the band members to pursue and follow other musical projects. They choose not to tour in the winter months which personally frees him up time-wise to concentrate on his solo stuff. Simon told me that his album due next month was recorded in October 2016. It was an album also that he was personally very proud of and that it would feature him doing all the singing in addition to drumming. This would be his third solo album release. For the first two, they were more homegrown quite literally speaking being recorded at his own house. The debut solo release saw Simon playing everything. However, on the second album, he had several New York session musicians contributing but he did this latest album using a band called The Empty Pockets from Chicago who he had played some infrequent live shows with. They are managed by the same manager as Simon and it was recorded in their own studio in Chicago.
As outlined in my introduction Simon Kirke’s musical pedigree includes two British bands of legendary status-first with Free and then with Bad Company. It is easy to recognise from an outsiders point of view the artistic and musical merits of both bands. What perception of a bands status do the actual musicians involved with them have? Are they aware or indeed immune to quite how significant their bands contribution to musical history actually are? Was Simon aware of something special from the outset in the bands formation or perhaps he was only fully aware of their status in later years. He stated to me that bands were generally founded on some very basic dreams”When you start in a band you just want to play some good music, pull some birds and have a couple of pints. ”You never really think that it is going to blossom into something.” Founded on simple goals both bands certainly went on to achieve considerably more. Simon felt with Free the special feeling was apparent from the outset-indeed as early as the bands first rehearsal.”
They wrote half a dozen songs that first night,so the chemistry was there. However it wasn’t until actually at the end of the first year after they had been touring small clubs that they realised that “this band was going to be something special”He wouldn’t agree with my label of them being iconic but did admit that “it was a hell of a band”Moving on to Bad Company he stated that all the musicians had served their apprenticeship by that time and were actually seasoned veterans. Simon said that all their respective bands had some baggage and they were delighted to have the opportunity to do something different musically. Bad Company allowed them the chance to do that and they also had a great manager .Like Free with the third or fourth Bad Company show it was clear “we knew this was going to be a cracking band.”
Bad Company have had several breaks over the years during one of these Simon was in a band called Wildfire. A great melodic rock band that I personally felt should have achieved a higher level of commercial success. They were signed to Led Zeppelins record label Swan Song,and had Mick Ralph’s produce their album. Simon felt that it was one of the drawbacks of being in a successful band that outside of it whether through a solo album or another musical project extra curricular that it doesn’t really get the shot or chance that the artist would like. People only want to hear the band that the artist is associated with primarily. The label had helped a little but Simon had felt their heart and commitment wasn’t really in the project. He was upfront and honest about the experience. Bad Company reunited a short time later and he moved on. Wildfire had featured a great British singer Steve Overland who went on to have an extensive career with British melodic rockers FM.I wondered if Simon had retained contact with him over the years. Simon informed me that he had attended the Bad Company show in London but unfortunately they didn’t manage to meet up. I was then able to keep Simon up to date with Steve’s band FM which living in New York he hadn’t been fully aware of..My research had thrown up an interesting fact that Simon had actually played saxophone on that debut album. I was curious to find out if that was something that Simon still played. He confessed that playing on that Wildfire was a solitary episode. Despite being a fan of the instrument he admitted that his level of ability was limited and he certainly had no plans to play it “I will leave it to the pros but I don’t play it any more.”
Bad Company had reunited over the years several times with different vocalists when Paul Rogers wasn’t fronting the band. I wondered with hindsight how Simon viewed those albums and periods of the bands history.”In any long career there is going to be ups and downs,when we reformed with Brian Howe the other singer it was not a good move. ”Simon does have regrets about that time and is honest in saying so. Atlantic Records had been pushing for Bad Company to continue,Paul was doing his own stuff so the remaining members decided to give it a go. It did herald a change in the bands musical style towards a more melodic rock formula and a departure from the blues based rock identity that was associated with them until that point. They did actually have some level of success especially with the ‘Holy Water’ album which was a good album but was not however the Bad Company that the fans knew and loved. Simon did however feel that the albums success was attributed to the 5/6 albums by Bad Company that had preceded it.”I don’t think that we added much to the legacy quite honestly.”
Returning to the forthcoming solo album I was curious to find out what they offered to an artist like Simon that playing in Bad Company did not.Simon said that they offered the opportunity of giving him a wider scope.It surprised me that he had actually been playing the guitar as long as he had been playing drums.Solo albums give him the opportunity to speak another language so to speak.”Basically I am a musician that plays different instruments although I am mainly known for being a drummer”Doing his solo album is no longer just a hobby ,and he is actually very enthused about the forthcoming shows to promote it in America and England later in the year.He told me that he wanted people to take him on his own merits as a solo artist.However he does recognise that it will take some time.American dates are confirmed and he was currently working on English shows.
Simon Kirke has worked with a lot of other artists over the years and he indicated to me that despite many of his bucketlist artists having been ticked of-some he would like to work with in the future included Aretha Franklin, more colaberation with Eric Clapton and Ronnie Wood.
Outside of music he enjoys golf albeit “a labour of futility” riding his Harley Davidson when the weather is good and does a lot of reading.He has several positions and charities that he assists with including one that is personally dear to his heart.Road Recovery is an organisation which assists teens suffering from addictions.Simon informed me that he is currently involved in writing a song for their forthcoming annual benefit concert.
Reflecting on his life, Simon informed me that some regrets included the Bad Company lineup with the other singer Brian Howe, which was a mistake. He also referred to his personal story of being an addict in recovery off and on for thirty years. He regretted that which although it took away a lot of things from him also gave him a lot back.He now helps others who are struggling with it. Unfulfilled ambitions included Simon wanting to do a movie soundtrack. He is also currently writing a book based on the bands that he has been involved with. He has had a decent offer but will do it when he feels that the time is right. Simon also stated that he would like to play his guitar before audiences in weird countries around the world. Favourite songs that he wrote from ‘All because of You ‘his new solo album were ‘Maria’ and ‘Into the Light’ The most inspirational musicians that he had worked with during his career were Wilson Pickett, Keith Richards-Ronnie Wood.I concluded by asking Simon how he kept enjoying playing the old songs and how he managed to retain the same passion and enjoyment. He replied”Its funny that you should say that, on the last tour in Britain I rediscovered playing the drums again and I fell back in love with playing the drums again. ”Thank goodness for that because that is what I am known for, and that’s what I do pretty well.”
Written by Mark Dean
One of the trickiest genres of film to bring to the big screen is the psychological thriller. While films like Silence Of The Lambs and Se7en have worked over the years there have also been a mountain of films that have failed so badly that audiences have found themselves laughing at times when the director was expecting they should have been cowering in fear – yes I am looking at you Taylor Lautner in Abduction.
One of the men over the past few years that has virtually made the genre his own has been director, M. Night Shyamalan. Films like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs and The Village have made him a king of the genre. Therefore there was little surprise that when it was announced his latest film would star James McAvoy, the actor that most people would now as Dr. Charles Xavier from the X-Men franchise, that film lovers right around the world marked down Split as one of the must-see films of 2017.
The director now sits down to chat about the film which seems to have caused controversy in Australia. While some say, the film is one of the best thrillers in years others have criticised the way the film handles mental illness.
While he didn’t want the film to be so controversial Shyamalan says he did want the movie to make people think. “I wanted to take something scientific and psychological proven and keep going with it. So the first two steps have been proven and the third step was not proven but instead was a question, the question is do you believe what I am suggesting. It’s almost like a question saying ‘if you believe that you get stressed and your blood pressure goes up , do you believe that? Do you believe if I give you a pill and it’s full of sugar but I tell you it’s a cure and a portion of the population cures themselves of all diseases, do you believe that? It’s true, it’s a fact, it’s in every scientific study where the medicine is pitted against the placebo effect, so if you buy me there then I’m going to introduce you to D.I.D. where every single person believes they are who they are one hundred percent. One personality has diabetes, one has high cholesterol, one can’t see, with each one their body and chemicals change as they get to each one, and now I have you right there so that is being debated right around the world right now… what I just said. I believe that is a fact but it is still being debated. Now I’m going to ask one more question… one that hasn’t been asked before – what if somebody with D.I.D. thought that one of their personalities was supernatural? Would they have supernatural powers – that’s the question that I’m asking.”
One of the hardest decisions that Shyamalan had to make when putting Split together was to work out which actor could actually play a role that demanded almost ten different personalities and he is quick to admit that McAvoy had questions about the films as well. “I sent him the script and he said ‘well what is the name of the character that I am playing so I don’t get confused,’” he explains. “So I said I can’t tell you that, just read the script and he was like… WHAT??? He didn’t understand what I was saying because he was looking at the different characters in the script and saying ‘I’m playing this, I’m playing this.’ But I think in the script the first character is called The Neat Freak so I said you are The Neat Freak but just keep reading and so I think he was thinking that it would be a hoot and I don’t think he really concentrated on the possible pitfalls. I think he just thought it was so whacked and crazy, but he is up for anything so he was thinking this is great, it’s normal let’s just have some fun.”
“He was yes right away when he read it,” says Shyamalan nodding. “ He was reading it and saying this script is crazy and he was like ‘hell let’s do it.’ He was up to do something so exposing and so demanding that he was just like ‘yeah let’s do it.’ I was shocked and I was thinking does he understand what I’m going to ask him to do in this piece and he did but he is so fearless, I mean I have never worked with an actor that is so fearless. I ask him to do something and he is always asking to go further. So I would say to him there is a fine line when you are playing Hedwig, you are not playing a dumb adult, that’s not how most people would play the part, they wouldn’t play it as a child, you are playing a very smart child who just doesn’t have life experience. Hedwig is very smart, he is very smart he just happens to be ten…. he is a very smart ten year old. So whenever he was playing it I would so ‘no you are playing a dumb adult, that was a dumb adult and that is not what we are doing… super smart ten year old. Use your eyes you are a super smart ten year old, you don’t know what that gesture means that you just did, you don’t know what she just did, was that flirting? Is that what they call flirting? Just think through it, don’t be an idiot. Just walk to her because that creates humour and you aren’t equipped for these things. SO it’s great to be able to talk like that and be able to work through each character and make them each the hero of their own story.”
It is easy to see how proud of McAvoy’s work Shyamalan is and he continues to praise his leading man. “We got into that wonderful rhythm where the things that were sacred to me weren’t touched and were only heightened and then he would bring this incredible new aspect to the table, which is what you dream of when you are a writer/director. When what you imagine is being honoured but enhanced. James’ physicality is the great X-factor of the movie you know – how he can carry himself as Patricia or how he literally thinks he has shrunk three inches when he is playing Hedwig or he gets very stiff and strong when he is playing Dennis.”
“Split” is now screening in cinemas.
Written by David Griffiths
One of the films that surprised everybody at last year’s Monster Fest was the brand new film by Melbourne independent filmmaker Addison Heath. Heath has really been making a name for himself in film circles as the director of Under A Kaleidoscope and as the writer of Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla. While the Australian film industry waited with baited breath to see what the talented filmmaker would decide to make next nobody expected Mondo Yakuza – a low budget yakuza movie filmed in Melbourne.
As a film, Mondo Yakuza is destined to become a cult classic in the same way films like Turkey Shoot and Wake In Fright have in the past. Heavy’s Dave Griffiths sat down with Addison to talk about the work that went into Mondo Yakuza.
I start out by asking what started him on the road to being a filmmaker and how did he first fall in love with cinema. “I first fell in love with cinema at a very young age,” he explains. “I think I was about five years old and I saw the film Terminator 2, and basically that changed everything for me. That was something that made me realise that from that point on that was what I wanted to do, that I wanted to make films. I was never interested in anything in front of the camera I was only ever interested in ‘how did they do that.’ So when I was growing up, I was always trying to get information on how things like effects worked and things like that. So that was definitely the film that made me fall in love with cinema and made me want to make films. That’s where it started, and then I’ve been making films with my friends all through high school for the fun of it. Then in 2012, I got to work with Stuart Simpson on Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla and that was the first project I got to work on where it actually did anything and that kind of opened the doors for me to be able to make my own films.”
I follow up by asking Addison where the idea for Mondo Yakuza came from. “Basically after Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla and Under A Kaleidoscope we kind of just wanted to take our next films, Mondo Yakuza and A Perfect Nonsense, in a very different direction focus on making films that were just for entertainment purposes. They weren’t being made for money; we were done with dramatic elements etc. We did that on the first two films, and I just wanted to move away from that and make something that would just be really fun to watch with an audience, something that could deliver a fun gorefest. I always have fun when I watch a film like that, so I wanted to try my hand at that kind of stuff. So I brought in my love of Japanese cinema and my love of 1960s yakuza films. It just felt great because I had always wanted to make a black and white yakuza film. So a lot of it just came down to the fact that this was the kind of film that I wanted to make for a long, long time.”
Some of Mondo Yakuza’s more violent scenes were filmed not only on Melbourne’s streets but also in and around landmark buildings like Trades Hall, so how did Addison and his crew go about getting those shots? “Yeah… um… I guess I really only put that down to luck,” he says with a laugh. “We never had the Police come to a shoot; we never had anything like interruptions from the public we were just lucky. We shot a lot during the week, and I guess with other films we’ve filmed on weekends which is normally when people are out and about, and the Police are around, but if you are shooting at say, 10 am on a Tuesday morning there just aren’t as many people around. I guess we just licked out by shooting at just the right times, especially when we would have somebody pull out a weapon… we would just make sure that there was nobody around.”
One of the things that really hits you when you sit down and watch Mondo Yakuza is the wonderful and talented cast that Addison has been able to put together for the film and he said a lot of that really came down to luck as well. “We really did luck out with that,” he admits. “I had the connection with Glen Maynard from working on Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla, and he’s briefly in Under A Kaleidoscope, so he and I had worked together before and we are really close friends so he was the obvious choice to play the main antagonist in the film and I had already worked with Kenji Shimada, so we did get back some of the people we had previously worked with. For the rest, it really was just holding auditions and realising just how many amazing local actors that there are. They were keen and passionate and wanting to make interesting films, so it was about holding auditions and discovering the right people for the parts.”
Addison is also very quick to talk about actress Skye Medusa when I mention that the character of Cassidy Arizona is one of my favourite characters from the film. “Skye I had worked with on Under A Kaleidoscope, and I had become friends with her through the local horror scene and festival circuit, so she was my first pick for the role. With the role, I almost wanted to call her One Eye, and I had the idea of a yakuza movie, eye-patch, big shotgun, and I thought that would be cool. As soon as I thought of that, I thought who would look the coolest and who would deliver the coolest performance and immediately Skye was the first person that came to my mind. She is such an awesome person to work with. I mean Kenji’s part was written for him, Ryan Beckett was definitely written for Glenn and when it came to Cassidy Arizona Skye was always the person that was always going to play that role.”
Now of course as Addison mentioned earlier Mondo Yakuza is a film that is designed to be a gorefest and there was one scene that not only had the audience squirming in their seats at Monster Fest but also shocked the foreign investors behind the film. “Yes, we have a scene which involves genital mutilation, or without spoiling too much, something happens to a guy’s genitals in the first ten minutes of the movie,” explains Addison. “It really was just a case of them not really expecting to see that so early on in the film. So immediately they were concerned, and I guess it was a little bit irresponsible on our behalf in the sense that they knew there was going to be a torture scene, they knew something was going to happen to the guy at the start but they weren’t fully aware of where we were going to with that so we had to add some pixelation to the area in question, and I think it actually becomes a lot funnier because of that, it becomes more of a nod to Japanese pornography. That to me is really funny, so if you get that joke, you will find it funny. If you really do want to see it though on the DVD, you will be able to see the Western version, so you will be able to see it in all its glory.”
This leads to the question of how does a writer come up with new ways to torture someone or kill them when it comes to a film like this. “I wish I could take full credit for that scene in Mondo Yakuza,” says Addison with a laugh. ‘That actually comes from a true crime story that really happened. Basically, it was something that the Snowtown killers used to do to their victims. I read that in a true crime book about seven or either years ago, and I remember feeling so sickened by it, and I remember thinking I’ve never heard of anything that sounds worse, it sounded like the most painful and horrible thing that you could do to somebody.”
Mondo Yakuza is now available on DVD throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Written by David Griffiths
The very title to this article is the exact opening lines to the song Basement Scene written by Atlanta’s experimental rock outfit Deerhunter; whilst this article is matter-of-factly about Sydney’s post-punk quartet Oslow, there is a very convincing connection between all of these constituents.
For the ill-informed, the aforementioned Basement Scene is in reference to musical performances that generally involve the punk and hardcore genres and take place in the basement of a residential home instead of a traditional venue. These shows uphold the values of the DIY ethic of the broached genres and act as communal support for touring bands and their fans especially in the independent realm.
The four gentleman whom make up the post-punk group Oslow are avid campaigners of this scene or at least the principles it upholds. Upon witnessing their live performance, the four-piece can be seen willingly playing their songs at ground level amongst their fans instead of upon a stage and as guitarist/vocalist Jacob Rossi enlightens HEAVY, it was a concept instilled into them at a young age.
“It’s kind of how we grew up; when we were younger and going to shows, especially hardcore shows as kids, there we no stages, it was ground height. Venues like The Den or Castle Hill, they have a tiny stage or basically not one at all and everyone would jump onto it. Our most memorable shows have always been the small and intimate gigs; they are the most enjoyable so we try to make every show we play as real and intimate as possible.”
He continues – “In a way, yes, we like to play on the floor as much as possible. If it is a small stage and we can get away with playing on the floor, we prefer to. As a performer, it feels the best to have people on your level, because you are all there and playing music to them at their height, side-by-side. It feels natural and certainly a lot more fun in those close quarters with the audience.”
Then in almost a poetic notion he adds: “At the end of the day I mean we are all just people and we are their to hang out and have a good time you know? I don’t see the need for stages if you can getaway without using them.”
Even though only weeks have transpired into the year that is 2017, for Oslow, this has become their most important year to date. In early February the band will unleash their debut self-titled album via Resist Records and understandably the quartet could not be more livid about the prospect.
“I’m really happy with how it has come together, I think it is a perfect representation of who we are as a band right now and what we have worked towards.” He says – “I’m really proud of Dylan (Farrugia vocals, bass), Sean (Hampstead guitar, vocals) and Alex (Ashtiani, drums) with all the work they have put in. It’s been a weird few years, but we have worked really hard for a number of years and I am really thrilled to have it finally being released.”
To the followers of Resist Records, a post-punk band releasing their LP on the predominately hardcore driven record label may perhaps be a baffling one. However, that “category” is in short, a simple summation of what Oslow actually create. Elements of Title Fight, Balance And Composure, Superheaven and exquisitely as featured on their first single Cold Dark Space The Cure all build the formula the four-piece have impressed Australia with.
Jacob Rossi elaborates, “I never really thought of us as a post-punk band truthfully. Actually when I read our bio that was the first time I had even seen us labelled as that genre.” He exposes in laughter – “It’s strange, whoever someone asks me what kind of band we are, I always find it really hard to answer it. We play what we write which doesn’t necessarily have a plan for its ‘sound’ if that makes sense? If people want to tie a label to it and say that it is post-punk or any other comparison, we think that is really cool and amazing. We are not trying to write in that direction deliberately, it’s what happened and I matter-of-factly really enjoy hearing people’s thoughts on it. It’s what they get out of it from their perspective and that is really incredible.”
The project was overseen by producer Dylan Adams (DMAs, James Blake) who also produced the band’s seven-inch No Longer Concerns Me and as Jacob admits readily: “Since 2015 we knew we wanted him for the album”. But what was it that brought Oslow to the attention of famed record owner operator Graham Nixon.
“Graham has always been around, whether it was at our shows or putting us a support band on the gigs he booked, especially the international bands he has brought over. He has always encouraged us and shown interest; so when we were demoing the LP, he approached us and asked to hear what we were coming up with. After he heard those he expressed his interest in putting out the album and honestly Resist was our number one choice for our label.”
Deservedly after years of touring and a slew of EPs, Oslow are turning the dream into a reality. Although there past has undoubtedly been one of hard work and commitment, their next chapter is one filled with unbelievable promise. So what comes next for the four-piece?
“Keep touring, writing and playing whenever we can. Really we want to push ourselves as a band and as musicians individually. We do want to try and tour the USA or Europe, but we have to work on Australia first and properly push the album understandably, which we are undoubtedly excited about!”
Written by Will Oakeshott
THE MADNESS OF MANY TOUR
with special guests PLINI and NICK JOHNSTON