Randy Reimann was co-founder and frontman of one of Australia’s most important pioneering ‘80s hardcore thrash punk bands, Massappeal. Their 1986 debut, Nobody Likes A Thinker, is an all-time classic. The band was known for their intense live shows. Today you can find Randy still making music both as a solo electronic project, Wolf Shield – using cassette tapes of Massappeal rehearsals as the starting point for songs – and experimental post-electro pop band, Tralala Blip – started from Randy giving electronic music workshops for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. I spoke to Randy for a couple of hours, this is an extract for a much more in-depth interview where we talk about UFO experiences, spirituality, epiphanies, creativity, of being an outsider amongst the outsiders and more, that will appear in our ed’s forthcoming book.
Why is music important to you?
RANDY REIMANN: You think that I would know the answer to that by now. It’s just such a natural part of my life that I don’t think about it. It has come up a little bit, I have these little gatherings, of my male friends in particular, we have a topic and we chat about it. It’s a topic that has come up that has made me look at my obsession with making music. I think, is it something for my mental health? What would I be like if I didn’t make music? It’s rarely that I go a few days without creating something, playing with sounds. Sometimes I see it as an escapism, as my happy place. It’s something that helps me get completely out of my head, it’s totally non-mental, I just lose myself in the sounds, before I know it three hours has gone by and I was happy. I was in a zone that was comfortable. Sometimes I’ve used it to escape unpleasant things, there’d be a drama in my life and if I go in and do music I just forget about it, I forget about everything, I stop thinking. I think the stop thinking thing is important to me, it’s like meditation. It’s just going to play, I’m fully there in the moment. I just have to.
I’m such a fan too. I’ve said that a lot over the years. I love exploring new stuff and hearing what people are doing. I love going back over stuff that I’ve missed in the past too, I was so immersed in the hardcore scene for so many years and there were other things going on that I totally ignored because I was so into hardcore. There’s always big square packages coming to my house every week [laughs].
Yeah, same at our place too! We’ve become friends with our mailman…
RR: Me too! [laughs]. Here where I live is a small community, I’ll often see him driving down the road, we wave, hi! We know each other by name. He knows when he delivers something to me that it’s either vinyl or boxes full of modular stuff.
It’s the best finding songs that are new for you.
RR: Oh yeah. I love that, it’s just endless. I think that’s one thing I found out through my friends, is that I am still so enthusiastic about music! I’m still excited by it. I love it so much. I feel lucky that I feel that way. I see a lot of people that are not excited by anything, they go through life and it doesn’t seem like there’s much pleasure at all, and if they find it, it’s like they had to work really hard to find it. I’ll just put on music and it makes me feel so happy, for that I feel so lucky!
How did you first discover punk music?
RR: In high school, I was really into DEVO, Kraftwerk and kooky things that I came across; this was in the Western suburbs [of Sydney] in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. I had no friends that were into that kind of stuff at that point in time, I was just going to the local record shop and picking up things that looked interesting because of the cover. There wasn’t even many magazines back then, just this one punk magazine. I remember being at school and there was this kid and he had a backpack on and he had on it “Dead Kennedys”. I was like, what’s this? I can’t remember how I worked out it was a band, maybe I saw it at the record shop after that. I dropped out of high school in Year 11 but he went onto 12, we became friends at the end of school. There were three or four other guys that were into that stuff so I became friends with them and then discovered a lot of stuff through them. There was this one punk magazine that you could buy over the counter in this record shop in Fairfield where I grew up. A bit later I’d buy Maximum Rock N Roll and go into the city. Before I discovered all that though, it was definitely via seeing Dead Kennedys on that guy’s backpack.
Previously you’re mentioned that you view punk rock as more than just a genre of music; how so? What has it bought to your life?
RR: It’s more that back when I initially got into it, even before doing Massappeal and then leading into doing Massappeal, it’s so much just a part of my life; I didn’t have these compartmentalise things that I did. Hardcore just seeped into every part of… it was always there. I didn’t want to say that it informed me in deep ways, it sort of did… it was probably because soon after when I did Massappeal it became such a physical thing, I would get completely lost in it. I really felt like it was just absorbed into this “meat suit” that I had. I feel like it’s still there in some way, it’s still in me in some way… it’s not so much as any political thing that people may associate punk with, or anti this or rebellious… maybe it’s a bit of all those things.
When I was at work before I came here, I ran across this person – a new friendship, an older guy – he sort of knows I have this punk history and he’s like, “Do you consider yourself punk.” Aaah yeah… I relate to it. It was the next generation that punk spoke to me, I never really got into the Sex Pistols. I was a little bit too young for that, it was the generation of stuff that came after that; in England it was the post-punk stuff and in the U.S. it was hardcore. I bought the Sex Pistols record and some other stuff but it was just, no! It was like rock to me in a way and it bored me…
I think the Wolf Shield project you’re doing now is really interesting. It’s cool how you’ve taken pieces of Massappeal demo and rehearsal tapes and used that to create something new; were did that idea come from?
RR: That came about because people on social media were asking me about Massappeal like, “Why don’t Massappeal get back together” or “Can I get this release?” and “Don’t you like Massappeal anymore?” I was thinking about it, because when someone asks me a question I wouldn’t just brush it off, I’d give them reasons and I thought that thing of writing got me thinking… I hadn’t done anything solo, I’ve always been working with other people and I wanted to do something just for me. After all these conversations I was having with people, it [Massappeal] still lives in me, it’s just how can I express it now? Believe me, I love that period of my life. If I just stop and think about us jamming, I can feel it in my body—so I love it. I can’t explain it but, I have no desire to go back there and do that. I doesn’t seem right. Just no. I just came up with the idea that I’m going to express what I feel now, I still had those tapes… our practices were just as intense as our performances, we didn’t know half measures. We’d turn everything up and just go crazy. I have some practices sessions that are just as memorable as some really good gigs. A favourite part of mine when we’d jam was when there would be feedback, a whole small room just full of feedback and I could feel it, that stayed with me. It gave me the idea to make drones out of Massappeal tapes, that’s how that creative process started. Going through my journals from then for lyrics too. I’m not using Massappeal tapes for the new stuff I’m making. It was good for me to do.