We love mixtapes! Alien Nosejob’s music reminds us of one. Its genre-less and fun and we never know what the next song might sound like; it’s exciting to listen to their releases unfold, especially latest LP, Suddenly Everything Is Twice As Loud out on Anti Fade. Alien Nosejob started as a bedroom recording project by Jake Robertson, who is one of the most prolific Australian songwriters we know. Rather than us trying to describe his creations we highly recommend that you check out his work for yourself and care about what you think of it! We believe there’s a little something for everyone. We interviewed Jake to get more of an understanding about what he does, why he does it and how he does it.
I wanted to start by asking you; how did you get into music?
JAKE ROBERTSON: My dad is extremely into music, into British Invasion stuff, blues whether it be Prewar or all the way up to your white boy Eric Clapton kind of stuff. He constantly had The Kinks and The Who playing when I was younger. My brother showed me AC/DC and the Sex Pistols when I was six or seven and I got into that for a little while. I can’t really lie, nu-metal had a huge influence on me when I was eleven or twelve, that’s where it really kicked off [laughs].
What was it that you loved about nu-metal?
JR: I found something that mum and dad didn’t like [laughs]… that was probably a big part of it. That then led into Nofx and Rancid and that led me to Dead Kennedys and that got me back to where I started at AC/DC and The Kinks.
Nice! I think it’s cool you can say “I grew up liking new metal” …a lot of people would lie and play it cool and say they were first into whatever the coolest band/s are. Everyone’s got to start liking something somewhere, if you like it, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks.
JR: Yeah, one hundred percent! The thing is, even though I don’t listen to nu-metal anymore, I could put it on and totally see why I like it. I understand why it appealed to me so much as a youngin.
Why do you enjoy writing songs?
JR: That is something I ask myself and something that I haven’t been able to answer [laughs]. I think I like spending time doing something. I have a lot of hours to spend in the day, I could be punching bongs or I could be watching TV or I could be at home recording songs. I generally choose the third one.
You’re definitely dedicated to doing it, I think since 2012 you’ve had at least twenty releases that I know of.
JR: Yeah, I do it pretty frequently [laughs]. I think it’s just how I like to pass my time. I generally finish work, say “hi” to my partner and then lock myself in the studio for a couple of hours, then I eat dinner and so to bed pretty much. It’s all I do outside of work.
I did an interview a while back with Omar Rodriguez Lopez from At The Drive-In/Mars Volta and he was saying how, other people go out and party and socialise but for a lot of creative people, our party is at home making stuff, that’s our fun!
JR: Yeah, I definitely do find it fun. I do find it frustrating sometimes though but, then again I find going out and socialising frustrating as well, even though I like doing it. I think Mr Rodriguez is probably right.
What kinds of things do you find frustrating about making music?
JR: Making things fit. The things that I find frustrating are the things that probably draw me towards it as well. I’m a big fan of finding things that shouldn’t really go together and trying to make them fit together, quite often it’s frustrating. Naturally they don’t’ always fit together and I’m constantly questioning myself; why am I doing this? Which often sinks into a repetitive question with no answer. You kind get into a bit of an existential crisis; why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for? Am I doing it for myself? Obviously I’m doing it for myself, because most of my stuff I just have on my computer and I haven’t even released it. I guess I’m doing it for myself. This is the kind of stuff Bianca that my brain goes over and over and over! I’m always asking; why am I releasing this? What’s the point?
If you’re always questioning stuff maybe you’re never comfortable therefore you won’t get complacent and you’ll keep going, keep trying new things.
JR: Maybe. It’s not a matter of looking to write the perfect song or anything like that, I think my problem is that I have quantity or quality. I just like to shit things out and move on to the next thing straight away. Once it’s done it’s done!
How do you approach making a song? From what I know the writing is quite fast for you.
JR: Most of the time, it really depends. I don’t really write with any band in mind or any instrument in mind, I don’t write with any genre in mind either. I’ll pick up a random instrument and I’ll see what happens. Sometimes I’ll record as I make it up and that’s what ends up on the record, other times I’ll sing something in the shower, and record something into my phone while I’m driving or riding my bike like “do, do, do, do, do” or I’ll hum it and try to recreate it later.
I really love listening to Alien Nosejob because you are genre-less and your releases remind me of listening to a mixtape, you can hear bits and pieces of everything in there, which makes it really cool.
JR: Yeah, the record that Billy [Anti Fade Records] did recently Suddenly Everything Is Twice As Loud my aim was to try and make it sound like a mixtape.
It came through, I get it!
JR: Yeah. I wanted to make it sound like a mixtape that you’d make and give to your friends as a teenager.
We still make mixtapes.
JR: I still do as well! It probably been eight or nine months. I will get back to it thought, isolation is the perfect time for it.
I love with the Alien Nosejob HC45 EP that it’s done in the spirit of hardcore punk EPs, they’re usually traditionally released on a 7”.
JR: Yeah. That’s my favourite format. Originally with Alien Nosejob it was going to be one or two EPs, self-released and it would be done. None of the press releases said “Jake from these bands…” I made it so it was completely anonymous. I’ve lied and said I lived in Clunes which is where they filmed Mad Max! I just wanted to self-release a 7” EP completely void of labels or anything like that because thy majority of my record collections is 7”s done like that. I got bored and continued doing stuff though [laughs].
I also love how you did Buffet Of Love on a 12” in that italo-disco style and that’s how they used to release that genres singles on 12”.
JR: Yeah. That’s another genre that I absolutely love. With this Nosejob stuff, it flows to whatever I’m listening to at the time. When I recorded that I was listening to specific records – that I listed on the sleeve with the tracks – that I was loving at the time. Trying to replicate it a little.
What do you do to keep challenging yourself with your writing?
JR: Probably just form too many bands [laughs], that’s one way. From 2012 to 2017 I was playing way too many gigs per week with different bands; that was another reason why I just needed to do something hat was recording. I was getting exhausted. Now I’ve made Nosejob into a band as well. We’ve only played one show, we’ll probably only do one or two a year.
As a songwriter what are the things you value?
JR: Even though I’m guilty of it… I do value people that search for originality in songwriting… I’m trying to tread really lightly so I don’t say something stupid. I don’t really like when a band from a certain scene has a song that sounds the same as another band in that scene. I will try to look for some originality and hopefully it comes through in what I’m doing, I think though maybe I’m pulling my leg if I’m saying I don’t do that myself sometimes.
I think as part of culture everything is inspired by everything else.
JR: Exactly. I guess I mean the difference is inspiration rather than ripping off. Even if I am heavily influenced by something else I’ll put my own spin on things.
And that part right there is what makes it become original, taking things in a different direction from where you got them.
JR: That’s the aim. I have listened back to a couple of things I’ve done and I’ve been like, I didn’t put enough time into putting my own spin on this one [laughs].
Whatever you’re listening to at the time I guess can naturally filter into what you’re doing, sometimes without you even knowing.
JR: Yeah, it definitely does.
You recorded Suddenly Everything… by yourself, right?
JR: Yeah, I recorded everything all by myself.
I remember reading you explain that you’d have a ten second delay after you’d press record so you could get to the drum kit to play the track; was that process frustrating?
JR: Oh yeah, big time! I had to make a computer drum beat, if I was making it for a band I would make it with a computer drumbeat but I wouldn’t put any time into it so whoever plays the drums for it would give their own stamp to it; I pretty much do that with any instrument. I’ll do a simple version of bass or guitar or whatever and sing, then the band would learn it. With recording Alien Nosejob I had to get to that stage and then basically start again and record it properly one by one. I’d have to give a ten second count in at the start so I’d have time to press record and run to my drum kit. I’d play it and every time I’d make a mistake I’d have to start again, go walk that ten seconds to the tape machine and rewind to the right spot, and make sure I’m not recording over something else and do the whole process over again. Its very time consuming and very, very frustrating and annoying. It constantly makes you question why you are doing it.
With that album did you have songs you’d just written over time?
JR: Wait a second let me just get a copy of it, I can’t even remember what’s on it… [reaches for a copy of Suddenly… as his cat walks by] …oh “hey” it’s my cat!
What’s your cat’s name?
JR: Lumpi. She’s a little cute thing, if you want to see a picture of her, on the front cover of a 7” that School Damage did, she’s on that.
All of the songs written on Suddenly… were recorded at home in Thornbury in 2018, I’m pretty sure I just did all of these straight off the bat. Just by reading the songs titles I was listening to a lot of The Saints and a lot of Ramones at this point [laughs]. For that record I had a little studio set up in the house where my partner Carolyn has all of her print making stuff on one side of the room and I have recording stuff on the other side of the room. We would just sit back-to-back for hours a night on end making our end product.
Nice! That’s like my husband and I, we have the same kind of set up. He has his little studio set up and we both have art tables, we sit there for hours and hours too.
JR: That’s cool. We just moved house and now we sit beside each other.
What are your working on now?
JR: [Laughs] It’s funny that you ask that. I feel like before I explain what I’m working on I should say that I recorded this during the Australian bushfires time in December—January, so this is not a COVID-19 record. It is a concept album about the end of the world. There’s one song in particular called “Airborne Toxic Event” and it’s about a poisonous gas destroying the world. I feel very odd about it at the moment, I’m currently mixing it. I’ve got my laptop on my lap in bed right now mixing this record. Every time I listen to it it’s like, oh god, the whole meaning of this record is just turned upside down now with everything that’s happening in the world and I feel odd about releasing it. It’s going to be called Once Again The Present Becomes The Past, it’s basically about how something very shit can happen in the world and it’s kind of like a snake eating its own tail… it’ll just happen again and again and again and again. Depending on how you look at it, it can be seen as a very negative thing or it can be seen as a positive thing like, hey, this has happened before and we’ve dealt with it. The styling is somewhere between Suddenly Everything… and the HC45 record. Also, one of my friends showed me this band, Sacrilege, that was a crust-punk band influenced by the first Metallica record—that had a little effect on me as well. If we have to stay isolating from a while it should be ready pretty soon!
Where did you learn to mix? I know that you’ve been mixing songs as far back as The Snoozefests.
JR: Wow, that’s the first time I’ve heard that name in a while! [laughs]. I did a crappy TAFE course the year I finished school. It taught me what to do and what not to do. There’s some things that I got taught to do that I didn’t like how it sounded so it taught me not to do things that way. I’ve dabbled in doing it but the first time that it was all me doing it was the Alien Nosejob stuff. The piece of advice that I got that helped me the most was from this guy in Perth, Luke Marinovich, who runs a blog Wallaby Beat which is all Australian custom pressed records in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Generally when I get close to finishing a record I always send it to a handful of close friends who I respect their music taste and ask them if they think I’m going about it the right way. When I sent it to Luke his response was, “There’s no mix like a bad mix!”. I thought about it and all of my favourite Australian punk records are not mixed at all. The guitar will be so much louder than everything else and you can’t hear the kick drum whatsoever. It’s so unconventional but it gives off a vibe that you don’t get with your records on Polydor or whatever. It has its own unique feeling, you have to stop overthinking everything—at least I have to stop overthinking everything! As you can probably tell with certain mixes or songs, overthinking is something that I don’t really do that much. If it’s close enough, I think that’s good enough, that’s what it is and I move on to something else.
How about with the Hierophants stuff?
JR: I guess because it’s a band it’s everyone having their own opinions. We got that mixed by Mikey from Total Contol and Eddy Current.
THE Mikey that mixes everyone who’s awesome in Australian music!
JR: Yeah, Mix Master Mike! [laughs]. He recorded the second Hierophants album. We got this Canadian guy who used to have a studio downstairs from my old townhouse named, Lucas; we had a crazy studio operating downstairs from me, we had the same backyard. There were constantly bands there – Tame Impala or Pond recorded there – we had to put up with noise all the time, they gave us really, really cheap rates so we recorded our record there. As far as mixing and putting time into, it was a project that we collectively passed off to Mikey and he got to put time into it and we just moved on to the next thing.
You’re self-taught with the instruments that you play?
JR: My dad and my brother showed me guitar when I was younger. In the style that I play, it’s pretty self-taught. You pick up little bits from friends. My girlfriend who plays keyboard in School Damage, she showed me some keyboard stuff pretty early on. I’m teaching her guitar in isolation at the moment, I’m finally paying it back. For the most part I’m self-taught, that’s what D.I.Y. music is really.
Do you have any songwriters you admire?
JR: A hundred! Ray Davies of The Kinks was the first one that I was blown away by at a younger age. Ed Kuepper from The Saints. Even just locally, I think Julia from J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest is a pretty great songwriter. All the people I play in bands with too like, Paris [Richens], Zak [Olsen], Billy [Gardner] and Albert [Wolski]. I’ve just fallen into a circle of friends that are really creative, they all come at it from a different angle but their end point isn’t that skewed from my interests. Australian songwriting has been pretty great in the last ten years!