Brisbane’s The Stress Of Leisure: “Seeing music that moves you is an incredible experience… there’s something that happens inside your head, it really shifts your way of seeing or experiencing the world.”

The Stress Of Leisure are one of Brisbane’s hidden gems of post-punk, indie, new wave excellence. Their shows are one big party, fun and engaging – frontman Ian Powne’s stage banter always witty – as are the group’s lyrics. They’ve shared the stage with Kid Congo, Dave Graney, Regurgitator, Shonen Knife, Custard and more. TSOL’s Ian and Pascalle (Burton) dropped by the Gimmie office to chat about their love of music, where the band’s been and where it’s headed next, the importance of community and artistic longevity! TSOL may very well be your new favourite band as they are ours.

Why is music important to you?

IAN: Music is important to me because I value culture in general, I’m interested in the expression of community or society. I think music is the one form I can grasp of that expression, of a place, of a time. For me, that’s from a punter’s perspective of a love of music, I get into the time and place of it and how it interacts with the environment that I’m in. On a musician level I really love the immersive experience that it gives, the physicality of the performance, of listening to the drumming or the guitars or the keyboards or whatever the thrust of the music is, I imagine myself in it—I don’t get that feeling from a lot of other art forms that’s probably why music feels, I’m moving when I say this because, it feels… I’m interacting with it on a physical level. Apart from all of that community, I get a physical response.

PASCALLE: I think I have to agree with that in terms of, when the band is playing together, something is coming together from all of us and you feel it, here [motions to heart] and here [motions to head]. It is amazing. Seeing music that moves you is an incredible experience as well because it’s not only as a live… or in a time and space that you are in and you’re being moved by it, but there’s something that happens inside your head, it really shifts your way of seeing or experiencing the world. It’s a very broad approach to why I like music, I also do the poetry stuff and often in that poetry journey when I’m making a piece, sometimes that lends itself to making soundtracks and stuff like that as well. I often think it’s a very isolating experience for me, but when we play it, it’s really a bringing together of all of us, and the audience, and all the other layers of it.

IAN: There’s great value of music in society, depending on how people value themselves, it’s always an important element that’s there. I’m involved in radio as well as being in a band, I just love… for me, because of the radio perspective but also being part of a band community it just comes back to that word of community, it’s communal, that’s what I love about it. It’s not just us it’s a whole community of people experiencing the same thing, getting a thrill from the same thing. That’s why it’s important to me because I find likeminded people that have that same communal experience as I do, that’s why I keep going back to music because it means so much more than all the other art forms.

I know that when you first started doing Stress Of Leisure stuff, around 2003, you would do it by yourself in the afternoons after work…

IAN: Yeah, I did it by myself. I actually performed at poetry gigs, it wasn’t really conventional. All the gigs I did were part of a book launch, or poetry gigs, to a lot of writers essentially [laughs]. It was just me on an acoustic guitar. There was no congruence to what the project was, how it was recorded to how it was being delivered. It was just me going, this is The Stress Of Leisure, I want to be a band but I don’t know. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the whole thing. I was just fumbling in the dark. What I know now is, I was probably aiming for that community.

PASCALLE: The collaboration.

IAN: Yes, the collaboration and being part of a gang. I had no gang it was just me.

PASCALLE: Your song writing was prolific before you even started doing gigs.

IAN: Lots of people in music produce music over a long period of time trying to discover who they are through music. They have this vision that they can never quite capture, that’s what keeps them going. They’re like, this next album is going to be great, and you do that album and it’s not quite right and they keep going…

PASCALLE: They’ve got more to do.

IAN: Yes. At that beginning stage, I’m at the beginning spot and not really having the full realisation. Starting from there I think songs had to start to live on a solo performance aspect rather than a band. A lot of them are me, me, me, Ian, Ian, Ian! That’s really what broke me in terms of wanting to get to the band level, I wanted to escape that reality [laughs]. Dave Graney maintains that if you play with an acoustic guitar you have to tell the truth, maybe that was the issue I had… if you play electric guitar you don’t have to tell the truth [laughs]. Maybe I just wanted to get from the acoustic guitar to the electric.

You mentioned that in the beginning you weren’t confident, seeing your shows now, you seem so confident, times have changed.

IAN: Yes, well that’s part of the great journey.

PASCALLE: I remember seeing you in those early days and you were terrified.

IAN: Yes. The first time I ever played in a band Pascalle was part of it, that was 2009, when we finally became a full band. That first gig was one of those Sunday afternoon Powerhouse gigs. Jo Bell who was Brispop set it up, it was in conjunction with this movie that got made, Crooked Business. One of the songs off the first album was called “Rooster” and “The Rooster” was on the Crooked Business soundtrack, Chris Nyst wrote this character that was called The Rooster. That show was our first gig and it was terrifying.

PASCALLE: There was a statement in the contract for the show that said something about delivering quality, rehearsed music, or something like that. It was really funny. I remember Ian saying something about that and thinking, oh, well we’ve gotta be pretty good then [laughs].

IAN: That really added to the terror I think. That was my first ever band performance and it was more of a relief when I finished it rather than enjoying it. The more you play, obviously the more confidence you get. The confidence thing has taken a while, also doing a radio show has helped, being jokey and thinking of stuff to say, banter.

PASCALLE: I love watching Ian perform. I have seen him from being a terrified performer to just owning what he does. It didn’t take forever but having the band to back you gives you a lot more confidence and you can have a lot more fun now.

IAN: The present makeup of the band – Jessica Moore on drums, Jane Elliot on bass, Pascalle Burton on keyboards and myself – that’s been since 2015, the longest version of The Stress Of Leisure; that in itself gives a lot of comfort. You know that we’ve played the songs and we know what we’re doing, the more you play with people the more confidence you have in stretching it out a bit and having fun. It’s not a worry to play the wrong notes, everybody is on the same page.

One of the things I love the most about when I see you play is that you look like you’re having so much fun!

IAN: Thank you, we do. There was something before that made me think of this anecdote, we play a couple of shows for Deaf QLD, we played to people that were deaf. They designed it so it had to be a place with floorboards so you could feel the vibration and interact with it, but also they had balloons for the vibration. They had a signer, we had a signer that does it for the Premier, she signed for us in those couple of gigs we did. We got asked back the second time because Karen Lantry was the CEO, she’s deaf herself and she said she liked us because we felt good! That was one of the best compliments we’ve ever had—we feel good!

PASCALLE: You don’t have to be able to hear our music to get some sense of what it’s about. As you get further into the relationship to the band you know each other better, what direction you want to go in. When we come up with new songs, if Ian’s not happy with it, he’ll put it to the side. Every song we play is fun for us, that’s an important part of it.

I read somewhere that you feel with this line-up of the band it feels more collaborative; you’re used to writing the songs yourself Ian, right?

IAN: It feels like the start of the band was 2012, in 2011 we released a song called “Sex Time” that was the first song where each element of the band is doing something to contribute to the whole. What I mean is, the guitar is doing this, the bass is doing this, the drums are doing this pattern and the keyboard is doing something… it’s not all the same note. It’s not all coming in and the drums are fitting in with it, I’s not C, G, C, F, G… everything is playing something different. If you took one of the elements out, it doesn’t work, you have to have all of those four elements; that was the genesis to where we are now. It’s like early DEVO where their sound sounds a lot bigger because all the elements fit together, once you take one of those elements out there’s something missing…

PASCALLE: There’s a gap.

IAN: Yes, from there, that was what started the spirit of collaboration. The Cassowary album had a few collaborative songs, from then on I wanted the band to be more collaborative. The last album, half the songs are written by the band and the other half by me. I think the best music is created when people work together and contribute different ideas, it’s not about one person, it’s about interaction. It makes for a more interesting dynamic.

I love working with other people, because often someone will have a totally different idea that you might not have ever thought of.

IAN: Yes. I think you tend to devalue your own stuff. Some of your own stuff might go, oh it’s like this, then someone else will go, “That’s great, we should do something with that.” You can come up with an accidental pop song or something accidental that you never would of thought because you had that collaborative model.

How important are lyrics to you? Often your songs seem really fun and humorous but when you look deeper there’s a lot more going on.

IAN: Getting back to the philosophy of lyrics, the intent behind it is the important thing I think. People enter music for a whole lot of reasons, whether they want to be famous, whether they want to make a lot of money, whether they want to have sex with a lot of people, or they just want to sound like their favourite band, there’s another element which comes into it which is a certain ideology, you have a certain ideology you’re pushing… I think that’s where I think I’m focused with a lyric. I have a little bit of history in that my first degree was in Marketing, I’m fascinated by advertising. My fascination is that I see it as a monster, I see it as what’s behind the whole ills of our society at the moment. You see this constant sort of hyper-consumerist cycle which we’re all part of and enjoy to a certain extent. I think that’s the kind of conflict that I find in the world, being made to feel that we’re not quite enough. That’s what advertising does—you could be a whole lot better than you are. That’s the driving ideology of our music and a lot of what capitalist society is pushing. The whole album Achievement was so tongue-in-cheek about that. Aim high, get high. No Idea is the new idea. “Girl On A Lilo” is an acronym for GOAL [laughs].

PASCALLE: The reason I was very happy to be a part of the band was the lyrics, I think they’re fantastic. One of the things I appreciate about Ian is that he will get all those ideologies but put them in a certain kind of a snapshot of a narrative, he’s a storyteller. He doesn’t just spell it out for people, we have to get the ideologies from the story. I think it’s always fun.

IAN: Yeah, it’s not straight forward it’s metaphoric. A whole lot of stuff is going on. That’s why I got away from that stuff of me on guitar, me, me, me, I, I, I! A little bit of earnest and feelings and stuff. No more feelings in terms of me, it’s feelings about the community. There’s a little bit of me but it’s going more towards an ideological approach, we’re writing from the perspective that we’re told we’re not good enough. That’s’ where “the stress of leisure” is! [laughs].

PASCALLE: When we rehearse – there’s not too many people that can probably improvise over music but Ian does – he generates words easily off the top of his head. A lot of times we’ll be working on a song, and I’m glad we record a lot of the rehearsals because there will be a line that comes out that will be really good.

IAN: Some lyrics are easy but a lot are hard. I put them off for a long time and just revel in the thought of what it is. I’ll be like, ‘This is a great song but it doesn’t have any words yet’ [laughs], one day it will have words. That’ll be the boring part because I’ll have to sit down and really work at it. I really love the thought of the song before it gets to the lyrics, the lyrics are usually the last part of the song. A lot of the time we have unfinished songs, often they won’t be finished and we’ll play them live and I’ll just be improvising words. I’m just saying stuff but not saying anything. I’m just finishing off words. You think I’m saying a sentence but I’m not. [Laughs].

PASCALLE: There was one song that we were playing on the Regurgitator tour that was unwritten at that point and Greg Jard who does the sound – he was really great in giving us life experience of being on the road – in a soundcheck we decided we wanted to do this unwritten song and Ian who going “blah, blah blah” whatever over the music and Greg was like, “I can’t hear what you’re saying, you’ve gotta pronounce your words.” Ian was like, “It hasn’t been written yet!” [laughs].

You mentioned before that you studied marketing, I know at the start of The Stress Of Leisure you didn’t do much promotion; was that intentional?

IAN: It was just confidence really, and not having a band and not being confident, as a solo thing it didn’t really fit. I had friends that helped me out, who were really great in encouraging me but it wasn’t an easy fit because they didn’t live close to me. I didn’t have any idea of how it would happen until I started getting gigs.

PASCALLE: I sometimes say to Ian, you have a Marketing degree surely you would know what would make us better known!

IAN: When it comes to the business side of things…

PASCALLE: He hates it!

IAN: Yeah, I really hate it but it’s so important as an independent musician that you have to be across it. I find that when I’m working with other people and helping them…

PASCALLE: He’s a champion!

IAN: I know what to do and can hook them up with the right people; the networking brain comes on. Whereas the networking brain for myself is, ‘we’re just chumps don’t worry about us!’ I’d probably talk us down or not even talk about us. I’m just happy to meet people on whatever terms that may be.

PASCALLE: I think Ian has an idea that he would like everything to happen organically. This has happened. Our experience so far has been organic. You meet people, like we met Ben Ely (Regurgitator) and you just become friends with each other. It’s a nice feeling because it feels authentic. Whereas the rest of the machine of promotion doesn’t seem like it’s authentic, you have to work it and schmooze and all of that. I don’t think anyone in our band wants to do that! [laughs].

IAN: When people start talking industry stuff with us… when people suggest, “oh, you should tour with that band” and we’re like, we don’t have anything in common with that band, that would be horrible! We’ve only toured with bands we like, Custard, Regurgitator, Dave Graney and we’ve played with The Gin Club. That keeps it positive! It’s kept it on a level. If you start getting into the industry side of things… there’s always been a mercenary aspect to it, but when it becomes too focused on what someone in the industry thinks, it’s horrible—nobody really knows! [Laughs].

PASCALLE: It’s a challenge because there’s that part of putting yourself forward and saying we have a good band and want to play… and if we don’t, it’s almost apologising for what we do—I don’t like that either. I like the idea of standing by what we do. There’s a fine line of selling out and kissing arse…

IAN: The facts are you have to sell what you do, there’s no way around it. You have to get out there, say you’re great and that you can play.

I was really stoked for you guys when you got to play with Kid Congo!

PASCALLE: Oh my god! That was the best! It was so fun!

IAN: That was a nice feeling because they had been told about us. Before we played with them in Brisbane they told us that they were told to check us out! That was the best thrill. Meeting Kid was amazing! He told us that someone in the band, The Scientists, told him to check us out. I was like, really?! Dave Graney and Clare Moore are big supporters of us too, I’m sure they probably mention us too. They played with the Pink Tiles girls, we know them too… there’s always lovely connections. In the real world you have people talking about you, that’s what good managers do, they set it up for the band to succeed; we don’t have anybody like that though. We don’t have the hype machine.

PASCALLE: It was such an amazing show! They were such lovely people, great people. I love that when it comes along, that people you admire are also really nice.

I know that feeling, Kid was really lovely to me too. We met him after his show and he remembered the interview he did with me. People do a lot of interviews so the fact that he remembered it was nice. That was such a heavy week, my father passed away, seeing Kid Congo play on the beach in my town really helped. I guess rock n roll really does have power.

PASCALLE: Yes!

It was a really special show for me, it reminded me that there still are good things in the world. At the time I was really struggling, but seeing Kid up there in his sequinned cape play music really helped and brought me back to life.

IAN: That’s one of the great things about playing in bands, you get to meet other people and you get to see their world. You can touch it, it’s as easy as that. People have worked hard to get where they are.

I love such a variety of music. I love moving between the different worlds and maybe seeing something I love in one world and taking it to a new world and giving it a new interpretation and life.

PASCALLE: With my keyboard lines, not that you would say they sound like it, but I will see a band and go, I love what they did with that sound and I’ll see what would happen if I brought it to a synthesizer. We have a new song called “Beat The Tension” it doesn’t sound like it but it’s completely inspired by Xylouris White, Jim White and George Xylouris new band. We saw them play Woodford [Folk Festival] and they were just so inspirational. There was a song they were playing and I remember thinking that I really want to bring that into the synthesizer. I often do that, the last line I came up with that Ian liked was…

IAN: Was that from a Crete Lute? [laughs].

PASCALLE: “Beat The Tension” was basically something that George was playing.

IAN: I’ll have to listen to that line again and think of Crete [laughs]. This is what’s good about collaboration.

PASCALLE: Jane Elliot is a classically trained musician. I often play really discordant lines and you just see her face go, argh, do you have too? [laughs]. She’ll come around to it eventually. She’s like, “You can’t play a B flat with that!”

I love when people make things that sound different and that breaks rules. I find often people are like, I love this band and I love this other band because they sound just like the other band I like; people are often limited in the things they like.

IAN: It’s like the sound de jour is everywhere and you want to escape the sound de jour ‘cause you now things are already turning.

Things always work in cycles and often if something’s been popular for a while, the next thing that’s popular is the opposite. How do you guys inspire each other?

IAN: I’m restless creativity, so scientifically I tell everyone we’re coming up with new songs, bring ideas. Once you get everyone together you can try your idea and your idea together and see if they work, or go with one idea. The first couple of ideas we come up with after having a bit of a break, are really electric! There’s something about it, they really work. There’s a science. Everyone gets energized by it, that’s what keeps us bubbling along. If you’re playing the same set all the time it can get a little tough. Coming up with new stuff is important, it’s like regrowth.

PASCALLE: There was a time when you’d make mixtapes for us. You’d be like, “I think the album is going to take these kinds of sounds in.” We’d listen to that and come up with ideas. That was really good.

IAN: We’ve all got different ideas. We work with titles. “Achievement” was the overall title and we worked towards that. If I can just coast on the top of all the other ideas [laughs] that’s a perfect scenario, I can come in and my guitar can just fit amongst everything that’s already laid out.

PASCALLE: That’s what I’m thinking too! [laughs]. I’m just like, ‘You just all do your thing, I’ll work myself into the space’. We’re all probably thinking the same thing! We live together, Ian is always playing constantly, he has guitars in several rooms. He’ll just pick one up and start riffing on something.

IAN: I’m mainly just playing scales and stuff

PASCALLE: That’s not true [laughs]. You play all the time and I find that inspiring. I think, ‘wow! He’s so dedicated’ [laughs].

IAN: I like to work out corny songs like “Under The Bridge” (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) or “Money For Nothing” (Dire Straits) [laughs]. I look up guitar tablature online. You get ideas form everywhere. You go into somebody’s song book and you cop a few of their moves and you see if some of those moves work in another context. It’s important to keep ideas coming, that’s what gives the band sense of purpose. That’s what can be troublesome for some people in the industry, they get in this cycle of, they’ve got this album and they’re still on the same album… you need the regrowth, you need to burn that and grow something new! You might get a lot of satisfaction out of the live moment, but you keep needing to move forward creatively. We’re in a position where we can, and we do.

I know that TSOL is working on new stuff; how far are you into that?

IAN: We’ve tried four songs out live, we’re happy with how they worked and how they felt. We’re kind of road testing things a bit more than we have. We’ve probably got another four on top of that…

PASCALLE: That made the cut, we have more songs on top of that.

IAN: We’re pretty harsh judges…

PASCALLE: He’s the harshest! [laughs].

IAN: Out of twenty ideas, maybe six work. If you’re going to be playing them a lot you want to make sure they tick all the boxes going forward. Will they fit the album? How fun will they be to play? If you play it live and someone goes, “I really like that new song of yours,” you remember that and go tick.

TSOL used to wear matching outfits but you’ve moved away from that and want no rules; what was the thought behind wearing matching outfits? Is it ‘case you’re a gang?

IAN: Yeah! [laughs].

PASCALLE: I think when we didn’t have a unified uniform our clothes were really shooting off in different tangents, we wanted to be a gang. We had a winter and an autumn palette. We played at Girls Rock Camp and we were wearing our autumn look and after our set they threw it to the audience to ask questions… one of the questions was; would you ever think of wearing a uniform?

IAN: This ten-year-old girl smashed us [laughs]. It takes a 10-year-old girl to go, “Hang on, your idea is not defined enough” [laughs]. That’s the focus group we needed to have.

PASCALLE: Jane actually answered the question and said, “We’re actually wearing it right now.” Then from that point we thought, if we really want to get across the message that we’re a gang we probably have to start wearing the exact same thing, so that’s where that came from.

IAN: A lot of bands that stick in your psyche have a look. We choose a very simple look.

You guys had the shirt that said “Product”.

PASCALLE: We liked the idea of that one, we just used t-shirt transfers. We also wore shirts from Seth Bogart’s label Wacky Wacko.

“100% Fruit”?

PASCALLE: Yeah. We also wore a condom shirt, it’s just a shirt that has a whole heap of condoms on it. A lot of people didn’t realise they were condoms, they’d come up to us and go, “Oh, you look so great!” [laughs].

IAN: We played with Regurgitator throughout August last year and that gave us time to reflect…

PASCALLE: Are we ready to go beyond that uniform?

IAN: Yes. We’d been doing this for a while. Pascalle and I were having a chat whether we liked the uniforms or not and what the idea might be going forward. I don’t know where the tipping point was. We just wear what we want just as long as we’ve got a style that meshes.

PASCALLE: The point of agreement was, the idea of wearing lots of clashing patterns instead of block colours; it sets up a challenge for everyone to find something that’s bold.

IAN: We just didn’t want to be, wear whatever you want… come out in a Freddo t-shirt…

PASCALLE: And jeans…

IAN: Yeah, black jeans or something.

PASCALLE: We want to elevate it a little bit. Not too comfortable.

IAN: The band uniform was to distinguish us in the crowd. I’m noticing a lot more bands, a lot more younger bands, doing the uniform. I like it. Now we’re moving beyond though.

Do you have any themes you’ve been writing to for the new material you’re working on?

IAN: We had a title, but I can’t really giving it out and jinx us. There’s no overriding theme other than we’re continuing on from Eruption Bounce. Eruption Bounce was the first album where we were all together, recorded, toured it, I want the same thing to happen with this one. It’s like Part two of this line-up. This album and the last should sit beside each other as companion pieces. The songs are different obviously, the song structures with the last album were kind of tight whereas this one is a bit more elastic. The influences are a little bit more, Eruption Bounce was more American post-punk, this new one is a bit more English post-punk.

PASCALLE: A little more like The Fall.

IAN: Yeah, there’s more ranting in there. It’s more collaborative than ever, so it’s probably going a lot more weirder and some of it’s going more poppy.

PASCALLE: It’s fun, I like what we’re doing. Now is a really fun time in the making of it.

IAN: We sit down to write songs together…

PASCALLE: Then there’s fighting [laughs]…

IAN: Couples must fight, that’s how it works [laughs]. When I write with Pascalle it usually hardens my reserve as to where the song will go, it’s very helpful, even though it must be very frustrating for Pascalle a times.

PASCALLE: Again, it’s another way to work out of you knowing the songs more, what works, what’s easier.

IAN: Yes, Pascalle is a springboard into being productive, essentially. There won’t be anything out this year [2019] but hopefully next year.

PASCALLE: We have some unreleased songs we might put out in the meantime.

IAN: There’s about seven songs we might do a digital release for. We have to get them mixed.

What are you both listening to at the moment? What’s exciting to you?

IAN: Because I do a radio show I’m always listening to stuff [Brighten The Corners on 4ZZZ FM]. I’m not talking whole bands or anything, I’m hearing ideas; I’ll be listening to bands and hearing ideas that I like. There’s a whole lot of stuff.

PASCALLE: We’ve been to a lot of the same gigs; Nun is amazing. We saw a band supporting Angel Olsen in Seattle called, Hand Habits, that were great. I’m stuck on that Destroyer album, Ken, it’s a beautiful album. There’s a few song that if I’m feeling down I’ll go to straight away like a Bonnie Prince Billy song.

IAN: I’m really impressed with Tropical Fuck Storm. It’s a great capture of their band’s name what they do. The lyrical depth and breadth of what Gareth Liddiard does is probably…. I have a different style but I can see a similarity with how he approaches… I’m not as dystopian as that. There’s a lot of inspiration in the way that he attacks it. Nun for the energy, Jenny [Branagan]’s performance, and just the clever way that music interacts. I’m always inspired by seeing older musicians play! Seeing someone like Neneh Cherry play, they don’t get worse, they get better! People that keep playing, I get inspired by that… they describe it as heritage acts…

What?!

IAN: Yeah, they call someone like Ed Kuepper a heritage act.

PASCALLE: That’s what Australia is like, it dismisses older acts.

IAN: I’m inspired by the facet of how people just stick with it, work with it and get better. You see Kim Salmon, Dave Graney and Ed Kuepper, any of the older artists…

PASCALLE: Even though they’re not that old, bands like Regurgitator and Custard, still producing really great music.

IAN: I think that’s the big thing that Australia misses, it’s so catered to the youth market, which fits in with that hyper-consumerist model, churn out the new act… but there’s really a depth to our scene. Because there’s not a big demographic of support, due to the bean counters, there’s that lost scene. That’s what I see as a big opportunity for Australia to embrace more of their older musicians rather than just the young ones, which is what a lot of industry effort goes into. I get inspired by longevity essentially, in whatever form. Bands that stick together and keep playing is inspiring.

You can find THE STRESS OF LEISURE here. IG: @thestressofleisure. FB: The Stress of Leisure.

Billy Gardner of Anti Fade Records: “I feel very blessed that all of my talented friends let me release their stuff.”

Billy has put out some of the Gimmie Team’s favourite Australian underground releases of the past several years on his label Anti Fade Records (you can check out some of AF’s catalogue HERE). AF is one of only a handful of independent Australian labels that avid record collector and music aficionado Henry Rollins buys anything from—“I like what they do,” Rollins’ has said. Us too! Billy plays in Ausmuteants, The Living Eyes, Cereal Killer and Smarts. We thought Billy was the perfect person to chat to, kicking off our chats with Australian artists who we think should be celebrated!

We love Anti-Fade Records, a lot of our favourite releases of 2019 have come out on your label.

BILLY: Awww sick! Thank you so much for getting in touch. I feel very blessed, I have a lot of close friends making music.

Right now we think Australia has some of the best music in the world, most diverse too, all the bands on your roster have their own thing happening.

BILLY: There’s a bunch of different things, the new Program record I’m putting out is a little different.

How did you first discover music?

BILLY: I have knowledgeable parents, they were always playing me music from a young age. Particularly my dad, he played in bands when he was my age. Both mum and dad taught me heaps about music, so I guess there.

What was the first stuff that you started to discover for yourself?

BILLY: In high school I got heaps into ‘60s garage through The Frowning Clouds guys, we went to the same school as them. They were into ‘60s garage stuff and I picked up on all of this.

Your band, The Living Eyes, that’s a reference from the ‘60s garage band, The 13th Floor Elevators, right?

BILLY: Yeah, everyone thinks it’s a Radio Birdman reference but deep down it’s 13th Floor Elevators [laughs].

Artwork by Paris Richens.

I love that band.

BILLY: They’re the best!

Did you start playing drums first?

BILLY: Yeah, I started playing drums really early, I think in grade 6. I gave it up for ages and came back to it in Grade 11 or 12. I kind of picked it up again properly when Ausmuteants stared in 2011. Drums were the first instrument for me but they got neglected for a few years.

What started you off playing them again?

BILLY: Me and Jake from Ausmuteants started the band as a two-piece that we would just do in the bedroom. We’d swap between playing keyboard and guitar and the other person playing drums. Once it came to doing the live band we decided we had to pick instruments. I volunteered to play drums, because I felt Jake was writing most of the songs anyway; as it went on it just way more sense like that.

You’ve been doing Anti-Fade since 2011-2012?

BILLY: Yeah right at the end of 2011 I first started, I made plans for it, two days before Christmas I put out one cassette. In 2012 was when it really started rolling, there was actual record releases.

Why did you start the label?

BILLY: New Centre Of The Universe, I had the idea to do a compilation before I had the idea to do a label. I remember getting the idea for it one night, I spent so long thinking about it and the possibilities—I got really excited about it! I started talking about the label idea and I put out four cassettes of friends’ bands – Ausmuteants were one of them. Centre Of The Universe came out in 2012. The first eight months or so were just getting things together.

When you first starting out did you find it hard to deal with people because you were so new?

BILLY: I suppose so. I was asking a lot of people that I knew that did labels for their advice and tips. I have three handy friends that helped me out with all of that stuff at the time, which made things way easier.

What was a tip that you got that was super helpful?

BILLY: At first my idea was to press this many records but then my friend talked me down to only press 300 instead of 500 because this market isn’t as big as it might seem. That was pretty good advice, I’m glad I didn’t press 500 of the first bunch of releases.

I understand it took you months to get the latest New Centre Of The Universe track list done?

BILLY: Yeah it took ages! The whole process of the comp took at least a year. I did spend quite a while with that track list. Track lists are getting more and more important to me as I get older [laughs]. I was happy with the end result. I kept changing my mind about track two on each side.

What makes track lists more important to you now?

BILLY: I’ve just been noticing things a bit more. I think it can add a lot to a record, choosing a really good order as opposed to a bad one—it has to flow.

Artwork by Carolyn Hawkins.

I get that, I make a lot of mix tapes for friends and there’s different moods and peaks etc. to consider.

BILLY: You know how important it is then.

Yes. Now Anti-Fade is sixty-one releases in?

BILLY: Yeah, jesus! It sounds crazy when you say it. I feel like the last two years have been really good and I’m stoked with how it is going. I feel very blessed that all of my talented friends let me release their stuff. Pretty much everyone on the label is a close friend, there’s not really any strangers or people that approach me out of the blue.

That’s nice that it’s all friends.

BILLY: I’m really lucky!

Has there been a release on Anti-Fade that’s been really significant for you?

BILLY: The Parsnip album [When The Tree Bears Fruit] that has just come out is a big one! It’s something that has been in the works for a few years. I wasn’t expecting the opportunity to release it. I was over the moon when they asked me to do that. I also feel like the debut Civic record was pretty important. Both of those bands have been the two main ones revolving around the label for the last two years, both kicking goals big time.

Art by Paris Richens.

What do you have in the works that you can tell me about?

BILLY: There’s a few things next year, a lot of split releases, another label will be doing it in Europe or America and I’ll be doing it in Australia. There’s lots of good albums coming, I’ll leave it at that [laughs].

I totally trust your taste in bands, we’ve bought most of the releases on your label, except for the early stuff we missed out on.

BILLY: Nice! Thank you.

Are there any local songwriters that inspire you?

BILLY: There’s a bunch. The people that I play in bands with, Jake Robertson [Ausmuteants/School Damage/Alien Nosejob/Hierophants/Aarght Records] is one. A long term friend – who I don’t play in a band with – Zak Olsen [Orb/Traffik Island/Hierophants]. These are people that I’ve grown up with. Also, Paris Richens [Parsnip/Hierophants/ PP Rebel] always blows me away with her songs. That’s just three, there’s more out there.

I’d pick the same! As well Albert Wolski of EKEK—that new record is incredible. I also super love The Snakes. I love Hierophants, their record, Spitting Out Moonlight, is mega! And I love New War’s records.

Cover art by Eve Dadd. Layout by David Forcier.

BILLY: That’s awesome! I just made this connection, all of the people I mentioned are in Hierophants! [laughs]. There you go! They’re a meeting of the minds.

Songs on that record are so clever. I listen to the songs and I’m like, how did you even write that?!

BILLY: [Laughs] Yeah I know! So many great ones.

Another album I really love from this year is your band Ausmusteants’ …Present The World In Handcuffs.

BILLY: Oh, sweet!

A funny thing is, that when me and my husband see cops when we’re out and about, we get some of the lyrics in our head!

BILLY: [Laughs] That’s funny as!

You know like [singing]: My dad was a cop!

Billy: [Laughs] That’s hilarious!

Artwork by Per Bystrom.

It’s funny how your brain can just connect stuff to songs. I think I’m such a music nerd my mind can connect most things to song.

BILLY: I’m gonna tell Shawn [Connor] the guy that wrote the record, he’ll love it!

When he brought that concept – a concept album that explores a piss-take look on life from the perspective of a police officer – for the songs to you guys; what was your first impression?

BILLY: He came with a set of lyrics to the song “We’re Cops” which is from 2015. He wrote the lyrics and the riff to that, a year or so later he toyed with the idea of writing a part two to it. He wrote a part two and then three and then a whole new album. It took him a while, he was chipping away at that as Jake was writing other songs for the band. So it started in 2015 and we finally put it out this year.

 What’s been one of your favourite songs to come out this year?

BILLY: Holy moly! That’s a tough one…

Or something you’ve been obsessed with listening to recently?

BILLY: I discovered, New Values, by Iggy Pop. I’m having a blank here though… I can’t even think right now.

Henry Rollins often plays a lot of Anti-Fade bands on his radio show…

BILLY: Yeah he played three on his most recent one!

He really has his finger on the pulse when it comes to great new music, especially Australian stuff.

BILLY: He’s totally on to it. I have never met him but I’ve emailed with him a few times, he’s a cool guy.

He is. I’ve interviewed him several times over the years. He’s always lovely. The one thing that has always stuck with me about him is that he is the biggest fan of music!

BILLY: He came to an Ausmuteants show once actually. I was standing next to him, everyone was going up to him and hassling him but I didn’t want to do that. It was cool that he came!

You should totally talk to him next time, ‘cause he is such a fan boy of music and bands himself, he totally understands that.

BILLY: When I talked to him on email he said that too.

What’s the best live show you’ve seen lately?

BILLY: The launch for the new Parsnip record.

Man, I would have loved to have seen that! Now they’re in the US, right?

BILLY: Yeah. I found out this morning that they’re all safely there.

Do you ever get stressed when bands on your label tour overseas?

BILLY: Yeah. There’s been a couple of little scares…

Like the EXEK van rolling in Europe?!

BILLY: Yeah, that was wild. I still don’t know exactly what happen there. They’re back on the road again now, I look forward to speaking to them about it when they get back, I’ve only heard dribs and drabs about it.

Cover photo by Robyn Daly. Layout by Ying-Li Hooi.

Last question, what do you want people to know about Anti-Fade in general?

BILLY: It’s a small little thing that I run out of my bedroom, all the bands involved are my friends.

Do you have lots of stock boxes crammed in your room?

BILLY: Yeah, under my bed, beside my bed… there’s a lot! [laughs].

Find ANTI FADE RECORDS here. IG: @antifaderecords. FB: ANTI FADE records.

Australian Album Art That Ruled in 2019

Album art adds to our music experience. A great cover can compel us to pick up a record and further check it out. It gives us a first impression; a portal into the music or insight into the creators. Colours and images trigger emotions, stir feelings of nostalgia, give us something new that we’ve never seen before, transport us and inspire us!

In 2019 the following art moved us:

HIEROPHANTS – Spitting Out Moonlight (Anti Fade Records)

Cover Art: Paris Rebel Richens

EXEK – Some Beautiful Species Left (Anti Fade Records)

Cover photo: Robyn Daly

TEK TEK ENSEMBLE – Shake It Like A Wolverine (Independent)

Cover photo: Theresa Harrison

TROPICAL FUCK STORM – Braindrops (TFS Records)

Cover art: Joe Becker

TRALALA BLIP – Eat My Codes If Your Light Falls (Someone Good)

Cover design: For Him. Collage artwork: Mathew Daymond.

ALL THE WEATHERS – ….For The Worms (Rough Skies Records)

Cover art: All The Weathers. Photography: Kim Walls

SLAG QUEENS – You Can’t Go Out Like That (Rough Skies Records)

Cover art: Andrew Leigh Green

HEARTS AND ROCKETS – Power (Independent)

Cover Photo: Kalindy Williams

HORACE BONES – Terra (Independent)

Cover art: Heath Newman

SAMPA THE GREAT – The Return (Ninja Tune)

Photography: Braun Chatterjee & Carl Pires.  Design: Priit Siimon

STELLA DONNELLY – Beware Of The Dogs (Secretly Canadian)

Photography: Pooneh Ghana. Design: Nathaniel David Utesch.

U-BAHN – Self-titled (Independent)

Cover art: Darcy Berry. Photography: Jamie Wdziekonski.

What are your favourite album covers from 2019?

International Releases We Loved in 2019

A look at the international releases that the Gimmie team enjoyed the most in 2019.

LEALANI – Fantastic Planet (Dome Of Doom Records/Independent)

Beep, Boop, Bops aplenty on this album made by a lone teenager simultaneously piloting a bunch of drum pads, synths, samplers, hardware and a microphone like she’s Flight of the freakin’ Navigator. It’s like BMO became a real girl by back-engineering human experience from discarded Portishead and Massive Attack tapes.

SNAPPED ANKLES – Stunning Luxury (The Leaf Label)

Snapped Ankles returned with their second full-length bloom. The pruning has been left to a minimum, leaving the foliage as lush as ever, and the root system clearly thriving in the fertile soil. If The Stranglers, Amon Düül II, and Propellerheads all fell victim to The Swamp Thing in the same night, Snapped Ankles would be the new mutant hero to emerge from the remains.

CHAI – Punk (Heavenly)

There is not a more inspiring act around at the moment than Japan’s neo-kawaii quartet Chai. Coupling their incredibly impressive musical abilities with a powerfully motivational message challenging their country’s (and mainstream society in general’s) narrow standards of beauty and spreading joy and a positive mindset. Like the offspring of the Nu-Rave scene of the earlier 2000’s, imagine if the first MGMT album was fronted by Astro Boy’s little sister, Uran.

FREDDIE GIBBS AND MADLIB – Bandana (Keep Your Cool/RCA)

Seems every year has that one hip hop record that effortlessly stands out from the pack as having perfectly hit the mark, like Run The Jewels in 2013, or Kendrick’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ in 2015, last year it was ‘Bandana’. Unlike where mainstream rap has become seemingly void of talent, what’s presented here is steeped in the hip hop tradition where emceeing and sample-based DJing/production requires actual skill.

FUMAÇA PRETA – Pepas (Stolen Body Records)

From Brighton in the UK, Fumaça Preta gave us a genre-bending, Tropical Psych Punk Freakout with their album, ‘Pepas’. Sounding like a futuristic, evil, drugged-out, hard rock version of those old exotica albums by the likes of Les Baxter and Martin Denny.

URSA – L’Esprit De La Teuf (Future Folklore Records)

French synth punk. The easily digestible (but not overly accurate) mainstream cultural benchmark being say, Devo, but really owing more to France’s own rich history of late 70’s/early 80s synthpunk and alternative synthwave pop, the kind that can be found on compilations like the superb ‘BIPPP’ (from Born Bad Records). That said, they maintain a super fresh sound through their energetic performance and production style.

URANIUM CLUB – The Cosmo Cleaners (Static Shock Records)

There seems like a large amount of what Uranium Club do that will forever be in-jokes we will never be granted full insight into. But a common trait by which influence may actually be seen is the amount of copy-cat bands you are responsible for sparking, and it would seem plenty of chapters of this Club have popped up. Too rarely a band hits that ART/punk mark as well as these guys do, all while remaining so clear of farce or pretentiousness.

THE COMET IS COMING – Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery (Impulse! Records)

In recent times contemporary jazz acts have been producing work to rivals the greats of the genre, pumping new life into an art form which had seemed to have reached it’s zenith long ago. This British synth/sax/drums trio’s 2nd LP feels as though a very literal take on the title ‘A Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ is taking place where, as the interstellar monorail rolls through each port of call, you experience the planet’s own climate and environment, and pass by on to the next far reaching celestial body in the solar system.

SCOTT RYSER – Flying Away (Independent)

Scott Ryser, who recorded the immortal song ‘High Pressure Days’ with his band Units in the late 70’s, is back with new recordings. For those unfamiliar, Units, lead by Scott, were true pioneers of synth-punk and multi-media performance art, and here his song-writing and synth work remain as strong as they were when he stopped actively releasing music in 1983 after becoming disillusioned with the industry. It’s that attitude of having made it on to a major label, seen through the bullshit and pulled the plug, that lets you know his return decades later is one where artistic integrity remains unfaltering. One can get a sense from the songs that a disapproval of the current state of politics in the U.S. may have been the biggest motivation for his desire to be heard again after all this time. You have to respect an artist who only speaks when they feel it necessary rather than just pumping out work for the sake of career. A solid collection of synthwave songs, with collaborator Kit Watson’s drum programming bringing a bit of an industrial touch.

BLACK MIDI – Schlagenheim (Rough Trade Records)

Like if you put Fugazi, Talking Heads, Melt Banana and Battles in a washing machine and recorded it on a heavy cycle.

More albums we love:

THE STACHES – This Lake is Pointless (Bongo Joe)

SHANA CLEVELAND – Night Of the Worm Moon (Hardly Art)

THE BLEAK ENGINEERS – New Frontiers (Six Tonnes De Chair Records)

MDOU MOCTAR – Ilana (The Creator) (Sahel Sounds)

DRAHLA – Useless Coordinates (Captured Tracks)

OTOBOKE BEAVER – Itekoma Hits (Damnably)

SNEAKS – Highway Hypnosis (Merge Records)

CONTROL TOP – Covert Contracts (Get Better)

AUTOMATIC – Signal (Stones Throw Records)

AVERY R. YOUNG – Tubman (FPE Records)

SAULT – 5 (Forever Living Originals)

Music Videos We Loved In 2019

We love a great visual stimulation to accompany our aural pleasure. Music videos visually represent a song; they can elevate it, tell a story, affirm a message, explore or further elaborate on a song’s theme, and simply just give artists another way to communicate with the world—a chance to connect with others. Music videos can change the way we perceive a song. Our favourites are engaging, interesting, entertaining, have arresting visuals, fun details or just plain amuse us and make us laugh.

This year Melbourne-based artist Alex McLaren wowed us, directing-filming-editing a whimsical flight of fancy for Parsnip’s “Rip It Off”, as well as creating the colourful uber-cool U-Bahn clip “Beta Boyz”—two of our favourites! We’re waiting with bated breath to see what’s next!

Jake Taylor from band, In Hearts Wake, directed Tralala Blip’s award-winning video for “Pub Talk” thoughtfully capturing the spirit and emotion of vocalist Lydian Dunbar’s lyrics of alienation and of wanting to connect, using slow-motion, glitches and lingering close-ups. Emotive stuff.

Vibrant and visceral, Sampa the Great’s “Final Form” video directed by Sanjay De Silva is a triumph. Showcasing Sampa’s heritage beautifully, it also embodies the essence expressed in her lyrics—young veteran, new classic – connecting the deep-rooted with the modern right before our eyes. Fierce and compelling.

And, making us want to dance, love, laugh and vibe, the New Fresh Prince of Arnhem Land – Baker Boy (Danzal Baker) – gave us posi banger “Meditjin” (which means ‘Medicine’ in his first language, Yolngu Matha). Directed by Gabriel Gasparinatos, the clip features two members of BB’s family and New Zealand rapper, JessB, as they dance through the halls of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, taking BB clips to new heights. We agree with Danzal that: music is the meditjin.

Below (in no particular order) are all these videos, and more that we loved in 2019!

PARNSIP – Rip It Off  (Alex McLaren)

U-BAHN – Beta Boyz (Alex McLaren)

TRALALA BLIP – Pub Talk (Jake Taylor)

SAMPA THE GREAT – Final Form (Sanjay De Silva)

TROPICAL FUCK STORM – Who’s My Eugene? (Lauren Hammel, Helena Holmes + edited by Oscar O’Shea)

BENCH PRESS – Respite (Defero Productions)

HEARTS & ROCKETS – Feelings (Kalindy Williams)

SLAG QUEENS – Real 1 (Caitlin Fargher)

KAIIT – Miss Shiney (Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore)

STELLA DONNELLY – Die (Giraffe Studios)

SWIM TEAM – Everyday Things (Scott Video)

BAKER BOY – MEDITJIN (Entropico)

Artist, Publisher & Creator of Punk Magazine, John Holmstrom: “I always felt the goal of punk is to free up your mind…”

The first punk zine to exist – Punk Magazine – launched on the 1st of January 1976 featuring a cartoon cover of Lou Reed drawn by John Holmstrom, who also interviewed Lou for the début issue. Punk mag helped popularise the term “punk” as well as the CBGBs scene. Their first issue had an interview with the Ramones before they even had a release; an outtake from the photo shoot accompanying the interview was used as the image for their first record cover. Holmstrom would later illustrate the Ramones’ Rocket to Russia and Road to Ruin albums. Punk was also pioneering in giving space to female writers, artists and photographers, at a time when publishing was very male-dominated. It would go on to inspire countless other punk zines that came later including UK zine, Sniffin’ Glue.

Holmstrom would also go on to work on zines Comical Funnies and STOP! and later edit and become the publisher of marijuana counterculture magazine, High Times, throughout the ‘90s. 2020 sees Holmstrom at the helm of yet another magazine called, Stoned Age, which “intends to bring back the fun of 20th century marijuana culture, when it was the choice of hipsters, beatniks, jazz musicians, hippies, and other misfits.”

We talk to John about all this and more: the C.I.A. sabotaging Punk, life as an artist, being arrested for smoking weed, creating a social movement, freedom of speech, interviewing Lou Reed, Ramones…

Why do you love to draw?

JOHN HOLMSTROM: Well, I don’t really love to draw [laughs].

Really?

JH: It’s work. I loved to draw as a kid, but once it’s your job it’s… sometimes it’s fun. There can be very fun moments, but most of it is pain! It can look horrible but you have to keep working on it to make it look good. The best moment in life is when you finish a piece and it looks good. I remember times, like when I finished the cover of Punk #1, or a record cover or something; there’s just no feeling like it, it’s better than sex [laughs]. The pain and suffering and trauma you go through – at least I go through because I am such a perfectionist – is gruelling. You’re just sitting there saying, ‘what can I do to make this look better? It looks terrible. Why am I even trying?’ At times I’ve abandoned drawings because it’s just not living up to my standards.

Punk Magazine Issue #1

Before I went to art school it was more fun, I’d just doddle in my notebook to distract myself from high school teachers. I got in trouble once for drawing a caricature of them, he saw it and I was forever in trouble ever after with the authorities. It was hard work going to school and trying to learn how to become a professional and try to learn to actually get paid for what I do—which is really tough. The rates artists get paid are pretty much identical or even less than what we made in the ‘70s. It was a golden age, the 20th century, for publishing. It all disappeared. People don’t pay you very much for your work on the web. I don’t know how these kids do it? I guess they know how to work social media. It’s always been tough to get paid for illustration, I always made more money from writing; that’s how I fell into writing and becoming an editor. When I couldn’t get someone to publish something that I did that I liked, I’d publish it myself, that’s where I learnt the business side of publishing. That came in handy when I was the publisher of High Times magazine in the 1990s. One of the frustrations of doing art, when I take on a commercial job, the client always makes some demands and you don’t always enjoy what they want, as opposed to when you do something for yourself; people don’t really want to pay for that ‘cause it’s not what they’re looking for.

I understand what you’re talking about, my husband is an artist and he struggles with the exact same thing, as well as chasing up payment from clients; clients can have such unrealistic demands or want you to do something you just know in your heart, as an artist, it’s just not going to look great.

JH: Yes! Exactly! They’ll want something like two inches by two inches and they want it to be a crowd scene with a million people and everything has to look prominent—it’s impossible! If you can actually do it, then it’s your fault it doesn’t look great, you can’t give them what they want. Art Directors recently of a national magazine, would be tasked with a publisher’s idea of a good cover and they thought it was a terrible idea but they would do it because it’s their job, then when it doesn’t sell they get the blame for a bad idea. There’s always the idea and the execution of the idea.

Being a publisher for yourself and for High Times magazine, which also ended up being for yourself; what are the things that you think make a good publication?

JH:  Well, that depends on what your goal is. I’m actually enjoying the response to my latest publication, Stoned Age. It’s kind of like my revenge on, High Times! At High Times we were always told you have to put this much information about this and you gotta do that; even though it was a really creative place to work, there were still restrictions. So I’m putting out the kind of magazine I would have liked to put out back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’s getting a fantastic response. I’m working with a great Art Director, Kevin Heine, who worked at Screw for many years, and a very understanding publisher, Harry Crossfield. It’s the art of collaboration to put out a good publication. It’s like being in a band as opposed to being a solo musician or a stand-up comic. If you put out a personal zine and do everything yourself, you have a limited audience, at least if you’re a control freak like so many of us are, you get to say what you want. If you’re going to put out a publication that is going to reach a lot of people, put it out frequently and attract advertisers and the rest of it, you gotta work with good people—that’s the first thing you need to put out a good publication.

Your team needs to understand your goal and the objective, for lack of a better term “the mission statement” that branding people and corporate types like to bring up, which I think is kind of stupid. It’s all about the idea and the execution of the idea. Whenever if comes to anything, whether you’re in a band or you’re an artist or a cook, right? The thing about magazines that we often talk about is… if you’re going to bring out canned beans, you want to pretty much bring out the same thing, you want consistency, you always want the beans to taste good… but when you bring out a magazine you have to bring out something that looks different every week or month, but then stays the same—that’s tricky. It has to be recognisable. You can’t put out the same thing and information every month but you still have to appeal to the reader.

One of the things I really love about Punk was that you did interviews but the format you presented them in was in a comic book style, I feel like it really gave interviews a new life and was different from how I’m used to reading them.

JH: That was an idea that I got from Harvey Kurtzman. He interviewed two of the greatest actors of the 20th century for Esquire magazine in the ‘60s – Marlon Brando and James Cagney – he did it in an illustrative cartoony interview style. That impressed me a great deal. I’ve always enjoyed integrating photographs into comic books. Jack Kirby did it a few times back in the old days of Marvel, he would run a photograph in the background and put a cartoon character on top of it, it really struck me. Getting the best of both worlds, integrating comics with photographs and text is fun!

I watched a documentary a little while back that featured you in it and you mentioned that you were known as a “Bigfoot” artist, that you draw characters with big feet and grotesque features; where did this style develop from?

JH: That’s the official name from the kind of cartooning style, it’s called “Grotesque” or “Bigfoot” by people in the business. That’s where you exaggerate features, you’re not trying to capture real life, you’re trying to stretch reality into a more exaggerated style. The cartoonist, the funny guys that I liked were, Don Martin and Jack Davis; they had very original crazy styles that were never to appeal to a lot of people. I like weird stuff, the weirder the better. There’s also Basil Overton, he does the most grotesque of all-time; when I was in 8th Grade he did a series of bubblegum stickers, ugly stickers as I remember, they were very popular with kids back then. You know how at a certain stage you love monsters and stuff? R. Crumb, Robert Crumb, was a big influence on me.

What’s been one of your proudest moments as an artist?

JH: That first issue of Punk. I knew the moment that I sat down with Lou [Reed] and asked him about comic books, he named the artists, he named Wally Wood and Bill Elder and EC Comics—I was so impressed… I always thought there was a thread that joined music and art and I’ve seen this happen a lot, a lot of musicians are visual artists or appreciate visual art and vice versa… I’ve always thought that comics and rock n roll music, popular music, often express the same popular idioms. Like in the ‘50s when you had rock n roll music starting off, you also had EC Comic books. Both Elvis and EC Comic books were supposedly promoting juvenile delinquency. In the ‘60s you had acid rock and the psychedelic bands you also had underground comic books, which were influenced by LSD, marijuana and open attitudes towards sex. When we brought out Punk I feel we were continuing that tradition; punk rock was happening and the magazine was creating the visual imagery. It helped propel the punk thing into a movement. I always say that Punk magazine is when the punk movement really began because when it was just music and it didn’t have that visual element it wasn’t a full blown social movement the way it became. Not many cartoonist can say that they helped create a social movement like that, so that’s a pretty proud moment!

I have a copy of that first edition of Punk #1 that my husband bought me for my birthday. I remember when I first slid it out of the plastic packaging it was in, I just stared at it, at your art on the cover, for the longest time. I couldn’t believe I was actually holding it in my hands, I even got a little teary. As I started to unfold it and take in each section it was a really special moment. Still to this day I haven’t seen anything like it, it’s really unique and special.

JH: Thank you. I don’t think in that first issue there is any typeset whatsoever, every single advertisement, every whatever is hand-lettered. As you can imagine, I’m not too fond of the digital age. People are always telling me that I should turn my hand lettering into a font, but what’s fun about hand lettering is that each letter can look different; if it was a font every letter would look the same and it wouldn’t be hand lettering. I like analogue technology and I think digital strips away creativity and a lot of imagination.

With Punk magazine, from what I understand is that, you were trying to get people to rebel. When you did High Times magazine also, that had a rebellious spirit also; have you always had that in you?

JH: Oh yeah! I got into a lot of trouble when I was a teenager. I was growing up during the Vietnam War, when I was around fifteen/sixteen, it dawned on me that when I turned eighteen I would be drafted and sent over to the jungles to kill people. That’s a real wake up call, to be that young and face that kind of reality. Some of the other kids that had come back from there would say, “Whatever you do, don’t get drafted and go to Vietnam! It is the most horrible experience that you could ever imagine.” It was hell. I saw it with my father too, he was a veteran of World War II. He was captured in his first mission and spent the entirety of America’s entry into World War II behind barbed wire. He was an illustrator and he did a book when he came back from the war and published his sketches. He even worked on The Great Escape, he was a Forger; if you’ve ever seen the movie The Great Escape, they have a character that represents the Forgers. I grew up around art, it didn’t seem like a big deal for someone to sit there at a drawing board and make a living doing it. Sorry I got a little off track; what was the question?

Have you always had a rebellious spirit? It seems to be a commonality running through all you do. Also, you seem to be in places at exciting times with a current of change, you seem to act as a conduit that helps bring things to a greater audience.

JH: At school I was an A student before high school. I always did really well in academics, but by the time I got to high school, they were teaching a bunch of bullshit that was irrelevant to my life. I saw these smart kids, these academics just swallowing it all and to me it was like—wake up! A lot of people were provocative back then, I always related to provocative art, stuff that would be shocking and make you think, that gives you a different perspective on things; that is the most important things people can do. I’m not a bomb thrower, I’m not a revolutionary, I think politics is a bad thing for artists to get too involved in, especially now with all the crap you see in The ‘States about Trump. Who cares who the President is?! Politicians are all horrible people, it not like Trump has a trademark on being a horrible person. All politicians suck! We had a funny comic in Punk that Bruce Carlton did where we turned sacred cows into hamburger, I always liked that. Whenever people have this belief system that, this politician is such a good person they’re going to save us or whatever, or they idolise a musician, I’m against it! I’m a “Groucho Marxist-John Lennonist”. I was always influenced by a lot of things Groucho said, he had a great philosophy – “I wouldn’t join any club that would accept someone like me as a member” whatever it is “I’m against it”. It was great stuff. I was very influenced by The Marx Brothers in high school. Comedy is something that should be provocative. It’s having a hard time right now, there’s just a political correct philosophy and people who are expressing unpopular ideas are being attacked and even censored and banned. It’s horrific to me! I believe in the Enlightenment, one of my heroes was Voltaire. One of the famous stories about Voltaire is that he had two houses, on either side of the border of two countries and whenever he got one government pissed off at him and they wanted to throw him in jail, he’d just go to the other house across the border. Then when that government came at him he’d go back to the other house, he just kept avoiding the authorities. He had so many wonderful writings and philosophy.

People should be able to say what they want. They also have be aware that what they say could have repercussions but, they should still be able to have a voice. It’s ok for people to have different opinions.

JH: It gets beyond that because the philosophy of free speech in my mind is that free speech is not there to defend popular rights, it’s there to defend unpopular speech, even hate speech. I got into a big argument with a friend of mine, Rufus Dayglo, we were together at a comic book festival, he wants to ban hate speech. I just couldn’t understand this. Hate speech is horrible, it would be good if people would not use hate speech but, on the other hand, if you squelch it then how are people going to understand what hate speech is and why it’s horrible and how stupid the people are who use it. It’s like, you gotta trust people to be adults about things and make up their own minds. A lot of the attitudes that people had a hundred years ago were really horrible, the racism and the intolerance they had… that gets back to it; what is tolerance? What do you tolerate? What is intolerable? Hitler was intolerable, that’s why the world went to war to get rid of that guy. But if you don’t publish, Mein Kampf, you might not understand how evil works and how people get fooled into accepting horrible ideas.

John Holmstrom 1977

I read that you’re working on your autobiography?

JH: I’m working on my book proposal, my agent is interested.  Stoned Age has really started taking off though and I haven’t had time to work on it recently. It’s something that I would like to do, I’ve had an interesting life. I think people don’t really know the extent of some of the stuff that I’ve been through, like people hear I grew up in Connecticut and they assume that I grew up having a sheltered life and probably didn’t go through much, but the opposite was true. My parents had almost no discipline, I could do whatever I wanted to. I was hitchhiking all over the country when I was sixteen years old. I saw quite a bit, I went to rock festivals. Here in New York it was a rough time, it was not a safe place to live, some crazy things happened. I was homeless for a while…

That was just before you started Punk, right?

JH: Yes. It was pretty crazy, I went from sleeping on a friend’s floor to being on top of the New York City rock scene in a matter of months. Then I ended up almost homeless again a few years later [laughs].

I read that there were issues of Punk that were ready for printing but they didn’t make it; weren’t they lost at the printers?

JH: Yes, there were lost issues, it was so heartbreaking. Our ninth issue was going to put us over the top! I actually think that the C.I.A. infiltrated Punk magazine and put us out of business. I don’t talk to Legs McNeil anymore, I’m just over dealing with difficult people at this advanced age… one of the last times I saw him, he told me that he was roommates with this guy that was working with us and that he came across this briefcase and there was all of this classified government information in there, I think he was working with the C.I.A. I didn’t say it at the time but I thought about it and I was like, why didn’t you tell me back then? I did a stupid thing, we decided to fire the publisher, he just burnt through this huge investment that we got, he just threw it all away ‘cause he was pissed off at me and wanted to get back at me. He figured he’d put us out of business. Then this other guy who worked with him was running things… it’s right after I went to Australia, I fired the publisher, I had to leave for Australia, my mother took me and my sister down there. The trip was so important to her, her own mother had died the day before we were going to leave, and she skipped the funeral to go to Australia. It was the biggest thing in her whole life. When I came back, I’m returning to the office and I see a dead rat in front of the office on the sidewalk, I go inside and Legs just said he killed the rat that was going out of the back… we always had mice and roaches but all of a sudden we had rats, it became unlivable there. I was told that Punk went out of business, all this terrible stuff had happened while I was gone. I think it was sabotaged. We did manage to bring out another issue. It’s such an incredible story I hope I get to tell it all—this is what it’s like to work in the underground.

The F.B.I. and our intelligence agencies were so determined to supress rock n roll then, in the underground, and in the ‘60s, that they would hire prostitutes to have sex with the underground newspaper editors and give them a venereal disease… a lot of crazy stuff happened! There’s a program called, Cointelpro, look it up… one of the people who helped us out the most was Tom Forcade – he was the publisher and founder of High Times and was also at the top of the list of underground newspaper people that the government wanted to stop; he actually ran the underground press syndicate, which consisted of over 200 newspapers and magazines covering everything from Native American rights, gay rights, you name it. Punk was among his favourites, I think that’s why we got in trouble with the powers that be, it’s why I think there’s credibility to the theory… I mean we probably would have went out of business on our own, ‘cause we were stupid inexperienced kids but… you know, they couldn’t risk us being successful.

Out of everything you have been through and all the successes that you’ve had; how do you define success for yourself now?

JH: That’s a good question. I feel like I’ve been successful because my work has been… lately it’s just exploding! My work is on permanent display at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, my archives went to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University in Connecticut near where I grew up… but, I don’t really have a lot of money, I really struggle financially, that’s how it is when you’re an artist. Nobody wants to buy your stuff until you’re dead! Then the prices go through the roof, we’re always more valuable dead than when we’re alive. I can’t, for myself, consider financial success as any kind of marker. I’d like to be financially successful and I try but, life is what it is. You have to accept what you can’t change and change what you cannot accept, and all those clichés.

I find it really inspiring that no matter what you’ve been faced with, you keep going. Following all the things you do, I’ve noticed that you always seem so positive. Even in an interview I’ve watched where someone poses a question to you where it’s obvious they’re looking for a negative answer or just want gossip, you turn it around into something positive.

JH: Thank you! I get accused of being negative all the time [laughs]. People have said I brood, I’m Scandinavian, we tend to be a little on looking at the dark side of things. I try to stay positive. If I succumb to hopelessness and despair, I’ll end up homeless again. I work to live. I need to keep making money, I need to keep doing things. It’s always nice to be recognised, one thing about being an artist, you don’t hear the applause… when you’re a musician or a comedian or actor you go on stage and people applaud and you get all this recognition for what you do… when you’re an artist you’re sitting all by yourself, Harvey Kurtzman called it “the loneliest job in the world” ‘cause you’re all by yourself doing a drawing for hours and hours, days and days, sometimes even weeks; I barely talk to anybody. You have to believe in yourself, believe in what you’re doing and really I think the ultimate goal is to do something that everybody likes. A lot of people don’t like comics or cartoons, it’s a difficult thing, and people that usually like them are cartoonist themselves. There’s not a vast audience of people that spend money on comic books and cartoons, comic books are going out of business left and right. I heard that Marvel is no longer going to print comic books!

What?!

JH: Yeah, apparently they did market research and most of the people that see the movies aren’t even aware that these characters first appeared in comic books. Even the best titles only sell about 30,000 copies. Our local comic book shop, St Marks Comics, just closed; a lot of unhappy people about that. They’re going to sublicense their titles and have other publishers take the risks. It’s so difficult now to print anything, energy cost and shipping costs so much. 10 years ago I could ship things overseas, I have an eBay page and I can’t sell anything to Europe or Australia or even Canada because it costs a minimum of $35 for one magazine. Selling a something for $5 and then charging that much for shipping, it’s an impossible economy.

I totally can relate to that, having done zines for 25 years and shipping all over the world, the shipping is crazy. I have a book coming out next year and I’m really terrified of how much postage will be to post it to people.

JH: Well, hopefully that’s where things like print-on-demand will help. There’s a book store here in New York called, Shakespeare & Company, if they don’t have the book in stock, they’re going to have the technology to print it in the store and sell it for around what the book price is.

Wow!

JH: Technology is pretty amazing. Bringing out Stoned Age, we couldn’t have afforded to stay in business if this was twenty year ago, back in the day when you had to take pages and shoo them on film and put the film on plates and use the plates to run off the paper. I remember hearing in the ‘90s they were already developing disk to paper, which blew my mind… that’s what a PDF is and how they all are producing these publications. Instead of the old technology, paying for the plates and film and set up, with the PDF you’re just running off a photocopy, you’re just paying for paper and ink. Very cheap to print newsprint, but what’s costing us an arm and leg is shipping it. The West Coast is where our biggest demand is, but we’re afraid of what the shipping bill will be. I recently sent some to my friend Lindsay [Hutton] who does Next Big Thing in Scotland, he’s a great guy; one of the early 1970’s fanzines inspired by Punk. It was pretty interesting that within months of our first issue there were similar fanzines coming out all over the world.

I remember seeing the cover of the first issue of Punk in a book in my local library, as a teenager I’d never seen anything like it. The work you’ve done is influential, you started punk zines, something which I have spent my life doing. People found out about punk because of you guys.

JH: Thank you. One of my favourite stories is that, when I visited Sydney in May or June ’77, I’m with my mom and sister walking down the street and I saw Rock Australia magazine on a newsstands… I picked up a copy and I opened it up and there was this huge image of Punk #1 inside! I was like, “Mom! Look at this!” They were like, huh?! I can’t remember who the editor was, but he was really nice to me and looked after me wonderfully. He took me to the local club and introduced me to The Saints and Radio Birdman. The Saints were doing their big farewell gig a couple of years later and I couldn’t attend because we were on a tour, I missed that. I went to White Light Records, are they still a thing?

No.

JH: Aww that’s sad. They were a great, great record store. The owner gave me a copy of The Sonics LP. Everybody treated me so wonderfully. One of The Saints was so down on New York, he preferred the London scene [laughs], he gave me a hard time, bunch of punks!

I’ll send you a mixtape of Australian bands that are around now. Australia really has one of the best music scenes in the world, so many incredible bands that the rest of the world doesn’t even know about yet.

JH: I’m glad to hear that! I try to bring this up when people asked about punk starting in New York or London, well The Saints had single of the year in 1976, “(I’m) Stranded” was a huge punk single. How do you explain that? Punk was a worldwide thing, everyone was influenced by the same bands – Alice Cooper, The Stooges, MC5 etc. etc. It didn’t’ start anywhere, it started everywhere. Australia… even when I was working at High Times, we’d hear about Nimbin, a famous hippie commune place and hearing about how wonderful it was down there… it’s an interesting part of the world. Australia is a very interesting island continent.

People have always told me with my writing, making zines and stuff that if I really wanted to make it I’d have to go to New York, Los Angeles or London, but I always thought that well, if everyone goes to those places, who’ll be left here to make stuff?

JH: I would enjoy if I could have to stay in Sydney. There was an interesting fashion thing going on, women wearing this really interesting style of makeup… I remember seeing all of these buildings going up in Sydney and it really looked like a place that was going to take off and really become cosmopolitan; it was really like New York in a lot of ways… big city, interesting neighbourhoods, an underground scene—you don’t see that everywhere.

Doing the magazine Stoned Age and being the editor/publisher of High Times; do you smoke marijuana yourself?

JH: Right now I’m not a big user. The thing about my marijuana use is that I smoked a lot of pot as a teenager, I really got into it. I started when I was fifteen, in a few months when I turned sixteen and got my Driver’s License I was arrested with some other kids. Being sixteen, one other was my age and the other’s younger, so their names weren’t even in the newspaper—it was the most traumatic event of my life.

Wow!

JH: Yeah. It ruined my life. I smoke pot now and then through the rest of my life. At some point I’m like, I don’t’ want to smoke it until it’s legal and safe. It’s still not legal here, I want to go into a store and buy it. I don’t’ always enjoy it, it’s not something that I like to do socially, it makes me feel self-conscious and it screws with your sense of time. I enjoy it mostly when I’m cleaning my apartment; I get stoned and always end up cleaning my apartment. It has its use. I’m an insomniac and I’ve heard that there is certain strains of marijuana that can help with that. They keep saying that they’re going to make it legal in New Jersey but there’s an incredible push back against it, all the media is focusing on is the negatives and how dangerous it is. I’m a good example of how dangerous it is to make it illegal, when I was arrested I was almost put in prison, some of my friends from high school were sent to prison and they were raped. Now it’s like, what’s worse? Smoking pot and getting paranoid or getting thrown in jail and getting gang raped and getting AIDS and dying. It’s insane. The prohibitionists, the people that want to keep it illegal are out of their minds! Not to mention, the intrusions into privacy rights that the drug wars have created.

When I started working at High Times, we got a report that the Attorney General, Ed Messe, was planning to put us all in prison for the crime of publishing the magazine. The government tried several times to put High Times out of business. Now years later, politicians are praising marijuana because it’s going to save their economy!

Now that’s two publications you’ve created that the government has wanted to stop!

JH: Yeah, well I tell people, I hate the Two Part System because the democrats put me out of business and The Republicans –Jimmy Carter was president when Punk was put out of business – tried to put me in jail and put me out of business. I hate politicians! I hate all of them!

I saw an original artwork of Punk #1 come up for sale and I think it went for $19,000?

JH: The original artwork, yes. For what I understand, I gave it to Harvey Kurtzman when the issue first came out, I felt I owed him everything… he kept it, this guy Denis Kitchen that was running his estate decided to sell some of Harvey’s art collection, Harvey’s widow, Adele, needed some money and they’d determined that it was the most valuable piece in Harvey’s collection, which is amazing really! He would have had so much great art work for so many different people, I was surprised, I figured R. Crumb would be worth more. They put it up for auction and it sold for $16,000. I read in the New York Times that Rubén Blades, the Latino musician, had acquired it. I looked into it more, apparently he worked with Lou Reed and he bought it because he was a fan of Lou’s. They even did a recording with Dion from Dion & The Belmonts and I think David Johansen was involved. Rubén sounds like a cool guy! I emailed him through his website and I offered to authenticate the art. I have seen bootlegs of my artwork. Someone brought up a “Road To Ruin” artwork and we couldn’t work out where it came from, it looked a lot like mine but it had a different title on it. I think someone traced it and used it as a bootleg.

Do you have a favourite issue of Punk mag?

JH: Mutant Monster Beach Party! That was #15. That was my masterpiece I think. It was so much fun. It pretty much put us out of business, it sold terribly. Now it seems people have come to appreciate it. The entire issue for the most part was a photo comic starring Joey Ramone and Debbie Harry. We had guest stars Any Warhol, Edith Massey and Peter Wolf – who was very famous as the singer of the J. Geils Band, he’s married to Faye Dunaway, one of the most famous movie actresses at the time – he called us up because he wanted to appear in a photo comic, we had the perfect role for him. Andy was very cooperative, very approachable, his factory was just on Union Square, downtown in the neighbourhood. It was so much fun. We scribbled cartoons and graffiti-ed all over them and drew a monster in. That was the best!

At the time did it feel like a real pinch yourself moment?

JH: All the time. I was hyperaware at the time that we were doing something important. I saw some article recently that said something like, “no one would have ever believed in the ‘70s that some day the Ramones’ music would be played in a football stadium.” That was the first thing that I thought when I saw them. I was like ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ would be perfect to play in a stadium [laughs]. I’m not shocked at all that their music is played at sports events, I was amazed that it didn’t take off right away and they’d be like The Beatles! They were so great. Their music was amazing. This is why I think that something was afoot! It took twenty years for people to catch on… its very strange.

We have a huge Ramones vinyl collection, they’re one of our favourite bands. There was a band we saw just the other night at our local called, The Arturo’s…

JH: [Laughs] I think I’ve heard of them.

It’s amazing that these things that you caught onto early, and helped give visibility – the Ramones were in your first issue – is still having an impact and people in my city all the way over here are influenced it.

JH: I saw someone at The Continental years ago, I forget what the show was but, there was a guy there that had the Road To Ruin art tattooed on his back. Seeing tattoos of my artwork is always the most amazing thing. Someone had a large pinhead with the “Rocket To Russia” on his arm. I’ve see so many tattoos, it’s really great. I remember years ago they had a festival in Australia where bands were playing Ramones…

The Ramone-a-thon!

JH: Does it still go on?

No. It ran from 2000 to 2007 in my hometown Brisbane and raised money for charity.

JH: I thought it was one of the best things ever.

With the Road To Ruin artwork, I understand that you redid/reworked an idea of art that someone else had done, but then you finally got to design something yourself from scratch with the Murphy’s Law record, right?

JH: Yeah. I thought that doing Road To Ruin would lead to doing more record covers but for some reason it didn’t sell that well and I think I took some of the blame for that, even though I was just following orders. I was working at High Times and Jimmy [Gestapo] the singer and some other band members came around and they wanted to me to do a drawing. I did a bunch of sketches, I still have one of the rejects around here somewhere. It was terrible because I did a record cover and they shrunk it down to a CD size, it lost all its impact; I think it would have looked great 12×12! It kind of disappeared, I did have a crowd scene around it. It didn’t look terrible but, it looked better as a poster. They were great to work with, really great guys, put on a great show. The hardcore scene…I wasn’t immersed in it, I was too busy working and trying to make a living. It’s an interesting phenomenon here in New York City. Was there an Australian hardcore scene?

Yes, very much so. There’s still one. A lot smaller of course and a lot of bands were influenced by New York hardcore bands, West Coast hardcore punk bands or Japanese hardcore. I grew up listening to NYHC and L.A. ‘80s hardcore punk, Washington D.C stuff too.

JH: I never liked the L.A. stuff too much, like a lot of New York bands I’m not so crazy about. It sounds better now than it did then, it’s crazy… I like the Ramones but I didn’t like hardcore… like what happens with the Ramones, it takes twenty years to get accustomed to it and then you like it [laughs].

Do you still listen to music a lot?

JH: Oh yeah! I don’t listen to a lot of new music. Right now I’m listening to a lot of Velvet Underground, it’s one of my favourite bands of all-time. I got into them very heavily when I was going to school here in New York. That’s like, when I got to Lou [Reed] it was like, wow! The man! I’m such a big fan of all of his stuff. Jimi Hendrix, I like. What else? All kinds of weird stuff. I like the Phil Spector stuff from the ‘60s. I’ll play it on YouTube and then I’ll get all these random songs pop up, I end up listening to all kinds of stuff, the way you would if you listened to the radio.

One interesting thing is punk rock from behind the “Iron Curtain”. They really censored punk rock. Some guy wrote a book claiming that punk rock brought down the Berlin Wall!

Punk really has had an effect on so many things, it’s incredible. You were there when it was forming. It just blows my mind.

JH: It blows my mind too! I was lucky, but then I’m so unlucky in everything else, like making money. There’s punk rock millionaires, people that have made a lot of money from punk… I’m like, oh, I missed that bus, along with a lot of other people in punk. Money isn’t everything though.

No, it’s not. I’ve been doing what I do for 25 years, interviewing, making zines, bringing visibility to bands and art that I love, sharing that with people, I work part-time in a library to pay bills. I get to do what I love just because I love it, there’s no compromise.

JH: Oh yeah, I look back at my life – I’m old and probably not going to be around much longer – but I think about my life and think, wow! I got to go on the Sex Pistols U.S. tour! I got to talk to Lou Reed and hang out with him so many times, he loved our first issue. I became friends with the Ramones and would go to their shows all the time… so many interesting experiences—you can’t trade that for anything! You have people now, like rich people, that buy “coolness” and spend all this money on old rock n roll clothing… you can’t buy cool! Sorry.

Totally! Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?

JH: Let me think… we’ve gone through a lot. You’ve done a really great interview, it’s been so nice talking with you. I’m always honoured that anyone would care enough about my work to talk to me about it. It’s always an extreme honour and privilege. I hope you encourage people to check out my work because I’ve done some interesting things.

Absolutely! I really wanted to talk to you and share what you do with others, I think you are extremely underrated! Talking to you has been a dream come true, you were the pioneer of what I do. Your resilience and your positivity is inspiring.

JH: If you read what I have to say I think people could see things as negative, especially people who want to suppress hate speech, freedom of expression, marijuana – how could you encourage people to take marijuana you must be out of your mind, you belong in jail… that kind of attitude. I guess those people would see me as negative. I’m a baaaaad influence! [laughs].

I’m really looking forward to “The Art of the Interview” event I’m doing this Thursday. Steve Blush is interviewing me, like you, he’s interviewed a lot of people. He interviewed Robert Plant for High Times. We dug up an old photograph of Robert Plant where he had apparently been arrested for marijuana. There were all these hippies around with signs that said ‘Free Robert Plant’ and ‘Legalise Pot!’, Steve showed the photo to Robert Plant and he got pissed off and walked out of the interview.

Wow!

JH: Interviewing people is interesting, right?

Totally!

JH: ‘Cause once in a while you get the unexpected ‘cause it’s real life and we’re really talking to each other.

Yes!

JH: We’re not inventing it.

It’s one of my favourite things in the whole world. When I was fifteen and in high school, my mother would drop me off at the front school gate, I’d walk out the back gate and go to the train station, catch one to the city and find bands I loved that was touring and interviewed them.

JH: Where would the interview appear?

In my punk zine.

JH: That’s really cool!

All the bands I loved wouldn’t be covered in the magazines I’d buy at the newsagent and I loved them so much and wanted to let everyone know, that’s why I started my own publication.

JH: Have you ever reprinted them or made a book out of them?

No. But I am making a book that will be out this year. I’ve been working on it for 15 years. It’s on punk and spirituality. Not religion, but spirituality and creativity and navigating life on your own terms, doing things yourself, D.I.Y. I’ve spoken to over 100 people in the punk community about living a creative life. I hope it inspires people to create in their own life.

JH: When I worked at High Times, the editor got into “Cannabis Spirituality”. He even did a book called that, interviewing people about marijuana… because a lot of people feel spiritual on marijuana. Spirituality is kind of a difficult word, people get weird when it comes to their belief or disbelief in God. I was Atheist for a long time, I believe in everything now. The world is a lot stranger than people can comprehend. I think what you’re doing is a great idea, I’d really love to read your book. It would be great to see what other people have to say about it. I always felt the goal of punk is to free up your mind and that brings along the soul and the spirit and everything else along with it. I hear from people sometimes and they say, “Punk saved my life! Thank you so much!” There are some heavy things around punk. I applaud you. I applaud you.

Check out: johnholmstrom.com & Stoned Age.

Australian Albums We Loved In 2019

When it was noticed the eventual “going live” of this website was going to be around the 1st of January 2020, it was decided a round up of the music we love so much would be as perfect a place as any for an introduction. And as we plan to have a heavy focus on local/national music, here are some Australian albums released in 2019 that we found tremendous joy in.

HIEROPHANTS – Spitting Out Moonlight

‘Spitting Out Moonlight’ is an album that features a team of multi-instrumentalists who pilot a giant Super Robot known as “Hierophants”. The secret of their power is combining the 4 magic elements; post-punk, new wave, mutant disco, and lo-fi DIY bedroom pop.

TEK TEK ENSEMBLE – Shake It Like A Wolverine

A ripe punch-bowl of sounds spiked with ample amounts of disco, funk, Bollywood, afro, lounge, exotica, surf, world music and more. Satisfying taste, impeccable musicianship.

THE DANDELION – Old Habits & New Ways of The Dandelion

Transmuting elements of the great music of the late 60s (psychedelic, Yé-yé, freakbeat, surf, exotica, etc.) and transcending into a dream-like allegory of universal oneness, where even heaven and hell aren’t separated. The vision of a visionary.

EXEK – Some Beautiful Species Left

From a dystopian post-punk wasteland where radioactive kraut-rhythms and dub-effected drums are scattered across the entire landscape. Like an alien spacecraft had abducted members of PiL, Can, Kraftwerk, and Sly & Robbie, and forced them to make music against their will on an unforgiving alien world.

YETI GHETTO – Jinx

Stunning debut from Brisbane-based, Brit-pop infused, indie band with some of the sharpest song writing on the block.

DR SURE’S UNUSUAL PRACTICE – The West

Political, groove-based, angular, new wave, post-punk. Topical commentary painted over a Gang of Four base coat. Basically they are the Midnight Oil that 2020 needs!

PARSNIP – When The Tree Bears Fruit

Playful. Catchy. Well-crafted. Joyful. A Celebration. If you smashed Ray Davies and a pile of Little Golden Books together in the Large Hadron Collider, Parsnip would be the elusive resulting particle you would find.

PLEASURE SYMBOLS – Closer and Closer Apart

Released in the right year, this could easily have been the defining album of 80s goth rock.
Moody, dream pop for nightmares.

SAMPA THE GREAT – The Return

Ambitious, fearless, triumphant.

THE SNAKES – The Snakes

Early 80s underground L.A. style new wave punk. The actual underground though… The black market kind. You know, the “under the counter” kind… like, we’re talking a full on ‘Ghost Ride’ by Deep Six kinda vibe going on.

SLAG QUEENS – You Can’t Go Out Like That

Passionate, feminist, Riot-Grrrl-inspired band from Tasmania. And while firmly rooted in 90s rock, it’s certainly not stuck there. Strong song writing, fun synth noises, versatility and an impressive scope separating them from the average attempt at angsty femme-core.

TRALALA BLIP – Eat My Codes If Your Light Falls

Experimental electronic pop music ensemble from Northern New South Wales construct a magnificent and heart-warming statement on life, love and creativity through use of futuristic gadgets, classic synthesizers, glitch-y drum machines, otherworldly voice processors, and pure human spirit.

AUSMUTEANTS – …present: The World In Handcuffs

A maniacal and out of control punk rock concept album from the perspective of a maniacal, out of control police officer.

STELLA DONNELLY – Beware of the Dogs

Relatable, honest, and witty pop songs. Approaching heavy topics with abundant humour and expanding her repertoire by switching between her already established singer-songwriter style, a full band mode, and even a couple synth-pop numbers.

TROPICAL FUCK STORM – Braindrops

Genre-defying future rock. Emotive, poetic storytelling over rhythms and noises that sound as though they are warping, bending and testing the very fabric of time itself.

BENCH PRESS – Not the Past, Can’t Be The Future

Like if first album Strokes got amped up on a really good batch of drugs, won big at the casino, and an angry, young Jon Lovitz was Back-To-The-Future-d into the role of frontman.

More albums we love (click for further listening):

U-BAHN – U-Bahn (Independent)

PINCH POINTS – Moving Parts (Roolette Records)

THE UV RACE – Made In China (AARGHT! Records)

ALL THE WEATHERS – ….For The Worms (Rough Skies Records)

GONZO – Do It Better Again (Anti Fade Records)

STROPPIES – Whoosh (Tough Love Records)

ATOM – In Every Dream Home (it Records)

KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD – Infest Rats’ Nest (Flightless Records)

HORACE BONES – Terra (Independent)

J MCFARLANE’S REALITY GUEST – Ta Da (Night School Records)

HEARTS AND ROCKETS – Power (Independent)

DRAGNET All Rise For Dragnet (Spoilsport Records)

THE BABE RAINBOW – Today (Flightless Records)

LIQUID FACE – Self-titled (Independent)