Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds: “Stay in it for the long haul and stay true to the muse”

Original photo: Luz Gallardo. Handmade collage by B.

Kid Congo Powers is a creative force and true original. Kid’s played in The Cramps, The Gun Club, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Wolfmanhattan Project, as well as gifted the world a band of his own creation, Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds. Gimmie spoke to him to get an insight into their new EP Swing From The Sean DeLear, his experience of being a person of colour and openly gay in the punk scene, the upcoming biography he’s written, we also talk lucid dreaming and much more.

It’s so lovely to speak with you again. How have you been?

KID CONGO: Just at home [laughs]. Good, good. The lockdown has been good for a few things, I finished the draft of my memoir I’ve been writing for over twelve years; it afforded me the time to not have any more excuses [laughs], to jump up and go on tour and not finish it. Luckily, right before lockdown I had finished a lot of recording, a new Pink Monkey Birds record, and I did one with a group I’m part of called the Wolfmanhattan Project, with Mick Collins who was in The Dirtbombs and The Gories and Bob Bert that was in Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore. I’ve been working on other music projects with different friends, we’ve been recording at home and sending each other music and sending it back and forth between each other; a few of these are almost albums, I think. There’s been a lot of work. I keep sitting here for a year thinking I haven’t been doing anything but actually I’ve been busy the entire time.

It’s a strange thing because I moved, we’re living in Tucson, Arizona, and as soon as we were starting to know people, getting to know the town more and able to navigate it, the lockdown happened. There was no big social life, no getting to know anything else because everything is closed. Arizona had high Covid numbers so I was like, I’m not going anywhere! Just enjoying homelife, reading, playing music and writing, being a local stray cat mother; we found a little baby cat on our patio out front so we took him in and we’ve been raising a cat through the quarantine time. He’s gone from a sweet little kitten with eyes closed, he still had the umbilical cord and everything, just a day old, but now he’s six months old and a complete terror! [laughs]. We love him! That’s keeping me busy.

Your new EP Swing From The Sean DeLear is so cool, I’ve been listening to it over and over since it came out. Each track is different, there’s only four songs – one a 14-minute-long song ‘He Walked In’ – and it seems to me to tap into all of the things you’re about as a music maker and all the different things you like shines through in these songs.

KC: Yeah. It’s become the unconscious goal. It’s a really nice compliment because the goal is to use everything that you have learned and to try and make something else out of it. I feel like that is why sticking things out in the long term is really good. I was always in bands for two or three years and that was it or I’d start a project and end it but with The Pink Monkey Birds, it’s been over ten years with the same band. Everyone is very in tune and knows what we’re capable of and everyone contributes, it becomes its own beast with its own life. We never discuss when things are going to happen, a lot of music just comes out of “here’s some chords” and I’ll start playing or someone will start playing. It’s like automatic writing. Different people steer the ship at different times. That’s what happened on this EP, different people came up with different things. Mark [Cisneros] showed up to the session with a flute, I didn’t know he played the flute! He’s like, “We’re recording in the desert so I thought you might like some desert sounds.” I replied, “Great! Fantastic! Bring it on!” It really made that 14-minute-long song. Larry Hardy from In The Red Records said, “We’ll put out a 12-inch EP but one song has to be long, like 6-7 minutes.” We said we can do that. We recorded the song and I was like that should be 6 or 7 minutes and asked how long it was and he said “Fourteen minutes!” [laughs]. We weren’t conscious of time; we were just feeling it out. The only thing we worked out was the tempo change. There was no editing, it’s all live.

I thought, is anyone going to even like this? It’s a slow 14-minute song! We’re a crazy rock n roll, garage rock band. But it’s the music we want to make and that came out of us at this moment. Luckily, and like anything that has that positive energy behind it, it was very well received. I like that our audience seems willing and happy for us to change things up, they want you to expanded; like I do when I’m a fan, I always have been. I followed Patti Smith’s work since I was 15-16-years-old to now and I’m always happy whatever it is she does, it’s always big to me, it’s just loving her as an artist. I’m like that with a lot of people that stay in it for the long haul and stay true to the muse. All the people I have been involved with, I still feel its amazing work that’s coming out of them, it’s because they stick to their original idea but then are not afraid to experiment and go outside the formula, there’s no pandering going on, that is exciting to me!

Yeah. I’m the same as you. I love seeing artists go against expectation. If they’re doing it with honesty and stay true to their spirit, no matter what they do, I’m in.

KC: Exactly. We have plenty of rock songs on the record too.

The song ‘He Walked In’ was inspired by a dream you had about Jeffrey Lee Pierce?

KC: Yes. I had this dream that shook me when I woke up. I knew it hadn’t really happened but the things in the dream, I could smell him, I could feel him; I could feel him in my presence. I was very much like, wow! That really happened, that dream was a visitation. I have no doubts. I have lots of dreams and they’re just dreams, but once in a while you get these ones that are so sensory, you can feel it and when you wake up you can still feel it, and you know what that feeling is. I jotted down this dream when I woke up, it was very clear in my mind, the song is a version of it. It was important to me. When we started making the music for it, I had an idea that I’d use the text for this and it was perfect for it. It was all very serendipitous all fitting together.

In the song lyrics you mention the kitchen and a telephone on the wall; is that the kitchen where you live now?

KC: No, it’s actually my childhood house where I lived with my parents, that’s where the dream took place. It was even stranger and had very personal images. Jeffery had come to that house.

I really love the film clip for the song. I enjoyed how the first part of the clip is shot in one continuous long shot. I noticed too that when you were walking and you get to the part where you start the dialogue and you’re talking about Jeffery coming to visit that in the shot there’s a little golden orb of light.

KC: Yeah [laughs]. There’s no CGI going on. It’s the sun deciding to come at the moment, we did that take several times because we had to nail it. It was the hottest part of the summer; the Arizona summer is very hot and we’d had all these wildfires in California and the smoke was making its way all the way to Arizona.

I wanted to work with the film maker David Fenster, he’s magical too. He deals in a lot of art films. The films he makes deal with a lot of spirits, a lot of ancient spirits usually, either living in nature or inhabiting different inanimate objects, it’s beautiful. He’s a beautiful cinematographer. He had moved to here shortly after we moved here. I knew I wanted him to do a video. We’re in quarantine but we have some wide-open spaces, so he rented a really nice camera. He said, “I think you need to be here. Wear a white suit walking through the desert and we’ll figure the rest out. You’ll be able to feel what’s happening.” I had actually just done an online workshop with this intuitive teacher named Asher Hartman from Los Angeles; it was a workshop on finding spirit guides. I did that not too long before we did the clip. David had done some film work with Asher, that’s how I found out about Asher. That came into play in the film. It’s pretty much improvised, we just had to nail the text [laughs]. We had to do it a few times, walking for 9-minutes in the heat without stopping or having a car come by with someone honking or whatever. So, it worked out in a magical kind of way. It’s hard to go wrong in that magical scenery, you’re on Native land [of the Tohono O’odham, Sobaipuri, Pascua Yaqui, and Hohokam people] and that is magical, when you get out into the desert and you realise it really does bring a lot of magic to be engaged the whole time.

Speaking of magical things, your outfit in that clip is really magical!

KC: [Laughs] I wore that suit when my husband Ryan and I got married.

Awwwwww.

KC: That’s my marriage outfit! It’s a good suit and I was shocked, really shocked I could still fit into it! That’s several years old.

It is so beautiful, especially with the turquoise Bolo necktie.

KC: Yeah, awww. That’s the thing, every piece has to have meaning. Film is two dimensional and that kind of stuff helps make it visceral and more three dimensional, because all of that stuff is happening and, in the background, and in the weight of what’s going on in the moment. Full disclosure, I have studied acting as well, for four or five years I went to an acting teacher, a private group acting with Cathy Haase. She was a great, great teacher. She was from the Actors Studio and as a teacher at the School Of Visual Arts. I never thought I was going to be an actor but I thought, I’d rather do this than therapy [laughs]. It was a lot of Actors Studio kind of sense memory stuff and using your past to evoke emotions and actions. I think I’m very equipped for that, I don’t always know how to use it but for that I did. I don’t think I looked uncomfortable or anything.

It looked very natural. Another song on the new EP is ‘Sean DeLear’ that’s about a non-binary African-American punker and culture fanatic, and Glue front-person, Sean D; what’s one of your favourite Sean stories or memories?

KC: [Laughs]. I would just be constantly amazed at where they would pop up! Anywhere I went, at any event, it was like; how is Sean DeLear backstage at Siouxsie and the Banshees concert? They were very much a character and reminds me a lot of myself, that Sean just put themselves there. They were going to be in the middle of it and that’s just it! People start to treat you like, “Oh, Sean DeLear! They must be someone, so let them in.” The last time I saw Sean, they showed up at my show in London. I really liked Sean; I always call them demi-drag because they were not always a woman but not always drag, non-binary, whatever Sean felt like on the day. They were part Diana Ross, part Johnny Rotten; a real Zelig. He was a very engaged, lovely person and fully original. Just to be an African-American punker but to me, a gay, out, Black man was always incredible to me and always inspirational. I was always amazed where they showed up at, all around the world—New York, L.A., London, Vienna. An ambiguous character that was well-known and famous for being around. That’s a real, real talent! And, very beloved by the underground rock n roll community and the underground in general, the gay underground, LGBTQ+ underground. A bright spot. Very, very kooky and original person.

When they passed away it was like, how can it be that Sean Delear is no longer on the earth?! Someone that is so alive and bright. I was very inspired to write something about the essence of Sean DeLear. It’s like, where is Sean DeLear now? I thought if there is a heaven… I looked in the sky and I thought, oh, they’re probably just swinging from some chandelier, that’s probably what heaven is [laughs]. I say in the song: how many people can you fit up there? He passed away in 2018 and I had so many friends that passed away that year; I thought maybe they’re all up there on the chandelier swinging around together. I don’t know if I believe in that, I’d like to believe in an afterlife of some sort but I don’t know what it is but maybe that’s it, a party on a chandelier rocketing through outer space [laughs].

As a gay Latinx, person of colour, in the punk and rock n roll scenes; did you ever experience racism or homophobia? Or in your experience has it been an accepting place?

KC: Things came and went; prejudices and fears I would have about being out. Luckily, the earliest punk rock of Los Angeles definitely had a lot of gay people at the forefront, it was made up of art students, gay people, film people, all kinds of people made up scene—it was more misfit than misanthropic in the beginning. It was a gathering of likeminded outcasts who were sick of the status quo, the music and the whole scenario. That was always very open but it was also a time where people weren’t talking about… in the punk rock scene in Los Angeles at that time, any labels were absolutely off the books and totally taboo, you don’t want to be anything, except for a punk rocker, you’re outside of everything, you’re the blank generation! What ever you can call it, you’re not that. If you’re bucking against the system, that was good enough, that was the only requirement. Being gay was definitely bucking against the system. That’s how openminded and accepted things were in the beginning. I guess later it got more co-opted to become homophobic, more when hardcore music came in.

Totally!

KC: That kind of dispersed the original scene. People turned twenty-one and twenty-two and were old and out of it already by them—cos they were washed up old hags! [laughs]. People moved on to something else. In The Gun Club, we played with androgyny; Jeffery with his Marilyn Monroe from Hell moniker. We were totally unafraid to play with stereotypes and gender then. We were just freaks. Then in The Cramps, how much freer could you be to be a sexual deviant! [laughs]. It was encouraged in the highest! That too, with The Cramps there was no limit to gender roles. You just looked sharp and whatever it was, that’s the way you were going to look and be. It was such a pro-sexuality-of-all-kinds-scene, it wasn’t homophobic. The Bad Seeds, open-minded people, although very macho sort of; that was the first time I was in a band with all men [laughs]. There was always a woman in the band, with The Cramps and The Gun Club. I didn’t have any trepidation about being myself and sexuality and putting it out there. I think I adapted to every band. I just thought I’ll be me; I don’t need to be Ronnie Spector in this band [laughs]. If there was any trepidation of about what people thought of me, that’s on me really. I was never treated different for being gay and that’s because I’ve always stood my ground and been who I am. People can accept it or not accept it.

I think homophobia came from outside the rock n roll world, if it was in the rock n roll world, I’d just tell them to fuck off! I’ve experienced tons of homophobia. I also felt really ostracized by the mainstream gay scene, more when I was younger, the pre-punk time because I didn’t look like them and I was not going to be accepted by them. I decided that I’d just become a monster [laughs], that was a better route to take. If you see a monster, I’ll be a monster!

I saw much more sexism towards woman, directed at the women I was in groups with. I saw sound people in clubs be condescending to [Poison] Ivy or Romi [Mori] or Patricia Morrison. We would call them out of course, but it existed. For me, I didn’t feel it as much as what I saw happen with women, which upset me. They were all strong, cool, women that weren’t going to let it go! [laughs].

Did you experience any racism?

KC: I don’t think so, no. That was the glorious thing about coming up in punk rock, it was open to everyone. Being in Los Angeles, which has a huge Hispanic population, a huge Latino population, Chicano population, there was never a way of avoiding it. Jeffrey Lee Pierce was Chicano, his mother was Mexican-American. I think people were more outraged by my hair than the colour of my skin [laughs]. You come equipped when you are a person of colour. I was equipped with an immediate idea that I was a second-class citizen, that there was a prejudice and always a potential for danger and there was always a way to carry yourself to protect yourself. My parents very much grew up in the depression era… they had a very hard time, I think that’s why they brought me and my sisters up speaking English as a first language, not very much Spanish was taught to us. They wanted us to assimilate. They wanted it to be easier for us because they and their parents had a much harder time assimilating. Their parents’ generation were actually immigrants and they saw how hard it was. There’s a lot of people that didn’t grow up learning Spanish and it contributed to a feeling of otherness. You know you are Mexican and you’ve been raised to be proud of your heritage and you’re exposed to your heritage and customs, family and things, but you also don’t speak the language and that makes you feel ostracized from people.

How did your song ‘(I Can’t Afford) Your Shitty Dreamhouse’ come to you?

KC: I wrote that before the George Floyd death, Brianna Taylor shooting and the Black Lives Matter uprising and protests; I could see something coming, just look at our Administration at the time. It’s a protest song. The shitty dreamhouse is all of the conversative right-wing let’s-make-America-great-again-dream they had, which is to return to a time when people of colour had no civil rights. That’s basically what they were saying. I’ve always been fucking fighting against this, it’s particularly terrible at this time. Blatant fascism. People were empowered to be racist. I was like, they have some shitty dream house they want to build! I can’t afford to buy into this or think that it’s going to be a part of my life. People are out there protesting saying you’re fucked and this is fucked and you’re not helping, you need to listen to us. There’s a line in the song that says: I can fight like we did all along, years before you were in my song. It’s a fuck you, you’re not going to get us. It’s protest music that you can dance to. It has a deeper meaning.

I love the art work for your new EP too; your husband Ryan does it?

KC: He’s done all of the records, he’s the ideas man! I really like the idea of having one artist, it really makes an identity and theme. I like to have a theme going with music or whatever philosophies there are with the culture we’re creating. He’s a visual artist and he said it was good to have on-going identity, that people come with you. I’m happy with whatever he comes up with, it’s always great. He does the lettering by hand. He’s an incredible draftsperson. And, he’s fun! He’s just the right kind of crazy, too [laughs].

That’s something that I’ve always loved about all off the bands you’ve been a part of, you’ve created your own world.

KC: That is intentional. I didn’t know any other way to do it.  That’s how I learnt from all the bands I’ve been in; you create your own world. Jeffrey was the focus of The Gun Club, Lux and Ivy were the focus of The Cramps, they came up with bullet proof concepts, ideas and worlds—they bring people together and people into a community and our world! It’s more multi-dimensional than just listening to music, it’s visual and conceptual and also loose enough to change and ever-morphing, it becomes its own beast. It relies on a fair amount of consistency, that was always my shortfall [laughs]. I’ve done a lot of different things but only for a little while. With The Pink Monkey Birds I wanted to start something like that. I’m in it for the long haul, as a result we have created our own world and we’re lucky people want to come along, jump on our planet!

A band like, Sparks, who I’ve liked since I was a teenager, still going and I’m still in their world and I never want to leave. It’s consistently amazing. You’re like, oh my god, they’re getting better! The Ramones, you knew exactly what their world was about when you first saw their show, at least I did. I couldn’t tell you what it was about but I could tell you that it was something that I understood. I do hope that it’s something that happens with us.

I spoke with Martin Rev from Suicide the other day and he was telling me that he wakes up and pretty much every day makes music. I asked him what he was working on and he told me that he wasn’t working on anything in particular that he was just making music. That’s his life.

KC: Yeah, that’s it. That is just it. There is no big plan, maybe some people have a big plan, but for us old timers and people in it for the long haul, you just make the stuff. That’s what Patti Smith told me an artist was: make the stuff, keep your name clean, don’t do stuff you don’t want to do and it should all work out somehow. You might not be famous but you’ll have this amazing work and people will respond to it, it might be ten people or it might be ten million, it doesn’t matter really. It’s our chosen path in life. That’s what we do, we make stuff.

Please check out: Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds on bandcamp; Get Swing From The Sean Delear out on In The Red Records. Kid on Instagram: @kidcongopowers

Modern Australian Underground’s Christina Pap: “It’s nice to remember and appreciate nice little things because so much of our lives is spent clinging on to these bad things that have shaped us”

Photo courtesy of Christina Pap. Handmade collage art by B.

Christina Pap does A LOT! She’s currently the vocalist for Melbourne/Naarm punk band Swab (previously having fronted Vanilla Poppers), hosts the Modern Australian Underground podcast and co-hosts 3RRR’s Teenage Hate radio show, is an artist, creates punk zine Stitches In My Head, runs label Blow Blood Records (recently compiling and releasing 2 great volumes of quarantine recordings by a vast array of the AUS punk scene), and works at our favourite Melbourne record shop Lulu’s. Christina is an underground Australian music community treasure that works, and continues to work, hard to do all she does, it definitely hasn’t come without challenges and some very hard moments along the way. Gimmie sat down to chat with her frankly and candidly about her journey. 

 Hi Christina! How are you?

CHRISTINA PAP: I’m doing alright.

That doesn’t sound very convincing!

CP: [Laughs] Yeah. It’s been a bit of a stressful week but I’m trying to be ok, you know how it is.

I do. Aww, I hope your week gets better. You grew up in Melbourne, right?

CP: Yeah, I did. I was born in Brunswick and I grew up in Coburg. I feel like I’m one of the few people out of all of my friends who actually grew up in Melbourne, a lot of my friends moved here from other places.

And, you come from a big Greek family?

CP: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah, I do. Greek-Italian.

How were things growing up for you? Often Greek and Italian families can be pretty conservative and you’re into more alternative things and ways of living.

CP: Yeah, totally. I feel like it’s something recently that I’ve only started to be ok with, because most of my life I’ve been really fighting the fact that coming out of a Greek-Italian family I was a woman and didn’t really matter. Going into the punk scene I thought I had a little reprieve from that but then it was just the same situation, ya know. I broke away from my family, all my cousins were getting married and had kids and that wasn’t something that I really wanted. I didn’t really know any other way though because I grew up in a big Greek-Italian family and that’s the expectation.

How did you discover music?

CP: I’d always listen to the radio shit but I didn’t really know about punk, this was when I was ten. When I was fourteen, I decided that I wanted to do something that raised money for charity but I didn’t really know how to do that. Someone pointed me in the direction of council in Victoria, they have these FReeZA events; groups for young people between fifteen and twenty-five and they organise shows. I went and talked to the council and they let me join their young person committee and I put on a show and raised money for charity. I stuck around afterwards and kids there were into emo and ska and shit, street punk. It snowballed. I’d find out about street punk shows that were all ages. In my teens it was mostly emo and street punk [laughs], when I turned eighteen, I found punk music that wasn’t that.

So, you started going to local shows; would you go by yourself or with friends?

CP: I kind of met people there. I was the only punk in my high school though. I would go to school with a mohawk and people would think I was so weird. I slowly made friends; I know it sounds stupid but I felt like I didn’t fit in because I was culturally different from everyone. A lot of that, from what I’ve started to understand about myself, is that it was probably just in my head [laughs]. It took me a long, long time to make friends and feel like I fit in, and I’ve only really felt that in the last couple of years, I guess.

I can relate, especially being a person of colour and going to punk shows and being the only POC in the room at shows. Like you, at school I was the only punk girl as well. I’d always get, “Oh, you’re that weird, dark, punk girl.”

CP: Yeah, totally!

And you’d start going to shows and no one else looks like you. When I started going to punk shows there wasn’t that many girls at shows either, being a woman of colour here in Australia at shows you’re a minority within the minority of the punk world.  

CP: That’s true. The thing I’ve also had to learn over the years – and it’s been a good thing for me to learn – is that being Italian-Greek isn’t necessarily being a person of colour. Because I was brought up so different there were these things that made it different for me, but just for me to be brought up culturally different, I can’t claim I’m a person of colour. I don’t want you to feel like I claim that in any way.

I didn’t think that at all. Can you remember when you first came across zines?

CP: I used to read Maximum Rock N Roll when I was young, that was the first big punk zine. There were other ones like Distort around. I never really thought about doing one until my first boyfriend, who ended up being the singer for The Zingers – we started dating when I was nineteen – decided that he wanted to do a punk zine. I remember thinking if he was going to do one, he’s in the same boat as me – he didn’t play an instrument and wasn’t involved in the scene at all – but he was a guy and all of our friends were guys and I felt like he had an extra leg up because he was a guy. He did one or two issues and then I ended up doing it for six or seven years after I started it. When I started it, it was called When We’re Young We’re Invincible. It was pretty terrible [laughs], but I think I got better as time went on.

My first zines were terrible too! You have to start somewhere though. No one really shows you how to make a zine and it’s all learning, experimenting, trial and error. You just get that overwhelming feeling of wanting to contribute beyond just going to shows. When you know better you do better. I’ve read a lot of your interviews on your blog and in your zines and you can really see the progression of them, leading up to the great chats you do on your new podcast, Modern Australian Underground.

CP: Thank you.

I rarely find interviews that I think are exceptional but the one you did with Yeap & Heikal on immigrant punx and racism in Australia was really amazing.

CP: I really appreciate that because I definitely am trying and I want to make them interesting, there’s always this part of me though, with whatever I do, is this nerve-wracking thing to put something into the public eye because I always just think it’s shit and not good enough. I put something out and I can’t appreciate the effort that I put into it because I’m too busy worrying about someone telling me how terrible it is! The one with Yeap and Heikal was a really nice conversation, I’m really happy it happened.

I thought it was important to tell you I found it rad because I think often people don’t tell people enough when they make or do something that rules! People are quick to point out when you fuck up or they like to tear others down or be apathetic and I think sometimes in the punk community it’s seen as cool not to give a shit or to try—I think that’s bullshit. Trying and doing your best is the coolest to me, like the Minor Threat song: Well at least I’m fucking trying / What the fuck have you done?

CP: Yeah, for sure. I really appreciate the positive feedback I’ve gotten for the podcast but I’ve also lived in a time when… like punk six years ago in Australia was a lot different, people were a lot more critical and ready to cut you down over absolutely nothing. It’s nice to have a lot of people in the community to be down and support each other, they’ll be really positive and give each other advice. Whereas not that long ago I felt like it was really different.

What do you think has changed?

CP: I don’t know because I gave up on Melbourne and left the country for two and a half years. I grew up in Melbourne so it’s not like I grew up in Adelaide and moved to Melbourne and it wasn’t my home city, I’ve always been in punk in Melbourne. I left for a lot of reasons, part of it was I went through some really shitty emotional and physical abuse shit with a guy that I was dating that was in the scene. I remember being at a show and he was coming after me, yelling at me and saying he wanted to punch me and shit. I remember going up to one of his friends and just begging for help at a show and everyone turned their back on me. I was literally at a show, I never ask for anything, I never ask for help and I always contribute and here I was asking for help and I feel like everyone turned their back on me. Talking to Yeap, I could see that around the same time he had his own similar experience of the scene. I had been overseas and I had friends that were really supportive and I thought; why would I contribute to a scene here when I’m literally at my worst point and really need help and they don’t want to help me and deal with it? Why do I want to contribute to a scene when a white guy is being racist to someone of colour? Or there’s a guy threatening to punch his girlfriend at a show? I was like, bye everyone, have a good time! It’s funny because everyone thinks Cleveland [Ohio] is a fucked-up place, but Cleveland was the place I went because I felt like I had more family there then what I was feeling in Melbourne at the time.

I’m sorry that happened to you. I’ve had similar things happen to me in the scene. I’ve dated guys and when the relationship ended – because I experienced emotional, mental and in some cases physical abuse – I felt everyone turned their back on me too. Rumours start and you get made out to be the bad one even though it was the other person abusing you and all your “friends” desert you in favour of scene dude and you’re left feeling isolated, alone, confused, disillusioned and really let down.

CP: Totally!

You think these people are your friends and family and that you’re a community.

CP: Yeah, and especially it always happens to the chick when they’re breaking up with a guy and looking after themselves cos this guy is dragging you down and being really shit to you. When you do something for yourself everyone’s like, “Oh, she is shit, she gave up!” I was literally fighting so hard and I felt like I finally decided to look out for myself for one second and everybody hates me for it.

It’s a really lonely place to be in, especially after you give so much to the community with all that you do and you find there’s no support and you feel ostracized. You feel like your community failed you. I stopped going to shows for a while and making zines, two things I love doing so much. I fell into a deep depression and had crippling anxiety. Eventually I found a way that I felt comfortable coming back, but mostly it’s just doing the work I love – zines, interviewing and going to shows – but being more guarded in my social world. I found a way to contribute and not have to deal with the rest of the shit.

CP: Yeah. It sucks that you went through that as well. It’s hard when you hit the point of; why am I still here doing this stuff? It’s supposed to be a place where everyone supports each other but you just have the worst experiences. It’s cool you found a way to come back, I really love your art and interviews, they’re really cool. You’re doing great!

Thank you! I’m thankful we’re both still here, both still contributing and doing even cooler things than we ever have before. I was talking to one of my friends recently and he was saying how you come to the punk scene because you want a refuge within the world at large and you think you’ve found a place to belong that’s different, that it’s a little utopia in a way, but the reality I experienced was that it’s not really, it’s just a microcosm of the macrocosm. I’ve met a lot of great, great people in punk but there’s also a lot of shit terrible people.

CP: Yeah, definitely. That’s why nothing is black and white. There’s a lot of good things in PC culture, but there’s also a lot of dangerous things in PC culture, things are complicated. You have this definition of punk being family, being everything is ok but, if you look at the normal family, there’s always crazy shit going on anyway [laughs]. The best thing is growing up and you get better perspective on life and break out of these ideals that we’re conditioned with and you realise the world doesn’t work that way and you wonder what went wrong.

I notice that your zine is really music-centric and you don’t write personal stuff in there much; was it a conscious decision? Why did you decide to do that?

CP: I feel selfish talking about myself really. For me, I feel like it’s selfish putting myself on a platform and thinking people want to hear about me and what I have going on. If I talk about music, I can talk about a thing that doesn’t have to involve me but I can write about it and create something from me.

I can understand and respect that, it’s funny though, because my two favourite things that you’ve written are very personal pieces that I found on your blog.

CP: Which ones?

One was where you writing about the end of your band Vanilla Poppers’ tour in 2016. I really liked the piece because I felt it gave a real insight into you. I mean, I see and listen to your bands, enjoy the label and zines that you do and know you in a way as much as you can from that, but to see behind that I thought was really cool. There was a passage you wrote about being between cities in the middle of nowhere and you pulled the van over and all piled out of it and were standing on the side of the road and looked up at the stars, and how it reminded you of being in your grandparents’ backyard as a kid. I got teary reading that, it was really beautiful.

CP: Awww. Yeah.

I haven’t gotten to see you play live yet but I’ve seen videos of you perform and your sets seem so intense and then to read about that moment on tour, you see a totally different side.

CP: Yeah, for sure. That tour was really special to me, I wrote about it because I never wanted to forget it. I feel like I’ll never do something like that again, even if I did, it wouldn’t be that same experience. It really meant a lot to me, all the little things. It’s nice to remember and appreciate nice little things because so much of our lives is spent clinging on to these bad things that have shaped us, these bad experiences and trauma. When I was looking at those stars, I remembered being home when I hadn’t been home in two years, that moment meant so much. I’m glad you liked it.

You could feel it and it was genuine and honest, I think that’s why I connected with it so strongly. The other thing I read that really struck me was you taking about getting the nickname “Stress Head”.

CP: [Laughs].

And there was a moment you were sitting in the back of the tour van while it was driving along the highway and you cracked and were rocking back and forth crying. When I read that I just wanted to give you a hug.

CP: Awww, thanks. That shit is real, it’s not something that I often talk about, my whole life dealing with mental shit. That’s like when you first called and asked how my day was and I said “alright” when I’ve really been having a shit day. It’s hard to write about that stuff because it is really emotional, emotions are hard to deal with and you spend so much time trying to push them aside to try and get by in every day life. It felt good to write that piece and be able to just get it out. There’s a lot of times, even writing vocals for Swab, I have such a hard time because I don’t know how to open up and it hurts too much to open up.

I think that’s why we make music and songs and art sometimes because we want to communicate and say things but sometimes it’s hard to talk about it and it’s easier to just put it into a song or what we’re making.

CP: Definitely. The thing about joining Vanilla Poppers, I went to North America for two and a half years, I had a great time, but the whole time I was going through really bad mental health. Vanilla Poppers was a way for me to have an alter ego where I could write and sing about these things… usually when I lose my mind, I feel powerless and I don’t know what to do and I feel weak, but doing Vanilla Poppers I could lose my mind and be strong about it and yell about it and tell people “fuck you!” It was nice to have an outlet where I felt I had some kind of power.

Doing a band is the most nerve-racking fucking thing in the whole world. Whenever I have a show coming up, I’m always like; why am I doing this again? It’s so stressful to stand in front of people and perform and know people are looking at you. All I can think about is that I don’t feel good enough to be on stage because I’m not a hot chick.

Firstly, you are hot! Secondly, hot is subjective and the way you look shouldn’t influence people to love what you create. I’ve known guys I’ve mentioned different women performers to and the first thing say they is, “She’s hot.” It’s like, why does what a female performer look like matter?

CP: I know. It’s all conditioning. I think for me it also comes from me being a wog chick and not a hot white chick or some shit! I’m white but not an Australian white chick. That’s all my own conditioning and it’s something that I try to work through.

There’s been times when I’ve felt the same way though too.

CP: Really? Are you in a band?

I’m working on a band with my husband now, Know Future. I’ve been in a few bands in the past but nothing too serious. I used to find it hard to find people to play with, I’ve had similar experiences to you where because I’m female people are reluctant to start a band with you, you’re not taken seriously.

CP: Totally!

Part of why I made a zine was it forced me to talk to people and be more social, I’ve always been more of a quiet, loner type person.

CP: Yeah, it’s an excuse to talk to people. If I’m at a show when I was younger, I felt like I didn’t really have a reason to go up and talk to anybody, no one is going to want to talk to me, but if I have the excuse of doing a zine and interviewing them, then I have an excuse to talk to people. How long have you been married for?

We’ve been together for twelve years this year, married since 2013.

CP: That’s cool. I’m married as well. He’s great but I haven’t actually seen him in over a year because he lives in Cleveland. It was going to be a situation where I worked on a visa and went over there and he would come here and visit, but because of Covid I don’t know when I’m going to be able to see him again! We speak everyday though.

That sounds so brutal! Having to be apart.

CP: Yeah, I was really upset about it for months at the start of Covid, it was hard to deal with. We have a good relationship. I’ve just come to accept that we’re both living our lives separately and, in the future, we’ll be able to come together. I’m glad that you’re married and happy.

It’s the best when you find the coolest person that you just want to be around all the time. When we met, I was ready to move to America, I was ready to go, I’d had enough of the scene here; I can relate to you in so many ways. I went to a show my bandmate was playing with his other band and my husband-to-be’s band was supporting. I had a really challenging day looking after my mother with advanced Alzheimer’s and seeing Jhonny’s band play brought me so much joy and a respite from some hard stuff that was happening in my life. After the show he talked to me and I told him all about my shitty day and he sat and listened. I had to go home early and a few days later he contacted me to see how I was going and we started trading mixtapes and art through the mail. I realised I simply couldn’t go to America anymore because I had found this amazing person to love and that loved me equally.

CP: Oh my god! Amazing. That’s a love story!

Moving back to music; is there any particular performers that inspire you?

CP: I’ll listen to a record and feel like it’s awesome, then if I see a band live and I feel like they’re going through the motions and there’s nothing actually behind it… when I do my band, I just try to do the best that I can. I hate watching a band where the singer will just stand there or lean on the side of the stage and sing, like; what is this?! I’m here to watch a shredding band and you’re being so blasé. Really play a show or don’t do it! A show that I really like is when you can tell that they’re really fighting for themselves or what they’re talking about. It doesn’t even have to be a punk show, you just have to feel that it’s genuine, I find that inspiring. I remember seeing this hardcore band in Toronto and they were crazy, so great and at the end of the set they hugged each other!

Amazing!

CP: It’s the little things: being genuine and fighting for something. It’s not like they’re out at a protest fighting for rights but it’s their own personal struggle and you sense that, that’s what inspires me at a show. I love watching a band and you feel like they have something to lose and they’re fighting for it.

You moved back to Australia in 2017?

CP: In October, 2017.

How have things changed for you? You mentioned that when you left you didn’t feel accepted or supported here.

CP: While I was gone, I could see that things had started to change. More chicks in bands. Different styles of music had come into punk. When I left, I felt like there was just this guy hardcore scene. From overseas I could see different bands popping up and different people have a voice. The fact that I went away and did a band and came back, people were more interested in what I was doing. At first, I felt it sucked because I’d been around all this time already doing stuff and people didn’t care and now because I left the country and started a band – which I couldn’t do here, I literally had to move to Cleveland – worked hard and did all these tours, now I’ve been acknowledged. There are chicks in the scene and even though they’re not in bands they still go to shows, buy merch and support bands, without them you don’t have a crowd; why are they less important?

I grew up a bit as well. It’s hard because I feel like a lot of my memory from my past is very… I don’t know what happened because it’s been scarred by depression. People will tell me stories about myself and I don’t remember. A lot of my past has been coloured by my own depression and anxiety and traumatic experiences that I didn’t know how to work through as a younger person. When I think back sometimes, I don’t know if I was feeling that bad or if I was feeling and that was the world that I was projecting. Everyone makes mistakes. I think with the punk community most people have addiction or mental problems or they’re battling something and people there can have a little more patience because there is understanding. There are a lot of good people in the scene now. There’re still problems but you deal with them as it comes and hopefully you grow and know better and can deal with them better than you could in the past.

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve had severe depression and had mental health challenges too; what are some things that you do that helps you with your mental health?

CP: I avoided going on meds for a long time but I hit a point about two years ago where I could not cope anymore. I went on anti-depressants and started seeing a therapist, I’ve been doing that for two years. It has changed my life and I do feel a lot better. My level of anxiety is nothing where it used to be. I can talk to people; even just taking a phone call is something I hate; I hate talking on the phone. Your number came up and I was like, just answer it, it’s fine! Before the meds it was definitely a terrible time and I thought I could get through it myself but there was a point where if I don’t deal with this now, I’m going to ruin my relationship and fucking kill myself in some way. My therapist is awesome though. I drink every day, which is a terrible thing. I try to eat as well as I can and go for walks. Through therapy, I try to see my triggers and if I see myself having a panic attack, I work through it. I still have my moments even now.

I have PMDD [Premenstrual dysphoric disorder], it’s basically a worse version of PMS [premenstrual syndrome]. I feel like I’m losing my mind for ten days and then I have my period and I’m ok. I take multi-vitamins. It feels like a full-time job dealing with my mental health on top of working and my hobbies, that can be stressful when I need time to work out my mental health. Even though things have gotten better in society around having space to deal with your mental health, I still find it hard to get that time. That’s my old school mentality creeping in though, my conditioning. I’m glad I’ve taken the steps I have, but I still feel I have a way to go.

Thank you for talking to me about this. I have a health condition – hyperthyroidism – that effects my moods and mental health especially before my period too. I just become so unreasonable and irrational, my brain gets foggy and it’s hard to cope.

CP: Yeah, you feel like you’re going crazy. Afterwards you’re like, “Oh shit!” because you didn’t mean to be a bitch but at the time what you’re experiencing feels so real and you feel people are fucking with you, all these different feelings. When you come out the other side you feel like, “Oh fuck! Now I have to go back and apologise to everybody” [laughs]. It’s so hectic.

Totally! I know you said this week has been stressful but what’s been some good things that have happened?

CP: I’ve been doing the podcast. It was actually Dan [Stewart; Total Control/Straightjacket Nation], that asked me if I wanted to do it. I said, yes, I may as well give it a shot; I don’t know fucking shit about podcasts though. I have been doing the radio show at 3RRR [Teenage Hate] for a few years so I know how to talk in front of a mic and write up a script. He asked me a few months before we did it if I’d been writing for it but I kept putting it off because I was fucking depressed. Finally, I went in and pulled it together! I like talking to people. It’s nice getting to know people’s stories because everyone has some shit in their life and has done something interesting. It’s nice to share my friends’ stories or some weird music that I like. There’s so many people out there doing cool stuff that I think other people should know about!

Please check out Christina’s podcast: Modern Australian Underground. Teenage Hate on 3RRR. Christina’s bands: Swab (on Blow Blood Records) and Vanilla Poppers. On Instagram @blow_blood. Stiches In My Head zine.

Howardian & Japanther’s Ian Vanek: “The future is bright!”

Handmade mixed-media by B.

Ian Vanek is one of Gimmie’s favourite creatives – our editor has interviewed him several times over the last decade. Currently playing in Howardian and publishing his longstanding cut n paste graffiti collage zine, 99mm, Ian’s approach to creativity and positivity, along with his interesting art, has always been inspiring to us. Gimmie chatted to Ian about his forthcoming book Puppy Dog Ice Cream: The Story of Japanther, a tome celebrating his adventures as half of New York art punk performance duo, Japanther. They’ve played atop the Williamsburg Bridge in NYC, appeared alongside synchronized swimmers, with oversized puppets, in the back of a moving truck in Soho, at shows with giant dinosaurs, and BMX bike riders flying off the walls, in castles, museums, galleries, warehouses, painted live while riding a skateboard on a mini-ramp and so much more!

How have you been spending your time lately?

IAN VANEK: Working a lot, I do construction stuff, manual labour. Where I live there’s a big forest behind us, we just go on really long walks, you can see the mountains. We have dirt bikes and bicycles; exercise every single day. We’ve got a really good routine for dealing with all the sadness, chaos and change… just made a really hard and regimented routine, sticking to that has been really helpful. We cook a lot at home and have a really good diet. Trying to stay in that space. Doing well because of those things and some help from some good people.

I know travelling has been such a big part of your life.

IV: Yeah, it’s good to be forced to not get to go anywhere. The last time I went anywhere was January of last year, I went down to San Francisco and worked with these great people from Austria, we did a really cool show at a big museum there and a couple of places. I came back from that and actually got really, really sick… and, who knows? Because nobody really was talking about that disease outside of Asia at the time. I had a rough bout of sickness in January. After that it was, well, ok, just act like you have this disease and make sure your mum and dad are safe; take into effect that there’s greater forces at play and if you just relax, you can ride on top of a wave or you can really drown underneath a bunch of this shit. As we saw in this country, politically you and I come from a punk rock background so seeing this stuff has always been idealised, so when you see someone threatening your state and threaten all the things you grew up around, the very steady things getting shaken, I think that has a lot of people losing their mind while in these quarantine situations. We saw a really good summer here in the United States as far as civil rights and then a sad winter.

Watching it from over here in Australia it’s been crazy to see.

IV: It’s really sad, I wonder about that sometimes from an outside perspective.

In May Outlandish Press is releasing your book Puppy Dog Ice-Cream: The Story of Japanther.

IV: It’s exciting news! That’s something I’ve been doing. I’ve been working with an editor and a publisher. It’s 140 pages. It has a lot of nice photographs in it. I tried for it to be a very broad picture, so a lot of people contributed to it who worked really close with Japanther, they contributed either a paragraph or just a sentence or many paragraphs. There’s some writing by people I love. Just me trying to write down the story of a mystical weird time in my own life of being a young person that was overly driven on doing music and trying to make sure I remember that when I’m an old person, like I am now [laughs]. It’s a kind of a natural idea to do a memoir after a trip that was that crazy.

Totally! You guys did sooo much, all kinds of things. I don’t know if there is another band, at least that I know of, that’s done so much variety of things, playing in so many different situations. You really thought outside the box. I remember you saying early on that Japanther was really an art project more so than a band.

IV: [Laughs]. That was always the idea. That comes from a legacy of bands like Black Dice and Throbbing Gristle, Pussy Galore, Hairy Pussy is another one… there’s all these bands out there that definitely had the idea before us to put your music into the world much more as art and recontextualising that whole concept of – go to a show, get your drink tickets, play on time, do the thing – it’s just so deathly boring and if you’re someone that wants to see anything new, which I think great creators and artists are often looking for something new or unseen or to build something that only they envision, to play with the world and manipulate it a little bit potentially. So, we got to those places definitely on the backs of other people. With even the Ramones where a cartoon image of themselves or they’re brothers out of Queens even though they’re not, if you look at them, they have long hair and the same jackets, so why not? The Misfits are another idea of these ghoulish people from New Jersey, where really they’re just comic book nerds. I love that idea of manipulating. Somehow with Japanther we were really successful with that. I’m proud to be the one that gets to chronicle that. Often times bands let someone else tell their story and tell the shitty parts of their story first and if that’s all you listen to that’s all people fixate on. We’ve been really lucky that we have fans like you that really want to talk to us about this stuff over the course of a body of work rather than just one incident.

I feel really lucky to have spoken to you at different points and each time you’ve been going through a lot personal growth, I always seem to catch you at a time where something interesting is happening.

IV: I thought about that today. When I woke up, I thought of my friend and sent her a text saying: I hope you’re doing well. I love you. Then her husband texted me and said: Maya went into labour! Holy shit. That’s so cool. I feel good today… at least about that and the hope of the future and that those people, not even just the United States but Australia too, that we’ll be able to hand them something that’s just not a big pile of ash and some crumpled up iPhones [laughs]. Like, “Oh shit, that’s what I’m meant to grew my tomatoes in?” I’m just trying to look towards positive things as a responsibility of people like you and I who are in underground art making, publishing and creativity in general, not putting too big of a harness on that concept; putting that impetus on us as a community that we have to hand the world to the next people that are being born.

That’s something I’ve always really loved about Japanther—you’ve always been about community and uplifting people.

IV: We try to be, not always successfully, I’ll definitely admit to my own failures many and great but at the same time I try to be from a place of healing and making music because it’s more positive than doing something negative or aggressive in the world. Even if you want to talk about something negative or aggressive, you’re portraying it rather than committing that negative or aggressive act. Using music as escapism has certainly been at the theme of our making for a long, long time. Trying to provide and share healing with people it’s a really good thing.

How long did your book take to write?

IV: Geez, about five years. I probably started it in about 2014-2015, just plugging away. At first, I set the goal of writing around 5,000 words per year that we were in the band, that to me would equal a lot of words and a lot of pages, and henceforth would have a book [laughs]; that was really simple thinking. When I started collaborating with a publisher and an editor it became a very different project because the English language was put on top of my words [laughs]. Things were separated and weeded out. I really worked hard to keep the voice of the book 100% positive rather than focusing in on any shortcomings, while still acknowledging those shortcomings, as you mentioned before, the personal growth of writing something like this. I’m reminded of something a friend told me – I gave him a different piece of writing that I had in my zine – “It’s interesting. Thank you for sharing this writing but I think it will be most interesting for you to read this in five years from now because this is a big, big thing for you to talk about.” Which was about five years ago now, and it’s true, reading it was like, oh, wow! That will trigger ten more books you could potentially write. That’s a big reason I wanted to do it, cataloging these ideas.

I certainly talk about Australia in the book. That was a big deal for us to get to travel to places like Australia and travel to Russia with our band. I felt like I had beat the final level of the video game and then I needed to get another video game.

What’s the experience of looking back at your collection of thoughts and feelings about Japanther been like for you?

IV: Often at times, really mixed emotions, as I would expect anyone who is grappling with the truth of what happens in their own life. Writing a memoir, you have to grapple with a lot of things you don’t necessary want to go down that road and talk yourself through it or get yourself where you can be ok with it enough to write about it in a positive manner.

Was there anything that was really hard for you to write about?

IV: Oh, sure. I just read the intro to the book again, it’s written by Penny [Rimbaud] from Crass. Crass was a band that started in the mid-70’s and said that by 1984, eight years after they started, that they “were going to be over”. 84’s the year that a lot of science fiction writers’ saw – George Orwell – that it’ll start to be the future. Crass wanted to be done by 1984. Seeing him write the intro to the book and reading back on it he’s musing on coming from England and playing shows with us and where we traveled and toured with him, where we recorded with him, in a really beautiful and poetic way he talks essentially about being with us and being a part of what we’re doing, which we always tried to do with anyone that came in contact with us, is get the involved in the idea and go have fun with it and go smile, go swimming, go to the beach and try to find those moments where you find joy in the process.

Difficult things to write about? Yeah… it was heartbreaking to leave Japanther. All I ever wanted to do was be in a band that got to share a collective experience with people and get into a trance state, get people to dance and smile. Literally babies were born and all kinds of crazy shit happened, this music being a catalyst. It was heartbreaking to let go and to close a chapter of your life, and to write a memoir that says, yeah, well definitively I’m not going to do this thing no more. I’m very serious about not doing this anymore, here’s this published work, it’s what happened if you’re interested in knowing what happened, it’s all there. If you get to the last page, that’s all there will ever be; I like that concept. It’s difficult to do.

That gave me goosebumps! I’ve always wondered what happened to Japanther? You were there one day and then just not.

IV: It’s in the book if you want to read it. I talked to this woman, her name is Bibbe Hansen, she’s incredible artist that is associated with some incredible artists. Her dad was a Fluxus artist [Al Hansen] and her son is a giant rock star [Beck Hansen], but it’s most important to talk about Bibbe because everyone talks about her dad and son. Bibbe is so cool, I met her in Upstate New York. She’s someone that was around Andy Warhol and so many amazing artists. I was talking to her about my book and we were talking about what we were just talking about, closing a chapter of your life successfully, she had immense perspective having seen people that saw themselves as whatever they saw themselves as in New York City, plus seeing her father in that world and seeing her son skyrocket in the music industry. What she shared with me was that everything has an ending, it’s really up to you how you react to that, how you move past that and how you open the next chapter. There’s no magic key other than just going through it, through the process. She said it much better than all that though.

It helped me so much to do something like this. To write the last three or four chapters were really difficult. Dealing with an editor, Will, and dealing with Kyle the publisher at Outlandish Press, they really forced me to push through that stuff because they’re producing a product and you can’t just have a product that vaguely dithers into nothing. I’m excited to be pushed in that direction by an editor because that’s what something like that would take for me rather than just writing ten more albums, which I have; I’ve written ten more albums since then and I feel good about that.

I’m really excited to read it. I pre-ordered it as soon as I saw it was available. I’m glad that it’s written in first person and it’s a narrative non-fiction memoir. I’ve read the introduction by Penny. I found it interesting when Penny was talking about the river, how it flows and how it branches out to other things.

IV: I’ve talked about that too in other writings and also this book. When Penny was staying in our apartment, it’s on the East River, which is more of a canal not really a river but still, it’s a tidal flow and it produces a lot of energy. I live here in the Puget Sound in Olympia, it has an immense energy, it has a tidal flow. The Mississippi River in New Orleans has an immense flow and immense power coming from all of these other places and to me that creates sound, that creates the idea and want to make sound because you’re carrying and gathering all these other energies with great ease or what seems like great ease if you’re able to channel that. Penny writing about a river was another one of those serendipitous moments where it’s; how did you see that?

Did you choose Penny to write it because he’s a friend of yours and he’s had influence on what you’ve created?

IV: He played in Japanther on several records, he talks about that in the intro, he played with us and toured with us. On the night we met, like a lot of the people that we met, we were very clueless as to what was actually happening until someone was like, “You know you were just talking to…?” We’re like, “No. Who?” And people have to tell us. That was just someone who just wandered up to us and we’re like, “Whoa, this guy is a weirdo!” Then when he started playing, we’re like, “Oh, that’s the guy. Oh cool.” He was like, “Can I play with you guys tonight?” We were like, “Without a doubt.” We’re always seeking failure, trying to find a place where you could fail in a really good way and he was in the same place of, let’s just play and have fun and play music, and a lot of people don’t really understand you’re playing music and that’s back to what you were talking about before, an art project—play, experiment, play, experiment, success! Oh success, wow! Failure, failure, failure, failure, failure… I feel really happy about that. Getting to work with Penny from Crass was… like many people that talk in this book, a real gift. We worked with people down in New Orleans like Rusty Lazer and Sissy Nobby, Nicky da B, all these amazing Bounce artists, rappers. We’ve worked with tons of people across the art world that are doing really interesting things, sculptural work, performative work, animation work, had the same attitude of working with Penny: yeah, let’s try it out and see if we can fail and if we don’t fail and we get success, wouldn’t that just be incredible. This book feels like a success.

What does success feel like or look like to you? How do you define it for yourself?

IV: I love underground art. I love print making, zine making so success to me looks like making a print run and getting that print run to someone who wants to read, to fold back the spine and get their hands on it and get inspiration and go, “See, I knew if I bought this little pill, I would get to the next level of what I’m working on. I knew that if I read this book, I would take that risk.” That sounds like success to me. Anything beyond that is just the icing on the cake, so participating in that moment of icing is always fun too, but it’s not always good for you, right? [laughs]. You should just keep your head down and do the next project. Success to me is getting this thing into people’s hands but I’m also looking at the folders on my desktop that are for the next projects. I just published another zine and I plan to publish another one after that and after that and after that.

Then there’s another Howardian album too that’s coming out this year that you’ve done demos for, right?

IV: Yeah, in 2021 we’ll release a record on Starcleaner Records. We just finished our dealings with the people that are going to release it in New York. It’s called Too Big To Be Quiet. I’m really excited about that. It’s another thing that, I just can’t stop moving my hands, in the time [leading up to] we were supposed to be on the phone, thirty-five minutes, I did half a painting. I was like, “Oh, I just have to bang something out while I’m waiting for this stuff to happen.” I can’t stop using my hands which is what I’m trying to say. Making music is a super natural part of my day, I have musical instruments six inches to my left, microphones and drumkit. Collecting 25+ demo songs is really easy, now we’re working on mixing and mastering those. They’ll be mastered by this guy Tim Green, my brother’s mastering them, I love working closely with my brother, I’ve always worked closely with him.

Didn’t you start a record label with your brother when he was fifteen and you were nine?

IV: A different brother, but yeah. That label is still in Montana and still putting out records, it’s called Wantage USA. I have two brothers. My brother Matt is really an audio head and really good at something called 500 Series Gear, it’s digital analogue equipment that you can get big racks of and you can have some very fancy equipment in very small digital form. He’s really good at mixing and mastering. This amazing heavy metal studio called Louder in California, Tim Green, he’ll master it and that’s someone that I was lucky enough to work with as a teenager and we reconnected recently on the internet and I said, “I’d love to mix with you.” Something I read recently that kind of addresses what I’m talking about now; how do you use your government stimulus cheque to spend it on small business and find small businesses? To go, ‘Cool, I have a little bit of money, if I’m going to get something mastered here’s $250 rather than taking that money and going to Target or wherever.’  Just picturing how to use those government stimuluses for good.

I always try and support small businesses and my friends’ businesses, especially my friends that are artists and musicians. It’s important for me to support my community in the way I spend money.

IV: Yeah, it seems like a no-brainer for someone like you or I, it’s definitely something that we have to remind people that, if your friend has a show and it doesn’t even seem like your type of thing, go. There’s a tape for sale for $6; why not give them $10? I have to remind myself of that shit too. It’s a really good practice, I’ve been getting better at doing that, especially in this time of online shopping. If your friend puts up a sweatshirt and you click, click, click and buy it and then forget about it and it turns up and then you’re like, “I know someone who will love this” and you’ve gotten to support a cool person. It’s win-win! I love that idea.

I’ve been enjoying time to reflect and time in silence, having time to read books and doing amateur mechanics stuff in my garage on the dirt bikes, which is awesome. It’s always enjoyable and rewarding to see something you start have a finish to it. You screw it on and it’s ‘Oh, it works and now we’re zooming!’, it’s a really different thing than making a record or painting, which is an ongoing never-ending process or writing which is always in revision, revision, revision. Where the mechanics is very, you better oil it, make sure it works, get it going, do everything you have to do then have fun.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with me?

IV: Oh yeah, that the future is bright! Things will be great. My mom and dad got a vaccine. Soon we’ll all get to that place where we can get a shot in the arm and we can go to punk shows, sweating on each other again.

Please check out Ian’s book Puppy Dog Ice Cream: The Story of Japanther out May 2021 on Outlandish Press (you can read the introduction by Crass’ Penny Rimbaud here too). For Ian’s cut n paste graffiti collage zine 99mm and music go to ianvanek.com. On Instagram: @japanther.

Melbourne punks OUZO!: “Go to Google images and type “Joey Ramone in a pool”. It’s not how I’m living but it’s how I think I am.”

Original photo by Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

OUZO!’s guitarist Nathan Korver and vocalist Aidan Link-Freeman caught up with Gimmie to tell us about their debut EP Dried Tomato, their beginnings, influences and where they’re headed.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s a day in your life like at the moment?

NATHAN KORVER: My day in the life is a bit boring at the moment. I was meant to start an IT course but I lasted a week, can’t do this online learning feels like I’m watching a YouTube tutorial. So, most days I’m looking for work or writing music. Think I’m starting to go a bit insane though, glad gigs are back to get me out of house.

AIDAN LINK-FREEMAN: Go to Google images and type “Joey Ramone in a pool”. It’s not how I’m living but it’s how I think I am.

How did you first get into music?

NK: I’ve always been obsessed with music from a really young age. My earliest memory of music is listening to [Nirvana’s] Nevermind on repeat in the car with my dad when we’d go stay at my grandparents’ holiday house that was about four or five hours away. My mum got me into Green Day at a pretty young age or whenever American Idiot came out? I was five when that came out, I think and that is what probably made me pick up the guitar. But I don’t think I started taking guitar seriously until I was about thirteen or fourteen, which was when I started to listen to bands like Metallica, Silverchair and Black Sabbath.

AL-F: One day I was trekking through the wilderness amongst the native trees of the Dandenong ranges when I reached an opening. Right there floating in front of me was an entity like no other. Half human, half pig. It turned to me and without speaking reached out and handed me a record, I looked down and it was GG Allin live. From then on, I became obsessed with music and its pure beauty.

When did you decide to start OUZO!? Who or what was influencing your sound in the beginning?

NK: OUZO! started out of our drummer Josh [Peeters] and I buying a drum kit together when we lived about a two-minute drive from each other. This would have been early 2019? Then I met Aidan through his partner who is a childhood friend of mine. Josh and I started recording demos and I’d send them to Aidan and he’d put whatever lyrics over the top of them. Aidan and I were super into 60’s garage rock when we first met so a lot of that probably influence the music I was writing and the lyrics he was writing, but around this time was when I started going to local shows in Melbourne so they influenced us a lot and still do.

AL-F: Yeah, was definitely hugely influenced by 60’s garage at the beginning which very naturally turned into a somewhat heavier sound which I’m glad it did because it made for a more unique sound.

Your Dried Tomato EP came out in December last year; where did the album title come from?

NK: When I’d save a demo, I’d always give them silly names and ‘The Martian’s Mistake’ was originally called ‘Dried Tomato’ when I first sent it to Aidan. Then somehow, he managed to add that in as a lyric in the song, it’s right before the bridge section of the song, I think? It doesn’t have any real connection to the rest of the song and Aidan didn’t want to call the song that so I always had that as the title for the EP since then.

Can you tell us a little about writing the EP? Is it a collaborate process?

NK: For the EP it was pretty collaborative, it was always Josh and I writing and structuring the songs then Aidan would put whatever lyrics over it. It’s kind of strange these were really the first songs I’d ever written and I don’t really remember writing the songs or coming up with riffs specifically but more memories of structuring the songs. They were already about a year old when we recorded them so some are probably coming up to two years now.

Are lyrics something that come easy for you or do you have to work for them?

AL-F: I would say they come fairly easy but like everything they come in waves and it just depends on whether or not I’ve caught the wave at the right time. Anytime I force lyrics or feel pressured to write a song they almost always reek of plasticity, like what I’ve written is just to please someone important in the crowd. While I hope people can understand and appreciate my lyrics I have to understand and appreciate them first.

Who are your favourite lyricists and what do you appreciate about their work?

AL-F: I’ve been obsessed with Lou Reed since I was like 16, his writing breaks my heart turns me on and gets me dancing. And yes, I do understand the irony in this considering our song ‘Glorified Junkie’.

What’s the strangest thing that inspired a song?

AL-F: Turning terrestrial television on. That shits wild, Grant Denyer hosts Family Feud and they let sports stars who have no personality open their mouths. Name one memorable thing that Matthew Richardson has ever said. Oh, and there’s somebody that dresses up as a cow and gives random people money. Although… I’m lactose intolerant and if a cow gave me money rather than a sore tummy, I guess I’d be pretty happy.

How long did the recording process take? Nathan recorded it; what are the benefits and/or challenges of recording yourself?

NK: Took a while actually, given Covid restrictions and what not it certainly took longer than expected. Recording was pretty much here and there, the drums were recorded around I think late January or February last year, then I don’t think we continued recording until May? By July it was all mixed and mastered. Freedom is a benefit of recording it ourselves, don’t have any pressure to be like, we’ve got an hour booked at a studio or something and have to get it done! Challenges I’d say is that I don’t really know what I’m doing, I did a short course in sound production at the end of 2019 so I learnt a bit there but have learnt more by myself and YouTube tutorials.

Aidan did the artwork for the cover; can you tell us about the inspiration/idea behind it?

NK: I guess I came up with the concept for the artwork pretty early on, maybe before we had even recorded anything or at least finished mixing it. Aidan got a lot of inspiration from a book too, what was that? Punk 45 isn’t it?

AL-F: Yeah, lots from this Punk 45 book. Basically, just wanted to use bold simple colours like all the great corporations do. OUZO! was never intended to be just a band. It’s also a pyramid scheme.

How did the lockdown period last year test your creativity?

NK: No gigs and no work make Nathan go something something? Go crazy?  Yeah, I think for me it helped? I guess we did a lot of writing, wrote about three times the amount of songs we had prior to lockdown. Our setlist was every song we had. But maybe towards the end of lockdown it started to get a bit stale because for both of us gigs are a main source for inspiration.

AL-F: It help because I wrote heaps of bullshit over that time but once it ended, I had more clarity, but yeah during lockdown I felt there was a lot of pressure to be creative.

Have you been working on new songs? What direction are you headed with them?

NK: We have been working on a lot of new songs, we aren’t deliberately heading in any sort of directions it’s more just we write a song and that’s the song regardless if it sounds like us or not. I don’t want to limit us to any certain ‘sound’ and just be free creatively, it gets boring writing the same thing and I don’t think I could even write a song like something off Dried Tomato anymore. So yeah, the direction is mixed, there’s heavier stuff, synth stuff, quiet stuff, but I’m really excited by them.

Please check out OUZO! on bandcamp; on Instagram; on Facebook.

Adele Pickvance of Brisbane’s Adele And The Chandeliers: “My bass guitar gives me superpowers…”

Photo courtesy of Adele; handmade mixed-media art by B.

Meanjin/Brisbane trio Adele & The Chandeliers play jubilant pop with post-punk energy, full of charm, playfulness and sparkle. Before forming the group, vocalist-bassist Adele Pickvance was a member of The Go-Betweens plus solo work with Robert Forster & Grant McLennan, and did multiple albums with The Dave Graney Show. Gimmie interviewed Adele about moving to Brisbane from the UK as a teen, beginnings as a musician, a love of Pete Shelley, the band’s debut LP First Date and of what the future holds.

You first moved to Brisbane from Bury in Lancashire as a teenager; what were your first impressions of Brisbane? What was the music scene like? Was it an exciting time for you?

ADELE PICKVANCE: I was 15. The smells of Brisbane’s flora and the bugs and creatures… and the heat and humidity really threw me. There were a lot of changes to get used to. My school uniform for one… suddenly I could, and everyone else could, see my white hairy legs. They seemed to glow in the sunlight. My parents promised me a pony in our back garden so I could ride to school, but it ended up being a bicycle to ride to Sandgate High and that was bloody hard work as we lived at the top of a hill.

 I think we all watched too much Skippy The Bush Kangaroo as prep for immigration.

In England, I was listening to music by Depeche Mode, Visage Fun Boy 3, etc and anything on Top Of The Pops and sometimes The Old Grey Whistle Test if I stayed up late enough. My world was BBC radio and TV. The only experience of Aussie music I had was Men At Work. At the time, I had heard of The Go Betweens, but I thought they were a punk band from Germany, not Australia, probably because they were spending a lot of time touring there.

When we landed in Brisbane, it was Radio 10 and commercial radio again. Cold Chisel, etc… I didn’t quite get it… so I was happy to continue to listen to my old mix cassette tapes.

I know that you come from a musical family, both your father and grandfather were musicians. Early on you played violin, who or what inspired you to switch to playing bass guitar?

AP: My dad used to play in the clubs in England as organist and generally with a 3-piece band. One morning I woke up and found a Vox bass guitar on my bed, he told me it fell off the back of a truck! Bass guitar has 4 strings, like the violin, but the other way round, so I jumped onto it quickly.  When we arrived in Brisbane, I had left behind my violin teacher, the youth orchestra and my grandad, who I adored, as we would play violin duets together. There was no music at Sandgate High so the violin stayed in the case and my bass guitar became my instrument.

Can you please share with us an album that has had a really big impact on you? How did it effect you?

AP: At the time, I was soaking bass lines and had a nice set up in the Granny flat underneath the house in Brisbane with the record player and bass amp. Kissing To Be Clever by Culture Club hit me. At the time I didn’t understand my attraction to the album, I just loved it and learnt the bass parts. I’d come home from school, switch on the record player and turn on my amp and play along to it on repeat. Now on reflection, it was the gathering of different types of styles like soul, reggae, pop and calypso. Each song had the magical taste of Soho, London, which was something I was being drawn to. And of course, Boy George and his gender bending was appealing to me.

You’ve had long stints as a member of The Go-Betweens plus solo work with Robert Forster & Grant McLennan, and four albums with The Dave Graney Show; why was it finally time for you to do your own thing with your band Adele & The Chandeliers?

AP: I moved to Sydney in 2010, after playing with recording and touring Robert’s The Evangelist album, and made a record with Glenn Thompson called Carrington Street of which the two of us toured, and I suddenly then realised I wasn’t getting offered the gigs as a bass player that I used to get so frequently and easily. I moved back to Brisbane in 2017 and still the phone didn’t ring, and so thought if I wanted to continue making music and performing music, I would have to form my own band and do it myself.

How does it feel to be the person up the front singing the songs now? Is it ever scary for you? What feeling do you get from playing live?

AP: I might be in denial, but I still feel like I’m not the centre of attention. And there’s something about being a wee older and wiser. It’s never been scary… more exciting and a wee bit nervous which helps me play better. My bass guitar gives me superpowers too! It is a different headspace and I’ve had to come to terms with being the one who is responsible for the maintenance of the band/ keeping it going/ planning, etc… That’s all new to me. I love playing live, I’ve gigged since I was 17. My comfort zone is plugging the jack in to the bass, switching the amp on, testing the microphone and being on stage. It’s not the glory of being on stage, it’s the making of music that’s the thrill for me. I think the audience picks up on the energy and excitement.

One of the first things your band released was recorded during one of the group’s first ever sessions in the studio, the Buzzcocks’ song ‘Love You More’; has this song got a special significance to you? What do you appreciate about Pete Shelley’s songwriting?

AP: I was in a cover band when I was 21 called Torn Sweaters, three girls, guitar, bass and drums, and we did a version of that song. It’s a song that’s always stuck with me, it’s such a great song to play and you have to be a bit brave to sing it, you almost shout it out. When Pete Shelley had passed away, I did a really big deep dive back into Buzzcocks.

The Chandeliers’ original drummer, Ash Shanahan loved to play fast and I believe we ended up recording the song quicker than the Buzzcocks version, which I was shocked about…  as that feels really quick.

The connection I have with Buzzcocks is of course Pete Shelley. I think of him as a queer guy in a 70’s/80’s DIY punk band singing love songs that aren’t about specific genders and I really like and admire that. I like to think my songs are similar… And of course, he’s from around Manchester.

At the end of last year Adele & The Chandeliers released your debut LP First Date; where did the album title come from?

AP: Our album name comes from a band discussion with Scott Mercer and Ash Shannahan when we first started. We felt like we were on a first date of sorts with all those similar questions of: do we want to hang out together? Do you want to commit to turning up to rehearsals? Do we have a connection? And of course, when considering touring: does anyone snore?

The album’s cover photo features your parents, Bill and Alma, at Manchester United Supporters Club, Deansgate, England 1965; was this their first date? Is this why you chose it as the cover image?

AP: The older I get the more I see the nostalgia and hip coolness caught in their black and white photos. They were bohemian types. The First Date cover photo was the first photo of them together. Dad had just finished his gig with his jazz band and mum brought her girlfriend with her as she knew she wanted to chat up the pianist as she had seen him and his band play before. I love this moment where everyone is having a good time sitting on the edge of the stage, you can see there’s a sparkle happening.

How did First Date get started? Tell us a little bit about writing the record. Were many of the songs in your notebooks for a while beforehand?

AP: Two of the songs are from an early solo EP recorded at home in Sydney called My White Rabbit. I released that around 2017. The other Chandeliers’ songs were formed from riffs or chords on the guitar that I record onto my phone, and I make sure I write in my notebook any line or idea I have…. then the two meet. I record roughly into my home studio then send off to the band for us to have a crack at the next rehearsal. We then record the songs at band rehearsal, then listen back and try again next week. When I write, I try to make the songs come quickly. II don’t like to spend a lot of time overworking the words and the music. I try to maintain the initial spontaneity and the guts and vibe of a song in the final result. There’s a chance to think about keyboards and extra guitar parts after the sessions in the studio, when we get the songs home.

How does a song most often come to you?

AP: I generally start with a predicament or a thought and I write notes in my book. I come up with catchy riffs and I play them on my bass and record into my phone and then try to get the two to meet. Generally, in my bedroom. That’s where the good songs come from.

There’s a universal theme of love that runs through each track on the LP; what inspired you to write about love in its many different forms?

AP: Writing about love isn’t intentional. I used to write a lot of miserable love songs with the acoustic guitar in my 20’s and 30’s. I wasn’t miserable, it’s just what I did. As I’ve aged, I’ve turned it around with the Chandeliers to be up and pop… bright, and I guess that’s where the Chandeliers come from – light and bright. Nothing miserable there, up and fun, but I’m still thinking about the curly things about love and the wayward adventures I get myself into. I like to play with it.

Cam Smith at Incremental Records record First Date; what was one of your favourite moments from recording?

AP: Cam creates a relaxed environment in his studio and nothing is too difficult, which encourages everyone. I like to work fast. My favourite moment was when we invited Karin Bäumler to sing her response to the song German On My Mind in her native tongue of Bavarian. Ive known Karin for many years, since 1995 and it was the first time we had sang together. We planted the microphone in the middle of the room so we could both sing into it, face to face. I had no idea what Karin was responding/saying… but it sounded great and we had a ball!

What’s next for you?

AP: I’m writing in my notebook, sitting on my bed, there’s new songs in the pipeline for Adele & The Chandeliers. We’ve been gigging a little, and we’re always looking for shows.  We don’t mind if it’s in a back garden.

We’ve had a change of drummer. My brother Jonny Pickvance has joined us and he’s bringing a new energy to our songs. I feel like we’re going to make some great new work because of the familiarity Jonny and I have, even though we come from different styles of music… Scott, myself and Jonny all have a playful sense of humour. I have a feeling the next record will be even more playful, with a little more splash of old rock’n’roll.

Please check out ADELE & THE CHANDELIERS on bandcamp and adelepickvance.com.

Streetview magazine’s Jack Cherry: “There are more kind people than there are arseholes in the world, don’t let yourself focus on the worst.”

Handmade art by B.

Gimmie loves zines! (independent self-published, small-run, mostly photocopied/printed works). One of our current favourites out of Melbourne is Streetview, a music-related mag created by Jack Cherry from band, Vintage Crop, as well as a host of collaborators (FYI the Gimmie team have contributed to the next issue). Streetview is free available by mail-order. This issue features interviews with The Stroppies, Roolette Records, Christina Pap from Modern Australian Underground podcast/Swab, Quality Used Cars, OUZO!, Ishka from Set-Top Box/Research Reactor Corporation/Warttmann Inc. Records/TV Guide zine and more. Check it out!

How did you first find out about zines?

JACK CHERRY: I think the first zine I saw was a photocopied, hand-drawn tribute to Nirvana. It was in a local record store in Geelong, I didn’t buy it or even really read it; it was just a moment where I realised that people actually make/buy/sell/share that sort of thing. It was years before I ever made one – I think I had to wait long enough for me to think it was my own idea, even though I was probably just copying that Nirvana zine deep down.

What’s some zines you enjoy?

JC: I really like Conscript, which is a graphic design mag that my buddy Darcy Berry (Moth, Gonzo) puts together occasionally. He has done a lot of great design work for Vintage Crop and it’s really cool to be able to see more of his work and he also gets a few other designers to contribute work too.

I also enjoyed the first mag that Meaghan Weiley did, it was just called Issue 1 and it had some real cool content in there. I think she’s still working on the next issue of that too. It would be rude not to mention Magnetic Visions, the zine of the hyperactive Billy Twyford (Disco Junk). GGG is also one of my favourite, your long-form interviews are always engaging and interesting. It feels like people so rarely do phoners anymore that it really helps your interviews stand-out.

What inspired you to start your own zine?

JC: I’ve always dabbled in writing, I started a few different zines over the years but chickened out when it was time to distribute them. I think the big inspiration was just giving myself something that I can dig into and exercise my brain a little. I don’t really have any goal and I certainly don’t want to be the best; I’m just enjoying the whole process.

Why did you decide to make a print zine?

JC: It just didn’t feel real if it’s not a hard copy, I’m not really an in-depth writer and my work tends to gel better as a collection of articles rather than individual pieces on a blog.

Where does the name Streetview come from?

JC: It’s stolen directly from the latest Vintage Crop album, but I made it up so it’s okay. I just think it works so well for the name, it’s the view from the street-level. I’m writing from my own point of view and I’m not pretending to be above the music scene or anything.

What are the things that are important to you when making it?

JC: Highlighting local artists is probably the main thing, and people who don’t receive as much attention as I think they deserve. I also strive to make the content interesting, asking questions that are a little different without being too serious. It’s gotta be fun and fresh otherwise you’re just like the rest.

We love that you have a Pheature Photographer each issue and subscribers receive prints; why did you want to spotlight photographers work?

JC: I think music photography is kind of taken for granted lately, especially given that everyone has a camera in their phone that is of such high quality. There’s an art to capturing the right moment at a show, its actually pretty hard to take a great pic of a band and I just wanted to share some local photographers that do a good job of it. The idea of including prints of their work with each issue is just cool because I feel like a lot of these photos get posted on Instagram or Facebook once and then their buried underneath the ever-consuming news feed. It’s nice to offer them some longevity.

What do you hope people take away from your zine/mag?

JC: I don’t know if I want people to take anything away from it as much, I think I just want people to read it all. I’m trying to slowly expand the content parameters, so that you see a real eclectic bunch of people and bands side-by-side. I love the idea of people taking the time to read an interview with a band that they’ve never heard before and really giving it time of day. It’s easy to scroll past something online and pay no mind, but I hope that people feel a little more inclined to give different things a chance in the physical mag.

What was the last film you watched? Tell us your thoughts/feelings on it?

JC: I saw Tenet the other night at the cinema. I enjoyed it, I’m a fan of Christopher Nolan’s work, even if he does often make things harder than he needs to. I’d recommend it to sci-fi fans but not action movie fans. It was also super loud, which got old after two and a half hours. I was big into Robert Pattinson’s performance too, gave me some confidence for the new Batman film.

Outside of the zine, what else are you working on?

Well, my band Vintage Crop just released a new record (Serve To Serve Again) which was a big process and incredibly rewarding. I also run a little record label called Weather Vane Records and have put out 5 releases this past year, working with some great bands from all over the world.
I’ve been putting the finishing touches on another exciting project which I’ll hopefully be sharing more about early next year. On top of all that I work full-time as a swimming pool technician down in Geelong, servicing pools and pool equipment.

What’s your best non-musical or non-zine related skill?

JC: I’m pretty good at the new golf game on the Playstation, I’m also weirdly good at remembering numbers but nothing else. I can’t tell you what I had for lunch yesterday but I can tell you my best friend from Primary School’s old home phone number.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from 2020?

JC: A good attitude is just as contagious as a bad one. There are more kind people than there are arseholes in the world, don’t let yourself focus on the worst. Pay attention to the kindness in the world and do your good deeds.

Check out and sign up for a free copy: @streetview.mag on Instagram.

Naarm/Melbourne’s Hot Tubs Time Machine: “I laugh ‘til my face is sore.”

Photo: Arthur Twomey. Handmade collage by B.

Marcus Rechsteiner (The UV Race, Luxury) and Daniel Twomey (Deaf Wish, Lower Plenty) have gotten together and made an album under the name, Hot Tubs Time Machine. It’s a delightful bare-bones jaunt of minimal bass, 808 beats, layers of synth, bright guitar and percussion, soundtrack-ing Marcus’ engaging, humorous and very relatable stories taken from his daily, that give us an insight into his world. We interviewed Daniel to get a look into the making of Hot Tubs…

Hot Tubs… is yourself and Marcus from The UV Race; how did you both first meet? What were your initial impressions?

DANIEL: I first saw The UV Race at the Tote for Deaf Wish’s 7-inch launch in 2008. I thought Marcus was a loose unit. He won me over when he sang about M*A*S*H. We were always on the periphery of each other’s lives but I didn’t really get to know him very well.

What sparked the idea for you guys to start working together on this project?

DANIEL: A couple of years ago Marcus and his mate Brent were looking for a drummer and asked Mitch Marks to join them the same week that I suggested to Mitch that we might start something with me on guitar. So instead of getting a drummer, they got me tagging along. I suggested I play bass cos there was nothing else left. Mitch didn’t stick around but I did. It was a really fruitful and joyous six months of making music with Brent and Marcus in a group called Luxury with Steph Hughes joining us on drums. When the first lockdown happened last year Brent (who is from the States) was on a visa run to New Zealand so got stuck there. Not the worst place in the world to ride out the pandemic but Marcus and I were gutted. We miss him a lot.

So, late last year, Blonde Revolver asked us to play a show with them and Marcus suggested we do it as a duo. “But we can’t play any Luxury songs” he said. “We’ll write all new stuff”. So that was the brief. “Daniel, write a set of songs in two weeks and I’ll sing on them.” And that is an accurate description of the process. I write a bass line, put together the beats on an 808. Add layers of keyboard or guitar or percussion. Marcus waltzes in and tells a story over the top and I laugh ‘til my face is sore.

What inspired the name?

DANIEL: Marcus called me Tubs. He called me Tubs for about a year. One day I called him and he answers “Hot Tubs Time Machine.” Three weeks later we need a band name. Two months later it’s on an album cover. It’s a funny old world.

What was the first song you wrote for Hot Tubs? What’s the story behind it?

DANIEL: ‘Pants Off O’Clock’ came first. Marcus had been talking to a friend about that moment that the door shuts and you can leave the shackles of pants behind. They had been reflecting on the extended hours Pants Off O’Clock was experiencing due to lockdown. Pants Off O’Clock around the clock.

What kinds of other things inspire this collection of tunes? We love that each song tells a very relatable story, like ‘Southern Hemisphere Christmas’ and ‘No Thanks, Google Maps’.

How were the vocals recorded? They’re so honest and have such a purity and charm in delivery.

DANIEL: Marcus has spoken to me about how anxious he gets about recording vocals so I knew that I had to create the right environment for him. Recording everything as I went meant that the only thing missing fourteen days after I started working on the songs were the vocals so, I was so keen to get some in the can. I recorded the first lot of vocals on the sly. When I was setting everything up at rehearsal, I ran the microphone through the laptop without telling Marcus. A good chunk of the vocals are from that session. Marcus singing away with no idea the red light was on, sometimes it was the first time he had tried singing on a tune. On those takes you can even hear the rest of the music reverberating around the music room we were jamming in because I couldn’t really put headphones on him without him catching in. So then at the end of all the songs I broke the news to him. “Congratulations Marcus, the vocals are recorded!”

Of course, some needed re-recording so when Marcus arrived a couple of hours early for our annual steak night – long story – I casually suggested he have another crack at the vocals. I purposely set myself up facing away from Marcus – so that he didn’t have the pressure of someone watching him, but set him up behind me – so he could see me laughing at all of the words. Apparently, that is how Stanley Kubrick directed Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove. He got the camera rolling, made sure Sellers could see the effect he was having on him and proceeded to roll around on the floor laughing. So that’s what I did.

Where or how do you think your best song writing ideas come to you?

DANIEL: Marcus says they are usually from conversation. He’ll be talking to someone or himself and thinks “that would be a good idea for a song”.

What do you personally get from creating stuff?

DANIEL: The second lockdown last year was hard. Everyone you speak to experienced it so differently but myself, I really struggled and I know that for Marcus it was even harder. When he asked me if I thought it was possible to pull a set together, I knew how good it was going to be for his mental health. There was no way I was going to say no. I did it for my brain too. I love a project, one with a deadline is even better. Stretching out of my comfort zone and playing a synth for many of the parts was such a satisfying puzzle to enter into. Knowing I only had seven days left and five songs to go was thrilling. Four days left and three songs to go. Two days left and one song to go. The finish line. For me personally, creating this particular stuff was a very enjoyable, liberating process that resulted in a really great gift for a good friend. Watching Marcus sing on the songs and get a kick out performing them a week later was so rewarding. His enthusiasm is painted in bright colours on his sleeves.

Cover Art by Evelyn Nora Hanley

What was one of the most fun moments you had while making the Hot Tubs… album?

DANIEL: I had a silent partner helping me on all of the music. Over the two weeks that I was writing the material, my twin brother was in quarantine. First in a hospital in Bangkok, then in a little place in Vientiane, Laos. He had some recording equipment and instruments with him so he could work on music while he waited the days away so I started hitting him up regularly for ‘bits’ for songs. We spoke every day, multiple times these calls were some of the highlights of the whole process. His whole world was a hospital room for a patch and So the two of us just fell into these songs together. We locked into the twin zone. He served up some very funny shit that didn’t make the record – and some that did. I am still recovering from his bass solo for Hot Tubs Time Machine Theme. Left on the cutting room floor because the world just wasn’t ready.

What’s next for you guys? Will you be playing live shows?

DANIEL: Yes! Sunday the 28th of February we are playing our album launch. A roving, pop-up, public transport powered, guest spot extravaganza. Over the day we will play three busking sets at different locations. Each with a different guest joining us for our set:

  • Bourke St Mall 1pm with my daughter Hetty.
  • Edinburgh Gardens 3pm with Pam, the music teacher at the school I work at.
  • Under the High St Bridge, Merri Ck 4:30pm with Sleeper & Snake.
  • At 6:30pm they will all join us on stage at Avalon Bar.

Please check out: HOT TUBS TIME MACHINE on bandcamp. All profits from album sales go to Djirra in Abbotsford. “Djirra is a place where culture is shared and celebrated, and where practical support is available to all Aboriginal women and particularly to Aboriginal people who are currently experiencing family violence or have in the past.”