Billy from Disco Junk: “People need to be more aware of what their friends are feeling.. not in just an empty “Are you ok?” way.. check up on friends & do things to make them happy”

Original photo by Bridget Angee. Handmade collage by B.

We love Melbourne punk band, Disco Junk! Guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Billy really, really loves music and wanted to make his own so bad he taught himself how to play guitar and recorded his first songs simply using an iPad. At Gimmie we believe that if you really want to do something, you’ll find away—be like Billy! He’s already put out 15+ releases, including a compilation of 32 underground bands to raise money for Australia’s recent bushfire tragedy relief, has a zine Magnetic Visions AND he only turned 18 in January this year!  

How did you first discover music?

BILLY: The earliest memories of music I have are listening to Midnight Oil and Spice Girls with my parents when I was like 3. I guess a more technical definition of me discovering music was when I heard “Warning” by Green Day on some internet video and was sucked into that fandom. I got into local music when I was 15 and one of my mum’s friends told me to listen to Modern Living by The Living Eyes and it changed my entire perception on reality, went from the Beatles to Ausmuteants real fast. Long story short Spice Girls and Green Day!

When did you first know you wanted to make music?

B: I guess after listening to Green Day I started wanting to make music. I’d always been somewhat “creative” but very lacking. Tried painting, drawing, animation, film making and other hobbies for years with no success. But once my aunty gave me an acoustic guitar, I just wanted to do stuff on it, and I started to figure out how to do stuff on it. Once you start seeing some success in what you’re doing it really motivates you to continue, every time I’d learn a new chord or I’d figure out how to open Garageband, I’d just want to do it more.

What was the first gig you ever went to? Tell us a bit about it.

B: The first gig I ever went to was Courtney Barnett at the Palais Theatre, it was kinda weird, Courtney seemed like she was really uncomfortable. I’ve seen her three times since and they where MUCH better. I think the true first gig was Jebediah at Melbourne Zoo, met the band and they were amazing live. I bought my first electric guitar after seeing them in order to try and do what they were doing.

When you started Disco Junk you wrote, recorded and produced all your songs yourself; can you tell us about how you got started? Were there any challenges?

B: I got started by just pointing my iPad at my guitar amp and just pressing record, it was a hellish set up and there where a lot of angry screams trying to get a decent sound. Eventually I just sorta gave up and worked with what I have, which is what you sorta hear on Disco Junk’s Party With Spools Of Tape. I eventually got a lot better at it through a lot of trial and error.

What kind of things inspires your songwriting?

B: Really anything. I’ve had times where I’ve put my heart and soul into it, tried to come up with really deep lines and its just been awful and then a song I write about the film Robots will be (in my wrong opinion) a million times better. The main inspiration is other people, bands like Pinch Points, Rhysics, Living Eyes, Program, Sunnyboys, Lemon Demon and Lassie are some big inspirations right now.

What’s your favourite song you’ve written so far? What’s it about?

B: In terms of released stuff, I think “Outta Melbourne” (which is just meaningless, it’s a bunch of lines I put together) and “Defenestration” (which is just a social outcast song). In terms of UNRELEASED AND EPIC stuff I think “Where’s Bigweld” (the song about the film Robots), “Investment Banker” (a song my dad wrote so I cant really take credit) and “All The Cows Come Home” (which is sort of a self-referential song, in the vein of Ouch!!).

You recorded your “four best songs” in a “proper studio” with Billy from Anti Fade last year; what’s one of your fondest memories from recording your Underage Punk 7” (on Hozac Records)?

B: Really it was just all the time I got to spend with Lachie and Billy Gardner. Lachie (the man behind Under Heat Records) is one of my best friends and he came down to Melbourne from Mount Gambier to do the drums and it was so good to hang out with him. We went and saw Drunk Mums and Meat and it was so good. And it was incredible to spend time with Billy, he’s so switched on and wise and is such an incredible man. I learned so much from talking with him during the session. Also me loosing my voice and trying to order from a burger shop afterwards was pretty funny.

Can you tell us about your favourite gig you’ve played?

B: I can’t decide between playing with Amyl And The Sniffers at Record Paradise and the birthday show I did at Cactus Room. They where both just a bunch of friends coming together to have fun and watch some incredible bands. The energy at both shows were just incredible!

When you first started playing live you were on stage by yourself, right? Were you nervous?

B: Yes! I got offered my first gig by Ishka from Warttmann Inc before I had a band so I decided to just play by myself with a backing track. I wasn’t actually that nervous to be honest, I think I was in such a tight state of fear that I didn’t feel any emotion. But after playing with a live band and having played some more solo shows recently I now get a lot more nervous on stage solo. It’s harder to go back to if that makes sense.

Last year in 11 days you put together a cassette compilation, There’s Gotta Be Hope Right?, featuring 32 bands with money from sales going to NSW and VIC Rural Fire Services; why was it important for you to do this?

B: Well it was important because if I didn’t do it I would’ve gone insane! During the bushfires I was having some very serious mental problems and I found that working on ANYTHING was better than thinking about it. It was a nightmare to do and I still haven’t been able to donate the money because of one fuckwit but it GREATLY helped. I’ve had to start doing a similar thing with the Beer Virus epidemic recently where I upload one song at a time onto the Billiam Bandcamp in order to keep my mind off things (#shamelessselfpromotion).

Around the time you put out the cassette you mentioned online that you had a “panic attack/nervous breakdown about the state of the world”; what do you do to get through this period and manage your anxiety? It can be pretty scary and debilitating!

B: I honestly don’t even know what got me through it. I think the only thing that helps with me is work as previously mentioned. It is really scary and debilitating but some good stuff does come out of it. I’m truly proud of that compilation and I think so far it will be my biggest legacy on Melbourne music and that’s helped me get through hard times since them.

What’s something important that you think more people should care about?

B: I could say environment but thank god people are starting to clue into the fact that MAYBE all these weather events are caused by humans pumping sludge into the atmosphere constantly. But other than that people need to be more aware of what their friends are feeling. Like not in just an empty “Are you ok?” way but in a way where people understand that things they might be doing or not doing really impact other people and that they need to be aware of that. Just check up on friends and do things to make them happy, sending a funny YouTube video or talking with them on the phone does so much more than just asking if they’re ok and saying that you are there.

What have you been listening to lately?

B: A lot! ha ha… Quarantine gives you time to listen to some records. There’s a Chicago band called Spam Risk I’m obsessed with at the moment, they’re really good Eggy nervous punk rock. Other than that a list of bands and artists I really like are Hannah Kate, ISS, XTC, Leeches, Toyotal, P.R.N.D.L., Jungle Breed, Nick Normal, Met Dog and Gonzo. Lots of great music coming out at the moment

What are you working on now?

B: A lot. There’s going to be a Disco Junk album eventually but I need to finish writing it, were releasing a 7 inch through Goodbye Boozey in Italy but that will most likely be delayed but stay tuned. Ruben is working on a solo album of punky psychedelic stuff, Tom is continuing to finish the Aggressive Hugger tape and I (Billiam) am making an album available on bandcamp as I go (meaning I upload one song a day for like two weeks) and I’m writing the next issue of my zine Magnetic Visions (Issue one and two are out now #againshamelessselfpromotion).

Anything else you like us to know about Disco Junk?

B: All the members are actually just really elaborate Muppets.

Video by Vogel’s Video (please check them out for rad underground band vids).

Please check out: Disco Junk. Disco Junk Instagram.

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you first discover music?

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

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

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

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

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

Artwork by Paris Richens.

I love that band.

BILLY: They’re the best!

Did you start playing drums first?

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

What started you off playing them again?

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

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

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

Why did you start the label?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes track lists more important to you now?

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

Artwork by Carolyn Hawkins.

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

BILLY: You know how important it is then.

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

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

That’s nice that it’s all friends.

BILLY: I’m really lucky!

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

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

Art by Paris Richens.

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

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

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

BILLY: Nice! Thank you.

Are there any local songwriters that inspire you?

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

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

Cover art by Eve Dadd. Layout by David Forcier.

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

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

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

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

BILLY: Oh, sweet!

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

BILLY: [Laughs] That’s funny as!

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

Billy: [Laughs] That’s hilarious!

Artwork by Per Bystrom.

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

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

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

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

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

BILLY: Holy moly! That’s a tough one…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BILLY: The launch for the new Parsnip record.

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

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

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

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

Like the EXEK van rolling in Europe?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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