Nellie Pearson From Melbourne Brat-beat Punk Band Ubik: “We’re all sitting at home getting weird because of the global pandemic. Instead of being at all productive… I wear soft pants and play video games”

Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

We love Melbourne’s Ubik with their brat-beat anarcho-punk stylings. They’re inspired by sci-fi & horror films as well as politics; who can tell the difference between the two right now though, with politics in Australia feeling like a sci-fi dystopian horror movie. We interviewed bassist-vocalist Nellie Pearson.

How did you discover music?

NELLIE PEARSON: I grew up with my parents being obsessed with classical music, and being forced/being privileged to learn classical instruments. As soon as I had any independence I started obsessing about modern music, reading old Q magazines at the library as a tween, buying Oasis cassingles etc.

How did you first get into making your own music?

NP: My first band was over a decade ago in Wellington; me and some other young women decided to all give it a go for the first time since we were a bit sick of seeing a heavily cis-dude hardcore scene. Thought it couldn’t be that fucking hard. It wasn’t! mostly.

What’s a record that had a really big impact on you; what was it about it?

NP: Honestly I’m a bit of a song magpie; I listen to my personal greatest hits of every band so often don’t go deep into a full album anymore (since it became an Online Streaming World). I refuse to apologise for this. The two DiE 7”s I was obsessed with for ages. I’m also a huge fan of ’90s British sort of stuff, so the Stone Roses self-titled has certainly had a huge impact on me. Definitely honed my ears for how a rhythm section can work together.

When you first started Ubik everyone had other bands – Masses, Red Red Krovvy and Faceless Burial + more; what inspired you to start Ubik?

NP: Tessa and Ash had plans to do like… an oi band I think? Then I inserted myself and suggested my friend Chris as a drummer. It was his first time in a band and Tessa’s first time playing guitar/writing. We sort of just went from there, had fun and ran with it.

You’ve had a couple of line-up changes; what’s something you can tell me about each person in your current line-up?

NP: Only one line-up change; Max has been the drummer for over 3 years, and we’ve been a band for less than 4. Ash and Tessa own two fluffy weird cats each. Max has a giant young dog and I have a tiny old dog. 

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

NP: My favourite is ‘Sleep’. It has equal doses of dumb head bang and fiddly fun bits for me to play, personally. And good dynamics within the structure. I think it’s just about anxiety induced insomnia, which is something most people can identify with. 

Vid by PBS 106.7fm.

On the Ubik/Cold Meat split release each of you have a homage to amazing women in punk, Siouxsie Sioux and Exene Cervenka of X; why did you chose to cover X’s “Nausea”?

NP: We supported Cold Meat when they visited Melbourne (the first time but not the last time that happened, I think?), and we were all fans of each other. The singers of both bands are redheaded childcare workers called Ash so we were drunk and like hurhurhur Ash and Bizarro Ash (I still don’t know which is which). The split idea happened, and they had done their Banshees cover that night so we thought we’d get matchy-matchy.

Last year Ubik released Next Phase MLP; what sparked the idea to write the songs ‘John Wayne (Is A Cowboy (And Is On Twitter)’?

NP: This is one of my favourites, Ash-lyrics-wise. I believe it’s directed at internet right-wingers, trolls, MRAs, and other general digital filth. Skewering the misunderstanding of “free speech”, and pointing out how “free thinking” doesn’t often overlap with critical thinking.

What about “Peter Dutton Is A Terrorist”?

NP: Peter Dutton IS a terrorist. Music-wise, Tessa wanted to do another very anarcho song, so I always picture myself in a ‘80s squat playing this one. The lyrics that Ash wrote do a great job of expressing the shame and sadness regarding Australia’s offshore concentration camps, and the horrifying treatment that Peter Dutton and other potato-headed fascist stool samples think is justified in regards to refugees and asylum seekers. Just an utter lack of the basics of humanity.

Mikey Young recorded and mixed Next Phase MLP and your self-titled EP and mixed and mastered the Cold Meat split; how did you come to working with him?

NP: The self-titled EP was actually recorded by Adam Ritchie in the same session as the Cold Meat split. Max and Mikey go way back both personally and musically, so it was a great choice. It was very quiet and laid-back, and we were doing it all in one day (minus box) so we all just put our heads down and worked. He was, as usual, impeccable.

Who in the band has a love for sci-fi and horror films? You had song “The Fly” and one of your shirts featured Debbie Harry when she was in Videodrome; can you recommend anything else cool we should check out?

NP: I’m pretty sure all of us are sci-fi and horror fans. Genre stuff definitely goes with the punk territory in general. Me and Ash in particular are big on Cronenberg. Most of it has naturally stemmed from the name (evidently the Phillip K Dick book), and Ash’s specific interests, since she writes all the lyrics. I’ve been watching a lot of ‘90s movies with their visions of futuristic virtual reality; very pretty, very silly, very fun. Apart from the obvious Johnny Mnemonic, recently I really liked Virtuosity, where Russell Crowe plays a virtual reality murderer who crosses over into the real world. 

Have you been working on new music?

NP: Both me and Tessa have scraps of stuff, and we had one or two songs almost ready by the end of the Next Phase recording session. However we’ve all been madly busy, then we toured Japan, and now we’re all sitting at home getting weird because of the global pandemic. Instead of being at all productive while staying at home, I wear soft pants and play video games.

Other than making music do you do anything else creative?

NP: Most of my time is taken up with bands. I used to write but I realised I hate it.  Give me two more weeks of social distancing/isolation and I’ll probably start a podcast, just to make 2020 even worse.

Please check out: UBIK. Ubik demo on Lost In Fog Records/Distro. Ubik’s self-titled EP via Aarght Records. Next Phase MLP via Iron Lung Records. Ubik/Cold Meat split via Helta Skelta Records.

Perth punks Cold Meat: “We just wanted to create music with the raw energy which comes from not knowing how to play your instrument but just needing to get something out”

Original photo by Alex Leech. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

Cold Meat may have released THE punk record of 2020 with their new LP Hot & Flustered on Helta Skelta Records. Their sound resides somewhere in the realm of bands like !Action Pact!, Vice Squad, Crass and early Rubella Ballet. We interviewed them to find out more about one of our favourite Australian punk bands.

When did you first discover your passion for music?

ASH (vocals): My family listened to a lot of music growing up and we were all encouraged to play instruments. I played drums in school and always wanted to be in a band but couldn’t be arsed practicing. It wasn’t until getting into punk and Feminism that I actually developed any real passion for playing music I think.

What’s the best thing about making your own music?

ASH: Being creative with friends and getting to play with great bands!

KYLE (guitarist): For me, probably just the release. I need something to channel my anger and frustration which I can’t express through other forms. That and all the people you meet and make connections with along the way who share a common outlook.

Photo by Alex Leech; courtesy of Cold Meat.

Growing up, who were your musical influences?

KYLE: As a young teen Black Flag, Misfits, Pennywise. Anything that was on the Crusty Demons MX vids.

What brought Cold Meat together?

KYLE: We just got talking about it at parties. Me and Ash had been jamming with her playing bass I think and myself on drums but then we talked to Char and she was keen to play drums so I jumped on guitar and we got Tim in to play bass. We just wanted to do something new that was pretty primitive, raw and energetic, like the late ’70s and early ’80s DIY punk had been. Char had never played drums before and Tim hadn’t played bass. We just wanted to create some music with the raw energy which comes from not knowing how to play your instrument but just needing to get something out.

Can you tell us about the first time you performed?

KYLE: I can’t actually remember it. It was a gig at 208 though. House show. I think it went alright ha.

TIM (bass): It was actually the first time I’d ever played live so I was incredibly nervous! Thankfully it was just in a lounge room surrounded by friends.

Photo by Alex Leech; courtesy of Cold Meat.

Congratulations! You’re LP, Hot & Flustered, was released yesterday (March 20); what were some of the things inspiring it?

ASH: As far as lyrics go it’s a bit of a mix between silly, tongue-in-cheek songs about petty, personal grievances and more serious, sincere songs.

KYLE: After doing a few 7”s we just wanted to do a full length. So we spent a year or so working on that. It’s not a whole lot different from the 7”s I don’t think. Just the kinda usual inspiration – anger, and frustration with current political and social issues and the utterly inadequate ideas and frameworks poised to “solve” these issues, and bands like the Electric Eels, Gang of Four, The Bags. At least for my part.

In the spirit of your record’s title; what’s something that gets you hot and flustered?

ASH: Kyle when he wears his fishnet top and pleather pants.

Is your songwriting collaborative? Tell us about your process.

KYLE: Yeah. I usually just come into band practice with an idea for a song and then we all jam on it and add our parts.

What’s one of your favourite Cold Meat lyrics?

KYLE: “He’s sucking the cock of Cobain” is a pretty good one. Or, “I’m going to spew in your ZZ top hat, because I hate ZZ Top”.

TIM: “He wants to lick your walls and he wants you on all fours” from Crawlers. I must admit I did think Ashley was singing balls for a while. This is not the first time I’ve misheard the lyrics.

Were there any challenges creating the album?

KYLE: Not really. Cold Meat is a pretty easy band to work with. It was more of a struggle writing for an album rather than just a 7” though. Trying to write songs that would fit conceptually and flow.

TIM: The recording went pretty smooth this time. We did attempt to record some noise parts using a vacuum cleaner, metal, glass and a hammer but didn’t end up using it on the final mix. It was still really fun smashing stuff and a great way to wind down after the recording.

Cold Meat are from Perth; how does your environment influence your art and creativity?

KYLE: For me, it probably doesn’t too much. We’re so easily connected now with social media and online content that I’m probably more influenced by what’s going on in the US, UK or Melbourne and Sydney right now. Although of course we did have the Victims, Scientists, Cheap Nasties etc. and I’m a huge fan of that stuff.

The LP’s amazing art work is by Jen Calandra; how did you come to her work? What’s the story of the cover?

KYLE: I think we just came across her work online. I instantly loved it though. I initially came across her black and white illustrations and thought they were perfect for punk art. Although they reach far beyond it too. We just asked her if she’d want to do the artwork for the album and she’s was keen. So, given we were all familiar with her work and loved it, we said she could do whatever she wanted. She came back with an idea and we went with it. I suppose you’d have to ask her if you want some deeper analysis. There’s certainly a feminist bent though.

You’re feminists (everyone in the Gimmie office is too!); when did you first start to realise the importance of feminism?

ASH: I don’t remember a specific turning point but I think going to uni and being made aware of inequalities between men and women in a range of contexts shifted my worldview. I think I was extremely sheltered before leaving school and home. I became angrier and angrier the more I found out about the astonishing rates of domestic and sexual violence, widespread economic disparities, disproportionate representation of women in politics, art, music etc. This was around the same time I discovered Feminist punk, literature and art, and started making connections with super engaged and inspiring women like Charlotte [Cold Meat’s drummer]. I think Feminism is about being vigilant in recognising and confronting inequality but also trying to ensure that the hard work of the Feminists who came before us is not forgotten or worse, undone.

TIM: The Riot Grrrl bands of the ’90s were probably my first introduction to feminism. This was in high school when my friends and I were all discovering music and punk together. Someone lent me a Bikini Kill album and it all started from there!

Photo by Alex Leech; courtesy of Cold Meat.

What have you been listening to lately?

ASH: Special Interest, Soakie, Ubik and Fitness Womxn.

KYLE: Lately, the Annihilated demo, the Electric Chair 7”s, Sandford Clark resissue. A lot of Venom and Darkthrone too. I dunno, guess it’s a sign of the times.

TIM: Nylex, Paranoias, Ubik

What do you enjoy doing when not creating music?

ASH: I teach art at a high school full time which is pretty great and if I get any time outside of that I like to try and make my own.

KYLE: Mostly reading. Study takes up around 90% of my time, that and procrastination. Trying to finish my PhD. I guess I enjoy that sometimes.

TIM: Ocean swims, reading and eating baked goods.

Please check out: COLD MEAT Hot And Flustered. HELTA SKELTA Records.