Billy From Sydney Weirdo-Punk Band Research Reactor Corp: “A theme we talk about is nuclear war, without us being a fucking crust band”

Original photo by Timothy Williams. Handmade collage by B.

Research Reactor Corp. play super fun, goofy, cartoonish, weirdo-punk. We spoke with the Reactor’s Billy and he gave us the goss on a new RRC record, a new band called Mainframe, his new label, a new G.T.R.R.C release and more.  

BILLY: I’m just playing with two naughty kittens in my lounge room right now.

What are their names?

BILLY: We got them two weeks ago, we thought it would be a good time to adopt them. One looks like a sweet potato so we just call him Sweetie or Spudboy. The other one we called Dee Dee, lil’ Dee Dee Ramone.

That’s my favourite Ramone.

BILLY: Mine too, he was bad arse! He’s the only one that had an offshoot hip-hop record. He’s the coolest Ramone, which is a big call. Johnny is a big Conservative and I’m not too into that.

We got that Dee Dee King record as a wedding present. I walked down the aisle at our wedding to the Ramones.

BILLY: That’s awesome! I just love how his vocals are just so rat shit on it [does a Dee Dee impression] I’m Dee Dee Ramone! [laughs]. He sounds like a frog or something.

What have you been up to today?

BILLY: I am lucky enough to still have a fulltime job. I’m a screen printer and in a team of three people. I’ve been printing hi-vis vests for a supermarket all day that say: stand 1.5 meters back. Exciting stuff! [laughs]. Apart from not being able to go to shows, which is driving me insane, because of all this COVID stuff… I’m ADHD, I don’t really like sitting around too much and I’m going a little bit stir-crazy in my house. I have two little cute kittens running around and a girlfriend I live with so things are good. It would be a real lonely time for a lot of people, it’s a weird time to be alive!

We’ve been doing the Zoom thing, which is pretty funny. We’ve been playing this game called Quiplash which is kind of like Cards Against Humanity. Kel who does Gee Tee lives on my block and he has been the guy organising that and streaming it off his computer, it’s pretty funny. I’ve just been checking in with everyone. It was my thirtieth birthday on the 10th of April. R.M.F.C. and Gee Tee were going to play in my lounge room but we had to call it off. I had an ice-cream cake delivered, that was pretty bad arse. Other than that I didn’t do too much.

All live photos by Timothy Williams; courtesy of RRC.

How’s it feel to be thirty?

BILLY: Kind of exactly the same! I feel like a big giant baby! I feel like I’m fifteen. It’s not the end of the world [laughs]. In the two days leading up to it I was like, oh cool, I’m a real adult now! I said that when I turned twenty as well though [laughs]. I still feel like a big kid.

Totally know them feels dude! I’m still sitting on my floor listening to records, doing interviews and making zines, the same thing I was doing when I was fifteen.

BILLY: That’s bad arse! My friend Sam just moved house and he found a skate punk zine we did when we were fifteen called, World Up My Arse. We interviewed some power-violence bands off MySpace [laughs]. We only printed like ten copies and gave a couple away. It was pretty fucking cool, I can’t believe he kept it.

Nice! I have boxes of zines, I’ve been collecting them for around twenty years.

BILLY: I have a lot as well. I’ve just moved into a bigger place than I was in, I live in Petersham in Sydney’s Inner West. My zines are all in boxes too, some are at my parents’ house. I have every one of those Distort zines that DX does periodically. I have a lot of graffiti ones as well, I was into that for a bit.

Same! I was really into graffiti and hip-hop as a kid. You were born in Sydney?

BILLY: I was born in Manly Hospital in Sydney in 1990. I grew up on the north side of Sydney in a place called Narrabeen. When I was eight, I moved to the Gold Coast of all places for my stepdad’s work and was there for a couple of years and then came back to Sydney. No matter where I’ve visited in the world, I always say that Sydney is my home and it’s great to come back to. I have lots of time for Sydney! I don’t know why grumps in Melbourne always go “Yuck! You’re from Sydney?!” It’s weird. I was born and bred in Sydney.

What made you want to play music?

BILLY: It’s a weird one for a kid, but I think the first CD I got was the South Park Chef Aid one. I remember thinking it was so funny because they were singing about balls! [laughs]. My dad has always been into music and goes to gigs, he grew up seeing bands like The Riptides, The Scientists and stuff like that. I was lucky enough to have a dad that had a pretty decent record collection. It’s a bit disappointing that he kind of sold his record collection about fifteen years ago to go on a trip to Europe, so I missed out on that.

I got a Limp Biscuit CD… and the first CD I bought with my own money other than the South Park one was Elvis Costello; my dad drilled stuff like that into me. Then I got into NOFX and things just went from there. Music is the only thing I’ve ever really given a shit about, besides my family, and maybe skateboarding at some points in my life. I just spend all of my money on records and sit in my house listening to them. My friends and I constantly send music to each other too.

Even as a little kid I loved music, my mum always tells this story of when I used to put on ‘Cake’ which is a Crowded House song—I fucking hate Crowded House as an adult!

When did you first start making your own music?

BILLY: I did the whole booking in the music room in high school thing and tried to rip off bad hardcore bands when I was fifteen. My uncle is a professional soloist drummer so I was lucky enough to have the hook up for cheap drum equipment. I started playing drums when I was ten. As soon as I was fifteen I worked out that I don’t want to play drums in a hardcore band or a punk band because it’s too tiring, you have to bring gear!—I know that’s lazy though [laughs]. I played in some really cringe-y garage and hardcore bands in high school that didn’t make it past playing a few shows at youth centres.

I didn’t really play music for a while and then with the Research Reactor stuff… Ishka the other dude that does it, it’s just him and I, we make all the stuff and then do it as a live band. We have an LP coming out E.T.T. [Erste Theke Tontrager] in Europe and Televised Suicide is doing it in Australia soon; we’ve got it all mocked up and the tracks are done… it just depends how long it’s all going to take with all the pressing plants being blocked up because of Coronavirus.

What’s it going to be called?

BILLY: The Collected Findings Of The Research Reactor Corp. It’s basically our first two tapes and then a couple of new songs. Ishka who I make the music with, it’s just us doing it in our bedrooms, all home recording stuff. He’s a wizard at that stuff, I fucking suck at it! He plays in a thousand bands: Set-Top Box, all of the recordings are just him; Satanic Togas, all of the recordings are just him; on the last Gee Tee Chromo-zone record he does half of everything on the recording. Ishka is a big ol’ powerhouse! He’s awesome, he’s such an inspiring dude. It’s so cool that he is one of my best mates and that I get to make music with him.

I saw his band the Satanic Togas play, I had heard them online but didn’t know anything about the guys. They blew my mind and straight after the set I walked right up to Ishka and was like “Hey man, that was awesome! I’d be willing to beat money that you’re into The Gories and The Mummies” and he was like “Whoa! Shit! They’re my favourite bands!” We exchanged numbers and found out that we both wrote graffiti and were familiar with each other’s words and stuff. It turned out that he was living in the same suburb that I was working in, so we just started hanging out together. We just get in the lab, smoke some reefer and see what happens [laughs]. It’s super funny!

The first Research Reactor tape, the first song on it, Ishka just recorded everything and I basically just one-shotted the vocals! It’s good ‘cause we’re into a lot of similar music, we see eye-to-eye. It just works. If Ishka has a day off and feels like making a song, he’ll send me the recording, a demo, while I’m at work and I might duck off to the bathroom and think of a cool line or idea for the song and just jot down notes in my phone. When I get home I’ll write the song and Ishka is a five minute walk away so I’ll go around and record it. He’ll then do some mixing on it and we’ll take it to practice or to the band and put it on our Facebook chat and ask them if they like it and we all just learn to do it as a live band from there. It’s a cool way of doing it. The new LP we have coming out, the two new songs on there are written with everyone playing on it; it takes longer to record that way though.

What are the new songs about?

BILLY: [Laughs] Well, one of them, it’s actually a bit of a debate, I wanted to call the new song ‘Frog Willy’ or ‘Frog Penis’ but it has no relevance to the lyrics whatsoever! I think it’s ended up being called ‘Shock Treatment’ and it’s about eating heaps of eels until you explode and sticking a fork into an electrical outlet and basically zapping your brain.

What inspired that?

BILLY: [Laughs] We’re definitely a goofy band! Which I guess it’s why it’s so fun to write and play the stuff. Obviously we take a lot of influence from Devo and The Screamers. Without trying to be too much of a theme band and flog a dead horse with the same idea all the time, initially we thought we’ll create a story for it and pretend it’s a corporation. A theme we talk about is nuclear war, without us being a fucking crust band, we’re more like ‘The googles do nothing!’ off The Simpsons [laughs]. We’re like a goofy the-world-is-ending-but-who-cares thing. It’s like we’re a cartoon or like Toxic Avenger or [Class Of] Nuke ‘Em High! We’ll see a scene of like a guy’s face melting and think it would be funny and use it like, oh your boss’ face is melting because you threw a chemical on them, and we’ll run with that and write a whole song about it [laughs].

We take little shreds, little elements of bands we like and make it our own. Me and Ishka are big fans of a lot of the goofy stuff coming out of the Midwest of America. The Coneheads are obviously a big one or CCTV or Goldman Sex Batalion, Big Zit, a lot of the bands that Mat Williams and Mark Winter from Coneheads are associated with. We just make music we like and it turns out we like goofy, silly music [laughs].

It’s nice that people come and watch us play but I think we’re more outskirt-ish in comparison to your bigger Sydney punk and hardcore bands. I love cranky punk and hardcore but it all just seems a bit serious, a whole bunch of people standing around in a room with their arms crossed looking pissed off is just really weird! It’s nice that people just come to our shows and just dance and be a goofball. We’re lucky that all of our best friends play in bands and they are all such cool people like Gee Tee and R.M.F.C., ‘Togas, Set-top Box. I find it really flattering when people say we’re all “the weirder Sydney punk bands”. I feel like no one from Sydney ever says that though…

That’s so often the case with a lot of bands, they’re unappreciated in their own town or country but people in other places, people all over the world super dig them! Look at a band like King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, they play sold out huge shows all over the world and then they’ll play somewhere here in Australia and sometimes don’t fill the room.

BILLY: 100%! I didn’t realise how huge they were until recently, it’s mental. Now days you can just get in contact with pretty much anyone, you just DM their Instagram. I try to get a conversation rolling with bands overseas that I’m listening to. It’s cool that a lot of Midwest American goofy bands and the guys from R.I.P. Records and Lumpy Records know who we are.

We were supposed to be touring America, Gee Tee and R.M.F.C. were too, on a touring festival that was meant to happen – I think it still will down the track – in July with a lot of our favourite bands but the big Corona did a big shit on that! I guess it just gives us time to hang at home and record. I have a full band room set up in my house at the moment. I’m trying to teach myself how to play the drums fast again, I’m sloppy as at that right now.

We’ve been doing an “email band” like if you know someone that has a home recording set-up, even if it’s someone overseas, you just message and send each other bits of songs for the other to do stuff over. We’ve been doing that and so have some of our friends which is pretty of the time. We just did four songs with this guy Sean Albert from the Midwest who plays in bands like Skull Cult, QQQL and Dummy. We want to put it out as a 7”. We did a new band with that guy with me singing. It’s pretty fun!

Cool. Do you have a name?

BILLY: Yeah, Mainframe. Hackin’ the mainframe! [laughs]. We’ll probably put it online soon. We still have to do synths on one track. It’s just me, Ishka and Sean.

What’s it sounding like?

BILLY: I’ve played it to a couple of people and they said it’s kind of fast Gee Tee, which isn’t much of a stretch. Sean is a fucking drum machine wizard! He’s so good at getting drum fills in, kind of like that guy from Urochromes. He’s a drum machine Don! I don’t know how he does all the crazy shit.

We had a 7” come out on Goodbye Boozy from Italy in February at the start of the year.

That was the split with The Freakees?

BILLY: Yeah! In the same drop of 7”s that he did, Belly Jelly had a 7” we really dug, there’s a Nervous Eaters cover on the 7” that was fucking awesome! I followed him on Instagram and because we can’t really play shows now, I thought let’s just hit him up. He sent us two tracks the next day and then two days later he sent another two. Just on the cusp of all this Covid stuff happening Ishka came over with all this recording stuff. It’s sounding really good. We’ve actually been pretty fucking productive lately.

We do this thing called G.T.R.R.C. where we do all of these goofy covers, it’s half of Gee Tee and half of Research Reactor. We put out a tape about a year ago on Warttmann Inc. and now we’ve just recorded the second one. I’ve done vocals for three covers on it but it’s kind of turned into a comp[ilation] now. Adam Ritchie of Drunk Mums, Grotto and Pissfart Records did a couple of covers, so did Drew Owens from Sick Thoughts, Kel Gee Tee did vocals on some and Jake from Drunk Mums did some too.

What were some of the covers?

BILLY: One of them was ‘Job’ by The Nubs and I did ‘Trapped In The City’ by Bad Times, a band Jay Reatard sung in. I thought they were both appropriate covers to do given the times. It sounds a bit farfetched but I kind of want to cover ‘Karma Chameleon’ by Culture Club at some point. In our live set we used to cover ‘Rock & Roll Don’t Come from New York’ by The Gizmos and ‘I Don’t Know What To Do Do’ by Devo; we had those cover in our set because we didn’t have enough of our own songs at the time. I’d love to cover – sorry for biting this off you Drew Owens, he’s doing in on the G.T.R.R.C comp – ‘Killer On the Loose’ by Thin Lizzy. I love Thin Lizzy a lot, they’re the most bad arse rock n roll band going!

Is there anything else that you’re working on?

BILLY: I’m setting up my own little label at the moment it’s called, Computer Human Records. I’m about to pay for my first vinyl release. I’m putting out a 7” by a band called Snooper that are from Nashville, they’re relatively new but if you like Devo, CCTV or Landline or Pscience you might like them.

That sounds totally up my alley!

BILLY: Cool. They only have a couple of songs online. Blair the singer is a school teacher and she’s really great at video editing. She has a real wild style where she makes everything look like a children’s show or like Pee Wee’s Playhouse!

Also, we’re on a 4-way split 7” with Nick Normal, he recently just toured Europe and Lassie was his backing band. The split is months away though!

Please check out: RESEARCH REACTOR CORP at Warttmann Inc. RRC on Instagram.

Gee Tee: “I just wanted to make some less serious sorta music, makes it easier to record everything by yourself too”

Handmade collage by B.

Gee Tee started out when its creator Kel began creating tunes solo in his bedroom on the Gold Coast. Gee Tee’s music is a touch unconventional, a little weird, humorous, lo-fi, buzzy, maxed out, wobbly and highly entertaining – think somewhere in the ballpark of Geza X, Dow Jones and the Industrials and Scientific Americans. Now residing in Sydney and having a full live band we’re excited to see what Gee Tee does next! We interviewed Kel and he told us of his beginnings, how he creates and lets us know what’s coming up.

How did you first get into music? Are there any albums that are really important to you?

KEL: My dad introduced me to music when I was a kid, he’s heaps into ‘70s and ’80s UK punk and Oi + a lot of late ‘80s and ’90s alternative, Dinosaur Jr, Flying Nun Records bands etc. Some of my favourite albums and bands though would be: Buzzcocks – Another Music In A Different Kitchen. D.L.I.M.C – Cassingles. Sickthoughts. King Khan & BBQ. Nikki and the Corvettes – Self-titled. The Spits – V. Set-top Box. Useless Eaters – Zulu. Ramones – Leave Home. Nancy – With Child. R.M.F.C. Jay Reatard. Satanic Togas – Chain Reaction. Muff Divers – Dreams of the Gentlest Texture. Research Reactor Corp. Devo. P.U.F.F – Living In The Partyzone. Ausmuteants – Order of Operation.

What was your first concert? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

KEL: Never went to concerts when I was younger hey, first big show I can remember going to would be Thee Oh Sees back in 2013.

You first started Gee Tee while living on the Gold Coast in 2016; what inspired you to start making your own music?

KEL: Yeah I guess I just wanted to make some less serious sorta music, makes it easier to record everything by yourself too. I was in Draggs at the time and that was sort of wrapping up. So thought it was a good time to start something new.

What’s the story behind your name Gee Tee?

KEL: It’s off these 1970’s trading cards/sticker series Odd Rods, its hell mongrels in blowout cars, real similar to “Ratfink” Ed Roth drawings. There’s a Gee-Tee-O card in the first series.

All the early Gee Tee stuff is written and recorded by yourself; can you tell us a bit about how you go about making a song?

KEL: It used to be mainly recording drums first with no idea on how the songs gonna be then hoping for the best keeping the original drum track/take. But I don’t have a kit set up in Sydney, so I use a drum machine to demo the songs on Ableton then re-record the finals on tape with a kit. Synth parts are just mucking around till something sounds right and vocal bits the same. Neanderthal stuff.

What kind of set-up do you use to record?

KEL: The drums are recorded on a Tascam Portastudio 2 then the rests recorded on a Yamaha MT1X or a MT4X. Using a mix of these AKG 190e mics and Shure 57/58’s. All the overdubs, backup vox/ synth etc. is done on Ableton.

What are the kinds of things that inspire you lyrically?

KEL: Just easy to remember choruses and lyrics + stuff I’m not gonna forget. Used to be full on car only themed tracks but that’s changed over the last year, only so many songs you can write about the same thing before you get burnt out on it.

What was the first song you wrote; what was it about?

KEL: “Flame Decals” was the first track I wrote and recorded for Gee Tee, pretty self-explanatory and pretty stupid haha!

What prompted the move to Sydney?

KEL: Just not a lot happening on the Gold Coast, in my opinion. It’s a chill place to grow up but there’s no weirdo music scene and barely any overseas bands that I like would come through on tours. I was friends already with a couple of people in Sydney too.

In October last year you released Chromo-Zone as a digital album and on cassette tape, it’s the first Gee Tee release featuring someone else, Ishka Edmeades (Set-top Box, Satanic Togas, Warttmann Inc); how did you come to working together?

KEL: I was living with Ishka for a couple of months when I moved to Sydney so it just kinda happened. He’s got a similar drumming style to me as well but better and can rip lead guitar. For the new Gee Tee tracks Ryan Ellem who plays drums in the live band and runs, Slime Street Records, is gonna be on ‘em mostly.

You also do the art for your releases, it has a real distinctive style; what influences it? Do you hand make it? Is it cut n paste?

KEL: Yeah, it’s mostly cut and pasting stuff outta old magazines then scanning it. Big fan of old punk posters, zines and the art/visual style of them. I still use a PC though to add extra bits etc. so it’s not all physical.

Were there any challenges in taking the Gee Tee songs you wrote by yourself to a full band live set?

KEL: Yeah, some of the songs just don’t work live, e.g. “Hot Rod Juice” and “Commando” don’t come off the same as they do in the recordings. Compared to songs like “FBI” and “I’m a Germ” which are smokers live!

What’s been the best and worst show you’ve played so far; what made them so?

KEL: I reckon the best show we’ve played recently was at the Lady Hampshire with Research Reactor Corp, R.M.F.C and Set-top Box. Heaps of people came out + playing a set on the floor is sweet! Also, playing The Tote for Maggot Fest was smokin’!

For the worst show I dunno, played a fair few stinkers when I was in Draggs. Wack greedy shit like bookers sending you an invoice for $50, when the venue was sold out! Getting set up playing with bands that are dickheads, etc. 

Have you been working on any new music; what can you tell us about it?

KEL: Yeah for sure, I’ve been working on recording tracks for a couple of 7”s and a LP. Not sure when they’re gonna be out though. A new G.T.R.R.C covers EP has been recorded that’ll be out in a couple of weeks on cassette, maybe on a 7”. Possibly a few guest rocker cameos on this one too from Melbourne and USA.

Vid GEE TEE @ Buz’s birthday bash footage by video. ezy (converted by Gordo Blackers, 60% of footage recorded by Gio Alexander).

Please check out: GEE TEE bandcamp. GEE TEE on Instagram.