Alien Nosejob’s Jake Robertson on new record, Paint It Clear: “Hopefully it will mean something to somebody.”

Original pic by Carolyn Hawkins. Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

One of our favourite creators, Jake Robertson (you might know him from Ausmuteants, Hierophants, School Damage, Swab, Drug Sweat, SMARTS and more) is back with a new album for his solo alter-ego project Alien Nosejob. Paint It Clear is ANJ’s fourth full-length. 11 brilliant tracks mixing post-punk with 80’s new wave and even a little disco. Recorded by Mikey Young, the record has ANJ sounding more dynamic and brighter than ever. Gimmie loves Jake’s quirky, humorous and wry observational lyrics and skilful songcraft. We’re excited to share with you, the first track released from the ANJ camp in thirteen months ‘Leather Gunn’ along with our chat with Jake, a sneak peek insight into the forthcoming album.

JAKE ROBERTSON: I’ve been working a lot, it’s taken a toll, I’m basically always tired. I still have a job, which half of my friends don’t since Covid, so I’m pretty lucky in that respect. It’s hard to come home and be motivated to do anything.

When we spoke the other day, you mentioned that you’ve been having a little bit of a break creatively, and that you’ve spent most of your spare time just chilling watching TV and reading.

JR: Yeah. I’ve been reading a bunch, and watching heaps of TV. Kerry my housemate, when he moved in, he brought a giant TV with him; we’ve been going to town on it. It’s the first time that I’ve had a television in ten years—I’m lovin’ it! [laughs]. It’s so good. I’m still writing heaps; I’m constantly writing in-between watching The Righteous Gemstones or whatever.

I feel like maybe a year ago, when I was working a little bit less, I’d finish work, come home and do music for a bit, then go see some mates. Since lockdown has happened, I can’t really see friends, and sometimes can’t be bothered doing music. It’s weird, like I’ve kind of got extra time, but I don’t [laughs].

I feel like you’ve been pretty prolific and released a lot over the last few years though.

JR: Yeah, I have. But everything I’ve released, even the album you’re interviewing me about, most of that was written a while ago. I probably would have recorded it around the time the last Gimmie interview happened.

Yeah, it was around November 2020.

JR: Yeah, that was when I recorded it, but some of the songs were written around 2015, at least the embryonic versions. I’ve just touched them up a little bit.

Having a bunch of songs you’ve written over a long period of time, how did you decide which ones to use for this record Paint It Clear?

JR: The majority of the stuff that I do under the Alien Nosejob name was written with other bands in mind. One or two of them were potentially going to be an Ausmuteants song back in the day. One of them was going to be a Leather Towel song. I have a little log of all my half-finished demos that is written up and pasted on my wall. Every now and then I’ll listen back to something and go, yeah, I could do something with this.

It’s interesting that you said a few of the songs were written with other projects in mind, I had wonder that, because I got that feeling from listening to the album. Jhonny and I were talking about how it doesn’t have one particular sound like other Nosejob releases. I commented that tracks sounded like a Ausmuteants track or even Hierophants or even reminded me of the Nosejob Italo-disco album. The album feels a little like an amalgamation of all the stuff you’ve done.

JR: Yeah, kind of. When I was putting it together, I was trying to be conscious of not making it sound like it’s being too influenced by something else, even though there’s definitely a couple of songs where I’m like, ‘Oh, I was listening to a lot of The Cure’ [laughs]. I haven’t listened to it since I got the test pressing in February. It’s like The Cure with a crappy singer, not Robbie Smith [laughs]. Those two songs are ‘Clear As Paint’ and ‘Duplicating Satan’, which is the Italo-disco-sounding one you were talking about; I remember trying to make it sound like ‘The Walk’ by The Cure, one of their singles from 1983-ish. Hopefully it doesn’t actually sound like it, but I was definitely going for it.

I can totally hear the in there. What can you tell us about the album’s title Paint It Clear?

JR: [Laughs] I literally just jumbled the words of the song ‘Clear As Paint’ around. That song and the title, it was an amateur attempt of a contranym, like painting something clear. If you painted something clear it could be see-through, like glass.

Nice. You mentioned you’ve been watching a lot of TV and films. I love movies, I have since I was a kid. I’d go to the video shop with my mum and we’d get out twenty VHS is $20 for the week. What have you been watching?

JR: We had a very similar upbringing, Bianca. We’d get seven weeklies for $7; you’d pick them up on a Thursday, spend the week watching them and then pick up another seven when you brought those back the following week. I did that from when I was about eight until I was eighteen. It would be a weird week if I didn’t get out at least three videos.

Rad! Whenever I look at those 1001 movies you have to see before you die or 100 best movies of the 80’s and 90’s lists, I’ve seen most of them except for a small handful of titles.

JR: In that 1001 movie list there’s probably another 800 I’d need to see! [laughs]. I’d watch and lot but also rewatch a lot.

Pic by Carolyn Hawkins.

What are some of your favourite movies?

JR: One of my favourite movies lately, because I’ve just rewatched it is, Blue Murder, the mini-series. I created a Letterboxd account the other day, so I was actually thinking about this. I really like the movie The Vanishing, it’s a Dutch one. It’s good if you’re a fan of eerie-ish horror movies. It’s so good. Not the remake with Kiefer Sutherland, but the original. I watched Blood Simple with my housemate, it was awesome, I’ve never seen it before. Movies! Woo! [laughs]. I love Mean Girls and stuff like that as well.

We were talking about comic books before too; I was a really big fan of Ghost World growing up and still am now.

I love ­Ghost World too, and the Mean Girls movie is a classic!

JR: You have to mix up the arty ones with the blockbusters.

For sure. I can’t watch too much of anything at once, mixing things up is essential. For example, if I’ve watched a run of horror movies or true crime, I have to watch something nice and fun and not dark and brutal.

JR: Yeah, it’s time for a Pixar movie! [laughs]. Pixar know how to rip your heart out more than anything else. I feel like the only time that I shed a tear is when I’m watching a Pixar movie [laughs]. The last time I got on a plane, which seems like a long time ago now, I thought it would be a good time to watch the Pixar movie Up. I feel very sorry for the person that was sitting next to me because I was crying, slobbering all over them [laughs].

Awww [laughter]. So, the first single for your album will be ‘Leather Gunn’…

JR: Yeah, it is. When Billy [Anti Fade], Sam [Feel It Records] and I were thinking of what the first single off the album should be, we were like, we’ll each say our top three. That wasn’t in mine, but they both had it in theirs, they have the outsider perspective. To me, all of the songs, I just shit them out and I’m done with it [laughs], I don’t think about them anymore. They both had that song first, so I was like, ok, let’s do that one first.

What was happening when you wrote it?

JR: John Douglas who plays in Leather Towel with me, he was moving back to Australia from New Zealand and we were talking about doing a new Leather Towel album. I was trying to come up with something that sounded different to the first album; that was the only song that I wrote for it. We played two or three gigs, then Covid happened and he went back to New Zealand. We didn’t even get to try that song as a band. It seemed at the point where it probably wouldn’t happened, so I made it a Nosejob song. I kept the ‘Leather’ in there as a nod to that, and the ‘Gunn’ was because the original demo of it, the guitar was single note surfy, like a Peter Gunn da na da na da na na na. Lyrically, it’s about people not doing what they’re told no matter how minuscule and pointless or petty the thing they’re not doing is.

What are the songs the you really love on the album?

JR: I really like ‘Duplicating Satan’.

Was that one of the songs on you top three list?

JR: My list was ‘Duplicating Satan’ and ‘King’s Gambit’ (which will be the second one released, I wrote it in 2015 but never put lyrics to it) that was probably my best written song on the album, it took me ages to write it. The other song is the last one ‘Bite My Tongue’. I get why that wouldn’t be a not-released-before-the-album-comes-out one. That’s another one that took me ages to write. It took me ages to learn how to play it too. ‘Bite My Tongue’ and a few songs that I have, are about… you know when you have a thought or a way of feeling about a certain situation but you can’t find the words to get it out. It’s almost like a block and you just can’t say your mind. It’s a feeling I have sometimes, I can’t even tell myself what it is. Basically, it’s about a mental block and not being able to get your words out properly.

I get that, it makes sense.

JR: Kind of, I think I was trying to make sense of it in the song. Hopefully it will mean something to somebody.

I really love the song ‘Jetlagging’ on the album.

JR: That one was originally written with Ausmuteants in mind, I wrote the lyrics on an Ausmuteants tour, travelling 400kms a day and just eating the same meal over and over again. It’s a very my-first-tour, Tours’R’Us or Tours For Dummies lyrics! [laughs]. I really love that song too.

Also, I love ‘The Butcher’ which is before ‘Jetlagging’ in the album sequencing.

JR: A couple of years ago, I was getting obsessed with Terry Hall and Fun Boy Three. I was trying to write something a little bit from that camp, and The Zombies’ song called ‘The Butcher’ as well; it was definitely an influence on it, but I didn’t mean to call it the same song [laughs]… I’m kind of noticing that now.

I got Mikey [Young] to record the drums; he recorded the drums, bass and guitar for the album. Except for ‘Duplicating Satan’ which I recorded at home, and ‘The Butcher’. I couldn’t work out what I had played in the demo, I had to drag the demo out and stretch it over the drums that I played. I don’t think anyone else will notice this, but if you listen closely the drums and the rest of the music keeps on going out of time because of that. I tried to relearn how to play it, but after a while I was like, I can’t be bothered! [laughs].

Is it weird sometimes listening back to your songs and being able to remember what was happening in your life or what you were doing at the time of writing or recording it? Kind of like having a sonic diary.

JR: Yeah, it is. I might think something is not about something, but it will be. I’ll generally listen to an album that I’ve done when I get it on record, and that’s it. I actually listened to an Ausmuteants album, Amusements, the other day, it was the first time since we recorded it. It was a nice feeling; I definitely like it more than I thought I would. It was good to have an eight-year distance of not hearing it, it was recorded in 2012 or 2013. I won’t rush to listen to it again [laughs], but I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I did.

Album art by Nicky Minus.

Who did the album art for Paint It Clear?

JR: How good is it?!

Really, really good! That’s why I was asking, it’s very cool.

JR: It was done by Nicky Minus. They grew up in Hornsby in New South Wales, but they’re living in Melbourne now, and does a lot of work for the Worker’s Art Collective doing a lot of work for Union. I got onto them by following Sam Wallman who is a comic book artist/cartoonist.

Is that the same Sam who has done artwork for you before?

JR: Yeah, he did the first Ausmuteants 7 inch in 2010. I’ve been following his stuff before then, he’s besties with Nicky, I saw their stuff through that and was blown away by it. I just bought some of their art for my wall, and because I look at it every day, I was like, it could suit this album. They were into it, they wanted to make something from scratch. I’m glad they did and am super happy with the way it turned out.

What else have you been up to of late?

JR: I’ve been doing some home-recording with Vio [Violetta DelConte Race] from Primo! I’ve loved her songwriting for ages, she has a good idea of space, if it doesn’t need to be played, she won’t; the way I play is the opposite of that [laughs]. It’s kind of inspired by Michael Rother, and sounds basically like School Damage and Primo! If I could sound half as good as Primo! I’d be happy. It’s called Modal Melodies. The only rule of the project is that we’re not allowed to play live, it’s just a recording thing.

Cool! I can’t wait to hear that. I love Primo! too. They’re all such incredible songwriters.

JR: There’s a new Swab album around the corner too coming out on the label Hardcore Victim in around January or February. And, I’m playing drums on the new Ill Globo album!

Alien Nosejob’s Paint It Clear is out November 12. Pre-order now: Anti Fade (AUS) and Feel It Records (USA).

Anti Fade are also offering a bundle deal, including Paint It Clear on vinyl, the last record Once Again The Present Becomes The Past on cassette and a t-shirt and a ANJ shirt! Get it HERE.

Read another Gimmie interview with Jake: Alien Nosejob: “I wanted to make it sound like a mixtape that you’d give to your friends”

Please check out: aliennosejob.bandcamp.com

Billly Gardner of Naarm/Melbourne punk band Smarts: “It’s been a wild year”

Original photo by Jamie Wdziekonski. Handmade collage by B.

Smarts’ new album Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? is one Gimmie HQ’s favourite releases of 2020. Frenetic, fun, clever, tight songs to lift your spirits and make you smile as we close out a year that’s been challenging for most of us. Gimmie spoke to bassist (and person behind Anti Fade Records) Billy Gardner.

You were the first official person we spoke to for Gimmie!

BILLY GARDNER: Woah. Really?

Yeah, and at the time you’d just put out your 61st release on Anti-Fade.

BG: I think that was Living Eyes, maybe.

Yeah. And now you’re at release 73 with the new Smarts record, I think!

BG: Yeah, I’m putting at tape out [TB Ridge as the Director – Rock n Roll Heart – next week, that’s 74.

Nice!

BG: Yeah, getting there.

What kind of stuff have you been listening to lately?

BG: Um, honestly, not heaps of stuff. Like, nothing new, really. I haven’t listened to too much new stuff this year. I’ve been listening to lots of stuff that my Mum played me when I was growing up. Classics like Toots and the Maytals and Ike & Tina Turner and stuff, and at the same time I’ve been going through a bit of a Metallica wave over the last two weeks—that kinda happens every few months.

Rad! So, has Smarts had a chance to practice since the lockdown has ended?

BG: Nah. Not as a full band since maybe like May. So we’re pretty keen. I think we’ll be able to do it in the next fortnight or so. There’s a few new songs that we’ve all sort of like made up in our own time, if you know what I mean, to work with.

Oh, nice. Is there anything in particular you’ve found yourself kind of writing about?

BG: No, I actually haven’t written any lyrics yet. I’ve just been making lots of riffs. I feel like it’s been a really dry year for lyrics. I just have no new inspiration this whole year, you know what I mean?

Do you think everything that’s happened in the world has sort of affected that?

BG: Yeah, well I feel like I usually get heaps of ideas from travelling and doing stuff and just getting out of the house, which I kind of haven’t really done at all this year. It’s been a pretty wild year.

And you keep a lot of memos in your phone for song ideas and that kind of stuff?

BG: Yeah, totally. There’s a lot of like little, loose, 30 second to 60 second riffs in there.

Do you just sing them into your phone or do you just like actually play them?

BG: Ahh, depends. Usually play ‘em, but sometimes sing them; that’s just like maybe if I have a riff in my head and I’m not near a guitar or anything. I feel like they’re usually the better ones, and I have to learn them on guitar later.  

I know creative ideas kind of come from everywhere, is there times more often than not that you get them?

BG: Yeah, I feel like it usually goes in waves. And I haven’t really been on a wave like that for the last month, or even two. But maybe like six to eight weeks ago I had a bit of a wave and a whole bunch of things came at once, and I was playing guitar every night. But I’ve been busy with like the label and other stuff lately, so I haven’t been doing as much of that.

You play bass in Smarts, and I know your Dad used to play bass in Bored!, I was wondering if he kind of inspired you to play bass? Because I know you started playing drums, I think?

BG: He definitely inspired me to play music. But the whole bass thing sort of came later. I do get to play his bass. I love playing his bass! It’s an old Fender Precision from the ‘70s, he’s got a Rickenbacker too, which is very special, but I think I prefer the Precision. I don’t know where the bass thing came from, maybe it was just like something different. I feel like with this band a lot of riffs are made on bass and then we’ll bring in the guitar later. Where in other bands I’d make riffs on guitar and bring the bass in later. So it’s kind of just a natural way of doing things a bit differently to what we’re used to. I saw this band called Vodovo in Japan about three years ago and they didn’t have any guitar, they just had two bass players, and that was definitely a big influence on Smarts.

Cool. I heard that when you came back from Japan you had the idea of the band name Smarts, because you were in Japan one of your friends you were with kept saying everything was “smart”.

BG:  Yeah, yeah. So Ausmuteants toured Japan in mid-2017, and saw Vodovo for the first time, and was getting a bit restless to do something a bit different, and our friend Shaun was just saying everything was smart, like you’d say something and he’d say, “That’s smart!” It was like his term of the tour, and I kind of thought Smarts was a cool name.

When you started you were just a 2-piece, you and Mitch?

BG: Yeah, I felt like we’ll just start it like that and just make a couple song and then try and flesh it out in to a live sense, and then it grew a lot there once we brought four people into the mix.

And you and Mitch play in Cereal Killer and Living Eyes together as well?

BG: Yeah, and Wet Blankets. I’ve been playing in bands with him for years.

How did you guys meet?

BG: In high school, actually. He’s a year younger than me and I met him on his orientation day and he was about to go in to Year 7 and I was going in to Year 8. We had heaps of mutual friends. We sort of had heard heaps about each other already and both skated and stuff, and we just kind of kicked it off from there.

I figured you guys had known each other for ages, because as far back I could see you had worked together heaps.

BG: Yeah, we had this funny band before Living Eyes called Hideaways when we were 14. Pretty cute.

Did you play drums in that one?

BG: We all switched around. So I played drums on a couple songs, sang a couple songs. I did really play guitar or anything back then.

What did that used to sound like?

BG: Kind of like a way more garage version of Living Eyes. Living Eyes sort of came out of that, as the bass player for Living Eyes was in that band too.

Wow. It’s nice to find out about all the connection and everything.

BG: It was extremely like garage days of like jamming in garage, quite little.

Then with Smarts, you added Jake and Sally and Stella. How do you think, when those guys joined, your sound started to evolve.

BG: Um, yeah, well that’s when it became much more interesting, I think. Especially bringing Sally and Stella into it. Although they were never in the band at the same time. Sally was originally in it, and she had never been in a band before, so that was cool, seeing her get all excited about playing music and stuff, and she brought heaps of cool bits to it like the keyboard line in ‘Smart Phone’ is like huge and that’s her. And then Stella came later, Stella actually came in after we’d recorded the album and played saxophone over the top of everything and really made it shine.

I was going to ask you what you love about having saxophone in the mix.

BG: It’s the best, I love everything about it! I think it’d be cool to work on new stuff with Stella, because we haven’t written songs together yet but we will now.

And with Smarts it’s a real collaborative process?

BG: Yeah, Smarts is so collaborative! Although Jake’s written a couple songs where he’s brought it in pre-written, and we’ll learn them and maybe add a tiny bit or like do a bit  twice as long as in his version but not really change it. But all the other songs, me and Mitch’s songs, they’re all just brought to the band and we’ll extend it from there.

With the new album, Who Needs Smarts, Anyway?, four of the tracks were on your first release, Smart World, I wanted to ask what do you like about the re-recorded versions?

BG: Mostly the fact that they feature everyone. Because the first release is just me and Mitch, so like a few people asked us why we did that, and that was just like because this is the full band version, and it’s got sax and keyboard and we’re all on our designated instruments now instead of it just being me and Mitch messing around, so I feel like it’s a whole different thing!

When you recorded, you kind of recorded the bones of it over a weekend and then people came by your place and did overdubs and stuff?

BG: Yeah, we just recorded it real basic. Just me, Mitch and Jake over a day and a half. We got a space in Geelong from like 3pm one day and set up and started recording that night, and then just did a whole day the next day, and then just took it back to Melbourne and over the next couple weekends people took turns at coming over and doing overdubs and really didn’t rush that, we sort of did the overdubs very slowly and it was a lot of fun days. So it was very layered. We kind of double tracked everything on the album except the drums and bass.

What made the days so fun?

BG: Just like hanging out and taking our time with it and having a few beers and stuff. It was always very fun.

And you enjoy recording?

BG: Yeah, we’ll I’m actually doing less of it these days. I used to record way more bands than I do and just felt like it was taking a little bit out of music for me. So I’ve sort of just been doing much less of that and keeping to my own stuff and you know, I’ll still record a few things here and there, but I don’t really wanna do it as a job or anything.

I often find people do get that after a while, like a lot of people I’ve talked to get that feeling.

BG: Yeah, I think I’d rather spend time on my own music a bit more than recording other people’s bands. I like doing it but I don’t wanna do it all the time.

Do you have things outside of music that you like doing?

BG: Yeah, just general stuff like me and Mitch blew up this little blow-up dinghy and took it down the river the other day. That was funny. Nothing out of the ordinary, just hanging out with people, cooking food and stuff like that.

What’s one of your favourite things to cook?

BG: Probably Mexican.

Tacos? Burritos?

BG: Um, yeah, are both good. I guess they both have their pros and cons. Maybe I’ll say burritos, just because they’re a tiny bit less messy. But when it’s a good night for it, I love a good taco sesh!

I always find though, tacos tend to go soggy quicker.

BG: Are you a hard shell or soft shell taco kind of person?

I’m soft.

BG: Yeah, me too.

That’s what a real taco is!

BG: Yeah, I grew up with the hard shell ones, and now I’m all about the soft.

Yeah, totally, I always tend to cut my mouth on the hard shell ones, believe it or not.

BG: Yeah! [laughs] Have you ever put a soft one around a hard one?

I haven’t actually! I’ve heard of this, but never done it.

BG: I’ve heard of it too, it seems insane but it makes sense because then the hard shell doesn’t all break up in your hands.

Photo: Jamie Wdziekonski.

I wanted to ask you about the cover photo for the album. I noticed there’s lots of references to the songs.

BG: Yes! You did? Well, I’m glad someone noticed that because I wasn’t sure if we really got it, because a few people have asked about things and I felt like I had to explain that but you noticed it, so thank you!

Yeah, totally, like as soon as I saw the obvious thing, which is the Cling Wrap. You just see it and your just like; wait a second, that’s that song! and then it’s kind of like ‘Where’s Wally?’ or something and you’re moving around the picture and you’re like going this is this, and like the globe is ‘Smarts World’..

BG: Yeah, yeah.. Did you spot the Maccas wrapper in the bin?

I did! I had it up on the computer first and I was looking at it, and I was like, “that looks like a MacDonald’s wrapper” but then I couldn’t see if it was or not, so then I had to go get out the 12” LP copy that we’ve got and I’m like trying to look at it.. Because I’m thinking it has to be a MacDonald’s wrapper because of ‘Golden Arches’, but then I know you guys wouldn’t want that overtly out there on it, so it’s more subtle…

BG: Nah, yep, well, thanks for picking up on that! I’m glad you noticed.

What else can you tell me about it?

BG: Well, it’s like a rip off of a Fall record cover. Did you notice that?

No.

BG: It’s not like an album, or one of their covers you’d see quite often, but it’s a 12” single for ‘Couldn’t Get Ahead’. It’s got Mark E. Smith sitting at a desk, and on the desk there’s like a pack of Marquis biscuits and a few references there. But we thought we’d do it with no one at the desk, because it’s like ‘Who Needs Smarts, Anyway?’ and the chair’s kind of looking as if someone’s just got up and walked away from it.

Yeah, totally, and I noticed the PP Rebel sticker.

BG: Yeah, well, that’s my laptop!

We’ve got the sticker. We put it on a magnet. You know how in the mail you get magnets from Real Estate places and local businesses?

BG: Yeah, and plumbers and things..

Yeah, we just got one of them that was the right size and stuck it over one, and it became a PP Rebel magnet for our fridge!

BG: Ahh, that’s genius! I might have to do that. I’ll keep my eyes out for some magnets.

So is there anything else you’re looking forward to doing creatively in the future?

BG: Just making more music really. I kind of haven’t done much of that this year, so I’ve got some catching up to do. Maybe some more artwork stuff, but that’s not really my field, but I wouldn’t mind doing some cut and paste things here and there.

When you’re writing stuff, is it just you start writing stuff and then you decide what band they go to?

BG: Yeah, I ‘spose, yeah, and even sometimes switch it up later, like I might have a song in mind for a certain band, but that band won’t be doing anything for a long time, and I’ll use it for a different band.

Are any of your other bands looking to do anything soon?

BG: Umm, probably more Smarts. We’ve got a few songs on the go, none of them are finished but have like maybe 7 or so half done, like riffs and stuff that we’re gonna start piecing stuff together. I don’t know what else, maybe there’s a couple Living Eyes demos that have been sitting around for a long time, maybe we’ll get there one day and record them.

As far Anti Fade Records goes, we’re not going to see anything til next year now because Smarts was the last release of the year? Oh, and the tape…

BG: Yeah, TB Ridge As The Director, which is Tom Ridgewell’s solo project, that’s coming out on Friday, and then yeah, that’s the end of the year. Will have to start planning 2021!

Please check out SMARTS on bandcamp; on Instagram. Who Needs Smarts, Anyway? out now on Anti Fade Records.

Melbourne’s Brick Head: “We’re seeing how important the local music community is to the character of this city. Live music really is cathartic. And the records that come out of this town are brilliant”

Original photo courtesy of Brick Head; handmade collage by B.

Deaf Wish’s Sarah Hardiman has written and recorded a new record – Thick As Bricks – under the name Brick Head! It’s a high energy, spirited and riotous lo-fi home recorded album making our ears happy and our hearts swell. The release features Carolyn Hawkins (Parsnip/School Damage) on drums. We interviewed Sarah to find out more about the punk project. We’ve also got Brick Head’s first clip for track “Deja Vu” to share with you!

How did you first get into music?

SARAH HARDIMAN: Through my mum and brother really. Mum blasted The Beatles, The Stones, Pink Floyd etc. and my brother plays bass, so he taught me guitar. My bro and his mates raided all the work sites in Melton at night time to find wood, insulation, plasterboard etc. and built a jam room in our shed. I spent hours out there. I was probably better on guitar during high school than I am now. 

What was your first introduction to the punk community? What attracted you to it?

SH: It was definitely going to Rock n Roll High School on Easey St, Collingwood. I had heard about it in fanzines and word of mouth. My band at the time called up and played a song live over the phone to Stephanie Bourke. She mustn’t have been able to decipher anything but she said we could come in and kind of ‘audition’ to rehearse at the school. Steph and other people that ran workshops there taught me how to book gigs and communicate with bands. They taught me how to act with integrity. I met a lot of people at the school and in the band scene, people I still know. I was so shy and nervous every time I left the house but I kept going because I knew I found something that made me feel good and understood.

What excites you about your local music community?

SH: You know, this has become much clearer under ‘lockdown’. It’s about the people. I miss the people. When you shake off the gossip and posturing (both things I’m guilty of), the community is strong and positive. We’re seeing how important the local music community is to the character of this city. Live music really is cathartic. And the records that come out of this town are brilliant. Record stores are a lesser talked about part of the fabric that help promote locals. Community radio is huge. They’ve been working their arses off, keeping things cool-headed and positive, keeping people connected. I miss gigs and real people. I miss the friends I’ve made from music.

We love both your new project Brick Head and your band Deaf Wish; what inspired you to do Brick Head? I understand that you made LP Thick As Bricks in three weeks during the first lockdown in Melbourne.

SH: Thanks. I guess being in one room for too long inspired it.  

Where did you get the name Brick Head?

SH: I had a list of juvenile sounding band names and Caz liked this one the most which helped me choose.

How did the songs get started? What did you write first? Did you have an initial idea of what you wanted to write about?

SH: I was at a friend’s house and he was playing the electric eels and I felt really in the mood for nasty guitars again. I went home and tried to rip a song off. Then Dave Thomas from Bored! died and I listened back to that band and it all kind of tumbled into this debauched bender at home alone in West Footscray trying to rip off iconic riffs. I didn’t want to write about anything in particular. I wanted it to be dumb and immediate. Scary. Tough. Unfeminine. The first song was ‘D.I.E.D’ which is written as an acronym although it isn’t one. I moved into this new flat and the neighbour said, “I’m really glad you’ve moved in”. I was like, ok, weird. Then he goes, “Let me explain that. The last two old ladies died in a row. And you’re young-ish, so you might break the curse”.  It is the only house I’ve broken a lease on.

Who are some of your favourite songs writers? What is it about their writing that you enjoy?

SH: I’m a huge fan of Molly Nilsson. I even wrote her a fan letter this year. I love the feeling of being a fan. It doesn’t happen often. Her songs are honest and deceivingly simple. They’re philosophical. I respect the atmosphere she creates. And the humour. I like it when artists take their art seriously but can see the bigger picture, y’know? Like, no one’s that important. Do your job and then knock off, you don’t have to be a star 24/7.

Your songs on Thick As Bricks have almost a live feel to them; can you tell us a little about recording them? You recorded them yourself, right?

SH: Yeah I did, it was really fun. I set everything up in my small living room and set out to write a song every couple of days, whether I was in the mood or not. I put a simple drum beat down, then would listen to records until I found a riff I wanted to rip off. I had neighbours on both sides so when I mic’d up the amp, I pulled my bedding over the whole thing to try and dampen the sound. I actually had the amp really low on 1-2 gain but I could hear their TV’s so I knew they could hear me. Then I put simple bass lines down. Lyrics were last but I didn’t fuss too much. If anything took too long or if I started thinking too much, I would dump it. Maybe that’s the live feel.

What was your set-up for this recording?

SH: My 50 watt MusicMan valve combo, my 1964 lefty Burns guitar tuned a whole step down, and GarageBand. This is the first thing I’ve recorded myself (for release) and the first time I’ve used GarageBand. I really love using plugins. I’m all about computers now. 

After you wrote and recorded all the material, you sent it to Carolyn to do the drum parts which Jake Robertson recorded (Alien Nosejob/School Damage/Ausmuteants etc.); what inspired you to have Caz part of this project? What do you appreciate about her drumming?

SH: Caz is a great drummer. She knows music. And she stylistically knows what suits. She makes it look effortless even though she clearly works hard at everything she does. She’s also really humble which makes her easy to work with. It’s a no-brainer. Caz rocks!

What’s your favourite album you’ve been listening to at the moment?

SH: There’s two I’ve been mad for lately, ‘Sweet Whirl – How Much Works’ and ‘Ryuichi Sakamoto – One Thousand Knives.’

Why is music important to you?

SH: It’s everything to me. It’s where I find inspiration, friends, solace, community, belonging, fun and excitement. It teaches me and is a reflection of how I change and the ways I don’t.

How have you been looking after yourself during this pandemic?

SH: Imagine a game of keepings off that goes for too long and you never get possession of the ball.

What do you get up to when you’re not playing, writing or recording?

SH: Human things. Robot things.

Please check out BRICK HEAD.

Jake Robertson’s Alien Nosejob: “I wanted to make it sound like a mixtape that you’d make and give to your friends

Handmade mixed-media collage by B.

We love mixtapes! Alien Nosejob’s music reminds us of one. Its genre-less and fun and we never know what the next song might sound like; it’s exciting to listen to their releases unfold, especially latest LP, Suddenly Everything Is Twice As Loud out on Anti Fade. Alien Nosejob started as a bedroom recording project by Jake Robertson, who is one of the most prolific Australian songwriters we know. Rather than us trying to describe his creations we highly recommend that you check out his work for yourself and care about what you think of it! We believe there’s a little something for everyone. We interviewed Jake to get more of an understanding about what he does, why he does it and how he does it.

I wanted to start by asking you; how did you get into music?

JAKE ROBERTSON: My dad is extremely into music, into British Invasion stuff, blues whether it be Prewar or all the way up to your white boy Eric Clapton kind of stuff. He constantly had The Kinks and The Who playing when I was younger. My brother showed me AC/DC and the Sex Pistols when I was six or seven and I got into that for a little while. I can’t really lie, nu-metal had a huge influence on me when I was eleven or twelve, that’s where it really kicked off [laughs].

What was it that you loved about nu-metal?

JR: I found something that mum and dad didn’t like [laughs]… that was probably a big part of it. That then led into Nofx and Rancid and that led me to Dead Kennedys and that got me back to where I started at AC/DC and The Kinks.

Nice! I think it’s cool you can say “I grew up liking new metal” …a lot of people would lie and play it cool and say they were first into whatever the coolest band/s are. Everyone’s got to start liking something somewhere, if you like it, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

JR: Yeah, one hundred percent! The thing is, even though I don’t listen to nu-metal anymore, I could put it on and totally see why I like it. I understand why it appealed to me so much as a youngin.

Why do you enjoy writing songs?

JR: That is something I ask myself and something that I haven’t been able to answer [laughs]. I think I like spending time doing something. I have a lot of hours to spend in the day, I could be punching bongs or I could be watching TV or I could be at home recording songs. I generally choose the third one.

You’re definitely dedicated to doing it, I think since 2012 you’ve had at least twenty releases that I know of.

JR: Yeah, I do it pretty frequently [laughs]. I think it’s just how I like to pass my time. I generally finish work, say “hi” to my partner and then lock myself in the studio for a couple of hours, then I eat dinner and so to bed pretty much. It’s all I do outside of work.

I did an interview a while back with Omar Rodriguez Lopez from At The Drive-In/Mars Volta and he was saying how, other people go out and party and socialise but for a lot of creative people, our party is at home making stuff, that’s our fun!

JR: Yeah, I definitely do find it fun. I do find it frustrating sometimes though but, then again I find going out and socialising frustrating as well, even though I like doing it. I think Mr Rodriguez is probably right.

What kinds of things do you find frustrating about making music?

JR: Making things fit. The things that I find frustrating are the things that probably draw me towards it as well. I’m a big fan of finding things that shouldn’t really go together and trying to make them fit together, quite often it’s frustrating. Naturally they don’t’ always fit together and I’m constantly questioning myself; why am I doing this? Which often sinks into a repetitive question with no answer. You kind get into a bit of an existential crisis; why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for? Am I doing it for myself? Obviously I’m doing it for myself, because most of my stuff I just have on my computer and I haven’t even released it. I guess I’m doing it for myself. This is the kind of stuff Bianca that my brain goes over and over and over! I’m always asking; why am I releasing this? What’s the point?

If you’re always questioning stuff maybe you’re never comfortable therefore you won’t get complacent and you’ll keep going, keep trying new things.

JR: Maybe. It’s not a matter of looking to write the perfect song or anything like that, I think my problem is that I have quantity or quality. I just like to shit things out and move on to the next thing straight away. Once it’s done it’s done!

How do you approach making a song? From what I know the writing is quite fast for you.

JR: Most of the time, it really depends. I don’t really write with any band in mind or any instrument in mind, I don’t write with any genre in mind either. I’ll pick up a random instrument and I’ll see what happens. Sometimes I’ll record as I make it up and that’s what ends up on the record, other times I’ll sing something in the shower, and record something into my phone while I’m driving or riding my bike like “do, do, do, do, do” or I’ll hum it and try to recreate it later.

I really love listening to Alien Nosejob because you are genre-less and your releases remind me of listening to a mixtape, you can hear bits and pieces of everything in there, which makes it really cool.

JR: Yeah, the record that Billy [Anti Fade Records] did recently Suddenly Everything Is Twice As Loud my aim was to try and make it sound like a mixtape.

It came through, I get it!

JR: Yeah. I wanted to make it sound like a mixtape that you’d make and give to your friends as a teenager.

We still make mixtapes.

JR: I still do as well! It probably been eight or nine months. I will get back to it thought, isolation is the perfect time for it.

I love with the Alien Nosejob HC45 EP that it’s done in the spirit of hardcore punk EPs, they’re usually traditionally released on a 7”.

JR: Yeah. That’s my favourite format. Originally with Alien Nosejob it was going to be one or two EPs, self-released and it would be done. None of the press releases said “Jake from these bands…” I made it so it was completely anonymous. I’ve lied and said I lived in Clunes which is where they filmed Mad Max! I just wanted to self-release a 7” EP completely void of labels or anything like that because thy majority of my record collections is 7”s done like that. I got bored and continued doing stuff though [laughs].

I also love how you did Buffet Of Love on a 12” in that italo-disco style and that’s how they used to release that genres singles on 12”.

JR: Yeah. That’s another genre that I absolutely love. With this Nosejob stuff, it flows to whatever I’m listening to at the time. When I recorded that I was listening to specific records – that I listed on the sleeve with the tracks – that I was loving at the time. Trying to replicate it a little.

What do you do to keep challenging yourself with your writing?

JR: Probably just form too many bands [laughs], that’s one way. From 2012 to 2017 I was playing way too many gigs per week with different bands; that was another reason why I just needed to do something hat was recording. I was getting exhausted. Now I’ve made Nosejob into a band as well. We’ve only played one show, we’ll probably only do one or two a year.

As a songwriter what are the things you value?

JR: Even though I’m guilty of it… I do value people that search for originality in songwriting… I’m trying to tread really lightly so I don’t say something stupid. I don’t really like when a band from a certain scene has a song that sounds the same as another band in that scene. I will try to look for some originality and hopefully it comes through in what I’m doing, I think though maybe I’m pulling my leg if I’m saying I don’t do that myself sometimes.

I think as part of culture everything is inspired by everything else.

JR: Exactly. I guess I mean the difference is inspiration rather than ripping off. Even if I am heavily influenced by something else I’ll put my own spin on things.

And that part right there is what makes it become original, taking things in a different direction from where you got them.

JR: That’s the aim. I have listened back to a couple of things I’ve done and I’ve been like, I didn’t put enough time into putting my own spin on this one [laughs].

Whatever you’re listening to at the time I guess can naturally filter into what you’re doing, sometimes without you even knowing.

JR: Yeah, it definitely does.

You recorded Suddenly Everything… by yourself, right?

JR: Yeah, I recorded everything all by myself.

I remember reading you explain that you’d have a ten second delay after you’d press record so you could get to the drum kit to play the track; was that process frustrating?

JR: Oh yeah, big time! I had to make a computer drum beat, if I was making it for a band I would make it with a computer drumbeat but I wouldn’t put any time into it so whoever plays the drums for it would give their own stamp to it; I pretty much do that with any instrument. I’ll do a simple version of bass or guitar or whatever and sing, then the band would learn it. With recording Alien Nosejob I had to get to that stage and then basically start again and record it properly one by one. I’d have to give a ten second count in at the start so I’d have time to press record and run to my drum kit. I’d play it and every time I’d make a mistake I’d have to start again, go walk that ten seconds to the tape machine and rewind to the right spot, and make sure I’m not recording over something else and do the whole process over again. Its very time consuming and very, very frustrating and annoying. It constantly makes you question why you are doing it.

With that album did you have songs you’d just written over time?

JR: Wait a second let me just get a copy of it, I can’t even remember what’s on it… [reaches for a copy of Suddenly… as his cat walks by] …oh “hey” it’s my cat!

What’s your cat’s name?

JR: Lumpi. She’s a little cute thing, if you want to see a picture of her, on the front cover of a 7” that School Damage did, she’s on that.

All of the songs written on Suddenly… were recorded at home in Thornbury in 2018, I’m pretty sure I just did all of these straight off the bat. Just by reading the songs titles I was listening to a lot of The Saints and a lot of Ramones at this point [laughs]. For that record I had a little studio set up in the house where my partner Carolyn has all of her print making stuff on one side of the room and I have recording stuff on the other side of the room. We would just sit back-to-back for hours a night on end making our end product.

Carolyn and Jake.

Nice! That’s like my husband and I, we have the same kind of set up. He has his little studio set up and we both have art tables, we sit there for hours and hours too.

JR: That’s cool. We just moved house and now we sit beside each other.

What are your working on now?

JR: [Laughs] It’s funny that you ask that. I feel like before I explain what I’m working on I should say that I recorded this during the Australian bushfires time in December—January, so this is not a COVID-19 record. It is a concept album about the end of the world. There’s one song in particular called “Airborne Toxic Event” and it’s about a poisonous gas destroying the world. I feel very odd about it at the moment, I’m currently mixing it. I’ve got my laptop on my lap in bed right now mixing this record. Every time I listen to it it’s like, oh god, the whole meaning of this record is just turned upside down now with everything that’s happening in the world and I feel odd about releasing it. It’s going to be called Once Again The Present Becomes The Past, it’s basically about how something very shit can happen in the world and it’s kind of like a snake eating its own tail… it’ll just happen again and again and again and again. Depending on how you look at it, it can be seen as a very negative thing or it can be seen as a positive thing like, hey, this has happened before and we’ve dealt with it. The styling is somewhere between Suddenly Everything… and the HC45 record. Also, one of my friends showed me this band, Sacrilege, that was a crust-punk band influenced by the first Metallica record—that had a little effect on me as well. If we have to stay isolating from a while it should be ready pretty soon!

Where did you learn to mix? I know that you’ve been mixing songs as far back as The Snoozefests.

JR: Wow, that’s the first time I’ve heard that name in a while! [laughs]. I did a crappy TAFE course the year I finished school. It taught me what to do and what not to do. There’s some things that I got taught to do that I didn’t like how it sounded so it taught me not to do things that way. I’ve dabbled in doing it but the first time that it was all me doing it was the Alien Nosejob stuff. The piece of advice that I got that helped me the most was from this guy in Perth, Luke Marinovich, who runs a blog Wallaby Beat which is all Australian custom pressed records in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Generally when I get close to finishing a record I always send it to a handful of close friends who I respect their music taste and ask them if they think I’m going about it the right way. When I sent it to Luke his response was, “There’s no mix like a bad mix!”. I thought about it and all of my favourite Australian punk records are not mixed at all. The guitar will be so much louder than everything else and you can’t hear the kick drum whatsoever. It’s so unconventional but it gives off a vibe that you don’t get with your records on Polydor or whatever. It has its own unique feeling, you have to stop overthinking everything—at least I have to stop overthinking everything! As you can probably tell with certain mixes or songs, overthinking is something that I don’t really do that much. If it’s close enough, I think that’s good enough, that’s what it is and I move on to something else.

How about with the Hierophants stuff?

JR: I guess because it’s a band it’s everyone having their own opinions. We got that mixed by Mikey from Total Contol and Eddy Current.

THE Mikey that mixes everyone who’s awesome in Australian music!

JR: Yeah, Mix Master Mike! [laughs]. He recorded the second Hierophants album. We got this Canadian guy who used to have a studio downstairs from my old townhouse named, Lucas; we had a crazy studio operating downstairs from me, we had the same backyard. There were constantly bands there – Tame Impala or Pond recorded there – we had to put up with noise all the time, they gave us really, really cheap rates so we recorded our record there. As far as mixing and putting time into, it was a project that we collectively passed off to Mikey and he got to put time into it and we just moved on to the next thing.

You’re self-taught with the instruments that you play?

JR: My dad and my brother showed me guitar when I was younger. In the style that I play, it’s pretty self-taught. You pick up little bits from friends. My girlfriend who plays keyboard in School Damage, she showed me some keyboard stuff pretty early on. I’m teaching her guitar in isolation at the moment, I’m finally paying it back. For the most part I’m self-taught, that’s what D.I.Y. music is really.

Do you have any songwriters you admire?

JR: A hundred! Ray Davies of The Kinks was the first one that I was blown away by at a younger age. Ed Kuepper from The Saints. Even just locally, I think Julia from J. McFarlane’s Reality Guest is a pretty great songwriter. All the people I play in bands with too like, Paris [Richens], Zak [Olsen], Billy [Gardner] and Albert [Wolski]. I’ve just fallen into a circle of friends that are really creative, they all come at it from a different angle but their end point isn’t that skewed from my interests. Australian songwriting has been pretty great in the last ten years!

Please check out: ALIEN NOSEJOB. Suddenly Everything Louder Is Twice As Loud out on ANTI FADE Records. HC45 out now on IRON LUNG records.