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.