Aborted Tortoise return with new LP – A Album – their first full-length since 2017’s lauded An Beach. Today we’re premiering the first single ‘The Sun’ along with its super fun video. Gimmie caught up with the band to find out about it all.
What’s life been like lately? What did you get up to today?
ALEX: Been great thanks! I recently moved to the country about two hours south of Perth and it is bloody serene. I’ve set up a budget studio in the new place and it’s been super liberating being able to demo tracks whenever I want without worrying about annoying the neighbours cos they’re so far away. Today I drove back home from Perth after a wicked Halloween party on Saturday night with our sibling band Ghoulies. Had a heinous HJ’s lunch on the way back and I feel crook.
What’s the best and worst things that have happened to you in the last week?
CHARLES: Best: The Unknowns dropped a hell good ‘Monster Mash’ cover. Worst: One of my students drew me a picture of what I would look like if I had “good hair”. The pigeon out the front of my house has not returned to its nest and I’m panicking.
You’re announcing the new Aborted Tortoise album; what can you tell us about it? What’s it called? How would you describe it?
CHARLES: It is called A Album, we would describe it as A Album.
ALEX: Correct. It’s got 11 songs and clocks in at around 23 minutes, therefore it is technically A Album. Ultimately, it’s just an attempt to remind people we are still a band and want to remain in the optimum position in people’s alphabetically sorted record collections. It’s going to be out through Bargain Bin Records in Australia, Bachelor Records in Europe and Under The Gun Records in the US. All three labels are amazing so it’s been sick to work with them all at once!
I understand that you’ve had the album recorded for a while now. What did the writing process for it look like? What are some of the main things that inspired it lyrically?
ALEX: Yeah, we recorded it a very long time ago, maybe December 2018? That’s fucked to think about, I didn’t realise it had been that long. The writing process was more or less the same as the last LP. No real concept or grand ideas, just a collection of unrelated songs that we had built up that needed to be recorded. As such it’s pretty all over the place in terms of subject matter. Anything from being shot into The Sun, being born, being consumed by ooze, and sanctimonious bozos is fair game in this wretched band.
What track was the most fun to write? What made it so?
ALEX: Definitely ‘Amniotic’, the one about being born (obviously). That one stemmed from a story one of our friends told us. They knew someone in primary school who swore blind they clearly remembered being born which is cursed. To us that was the funniest thing we’d ever heard so we all wrote the lyrics in the studio during the LP session around the idea of being born as a fully self-aware human. Lyrically it’s our most collaborative effort so far, we just sat in the control room and wrote it in about 15 minutes.
CHARLES: We have never had particularly clever or meaningful lyrics, but we hit new lows when we write together haha. The entire ending segment was improvised on the day of recording and just got stupider and more ludicrous with each take. It was very self-indulgent, but we had a lot of fun.
Sonically, is it a continuation of your sound on last release Scale Model Subsistence Vendor 7” or did you try some new things this time around? Did you have any reference points from the outset of the creative process?
ALEX: We wrote Scale Model Subsistence Vendor over a year later than the new LP, so everything is a bit all over the place chronologically. I’d say both releases we’ve pushed pretty hard to make the interplay between the guitars more interesting rather than just having Tom and Charles both play the same part at the same time. I can’t say we had any super direct reference points but at that time we were all listening to the first two Uranium Club LPs so that’s probably rubbed off in an indirect way. There’s a wee bit of keyboard on a couple of the tracks too which is something that we’ve been keen to do for a while now which is new for us.
You recorded previous Aborted Tortoise releases, starting with the Do Not Resuscitate 7”; did you record the new album? What did you enjoy most about the process?
ALEX: Yeah, so I recorded the last two 7”s but the new LP was recorded by Brod Madden Scott at Tunafish studio. He recorded An Beach as well. He’s a really great engineer and guy so everything went super smoothly. Recording yourself is a blessing and a curse because on the one hand there’s less pressure as it’s just the band in the same room and there are no financial constraints. At the same time though worrying about 1000 different things on top of needing to actually play properly can be a bit stressful. It is much easier in the sense that you can get things to sound exactly how you want though without things getting lost in translation or without external influences muddying stuff up. At the end of the day though I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing so we decided to record the LP properly with Brod and I reckon that was a very wise decision.
We’re premiering the new song ‘The Sun’ along with its film clip; what’s the song about?
TOM: The song is about The Sun, but also the idea of getting launched into The Sun as a way to die. We’ve also had this idea of being the first person on The Sun, as a kind of milestone for humanity. This song expresses that sentiment.
Where did the idea for the clip come from?
ALEX: We were kinda stuck for ideas for a fair while but ultimately decided on depicting the band playing amongst various sun-scapes. Initially the plan was to go out to some sand dunes or a salt lake on a hot sunny day and film there but the weather has been uncharacteristically shitty for Perth this time of year, so The Sun hasn’t been its usual reliable self. Instead, we opted to go the safer green screen route with our friend Thomas Cahill (Bunkyvids) who did a fantastic job rounding up us idiots and teasing out a semi-coherent video.
What do you remember from filming it?
CHARLES: Skeletons and John not helping pack up.
ALEX: We only filmed it maybe two weeks ago so it’s all still fresh in my mind. Lots of skeletons and Crown lager (as a treat). We spent over $200 on KMART skeletons. Money well spent.
Like most bands, Aborted Tortoise haven’t had the chance to play live much in the last couple of years. Last we spoke Connor was overseas in Germany, and when he finally returned you started rehearsing again. You played a show in July this year; is there a part of the experience that you’d completely forgotten about?
ALEX: Yeah, the whole Covid thing obviously really fucked things up. Connor had moved to Europe so we were taking a break from live shows as is. Though we did have grand plans to meet him over there at some point for a tour but obviously the pandemic rendered that impossible. Connor ended up coming back though and once everything calmed down a bit in WA we did manage to sneak in a couple shows around our limited lockdowns. We have made a conscious decision to keep live shows a bit sparse though, at least until touring is more feasible. That July show was really rad, we were just stoked people still gave a fuck enough to come watch us because for a while there I think people assumed we were no longer a band. We had a ripper night though and would love to play a couple more shows here and there. Playing live is always the best part of being in a band.
Have you ever gotten nervous before you’ve played a show?
CHARLES: I think everyone has unless they’re a filthy liar. I still take nervous poos pre show.
What’s your favourite release from this year so far? What do you appreciate about it?
ALEX: Aw geez that’s a tough one. Can’t say I’ve been listening to a whole lot of new music lately which is a bit stupid. Though we have all been religiously listening to The Spits’ VI. Kinda cheating but it came out 366 days ago today so technically counts? Anyways, that album is unstoppable. The lyrics have to be the greatest shit I ever heard but that’s what you expect from The Spits. They scratch an itch that no other band can personally.
What’s five things that have made you really happy this year?
ALEX: 1. We’re all crypto gremlins now so Shiba Inu’s recent spike has been nice. 2. Connor bought a sailing boat recently. 3. Connor and I recently started whittling wood so have been trading ideas on how to carve spoons and the like. 4. The prospect of a return to near normalcy (???) 5. Adding to our plastic skeleton collections.
‘The Sun’ is the first single taken from Aborted Tortoise’s second LP, A Album. A Album is out on November 8 through Bargain Bin Records (Australia), Bachelor Records (Europe) and Under The Gun Records (United States).
Melbourne-based musician Kim Salmon has been creating art and music his whole life, over six decades. He tells engaging stories with both his visual art and musical endeavours. His work is passionate, adventurous, compelling, thought sparking and journey making. Each time he creates something, he starts from scratch and has an aversion to the formulaic. Gimmie had a thoughtful chat with Kim about his work, creativity, the new Surrealists’ double LP Rantings From The Book Of Swamp and of a new Scientists record that’s done!
How was your morning walk?
KIM SALMON: [Laughs] I’m still on my walk! I can walk and talk.
Have you always been a walker?
KS: No, I used to swim because I’ve got a dodgy back and years ago a doctor told me that it was the best thing to do, but you can’t really swim in these days so I try and stay in shape by walking—I’m trying to stay alive basically.
Besides the fitness aspect of it, do you get anything else out of it?
KS: Yeah. They’ve restricted it now, down here [in Melbourne], you can go a radius of five kilometres from your house. There’s plenty of stuff to see, I’m getting to know a lot of it. I did this crazy thing at the start of all this lockdown stuff, somebody gave me these postcards that were blank, the idea was to do little paintings on them. I thought, yeah, I’m never going to do that! Suddenly, I have all the time in the world and I started sending people little paintings in watercolour of these things that are around Northcote; things like little garden cherubs and strange looking topiary and bizarre things that you don’t usually notice when you’re walking around. When you do it every day, you see lurid detail.
Nice! I love being out in nature. I walk around my neighbourhood a lot.
KS: It’s nice to do that. We’re near Merri Creek and Darebin Creek, those are nice walks to go on very close to nature, you wouldn’t think you were anywhere near a city.
What do you love about painting?
KS: I’ve always done it. Music was kind of like a highjack for me [laughs]. I’ve always loved painting. I was studying it but then I dropped out of art school and became a musician, which is the biggest cliché out; isn’t it? [laughs].
It’s all creativity! I’ve seen some of your paintings and really love them. There’s this one that’s a bedroom scene.
KS: I did that one when I was about sixteen.
Do you remember painting it?
KS: Oh, yeah. There’s a piano in it.
What’s the significance of the piano?
KS: It was in my room, that was my bedroom, that was basically it. There’s a pair of clogs in the middle of the floor because it was the ‘70s and people were wearing platform shoes, often clogs, that was a thing!
Did you learn to play piano before you learnt to play guitar?
KS: No, I persuaded my mum to buy the piano because she had learnt piano as a child and I wanted to maybe take it up, I thought I might learn some piano. I could already play the guitar. I figured out a few chords and had a muck around on it but I never really developed any real techniques for playing the piano.
When you dropped out of art school that would have been around ’76? That was around the time you got into music more and you had the punk band the Cheap Nasties, right?
KS: That’s exactly right [laughs].
What attracted you to proto-punk and punk music?
KS: I was looking for my own thing, if you know what I mean? I had just met Dave Faulkner and some of his friends. I was hanging out with them and each of those blokes seemed to have a thing they were into. Dave was into Bob Dylan and Randy Newman, lyrically driven stuff; a lot of America stuff like Cosby, Stills, Nash & Young, that kind of thing. I didn’t really have a thing, my taste was really eclectic, I liked a lot of stuff, like King Crimson and a bit of prog and a bit of folk, there wasn’t really any kind of theme to it. I used to devour those trade weeklies like New Musical Express and Melody Maker. One day I saw an article about CBGB and the scene there attracted me, it was the way that the writer described everything, a netherworld full of people wearing leather jackets. It all sounded so different to everything where I was in Perth.
I read that from that article you went to track down some punk records and you came across The Modern Lovers?
KS: Yeah. I went on a quest to find what punk was! [laughs]. It was a word that was bandied about in the articles but we couldn’t work out what it was. The Stooges were mentioned, the Velvet Underground and the New York Dolls, I went looking for them all. I’d never heard of The Modern Lovers but I found them. It didn’t matter if they were punk or not as far as I was concerned, I loved it, so that was going to be punk to me!
Is there anything from the punk music community that you were involved with early on that was valuable that you learnt from it?
KS: A lot of friends I’m still friends with. That’s probably it you know, the people that I became friends with and still keep in touch with. [Laughs] It’s as simple as that really. We’ve all moved on along our travels, musically or in our career.
Why do you like making things?
KS: Good question! Why do people do that? [laughs]. So they can stay around after they’ve gone. It’s a way of communicating, it’s a way of being present in the world. For me I couldn’t explain it at all, I paint and draw because it gives me pleasure and I want to do it, it’s the same with music. Music is just another form of painting to me; I’m painting when I’m making music, if that makes any sense?
It does. What do you value as an artist?
KS: Some kind of originality if that’s even possible. I think everyone is unique and everyone is universal at the same time; it’s a strange thing that we can express some universal ideas through your own uniqueness.
It seems like throughout your career you haven’t ever really been motivated by money, it’s more about the process and making things.
KS: Oh yes, unfortunately for me and those around me [laughs]. Money doesn’t really drive me, money is a means to an end… it’s numbers, I don’t have anything against maths [laughs], it’s not really what drives me. Even in school, I was good at maths as far as the abstractness of it went but when it came down to arithmetic, I was hopeless [laughs]. I was good at geometry and trigonometry, I was OK with them things but… look, I think I lost ten grand in a bank I worked in one day! I’m not good at numbers.
Previously you’ve said that when you want to create something you need focus; what kinds of things do you do to help focus?
KS: It’s different for every particular endeavour. I’m one of those people that sometimes needs to set something up or I will sit around not doing anything forever [laughs]… out of inertia and fear, I suppose. Once I get going the inertia is there and I guess I keep going… it’s a big one for me. Like this pandemic, I think I’m OK, it’s kind of forced me to do something. I try. I stare at a blank piece of paper. I go down to the art shop and buy myself some nice inks and watercolours and then I come home and stare at the paper for weeks on end and finally I do something. Once it’s started I just go where the paints flows [laughs].
What kinds of things have you been painting lately?
KS: The last thing I painted was… I don’t know what you’d call it? It could be molecular size or nebula size. It’s these organic forms that I made up. I got this stuff that’s like masking tape but it’s like glue, you squirt it on the paper, it’s nice and blue and pretty and you can see where it is. You can do a painting with it and then paint over that and then you rub it all off and it leaves a white area. I did this thing that’s kind of inspired by a book of art forms in nature, done by one of those 19th Century scientist, philosopher-types who believed… it’s a book of drawings and diagrams of one-cell creatures like jellyfish and bats, birds and fungus. His point was that there are all these beautiful, symmetrical forms in nature and there was art at work.
It was my girlfriend Maxine who looked at one of my paintings with the masking thing and she came upon this book and ordered it for me. One day it showed up in the mail from New Zealand, she had to tell me it was for me [laughs]. I looked at this book and it inspired me. I put all this glue stuff over the canvas, it’s pretty big, maybe a metre across. I used a vivid ink. I just let it run and mix and carry on and paint forms around the masking material. I was really happy with what it ended up as, I couldn’t tell you what it was though [laughs]. I could see some strange monstrous forms, but I think they’re kind of beautiful. You can’t tell if it’s in deep space or at a microscopic level. It could be anything really!
I can’t wait to see it. I hope you have another art exhibition.
KS: One day! If we come out of lockdown. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of Covid art out there! [laughs].
That’s OK though! When you talk about making art, I feel like it brings you so much joy!
KS: Oh absolutely! It really takes you somewhere. You really have a conversation with the paint and the paper and the canvas and the ink. It sounds a bit mad but I definitely finds it leads me somewhere—it’s quite an enchanted place.
You mentioned the book you got recently and that the guy that made it was into philosophy; do you get into much philosophy or anything like that?
KS: I try to, but I haven’t really made a big study of that. There’s so many things that I might do. There’s a lot of people around that time, when religion was being challenged by science. There were some shaman and crazy people and frauds and con-artists out there like Gurdjieff and Madame Blavatsky and Rudolph Steiner… I guess Steiner wasn’t really a con-artist, but what I mean is there were a lot of ideas out there being explored. It was an interesting time.
Are you a spiritual person at all?
KS: Not in any formal religious kind of way, no. I suppose everyone says they’re spiritual. I don’t know that my way of being that would seem particularly spiritual to someone else. I have my music and art and I guess that’s my spirituality really. I’m probably more scientific if anything about those things.
Why did you feel it was time to make a new Surrealists’ album?
KS: It has a funny story. The Surrealists have been playing forever, particularly this line-up, we always enjoyed playing, never rehearse, just play a gig every now and then. I thought the band deserved more than a few hundred bucks from just playing a gig, you can only do some many shows, we got a show before lockdown and I got this bright idea that we would do a show that was completely improvised and we’d record it, that would be the draw card for the show. It was Phil [Collings] the drummer’s idea actually to do a completely live album. I thought if you’re a band recording you need to have songs and stuff; how do you do that like that? Over the years I’d write lyrical things into my books that I’d read the lyrics out of but I hadn’t used them yet so I thought I’d use them, that’s what they were for this album.
We had the gig booked and lockdown occurred. We had to postpone it. A film producer that had done the Scientists… actually Scientists actually have an album in the can would you believe!
That’s great news!
KS: It’s on a US label, so who knows when that will come out. We did a film clip for the new album and he approached me about taking this idea that I had into a recording studio and it being streamed. We wanted it set up with lots of cameras in a proper studio, we eventually got that happening. We called it Rantings From The Book Of Swamp, basically because that’s what it is; it’s me singing things out of my books to have lyrical content to the things we were making up.
How did you feel in the moment when you were making it?
KS: Yeah, because when you do something like that… we all had ideas but didn’t consult with each other, we thought we’d just be able to flesh them out. Nothing went the way at the time that I thought it would go. Everything felt like it went wrong! It was about an hour’s worth of “oh no” and trying to fix it up. Stu [Thomas] felt the same. Phil was just eating it up, you could tell he was having the best time of his life [laughs].
It was done over two sessions, I couldn’t be convinced that it was any good. I thought, nah, that’s it, I’ve blown it! They said “no, no, it’s good!” I didn’t believe them. I ended up looking at it and thinking, nah, OK, that’s good. You can see Stu and I really concentrating and trying to make it work, and that’s what made it good, we thought about it every second of the way. It was the most switched on I’ve ever been.
I remember hearing you mention a little ways back that it’s been a long journey and process for you to get comfortable with lots of things, being on stage, stuff like that; was there something that changed that made you feel more comfortable?
KS: I couldn’t tell you the answer to that. At some point now I couldn’t imagine being uncomfortable but I was. I’ve heard recordings of those times and I’m still the same person… that’s probably what was good about this last recording, it probably brought me back out of my comfort zone into somewhere strange, I think that’s what happens… things that aren’t in your comfort zone, as long as you can move out of them and explore them, eventually you’ll become comfortable with them. I think that’s the process. In a way this particular album is good because it’s a reminder of not being comfortable, of being lost [laughs]. I think there’s actually something good about being lost and not knowing what you’re doing.
It’s so cool that with all of your projects and records that the new one is a reaction to the previous one and you always evolve to do something different.
KS: Yeah, I think you have to do it. I remember Tex Perkins used to say the same thing too. He’d say that things do tend to be a reaction to what I’ve done before. I’m not alone in that. It’s probably a little bit more extreme in my case for some reason [laughs]. I’m a bit more of a random nut job! [laughs].
You mentioned that making the new record was terrifying but; what made it fun for you?
KS: That same thing! I look back and think it was terrifying but, in a good way. I can hear myself there and everyone that was watching it online can see me, I was making a joke out of it and trying to spin a yarn out of it [laughs], weaving a narrative.
Do you think you use your humour to deflect from the fact you are terrified?
KS: I think that’s a common trait in comedians and artists, people on a stage. I don’t think that’s unique.
A lot of your lyrics tend to be from a darker more primal place; why do you think that is?
KS: I just think that’s part of the artistic process really, in the creative process you do have to look inside of yourself and express things that are at the heart of you, which by their nature is primal. Things become a lot more elemental when you do that. Having said that, you can still do things that are the opposite of that, I don’t know that all of my stuff is like that. I’m sure I do things that are light-hearted and witty and pharisaical [laughs].
Talking to you, you seem like such an easy going person.
KS: Yeah, I am.
What’s the most personal song that you feel you’ve ever written?
KS: In a way a lot of songs are about things that are outside of myself. I often put myself in other people’s point of view… that can still make songs personal. I like all my songs for different reasons. Maybe there’s not one that’s more personal than another. In a way I probably write for other people in a strange way, even though I am expressing and doing things for myself… what I mean is that other people can look at something and project their own meaning onto it, I’m OK with that. The thing about writing songs or poetry and a lot of art as well, it’s full of ambiguity and symbolism, symbols mean different things to different people… in a way the loudness and ambiguity of words, simple words as in a song as opposed to dense literature, is the strength of it—that’s what makes it powerful and universal.
I know songs must come to you in all kinds of ways but, is there a way that they come more often?
KS: When we did this particular project, there were a couple of songs on the album that were things like walking around the neighbourhood. There’s a song “Did You Pick It Up In The Playground?” it is about; where did you get that language from? It’s about behaviour like; is that you? It also had a meaning to do with picking up Covid. I found that it was just a line that came to me, it came with a tune already. I had to try and sing it. I knew what the chords were that I was playing under the singing. The band could be on the same page as me, or not, and take it somewhere really strange. As it happened the melody and song that I had in my head was indestructible enough it was added to by what Phil and Stu did.
When choosing the words for the songs you were making in real time; did you turn to a random page in your notebooks?
KS: No, I had ones that I thought would be good. I looked at them and pored over them and had a few in mind. For instance I already had a bit of a tune for “Did You Pick It Up In The Playground?” and “Burn Down The Plantation” I had a form in my head of what it would be like; to me it was like The Rolling Stones around the 1970s, Sticky Fingers era. Whether it came out like that is another thing! [laughs]. I had lyrics that I’d written around January and doing something that was kind of Blues-based took me back to days of slavery and the Civil War. I wrote a few lines and thought “Burn Down The Plantation” was a cool line and it went with that kind of music. I was wonder if I should take it into the recording given that there is all of this Black Lives Matter protest going on. I was scared of it really, I thought, oh god, we’re just three white guys; what right do we have to go singing about plantations burning down? I thought, I’m not going to censor myself, we’ll do it.
I had a few other things that were on my mind. For the recording I put little post-it notes on the ones that I thought I’d use. I also knew that if I went scrambling and scurrying for pages I’d be very lost and it would be a waste of time. I picked ones I thought I’d be more at ease with.
With the notebooks you drew from, you mentioned that you’ve been collecting thoughts in them for a while?
KS: Yeah. Those books I have, even then there’s a story. I had set-lists and I put them in there and I have lyrics and I put them in there. I write in them in such a random way. One starts at the back of the notebook and then it starts upside down from the other way. Sometimes there’s drawings. It’s really random things, random expressions of thoughts that I have. Often set-lists though – set-lists to me don’t mean a set out list of a repertoire – I have lists of songs from my bands and I call them out to the other members.
Have you always kept notebooks like this?
KS: Yeah, but it’s kind of become more obsessive as I’ve gotten older. I have one from The Scientists’ days. It was halfway through The Scientists that I thought I should be a proper singer and have notebooks, like a proper artist [laughs]. Now I’m glad I did because then you find out about Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain and they’ve always got these books full of art and crazy things. I feel accomplished, that’s a good club to be in! [laughs].
You mentioned there’s a new Scientists’ record?
KS: Yeah! We recorded it, because there was a bit of a renaissance with the band, we did a tour of Europe, two tours of the USA and two of Australia a few years back. It was all on the back of that Chicago archival label Numero releasing our back catalogue and a box-set. We did a few singles and me and the guitar player [Tony Thewlis] would send each other things, I would send him drum beats of all things [laughs]. I’d get Leanne and Boris down from Sydney and I’d show them what I had and they’d knock ‘em into shape. Tony came over here to be part of The Scientists’ getting inducted into the WAM Hall of Fame. We spent that time in Perth in a studio and knocked that album together. We’d been working on it for a long time. I got Tony to build me some riffs. I’d think up crazy drum patterns and send them to him and then he’d build riffs on that, I’d do melodies and words on top of that. I’d send that to Boris [Sujdovic] and Leanne [Cowie] and they’d be the final process.
We don’t’ know when it will come out though, it’s all ready, it’s got the cover art and we did a film clip for it. It’s very strange because the thing that The Surrealists have just done is probably a lot closer to where The Scientists were in 1983 and the new Scientists’ album has travelled somewhere different. I don’t know how people are going to take it. I’ve tried really hard to have enough elements that people accept it’s The Scientists but, we’ve taken it somewhere else. I’ve listened back to the lyrics of it and it’s not in the same place as Blood Red River.
That’s really exciting to me! Bands evolving and going somewhere new is super exciting to me. I grew up in the punk world and it was always about individuality and pushing things… your new record sounds like it’s those things to me.
KS: Yeah, we’ve done that! It’s a bit more crafted. I think that’s why The Surrealists thing got more closer, it’s more visceral… this Scientists thing has some visceral elements, it’s heavy, it’s got the brutality in sound but, it’s crafted as well because of the way we made it. It wasn’t a spontaneous process. It was put together because we thought we should do it and wanted to do it, that’s a different process to when a band is young and say “Oh yeah, let’s just do this” which is how we used to do it [laughs]. That’s kind of what The Surrealists just did! [laughs].
You said that your lyrics for Scientists now were in a different place; where are they?
KS: I was listening to it thinking, god it’s taken me to get this long to get where Dave Graney was in The Moodists [laughs]. That’s what it makes me think of. He had these songs that had bizarre stories to them; I was listening to it yesterday thinking it sounds like Graney. There is a song that references him called “The Science Of Swarve” and I talk about him and Lux Interior and Nick Cave and I kind of say that their threads, meaning their lyrical threads, their threads, their clothes being in tatters and no narrative could ever save [laughs]. That was fun putting that in there. It was all about being swarve, it’s a bit of a boast. I think it’s a storytelling yarn that Graney would have done in those days.
I’m looking forward to hearing it! You do a lot of stuff; where does your hard work ethic come from?
KS: That’s what everyone says. I sit around looking at blank paper and canvases. I sit around doing nothing and wasting my time—that’s what creativity is. Until you can’t stand it anymore and you have to do something and once you get started you can’t stop!
I know you teach people to play guitar; have you learnt anything from teaching?
KS: Yeah, absolutely. I had to get across a lot of theory that I didn’t have, things like modes for scales and various harmonic ideas that I knew about… I used to use them without knowing what I was doing. Now I know what I’m doing and it takes a bit of the mystery out of it. I’ve got a lot out of teaching. I know how songs are put together now, which I wouldn’t have had a clue before! [laughs]. I use to break the rules without knowing what rules I was breaking.
That’s funny to hear you’ve learnt how to put together a song after all this time doing it. Have you ever had a really life changing experience?
KS: Gosh! When I read an article about CBGB it was pretty life changing—it sent me on the journey.
The first one I can remember, I must have been about three and my mum always told me that I didn’t speak until I was three and then I spoke in complete sentences, she’d know what I wanted but I didn’t talk. I remember her one day showing me a watercolour set and explaining to me what it was. I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t have a clue. She got the water and a brush and she started using red and she did a little loop thing. I got the brush and started filling up the page with these little strange loops of red. I didn’t know that it was for me, I just thought she was showing this thing. I thought, wow, you can say stuff with this, this is fantastic! That definitely was a thing for me! I can still see it so vividly. That’s probably where art came from for me. That was life changing really early.
It’s so cool that you’re painting now, it’s like things have come full circle for you.
KS: Yeah, I love watercolour, there’s just something about it. You get to leave some of the paper blank, you can leave some bits alone and not disturb it, and some of it you use—it all becomes one big story.
And coming across all the punk rock stuff in publications was life changing too?
KS: Yeah, yeah. I guess I was looking for a place to be in my music, for a starting point, I wanted something to bring in a focus and that became it. I think it was probably the same for a lot of people.
Is painting and making songs similar in any way to you?
KS: Yes and no. I’d go so far as to say that even every song is different to make. I try to look at everything from not having a formula, I don’t like formula as much, which is a bit funny for a guy in a band called The Scientists [laughs]. I like to think I’m starting from scratch every time that I do something and not knowing what you’re doing is part of it. Learning about music sort of takes away from that so; what do I do? What I just did with The Surrealists was a way of getting back to that thing… it’s that aspect, the mystery, that you don’t know where the hell you are and you’re lost, that makes the start of creating something, not knowing where it’s going to go or where it’s going to be. You might have an idea of what you’re going to do, but you don’t know what it’s going to be in the end. That mystery and not knowing is the thing that is the unifying factor.
Being open to all of the possibilities! A freedom in that?
KS: Yeah, I think so. Like when we were talking about philosophy before, being open to ideas and not fixed and to appreciate what life has to offer. To make the best of it and not just think, this is it, this is what I’m going to do!
I’ve heard you say before that looking after yourself and simply enjoying the day are important things to you; what does an enjoyable day look like to you?
KS: [Laughs] It’s a strange combination of routine and getting lost in something, that’s a good day for me. Going for my walk and seeing something new in it and going a different way every time, to just make something different about it. With all the border restrictions and other restrictions and parameters of late, I guess it has to be that.
I guess you need to use your imagination in doing things more and doing things differently, adapting; how can I get the most out of what I have and what’s happening now?
KS: Yes, you’re right.
Last question; what makes you really, really happy?
KS: [Laughs]. I think just my life now, there’s things about it that I’d hate it to be taken away from me. I have my partner Maxine and we have a really good thing going, it’s been a few years now. I have my kids that I have a really good relationship with. I’ll be talking to my son after this and giving him a bass guitar lesson; he’s really starting to find his way, he’s twenty. All those things make me happy. Making stuff, all of it! [laughs].
Political punks Last Quokka are set to release album four, unconscious drivers (out September 4). Their music is urgent and timely, their lyrics conveying emotional, thought provoking social commentary. Gimmie interviewed them to find out more.
Last Quokka are from Perth “the most isolated city on the planet”; can you tell us a little bit about where you live?
TRENT (vocals): Perth is pretty great… Love the sunshine and lots to do. It’s especially great being able to leave the house without a face-mask and go get a parmy at the pub. Isolation definitely has its perks. Personally I am really happy with the support and love we get from the close friends around us, we are surrounded by great people and I think sometimes that is more important than location.
RAY (bass): Perth is a really strange place. While it can be dominated by conservative yuppie assholes, there is also a really incredible local music and arts community that produces some of the most committed artists and activists in the country. We feel very lucky to be a part of such a rad community of folks doing what they can to make the scene and broader community a better place. It’s also just really beautiful, especially the forests down south.
KIRILL (guitar: Perth is a great place to live, we have forests and beaches, sand dunes, rivers, walking trails. We have an amazing park right in the middle of the city called Kings Park, it overlooks the city and swan river and makes for a great picnic spot. The weather is great too.
JOSE (drums): Perth it’s a strange place.
I know that everyone in the band is from different places – Jose is from El Salvador, Kirill from Russia, Ray from Fremantle and Trent from the northern suburbs of Perth; how did you each discover music? What were things like growing up for you?
JOSE: I use to listen to a lot of Latino music, get those hips to shake. And I Remember always listening to the same Frank Sinatra tape over and over again. As I got much older, I listened to a lot of hip hop, that’s actually where I think my love for drumming and music really started. I couldn’t break dance very well to the hip hop music so the next best thing was drums.
TRENT: My first ever album was John Farnham – Whispering Jack and my excellent music tastes cascaded from there. I used to love Rage Pop of the 90’s and early noughties. I still adore it actually, give me some Killing Heidi or Vanessa Amorosi, cover me in sparkles, put me on a dancefloor and watch me groove. I think my first movement into punk music was when I saw the video clip for Joy Division’s song ‘Atmosphere’ and fell in love with the feel of it. I was a pretty angry kid; the northern suburbs will do that to kids that don’t fit the pre-bogan mould – so I started journeying into punk music from there. For me, punk was a way to validate my anger of growing up surrounded by people that didn’t understand me and always feeling like an outcast. I connected online with a lot of people from all over the world in similar situations and I started to feel accepted.
RAY: I grew up listening to my mum and dad’s records, I don’t think I bought my own album until I was 17 when I also started playing in my first band with a bunch of much older hectic, drug-addled street punks. I grew up down south in Gracetown, what was absolutely incredible. I don’t have any siblings so just spent my childhood hanging with my dogs at the beach. I reckon the best thing about WA is the coastline, it’s why after moving away a few years ago I moved back.
KIRILL: I started playing guitar when I was maybe 13 or 14, I was playing Euphonium in high school band too. Worked a summer job at a metal fabrication shop and used the money to buy my first electric guitar and amplifier. After that it was the usual run of grunge and rock and playing at patries.
What are some of your all-time favourite bands? What do you appreciate about them?
TRENT: A Silver Mt, Zion – I find this band so inspirational on so many levels, especially politically and they have been blowing me away for decades. I can’t see myself ever growing out of love with them; Joy Division – there is an authenticity and darkness to their music that I find really honest and comforting; Death Cab for Cutie – they make cute music and have always kind of been there for me as a comfort, they often unlock a lot of emotion for me; Eddy Current Suppression Ring – because they’re fucking Eddy Current; Salary – a local band from here in Perth that hit me right in the feels all of the time; Propagandhi – they are the package deal.
JOSE: My taste changes so often, but I think what I’m currently drawn to is 60’s Garage Rock, like The Sonics or The Electric Prunes. Raw “Rock’n’Roll” with really nice melodies.
RAY: I am huge fan of the 90’s Washington D.C. Scene, bands such as Fugazi, Minor Threat, Fire Party etc. I’m really interested in what Ian Mackaye and others did with Dischord Records. That unwavering commitment to DIY has really inspired me.
KIRILL: I like oldies like ACDC, Metallica, Slayer, Pantera – there’s mad energy about those bands that seems to be lacking in most popular bands today. A while ago after watching the documentary “DIG” about Brian Jonestown Massacre and Dandy Warhols, I got into those bands too. There’s also a bunch of Soviet and Russian bands that I listen to as well.
What have you been listening to lately?
TRENT: I am actually completely obsessed with pretty much everything Phoebe Bridgers has ever done. She is phenomenal and will be with me for the rest of my life. Outside of listening to her on repeat every day, I just discovered an album by a band called Life Without Buildings which they released it in 2005 and it was their own ever album – but it’s excellent.
RAY: Speaking of Fugazi, I am really enjoying the new Coriky album (featuring members of Fugazi and The Evens). But I’ve also discovered Katiny Slezki from Yakutsk in Siberia and The Hu Band from Mongolia who are both amazing.
KIRILL: Been listening to a band from Greece called Villagers of Ioannina City.
JOSE: Allah-Las, Ty Segall…
What initially made you want to be in a band?
TRENT: It was a bit of a running joke in my friendship group for ages – “fuck Trent, you’re loud, have a lot to say and don’t shut up, you should be a vocalist”. Problem is, I couldn’t sing. But it turns out that doesn’t matter with Last Quokka.
JOSE: I just love make art and music. That’s why I wanted to be in a band.
RAY: I think I’ve always wanted to be in a band, ever since being a kid and flicking through music mags, there was always something so romantic about it, from the leather jackets to the tours and everything in between. But as I got older I thought more about the idea of being in a band as being a part of a community and creating a platform for ideas and action. And once I started playing I just got addicted to the catharsis of performing.
KIRILL: I just wanted to play music, the band thing is cause and effect type of thing.
Last Quokka are an anti-fascist punk band; why is it important for you to let people know this? What does it mean to you?
RAY: This is something we often discuss as we all share similar political values and are all united in our anti-fascist and broadly anarchist politics. But lately we’ve been debating whether it is necessary to describe ourselves as such or just let our lyrics speak for themselves. Personally, I think it is important to be openly anti-fascist as fascism is no longer a relic of the 20th century. We are facing the rise of very real and dangerous fascist movements, the world over. While it may not be significant if some random rock band in Perth is anti-fascist or not, for the sake of history and global solidarity, it’s still important to use any opportunity to declare our opposition to the forces of control, domination and exploitation… Also I guess I hope it inspires some local folks to take action.
TRENT: Look at the world we are living in at the moment. Abuses of power have become so commonplace that nobody even bats an eyelid anymore. We have such a small minority of people with all of the wealth doing whatever they can do grow that wealth and maintain power, and the people, largely, support them in that quest. It’s completely absurd, we have the working class hating their unions, we have disunity, and slowly our freedoms are being eroded away. Rather than uniting to resist, change and overthrow this toxic power, we are fighting with each other. Today Western Australia had the third Aboriginal death in custody in the last two months which brings the country to about 440 since 1991. Surely that’s enough to unite people to create change, but white Australia largely allows this to happen. The struggle against oppression is all of ours. Unfortunately, most of the population has fucking Stockholm Syndrome and have sided with their captors. I mean, it’s becoming an insult to be anti-fascist? The media is perpetuating divisive messages to prop up political parties of their choice and maintain their business interests. The world is a copybook of the 1930s and we saw how that turned out. And we have a huge recession on the way. We have to resist now. Fucking Bazil Zempilas is running for Mayor of Perth, surely now is the time to scream from rooftops.
Can you remember what it was the first got you interested in politics?
RAY: I grew up surrounded by political activism, with both my parents being active in environmentalism and other causes. But I clearly remember the moment I wanted to get involved in activism: I was living with my mum during the September 11th terror attacks and when the towers went down my mum was devastated. I couldn’t understand why she was so upset, but she said she wasn’t just crying for those who had died in the towers but because now America would invade Afghanistan, Iraq and eventually Iran and she was crying for the hundreds of thousands of people who going to suffer as the result of the US-led wars to come. Of course not not long after that the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and I got involved in the anti-war movement.
TRENT: Punk music started it… I was 13 years old when the war in Iraq started and that’s about the same time I started listening to punk. I started applying the critical lens that punk music was giving me to messages in my family, school, government, and on a global scale such as the invasion of Iraq. I started wanting to do something about it and started organising small actions at school which pretty much only I would attend.
I saw that you attended the Black Lives Matter protest rally in Perth. BLM is something that has very much been in the forefront of a lot of people’s minds especially of late and it’s stirred up a lot of thoughts, feelings, emotions, discussion and action in the community both locally and worldwide; what’s something important you’ve been learning?
RAY: It’s been incredible to see so many people organising and taking to the streets to demand justice. But I’ve been thinking a lot about how these kind of movements can escape the media cycle and the unfortunate online spectacle that seems to consume most contemporary movements. I’m not sure any of us have learnt the answer to that but it’s great to see people trying to build community that exists beyond one off events and rallies.
TRENT: I have been learning Noongar language on-and-off for the last couple of years – first at Langford Aboriginal Association with Merinda Hansen and now with Sharon Gregory at RePlants in Fremantle. I find it is important to listen and learn about injustice and act in solidarity, and it is also important to understand and learn. It’s great fun as well, you get to understand Noongar culture at a much deeper level and my love and appreciation for it continues to grow. Other than that, I have just been supporting those around me who have to cop racial oppression every day, being there in solidarity is hugely important. I have been trying to use my own privilege as much as possible to challenge the status quo.
JOSE: We need to listen and help those in need. Really Listen!
Your song “Colony” is a commentary on Australia colonialism; what inspired this song? Why was it important to you to write it?
RAY: To be honest despite being politically conscious people we don’t ever set out to write political songs and we’re not really a ‘political band’ or at least don’t try to be. The songs are usually just a reflection of whatever we are talking about or thinking about at the time. But I guess this issue is really important to all of us. Personally, I think that in order to address any social, economic or environmental justice issues in this country we must first deal with the ongoing effects of colonialism.
TRENT: We are on stolen land that was never ceded, it is quite simple really. The British Empire and the Nazi Party have too much in common for me to be comfortable with us not calling that out.
“Privilege” is about online trolling and macho right-wing keyboard warriors; what first sparked the idea for this song?
RAY: Pretty sure it was something to do with an uber annoying local facebook group here in Freo and Trent and I were arguing with a bunch of privileged yuppie dickheads…
TRENT: Haha, yeah Ray and I are part of a Facebook group called ‘Freo Massive’ and it is a breeding ground for neo-liberals to spout their privileged shit. We actually took a bunch of quotes from one of these privileged dudes and turned it into a song.
RAY: Actually I’m currently banned from the group…
Your latest release is a song called “Wake Up Geoff” which is about Western Australian premier Geoff Gallop; why did you chose to write about him?
RAY: We should probably make it clear that none of us are really fans of politicians and I think it started out as a bit of a joke… We don’t really ever think about what songs we’re going to write… But we’d been chatting about how bizarre it was that given how much shit has shifted to the right someone like Gallop seems like a radical lefty.
TRENT: Yeah he was just a long way better than the shit we have to put up with now.
You’ll be releasing your fourth album unconscious drivers in August; what’s the significance of the LP title?
TRENT: It has a couple of meanings and I think its best we let the people make up their minds on what they make of it.
Can you tell us about recording it?
TRENT: We recorded with Stu and Dave at Hopping Mouse Studios and it was mastered by Mikey ‘the dolphin’ Young. It was such a fun recording process; they were great people to work with and bought some great ideas and enthusiasm. It took one weekend and then a number of week nights… plus lots of beer.
RAY: It was such a joy recording this album with the guys at Hopping Mouse. Stu and Dave totally get where we are coming from and are just absolutely lovely people to work with. I think we all really wanted to get it sounding as swish as possible, being our fourth release and also I guess we’re really proud of these songs, so they deserved to be done right.
KIRILL: It was over two sessions about six months apart plus some overdubs. Most tracks are maybe third of fourth take I reckon. Definitely not a perfect record in terms of technical aspect and Stuart had to cut’ n chop a few mistakes I made here and there. In terms of energy and feeling I think it’s bang on. The last track we just made up on the spot, played once, then called Madeline in, she listened once to what we recorded and then just nailed the violin part first go – well I guess that’s what professional ‘mussos’ do!
What’s your favourite track on the new album? What do you love about it?/What’s it about?
RAY: That’s a hard one, I think with any songs you have favourites that change. I definitely enjoy playing “Colony” the most live at the moment. But i’d say my favourite track is “Punks in the Palace”. It’s all about the hope and despair we all find ourselves in and that maybe hope will win out. It’s just a real high energy and kinda emotional song, plus it’s a kinda nod to the 90s indie grunge stuff that we love.
Trent: Yeah “Punks in the Palace” is my favourite track on the album, I really love each element of the song a lot. Kirill’s guitar midway through the song gives me spine tingles.
KIRILL: “Conversations” starts off pretty slow n rocky but when it breaks it’s like “ohh wow ok, this is music now!”
JOSE: The “secret” track at the end.
Is there anything that you’d like people to know about that’s important to you or that you’d like more people to be aware of?
RAY: I think people are pretty aware of a lot of things these days. Our collective problem is one of organising, how we can project power and create alternatives to all of the capitalist bullshit. I’d personally love to see more physical community, DIY events, spaces, gardens, collectives etc and more thinking more about what unites us all, our common interests, passions and struggles rather than what divides us.
KIRILL: There’s a bug goin’ around, wash your hands people and cover your mouth when you cough.
TRENT: Follow ‘Trent Steven’ on Spotify and follow my playlist that’s called ‘emotional regulation…’ it’s got some ripper tracks on there and is guaranteed to get any party started.
We really dig Aborted Tortoise with their wild, driving, rapid-fire, jangly, buzzing punk. Their latest release is a concept EP – Scale Model Subsistence Vendor – about Coles’ Minis, the stupidity and frustration of the frenzied obsession and the pointless consumerism people buy into. We chatted with drummer, Alex Patching.
How did you first discover punk rock?
ALEX PATCHING: Personally most of my initial exposure probably came from the skate videos I used to watch when I was younger. The influence of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack also can’t be overstated. My dad is a massive rock dog so I didn’t really grow up with much punk being played aside from maybe the odd Sex Pistols song. Initially I got really into the bigger names (as you do) like Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat etc. but eventually started digging a little deeper and got really into the lo-fi cassette stuff that’s been so popular on YouTube over the last few years.
You all grew up together before Aborted Tortoise was even a band; tell us a little something about each member?
AP: Connor [Lane; vocals] is The Tony Galati of cryptocurrency (WA reference – sorry). Charles [Wickham; guitar] is a reality TV addict/Coles Minis enthusiast. Tom [Milan; guitar] is a medical physicist/renaissance man. John [Peers; bass] is a rock pig/gamer and I’m a subpar historian.
All of us (except Connor) went to the same high school, so we were all more or less familiar with each other long before the band was a thing. Tom and I have known each other since pre-primary and have a long and vibrant history – I have vivid memories of playing AOE at his house in primary school, the one you used to get in Nutri-Grain boxes. We used to make mazes filled with various hazard like crocodiles and lions and force innocent villagers to escape.
The four of us had a short-lived high school band which we fucked around with before starting Aborted Tortoise just after we graduated. We needed a vocalist, so we ended up recruiting Connor who I’d known for a while through a wider group of friends who used to go skating.
What’s the story behind your band name? How did you come to putting the words “aborted” and “tortoise” together? It’s has a nice ring to it!
AP: Haha, thanks. There was talk of changing the name at one point but we decided against it and now, for better or worse, it’s what we’re called. Its eye catching at least?
From memory we were hanging out in a carpark at this lake near where we live and there are all of these signs warning the public of tortoises crossing the road. Pretty sure I just saw the sign and the words came out. It’s far less heinous than the two pages of alternate names that we had lying around so we decided it would be the band name.
Aborted Tortoise are from Perth, Western Australia; how does your environment influence your music?
AP: I’m not sure it does influence our music per se. It does influence where we play in that it’s far more expensive to tour living here than it would be if we were based in Sydney or Melbourne or something. It’s not like we can pop over to a neighbouring city for the weekend with any ease, so we have to get used to playing the same five venues to the same 50 people. Thankfully we have the internet to peddle our wares because if we had to rely solely on the local scene for selling merch, things would be a bit grim.
You once describe your music as “like Chuck Berry on crack”; what key elements do you think make the Aborted Tortoise sound?
AP: Hahaha that quote is edgy 18-year-old me to a tee. Certainly early on, particularly on the first EP, there was a pretty strong element of traditional garage and surf like the Sonics or Dick Dale, so there was lots of blues scales, and most of the lyrics (at least on my behalf) ripped off a lot of the song concepts from those bands.
That said we’re a totally different band to the one that recorded our first EP. I think now we try to use the dual guitar thing a bit more interestingly rather than just having two guitars playing power chords. There’s also definitely a sense of humour and immaturity because we don’t want to take things too seriously. We have the most fun when we’re taking the piss.
At the start of March you released your Coles’ Minis inspired concept EP, Scale Model Subsistence Vendor EP; what sparked the idea?
AP: We had the idea of doing some form of concept EP and Charles had written a song about Coles Minis so we ran with that idea. Charles reckons he went to some movie night at a friend’s house and saw a bunch of Coles Minis on display around the place and got unreasonably (I say reasonably?) annoyed about it. The rabid presence of makeshift marketplaces and swap-meets for them online were also an inspiration.
Was it hard to write all the EP songs to theme?
AP: Honestly it probably helped a bit. We don’t often write to a consistent theme and we just choose ideas based on what we think is funny. Everyone had an idea about what part of the Minis process they wanted to respond to so we split the writing duties like that. Any parallels to the actual minis process are purely coincidental, but we made some educated guesses. Very happy to have finally used the word polyethylene in a song though.
You recorded and mixed the EP on a 4-track; how did you first learn how to record? Are you self-taught? Can you tell us a bit about recording process?
AP: In the pre-Aborted Tortoise days we used to badly self-record stuff with a USB mic into a computer, but we had no idea what the fuck we were doing and consequently the recordings are heinous. I ended up studying sound at Murdoch Uni which was fun but only maybe 40% was relevant to my interests. During that time I became obsessed with four-tracks, thanks largely to Get Real Stupid the first Reatards 7”, and in the end I learnt more by just playing around with my four track at home than I did during my degree. I just used my other bands, and my friends’ bands as guinea pigs to figure out what I was doing.
The first Aborted Tortoise release that I recorded and mixed was the Do Not Resuscitate 7”. That release was done mostly live on my Yamaha MT50. That machine shat the bed during that session, so the second side of the 7” was recorded on a different four-track that we borrowed (cheers Tom Cahill). When we were doing takes of 20XX the tape was speeding up as we started playing so it sounded like we were taking off or something, it was fucked.
Subsequently, for Scale Model Subsistence Vendor I reverted back to using my first-four track, my Tascam Porta 02. It’s probably the most basic four track you can get that isn’t just a tape deck. It’s technically a four-track but it can only record on two tracks at once. The only mix functions it has is level and pan control so essentially the mix had to be decided on before pressing record, and all the instruments were squashed together on two tracks as a stereo mix.
Connor’s place has a neat granny flat which we have kindly been granted access to, so we can record in there for free. The set up for Scale Model Subsistence Vendor was super basic; we just chucked all the instruments in the same room, popped a few mics about and played some takes, tweaking the settings on the desk as we went. Once we were happy with the mix, we just played the songs through and got them done in a day. Vocals were done separately a week or two later and that was that.
What’s is the most memorable show you’ve played? What made it so?
AP: Definitely a major one was when we went to Melbourne around 2015 to play a couple of gigs. We played a show at The Grace Darling with Dumb Punts who were kind enough to chuck us on a bill with them. The set itself wasn’t very memorable but at some point, someone knocked over a pint glass and it smashed on the stage. Later during Dump Punts’ set, Tom fell over straight onto the smashed pint glass with arms outstretched and badly cut up his hands, so we had to bail to the hospital so he could get stitched up which took all night. Tom still couldn’t move his fingers when we got back to Perth, so he went back to hospital only to find out that he’d actually severed some tendons in his hand, and the fuckhead doctor in Melbourne hadn’t properly checked it out. In any case it’s miraculous that Tom can even play guitar anymore. Hopefully that doctor got fired.
Some honourable mentions: that shit house party in Yanchep, Chaos Club 1 + 2 (for all the wrong reasons), Camp Doogs (both times).
Outside of music, how do you spend your time?
AP: Charles is in his final year at uni studying education so he can finally morph into Mr. Wickham and boss kids about.
I’ve just started studying honours in history part time, so I’ve got two years of uni ahead of me before my life starts truly resembling Night At The Museum. Charles and I both work together at the same store of a popular technology chain selling unnecessary shit to annoying techies who have nothing better to do.
Tom works at a hospital as a medical physicist doing complicated things to complicated machines that I don’t fully understand but its fucking sick nonetheless.
Connor had been residing in Europe until coronavirus kicked off big time so he’s back for the time being. Probably plotting his next crypto move.
Finally, John works in disability support, and has recently logged 200 hrs of the new Call Of Duty.
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.
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.
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!
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.