New playlist for October is up now for your listening pleasure! This months features songs from screensaver, Dr. Sure’s Unusual Practice, Laughing Gear, Hearts and Rockets, Ausecuma Beats, Power Supply, Bitumen, Alien Nosejob, Springtime, and more.
We chat in-depth with Tessa & Alda from D-beat band Jalang! They’ve released Australia’s best hardcore record this year. We explore the album themes: politics, religion, feminism and queer rights in South East Asia and beyond. A really important chat.
Gareth Liddiard from Tropical Fuck Storm speaks about new album ‘Deep States’, songwriting, creativity, fanboying and collecting weird shit.
R.M.F.C.’s Buz Clatworthy talks, a new album in the works, lockdown being a creativity dampener, finding inspiration in films and friends.
We yarn with Emma Donovan and The Putbacks. New record ‘Under These Streets’ draws on soul, R&B, funk and the protest music of Indigenous Australia—a dynamic portrait of Blak pain and joy in all its complexities.
Amyl and the Sniffers’ Amy Taylor and Bryce Wilson check-in to tell us about their new album’s journey, experiencing depression, keeping busy and the power of music.
French duo Heimat play off-kilter experimental-pop with folklore influence, cinematic-like soundscapes, and vocals in multiple languages. A chat on experimentation.
Old Home vocalist Dylan Sparks gives us a peek into their visceral performance poetry coupled with spontaneous musical composition.
We speak with Louisiana band Spllit just days after a hurricane hit their area. We adore their lo-fi weirdness. Next level music.
70’s acid-folk legend Howard Eynon has had a storied life: appearing in films including Mad Max, supporting Hunter S Thompson’s tour; performing in theatre. Recently, he’s been working on music with Zak Olsen. A brilliant chat.
Julian Teakle of The Native Cats and Rough Skies Records selects some of his favourite tracks for us.
At Gimmie HQ we’ve been bumping the new Cong Josie album Cong! hard since it arrived in our inbox. We loved it so much that we ordered the hot pink limited edition vinyl version. The album is officially out Oct 22 on It Records (home of our favs – New War and Atom). It’s a fabulous high energy clash of minimal synth, EBM (Electronic Body Music), rockabilly-ish vocals, punk attitude with a whole lotta throb and thrust, along with some heart tugging surprises.
Today we’re debuting the electrifying song ‘Cong The Singer’ along with its video, a guerrilla D.I.Y. ode to the Naarm/Melbourne suburbs that spawned Cong! We chatted with the man, the myth, the legend himself, Cong Josie alter-ego of musician Nic Oogjes.
In your heat beat ensemble NO ZU you play instruments; now as Cong Josie you’re just singing?
CONG JOSIE: Yeah. It was a really deliberate choice, a really arrogant choice [laughs], that’s kind of what the song ‘Cong The Singer’ is about. Arrogant in that I’ve never been a singer. I love singing; I love singing in the shower. I’ve always loved singing along to Roy Orbison, trying to sing ‘Crying’. Very ambitious targets! All of the “Bobby Movement” like Bobby Darrin; there was a lot of guys called Bobby in the 50’s that did rock n roll ballads. Elvis. All that kind of stuff. It was a deliberate decision not to carry around instruments anymore.
I keep going through these things with each new project. After my first when-I-was-becoming-an-adult-and-start-taking-things-seriously band, I was like, ‘I don’t ever want to have to carry around a drumkit anymore!’ I would be up front playing some rototoms so that I could stand up, and that led into NO ZU. I was only going to carry standup percussion, but then it expanded. It grew to a point where I didn’t want to carry all this stuff around; trumpets, all sorts of stuff. There was lots of clothes for each band member too, I’d carry around to each gig. Our baggage loads on planes were crazy!
I was like, ‘I just want to be a singer!’ Even though I can’t sing. That’s really arrogant, but I have always had the belief that anyone is an artist and anyone can make something interesting if you have the drive and ideas. In fact, most of my favourite singers, that I just mentioned… even Roy Orbison, sings off key, which makes his voice really interesting and intriguing, where he often has to bend into a note. There are a lot of notes that aren’t quite right.
I love singers that are non-singers, I find their voices really interesting. There’s this Greek singer Márkos Vamvakáris, who was one of the biggest rebetiko stars; they call it the Greek Blues, it’s a lot about hash dens and sordid activities. It was real people’s music, real working-class music. His voice is like a chainsaw! It’s not good, but I love it, it has the most edge to it. Obviously, that throughout punk and post-punk as well, it’s like that. It’s from that background that I thought I could at least make something interesting. I can sing these two notes, kind of, if I’m in this register [laughs].
[Laughter]. What else is the song about?
CJ: It’s about playing with that idea of a singer. It’s a fantasy tale about being a hero of the suburbs. I’ve never really understood why everything has to be so city-centred, and why everything has to play into these references of what’s cool and what’s happening now. In my fantasy dreamworld, there would be pockets all throughout the urban sprawl of Melbourne and beyond, where amazing music is happening. And, there’s this one singer that plays around the Eastern suburbs, around the R.S.L. and chicken-parmigiana-pubs, that are actually really creative and great but for whatever reason in our culture (in the 80’s bands would go out and play those places), it’s just not a thing now. It’s about that, because it’s just an impossibility.
The other layer is that actual baring of childhood and real-life things. As I was saying before, it’s amazing to hear yourself in music. I haven’t heard other people mention the Eastern Freeway in a song before! It’s a pretty good road [laughs]. It also expresses that driving was a form of freedom when I was younger. Going to the city, to places for “culture” and discovering different kinds of music was really important to me. So, that road means a lot.
Even my suburb. I’ve actually moved back to my teenage house, that’s where I am now. I bought it off my mum, which was very strange. I remember living here when I was younger, I remember this Australian rapper called Bias B, he talked about the trainline here. Aussie hip-hop around 2000 was the first time I ever heard specific areas mentioned. He talked about the Burra to Eltham train! Growing up here in a leafy suburb having nothing to say, but it’s not true, hearing things like that, I loved it, and that’s probably how it fed into my work.
The video clip we’re premiering for ‘Cong The Singer’is really fun! What do you remember about filming?
CS: We only shot it two weeks ago, so I remember all of it [laughs]. And if anyone wants to know, we did do it Covid safe, I’m even wearing a mask in one part. I was actually saying this to Nick [Mahady] who filmed it with me…
He did your ‘Leather Whip’ clip too!
CJ: Yeah. This is kind of like ‘Leather Whip #2’. The first song was set in Greece because we happend to be there before Covid. Nick is a really great friend and talented artist; he did the portrait artwork for my releases so far and the Cong! cover. He’s an example of someone that is so open and creative and sensitive. We have a really great relationship, since I discovered more about myself and valued that aspect in people even more.
I was saying to Nick, that this video and ‘Leather Whip’ mean so much to me and are so close to me, because we literally went out with a camera and a few sketched ideas. We saw a rabbit, so we filmed a rabbit. We saw a bin chicken… or we decided to go to the river, which felt like minus thirty degrees! It was all very spontaneous over two days. It was nerve-racking also.
The first shot we did was Footscray Amphitheatre. We got there and it was so quiet. It was a Saturday morning, beautiful weather. A couple of people were sitting in their Northface jackets drinking coffee. There were two groups of people looking down at exactly where we were filming. There were people jogging. Being in a cowboy hat, add to this debaucherous music, which we knew was going to be loud for a moment; I had my little Bluetooth speaker to mime to. It was scary! We actually started talking to each other, “Oh maybe we can do this other shot” [laughs]. We started setting up and one of the people there made a joke to me, he said, “Are we going to get an organ performance?” Because he saw my pants underneath my long jacket I was wearing and that broke the ice. I was like, ‘Ok, this is alright’ [breaths a sigh of relief], and then I started performing. I was like, ‘This is the best grassroots campaign ever, I just made three fans!’ It was me and Nick, and Johnny Cayn(Cayn Borthwick) was there.
The clip is very direct and real. It’s very D.I.Y. This is going to sound really bad, but I can’t stop watching it. My band The Crimes that are in it, can’t stop watching it either. There’s so many funny bits. They’re like, “Why are you presenting the Westgate Bridge?” [laughs]. I’m like, ‘I don’t know?!’
Do you have a favourite moment from the video?
CJ: In one of the first musical breakdowns, I’m on the Coburg Lake stage and there’s people having picnics, bemused by what we were doing – I’m either clicking my fingers or combing my hair – and there’s a rollerskater behind me twirling. That was a guy we met while we were packing up. Initially there were two boxers on stage. They said they were happy to be in the video and they had the music cranked, they were big beefy guys; then they told us they didn’t want to be in it. As we were packing up one of the boxers were like, “Hey, get Tony! Tony is amazing. Get him in it.” We introduced ourselves and asked if he wanted to be in it. He said, “Ok.” Then he started doing spins and we pretended music was going on. It’s one of the most beautiful shots, because he’s really great. It’s a great juxtaposition.
That’s one of my favourite shots too! His leg movements are perfect, such finesse. It works so beautifully.
CJ: There’s another one second shot of us with a beautiful white dog.
That’s my other favourite shot!
CJ: There was a mum and daughter walking their dog. I was doing the shot where I comb my hair near the car, obviously people were looking at us a bit strange. I said ‘hi’ as they walked past and thought maybe I should ask them if we can get a shot with that big gorgeous dog. They were really happy to, and they gave me treats to keep the dog in the vicinity. You don’t get shots like that otherwise. I wanna keep doing it. Maybe it’s a great way to build my fan base [laughs], very slow and labour intensive.
[Laughter]. We’re so happy to be premiering the song and video, it’s right up our alley. We really love your whole album Cong! It fuses so many things we love together – it has a kind of rockabilly vocal and then it’s got an EBM feel and a punk spirit.
CJ: Yeah, cool! It has all of those things. I really dug into a world of the Norton Records label, they do some really great outsider rockabilly like Hasil Adkins. Those wild rockabilly/rock’n’roll/country fellas: Jack Starr, Stud Cole, Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Terry Allen are some of the sleezy cats that have been an influence. Also, a lot of the artists that The Cramps were inspired by, they called them wild men, and apparently some of them really were—that’s a big influence on who Cong is. Cong is the wild rockabilly artist but in a suburban Australian setting, so he’s also gonna be a bit different.
In terms of the electronics, I was never able to focus on the throb, as I call it, the throbbing rhythm. In NO ZU everything was still mechanical and awkward funk, a bit more danceable in a different way. It’s a big clash of those things.
I love Johnny Cayn’s guitar on the track. It’s probably the most slide-y, rockabilly thing on the record. It’s just wild and out of control.
Yes! It’s very cool.
CJ: I really love Simone aka Mona Reeves’ voice with the “Saturday night” part on there too, which is inspired by the Elton John ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ track. Just that idea of being really excited by a Saturday or Friday night is a musical trope that was really fun to explore!
Ed’s note: We spoke with Cong Josie for over a hour, this is a small extract from a more in-depth chat exploring the entire album, growing up in Melbourne, toxic masculinity, Nicolaas Oogjes musical evolution, creativity, getting through life’s challenges, and creating your own world to heal and grow. Read it in our next print issue (#5) we’re currently working on.
Forming just over a year ago, nipaluna/Hobart-based band RABBIT are releasing their debut 7 inch on Rough Skies Records (home of bands we love: Slag Queens, All The Weather, 208L Containers and The Native Cats) today. The quartet give us three high energy, power-pop gems. Overdriven guitars, catchy riffs, solid driving rhythms, and melodic vocals singing songs of love and heartbreak. Songwriter and guitarist, Bobby K, tells us about the band’s formation, recording the EP, and their inspirations.
RABBIT is inspired by forgotten power-pop groups and new wave punks; who are some of these inspirations and what is it that you appreciate about them?
BOBBY K: There’s a demo by Peter Case’s band The Nerves that I come back to a lot. I stumbled on a lot of these old power-pop songs because they were made popular by other artists. The first Cyndi Lauper record has a couple; Robert Hazard wrote Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, The Brains wrote Money Changes Everything. The Nerves wrote Hanging on the Telephone which I only knew as a Blondie song until I started sniffing around its roots like a truffle pig. There’s so many truffles underfoot hey, The Flamin’ Groovies, The Records, Vibrators, The Soft Boys, The Only Ones, Television Personalities, Buzzcocks, The Motels… plus all the Oz punk stuff like Celibate Rifles and Birdman and Saints. What ties the truffles together for me is sharp, simple songwriting – I’m always a lovesick fool for a pop song but rough it up a bit with overdriven guitars and demo-quality recording and you get me all buttery. Recently I got hooked on the Buffalo Springfield song Burned – prime example of perfect guitar pop, and coincidentally almost the same title as a RABBIT tune from the 7”.
You wrote and recorded the demos for the three songs on the Gone 7” yourself on a Tascam 4-track tape before forming the band. Who or what first got you into music?
BK: My Aunt Lou played me a tape of a Welsh choir when I was about 6 and I guess it got in there pretty deep, pretty powerful music. Neil Young taught me guitar, Bill Ward taught me drumming. I studied classical music at uni too, but it wasn’t much chop and crushed me into a tonal box from which I’m still trying to escape. Nahhh, I like tonality, it’s comforting. Anyway I’ve been in heaps of gross punk bands since I was 13, and one that was pretty good, and now I’m in RABBIT.
On your Instagram there was a vid of you playing guitar with the caption: upstrokes are for arseholes. Where does your love of the downstroke come from?
BK: It’s a worthy commitment! I got it from Dave Gibson (Funeral Moon/Spacebong/Ratcatcher). Dunno where he got it from but probably The Misfits or The Ramones or The Slayer [sic]. Have a look and a listen next time you watch a guitar band, upstrokes are so floppy and limp. There’s nothing worse than listening to limp floppy upstrokes, nothing, except like if you’re running back to your car because you’re two minutes overparked but as you get back the inspector is taking a photo and the ticket is there on your windscreen and you were too late, and you try to protest but the inspector just simpers at you, and then later you’re at the pub and there’s a band playing and IT’S HIM, THE INSPECTOR, and he’s playing third wave ska! That’s worse! But it’s the same thing! Also, the tone and attack of downstrokes rips.
How did the band come to be? How did you meet each band member: Maggie Edwards (vocals), Sean Wyers (drums) and Claire Johnston (bass)?
BK: I was living in a sharehouse with Magz around the time I was recording the demo. My singing voice sounds like Leo Kottke’s farts on a muggy day, so I asked Magz to sing on it. Even her retching is sonorous. I think I met Clairey at the Brisbane Hotel one night and she put her name in my phone as ‘CLAIREY MEGABABE’. She’d heard the demo and was super keen, so we tried to get a band together with her on drums. I went overseas for work and it fizzed, and then she kicked it back into life last year, she put the word out and pulled it together with Sean on the kit. I’d met him a year before when I showed up at a rehearsal space for a weekly blast beat practice and his metal band had muscled in on my slot. They went to the pub for an hour while I sweated it out over his snare, and eventually I moved into his spare room. That’s how Hobart works. Clairey is still MEGABABE.
Each of the songs on Gone speak to various aspects of love and/or relationships. Can you tell us about the writing of ‘Gone Gone Gone’? What sparked it?
BK: The songs on the demo came out of a singularly painful and traumatic breakup, sort of diversionary processing tactic or something, dunno what was going on upstairs but I chucked it all into writing loud pop songs. Somebody in France was very kind to me when I was low, dusted me off as I was passing through so I stayed with them for a few weeks and eventually got a flight to Dublin and drank a million pints with my Da and then BANG, wrote a song about it. It’s in G major and it’s got a bunch of suspended 4ths which try to convey the feeling of vomiting in the rain in the front yard of a BnB while your Da takes photos of you from the rental car. Berlioz for the 21st century or whatever. Actually, the lyric in the chorus came out of a dream I had many years ago and I never knew what it meant but now I sort of do.
You made a film clip for ‘Gone Gone Gone’ directed by Joseph Shrimpton; what do you remember most from filming it?
BK: Shouting SHRIMPTON a bunch. I’d just met Jo that day and was pretty excited. They’re really nice! It was an easy film shoot – mostly I just lay on a mattress and read a book about chess while Clairey had a bath. Magz and Sean had an argument about a lamp. SHRIMPTON!
The songs were recorded with Zac Blain (A. Swayze and the Ghosts) in a sharehouse on Muwinina Country. How did the collaboration come about?
BK: We just asked the guy because he’s a ripper. We more or less all knew one another, so it was an easy thing to organise. Sean and I were living in the old sharehouse on Warwick Street (where the video was filmed), the neighbour screeched at us like a bat, Zac was an absolute pleasure and he gets where RABBIT comes from. He’s got cool spectacles.
Can you share with us some details of the recording of ‘Burnt’?
BK: More room mic and less close mic in the drum mix, Bonham style for Seans. Two almost identical guitar tracks panned L/R – one through a Fender Bassman and one through an Orange Rockerverb II, same set up for every song on the 7”. Clairey’s bass guitar signal attended the Zac Blain School of Wonderful Works and graduated with a Certificate III, and Maggie just sings everything perfectly, every time. That’s what she does.
How did the song ‘Love Bites’ change from the original demo version to the final recording version we hear? We especially love the dual vocals!
BK: Well, Love Bites wasn’t on the demo that went up on bandcamp, it was a later song that I demo’d after we’d started rehearsing. I recorded it really rough for the band to hear and Maggie filled in a missing verse. It still changed quite a bit from my demo to the band recording… the dual vocals are more contrapuntal on the 7”, I think on the demo it was more of a straight harmony. Clairey reworked the bass part and made it more harmonically colourful. Sean and I are very different drummers, so the drums were bound to feel different. I’m an absolute slop-fest octopus while Sean is much more precise with his fills. The brief I gave to Sean for Love Bites was “play it like Mitch Mitchell, y’know, like just put shit everywhere”, but Sean hits ’em harder and more solid than Mitchell, so there ya have it!
Rabbit are nipaluna/Hobart-based; what’s the best and worst bits about living where you are?
BK: Worst bit is how the gaming industry dominates pubs all around the state and there’s relatively few venues to support live music and there’s not much we can do about it.
The best bit is how everyone drives 10ks under the limit and the sky always looks like an ice-cream cake.
What’s one of the most memorable local shows you’ve attended or played and what made it so?
BK: We recently played at Junction Arts Festival in Launceston and after our gig we went and watched a friend’s band Broken Girl’s Club, and I was standing on the grass in the dark with Sean and he taps me on the shoulder and shouts over the music ‘OI, BOBBY LOOK AT THIS’ and I look down and he’s holding a handful of wriggling worms.
Ohhhh, also there was one at Altar where the sewage backed up and flooded out onto the dance floor and The Bonus didn’t get to play because it was a public health emergency.
What do you love about making music?
BK: It’s the only thing in the world that I ever want to do, and I GET TO DO IT.
What else should we know about you? BK: I used to go for the dim sim but now I go straight for the corn jack.
Kid Congo Powers is a creative force and true original. Kid’s played in The Cramps, The Gun Club, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Wolfmanhattan Project, as well as gifted the world a band of his own creation, Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds. Gimmie spoke to him to get an insight into their new EP Swing From The Sean DeLear, his experience of being a person of colour and openly gay in the punk scene, the upcoming biography he’s written, we also talk lucid dreaming and much more.
It’s so lovely to speak with you again. How have you been?
KID CONGO: Just at home [laughs]. Good, good. The lockdown has been good for a few things, I finished the draft of my memoir I’ve been writing for over twelve years; it afforded me the time to not have any more excuses [laughs], to jump up and go on tour and not finish it. Luckily, right before lockdown I had finished a lot of recording, a new Pink Monkey Birds record, and I did one with a group I’m part of called the Wolfmanhattan Project, with Mick Collins who was in The Dirtbombs and The Gories and Bob Bert that was in Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore. I’ve been working on other music projects with different friends, we’ve been recording at home and sending each other music and sending it back and forth between each other; a few of these are almost albums, I think. There’s been a lot of work. I keep sitting here for a year thinking I haven’t been doing anything but actually I’ve been busy the entire time.
It’s a strange thing because I moved, we’re living in Tucson, Arizona, and as soon as we were starting to know people, getting to know the town more and able to navigate it, the lockdown happened. There was no big social life, no getting to know anything else because everything is closed. Arizona had high Covid numbers so I was like, I’m not going anywhere! Just enjoying homelife, reading, playing music and writing, being a local stray cat mother; we found a little baby cat on our patio out front so we took him in and we’ve been raising a cat through the quarantine time. He’s gone from a sweet little kitten with eyes closed, he still had the umbilical cord and everything, just a day old, but now he’s six months old and a complete terror! [laughs]. We love him! That’s keeping me busy.
Your new EP Swing From The Sean DeLear is so cool, I’ve been listening to it over and over since it came out. Each track is different, there’s only four songs – one a 14-minute-long song ‘He Walked In’ – and it seems to me to tap into all of the things you’re about as a music maker and all the different things you like shines through in these songs.
KC: Yeah. It’s become the unconscious goal. It’s a really nice compliment because the goal is to use everything that you have learned and to try and make something else out of it. I feel like that is why sticking things out in the long term is really good. I was always in bands for two or three years and that was it or I’d start a project and end it but with The Pink Monkey Birds, it’s been over ten years with the same band. Everyone is very in tune and knows what we’re capable of and everyone contributes, it becomes its own beast with its own life. We never discuss when things are going to happen, a lot of music just comes out of “here’s some chords” and I’ll start playing or someone will start playing. It’s like automatic writing. Different people steer the ship at different times. That’s what happened on this EP, different people came up with different things. Mark [Cisneros] showed up to the session with a flute, I didn’t know he played the flute! He’s like, “We’re recording in the desert so I thought you might like some desert sounds.” I replied, “Great! Fantastic! Bring it on!” It really made that 14-minute-long song. Larry Hardy from In The Red Records said, “We’ll put out a 12-inch EP but one song has to be long, like 6-7 minutes.” We said we can do that. We recorded the song and I was like that should be 6 or 7 minutes and asked how long it was and he said “Fourteen minutes!” [laughs]. We weren’t conscious of time; we were just feeling it out. The only thing we worked out was the tempo change. There was no editing, it’s all live.
I thought, is anyone going to even like this? It’s a slow 14-minute song! We’re a crazy rock n roll, garage rock band. But it’s the music we want to make and that came out of us at this moment. Luckily, and like anything that has that positive energy behind it, it was very well received. I like that our audience seems willing and happy for us to change things up, they want you to expanded; like I do when I’m a fan, I always have been. I followed Patti Smith’s work since I was 15-16-years-old to now and I’m always happy whatever it is she does, it’s always big to me, it’s just loving her as an artist. I’m like that with a lot of people that stay in it for the long haul and stay true to the muse. All the people I have been involved with, I still feel its amazing work that’s coming out of them, it’s because they stick to their original idea but then are not afraid to experiment and go outside the formula, there’s no pandering going on, that is exciting to me!
Yeah. I’m the same as you. I love seeing artists go against expectation. If they’re doing it with honesty and stay true to their spirit, no matter what they do, I’m in.
KC: Exactly. We have plenty of rock songs on the record too.
The song ‘He Walked In’ was inspired by a dream you had about Jeffrey Lee Pierce?
KC: Yes. I had this dream that shook me when I woke up. I knew it hadn’t really happened but the things in the dream, I could smell him, I could feel him; I could feel him in my presence. I was very much like, wow! That really happened, that dream was a visitation. I have no doubts. I have lots of dreams and they’re just dreams, but once in a while you get these ones that are so sensory, you can feel it and when you wake up you can still feel it, and you know what that feeling is. I jotted down this dream when I woke up, it was very clear in my mind, the song is a version of it. It was important to me. When we started making the music for it, I had an idea that I’d use the text for this and it was perfect for it. It was all very serendipitous all fitting together.
In the song lyrics you mention the kitchen and a telephone on the wall; is that the kitchen where you live now?
KC: No, it’s actually my childhood house where I lived with my parents, that’s where the dream took place. It was even stranger and had very personal images. Jeffery had come to that house.
I really love the film clip for the song. I enjoyed how the first part of the clip is shot in one continuous long shot. I noticed too that when you were walking and you get to the part where you start the dialogue and you’re talking about Jeffery coming to visit that in the shot there’s a little golden orb of light.
KC: Yeah [laughs]. There’s no CGI going on. It’s the sun deciding to come at the moment, we did that take several times because we had to nail it. It was the hottest part of the summer; the Arizona summer is very hot and we’d had all these wildfires in California and the smoke was making its way all the way to Arizona.
I wanted to work with the film maker David Fenster, he’s magical too. He deals in a lot of art films. The films he makes deal with a lot of spirits, a lot of ancient spirits usually, either living in nature or inhabiting different inanimate objects, it’s beautiful. He’s a beautiful cinematographer. He had moved to here shortly after we moved here. I knew I wanted him to do a video. We’re in quarantine but we have some wide-open spaces, so he rented a really nice camera. He said, “I think you need to be here. Wear a white suit walking through the desert and we’ll figure the rest out. You’ll be able to feel what’s happening.” I had actually just done an online workshop with this intuitive teacher named Asher Hartman from Los Angeles; it was a workshop on finding spirit guides. I did that not too long before we did the clip. David had done some film work with Asher, that’s how I found out about Asher. That came into play in the film. It’s pretty much improvised, we just had to nail the text [laughs]. We had to do it a few times, walking for 9-minutes in the heat without stopping or having a car come by with someone honking or whatever. So, it worked out in a magical kind of way. It’s hard to go wrong in that magical scenery, you’re on Native land [of the Tohono O’odham, Sobaipuri, Pascua Yaqui, and Hohokam people] and that is magical, when you get out into the desert and you realise it really does bring a lot of magic to be engaged the whole time.
Speaking of magical things, your outfit in that clip is really magical!
KC: [Laughs] I wore that suit when my husband Ryan and I got married.
KC: That’s my marriage outfit! It’s a good suit and I was shocked, really shocked I could still fit into it! That’s several years old.
It is so beautiful, especially with the turquoise Bolo necktie.
KC: Yeah, awww. That’s the thing, every piece has to have meaning. Film is two dimensional and that kind of stuff helps make it visceral and more three dimensional, because all of that stuff is happening and, in the background, and in the weight of what’s going on in the moment. Full disclosure, I have studied acting as well, for four or five years I went to an acting teacher, a private group acting with Cathy Haase. She was a great, great teacher. She was from the Actors Studio and as a teacher at the School Of Visual Arts. I never thought I was going to be an actor but I thought, I’d rather do this than therapy [laughs]. It was a lot of Actors Studio kind of sense memory stuff and using your past to evoke emotions and actions. I think I’m very equipped for that, I don’t always know how to use it but for that I did. I don’t think I looked uncomfortable or anything.
It looked very natural. Another song on the new EP is ‘Sean DeLear’ that’s about a non-binary African-American punker and culture fanatic, and Glue front-person, Sean D; what’s one of your favourite Sean stories or memories?
KC: [Laughs]. I would just be constantly amazed at where they would pop up! Anywhere I went, at any event, it was like; how is Sean DeLear backstage at Siouxsie and the Banshees concert? They were very much a character and reminds me a lot of myself, that Sean just put themselves there. They were going to be in the middle of it and that’s just it! People start to treat you like, “Oh, Sean DeLear! They must be someone, so let them in.” The last time I saw Sean, they showed up at my show in London. I really liked Sean; I always call them demi-drag because they were not always a woman but not always drag, non-binary, whatever Sean felt like on the day. They were part Diana Ross, part Johnny Rotten; a real Zelig. He was a very engaged, lovely person and fully original. Just to be an African-American punker but to me, a gay, out, Black man was always incredible to me and always inspirational. I was always amazed where they showed up at, all around the world—New York, L.A., London, Vienna. An ambiguous character that was well-known and famous for being around. That’s a real, real talent! And, very beloved by the underground rock n roll community and the underground in general, the gay underground, LGBTQ+ underground. A bright spot. Very, very kooky and original person.
When they passed away it was like, how can it be that Sean Delear is no longer on the earth?! Someone that is so alive and bright. I was very inspired to write something about the essence of Sean DeLear. It’s like, where is Sean DeLear now? I thought if there is a heaven… I looked in the sky and I thought, oh, they’re probably just swinging from some chandelier, that’s probably what heaven is [laughs]. I say in the song: how many people can you fit up there? He passed away in 2018 and I had so many friends that passed away that year; I thought maybe they’re all up there on the chandelier swinging around together. I don’t know if I believe in that, I’d like to believe in an afterlife of some sort but I don’t know what it is but maybe that’s it, a party on a chandelier rocketing through outer space [laughs].
As a gay Latinx, person of colour, in the punk and rock n roll scenes; did you ever experience racism or homophobia? Or in your experience has it been an accepting place?
KC: Things came and went; prejudices and fears I would have about being out. Luckily, the earliest punk rock of Los Angeles definitely had a lot of gay people at the forefront, it was made up of art students, gay people, film people, all kinds of people made up scene—it was more misfit than misanthropic in the beginning. It was a gathering of likeminded outcasts who were sick of the status quo, the music and the whole scenario. That was always very open but it was also a time where people weren’t talking about… in the punk rock scene in Los Angeles at that time, any labels were absolutely off the books and totally taboo, you don’t want to be anything, except for a punk rocker, you’re outside of everything, you’re the blank generation! What ever you can call it, you’re not that. If you’re bucking against the system, that was good enough, that was the only requirement. Being gay was definitely bucking against the system. That’s how openminded and accepted things were in the beginning. I guess later it got more co-opted to become homophobic, more when hardcore music came in.
KC: That kind of dispersed the original scene. People turned twenty-one and twenty-two and were old and out of it already by them—cos they were washed up old hags! [laughs]. People moved on to something else. In The Gun Club, we played with androgyny; Jeffery with his Marilyn Monroe from Hell moniker. We were totally unafraid to play with stereotypes and gender then. We were just freaks. Then in The Cramps, how much freer could you be to be a sexual deviant! [laughs]. It was encouraged in the highest! That too, with The Cramps there was no limit to gender roles. You just looked sharp and whatever it was, that’s the way you were going to look and be. It was such a pro-sexuality-of-all-kinds-scene, it wasn’t homophobic. The Bad Seeds, open-minded people, although very macho sort of; that was the first time I was in a band with all men [laughs]. There was always a woman in the band, with The Cramps and The Gun Club. I didn’t have any trepidation about being myself and sexuality and putting it out there. I think I adapted to every band. I just thought I’ll be me; I don’t need to be Ronnie Spector in this band [laughs]. If there was any trepidation of about what people thought of me, that’s on me really. I was never treated different for being gay and that’s because I’ve always stood my ground and been who I am. People can accept it or not accept it.
I think homophobia came from outside the rock n roll world, if it was in the rock n roll world, I’d just tell them to fuck off! I’ve experienced tons of homophobia. I also felt really ostracized by the mainstream gay scene, more when I was younger, the pre-punk time because I didn’t look like them and I was not going to be accepted by them. I decided that I’d just become a monster [laughs], that was a better route to take. If you see a monster, I’ll be a monster!
I saw much more sexism towards woman, directed at the women I was in groups with. I saw sound people in clubs be condescending to [Poison] Ivy or Romi [Mori] or Patricia Morrison. We would call them out of course, but it existed. For me, I didn’t feel it as much as what I saw happen with women, which upset me. They were all strong, cool, women that weren’t going to let it go! [laughs].
Did you experience any racism?
KC: I don’t think so, no. That was the glorious thing about coming up in punk rock, it was open to everyone. Being in Los Angeles, which has a huge Hispanic population, a huge Latino population, Chicano population, there was never a way of avoiding it. Jeffrey Lee Pierce was Chicano, his mother was Mexican-American. I think people were more outraged by my hair than the colour of my skin [laughs]. You come equipped when you are a person of colour. I was equipped with an immediate idea that I was a second-class citizen, that there was a prejudice and always a potential for danger and there was always a way to carry yourself to protect yourself. My parents very much grew up in the depression era… they had a very hard time, I think that’s why they brought me and my sisters up speaking English as a first language, not very much Spanish was taught to us. They wanted us to assimilate. They wanted it to be easier for us because they and their parents had a much harder time assimilating. Their parents’ generation were actually immigrants and they saw how hard it was. There’s a lot of people that didn’t grow up learning Spanish and it contributed to a feeling of otherness. You know you are Mexican and you’ve been raised to be proud of your heritage and you’re exposed to your heritage and customs, family and things, but you also don’t speak the language and that makes you feel ostracized from people.
How did your song ‘(I Can’t Afford) Your Shitty Dreamhouse’ come to you?
KC: I wrote that before the George Floyd death, Brianna Taylor shooting and the Black Lives Matter uprising and protests; I could see something coming, just look at our Administration at the time. It’s a protest song. The shitty dreamhouse is all of the conversative right-wing let’s-make-America-great-again-dream they had, which is to return to a time when people of colour had no civil rights. That’s basically what they were saying. I’ve always been fucking fighting against this, it’s particularly terrible at this time. Blatant fascism. People were empowered to be racist. I was like, they have some shitty dream house they want to build! I can’t afford to buy into this or think that it’s going to be a part of my life. People are out there protesting saying you’re fucked and this is fucked and you’re not helping, you need to listen to us. There’s a line in the song that says: I can fight like we did all along, years before you were in my song. It’s a fuck you, you’re not going to get us. It’s protest music that you can dance to. It has a deeper meaning.
I love the art work for your new EP too; your husband Ryan does it?
KC: He’s done all of the records, he’s the ideas man! I really like the idea of having one artist, it really makes an identity and theme. I like to have a theme going with music or whatever philosophies there are with the culture we’re creating. He’s a visual artist and he said it was good to have on-going identity, that people come with you. I’m happy with whatever he comes up with, it’s always great. He does the lettering by hand. He’s an incredible draftsperson. And, he’s fun! He’s just the right kind of crazy, too [laughs].
That’s something that I’ve always loved about all off the bands you’ve been a part of, you’ve created your own world.
KC: That is intentional. I didn’t know any other way to do it. That’s how I learnt from all the bands I’ve been in; you create your own world. Jeffrey was the focus of The Gun Club, Lux and Ivy were the focus of The Cramps, they came up with bullet proof concepts, ideas and worlds—they bring people together and people into a community and our world! It’s more multi-dimensional than just listening to music, it’s visual and conceptual and also loose enough to change and ever-morphing, it becomes its own beast. It relies on a fair amount of consistency, that was always my shortfall [laughs]. I’ve done a lot of different things but only for a little while. With The Pink Monkey Birds I wanted to start something like that. I’m in it for the long haul, as a result we have created our own world and we’re lucky people want to come along, jump on our planet!
A band like, Sparks, who I’ve liked since I was a teenager, still going and I’m still in their world and I never want to leave. It’s consistently amazing. You’re like, oh my god, they’re getting better! The Ramones, you knew exactly what their world was about when you first saw their show, at least I did. I couldn’t tell you what it was about but I could tell you that it was something that I understood. I do hope that it’s something that happens with us.
I spoke with Martin Rev from Suicide the other day and he was telling me that he wakes up and pretty much every day makes music. I asked him what he was working on and he told me that he wasn’t working on anything in particular that he was just making music. That’s his life.
KC: Yeah, that’s it. That is just it. There is no big plan, maybe some people have a big plan, but for us old timers and people in it for the long haul, you just make the stuff. That’s what Patti Smith told me an artist was: make the stuff, keep your name clean, don’t do stuff you don’t want to do and it should all work out somehow. You might not be famous but you’ll have this amazing work and people will respond to it, it might be ten people or it might be ten million, it doesn’t matter really. It’s our chosen path in life. That’s what we do, we make stuff.
In November last year beloved Melbourne rock roll band Civic put out their first release 7” Radiant Eye on new label home Flightless Records; powerful and exciting with a muscular sound and caveman groove, flourishes of psychedelic apocalyptic guitar meltdown, cutting through fire hooks. As we eagerly await their debut full-length, slated for early this year, we caught up with bassist Roland Hlavka.
What did you get up to today?
ROLAND HLAVKA: I went to work for a few hours moving furniture. It was hot!
When Civic first started, around 2016/2017, I know your concept was to simply play good rock n roll; what embodies good rock n roll to you?
RH: I think it was more to just make music we collectively listen to and like. Which happened to be rock n roll at the time. The type of music we play, I personally think just needs to be loud, catchy and have a fairly even mix of not caring and caring too much. A lot of what we do is very thought out. But you need to balance that with some naivety, or you just end up sounding like what’s been done.
Why do you think rock n roll matters?
RH: It’s pretty obviously influenced popular culture for the last 70 years, be it in music, fashion, art etc… countless sub-cultures have come from “rock n roll”. It has changed and morphed over the years. But I think what hasn’t changed is its sentiment. Doing or making something because you think it’s good and it conjures a feeling. And doing it regardless if it’s well received or not.
What’s one of the staple records in your collection that you always keep going back to? What do you appreciate about it?
RH: This is going to be pretty obvious coming from us but The Stooges first three albums. I still listen to them heavily to this day. What always fascinates me is hundreds, if not thousands, of bands and musicians have used them as a point of reference and no-one in my opinion has even come close to making something in their era that has been so widely accepted as “cool”.
What have you been listening to lately?
RH: Over the last few months I have been enjoying a lot of compilations put together by people I like.
One to note has been Sad About The Times a 12″ compilation by Mikey Young. It features a bunch of weird outsider artists and one hit wonders. Lots of great tracks.
Outside the context of this interview… I’ve also been listening to a lot of Westside Gunn and his affiliated acts. Very talented rappers.
There’s often a bunch of sneaky references to both Australian and international bands you love in your music; what’s an Australian band you love that you feel is totally underrated? Why do they rule?
RH: I’m not sure how underrated they are but definitely The Celibate Rifles have been a big influence on us, more so in the early days. As I said early… loud, catchy and a good middle ground of self-consciousness.
In November last year you put out a new 7” and your first release on Flightless Records, Radiant Eye. We’re really digging the brass on the track; what inspired you to add it into the mix?
RH: We had played the song live a handful of times before recording it. And had said to each other it could be cool to have some horns. We are all fans of The Saints and Ed Kuepper in general. Not that this is a nod to them. But the mix between what we were doing and some brass obviously sounds great. So, we called up Stella Rennex [Parsnip/Smarts] while we were recording and got her to come up with a part. We have her playing on a few tracks from the upcoming album too.
On the b-side you covered The Creation’s 1966 hit ‘Making Time’; how’d you come to choosing this song to cover?
RH: That was Lewis’ idea. We liked the idea of having a cover on the b-side. So, we started listing tracks we thought would work. Had a few run throughs at practice and it was sounding good. We recorded it, and it sounds good.
Civic’s full-length debut is coming out early 2021. We’re super excited for it! What can you tell us about it at this point?
RH: It’s twelve tracks. We’ve been working hard on it. There was an idea to make it sound more like an ‘album’ rather than slapped together songs that sound exactly how we sound live. I don’t like this phrase at all, but we wanted it to ‘feel like a journey’. I think there is a pretty diverse group of songs on the album in my opinion. Some of which we may never play live. But as I said, we worked hard. I like it. Hopefully you will like it.
How do you feel your collaborative relationship has grown since first EP New Vietnam?
RH: We’ve always had somewhat of the same format for a lot of our songs. Someone comes up with a few parts that we piece together at rehearsal. Or, someone will bring a fully finished song to the table and not much, if any tweaking needed. This upcoming album is no different. We all work well together and aren’t afraid to tell each other if something is terrible.
All your artwork thus far has had a red, black & white colour palette; was their much intention behind this? There’s also a one-eyed face both on your Radiant Eye and Those Who No releases; what’s the story with that?
RH: The intention behind the colour choice was somewhat sub-conscious. They are about as bold and contrasting as you can get. Endless bands, brands and companies have used them. Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Ferrari, Supreme… the list goes on and on. I’ve always like labels and bands that keep a similar aesthetic across their releases. Sacred Bones Records have their border and lay-out the same on every release as an example. Your colour choice becomes your brand after a while. This doesn’t work for everyone and every band… and who’s to say our next release will have any of those colours on it. But I think this far it has served us well. And narrows down the decisions on what colours things should be.
In relation to the one eye… people say when one sense is lost the others get stronger. We view this eye as an eye of judgement. Everyone more so now than ever is being watched and documented. If I say deodorant too loudly around my phone, when I open an app all of my targeted ads are for deodorant. If I use my credit card to buy something from a website. That information is stored, sold and marketed back at me. As technology advances, so does the eye watching us. We use this eye to our advantage. We have taken away the second eye and have put all the focus on the one, powerful, beautiful eye. Do you see what I mean?
What do you love most about music?
RH: That you can use something to change your mood just by listening. No pills needed. Sounds someone recorded seventy years ago can make you want to punch a wall or cry yourself to sleep.
What’s something you learnt in 2020 that you’re taking into 2021 with you?
RH: If you think something is good you should just do it. Worry about it later, because as we’re seeing now more than ever… you could become completely irrelevant very quickly.
Here at Gimmie we’re big fans of Quintron and Miss Pussycat! The New Orleans-based creatives have recently released new album Goblin Alert, a rollicking good time of organ-driven electronic rock n roll done as only they can do. For this record they ditched the drum machine in favor of including musicians Sam Yoger (Babes, AJ Davilla) on drum kit and Danny Clifton (Room 13, Jane Jane Pollock) on hollow body guitar. Gimmie interviewed both Quintron and Miss Pussycat; today we share our chat with Quintron, with Miss P’s chat coming next week.
QUINTRON: I released a new product of this invention I’ve been working on all through the Covid times called ‘The Bath Buddy’ it’s a water conservation device. I just put an infomercial out for that.
What inspired you to create The Bath Buddy?
Q: Check out the informercial. There’s a website for it bathbuddy.space. I don’t know what that ‘space’ is all about but it’s the cheapest website I could buy.
In our house we have three or four people and no showers, only bath tubs ‘cause it’s New Orleans and everybody has those big clawfoot tubs. They take a while to fill up, you turn the water on and you go check your email or do something and you forget about it then the water goes into the overflow drain and you start wasting tons of water; we’ve left them on for way to long sometimes and flooded the house downstairs a couple of times. I was like, why isn’t there this thing that alerts you to when your water is at just the right level that you want it? I invented this thing for us and our roommates, I made us put them on all of the tubs and it totally worked. Our water bill started going down, a lot! I thought it would probably be something that other people would be interested in so I built some, letting people check ‘em out. Farmers and people who have livestock, horses especially, where you’re filling up these giant metal tubs of water, hundreds of gallons. You put the hose in it and leave it for a while. I was talking to people that would forget overnight and they’d really waste thousands of gallons of water; those people are into what I made too.
What is it that interests you about making things?
Q: That one was to solve a problem. As long as mankind has ever and shall ever exist there will always be gaps between problems and solutions, there’ll be voids there and that’s usually what interests me in making something. Usually, it’s that there’s a thing I want to do or problem I want to solve and there’s nothing that I know of that’s available to solve it or do that thing.
In the case of the Drum Buddy, it was a musical thing where I mostly play by myself one-man band style and I wanted to do something with my right hand that made a certain type of sounds like cylinders, like scratching a record but playing an analogue synth at the same time, where I could still play with my left hand with the organ, that’s how that project got started.
You’ve been making things your whole life; what’s something valuable that you’ve come to know about creativity that you could share with us?
Q: It’s something that everybody kind of knows but it’s that nothing is ever done, at no point will civilization be able to kick up their feet and say, ‘Alright, we got it licked’ and read magazines and play video games for the rest of eternity. There’s always going to be whatever you’ve built to solve whatever problems is going to become obsolete in that it’s not sustainable anymore; it is suddenly in the world wasteful or too expensive to operate or too big or heavy or whatever. The main thing that occurs to me over and over is that everything is a prototype, everything is just getting ready for the next, for Mach 20.
The first track on your new album Goblin Alert is called ‘Teenagers Don’t Know Shit’; what were you like as a teenager?
Q: I didn’t know shit! [laughs]. I was a pretty lonely, insecure, confused teenager, that probably describes most teenagers but some hide it better than others. I was super-duper insular, brooding, moody and private; not confident, not good in school, not a good relationship with my parents, pretty unhappy honestly. The song is by no means a diss on teenagers either or some political statement at all, it’s something else though, I hope it doesn’t come off like that.
No, I don’t think it does. How did you first discover music?
Q: Everybody discovers music by living in a musical world, it’s all around us, especially growing up in the South. I think people are surrounded by music, no matter what culture or no matter where you are.
Who were the first bands or artists that really spoke to you?
Q: There’s like your childhood musical curiosities. Children’s music is really special in its own thing. Then music turns into this thing where it represents the type of person that you’d like to become or the dream that you would like to dream or the fantasy that you want to perpetually have or the escape pod that you want to get into. A lot of the music I liked when I was really little were these dramatic… I was really into story songs like ‘Dark Lady’ by Cher and ‘Half Breed’; songs that were little mini-movies. Then the energy and the excitement of punk rock, like every other person that got into that [laughs].
You started making your own music when you were a teenager?
Q: Yeah. I started building instruments. I started out as a drummer. I built trashcan woodblock kits in the garage. I was always fooling around with tools, my dad’s an engineer so I always had toolkits and wood to build stuff and I had a garage because I was a suburban nobody kid. I was building big junky homemade trashcan drumkits in the garage.
What drew you to making your own music?
Q: I sort of did right away as a pretty young teenager started having bands and playing covers of songs that we could learn and stuff. It was something to do that I was kind of good at.
Do you think making music and inventions helped you with your confidence?
Q: Yeah, for sure, fooor sure. If you’re a creative kid or an artsy kind you might try a bunch of different things and I did. I tried Art class because I liked the art teachers and I liked the other kids who were into art. I liked Drama because I liked the drama teacher and the other kids that were into drama. I thought I liked them but then they were just so outgoing and something else that wasn’t my thing and then I found the brooding, angry behind-the-dumpster music kids and was like, okay! I’m good at this thing and I like those kids better [laughs].
Why did you feel it was time to make a new Quintron and Miss Pussycat album?
Q: Well, to be perfectly honest, we had the songs, a good batch that were mostly, except for a couple, that were road-tested. We hadn’t made an album for a while where… a lot of bands get stuck in a rut where the first album is really great because it’s road-tested and the lyrics, it’s your life on the page, then you make another one and you start recording it and maybe it’s half-baked. We didn’t make one for a really long time because we wanted the next one to be baked fully. We spent a real long time baking it and it was time to put it out and we had a great opportunity to go into this new recording studio in Gainesville, Florida; one street from Tom Petty’s boyhood home! We were the guinea pig band for this very fancy new tape studio called Pulp Arts. They let us have almost free recording and the engineers got to learn their way around a tape machine, the new equipment and the room. It was a great situation.
How do you capture your energy on record?
Q: I think most of the time we’ve failed to be honest [laughs]. This album gets pretty close. We had a live drummer and live bass player; we’ve never had that before, that makes a living breathing human musical experience a lot easier to capture. Being a first-time thing for us, it was really exciting. We’ve never toured with a live drummer, so it was all new and the excitement of the new keeps everything popping for everybody. For the most part though, I would say that we’ve always been better live than anything we’ve put out on record, with the exception of the more abstract experimental records that are made to be on record, those stand on their own. As far as capturing the Q & P live experience, I’d say it’s more misses than hits.
I know that you like to invent your own sounds and that your music often comes from hundreds of hours of experimenting; what experimenting did you try with this batch of songs?
Q: I had a new Mellotron at my disposal, so there was lots of messing around with that. I just made a solo Mellotron record and I’ve really been getting into that instrument, I’ve been exploring what it can do, playing it through other things and using it with a Talkbox. It’s usually finding new pathways through new sounds and new instruments and the fun of going into a big fancy recording studio and they’ll have amps and weird stuff laying around, your ideas come from the things around you, also the people you’re with.
Do you and Miss Pussycat work on the lyrics together?
Q: Sometimes yes and sometimes no. There’s definitely songs where it’s all me written, I have all the lyrics and I’ll present them to Miss P and she’ll be like “I don’t like that word, why don’t you change it to this” and it will explode my head in a whole new direction! I’ll change a word here and there; she’s like a final look editor sometimes.
Then there’s songs that she writes completely. I’ve pretty much been the one that writes all the music but sometimes she comes with a set of lyrics and it always has to do with puppetry or some crazy story that she has. With ‘Goblin Alert’ we sat down at the kitchen table while we were in the studio and wrote the lyrics together.
Were any songs a challenge to write?
Q: ‘Goblin Alert’ was the biggest challenge because it was so last minute. I’m not the fastest draw in the west when it comes to organ, I’m more of a slow, nod-your-head- jamming kind of guy; that song was really fast! Getting the riffs down the way I wanted to, I had to do a lot of takes, it was really hard. We were stuck on the lyrics almost to the last day of recording and we had some brainstorm epiphany between the producer Greg Cartwright and me and Miss P sitting down to write the lyrics. That was a tough one.
There’s a song on the album called ‘Where’s Karen?’ that was written about a girl the went missing at Mardi Gras.
Q: It was actually a friend of ours. It was a friend who… it was Mardi Gras day and he was off in his own world, if you know what I mean being Mardi Gras and everything, and he kept talking about this girl named Karen that he was worried abut and where she was. We didn’t know what or who he was talking about and we had to go out. It’s how the song describes it; it was freezing rain. We went out into the day and we locked him in this apartment so he wouldn’t hurt himself but I left the tape recorder in there recording to see if he was going to spill the beans on who this Karen was. That inspired the fantasy of the song, it’s not a direct from life narrative telling.
So, you kind of made a field recording of him?
Q: Yeah, and the whole day walking around Mardi Gras I was thinking this is going to be a song. When we get back, he’s going to tell us what he is talking about and we’ll find out who this is. It’s such a great line for a song, this was way before the stupid meme, it was way before that was a thing that this was going to be the name of the song.
One of my favourites on the album is ‘Block The Comet’.
Q: That’s a collaboration on lyrics between me and Miss P.
What’s something that you’ve learnt from Miss P? Last time I spoke with her she told me that one of the best things you’ve taught her was to make a marshmallow casserole.
Q: A marshmallow peanut casserole!
What I’ve learnt from her is how to be happy, honestly, that’s the god’s honest truth. How to ignore other people’s negativity and to be happy, to walk through life in a dream of your own making, how to make that purposeful and helpful. That’s kind of oblique but that’s the biggest thing I’ve learnt from her. Miss P is just one of those people that… it’s scary sometimes when the world kind of cracks through the shell, sometimes it does for everyone and it’s like, hey, the devil is out here and sometimes the sky is falling and sometimes people die. When you’re so intent on just being happy and spreading joy, sometimes those are the people that get hurt the most when that bubble gets cracked a little bit, which can worry me but I have seen it’s a better way to be than to be constantly aware of that and ultimately playing to it, it’s more cynical.
What drives you to create so much? You have the Weather Warlock invention, you put out a book, lots of different kinds of records. You always seem to be making things.
Q: I don’t know. Anything I could say would sound corny. It’s just to keep from going crazy, I suppose. I get ideas and I become obsessed with them becoming reality.
Is it satisfying once you make it reality?
Q: It is! I’m not one of those people that are depressed when a record come out. I like results. I like finishing things. I like putting the stamp on it and putting it in the mail, saying that is done, that is ready for primetime! Then moving on to the next thing. Really the joy is in the creation. I’m proud of having records out and it’s nice when people say they like them, but the real joy in life and the most time that you spend as a living organism is in doing the actual things, that’s just fun, right?
Q: It’s not saying thank you very much and taking a bow—it’s doing stuff.
Yeah, it’s the process, those moments and it’s the connections you make with yourself or with someone else you’re working with, it’s an experience you’ve had together.
Q: Yeah, that’s the essence of friendship and relationships. In order for me to become intimate with somebody or become friends even with somebody, we have to work together or we are just not on the same page, it’s not going to happen. Everybody that I really end up spending a lot of time with or becoming friends with or having relationships with, it’s only through work. That’s when your facade is gone, that’s when your ego is gone, that’s when you’re chipping away at something that is not you. It’s the only way to produce a really truthful communication between people.
Do you learn things about yourself when making songs?
Q: I can’t say I’ve ever stopped and said, hey, Quintron, that’s not your real name is it? No. Did you learn something about yourself today? [laughs].
I read an interview with you in Popular Science magazine and it said your name was David.
Q: Ah-ha. I’m named after my father. I’m a III. Even my dad calls me Quintron. It’s been a nickname for so long. It just sort of happened because the first album is under that name, it’s something that people just started doing and journalist started doing because they thought that’s what I wanted to be called or that it was my real name or something. It’s been so long and I think it amuses my family enough that they have adopted that.
Q: Yeah, when your parents participate in your rejection of reality! [laughs].
TB Ridge As The Director is a solo project from Tom Ridgewell of Constant Mongrel, Woollen Kits and Calamari Girls. His Rock n Roll Heart EP is neo-traditional rock n roll; rock n roll 101 but with drum machine, synths, vocoder and strings. It’s a fresh and intriguing listen. Gimmie interviewed Tom to learn more.
How has your day been? What have you been up to?
My day has been great, thanks! I have been in Lara with my partner Sophie visiting Mum and Dad and my brother and sister in law and their 8 month old. It was really nice to see them all, as we haven’t been able to for a while. Especially Michael, as he has changed so much recently.
Do you listen to music every day? What have you been listening to lately?
I do listen to music every day! I work at a little cafe on my own so I get to pick what music plays for around six to seven hours. At the moment I am listening to jazz a lot- Krystof Komeda is my jam at the moment, his soundtrack to Knife in The Water is so, so good. I’ve also been enjoying listening to some 70’s folk stuff, Maddie Prior and Sandy Denny (with Fairport Convention) for my lyrical content. I let my partner do the music at home, so Townes Van Zandt, OV Wright, Eno and Talking Heads at the moment.
You were born in and grew up in Melbourne, right? Has music always been a big part of your life?
I actually was born in Ararat and lived in different parts of country Victoria before high school. The reason for that is my dad was a Presbyterian minister (a job which can make for lots of moves). I bring that up to answer the other part of the question. Music was always around my family, neither of my parents played instruments, but we all sang every Sunday at church. Dad has a bit of a shocker of a voice and ear but would always lead the singing with gusto and my Mum has a lot of natural talent musically (she actually got a cello for her 60th birthday and is doing really well at learning) . Apart from church music, we did grow up with some classic rock like Creedence, Van and Bob. Also Sound of Music and Mary Poppins were favourites, Julie Andrews is so good!
How did you first discover your local scene? What was the first gig you saw?
I honestly can’t really remember a first gig! I can remember gigs if someone brings them up, but off the top of my head I couldn’t say what my first proper show was. Getting into my scene was probably through my friendship with Tom Hardisty, and us playing music together from around 19/20 years old. He was friends with my ex-girlfriend and we hit it off and started playing with each other pretty quickly. That’s how old Woollen Kits is now, haha.
Previously you’ve said that you were trained to play classical cello when you were young and your parents persistence to make you continue with it, when you really didn’t want to, probably helped form the way you think and feel about music now; how so?
Yep, thinking about that now has made me sequence some things together with that. I played cello from when I was about 11 and enjoyed it at the start but as teenagers do I began to want to distance myself from the old fashioned instrument. I wanted to play bass guitar and then my cello teacher (and parents) encouraged me to try double bass with another teacher as it has the same strings as a bass guitar but similar playing method to the cello. The bass has also the same first four strings as the guitar (which I had started to teach myself). Continuing on double bass was awesome and I learnt a little jazz and got ok with a bow with more classical stuff.
How long do you think you’ve been writing songs for now?
It took me a long time to say I was writing proper songs, but it was around high school age that I thought I was doing it. I resisted for so many years to actually learn some theory behind how to make a song. I suppose I thought it was all natural and free, which can be cool, but never very good unless you are some kind of genius.
As a songwriter, what kind of place do you feel you’ve reached with new solo project TB Ridge as the Director?
TB RIDGE AS THE DIRECTOR is a comfortable place for me. It feels natural and easy to write this kind of music and I have embraced it. I feel like it’s going to be fun to one day make a band and play the songs live but for now the EP is a snapshot of a good little moment for me!
I know you like a minimalist approach when it comes to lyrics; do you find it hard to write lyrics?
Yes and no. I just tend to write lyrics after the music for everything I’ve ever done. I find it easier to find the right words for the music than come up with music for the words. So by default the way I went about making this music, I didn’t have much room for long lines. There is a part in the Gimmie Danger doco where Iggy says something about 200 words or less theory he takes on, I really like that. Simplicity is really important to me. If I read a book that’s too wordy or descriptive, I’ll stop reading straight away. The ultimate writing for me is simple words with complex themes.
Your new EP is called Rock n Roll Heart; where’s the title come from? Was it inspired by Lou Reed’s 7th studio album, Rock n Roll Heart?
Yeh, it was kind of inspired by Lou’s song. Funnily enough, Eric Clapton has a song called Rock and Roll Heart too. For me it was just a line I had been thinking of the whole time I was doing the music for the song. The riff kind of came out of nowhere and sounds like some kind of discarded Runaways song or a Stones B-side and I just was in this place where I’d become sick of worrying what people thought of my music in regards to artistic legitimacy. Fuck it, it’s rock music and I liked making it.
Was doing a solo release born out of necessity because of lockdown?
Not really, I actually have a whole album of more singer songwriter stuff recorded a year ago that one day might see the light of day and I probably have done over 200 demo recordings of different types of music over the last six years. Maybe one of these songs (The Garden) would have been an idea for a Constant Mongrel track, but because we haven’t been able to play together I turned it into something for me.
Previously you’ve commented “I usually hate recording”; has that changed?
My dislike for recording back then came from a drummer’s perspective! Anyone that has had to sit through live recording in a studio as a drummer will get the pain. You are freaking out about getting it right the whole time, if you make a mistake the take is over or even worse and someone else and it’s heartbreaking. I’d say I kept that attitude in the studio even if playing guitar for a long time but it’s slowly changed to the point where doing a record is the most exciting part of making music for me now.
When you started out making Rock n Roll Heart did you have any references of where you wanted to go? Was there anything you particularly enjoyed listening to at the time (or when recording)? Initially how did you want the EP to sound?
I definitely wanted to make an interesting sounding rock record. One of my key reference points was an interview with Genesis P Orridge about the song God Star that Psychic TV made. They stated that it was a nod to the sixties counterculture, and in particular Brian Jones. I suppose that Gen had been known to push boundaries with their work so something like that song was in a way giving some kind of consideration to the past and those that blazed trails for contemporary music. I’m not saying my other projects are particularly out there or interesting but for a while I think with Constant Mongrel I have tried to darken or subvert punk music with technical tonal variations on traditional rock scales. So the idea of going back to the source without the darkness was what I wanted.
Was there anything you were mindful of when writing this collection of songs?
Definitely making music that was ‘me’ was on top of the list.
For you, what are the elements that make up rock n roll?
Well, that’s interesting. I’m gonna sound like a dumbass, but I actually met Liam Gallagher backstage at Merideth last year (btw, he is easily the most famous person I have ever spoken too). We chatted for a while but what came up was a discussion about another artist on the bill that night, his name is Hooligan Hefs from West Sydney. He does this new school drill rap stuff that’s really taking off in NSW and QLD at the moment. We both noticed how good the show was. I said, “I think that that is the new rock and roll!” He replied, “It wasn’t rock though, was it?” I asked, “What is then?” He responded with some babble about guitars and drums, etc. I’m still not sure I agree with him because if you get to nitty gritty, Oasis use far too many minor chords in regular major keys to be what a classic rock n roll band should be, they are more pop, so they aren’t rock, are they? I suppose his brother would know that more than him because I think Liam just sings, right? I don’t know where you draw the line, it’s the same as punk. I’d say a band like Primo! is way more punk than most bands that call themselves punk, but I still can’t really explain why! It’s an attitude and an ethic above all else I think.
You used Garageband and a drum machine to make the release; did songs often form around a loop first? I really enjoy that you’ve, in essence, built classic rock style songs but used a drum machine.
Yep, they are all loops and layers. I suppose using the drum machine as a rhythmic driver is something that just seemed natural to making the songs because I wanted drums for the tracks and that’s all I could get my hands on. I find it funny people think it interesting or cool when a band uses a drum machine, it’s not really that cool. Maybe when Young Marble Giants or Suicide did, it was, but that was 30-40 years ago, we should be getting used to it by now! It’s just a jazzed up metronome.
I love the auto-tune, strings and synth in the mix. I understand you used an iPad too; for what parts?
So it was recorded on the iPad too! I don’t really have a computer that I can use for recording, so I use our iPad. It has all the features on it that I needed and I used a direct line in with an iRig, which was awesome. It really is a mobile studio that makes decent quality recordings! I am glad you like the extra things I did, I took a while to get to the point where I used auto tune on every track but am glad I did. It gives it an unnerving vibe sometimes as we tend to not hear it with guitar music very often.
What drew you to choosing Woollen Kits bandmate and friend Tom Hardisty to master the release?
He has the skills and I get to buy him a present instead of giving him cash. Having Tom involved is also just awesome cause it’s another set of ears I trust, because he has great taste and does recording himself (to a millions times better standard).
I’ve heard that you have a love of country music? When did you start listening to it? What kind of things do you listen to?
I didn’t grow up with country music, so everything I listen to now is just from my own research as an adult. I like a varying realm of country music which maybe some hardcore fans would question why or how. Any way some of my favourites are Loretta Lyn, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Townes Van Zandt, Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, Carter Family, Steve Earl and, although she wasn’t always country, Bobbie Gentry. I also love early Cajun music.
Is there anything happening on the Constant Mongrel front?
I wonder if we will get into a space and play together before the new year?! Maybe something might pop up soon in regards to a little release. I just can’t wait to hang out with the crew again. We have our Christmas party every year which is always a highlight of the season.
Anything else you’d like to tell us or share with us?
One time my Dad and I were watching an interview with Michael Stipe and Dad said, “Musicians have to be the most self-absorbed people in the world and if you ever become one, please be mindful of that.” So yeah, it’s funny that after all these years I have to be the sole answer for questions that might encompass self-involvement to answer. I hope and worry that I come across ok! On the other hand, Michael Stipe is boring and arrogant and I don’t like REM, even in any ironic 33 year old discovery of music I thought sucked when I was in my twenties kind of way.
James Williamson is an emotional guitar player, he plays how he feels. He’s essentially self-taught and writes from trusting his instinct. James co-wrote The Stooges cult-classic album Raw Power with Iggy Pop back in the early ‘70s after joining the band, crafting a pioneering guitar-style that is aggressive, powerful and influential—laying the foundations of the punk sound to come.
Gimmie spoke to James from his home in California about latest musical offering, album Two To One, released last week on Cleopatra Records. Created with good friend Deniz Tek (Radio Birdman), the 11-track record struts and commands your attention as it plays, reminding us of all the reasons why both of these artists are all-time. Rock n Roll is very much alive in 2020.
Why is music important to you?
JAMES WILLIAMSON: I don’t really know other than I’ve always been doing it, since I was a teenager. I found it to be a really good emotional outlet, it’s ingrained in me at this point as a way to express myself emotionally.
What emotions were you expressing when playing the guitar as a younger person and what emotions do you express now? Has it changed?
JW: I think they are largely the same. I was simply able to emote that way, to get out my teenage angst and aggressive emotions, and maybe more tender emotions too. A lot of the style I developed as more or less a self-taught guitar player, that aggressive style. I think that’s what people hear in my music. When people hear this new album for example, people will be able to pick out the songs I wrote pretty much right away from the way the guitar sounds.
You’re still angst-y?
JW: [Laughs] I can still make some noise that way! There’s things that transcend age, this was the intent of this record, to go back to the straight-forward guitar record. I think we accomplished that. In doing so we brought up those original styles from ourselves as well.
There was a time when you weren’t playing guitar for a few decades; when you weren’t playing music,did you have another emotion outlet to express yourself in?
JW: Well, sure. I had decided that I was finished with music and I was moving into recording studio work, but I wasn’t really very well cut out for it because I didn’t really like the musicians that I was having to record [laughs]. It was not something I could do very well.
I ran across my first personal computer around that time and was captivated by that, they were very primitive compared to what they are today. I couldn’t even believe it! I decided I would dedicate myself to trying to learn how to make these things. It took me quite a while to get to that point but once I did, I got a front row seat for the whole deal: personal computers, the internet, networking and everything! I’ve been here in Silicon Valley since. I’m literally captivated by the technology, it’s been amazing!
On the flipside of that, I had the opportunity to come back and see what never happened for us [The Stooges] back in the day; when we came back we were fabulously popular. We played very, very large places, the first show back was 40,000 people! We went on to play in front of 350,000 people—just huge shows. I was able to see what it was like to be a big-time entertainer, it was an amazing run for me.
It sounds like both things you chose to do – music and tech – were at very exciting times in both fields.
JW: Yes. I was very lucky in that way.
Was it hard to pick up the guitar again? Was there a lot of feelings that came with doing that?
JW: Yes and no. When I first was approached to come back, I first said “no” because I didn’t know if I could do it. I had put the guitar down completely and not played it at all because it’s such a powerful thing for me! When I decided to do it, lucky for me we had many, many months before we were going to do our first show back. I had to work on it quite a bit, but it came. I was fortunate enough to have a local band that were thoughtful enough to let me play a show with them, just to get the hang of what it was to do a live show again. It all worked out but it was a lot of work for sure.
Have you ever had a really transcendent experience playing live?
JW: You could say that, any time we’ve played live it is an experience for sure. The type of music that we play in The Stooges is a type of music where the fur is flying and you don’t really have a chance to sit back and observe yourself onstage, you better be concentrating on what you’re doing because it’s moving so fast. If you lapse in concentration, you screw up! If you want to call that transcendent, it really is a deep concentration.
I saw some videos online where you were deconstructing songs “Search and Destroy” and “Shake Appeal” you mentioned that were in a way, respectively, derived from “The Bunny Hop” and The Lone Ranger theme.
JW: [Laughs] Yes. That was a couple of conferences where I was speaking and maybe it was a little bit stretched but I did feel it was not that big a stretch in some ways. I explained it to myself [laughs].
Were those things part of your childhood?
JW: Of course! I don’t know if I was conscious I was doing that though at the time. When you write music, you can’t explain where it comes from because there are so many ways to play the few chords that we have available to us and same few rhythms that are available, that they seem to be endless; surely there’ll be some overlap on things that are common to everyone.
There’s a lot to be said then for the attitude you play with then.
JW: For sure. I think that’s very much part of it.
On the record – Two To One – that you’ve just made with Deniz; what was one of the most fun moments that you had?
JW: The whole album was fun! First of all, Deniz and I are friends, we get along really well. We come from a very similar perspective, he grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I spent a great deal of time in Detroit and Ann Arbor—we have a very similar perspective on music, on ideas and so forth. I brought in the drummer I always use Michael Urbano and then I brought in a bass player I liked, so the people were compatible and everyone had the same objective. We recorded at a wonderful studio, it had a magical sound, and as we went through the project everyone was delighted. Everyone wanted to do it, there were no attitudes. From the beginning the album was charmed.
We recorded Deniz’s vocals in Hawaii and some of his overdubs. I brought it back and did mine in San Francisco, we mixed here too. Then unfortunately the shutdown came because of Covid-19. The album was finished but wasn’t mastered but fortunately Cleopatra Records had a mastering guy who had an operation out of his house. We just barely squeaked it in! [laughs].
It’s a great album! One of my favourite tracks is “Small Change”. I spoke to Deniz about it. I think that’s a lovely song too. I love the sentiment of the song of making positive changes in your life to have a better one.
JW: There’s a lot of nice subtlety in that song.
Is there a time in your life you made a small change that made a positive difference in your life?
JW: Of course! Even though I didn’t personally write the lyrics for that song, I think it’s true and that’s why people like you and I relate to that song. You have done things like that in your life and they did make the difference. I’m a big fan of that song.
You wrote the music for that one?
Could you share with us a really life changing moment from your life?
JW: There’s been so many. Anything that’s important and long lasting in your life is something like that where you’ve had to make a decision and had to change in order to move in a direction that was best for everybody concerned. I’ve been alive to have made many changes [laughs]. Things like getting into technology. I’m married, I have children and a granddaughter, there’s many things you make adjustments for along the line that do make a difference, for better or for worse. It’s a universal theme really… and it’s just whether you make changes for the best or worst [laughs]—it’s your choice always!
What has fatherhood meant to you?
JW: It’s been really a godsend in my life. My children are not children any more of course, but they are wonderful people and I’ve been fortunate enough to know them their whole lives. It’s hard to beat!
Was there anything challenging writing and recording this album?
JW: There wasn’t, that’s one of the nice things about this record, there weren’t any attitude problems within the band, there weren’t any real big differences between Deniz and I. The Cleopatra [Records] people were wonderful to us. Out of all of the records that I made, this has been one of the smoothest ones!
Will you keep making more records?
JW: Well, we’ll just have to see. Right now I’m busy trying to wrap up this one [laughs].
Why did you call it Two To One?
JW: That seemed to describe what it was all about, two guitar players into one album—it sums up the album rather well.
Was there a particular mood you were trying to capture with the album?
JW: Not specifically, it was more that we were trying to make a good ol’ fashion guitar album. What you’re looking at here with the album is that there’s two guitar players and one of them can sing. We didn’t want to do something that wasn’t us, we wanted to do exactly us. If you don’t like guitar, it’s not your record! [laughs].
What did you learn from Deniz while making the album?
JW: He’s a good guitar player, he came up with such good stuff! What was really nice that on a lot of songs, if it was his song he’d play the rhythm and I’d play the lead and on my songs vice versa. It was a nice mix and variety of not only the song writing but also the playing. I think that blended really very nicely and makes it more interesting.
What’s also surprising to me, I’ve made a fair number of albums… I produced it as well. Writing it, mixing it, I’ve heard this album a million times and I still like listening to it!
What did it mean to you to get inducted in to the Engineering Hall Of Fame?
JW: It was really a very big honour for me. I got inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall Of Fame, which was a huge honour as well but, to get into the Engineering Hall Of Fame as well was a total surprised. Sometimes you just get lucky, I guess [laughs].
Or you’re really great at what you do, have a genuine passion for it and have worked hard.
JW: Well, a little bit of that too! [laughs]. The other thing that’s really gratifying about this album is that you’re talking about a couple of really old guys making a rock n roll record, so the fact that people still like it, is a very big honour really. Part of what we set out to do was really do it right and not just phone it in—we did work hard on it. We really enjoyed it too and I think that comes through.
I know that you haven’t ever really been interested in writing music for commercial purposes; was that something you decided early on?
JW: Not really, the thing was that we were attracted to originally and we always thought that that’s what we wanted to do. When I joined The Stooges and we started doing Raw Power we were really stoked about how the record was coming out and we thought it was going to be a big success! Of course we were totally delusional [laughs]. Nobody wanted that album at all. It actually did become a success, it just took about thirty years! We were right, it just took a really long time.
You mentioned that in terms of your creativity you value originality; what are the other things you value?
JW: Originality is the important part, related to music, and in terms of other things, you gotta be creative and original in everything in life ‘cause every day presents an opportunity to screw things up or do ‘em right! I think you have to be creative to get along in this world really. It’s a very challenging thing sometimes.
At this point in your life; what does success mean to you?
JW: I think success is just to be able to spend a lot of time with my family and to be on good terms and to not try to reach too far with other people and just allow them to be who they are. To enjoy my life, that is success to me!
What’s something that makes you really, really happy?
JW: I’m really, really happy when I can get a big smile out of my granddaughter!