We’re excited that Billiam has a new 7 inch release out today 8 Hours In Billiamville. It’s a lo-fi, punky dream. The release was written and recorded in 8 hours and has all of the spontaneity, energy and pure unbridled passion that you could hope for. We chatted with Billiam to explore it’s recording and all of the other projects he has in the works—a new Disco Junk record, TOR album, new project Verminator, releases from his label (he does with friend Lachy) Under Heat, some international releases and more Billiam. You’re going to hear and see a whole lot more of Billiam this year. We’re in awe of his creativity and productivity. Go Billiam!
How are you? What’s been happening in your world?
BILLIAM: I’m doing pretty good, there’s been some ups and downs but overall I’m good. I’ve just been finishing off another album for Billiam, just trying to get a few more songs down. I’m finishing off recording the Disco Junk album too. I’ve been playing shows and just working, nothing insanely exciting, but I have a few things coming up.
How long have been making music for now?
B: The most barebones example of me making music, was when I first got my guitar and I was recording videos on my iPad of songs and saving them to a folder on my desktop. That was when I was around 2014. That eventually graduated into doing stuff with GarageBand, which is how all of the early Disco Junk stuff was done. I’d just point my iPad at an amp or the electronic drum kit and record like that. I started releasing that stuff in late-2018. I’ve been making music ever since. Next year it will be 5 years of doing it.
Awesome. Was there anything that influenced you to make your own music?
B: I’ve always liked the idea of making my own music, but I never viewed it as me having the resources to make it. I liked a lot of the bigger acts when I first started to get into music, like Green Day and Blink-182. I would make music trying to sound like them, I had no idea how to do that; I always thought it was about having a lot of money to buy resources.
In 2018, I met my best friend Lachy, who I do record label Under Heat Records with. He showed me a lot of bands. I was also discovering a lot of bands through the internet that were recording stuff and writing songs that sounded like my songs. The Living Eyes was a big one for me, and hearing artists like Daniel Johnston. Also, a lot of early lo-fi progenitors like Weird Paul. It made me think, ‘I can make that. It’s something doable.’ I studied the techniques that they used and did my own screwy version of it and made something that I was proud enough to release.
It’s not that hard to make music yourself. You can do it for very cheap. I eventually got a digital 8-track and stopped using my iPad, but I felt like I had a pretty good sound just recording off of an iPhone.
Ruben, the drummer from Disco Junk, his solo stuff for a long time was record off his phone and that sounds incredible. I would highly recommend listening to Nystagmus. Even though Ruben now hates it, I think it’s a fucking amazing album.
You could spend all day wishing you had something better or you could spend your time making the best thing you can with what you’ve got. Even if it ends up being something that you don’t want to release, at least you have it down in a medium that you could use later or rework.
I know you have a lot of different musical projects, a label and zine; what do you have on the go at the moment?
B: I’ll narrow it down to the main ones. There’s Disco Junk. I’ve been doing that the longest. We’re recording our album that will hopefully be released late this year or early next year.
I have band TOR that’s really starting to ramp up now. We’re starting to gig now and we’re going to record, which is something that I am extremely excited about. Where basically just trying to be Bis 2! Bis is the band that we worship. Bis is our everything. We’re trying to be a more new wave version of Bis. All praise be to Bis! [laughs].
I have a new band called Verminator (it’s named after a character from Over The Hedge). Two of the members are classically trained musicians and are really vocally talented, there’s an extremely talented bassist, and then there’s me and my friend Jack that try to play hardcore beats on our guitars and it forms into a somewhat cohesive mess of noise. Hopefully we’ll get some recordings out soon.
Then of course there is the Billiam project. It’s the project I’ve been able to get the furtherest with. I’ve recorded a lot of stuff for it and am doing lots of little releases that will hopefully be put out soon.
Is it easiest to get stuff happening with Billiam because it’s just you?
B: In some ways. To make something that I’m happy with though, I think it’s the hardest project to do, because I am the only person working on it and I’m way more critical of it. When I’m in a project with other people it’s way easier to seperate yourself from the music and just enjoy it. In terms of recording, producing and getting stuff out, it is the easiest because I can just do it in my front room here and I do get final say; I don’t have to deal with the rest of the crowd, crowding around me.
What type of songs do you like writing the most at the moment?
B: It’s been changing, recently I’ve been getting into writing extremely poppy stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of power-pop or that has a poppy style like Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys and Woollen Kits. I love the strong, catchy melodies and tiptoeing between major and minor keys.
Although, I feel like I’m going to start recording stuff in a different style. I want to start writing more angler, punky stuff. Have you heard of the artist Print Head? I’ve been really inspired by his work, it’s very direct, short, fast songs with a good sense of melody to them.
It’s exciting that you have so much on the go and that you’re always trying something new.
B: If I don’t do something new or interesting I’m going to lose interest in any given musical project extremely quickly and will have to put it on pause and do something new. I like to keep a basket case of different things that I can pick up at any time, so I’m always active in music.
The new release for Billiam that’s coming out and EP called 8 Hours In Billiamville because it was written and recorded in 8 hours!
B: It wasn’t originally the concept when I made it. It’s the concept that formed when I was putting it together. Before I recorded it I hadn’t really recorded a proper song in 6 months, I’d recorded and released a few little things, but in 2021 I barely released anything. I released two new pieces of music, total. That’s standard for a most artists but not for me. I didn’t consider it to be a very productive year.
Right before I started recording, got a job doing online shopping for Coles. Having that retail boredom kicked me into this weird creative spiral. Over the course of a 3-day weekend and a total of 8 hours work I had the EP done and five other songs.
I’ve had retail, office and hospitality jobs in the past that were pretty mundane and I’d always find myself day dreaming on the job about what creative things I was going to do when I get home. Working for someone else all day not doing the things I really wanted to be doing made me value my free time and gave me a drive to use every moment not at work to do the things I love.
B: Absolutely. At my job I can spend the whole day thinking about a song or idea and then go home and immediately execute that and finish it off. Something that also helps (I hate that this helps but it does) the Coles Radio is completely unbearable at times! There’s a few songs they play on Coles Radio that when I hear them I have to walk outside when they come on because they shit me so much [laughs].
What’s one of those songs?
B: I have a playlist I can said you! [laughs]. The biggest one for me that shits me the most is ‘Jessie’s Girl’ by Rick Springfield. That song has always driven me up the fucking wall! Just, ugh. I walk out and no-one questions, I think everyone in the store has that one song that they do just walk out on; it’s an online store so you can leave whenever you want.
That’s funny. When we shop at our local Coles I noticed that they play a lot of Gwen Stefani, which I’m more than fine with. I love Gwen.
B: They play some good stuff. Gwen Stefani, hell yeah! It’s when they go into the modern country and sometimes weird Christian stuff—I just check the fuck out! [laughs].
When you recorded you mentioned it was just at your home?
B: Yeah. Over the course of last year I worked the front room into a studio space. It’s not perfect but I am able to get a sound that at the very least is good for demos, even releasable. I’m very lucky that my next-door neighbour is a drummer, he doesn’t care about the drum noise. I see him out on the street and he goes, “Oh, I see you’re getting a little bit better at the tom fills.” Which is something that I get really embarrassed about [laughs]. I’m very lucky I have a space to record in at a reasonable hour. I’m very lucky to have a very supportive family and most importantly supportive next-door neighbour.
When you record guitars do you standing up like if you were playing live or sit down?
B: It depends. 90% of the time I sit down because I’m doing it direct input and there’s no amp involved. Sometimes I have found that standing up can help, it adds pressure to what your’e doing. I do find that I’m a lot less precise when I stand up. When I’m recording I do try and showoff a little but and do guitar-filly bits that I would struggle to do standing up, so I sit down. Vocals I have to stand up to get the best out of my voice, whatever limited voice that I have.
Any challenges doing this project over 8 hours?
B: It was almost like an out-of-body experience. I didn’t even intend to make it, I just sat there on the drums and recorded some stuff and wanted to try and come up with things. The first thing I did was song ‘Prune’. It was instant. It felt like nothing was holding me back. I just went into this frenzied state.
On the final song ‘131’ I got extremely into it and completely blew out my voice. You hear that towards the end, my voice is really shrill. I felt like someone was possessing me to make this record, to finish it and just get it done. There was no time to wait. There was no time to spend mixing or trying to get a perfect tone or some idealised thing that doesn’t exist, I just needed to do it. There was no stopping. I think that ultimately was a big benefit to the record. It helped me learn a lot about how I work creatively and how I can get the best out of myself creatively.
What’s something that you learnt?
B: To not question myself in the moment and to just be ok if something doesn’t work. If I’m making something and it turns out to be crap I shouldn’t take that as an insult to myself I should take it as lesson. Why don’t I like this? What can work about this? Is there anything that I can salvage?
There was a song I did recently called ‘Barbie Doll Brains’ that I recorded but wasn’t happy with. I listened back to it and figured what parts worked and what parts didn’t. I really liked the guitar but I didn’t like the bass at all. I think the drums can sound better. It would be way better if the vocal line had a better melody to follow. I redid it and did one of the best songs I think I’ve written so far this year. It’s a song that I’m really proud of.
Is it for Billiam or a different project?
B: I reckon Billiam. I’m not sure though, songs tend to flip in and out of projects. A bunch of Billiam songs I’ve written recently I’ve found will work really well for TOR with Mary-Lou and Floyd’s vocals. You never know though, it could end up as a Disco Junk song or a new band song. It will come out eventually.
What track are you loving the most off of the new EP?
B: It changes. I go through phases of absolutely loving the EP then hating everything off it. Right now my favourites are ‘Leisure’ and ‘Lunchbreak’. They’re nice, fun, fast, direct punk songs. If you ask me tomorrow it’ll be a different song [laughs]. ‘Lunchbreak’ is a good taster for what’s on the record
Your songs are predominately written from your own experiences…
B: Yeah. I’m not good at writing about things I haven’t experienced or that aren’t right in front of me. I could never write a song about getting drunk and partying or heartbreak, because I don’t drink and I don’t’ date people. I write about what I can, that ends up usually being quite personally about mental health, stupid things things that happen in my every day life or sometimes I might write about a movie. I often write about a thing that I saw that was funny.
Are there any songs on this EP that are about mental health?
B: Definitely ‘Metal Bed’. I was very hesitant about putting that song on the 7 inch. Initially I’d written a two minute closer that was meant to be a replacement for the song that was more refined, I wasn’t happy with it though. I realised that ‘Metal Bed’ said it more succinctly and better. It’s about feeling like you can’t leave your bed and that the sheets that are on your bed are made of steel and you can’t lift them.
‘Clive’ is about mental health, but it’s more about being driven to the point of insanity by political advertising, which is pretty fucking relevant right now. I am not having a good time with the election so far. I’m super worried about this election.
They day after the last election when I probably felt at my worst, Disco Junk ended up opening for Amyl and the Sniffers at Record Paradise, which ended up being one of the best shows I’ve ever played. Hopefully this election can inspire another performance similar to that. I’m just taking it one day at a time. You can focus on trying to future proof everything but you can never predict the future.
There is so much in the world that we can’t control. We make art and put that out in the world to balance all the crap things, express what we’re feeling, to come together…
B: That’s a great way of putting it and at the very least, we’ve finally got a copy of Scomo Goes To Hawaii/While Aus Burns on vinyl, which I’ve been begging Dougal [from Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice] to make since it was first released. I fucking love that EP, it’s so good!
We’ve excited for it too! The song ‘10 Million Acres’ on it, is one of my favourite songs that Dougal has ever written. It’s a really powerful song.
B: Yeah. It’s an EP I struggle to listen to though because it was so emotionally impactful and I was doing that charity tape when the bushfires happened. I had to listen to a lot of those songs a lot when I was putting together the tape and a lot of other songs that were about the bushfires. It was a strange time mentally. It’s strange to me that it wasn’t so far away, it feels like it happened 10 years ago, but it really happened 2 years ago. I’ll just keep on making rock n roll and keep on rockin’!
What can yo tell us about ‘Lunchbreak’?
B: I’m kind of mad because of that one Hot Tubs Time Machine song about being your co-workers hedging what your lunch is, because that’s literally what my song is about! I was in the break room at work and people were literally looking at me while I was eating cereal and I was just like, ‘Fuck off!’ I was really annoyed and angry. I think I had just written down the line that I’m on my lunch break and I need some space, and the song just went from there. The song is about being judged at work for your eating habits. Hot Tubs Time Machine this is a call-out, we need to fight to see who can have the rights to this song. I’ll see you in the streets!
Great minds think alike!
B: Ok, listen, you can call me a great mind, but Marcus [Hot Tubs Time Machine] is on another planet. He’s a genius. I don’t know how he does it, but he is a philosopher that we will not appreciate the brilliance of until 10,000 years in the future. He’s like Plato or Aristotle. He’s on another playing field.
Let’s talk about some of the other songs on the EP. Tell us about ‘B Beat’.
B: [Laughs] I don’t know if that barely counts as a song. Lulu’s [Records] were posting a bit about D-Beat and I was like, ‘I’m going to try and understand D-Beat.’ I posted on my story: send me all of your D-Beat recommendations. I was going to go through the whole catalogue of best songs and figure out what this genre is. I just didn’t get it. Either it was literally the same song or it was hardcore punk. D-Beat is a good warm up for me on drums, because it gets me to work the foot pedal. I was warming up to record something and I Just recorded a 10 second drum beat, not even intending to use it for anything, but then I was like, ‘Wouldn’t this be funny if this was the song and I made a song about, I don’t get D-Beat.’ That was the only lyrics [laughs].
I feel like someone at some point will probably get mad at me for that song, just know that I don’t hate D-Beat, I just don’t get it. I’ve listened to too much Green Day to ever get D-Beat. If I ever get a Billiam band started I want to write a D-Beat song at some point and then transition that into B Beat. Open with a song that says, “I don’t get D-Beat” then immediately after into a D-Beat song.
You mentioned that ‘Leisure’ was a favourite song.
B: I was trying to write something kind of like the Screamers. I feel like it makes sense for the Screamers to write a song being angry at people for having leisure time; that sounds like a Screamers-y concept. I don’t think it sounds like the Screamers but it’s a bit synth-y and sounds weird. I do a Tomata du Plenty-style vocal.
Was there a point during the process where you had to take a break and walk away for a bit?
B: I don’t really think so. I started recording at 12 noon and stopped around six or so. I didn’t even stop for lunch. Throughout the period I was recording for it, I put my phone in the other room and submerged myself in trying to make music. I felt a compulsion to do it. Generally, I like to seperate myself from my phone and the outside world and just make something. I don’t know if I could do it again as intensely as I did with this one. I really went bang into it. I had the drive to make anything.
How cool is the artwork for it!
B: I’m really happy with the art. It’s funny how I found the artist, one night I was with Ada from The Vovos on a Zoom call talking during one of the lockdowns and we were looking at a Spotify playlist that The Vovos were on (artists can see what playlists they’ve been added to). I decided to have a look at the ones that Disco Junk have been added to and I saw this playlist with insane artwork. I was like, ‘Holy shit! This is awesome.’ I went to the dudes account and all these playlists had this insane art. I thought he was so talented. I couldn’t find any information about him, he didn’t have an instagram or Facebook; I was complexly stumped. It drove me a little insane trying to find the artist. I thought, ‘Fuck! They would be so great to get to do an EP cover.’ I ended up finding a super old instagram post that mentioned his Tumblr. I eventually found his page where he’s uploaded his comics. From there I found his twitter and then sent him a message. He was thrilled to do it!
His name is Theo Johannesson, right?
B: Yeah. He’s a fucking insanely talented artist that is really good at doing a cartoon-y style.
Do you feel the cover is reflective of how you felt during the process?
B: Oh absolutely! [laughs]. It was a perfect representation; being grabbed, smashed and attacked by a bunch of clocks and I’m flinging around an instrument like I don’t know what I’m doing.
How did you feel at the end of the process?
B: I was like, ok, next thing! I immediately recorded the next thing, which is an EP coming out on Goodbye Boozy. It was all just, let’s go, go, go, go, go! Evert from Under the Gun Records said he’d do a Billiam 7 inch. I’m so grateful.
I get so much done, I guess, because I always prefer the stuff I’m making and once something is done I get quite critical and want to make something better. I do take breaks. I haven’t done that much this week, I only recorded two songs. I do try to take breaks because I don’t ever want to burn myself out or force myself to make art. If I’m not feeling creative in a certain medium, I view that as something natural. No one is going to be making great music 100% of the time. You need to find something that inspires you or you need to take a breather and step back and look at things to be able to see where to go next. I’m just a creative little guy.
I love how in the album insert that you wrote about how you got the different sounds and what instruments you used.
B: It’s something more bands should do. I’ve seen a few do it, I was just listen to Ausmuteants’ Order Of Operation and they list the exact gear. I hope someone that gets my record and wanted to make music can see the list and realise not only is it not that hard but it’s not that expensive. The average person can afford to make really good music and you don’t have to go hunting for fancy analogue gear, you can get what you have and learn methods that can create the same sound.
I like how you mentioned the Korg sound and you are honest and like, “I don’t even know how I got this.”
B: [Laughs]. I got that Korg secondhand and it hd a bunch of things programmed into already and I thought it sounded so cool, and just used that. I have no idea who made ‘em. If someone really wants to know about the sound they’re welcomed to come to my house and look at the synth, I’m sure they could work it out. I know nothing about synths. I know the one that I have makes sound when I press it, that is it. Floyd from TOR has a proper synth that’s adjustable and you can create different sounds every time. I have no fucking clue how to do it. He’s the smart one, maybe ask Floyd, he’s the fucking genius.
In the album, insert there is also a photo of you and a dog called Moose. Who’s Moose?
B: Mid last year the dog we had, Russell, passed away. He was extremely sad. He lived a very long and good life. He was a rescue. One day I came home and my mum called to me and said, “We got a new dog! He’s a Jug. A Jack Russell x Pug. His name is Moose.” He was starring at me for a solid minute and then came up to me and started barking. That’s been our relationship ever since. I think he does love me in some aspect, but he really is ok with letting me know he doesn’t really want to interact with me. I try to pet him but he’ll just start growling. Sometimes he does come in my room and he demands that I give him my full attention for an hour. He’s a very strange and needy dog, but I love him. I wanted to give him a shoutout in the record. You got to shout out the Moose.
What music and bands have you been listening to lately?
B: I’ve been trying to expanded out my musical tastes into different areas. I’ve been listening to a lot of Harry Belafonte, a calypso artist. On the complete opposite end of the Spectrum that new Erupt 7 inch that came out on Cool Death Records, I’ve just been smashing constantly. I’ve been getting into that grimy dark sound. I absolutely adore the new Romero EP. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Woollen Kits. I’ve been listening to a lot of the Buzzcocks recently. I listened to them a lot when /I first got into punk but then put them down for a bit and now I’m able to come back and realise how much of an incredible band they are. Their albums are hit after hit after hit. They did so much innovative stuff that no other punk band at the time were doing, like incorporating krautrock and hardcore influences into a very poppy sound. It’s very relatable.
What’s been some live shows lately that you’ve been to that have be great?
B: Obviously Jerkfest was fantastic. Dragnet at Jerkfest completely blew me away. I saw Party Dozen recently and they’re one of the most insane things I’ve seen, a saxophone and a drummer, who is also controlling all the backing tracks. I saw Pinch Points a couple of days ago, I played with them, that was great. Their new album is really fantastic, they sound incredible live. Tabloid TV Darlings was another band I’ve seen recently that really impressed me; a cool 90s-style band with catchy song writing. I’m really excited to see Ada from Vovos do her solo stuff soon. I’ve helped her record some of it. It’s sort of Moody Peaches/Kimya Dawson kind of stuff. Very silly and personal. I adore it. I love Kimya Dawson so much.
Me too. I interviewed her many years ago, she’s super lovely and funny. What’s next for you?
B: There’s six Billiam releases coming out in the second half of this year. The 7 inch on Goodbye Boozy. A cassette on a few different labels Painters Tapes in the US, Dial Club in Japan and Cow Tool Records in Australia, which is a new label started by friends of mine, they have some exciting things coming. I have a Halloween release that I’m doing; it’s completely ridiculous and I’m so excited for everyone to hear it. I have a split record 7 inch with the Vovos coming up too (it may not come out until next year though because Ada is going to Europe and Vovos are taking a break). It’s already recorded though.
How many songs do you think you’ve written?
B: I’m going to say 1,500 that I’ve properly documented in some way. Recently I did a clear out of my 8-track and I’d gotten up to 500 songs in it and since then I’ve recorded another 200. I also wrote and recorded a lot of stuff before that; it was embarrassing but cute. I’ve written a lot. How much of it that I’m proud of or will ever be released is yet to be determined [laughs].