Interview with Will & Alex
Can you tell me about the warning in “Bad Men”?
Will – I’d love to! Put quite simply it’s about us touring Europe. We first toured Europe in 2008 and as a band from isolated Australia we came with close to zero knowledge of European scene politics. Well, we got a crash course, that’s for sure! Amongst many other gigs, we played with TMF and Retaliator in the UK and another with Condemned 84 in Germany, and this was apparently enough for us to be deemed an extreme right wing RAC band. Not directly to our faces, as there no one’s ever asked us about it directly, but on the internet, of all places!
Alex – No one seems to give a shit about that sort of extremism in the Australia scene. There are people out there, but they’re such a minority. That sort of thing isn’t a part of the punk scene here. You just don’t get fascists and sharps turning up to shows.
Will – As we soon learned there’s a really active anti-fascist scene on the internet that I can only equate with a Hollywood style gossip column that makes extremely tenuous and almost paranoid-schizophrenic links about who’s apparently doing what in the punk scene. I think my favourite example is (since we’re apparently Nazis now) that the Vibrators (classic UK left wing punk – h13) are now suspected of having extreme rightwing sympathies since they played with us in Sydney! People talk shit in all aspects of life, and normally who cares? But this has had a real impact on us. For our second tour of Europe we had a number of gigs cancelled because these guys would call the venue and say we were Nazis. Just like that, without any proof required or chance to defend ourselves the gig would be cancelled.
Alex – In Australia, that sort of thing has very occasionally been tried by a few far left internet nerds, but it doesn’t really work. The venue just calls bullshit on it, or rings up the promoter for more info, or simply doesn’t care, and everything goes on as usual.
Will – I suppose the irony of the situation is that, although the word ‘Fascist’ is so vague that it’s now almost meaningless, accepted definitions are ‘oppressive’, or ‘intolerant’, or one who seeks to dictate how someone should think and act. So who are the fascists in this? The guys who are smearing and actively interfering in the lives of others, or the band that sings about girls, booze, and snakes?
Are you guys vinyl lovers? KTC came out sick.
Will – We definitely are. Contra did an outstanding job on KTC. If you didn’t already know there’s the main pressing which is a semi-clear vinyl with black haze that spreads out from the centre, and each 12” is unique. They look SO good! In addition there are limited edition black and white versions, all thick heavy vinyl. They’re almost sold out in Australia which is a testament to the effort Contra has put in to this release. Cheers to Contra!
Can you go through your records and the evolution of your sound?
Will – I joined in (I think) 2007 which was some time after the bands formation, and about the time Hold Fast was recorded. I remember hearing the early demos when they came out and I thought the band sounded really cheesy haha! It wasn’t until I came and watched the band play a few times that I started to get it. Although at the time the guys could barely play their instruments there was cleverness and charm to the songs that would draw you in.
I didn’t really have too much to do with the sound of the band prior to Bottle of Rock N Roll. But when I started to get more opinionated about what we were doing I thought we should concentrate more on making music that we liked listening to and was fun to play, and stop paying so much attention to what our peers were up to. I think there’s a fairly obvious departure from the style of music we were playing on Hold Fast as opposed to Bottle of Rock N Roll, and I think it’s a result of us not caring anymore what was expected of us, and doing more of what was coming naturally. I think ‘Know the Code’ is a progression of this.
Alex – Like Will said, there’s been a definite progression over time. And I think Hold Fast to Bottle of RnR was the sharpest and best turning point. Everything stepped up. You can hear from the first demo ‘Into Battle’ to the second demo ‘Itchin’ For Evil’, that slide guitar comes in. I think when we started we were only looking to streetpunk and hardcore bands as influences. Over time, we realised everything didn’t need to be attempting to be overtly tough sounding all the time. The guitars got cleaner (which probably comes out thicker and heavier anyway), my vocals got cleaner, and the whole thing sounds less immature than our early stuff. We were a band focused almost entirely on playing live, which meant we played lots (probably too much), and only did recordings because it was expected. This live focus places a lot of attention on “the scene” because that’s where the band exists most of the time. As we’ve settled into whatever level of establishment we have, we play less (but to bigger crowds), and there’s time and space to write songs with a record in mind, rather than a set list. Now the band comes from a different place where specific subcultures don’t really matter, and there’s no focus on a specific scene. We just play music we want to play, and there’s some people turning up who don’t even know what Oi! is.
Is it too simple to say that you’re a cross between Motorhead and Rose Tattoo?
Will – I don’t think that’s an unfair comparison but we go CHUGGA CHUGGA CHUGGA way more than either of them!
Alex – Listen to Motorhead from 90s onwards. Plenty of CHUGGA.
What is the current state of Australia from your perspective? And which perspective is that?
Will – Do you mean Australia in general? Australians have unprecedented levels of wealth and prosperity. We have a stable government despite it being formed from a group of independents and a major party without a majority vote. We’re isolated from the troubles of the world and the global financial crises passed us by…the government even gave us a cash handout to spend during the first one! But in spite of all of these advantages we still manage to carry on like the sky is falling. We’ve got it pretty good here.
As for music – locally things have been hard in Sydney where we live. Due to the costs of licensing a venue for liquor and the temptation to replace stages with poker machines there aren’t a lot of venues left in Sydney. However there’s enough going on that we don’t need to start writing the obituary for live music just yet. Just this weekend we played at Pug’s Day Out, a street punk festival held in Sydney with bands like Marching Orders, Rust, Mouthguard, Plan of Attack and Stanley Knife just to name a few. It was a great couple of days and shows punk is still alive and kicking.
Where have you guys toured and which were favorites?
Will – We’ve toured Europe twice and it’s hard to pick a favorite. We’ve done Germany, England, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Czech Republic, Austria, Sweden, Norway…I might have missed some, and I’ll rightfully use the excuse of being very drunk the entire time as an excuse.
I really like Dresden in Germany because the new part of the city reminds me a lot of where I’ve spent a good chunk of my life, Newtown in Sydney. It’s just a cool mix of run down and DIY, the whole city has a punk ethic going on. Of course the rad German beer helps a lot too!
As for Australia we haven’t gone anywhere apart from Melbourne and Brisbane. Those are the closest major cities to Sydney and they’re both around 1000kms away, which is about 600 miles. So it’s a very costly venture to get ourselves and there and back. Forget about going to Perth, which is 4000km away, or 2400 miles.
Alex – I’ve found Germany to be most receptive to what we do. More shows booked. Better crowds, etc. But everywhere we’ve gone in Europe, there was great hospitality and people who had been paying attention to our band from the start. That’s very flattering. Love to go again.