Sunday, March 28, 2010

Melissa Auf Der Maur interview (2010)

What do you do when you're the bassist in one of the biggest '90s rock bands and suddenly find yourself out of contract and wounded from an under achieving solo album? In the case of Hole's Melissa Auf Der Maur, a high concept film/album/comic project was just the thing needed to move forward. The risk factor must also have seemed high when halfway through recording Out Of Our Minds, Auf`Der Maur began her own publishing company - MAdM - to see the project through after being dropped by her label. As to be expected, the engaging singer's spare time is a rare and precious thing these days.

 "I'm sorry this interview has to be so tight, I mean the clock has been killing me lately." She begins, "Every second of my time is on a schedule and this is just so weird for me as someone who's never had to work to the clock before taking on this project." Melissa explains at speed, talking through the previously unheard of commitments facing her day to day since the release of Out Of Our Minds. "I feel like I might be making up for lost time because there was like this decade where I was just coasting but now I'm in redefinition mode. I remember realising one day I didn't want to just be in this sort of limbo anymore."
Her active life as a musician began once the Canadian native was asked to replace Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff following her suicide in 1994. Then after Hole burnt out in the early 2000's, Auf Der Maur toured briefly with the Smashing Pumpkins, once again as a replacement after bassist D'Arcy Wretzki refused to be involved with the 'new model' Pumpkins. Melissa's first solo album came out in 2005, and that same year she began work on a concept that would consume the next four years of her life. "Thank god for my blog, because that became my life force." She laughs, "I was at least able to keep people abreast of the situation all the while hoping my frustration wouldn't get the best of me while I saw this thing through."

The elaborate Out Of Our Minds project's end was never clearly in sight, Melissa describes. "I never really lost patience but at the same time I was there going 'another year has gone by and I still don't have anything to show to the outside world yet'." She says of discovering her creative ambition was at odds with the business. "The weird thing in my case is I was always being creative and made no time at all for practicality and now I've had to learn to channel my creativity and live in dream land and music land when I need to and also how to run my own label and finance my production company embracing all the technologies from online to actual manufacturing of the things. For me the challenge has been how do I learn to be practical rather than how do I find time to be creative."
Melissa claims her first solo album suffered from her label's lack of interest and subsequently built up her own label to see through her current release. "My relationship with EMI/Capitol dissolved half way through making Out Of Our Minds, and I thought well it's just reckless to allow somebody else to hold the key to how I release my work and what I put out. That's when the real decision came - and all the hard work started - to do it myself and start the label."

The album and film in question tells the story of three women from different times in history meeting in a forest where the trees bleed and Vikings roam. Included are many references to mythologies and folklore with an overriding factor of death and regeneration, topped with Melissa's interest in historical fact finding. "Mythology has always intrigued me and so the Vikings are in my movie, because their mythology is so strong but it's hard to say how much of it is based in fact. They represent to me people whose actual lives have kind of been replaced with kind half-fictional story telling which is why in the movie there's this search for the Viking's heart. It's like a search for the truth and humanity behind the myth."

The music side of Out Of Our Minds ultimately fed the idea for the short film. The origin, of which Melissa explains, came about after a life changing personal loss. "The lightning bolt of what direction to go in came from the album's title track, but ultimately the death of my father planted the seed for the broader idea. Had he not died, I wouldn't have pushed myself so much to see this project through." The work on Out Of Our Minds is a wealth of creativity, boasting well defined ideas working together with no slack parts. In her film the central story is triggered by a car crash, which makes for a good analogy if you look at Melissa's surviving credibility and artistry following the Courtney Love and Billy Corgan ego trips she was previously
passenger to.
Although admitting to having no perspective on the project right now – that'll take time - she carefully considers her recent achievements; "I don't know what I'm more proud of," Auf Der Maur sighs, "the experimenting and the collaborative side of it or that someone like me can be young productive businesswoman." She adds self-effacingly, "I'm proud of the fact that I was able to rise to the challenge and also return to my roots as a visual artist and be able to marry that to the music. That took a long time to create, I mean the film alone took almost a year of my life and the album was on and off for a couple of years, so I took a lot on in regards to the quality of work I committed to myself to make."

On the path to completing Out Of Our Minds, Melissa has been joined by a drool-inducing production and collaborative crew. Names such as Alan Moulder, Chris Goss, Mike Frazer and Glenn Danzig turn up on the credits. "I was traveling alone with my hard drive containing all my song ideas for a couple of years; I'm a bit of a lone wolf you see, and I met up with these guys on my travels, who were all friends to begin with except for Glenn Danzig, and because I was writing the album as I was going, it was just easier to take what I had to them and work on it wherever I happened to be." Glenn Danzig's credit is as vocalist on the track Father's Grave. Melissa's only choice, as she explains, for duet partner; "Because the song needed to be told from the perspective of the dead father in the story to his daughter, it just had to be Glenn as he was like my musical parent as a teenager." She reveals, "He's like my last frontier actually. Glenn and Morrissey were the kings of my musical world when I was 15 or 16, so I had to really build up to asking him to enter my world." She laughs, "It was also the first time I had written a song for somebody else to sing and I felt like I owed him so much, so I just closed my eyes and thought 'what would Glenn do?' and it just worked out like magic."

While Australia is only now about to see a local release for the album, talk of touring the accompanying film is still only that. The third installment of the project - the comic book edition - is imminent in North America and Canada, and although eager, Melissa would prefer to contemplate an Australian tour once all of the mediums are available here. "Doing the Australian summer festivals with Hole were seriously my favourite tours of all." She beams, "I'm thinking of the possibility of a tour on the back of independent cinema screenings of Out Of Our Minds, but nothing is certain yet." She adds optimistically, "But hey, I'm feeling a lot more support this time around so I'm really hoping that's gonna happen."


The Dynamites' Bill Elder interview (2010)

With Nashville Tennessee’s ‘only two kinds of music - Country and Western’ identity firmly in place, it’s easy to forget the cities rich soul and R&B history. Tennessee’s synonymous with The Grand Ole Opry and Hank Williams, yet its black soul music movement in the 1960s was rivaled only by that of Detroit’s. So when writer/guitarist and proud Nashvillian, Bill Elder formed The Dynamites in 2005, he came with an eight piece band in full position of that rare, authentic spirit, befitting the local soul tradition. Their mission: To demonstrate precisely how you can’t beat the real thing.

“I don’t have many contemporary influences to speak of at all.” The straight-talking ex-producer Elder, begins. “There are a handful artists out there still making soul music and obeying the traditional sound of it, but most are just using it as a reference or to embellish their stuff.” Elder’s band are remarkable for the sheer authenticity of their sound. Take the music of civil rights-era America and the scene’s brightest star Marvin Gaye and you can draw a very short line, sound wise to The Dynamites. Bill explains; “As soon as the bug bit me to put together a raw soul band I pretty much dug myself into a hole that begins in 1963 and comes out in 1971.” Bill laughs, continuing. “I guess that was the time when soul music was both important and popular music – it was all over the charts - so all the labels put out a huge amount of real, authentic material to get behind the movement, but sadly it’s not like that anymore.”
The lyrics on The Dynamites current album Burn It Down – their second -demonstrates a casual political edge to the band. The title alone has a strong resonance for Bill; ”Actually the original title for the album was Black President and we had written most of the songs before Obama had even declared his candidacy like a weird sort of premonition.” He explains, “The idea of regeneration was there early on in our minds, especially when we were confronted with this crazy woman who couldn’t even name a single national newspaper and was running for vice presidency (Sarah Palin), we definitely felt something drastic had to happen.” Settling on Burn It Down, Bill felt there was an even greater impact to this title. He explains; “What that meant was burning down the old dogmatic ways of thinking and rebuilding a whole new way. The album is about regeneration which is perhaps not obvious by the title - a lot of people see that as a kind of aggressive statement - but really what it’s talking about is destroying old ways of thinking and letting the new come through. That really is the whole message of this album in a nutshell.”
The Dynamites come armed with a vocalist who has been compared to the likes of Marvin Gaye and James Brown. Elder talks of how vintage soul giant Charlie Walker came to his attention; “Charles was a part of an exhibit at the Country Music Hall Of Fame. There was a very brilliant curator at the museum in Nashville who wanted to exhibit the soul and R&B history of the local area. They released a record to coincide with that called Night Train To Nashville, as well as staging a concert which Charles - who was one of the original artists from the scene still around and performing - played at.” Bill enthuses, “At the same time I was looking at putting on a couple nights’ soul review and back then, it was never going to be a serious ongoing thing. I was working as a producer full-time and basically was done with playing on the road, so this showcase was just going to be my way of paying tribute to the artists who I loved and who represented Nashville. Charles however was such an incredible performer and he blew everyone else off stage, I just thought ‘well he’s the real thing’. Someone who’s not just cashing-in on the sound or riding their name out, you know. He’s going out there on stage every night like he’s born to do it and I have never seen anyone so on top of his game as this man.”

The Dynamites have recently gained wild appraisal in Europe and are set to play their first ever Australian shows. I ask Bill what it means for his band to be embarking on ‘virgin territory’ after the tried and tested success of Europe; “It’s a place I’ve always wanted to go, nobody in the band has been there before and it’s nice to know we speak the same language” He laughs, “But you know sometimes I think how will music so specific to a place and time go down in another culture, but then I remember that some of the great American jazz artists from back in the day only found success in places like Paris, so you never can tell where people are going to be at digging your music.” In closing Bill ads; “We’re just so lucky that despite the current climate, it’s possible for a nine-piece retro soul band to go out and make a living from doing what they do just because they love it."


New Young Pony Club interview (2010)

Anybody who warmed to New Young Pony Club’s debut single Ice-cream with its burst of neon joyfulness along with debut album, Fantastic Playroom, may find themselves having to do a little re-adjusting to the band’s newest set. Producer/guitarist Andy Spence takes some time to discuss his band’s darker, more mature second album, The Optimist beginning with its perhaps misleading title. “The Optimist, well that was just how we felt throughout the making of the album.” He states, “We were at least optimistic that we were making great music, and making something that was real, so naturally we felt good about it.”

The ‘we’ Andy refers to is himself and vocalist Tahita Bulmer - who make up the creative core of the band - completing the line-up is Lou Hayter (keyboards) and Sarah Jones (drums). The UK based NYPC developed an almost hit-guaranteed album with the poppy Fantastic Playroom in 2007 after being snagged by Australian label Modular prior to any local interest. A surprising start to things, as Andy remembers. “It was just that we had been all over Europe and to the US and never even stepped foot in Australia, so when Modular wanted to sign us on the strength of our independent single (Ice Cream) we were pretty shocked.” He continues; “Now we have had some of our biggest support from there and everything really sort of opened up for us after Australia, yeah.”

The band, after dropping an album’s worth of music, gradually developed a darker, more involving sound for album number two. The question is what dynamic within the band changed to affect the music so. “Well we don’t really disagree on very much when it comes to where we want to take our music, well at least we don’t argue amongst ourselves and get all precious about it. We usually know when it’s good and when it’s not working, quite simply and any changes made during the making of this album have come from us basically agreeing we needed to move things on.”
Spence is undoubtedly in the driver’s seat for NYPC, having produced all of the band’s music up to this point. He discusses his role. “Actually a lot more has been made of it this time around, but we actually funded everything, and I produced the first album as well.” He states, “To be honest it’s the only way we can work – the way we create our music is to produce it as we go along as opposed to taking the demo versions into a studio and getting other people in to finish it you know.” Despite the self-sufficiency, Andy explains, having outside influences is a given and something the band aren’t opposed to seeking out. “One thing we do rely on to make sure we’re keeping on track is our management and friends having an impartial opinion to help guide what we do.” He continues, “We actually invited in our old A&R guy from Modular in to listen to tracks, and he didn’t like any of it but there was actually some bad blood between us and so he was a bit narky but we wanted to see how much his opinion of our music would be influenced by personal differences” He laughs, “It was good though because there’s no point just having everyone tell you it’s great and having no second opinion at all. We needed to give ourselves a harder test this time around I think.”

On the point of the new album’s greatest strengths, Andy is confident they have prepared a set fit for all moods; “I think a lot of people are surprised at far we’ve gone in two albums, I mean how much our sound has changed and for me that’s a good thing, but we’ve also been criticised by people saying it’s not up and it’s not down it’s neither one thing or the other but I think that is what the album’s greatest strength is. I’ve always loved albums that have the really extreme up, positive songs and the equal darker moments as well such as David Bowie’s Low and Prince’s Sign O’ The Times.”

I tell Andy that Tahita Bulmer’s vocals on The Optimist are remarkable for their likeness to almighty punk goddess Siouxsie Sioux’s. He divulges a-not-at-all-surprising shared love for the singer. “I might be giving too much away here but we actually went to see her in concert half way through the recording. I mean we’ve always admired her but it was just a great reminder seeing her perform.” Spence muses, “You could name on one hand the amount of people like Siouxsie – strong female singer, still in full possession of the punk ethic, and doesn’t resort to selling sex as part of what she does.”

Andy Spence; optimist in conversation and by admission through his current album’s title. So what, if the future is bright, is on New Young Pony Club’s gotta-do list?, “I’d like to play bigger venues, connect with more people, maybe win a Brit award or a Grammy.” He laughs, “I’ll just throw those in for the sake of an answer but basically I’m happy with what we’ve achieved so far and right now, it just feels as good as it can get.”


Monday, March 22, 2010

Massive Attack live in Melbourne 2010 (review)

Venue: Sidney Myer Music Bowl

Being inside the Sidney Myer Music Bowl this evening is a pleasure in itself beyond the concert about to take place. It’s a breathtakingly warm, still night deep in the lower seating of the arena making it impossible to entertain a care in the world. The stunning Martina Topley-Bird is on stage cruising through her solo set under a single spotlight, while demonstrating a sunny disposition with occasional smiles and waves between verses. This is her live solo debut in Melbourne, and her first tour with Massive Attack after she recently entered their inner circle following many years of association through her work with ex-Massive rapper Tricky.

Her part in the main show tonight is to be rarely matched despite Massive Attack’s knack for picking great singers. The list of guest vocalists on this band’s work is, well massive, and so it’s down to Martina, along with Jamaican/Brit legend Horace Andy and soul diva Deborah Miller to fill in for those various, equally unique singers. The core of Massive Attack has (almost) always been Robert “3D” Del Naja and Grant “Daddy G” Marshall. The pair’s friendship is well known to be as fragile as some of their music, so it’s with great interest I watch their on-stage chemistry/lack-of as the show unfolds.
A few late arriving fans are taking their seats just as the stage darkens and five musicians file on. Ominous synthesised strings are soon being punctuated by loud drum bursts at the same time the blackness is interrupted by narrow red beams of light. Del Naja and Marshall finally appear on stage in silhouette and park themselves behind a table containing keyboards and a laptop. Once settled in, the music suddenly roars into life and Del Naja’s smoky voice raps out the words to United Snakes – a bonus track from new album Heliogoland’s import only edition. There’s a problem though, 3D can’t be heard at all over the dirgey, thrashing synths and drums. Luckily, it turns out that his raspy singing simply can’t compete with the unusually cacophonous (for Massive Attack) music. Things improve by the second track Babel when Martina returns for what will be the first of several vocal duties for her tonight. The new songs, such as Babel, don’t dominate the set tonight as much as expected. The band had even given away with all tickets sold, a copy of Heligoland, presumably so fans would have time to ingest the latest brooding set – a grower for certain - in time for this tour.
Instead, commercial highlight Mezzanine (1998) gets a thorough riffling tonight, possibly due to the current album’s overabundance of guest singers. With that said, it’s once again up to Martina to step up and this time, take on Mezzanine single Teardrop. Elizabeth Fraser’s vocal on the original song is such an incredible feat of raw emotion; Martina wisely wasn’t about trying to match it. Instead the song was completely rearranged as a dub reggae piece, perfectly fitting Topley-Bird’s voice. The sight of her silhouetted against a giant graphic of an eye, pouring everything she had into this song is utterly staggering. The performance passes all too soon, but will surely stay with everybody here tonight for a long time to come.

I have to say I’m so much more impressed with Horace Andy as a live singer than on the recordings. The shadowy figures scattered around the stage all but vanish as Horace, sporting a bright red hat appears, hands aloft to perform Angel and Girl I Love You under blinding white lights. The band’s guest singers aside, Grant “Daddy G” Marshall is one very bright star in this show. On Risingson he commands the audience’s attention with his guttural half sung/rapping technique and ‘rude-boy’ dancing. Del Naja’s moment to shine comes in Inertia Creeps – his whisper in stark contrast with Marshall’s booming delivery. A slightly less welcome star of Massive Attack’s current show is the endless feed of slogans, headlines, facts and quotes in huge neon letters flickering up on the huge screen. Underworld use similar seizure-inducing visuals in their show, and although spectacular in colour and movement, Massive Attack’s music is far less suited to this kind of pace. Besides that, it’s a bit wanky in a U2 kind of way.

As the show’s end draws near - and we’re reminded via the screens, how much the war in Iraq has cost - the audience fill up the spaces between the seats and the stage to dance, just as Massive Attack’s final surprise is unleashed – One Deborah Miller. You don’t get pipes like hers from working in mines. This soulful diva of grand proportions gives the roof a tickle with heart-stopping renditions of Unfinished Sympathy and Safe From Harm off Blue Lines. Miller is enjoying her moment too; it’s a long wait for her to do only two songs. The finale Karmacoma is, although a welcome visit to the Protection album, a little flat following on from Miller’s grand styling. Nobody seems to mind though and we take our cue to shower the band with love as the song ends. All hatchets between Massive Attack seem buried as Marshall grabs Del Naja’s hand and holding it up yells, “this is my man, D - give it up!” Grant holds steady on stage as the applause builds; he looks to be reminding himself of why he rejoined the band last year, and what he’s missed.

After this tour Massive Attack will probably fly back to Bristol and hide away in their rooms for another six or seven years with the curtains drawn. But if that’s what it takes for them to share a stage and pull off a show like the one seen tonight, may they never be disturbed.





photos by me and Fruitbat

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Massive Attack - Heligoland (album review)

Massive Attack it has to be said take their sweet time in serving up any product at all, so when an album does arrive it's something of an event. The band so far in their 20 year career have never fully escaped the shadow cast by debut album Blue Lines and are it seems destined to have all subsequent works compared to it. The thing is, all Massive Attack albums are largely blueprint in formula and why shouldn't they be? The recipe's good and nearly always works, and with only five albums in their cannon, you could hardly say they're flogging a tired old nag.

Despite long periods of inactivity, there's still something of an old friend factor to Massive Attack so the time spent listening to their new set was  to be a fairly comfortable experience, surely?. There would be some familiar tales, told by voices reminding me of good times with perhaps some new learned wisdom thrown in...? Well, no. In fact Heligoland actually comes across more like a total stranger. I find myself having to tease information out of the music rather than the expected easy flow of long-time acquaintances. On the upside to this, repeated listens show Heliogoland to be quite a strong contender for slightly sinister new best mate. A great companion to stand with in the 7-11 at 4am, bleary eyed and pretending you're in an American indie film about to pull out a shotgun and say something deadly cool.

So it's a little unfamiliar, but like all Massive Attack albums, there needs to be a bit of environment set-up to really appreciate it. Candles... well if that's your thing, but low light for sure and maybe a jostick and something in the room that hums, such as a fan. The first thing you'll notice about Heliogoland is by half way through the ten tracks, the mood and tempo are set at lucid and are not likely to change. And change they do not, but like thoughts during lucid sleep, so much is revealed if you just allow it to happen. Opening track Pray For Rain begins by layering live drumming with morose strings which eventually turn into popping electronic blips sung over with an increasingly urgent robotic chant until finally a flourish of gentle falsetto 'aaahhh's' come in as the music mimics a breaking drought. This song hails the welcome return of Grant "Daddy G" Marshall who hasn't sung on a Massive album since 1998's Mezzanine. The vocal duties on the rest of the album include the usual long list of guests, Tricky's ex-vocalist Martina Topley-Bird appears on Babel and Psyche - and naturally, it's a perfect fit. Her lazily half sung parts automatically trigger thoughts of Tricky's earlier work, which was always a heavier extension of Massive Attack's.

Regular guest Horace Andy also returns here sounding better than ever on Girl I Love You, backed with a tremendous live horn section. The single, Splitting The Atom, is the most immediate track here, boasting ice cold strings and a hip hop beat suggesting perhaps a Gorillaz influence resulting from Damon Albarn's contribution to the track. However, it's the combined effort of Albarn, Grant Marshall, Robert Delnaja and Elbow's Guy Garvey on Flat Of The Blade that stands out the most. Garvey sings ominously "...I'm not good in a crowd/I've got skills I can't speak of/things that'll chase me to the grave..." over a rising string melody and occasional horn blasts. All the best elements of the album come together on this track, and if you like 'em dark and brooding, it's guaranteed to please. That said, there is a warmth to Heliogoland that was missing from 2003 album 100th Window. The use of live instruments or rather the choice to not bury the live instruments in the mix is a huge benefit to the album overall. There's a good variety of vocalists and collaborators on offer, each given room to breathe and make their individual stamp on the songs which in the past had always served Massive Attack well. Core founding member Robert "3D" Delnaja is still lurking in the corridor, chain smoking and rasping away, only this time he's paused at the door and allowed his guest ensemble to shoulder a good deal of the work. Heligoland ultimately is a grower of an album, if not just for it's detached mood then for it's striking contrast to most popular music currently on offer. Grab it and let it grow, you won't be disappointed.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Machine Head interview (2010)


Although beginning in 1992, it was on the back of their last album, 2007’s The Blackening, that California’s Machine Head were finally elevated to metal god’s status. Its success, although a triumph, meant a grueling, wit-shattering non-stop three year tour that almost destroyed the band. Now marching on from near annihilation and towards Australian shores for the band’s first headline shows here, I catch drummer David McClain on a rare break at his home getting the jump on some domestic chores.

“I’ve been home for about a week now which is almost unheard of these days, and I actually just went out and bought some new curtains for the kitchen” He says, feeling a little absurd before adding, “Well obviously they’re black curtains, make sure you mention that bit.” David’s relief at being able to enjoy a non-music related activity is clear in his voice. Three of the four years since his band’s sixth album The Blackening was released have been one long tour, which resulted in the airing of more than a few demons and in David’s case, imaginative ways with vodka. “You mean the Butt Burner.” he laughs, referring to his bowel destroying creation; “How that came about was my drum tech and I barbecue a lot and there’s always a lot of sauce around so, one night I remember I was craving a Bloody Mary and we had the vodka but no tomato juice and I just thought what would happen if we just put a load of Tabasco sauce in it instead? Basically we only put it in there because it’s red, but it gets you really drunk and the heat also gets you really pumped up so it’s a very weird feeling.” He laughs, before sharing further stories of on tour indulgences. “I think the best drink was probably one that Pantera had made up. We used to get so hammered with those guys.” He recalls, “They would carry around their own supply of grape Pedialyte - which is like a super strong Gatorade for babies – they would use it to make shots so you get re-hydrated as you get drunk. The theory there would be no hang-over the next day, but that’s not possible when you’re drinking with Pantera.”

Pantera had been long-time supporters of Machine Head, inviting them to play support early on, but as David points out, gaining further support eluded Machine Head up until the break through album that was The Blackening, which allowed them previously unheard of billing; “Previously our longest tour cycle would have been about a year and a half, but this last one just kept on going and going. Before The Blackening came out, we never got offers to open up for anybody, I mean there was like a ten year gap where there was just a drought. All of a sudden The Blackening comes out and we’re getting offers from everywhere to open for some of our favourite bands.”

Metallica’s last tour was the breakthrough event for Machine Head, as their nightly opening act. David discusses. “Metallica really could have a puppet show opening for them and they’d still sell-out everywhere they played” He laughs, “But them asking us to be their main support band on the US tour says a lot about where they’re at right now, which is having fun with their music and each other again and also willing to take a chance on an opening band that would otherwise be playing small theatres.” The two band’s developed a strong mutual appreciation over the course of the tour. David exclaims. “Lars told me that they (Metallica) had been playing our album in the studio while recording Death Magnetic which is the biggest compliment to us as a band. When we were floundering for support slots we used to joke saying ‘…what we need is to be on Metallica’s bill…’ but we never thought we’d have a chance in hell really.”

The last Australian visit for Machine Head was as opening act for Slipknot. David points out how important their support was, perhaps even above that of Metallica; “When we opened for Slipknot we felt that we gained a lot of new fans from that tour than Metallica.” He states, “Metallica fans are a hard sell. I mean we’ll always be in debt to Metallica for taking a chance on us, but their fans are so much into what they do, we were always just going to be the opening act on that tour.”

The punishing tour schedule in support of The Blackening began to take its toll on Machine Head’s guitarist Phil Demmel. He collapsed several times on and off stage from exhaustion, David explains; “I think with that there were a lot of factors involved in that, more mentally than physically. He’s been dealing with a lot of stress and being on the road you don’t get a chance to work that shit out, everything on tour just becomes so exaggerated you know but thankfully he’s getting a lot better now.” In Metallica’s tell-all road movie Some Kind Of Monster the band allowed viewers a chance to see how destructive long tours could be for musicians. In a strange twist Machine Head would end up an off-screen imitation of Metallica. As their long tour rolled on, cracks began to appear within the group. David explains; “During the Slipknot tour in Europe, Rob (Flynn – vocals) and Adam (Duce - bass) started getting a therapist involved to sort out some pretty heavy stuff between them. They were having major personality conflicts and really Rob was done by that stage, he didn’t want to be in a band with Adam anymore.” He adds “Getting a therapist involved was a last resort and really it’s what saved the band from splitting up, which is what we were heading towards.”

David’s confident that the band’s leader Rob Flynn is still the main motivator within the band despite any conflict; “We all have things that keep us going I think, but I definitely believe Machine Head has kept going as strong as it has because of Rob; that dude is doing Machine Head stuff in his sleep. I don’t really like the business side of the band - I just love playing - but he’s doing all that, and he just never stops working towards his dream of wanting Machine Head to be the biggest metal band on the planet.”


Monday, March 8, 2010

Tex Perkins interview (2010)

After almost 30 years mounting and humping the crap out of any musical genre he takes a fancy too, Tex Perkins is showing no signs of slowing down. Amidst a second run of his hugely popular Johnny Cash tribute shows, Tex has taken, by request, a sidestep into headlining an overdue solo career retrospective as part of the Between The Bays music festival. In recent years he has toured again with Beats Of Bourbon, The Cruel Sea and his Bumhead Orchestra project after long retirements for each group. This retro-reminder has Tex taking the chance for a quick plug; 

“Add this to your pile of information on me, I am Sydney doing my Man In Black show at the Opera House and all are welcome.” It’s the week before Sydney’s annual Mardi Gras festival and Tex suddenly find’s himself faced with a potential clash of events. The word is, a renegade contingent of the Mardi Gras goers are planning a massive nude run at the Opera House; “I’ve got a matinee on Saturday so I’ll be there, what time is it?” He says non-plussed, “I do claim to be a nudist, generally in the privacy of my own home, but I doubt I’ll be able to resist getting involved in that somehow. I’m not ready to show it all now, but I’ve got a week to work on the body and if it’s a Mardi Gras event then I guess I’ll have a week to get gay as well.” He adds confidently, “I recon I could swing it too.”

It’s already going that way, so cringing I do a Rove, and ask Tex who would the man would ‘turn’ for; “Oh, well I’ll give it some consideration and give you a proper answer.” Tex takes his time seriously considering his options, until finally; “The problem is there are too many people, there’s like a gathering at the door, a bottleneck if you like of potential suitors.” After more consideration Tex asks, “Does the person have to be gay all ready or can I just win them over with my pretend gayness?” At last he goes for a safe bet; “Kevin Rudd, in an S&M sort of thing with a rubber ball in his mouth.”

Pre-Man In Black success, Perkins confounded his fan base by releasing an unconventional covers set with no attention to quality or content. Tex says of project dubbed The Ladyboyz’ conception, “I’ve always been a bit of a cabaret clown or a karaoke tragic but in reality that was an exercise in fucking with the record company.” The Ladyboyz album No. 1’s and No 2’s included shoddy remakes of music’s mushiest ballads; “They (the label) had the stupidity to ask me to a covers album, that was their amazing marketing strategy for me and I thought ‘you fucking idiots, alright I’ll give you a fucking covers album’ and presented them with the Ladyboyz CD, making sure my contempt was prevalent in the offering.”
Putting a band together to help him see through even his ill-conceived ideas has never been an issue for Tex. With his many years of fronting various, unrelated bands in mind I ask Tex his secret to keeping musical partnerships alive; “Some you can’t maintain, because they’re not healthy relationships, but in most cases I‘ve been lucky.” He reveals, “Bands like The Cruel Sea and even the Beasts, we have enough distance and we’re not together all of the time so you’re not down each other’s throats, or up each other’s arses too much.” He grins, “As for the Beasts Of Bourbon the only reason we weren’t the biggest band in the world,” laughter, “was because of my lack of commitment to the task, and that’s just how I operate.”

Mornington Peninsula’s Between the Bays festival is into its fifth successful year, as headliner Tex reveals his slot is likely to be a best of affair, with a twist; “I’m doing my solo career retrospective with my current band who are known as Black Cattle Dog. It is however reaching the end of it’s guise as a retrospective because I have just been writing a shit load of songs.” The ‘shit load’ reference is a theme Tex runs with; “I’m just taking the pile I got already and heaping another pile of shit songs onto that and seeing what happens. I might even take a couple out for run around the block at the Between The Bays thing which is something I don’t normally do, because let’s face it, nobody’s beating down my door for it, but fuck them I’m gonna do it anyway. “He says, amused, “I haven’t had an exclusive debut, an inaugural of a new song for a long time, so let’s talk it up.” On that note, our time runs out. I offer Tex my best wishes for his new material and the upcoming headline slot at Between The Bays. He retorts; “Ah who cares.”


Friday, March 5, 2010

Faith No More live in Melbourne 2010 (review)


Something very unusual was happening at Festival Hall prior to Faith No More’s second night as headliners in their Soundwave sideshows. Maybe the sight of hoards of neon blazered security staff pouring across the road to the venue has caused an outbreak of calm and chilled behaviour among the many gathered fans. The one night music fans don’t want to be singled out as trouble makers or likely to create a disturbance is upon us, and you can just feel the cool oozing out of the faithfully assembled. Anticipation for this concert is pointless to mention, this is the biggest cult band in the world.

Arriving half way through warm-up comic Neil Hamburger’s set, it’s obvious the guy was enjoying taunting the died-in-the-war Faith No More fans crazy enough to stand at the front. One Red Hot Chili Peppers joke follows another in an unbroken torrent of single themed gags; “Why did the Red Hot Chili Peppers go under the bridge?” shouts of abuse and thrown items; “because there was a pile of shit there and they hadn’t injected themselves with it before.” He continues, pretending to wrap up his act, only to throw in more jokes. It was funny in the same way watching somebody poke a fork into a power point is. Meanwhile we, the fans down the back in the general standing area are faced with stage-a obscure-a syndrome from the countless heads and hands. Yet later seeing the fans who braved the mosh resembling very ripe bananas after a cattle stampede, it’s a pretty good compromise.

After a wisely short intermission, Faith No More fill out a stage dressed in light peach matching dinner suits and for the next minute everything goes blank as the crowd roar, leap and punch the air in excitement. The cacophony is quickly replaced with the whimsical sound of a melodica calmly sounding out the tune to Midnight Cowboy - a chilled instrumental from the Angel Dust album. Faith No More’s refusal to be cast as ‘just a rock band’ is evidenced all through their show, however seeing them rip through The Real Thing and Land Of Sunshine like the proper metal band they sometimes are, is an unmatched thrill. The crowd tonight are on edge during every song, desperate to drink in every glorious moment of music. The heat generated by the capacity crowd was becoming overwhelming and before long, a scuffle or two broke out, only to stop almost immediately as the thought of missing any of Faith No More’s set apparently kicked in. Sound wise, Faith No More suffer the usual problems faced by bands at this venue – total muddiness – although Patton’s voice is perfectly designed to cut through the dirge. On Ashes To Ashes he soars over the heavy synths and drums showing off that signature range on the song’s explosive chorus without effort.

The second of Faith No More’s sideshows at Festival Hall is becoming more of a greatest hits show than the previous night where they were tacked on to the bill ‘last minute style’ with AFI and Gallows. Basically tonight it’s all of the singles – including the covers of Easy and I Started A Joke. After the latter song - made famous originally by the Bee Gees - Patton drawls into his mic; “You love your Aus-tral-ian songs huh, Melbourne?” He pauses as everybody cheers, “You’ll want some Jimmy Barnes next I suppose?” Thankfully, instead of a surprise Barnsey cover, the sweet sound of A Small Victory follows, earning the greatest response so far. It’s no small feat either, when classic songs Epic and Gentle Art Of Making Enemies had people practically ripping the floor boards up with their teeth in excitement. It’s well known that Patton doesn’t mind making a bit of time to meet his fans, but as he hurls himself into the frantic crowd I wonder if he had any regrets. After the surge towards him he eventually emerges over the heads of the front row while a fan tries desperately to relieve him of his shoes. The man handling from where I’m standing was brutal and crazed, time to take a break it seems. The crew retrieve Mike from the pit and the band exit the stage, shoes intact.

The encore was always going to be interesting; they have so far played everything that could make up a typical ‘go out with a bang’ type encore. Midlife Crisis, Ricochet, Caffeine and Surprise! You’re Dead! have all been played, so the jury’s out. Perhaps sensing the need to cool things down a bit, Faith No More decide to go a little go new wave on a cover of Siouxsie & The BansheesSwitch. The long feedback heavy version seems like finishing, when suddenly it morphs in to Stripsearch – its synthesised strings and tense, slow ticking beat giving the Festival Hall crowd a chance to cool down a little. Patton - always the charmer – finishes this momentous show in his creepy uncle speaking voice, “Melbourne, thank you for your attendance, we’ll see you again some time.”



Midnight Cowboy
The Real Thing
Land Of Sunshine
Gentle Art Of Making Enemies
Last Cup Of`Sorrow
Midlife Crisis
I Started A Joke
A Small Victory
Surprise! You're Dead!
Ashes To Ashes
Just A Man
Edge Of The World
Mark Bowen

video: Surprise! You're Dead! - live at Festival Hall

video: A Small Victory - live at Festival Hall