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‘The Only Rule Is Cool’: Cool Death Records and Dribble

DribbleGasoUpstairs - Jess D

Dribble is a Melbourne five piece. The band features Texas Tom on vocals, Slimy Williams on lead guitar, Brenton on guitar and Silent Bob on drums. Tom Bradford plays bass with the group and helps operate punk tape label Cool Death Records along with Alessandro Coco (Gutter Gods / Leather Lickers) and Moses Williams (Soma Coma / UV Race).

Released in April, The first Dribble tape is putrid. Pop songs beaten against the wall by the tail and then thrown into the road. The songs are excellent, but they’re generally beaten into barely recognisable shapes before they reach your ears. The Dribble debut was the second release for Cool Death following the debut Gutter Gods tape 2015 Since then, the label has issued the first Velvet Whip tape and will issue a Gutter Gods LP later in 2013.

I spoke to Bradford over a series of emails about the Cool Death ethos and what it takes to keep hardcore and punk music from becoming boring these days. He’s currently helping out with the annual Maggot Fest festival in Melbourne, which takes place this weekend across several venues including the Gasometer Hotel and the Northcote Social Club. Bands include Straightjacket Nation, Lakes, Oily Boys, Multiple Man and tonnes of others. Full details here. It’s pretty much the flagship Aussie hardcore and punk festival so you should go.

I love the first Dribble tape. How did the band form?

I’d known Texas and Brenton for years: we cut our teeth together at all age youth centre gigs watching unity bands. I watched the demise of a band they were doing called Slow which had real punk potential in its simplicity and stupidity. Me and Nathan were playing in Gutter Gods, which may have been called Kicked In at the time, and we were both living south east of the city. The other fellas were out that way too and I reckon we probably were just talking shit at a show about going over to their house and playing some musak with them. We ended up doing it. They had two cool songs and we were sucked in from there.

What other bands are you in?

Gutter Gods, and I have played a couple of shows with a band called R.I.P Snorta – an Ocker-punk band with songs about AFL, shitty Melbourne landmarks and mates. More of a house-party band for a laugh.

The first Dribble tape – under what circumstances was it recorded? It sounds disturbing.

No extraordinary circumstances there other than Texas’ Dad Andy recording it, who is a real affable bloke that had previous experience engineering Live Aid concerts in the ’80s. Was real cute with him behind the booth and Texas talking to him in the studio through the mic saying “hey Dad, this song’s about Blade Runner” – to a mute response. I think we recorded into a desk and then out to a reel-to-reel. Andy cut a first mix which I never heard that was canned by the others for not being raw enough -Texas cut a second mix and absolutely fucked it. There’s pure glory in those riffs that gets buried amid the fuzz. We’re recording for an LP or 2×7” this week and will be re-doing them in the hope that the demo isn’t the first and final recorded representation of those songs.

There’s a song on your first tape called ‘Leather Lickers’. There’s also a tape under that name coming soon on Cool Death. What’s the story there?

‘Leather Lickers’ was the first song Texas wrote and was actually gonna be the name of the band. I jokingly suggested the name ‘Drivel’ for the band which got misheard as ‘Dribble’, and stuck. A new band in our circle formed a couple of months ago, and they snatched it. Alliteration is the key to any punk’s heart – think of the lineage.

Are all the Cool Death Records bands (Gutter Gods, Dribble, Velvet Whip) related?

We’re certainly all related in that we’re all chums. Gutter Gods and Dribble share me and Nathan. Velvet Whip is the first band we’ve put out that doesn’t have a member of the Cool Death Board within it. They’ve proven to be the crown jewel in our small roster.

What’s the ethos of Cool Death Records?

Our mantra is ‘The Only Rule Is Cool’ which is elementary and happens to rhyme yet still holds weight. The intention wasn’t for Cool Death to be a strictly hardcore/punk label and we didn’t want it to be strictly just a record label either. If we think it’s cool, we’ll do it or release it. Ethos relates heavily to aesthetic and our aesthetic in an overarching loose term is ‘cool’. Bands have gotta play hard and loud, challenge audiences not nurture them, don’t use the internet as your only way of spreading the word, flyers have gotta look good, you don’t complain that there’s no one to play with or anywhere to play – you build it yourself, you gotta be down to play in a drain, you gotta be a music fan – everything from Hawkwind to Muddy Waters to United Mutation is a goer, you gotta keep it cheap and nasty and you’ve gotta believe in what you’re doing.

That’s what we think is cool and we try and follow this ethos as best we can. We were sick of watching hardcore bands crawl their way through weak originals and Agnostic Front covers with no distortion or conviction, golf claps after songs, polite apologies and thank yous from vocalists and people moshing with chains with zero intention of collecting anyone. We sat on the sidelines for a long time and now it’s time for us to take what we learned from the great local bands (Straightjacket Nation, Pathetic Human, Taipan etc) and do the opposite of the plethora of boring bands.

Jamie Whiteman

As you say, a band shouldn’t rely solely on the internet to get the word out. What are some other methods that you value?

This is conflicted in that since Maggot Fest organising has ramped up I’ve spent day and night with email and Facebook open going back and forth with all sorts of people. I don’t want to understate its power and the dependency we have on it but if you’re using it exclusively I reckon you illegitimise your art and cheapen it. Is it fanciful and backward for us to believe that a physical street presence is important? I dunno.

What I was mainly referring to in that thought is flyering. Flyering isn’t only important for getting your bold and maybe offensive art out there so a punk will see it and go “oh cool” and attend your show. It’s also important to create a wider ‘presence’, it’s so the general public knows there is a seething underbelly of savages doing something different outside of the status quo. But again, maybe I’m dreaming if anyone picks up on it? I think the main point is whether these methods work or not is to never let things become too easy. You’ve only gotta read one tidbit of information about SST records to realise that punk for them wasn’t fun, it wasn’t easy, but they did it anyway. I wouldn’t dare liken what we do to what they did but reading what they went through can be grounding and a real source of inspiration.

You mentioned a more sedate or polite hardcore crowd before. What kind of response has Dribble or other Cool Death bands elicited from crowds thus far?

Dribble gets good responses, we’ve realised that being just drunk enough before playing isn’t enough, our best shows have been when we’re too drunk. When Texas is lubed and baiting the crowd people have no issues beating him up whilst he’s singing, he’s an easy target. Nathan fucks with him too, smashed a pint glass on his back the other week. Gutter Gods is varied, responses were better when we were transitioning from Kicked In to Gutter Gods playing a straighter style, I think now we’ve probably gone too far into the unknown and bewildered a lot of people.

People will catch on with Velvet Whip. I think the main thing is that the people who’ve stuck around and kept attending our shows must be masochists and like to be punished. I can’t imagine seeing any of the Cool Death bands being a ‘good’ time as we’re all selfish and don’t care what the crowd has to endure. I feel crowds of other ‘hardcore’ scenes I’ve alluded to are there primarily for a social experience and to feel safe.

Is that pretty central to hardcore, the turnover of artists / scenes based on a reaction to staleness?

Absolutely. It’s always been a reactionary, idealistic form of youth expression and still is. Because hardcore is such an easy form of music to play and execute, I feel it’s always just some little shit like myself going ‘that’s boring, I’m gonna take that pap and make it interesting’. I certainly wouldn’t limit that argument to hardcore though – Stooges against the hippies, the whole Swedish death metal movement against the clean-cut metal of the late ’80s, Coloured Balls playing louder/harder/faster than anyone else of their time etc.

Punk rock is always kicking in Australia. Why did you get into it?

Locally, Straightjacket Nation was responsible for getting me into punk rock and changing my course down the left hand path. I’d like to thank Chosen Few, Radio Birdman and Razar for being mad cunts for sustaining that interest.

What bands did you want to have play at Maggot Fest that couldn’t?

Rose Tattoo, Sonic Attack (Australia’s only Hawkwind tribute, now broken up), Mercyful Fated (tribute, duh), Mindsnare, Flesh World and The Zingers. Maybe we’ll nab a few of those next year.

***

Dribble will play on the dozens-strong Maggot Fest line-up this weekend in Melbourne. Full details here, or look at the poster below.

maggot

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