Sonic Country: Lynton Denovan of Sacred Product and Satanic Rockers interviewed

Lynton Denovan is probably best known, for the moment at least, as the driving force behind the widely adored Satanic Rockers. The group released its first LP last year and then disintegrated, but Denovan has several other vehicles for his songwriting. These include Encounter Group, a three-piece including Tim Wood and Jeremy Courbrough, and Sacred Product.

Sacred Product is Denovan’s solo vehicle, which has released material on labels including Alberts Basement, Heinous Anus and most recently Quemada Records. The latter comes in the form of a double 7 inch entitled Wastex, which quickly sold out at its source.

In the below interview, conducted by email, Denovan talks the factors that separate these musical projects, how Australia’s underground music scene is currently healthier than his native New Zealand’s, and the unlikely influence of a 16th century Russian tsar.

How would you describe your music or aesthetic sensibility if asked by someone you don’t know? And would that answer change if you were asked by a family member?

Hmmmm, my musical aesthetic is quite simplistic as I am self-taught on the guitar and don’t have the interest in making complicated sound overtures. Everything hangs off the colour of the sounds, mood wise, and the meaning contained within the words. Word Rock! Sounds religious! If I was describing my music to a family member or friend I would jokingly say it is blues/metal/noise song rock.

Haha, fair enough. It’s interesting when you say ‘moods’, as it seems there is a very tight / designed aesthetic that you are kinda working towards through your artwork and guitar playing. There is a looseness to the band but there is also a tightness, if you know what I mean.

I think the mood or thematic thing is tight because I’m a one man band. I can veto an idea quite easily if it doesn’t work. I throw away ideas if they don’t fit, which is crucial in order to get something that I can live with. If I’m not happy with the end result then it’s a goner.

Editing and rearranging lyrics is the biggie, while riffs and rhythms come very easily as I know straight off if the sound has my kind of attitude.

I think good ideas can be strangled if they are over thought or too clever. Keeping it rough but with firm meaning is my method, and most of the work is in trying different arrangements of words until it works. I base all the recordings around tight drumming with a self taught loose guitar style – that’s my sound!

I know you’re obsessed with lyrics – reading them, and reading while listening to the records. Is this because it makes the experience of listening to music a bit more personal… a higher level of engagement? How do you write your own lyrics? I feel it’s either something one obsesses over, or kinda blurts out.

Hmmm: (for me) lyrics are blurted out then savagely edited. I’m a big fan of lyric sheets. The rock music I love most always has a strong lyrical element. I get quite bored with music that has nothing to say – there’s a lot of life out there in the world both good and bad that is worth experiencing or commenting on. Music is not only about hammering drums and plucking strings.

Who are your ultimate guitar playing heroes, either living or dead, local or international, and why?

For guitar heroes, I’d have to say Dave Mitchell from Ghost Club (who may still be performing occasionally in New Zealand). He knows how to screw the guitar up into a ball of paper and unfold it at surprising moments. He has an intensity to be reckoned with. Players who worship the fact that they have just paid off a fancy vintage Fender usually bore me with preciousness: gotta break it to make it.

I like a lot of cathartic metal playing too, especially early ‘90s Darkthrone. Panzerfaust hits it heavy how I like it! Fenriz, the mainman of the band, plays guitar on this one and he has an anti-performance and anti-muso stance that I respect. Maybe the politics can be easily disposed of though. Mick Turner on those Venom P. Stinger records is quite mindblowing too, for his precise swathes of chords.

What are your thoughts, being a New Zealander, about the musical legacy of the country? I’m especially curious about the weirder edge, the unknown bands, the furthest away. New Zealand bands seem to bridge a balance between rock and roll and the outer spectrum. I’m talking about bands such as The Dead C, SpaceDust etc.

New Zealand music, hmmm. There’s been a few highlights – Skeptics, late period Snapper, Sferic Experiment, Axelgrinders, Mindfuckers, And Band, Perfect Strangers, Axemen – I could make a long list! Although I am a big fan of digging up music history and celebrating it I wouldn’t want to rest too much on the ‘legacy’ aspect. There’s a breed of music coming out of New Zealand that seems to want to recreate a twee ideal of the past. I prefer to push on and look at what is happening in the world now.

Is Encounter Group your most recent project? How does the dynamic of a three piece appeal to you? Is it a continuation of or natural flow from Satanic Rockers, or a different project entirely?

Encounter Group is a break from Satanic Rockers. My interest in ‘Satrocking’ had finished and I wanted a different underlying rhythm. The swampy beat was quite fun for a while but I am more inclined towards snare and kick punchiness. Also, Satanic Rockers was a bit more collaborative whereas the Encounter Group material stems from my solo recordings (Sacred Product). I gotta make sure my ego doesn’t make this one boring.

I wanted to ask about the artwork for all of the projects. Is there an overriding theme, or is it more just an aesthetic choice? With the Sacred Product LP was the cover drawn for the record, or was it an image you saw and liked?

There’s definitely an aesthetic vibe to the kinds of images I am drawn to. Previously I have spent a lot of spare hours looking at battle worn faces from World War 2, especially the ‘bad guys’. In the last year I have become more interested in showbiz characters such as Oliver Reed (I drew his face on the Sacred Product double seven inch cover) and any larger than life type characters. They may be controversial, but they seem to put themselves fully on the social table unlike a lot of politicians whose faces seem grey and unrevealing. I find faces very intriguing.

The LP cover I painted especially for the album. I had an image in my head one day of a cow (which is sacred in some parts of the world) spilling milk all over the paddock. It is the first time I have done an animal face and it seems imbued with human characteristics. Animals, as far as I am aware, don’t waste resources but humans do. I’m not sure if this dichotomy is a totally tight packaging concept but it is very visually appealing and links in with some of the lyrical messages contained within the record.



Would you say you ‘fit’ within Melbourne’s music scene, or do you see yourself as more on the fringe? Is there any advantages to being a band in Australia, as opposed to New Zealand. Any drawbacks?

I prefer the scene in Australia to what is going on in New Zealand at the moment. I grew up seeing a lot of awesome music as a young man, but I feel the culture back home is generally retrospective and is not supporting the current innovators. Instead we are constantly told about the great things that emanated from the 1980s. Some of it is very inspiring, but things need to get with the times. I feel Melbourne and Australians in general within the ‘underock’ scenes are very supportive and enthusiastic in actively nurturing the things happening now. I find this most encouraging and in turn I want to see others excel in their craft.

In this way I would say I fit within the Melbourne music scene. More in the spirit of getting things done rather than sounding similar to other practitioners, and I do prefer to work within a diverse music scene rather than be part of a bumflap wearing tribe. So yes, it is a lot easier. Without the support of Albert’s Basement, Mad Nanna and Heinous Anus among others I would probably still be making ten CD-Rs of my music and guiltily trying to swap them for beer at the pub!

The other thing is that people over here are unashamed about asking me what the songs are about and singing along, which beats having five people reluctantly pay two dollars for a show back in New Zealand  with their arms crossed! Another thing is that the wages over here make it an easier possibility of touring overseas which I find exciting.

Could you pinpoint a particular song of yours and explain what it is about?

‘Cup of the Great Eagle’ is the name that Peter the Great – a notorious tsar of Russia during the 16th century – gave his immensely intimidating drinking vessel. According to the historical biography written by Henry Troyat he would make visiting diplomats drink straight vodka from this cup to the point of vomiting. Peter’s court was apparently well known for eating, drinking and sex binges. He’d also make fun of the clergy by forcing them to have public sex in front of everyone. It seems like diplomatic politics during his reign far surpassed Led Zeppelin’s most disgusting moments, with the main difference being the threat of execution. In those days a sign of being a man was based on consumption, and it also tied in with the idea that the more someone could eat the healthier and more vital they were.

Peter the Great is also known as the father of modern Russia and he extended his territory greatly into Siberia and also had a passion for building a naval fleet. He’s a larger than life character – probably made larger through consecutive storytelling – and he seems an interesting counterpoint to these currently ‘voted in’ baby holding photo op grey men who represent private banking interests in the name of politics.


Stress Zone: Per Purpose interviewed

feb 2014 (8)
Following a series of short releases including two 7 inches and a 12 inch single, Brisbane group Per Purpose released its first full-length LP late last year. Entitled Circle the Stains, it was the culmination of a conspicuous evolutionary leap for the group which first reared its head on the 2011 Warburton single.

While the line-up has changed since the group formed in 2010, singer and guitarist Glen Schenau has driven the group since its formation. An early member of Kitchen’s Floor, and also the songwriter behind shortlived Brisbane trio Marl Karx, Glen is also a distinctive photographer of both the Brisbane underground music scene as well as, to a lesser extent, its interstate counterparts.

The interview below was conducted via email, several months after the release of Circle the Stains. The group will release a new 7 inch entitled Bathing Suit Sand through new Sydney label Bechamel Records next month.

Do you feel a sense of relief having Circle the Stains released, or has it limited you in the sense that you have to compare, conquer or move on from it?

Relief yes, in that it is something I had envisaged a long time ago come to fruition: out and available. But (I say this) with the condition that it’s sort of hampered by some group circumstance change. To put bluntly, our drummer and Bedroom Suck Records operator Joe Alexander moved away from Brisbane to Melbourne just as he himself released the LP (on Bedroom Suck). I made the decision to replace him, so now the LP for me represents a breakdown of sorts.

But like any other release we’ve done as Per Purpose, we’ve already moved on, and I’m eager to right all the sore points that Circle the Stains means to me personally: barre chords, lengthy things nixed. I know they all say it, but I feel the current batch of songs, which will comprise a follow up to Circle the Stains, are the best bunch yet and make the last four year rigmarole worthwhile.

It seems like within Per Purpose balance is a really important thing. There seems to exist an intricate balance between the tones and rhythms. Would you say the guitars work around each other, or against, especially in the new lineup?

Before Mitch [Perkins] joined Per Purpose, we had experimented with an extra element that’d run up against my guitar in the same tonal space a few times, most notably with Josh Watson playing violin on the Warburton 7” and beyond. Otherwise, dissonant recorder blurts, scrap metal clutter etcetera (are there) to create something more than just your average all-male, caucasian, bread-and-butter angst rock clutter. While putting together all the songs for the LP I began to play with the idea of having another guitarist in the band to play that ‘Agent X’ part permanently.

To answer your question, Mitch’s guitar playing snakes in and out of cohesion with my own. Both with and willfully against root and bass notes; an esoteric freedom from my increasingly simpler structures. It’s a duo dynamic I had envisaged – or hoped – would allude to other guitar pairs like the Magic Band, Arab on Radar, Contortions or even Bird Blobs.

The album has a very visceral, energetic production to it, it almost sounds live – commanding the listener’s full attention. Was this your intention or a happy accident?

To continue on with that ‘Agent X’ speak, I was really happy with what Mitch had bought to the band, and the way the two guitars sat within the songs. So, with us all rehearsed and ready after having just toured the Warburton 7″, we did the LP in two days at the Hangar in Brisbane with Luke Walsh mid-2012.

I had initially planned to have it all done live in that session, and while we did treat and mix the result, after a few months I decided to redo the vocals and add extraneous overdubs and all sorts. That extra work took place over about an extra four months, but the initial intent, to capture the instrumental side of what we do live, is all there. Guitars sliding in and out of each other, rhythm section precision, we wanted all that straight and dry, honest and documented.

Is the band essentially a ‘live’ band? It feels that way. With the album were you trying to replicate that or was it the other way round?

I always thought deeming a rock band as a ‘live’ band is a bit of a cop out. Songs are written to be performed and inevitably (hopefully) listened to. I say cop out unless in the case of strict improvisational groups where any and all performances are the idea, where it’s different every time. Making the live output important and completely unique with each ‘live’ set. Per Purpose perform songs that are written to be performed and inevitably (hopefully) listened to.

For the last few years though, we have only performed what is the newest and latest – therefore unreleased material. So in that regard, Per Purpose exist in the present time as a ‘live’ band, only the most valid and true to right ‘now’ parts are what we play, today. Anything already recorded gets nixed instant. Closer and closer, drab, drab, drab, drib. We’ll get there eventually, you’ll see.

Do you sit down and write ‘songs’ and then work them out as a group, or is it more a jam, a feeling or a riff expanded?

Up until the most recent batch of songs I’d sit down and fully realise structures and lyrics myself and then present them to the rest of the band. Being in a band where you are doled out parts to play can be pretty demoralising sometimes, so I’ve begun to loosen up my grip on the goal and let it grow within the more than adept group of musicians that make up Per Purpose. With Mitch and another guitar integrated into the band now, my approach to writing songs has been stripped down and freed up a lot in that an initial idea or part, usually a bass part is all I’ll show the others, and we go from there. Less and less has been my mantra. No more odysseys.

If you could interpret based on the players in the band, and the intentions you have for future direction, how do you envision your style to evolve, say for a next record, or in the future?

The next record is almost completely fleshed out. Since late last year, and Matt Ford replacing Joe Alexander on drums, we’ve only been performing songs that’ll make up the next album. With this latest batch of songs I made a conscious effort to fulfill some of my ideas and plans that I had with my first band Marl Carx, meaning stripping composition back to relative conventions, the difference now being that I’ve played with fire: full blown barre chords, und me byrnes sound better as a result.

There’s a renewed social consciousness to the latest batch, with a party consideration I had not considered till now. Colour me cliche’ if I ask myself, ‘what purpose for my music?’, but I stop dead before ‘available for parties’.

I say, as a rule of thumb, striving for the right mix between abstract and dead dumb.

I wanted to ask you about your ongoing photographic archive of live bands you maintain. Are you interested in photography, or is it more a need to document something that might otherwise have no records?

The photos are an effort to document what is a constantly growing and mutating performance culture that, through my own obsession with the recent past, I know will have it’s place in the future where there are new nerds who would like to know what band x looked like. Any interest in photography I’ve developed since has been a result of this almost excessive film compulsion.

I might just add that the whole camera’s undertaking I took is a continuation of what I started in 2008: a bootleg blog in the same vein called ‘Permanent Dirt‘ where I’d make awful recordings of mostly all the bands I’d see with my iRiver mp3 player, sometimes with a photo and always along with a vague summary of each set.

Around the tail end of that period, I was lucky enough to perform at one of Shaun South’s Summer Winds events in Melbourne, performing with the previously mentioned Marl Carx and Kitchen’s Floor. I saw it as a great opportunity to document said event – an event which represented everything I found exciting about music, and perhaps while my efforts weren’t so refined back then I like to think with my photos I’ve put together a little database that encapsulates nearly everything potent and exciting since then. And soon since thereafter now. My five year Kodak plan.


Circle the Stains is available through Bedroom Suck. The group will launch a new 7 inch through Bechamel Records in Sydney on April 4. Details here.


The Lost Years: TV Colours interviewed

TV Colours is the solo project of Canberra-based artist Bobby Kill. Kill started releasing material in mp3 form on the Dream Damage website from around 2009, which eventually culminated in a split 7 inch with fellow Canberra group Assassins 88, which Kill also played in before the band’s demise last year.

Purple Skies, Toxic River is TV Colours’ debut LP. Kill explains below that it took six years of false starts to get the final product finished, which we described in our review as “genuinely beautiful more frequently than you’d think possible for a rough punk band from Canberra”.

The interview below is conducted by Angela Garrick and Yarran Gatsby. TV Colours is playing Sydney’s Red Rattler on Saturday night with The Native Cats, Ruined Fortune and Four Door.

The songs on the LP are traditional rock songs, but there’s strange echoes of other things weaving in – unusual textures and sound samples. I heard that some of them were recorded in and around Canberra, specifically at the Dickson shops? To me they sound very slick – almost cinematic in a sense. How did you decide what to put in, and were you trying to tell a ‘story’ with them?

Yeah I guess I just wanted visual cues as far as the concept of the album goes. I just wanted to place whoever was listening in the physical locations the songs were about. They had to be real basic and almost tacky though, so for ‘The Neighbourhood’ it was just lawnmowers, birds chirping and a few dogs barking. When I starting doing those interludes and soundscapes it was definitely a turning point in recording and I actually really enjoyed making them, but when I showed them to people they were a bit like “eh what is he doing now” and they really didn’t make much sense until the thing was finally finished.

I didn’t end up using the ones I recorded myself at all. They were fine and all, but I recorded a bunch of supermarket stuff at Dickson Woollies for ‘Livin After Midnight’, but that song, for me at least, was about a supermarket in a city. [Dickson is an inner-Canberra suburb – ed] I knew it would always annoy me if I knew it was just plain old Dickson Woollies on there. So I scrapped it. In the end I got most of them from wherever I could, mainly the internet. I was trying to tell a story, I wanted the whole thing to have a narrative.

The thematic references to the neighbourhood and the city speak of a frustration of being in places both old and new. Were the geographical influences more ephemeral, or specific to a time and place? Would you call yourself a ‘band from Canberra’?

Yeah, I guess it was sort of specific to a time and place for me, and the second version of the album was really specific… too specific, like there were songs that were named specifically after places. But in the end, with this final version, I sort of made it as something I could relate to as opposed to being a personal thing all about me, so ‘The Neighbourhood’ was just any neighbourhood, and ‘The City’ was just any city.

We’re definitely a Canberra band. It started when I lived in Sydney but the whole momentum of TV Colours existing outside of my bedroom to where it is now was pushed along by opportunities to play shows back in Canberra, and then the opportunity to put out a 7 inch on Dream Damage. It’s a large part of the reason I eventually moved back.

I know the record took about five years to make. Why? Are you a perfectionist or was there other reasons for the delay? Is the final record something you can say you’re happy with?

I feel like this question would be a bit more definitively answered if you were to ask the people who were around me when I was doing it. To me looking back at the whole thing, it was just a real mess of so many different things going on that led to it becoming this momentous task that just went on and on. For the vast majority of time it never seemed like it would end. It’s really hard to explain without ranting and confusing myself.

One of the things that does root it in the whole six year period is the concept and the artwork. I came up with it a long time ago and I guess it was quite a grand vision for someone who was basically a zero as far as music goes, but back then then I was a lot younger and full of confidence so I guess it felt achievable. I mean, I had been playing guitar for years but I had never been in a band and never really written a song. You could count the amount of times I had played a show on one hand. I was always waiting for the perfect band to come along and sort of considered that to be the time when I would actually start writing songs.

So anyway, I think from the beginning some very counter-productive thought patterns came into [the recording of the LP] which dragged everything on forever. It was mainly that I wasn’t really prepared to work as hard as I ended up having to, nor was I prepared to fail at all, all while having this truly unfounded high expectation of myself.

As far as I was concerned an album is at its best when it is from this creatively fluent small period of time, and I still think that to a large degree. If you start slaving over it you’re just gonna burn yourself out and screw it up, and working against that belief was so frustrating. That fluent period just never happened, it was always so arduous and so mentally draining. I think maybe around 20 per cent of the time it was me just lying on the floor staring at the ceiling thinking about how easy it would be to just stop, and it just got harder and harder the longer it went on. I hated working on it, and by 2012 it had just gone on too long, so I would set aside these periods of about five days to just “finish” it. It was just like cramming for a test, and for the first say, three days, I would be really productive, then my mood would dive and that would be it, I had to just close the laptop screen and not work on it for about two weeks. Then I would repeat that process again and again. Fuck it was brutal. It wasn’t fun and it was hard work, and all of this on top of real work. I feel like I could go on forever about why it took so long.

The thing that finally got the thing done, and I shudder a little bit at the thought of it not existing, was finally having a deadline. I had made so many of them myself and never stuck to them, but finally I decided I was so burnt out on it that I wanted someone else to mix it, and when I booked that in I finally had a real deadline. Working towards something without a deadline just gives you too much freedom to go on and on. They’re really important to have.

But it is something I am happy with. I mean, the thing I am most stoked about is that it’s finished and finally out. It’s a relief – a new chapter sort of thing – but I can’t really listen to it. Not for a long time. I got so neurotic about it that it’s just a bit too much to handle. The last time I listened to it was on a trip to Sydney to play a Danger Beach show and it left me in this inconsolable state of catatonia, it was weird.


So the songs are about specific events or places, but you’ve kinda ‘broadened’ them out in the interest of mutual understanding and relatability. Would you say this is a necessary approach when songwriting, or did you just want some creative distance for your own benefit as well as the listener?

Creative distance definitely. I’m not a very extroverted person and the whole personal-creative-expression-for-the-whole-world-to-see thing (that’s a thing) still makes me very uncomfortable. I really had to do whatever I could to separate myself in order to be productive. Making the songs as relatable as possible is something I try to focus on when writing a song, because I personally have always felt that this was what I was best at, as far as the whole product goes.

I first saw you perform live in Canberra about four or five years ago as a solo performer with a backing track, and then more recently in Canberra as a four-piece band. How does TV Colours translate from your bedroom to a live band? Is it very similar or is what you have in your head very different?

It was time to let go of the whole solo thing, for the songs’ sake. I added so many layers while recording that there was no way I was even going to come close to reproducing it live all by myself. I could have used backing tracks but I never had in the past, it was always samples and loops that I used and it would have gotten way too complicated.

But yeah, playing with the band has really brought those songs back to life from how tired they had become in my head. While recording I listened to them all so many times, over and over again, and I inevitably got very sick of them. [Forming the band] has also been pretty important in order to give the whole thing a lot more momentum. When I was by myself it was pretty hard to get me to play a show. It seemed like the best option was just to put me on the bill without asking me. It seems a little easier now.

There appears to be a linear narrative throughout the album, almost like the plot of a film. Would you agree?

Yeah definitely. It was always based largely on the same concept as [Husker Du’s] Zen Arcade. I always thought it was one of those universal stories that you could retell over and over again. But it’s weird to define it in words because it’s about so many things: unfulfilled dreams, running away, wasting time, growing up, depression, mental illness. All this placed against the basic narrative of the kid leaving home for the city where it all goes wrong. I guess its different to Zen Arcade in that it didn’t end up being a dream.

Can you draw any direct parallels from the album with your own memories and experiences, particularly of your own adolescence and feeling restless and displaced?

Oh yeah, for sure. I mean, a lot of it is directly based on personal experiences of mine, but you know, I wanted people when they listen to it to feel like it could be about them, in the same way I did when I first heard Zen Arcade. There are things in that album that are things that happened. For example at the end of ‘The City’, there is someone crazily singing “It’s all a matter of time”, which is a reference to one night when I was outside Hungry Jacks on Oxford Street [in Sydney] and there was this homeless guy just singing this line over and over again. It was just sort of a long-way-from-Kansas moment I had looking at this guy, out his mind, singing and clapping along.

Things like that are all through the album, but they’re mainly meant for me and no one else, It’s for a bit of a laugh really. The whole thing is about being restless and displaced. I have never been happy about where I am living: Canberra sucks, move to Melbourne. Melbourne sucks, move to Sydney. Sydney sucks, it never ends.

The scene surrounding the Dream Damage label seems very male dominated, with bands such as Assassins 88 and The Fighting League receiving a lot of attention. How do you relate to the boisterous male aggression present in these bands? Would you say there is a prominent female voice within the Canberra music scene?

Well I can only really speak for Assassins and TV Colours, but I would hope that the whole boisterous-male-aggression stigma never got attached to our bands. We’re just loud, it’s not meant to be aggressive. It was a massive sigh of relief about a year ago seeing this Canberra band called Sex Noises mainly because I was seeing a Canberra band I liked that had a female member. It’s created some much needed balance that was sorely lacking.

The fact of the matter is that Canberra is a very small place and there just hasn’t been that many females around who have played music in the same vein that would suit Dream Damage. It’s been a bit more about chance rather than being able to be selective, and by chance it just happened that is has been a largely male scene, but in saying all that I feel it is the wrong thing to focus on. Canberra is a place which I am sure is like many other places in Australia, where everyone grows up and leaves, which is fair enough because you just run out of opportunity here.

I think for music especially, it is a place that is constantly devolving because bands or projects are constantly ending. There’s no real longevity here because at any second someone’s gonna leave and move to Melbourne or Sydney. And I think considering that, Dream Damage has done remarkably well existing in such an environment and also inspiring everyone to put something together and put it out. It might seem like a small catalogue but it’s massive for something coming out of a very small place. It is definitely something I am very proud to be a part of.

Your pseudonym is ‘Bobby Kill’. Why the choice to remain somewhat anonymous? Is the distance it generates helpful for your own productivity or artistic intentions, or are there other motives?

Ha, well, Bobby Kill came from this band I was in when I was 18 called Hate. It’s hard to explain, but it wasn’t a real band, it was just a big joke among our friends that reflected how angsty we were at that stage in our lives. Franky Moron, who now plays drums in Cat Cat and also co-wrote and played drums on ‘Run with the Creeps’, was the other main member.  Bobby Kill just stuck to a point where some people didn’t even know my real name. It’s definitely helped putting it out there under a pseudonym as far as remaining detached and anonymous from it, I remember when we were doing the liner notes I felt really uncomfortable with my real name on there. Somewhere along the line I remember a friend telling me that he thought the character in the album was Bobby Kill, and I liked that, so that was another reason to stick with it. It has all become quite confusing, but I don’t know. I like it that way.

TV Colours is about to tour Europe, and with this full length LP eliciting such a positive response, would you say that your expectations are still too high?

Ah, nah. It’s weird. I’ve never had high expectations of other people liking TV Colours, it’s always been a bit of a surprise to me. The fact it has come out over there and we can even put a tour together is just really exciting and I’m looking forward to getting over there and having a good time.

by Angela Garrick and Yarran Gatsby


TV Colours’ Purple Skies, Toxic River is available through Dream Damage.


Scratch Act: The Native Cats interviewed


As one of Australia’s strangest pop groups, The Native Cats are unusually generous in interviews. Peter Escott even offered a track-by-track breakdown of the Hobart duo’s most recent album Dallas, describing it as “a state of mind,” so named so that he can “remember never to repeat it”. The duo released their debut record Always On in 2010, which was followed by a string of 7 inches (one split with The UV Race, another on their lonesome) and then 2011’s Process Praise. Since then the band have attracted the descriptor “electro pub rock”, a reference to the group’s odd mixture of deadpan, matter-of-fact lyricism with stripped back electronic instrumentation.

In the lead up to a national tour in support of the record, the duo discuss – separately – the origins of the group, the different reactions they elicit in a live situation, and how to deal with being at parties alone.

I’ve seen the Native Cats play shows in Hobart on two different occasions. Is there a difference between playing internationally or in other states, versus playing in your hometown? 

Julian Teakle: There didn’t seem much difference playing in the States, because we played gigs mainly in bars, galleries and house shows like we do here. [The main difference was] playing to new people and sometimes having no idea where we were. We have a pretty small, regular crew who come see us in Hobart so there definitely was a novelty looking out to the crowd at our US shows and not knowing anyone.

How do you feel your Hobart shows and reception have changed throughout the years?

JT: I don’t think things have changed a whole lot for us in Hobart. We’ve never been a “big” band or huge crowd puller, there has just been a semi-regular crew who come to our shows. More people will come out for the record launches or when we had a fundraising show for the tour. I’m not fussed. A lot of other people in bands down here get all indignant that people don’t come see their shitty bands every week they play, but there’s not enough people down here to sustain stuff like that all the time, and well, their bands are shitty.

The Native Cats’ lyrics seem to deal with several themes – personal, political, historical. But there’s something uncannily Australian about your songs, particularly on Dallas. Julian, would you say that you are an inherently ‘Tasmanian’ band? And how have your themes and ideas evolved over time?

JT: Yes and no. We don’t sound like what people may know as your usual underground Tasmanian band, if they’re familiar with the history. It’s usually guitar-y music in all its permutations. For me on a personal level we are Tasmanian, but Pete may feel differently cos he doesn’t have as much of a history with the “scene” as me. I’m still trying to figure out the nature of being a music person in Tasmania, though I feel I have a cultural identity aligned with the music and art that goes on here. It’s not unique but there’s not many people here that would have it, except maybe a hundred local art weirdos. I feel lucky to have this identity as it has shaped my life and approach to music in a mostly positive way.

I guess we’ve always tried to do something better than what we’ve done previously. Getting to know each other over the years has given us an understanding of where the other is coming from musically.

Thanks to the instrumentation (bass, drum machine, electronics) some of the songs sound really bare: there’s a sparseness to them that couldn’t be achieved with the use of guitars. Is your musical setup a conscious exploration, or more a condition or circumstance?

JT: I’d played guitar a lot with my previous bands and wanted a change within my musical means. Pete had been left with a mutual friend’s bass with the thought of learning how to play it, and I guess I appropriated it for the first bunch of demos I recorded at my folks house in Claremont, which became Native Cats songs. I was also soooo over loading and unloading heaps of gear, so as we developed the songs some loose “rules” in regards to instrumentation were put in place for how we would do them. It was a practical thing as well because neither of us have cars. When we started, the songs had more stuff going on, with backing tracks and such, but we went more minimal when Pete bought the drum machine. We discarded things [and they] became direct and stark. It wasn’t a huge plan with flowcharts, it was just how we developed as co-composers over time with the usage of the drum machine and the Nintendo Korg DS-10.

Pete, are your lyrics confessional, a cathartic experience or an expression of relief? Listening to your words always feels like an intimate experience, as though you are speaking only to the listener. Is this your intention?

Peter Escott: When I was much younger I’d often get quite annoyed at lyrics that were anything less than literal statements. “If nobody knows what you’re singing about, what’s the point?” But after I started writing songs I began to understand why there’s this space where one is encouraged to be a touch oblique. You can spend a whole song orbiting a central point without coming to any firm conclusion, you can explore irrational and illegitimate feelings that you’d have no hope of directly explaining to anybody. And with any luck you end up a bit further ahead with whatever is on your mind than you were before. And as a bonus you’ve got a new song, which is always handy for filling in time at shows and on records.

That’s why I’m grateful to have this outlet. Every idea I put into a song is an idea I have no other way of expressing. If something is on my mind and I know all I need to do is talk to my wife about it, then I just do that, because it’s a lot more efficient and I only have to do it once.

I wanted to ask you how your experience with comedy plays into your musical performance – I’ve always seen you as a very brave performer, but there is a cool calmness to your delivery that is not often seen elsewhere. What would you say this confidence is a result of?

PE: I’ve got a few answers to this. The simple ones are experience and a supportive home crowd. For the first year or so of the Native Cats I didn’t want to commit too fully to my performance and thus be open to ridicule, but I got over it. Though in a different city (and without the Teakle Seal of Approval, which is like diplomatic immunity in Hobart) I might have been mocked mercilessly and quit in shame early on. Who can say?

The other factor is that I’ve always found “fitting in” so difficult as to be exhausting, which was a liability in high school but has worked out in my favour here in my nearly-completed 20s. If I look like I’m too confident to care what anybody thinks of me it’s only because I’ve tried it and always failed.

Lastly: modelling myself quite strongly on Moodists-era Dave Graney. I’ve always been an introvert but I didn’t want to be a wallflower on stage and trying to be Nick Cave (i.e. the main option for a dude in our region) would have just been overcompensating. Graney’s been a legendary performer for decades now but his Moodists act in particular was a good fit for an aspirational shy boy.

I can definitely relate to what you say about respecting and modelling yourself on the more introverted performers. The last time I saw Dave Graney perform he had this sly giggle or smirk on his face and I spent the whole show wondering exactly what he was thinking about. Would you say that in the act of performing onstage you have to push yourself to do something you normally would never consider doing because you ‘have to’? When have you been the most comfortable and confident, and the most afraid and insecure – if you could pinpoint a time?

PE: The most comfortable and confident I ever feel is when the Native Cats play house shows where I hardly know anyone, which is ironic because the least comfortable and confident I ever feel is at parties where I hardly know anyone and the Native Cats aren’t playing. Near the end of our US tour in 2012 we played in a garage at a sharehouse in Oakland, and the rest of the night felt like all those parties I foolishly attended in my late teens and early twenties, except instead of sitting on my own feeling miserable and watching everyone get drunk, I had strangers starting up conversations and thinking I was really interesting (admittedly just because I was from another country), and also I’m married now so I didn’t even have to be anxious about girls or anything. And of course with house shows in general it’s a thrill to be in such close proximity to the audience and to have the drum machine plugged into a double adapter that is also servicing a microwave.

The only times I ever feel insecure on stage is when we have equipment issues. Even when it’s not our fault it’s still shameful to be reminded mid-song that we can’t do what we do without y’know “an amp” or “a functioning mic cable”. The things our prehistoric ancestors put on very successful gigs without.

On Dallas, how would you say your themes have evolved? The lyrics really stick with you after repeat listens, and kinda echo around, ‘I Remember Everyone’ in particular. How would the mood of say, that song, relate and compare to the instrumental track ‘Hit’, or the non rhythmical ode ‘Pane e Acqua’?

PE: If there’s a theme tying all the songs on Dallas together – and almost by accident, there is – it’s the business of trying to understand people, and trying to be understood. Finding ways to be in the same mental space as somebody else, whether by coming to them or inviting them over to you. I think I buried myself in social obsession on Dallas to such an extent that I’ll need a wholly unrelated topic for the next album. Suggestions are welcome.


The Native Cats’ Dallas is available now through RIP Society. Tour dates below:

The Metro
Friday 20th of September
with Major Crimes and Wireheads

The Gasometer
Saturday 21st of September
with Bitch Prefect, Sarah Chadwick and Exhaustion

The Alliance Hotel
Friday 27th of September
with Four Door (NSW), Multiple Man & School Girl Report

Red Rattler Theatre
Saturday 28th of September
with TV Colours (ACT), Four Door & Ruined Fortune

Brisbane Hotel
Saturday 5th of October
with Dick Diver (VIC) and Heart Beach


Small Jewels: Anthony Guerra from Love Chants interviewed

second gig - serial space

Love Chants is a trio consisting Anthony Guerra, Michael Zulicki (Mad Nanna, Alberts Basement) and Matt Earle (Breakdance the Dawn). The trio, which is split between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, released their first vinyl record earlier this year in the form of a Quemada-issued self-titled EP.

That EP, and a preceding CD-R on Breakdance the Dawn, demonstrated a sensibility that few would have expected from the trio. While Guerra has experimented with soft, vocal-driven songwriting with his Empty Kingdoms project (discussed below), neither Zulicki or Earle have been involved in anything this unambiguously pretty before. While there are semblances of structured songs here, Love Chants’ determination to keep their music loose and impressionistic results in guitar music that sounds shaved from the edges of dreams.

Love Chants will play Melbourne’s Gasometer tomorrow evening (Saturday, August 3) as part of the first Crawlspace Presents show, alongside Wonderfuls, Woollen Kits and Flat Fix.

The songs of Love Chants sound deeply personal, but listening along to the recordings it is always hard to discern the lyrics. Are Love Chants songs more of a ‘feeling’, and if they did have lyrics, what kind of things would you say?
Actually every song has lyrics, but I think when I sing I use more breath than actual voice, plus I sing really quietly and sometimes the pronunciation is blurred. I might also be kinda protecting myself by obscuring the words, so I imagine it must be pretty hard to hear the lyrics. I do want the vocals to be quite loud but my voice tends to disappear even when it’s turned up loud.

Anyway, there are lyrics for every song. The songs are really personal but people might not notice even if I wrote them down. I have a sort of personal system of symbols which I use to code the people and events that inspire the songs into something that only has meaning for me. The symbols I come back to are colours, types of birds and flowers, jewels, cups, and I mix that with some more obvious descriptive phrases. Then, finally, most of the words I write are then fragmented or removed from the song, or just barely sung. So in the end most songs barely exceed ten words and are fairly abstract on the surface but the meanings are quite clear for me. Whether i could explain what they actually mean in words or not is another question.

I guess that sounds complicated but it all happens pretty naturally, especially as I usually write the lyrics late in the night or early in the morning in a dark room with a lot of whiskey or ginger wine in my stomach and with a bit too much incense burning.

There’s a fragile beauty present every time I’ve seen Love Chants play live, and it’s always different each time. How do you go about preparing for a show considering the band members live in three different cities? Is there a pre-show discussion on the ‘mood’ or energy of the performance or is it more free?
Yeah, it’s pretty free. We never prepare for our shows, we never rehearse, and we don’t have discussions about what we are gonna do. We just start playing. Me and Michael decide the set list as we play the set, and we don’t tell Matt what song is gonna be next. Me and Matt have been playing together for over ten years in different projects, so we know each other really well. We are playing songs I’ve written, so it’s not like free improvisation, but it’s open in terms of mood, tone, volume, dynamics and song lengths.  Those elements happen spontaneously, it just depends on us on the day, how we react to the room, the equipment, the audience, the day we are having and mostly how we react to each other. It’s the same with our recordings: all the songs on the first EP and the next EP were unrehearsed first takes and they reflect the mood of the specific day..

The only preparation for a gig or recording would be when I introduce a new song;  then I need to show Michael the chords, but that only takes about one or two minutes because he’s awesome. Easy!

I should probably also mention that all this is not the result of us living in different cities. if we were closer to each we would play heaps more often but we would still keep the same approach.


The name Love Chants makes perfect sense when considering the songs, but are all the songs ‘Love’ songs? Or is it something darker and we’ve all been tricked?
Well the lyrics are generally dark, negative, obsessive and sad: always about women and nothing else. That’s my policy, so yeah they are love songs. The best love songs are usually the evil ones and sad ones, right?

You run the record label Black Petal, which has released a whole bunch of great records lately including Cured Pink, Satanic Rockers, Southern Comfort. How do you discern what to release? Is it just music you dig? How has the operation changed since you moved from Japan back to Sydney?
I started Black Petal in about 2005. At that time I was also still co-running another label called TwoThousandAnd, which I’d been doing in London with a guy called Michael Rodgers from about 2001. That label was releasing a lot of improvised and experimental music and was doing pretty well. Over 2003-2005 I recorded a solo album called Empty Kingdoms, which was the precursor to Love Chants. Love Chants actually plays a track or two off this record. That album had singing and was more song-y and really personal in content, so I felt I should self-release it, separately from any other thing.

So with that I started Black Petal. Then I decided it would be a label with other people involved, and the idea was just to put out albums of singing and “songs”, however weird they were.  After a couple of my releases, I put out Muura as Black Petal #3. That was the first ever Muura release. Pretty quickly the label steered off course because people gave me recordings that didn’t having singing on them. That was okay with me. At some point my other label stopped because we were split between the UK and Australia and that made it hard to do it as a proper collaboration.

I don’t have much of a release policy at all: I ask friends to make something for Black Petal and I put it out. I trust the people I ask and I’ve never rejected a release. If they want, they can supply the artwork but mostly they ask me to do it. So the label kinda has a visual aesthetic but with a bunch of exceptions. And basically Matt Earle, Adam Sussmann and Peter Blamey all have an open invitation to give me stuff for Black Petal anytime.

Since coming home to Sydney, I made the move from CD-Rs to doing vinyl. I’d avoided vinyl before because of the cost, but I really like (and collect) vinyl so I thought I’d give it a go. Obviously it sounds the best. Also no-one cares about CD-Rs anymore. And I’m not into download labels and all that stuff, because I like the visual and physical aspect. Doing vinyl has slowed things down even more and has made me spend more money on each individual release. Actually, I’ve been kinda nostalgic for the “CD-R era” recently, because of the cheapness, the ease, the fact I could make them as I needed, and so on. I feel a bit more pressure now to sell things, when to be honest, I’ve never given a shit if something sells or not, or even whether something was easy to find or not.

I shouldn’t say it, but I’m kinda thinking of taking a long break or packing it in for good once I hit release number 50. I say I shouldn’t say it because I’ve said that kinda stuff so many times over the last 10 years.

You said that the best love songs are evil and sad, and I feel that I somewhat agree. In that sense, do all Love Chants songs relate to heartbreak? And after the feeling has passed somewhat, would you say that with the result being a creative product, there is a sense of it being ‘worth it’?
I don’t think many of the songs are about heartbreak specifically. I haven’t been heartbroken for many many years. But some of the songs we play were written a long long time ago (songs off Empty Kingdoms and others) and I guess there’s more heartbreak in those songs for instance ‘Blackest Little Eyes’. The more recent songs are either a bit more complicated and weird and evil or a bit more simple and pure.

But anyway, yeah, it’s definitely weird when you have written songs during bad or depressing times, then at the end you have these songs that outlast the feelings that created the songs.  The stories in the songs become more and more divorced from your daily reality and your memory as time goes on. Feeling fragile is definitely different from remembering feeling fragile. And memories are not reliable, they are sometimes like revisionist history and sometimes possibly completely invented.

What do you do years later to do these old songs about old feelings justice? I try to put myself back into those past states of mind and dredge up as much shit as possible out of my memories, then add in new spins on all the information floating around. So I’m really actively imagining things as I sing, and at the same time the music we are playing trances me out and makes me feel like i’m floating through it. The whole gig experience gets pretty freaky.

first gig - duo - the pharmacy

With respect to the live shows and always being different, have there been any standout performances? Maybe the weirdest, or the worst, or the one where you just felt it was perfect? And is a perfect live show possible?
I’ve been really happy with every Love Chants performance so far. The first show we played was just me and Michael in Newcastle at the Pharmacy. That one and the first one with Matt (at Serial Space) were special ones because it was awesome watching this group kinda immediately gel around the songs. The more recent shows have also been cool because we’ve been pushing the limits of the songs more, getting a lot more ragged at times, and getting these weirder ways of the three of us interacting around the skeletons of the songs.

I’m not sure what a perfect live show is, and I’m sure my definition of that would differ to that of a lot of the people we’ve played in front of. The most important thing a gig can do for me is separate me from reality. Like I mentioned before, when we play live we react to the space, audience and equipment but ultimately the thing is to be mentally in a weird amazing place floating through the music. So I guess actually ignoring the space, the audience and the equipment, etcetera, is one way we react and get somewhere else. Maybe I’m thinking too much now.

So yeah, the worst show will definitely be the one where our feet are planted firmly on the ground, thinking carefully about what we are doing.


Love Chants’ self-titled EP is available through Quemada Records. See them in Melbourne on August 3 at the Gasometer Hotel as part of the first Crawlspace Presents show.