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Thursday
Mar202014

Review: Biffy Clyro - Opposites [Australian Tour Edition] (Beat)

There’s an ancient proverb, passed down from rock sages eternal: only Cheap Trick may thrill Budokan. The Biff soon gave said sages pause for thought. Opposites, released last year, heralded the Scottish alt-rockers evolutionary endgame. They were once an unsettled trio, metal-tinged and hopped up on Rush and rhyme. But The New Biff? The New Biff’s burst into arena rock superstardom.

Read more about Beat's 'Album of the Week' here.

Tuesday
Feb112014

Interview: The Swirl and Cool of Bardo Pond

The following interview was written in July 2013 and was previously unpublished.

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Mike Gibbons is staring down at the end of the world. I talked to him about his psychedelic rock band Bardo Pond. He said it was “hot and steamy in Philly.” He sympathised with the icy, pitch black mornings we were shivering through in Oz. “You don’t want that kinda cold,” he empathises. “I hate that shit too, man.”


It’s all about cosmic and crazy textures in Bardo. They make psychedelic music for psychedelic people. The rare guitar-digging breed, anyhow.  How does he set up his guitar? His pedals? He languidly pours a list of effects in front of me. “It’s a little different live. We know how to work them…each guy has his own secret weapon,” he says, crawling to a finish.

In Mike’s studio, a weakling air conditioner fights Philly and loses. He’s probably staring at his rig right now. If the guitar could talk, it would say “shut up about me already.” I think he catches a fly in his throat when asked about Reality Sandwich. “I, er, um,” he stammers. It’s a site about expanding consciousness. Explore the universe on a cheap day return. Tripping, man.

“I don’t even know that website,” he confesses. “I’m going to check it out right now.” I hear some keys clack. There’s a long pause.

“Yeah, we do look at that sort of stuff,” he says absently. “I can’t wait to look at this.” He stops again, looks some more. “That consciousness stuff, it informs what we do…Oh yeah, this looks great.” He almost manages to tear himself away.

“It’s not like we just read something to say what this piece [of music] is about,” he says, panning back into frame. “It all filters in to what we’re doing. We want to let the music be the agent for perception changing.

“From the early days when we did it, it was always beautiful. It was always a beautiful experience to have those revelations of those basic ideas. It’s always been a tool to break down those fuckin’ walls. I remember when we were doing all those beautiful things. It just changes your entire constitution.”
Mike’s first acid trip came up, floating on nostalgia.

“I felt connected, like a one-ness. I felt happy,” he remembers. “Sometimes you think about things that send you on a bad trip, but it’s all about accepting everything. You’re not fighting it, to repress it. Then on the other side you think ‘Why don’t more people see this? Why aren’t people seeing the consequences of what we’re doing?’”

Mike wafts back down to Earth. “I still do whatever now, though. But do you know Brother JT?”

Nope.

“Oh man, he’s so cool,” Mike says, awe-struck. “We did some stuff with him. He’s been around for as long as we have. He comes from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He’s the best.”

Brother JT wears a haircut stolen from a mop. He wears a cheap suit to match. He makes your high school maths teacher look like Frank Zappa. Mike laughs. “Oh yeah, he totally does.”

He hosts a community access style talk show called “Tripping Balls with Brother JT.” His chubby, babyish frame sits on a high chair slumped to one side. It’s a technicolour nightmare. He rattles off two cent puns, cutting in mashups of dubstep with dog food commercials. Behind him, fractals melt into starry visions, then into “blade runner” Oscar Pistorius on his marks. Trails chase his fingers and his voice runs from Darth Vader to Tweety bird mid-sentence. Everything and nothing about this show is serious. Mike’s right, he’s kind of brilliant.

We wax life extension, Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson. Mike said he read the Illuminatus! novels and enjoyed them. I mention the name Alexander Shulgin, author of PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story. He was one of three chemists in the US licenced to create new psychedelics.

“Did he ever get into trouble?” Mike enquires. Alexander was unhappily married until meeting Ann. After much hand-wringing, he left his wife for Ann, the book’s protagonist. Well, apart from the drugs they took together. Eventually, the US Government revoked his licence to trip. Fortunately, the book’s got recipes in the back so you can make them at home. Well, good luck with that degree in chemistry you don’t have. (Well, obviously don’t try, duh.)

“That’s a really cool story man,” he says, hopefully. He’ll get to read it if it ever gets through Customs.
“People want to dismiss what we do as a junkie thing,” Mike says, regretfully. “It’s a shame. We want people to know that it’s all about altering your consciousness. We want people to look deeper into how you can be. I don’t know why they ban them. I don’t think they want people to have a critical opinion about anything.”

 

 

They are everywhere. They are the grey and mammoth face of Uncle Sam, his eyes peering behind every corporate logo. Mainstream media tells his story pretty damn well. He heats up when he mentions one name: “Snowden.” The media in the US are torn between calling him a super villain and just plain villain. “He’s done us all a big favour by turning us on to the fact we’re being monitored. It’s something you kinda thought in a paranoid way anyway, but turns out to be true.”

“He’s being demonised in our media but no one’s talking about the real issue!” Mike steams. “We are being monitored. It’s something we should be really concerned about. If you had to see the media we have to watch here? You’d just die.”  Was that a slight exaggeration?

Maybe not. Mike figures they’re jabbing into your head, constantly. Crap about terrorism and cheering on trillion dollar wars. Mike calls bullshit on pundits and talking heads, everywhere. He doesn’t have the truth. But he knows lying when he sees it.

“PRISM isn’t about looking for terrorists,” Mike thunders. “It’s about keeping tabs on people who don’t like the way things are. Occupy got smashed here. It wasn’t because it was disorganised, it was because of the police. It was almost like Kent State.

“There’s nobody looking out for you,” he says, shrinking. It sounds as if he’s backed into a corner. I hear it echo around my head. Its sincerity burns up the battered idealist inside me.

There’s nobody looking out for you.

Mike snaps out of it. “They’re just looking to fuckin’ shut you up,” he barks. “They can do whatever they want with you with all these laws.”

Hope n’ change and Yes We Can! Didn’t was just more empty flag waving to Mike. Barack Obama might as well be a rich, doddering Texan warmonger. They share too much in common.

“The way they treat whistleblowers is so sad, man. Aaron Swartz, Snowden and those other guys too. Michael Hastings? They all get treated the same way.

“But that’s what we’re talking about,” Mike says bringing us back to Bardo. “We’re all about not taking for granted what we’re looking at. People kinda look at us like ‘Oh, lah-dee-dah drug music,’” he laughs. “I mean, we can’t even talk about it with friends, because it gets people upset, man. They don’t wanna think about it. But that stuff that’s going on, that’s what we talk about. It’s getting more and more obvious to see what it’s all about.”  

Bardo Pond website

Wednesday
Feb052014

Interviews: Sexy/Heavy and Within Temptation (Beat)

Consider Daft Punk. Far from punk, they're retro house superstars. Queens of the Stone Age? Straight-as-nails desert rock. Enter Sexy/Heavy, Melbourne's come-hither rockers so named for doing what it says on their (sexy) tin. Sexy/Heavy singer Knave Knixx shakes it for old school and hard-driving rock.

Read more at Beat.com.au.

Also: An interview with Sharon Den Adel of Within Temptation

Wednesday
Jan292014

Interview: Nostalghia (Beat)

 

Nostalghia is self-described as "post-apocalyptic gypsy punk." Singer and instrumentalist Ciscandra Nostalghia, together with drummer and equally multi-instrumentalist Roy Gnan will prove an oasis of strange and arty catharsis in a desert of screaming, angry men at the upcoming Soundwave Festival.

Read more at Beat.com.au.

Friday
Jan032014

Interview: Knowing Me, Knowing Ghoul - Ghost (Hysteria)

Much evil. Very ABBA. So anonymous. Here's my interview with A Nameless Ghoul of Ghost ahead of the Big Day Out '14.

Read it at Hysteria Mag online.