Interviews : “if you’re depressed about the health of Australia’s underground music scene, then you’re just not looking hard enough” – an interview with Serious Beak
Late last year, Sydney’s Serious Beak released their oddly titled debut release Huxwhukw (which is available for free download) to an undeniably positive response. Their “amalgamation of mind-melting, toe-tapping, psychedelic, progressive and poly-rhythmic discordant music” is something refreshingly unique, and with the band heading for (what will apparently be very rare) interstate shows very soon, we caught up with guitarist Lachlan R. Dale for a bit of a chat.
Ok, first things first, talk us through the whole unpronouncable theme behind Huxwhukw.
“Huxwhukw” (pronounced “houk-hwhouk”, with both syllables rhyming with Luke) is a supernatural cannibal bird from the mythology of a tribe indigenous to British Columbia. The bird uses its long, snapping beak to crack open the skulls of men and pluck their eyes from their sockets. He is one of three feathered servants of Baxwbakwalanuksiwé, the Cannibal-at-the-North-End-of-the-World – and a good bloke.
I’m actually a pretty big fan of anthropology and quite interested the mythological beliefs of indigenous tribes. One day I was listening to a talk by Nation Geographic’s Explorer-in-residence Wade Davis and this concept just stood out. He always manages to weave the most fascinating stories, mythologies and beliefs into his lectures. I filed the story away for later, thinking that perhaps these indigenous myths could feed into some musical concept for Adrift for Days [another band Lachlan is in].
Later, when all the Serious Beak pals were sitting around trying to name all of our instrumental tracks, I just mentioned this particular myth as in idea and everyone really seemed to dig it. It was a bit of a no-brainer.
Definitely. We’ve all got our own stylistic preferences. Tim (guitar) is obsessed with Alan Holdsworth, Danny Gatton, Bela Fleck and Fredrik Thordendal.
Gene (percussion) is hung up on Latin music, bizarre polyrhythms, Jon Theodore, Chris Penny and Tomas Haake. He’s the really sporadic influence in the band. He’s always pushing and pulling and wanting to make things far more fucked up. Some of the rhythms he comes up with are just the most intense headfucking ideas. I want to film some of the ridiculous playing in rehearsal soon to show the world.
Morts (bass) was the man holding the bizarre experimental prog/pop group Slimey Things together; he’s big into Bootsy Collins, Jaco Pastorius, Bill Laswell and Alex Webster – and he also happens to be a long-time closet metalhead.
As for myself? Drone, blues, doom, psychedelia and dissonance is where it’s at. I’m all about Earth, YOB, Jimi Hendrix, Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Space Bong and Portishead.
When I asked not too long ago about the beginning of your other band Adrift For Days, you mentioned that your initial obsession was grind, fuelled by the general anger and frustration you had at the time, and over the years as you sorted things out, your love moved more towards droning music. That explains the existence of Battle Pope and Adrift For Days. Where does Serious Beak fit into things? What’s the motivation behind it?
Well to get the context you’d have to know that Gene, Tim and I used to play in a grind band called Ebolie together. Gene was an original member from back in 1998, Tim joined in 2003 and I joined in 2005. Those guys basically taught me how to play music; it was my first ‘real’ band.
We did the crazy fast, sloppy, chaotic grind thing for a while which was a whole lot of fun, but as time went on the songs that were being written became more and more absurd and varied. We began to stop focusing on drinking and partying and instead actually tried to play our songs properly.
Underneath the surface we began to brew a sort of contempt for generic metal bands who would just rehash the same old shit like they were just covering Napalm Death’s Scum on every album. We really didn’t want to have a bunch of songs that sounded the same, and we were really conscious of trying to avoid that. Ultimately I think we just sort of outgrew the idea that we were a ‘comedy grindcore band’. As we played together and spent more and more nights talking about what we really do love about music, we formed the musical concept that would become Serious Beak.
Not too long ago you made the album’s files public for those who wanted to remix, rework and transform the music, to be released as a remix album. Have there been any really promising submissions? Any hints as to what we can expect?
We’re still waiting on the bulk of submissions, but the results have been pretty mixed so far. One dude took me literally and provided a semi-dubstep track. Another bloke did this insane chaotic metal mash-up. There’s a hip-hop remix, a glitching-rape remix, and a shoegaze remix. I’m really stoked with the variety so far, and I can’t wait to listen to the entire thing in one sitting.
So what’s on the cards for Serious Beak and the rest of 2012?
That’s an outstanding question. We really don’t know. I do know we’ll be releasing this remix album around April or May. We’ve proven we’re quite allergic to regular shows, so hopefully after this string of gigs in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, we might regroup and start writing some new tunes. I’d love to get over to Adelaide and Perth too, but we’ve just got to see how things plan out.
We are going to make live appearances a fairly rare thing. Our songs just take too long to write if we have to practice for live shows. I think Tui/Tuo was literally written over a period of 18+ months. It’s absurd. I’d like to try and get another album out before 2016.
I am literally sitting in Studios 301 with Adrift for Days as I type this. Today we are finishing mixing our follow up to 2010’s The Lunar Maria. It’s called Come Midnight. We are very, very happy with how it is all sounding. The plan is to release that in August and tour pretty extensively for it. If I get my wish, we’ll be doing a Space Bong / Adrift for Days double-launch tour, but we’ll just have to wait and see if that pans out.
Battle Pope just released a number of songs of worship called The Holy Trinity: Bitches, Dicks and Gonorrhoea. We’ll probably flail our genital around a bit more and continue to spread the good word of Heroin Jesus and Methhooker Mary. I think we’ll record a split with our pious pals The Jesus Christ Posse later this year.
Most importantly, I took part in a ritualistic improv noise recording earlier this year. The result is Dyke Destroyer’s brave opus Illuminasty. Definitely one for the kids. Listen over here: http://dykedestroyer.bandcamp.com/
You seem to be one of those guys is always on the lookout for bands pushing boundaries, whether it’s do with your Art As Catharsis label, your writing on AusGrind, or just for your own pleasure. What bands, right now, are you excited about?
There are a few man. Like I always say, if you’re depressed about the health of Australia’s underground music scene, then you’re just not looking hard enough. There is so much amazing music coming out, across such a huge range of styles. It makes me very happy.
Dumbsaint’s debut album is really impressive (which reminds me, I’ve got to get a review up for that before it gets released). The new We Lost the Sea is pretty damn sweet (whenever that ends up getting released). I only just discovered No Anchor – how fucking good are they? Anklepants just did a killer [free] live album which is totally fucking bizarre IDM / dubstep / electronica craziness.
Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt still rule. Ether Rag win hands down for intense grindcore. Jesus Christ Posse blew me away with their first ever live show a few weeks back – just killer anthemic old school crossover hardcore with an evangelical schtick to go with it. The Reverend Jesse Custer are just about the most awesome, raging, metallic grind and hardcore I’ve heard from Australia. New In Trenches album is pretty sick.
Hydromedusa were incredible in Sydney. They’re currently working on new material, as are the ever-awesome Mother Mars. It looks like Space Bong are going to be releasing their new double album Deadwood to Worms on my label sometime later this year, which I’m really fucking pleased about. I hear IDYLLS are recording a new album too – that should be ace.
On the softer side, I quite enjoyed Chelsea Wolfe’s new album – really mellow, doomy, trippy music. Really in love with The Rescue Ships (Brian Campeau and Elana Stone) when they play more stripped back, acoustic sets. Killsong were fucking bizarre, and awesome. Tangled Thoughts of Leaving are really fucking cool.
Oh and Eazy-E. That fools crazy.
If you could bring any three bands to Australia on a tour together, who would you choose?
Earth, Neurosis and Bohren & Der Club of Gore. You’d better believe I’d have a bag heavy with fungus.
Any last words or ramblings?
Indeed. Words from the inimitable Adam Curtis who filmed The Century of the Self:
“Russians called these last years of Brezhnev the years of stagnation. And I sort of wonder whether we are at the same stage now – our own years of stagnation, with an elite desperately trying to shore up a technocratic, economic system with an increasing number of contradictions, while no one can imagine an alternative. In response to that inability to see anything else, everything, including a lot of modern culture – music, TV, and avant-garde art – is being used to shore up the present, reconfigure the past to somehow give a foundation to the present that can’t imagine another kind of future. No one can see their way past the sort of financial version of the free market, and the culture reflects that. I do think we’re in the years of stagnation.
(…) My working theory is that we live in a managerial age, which doesn’t want to look to the future. It just wants to manage the present. A lot of art has become a way of looking back at the last sixty years of the modernist project, which we feel has failed. It’s almost like a lost world, and we are cataloging it, quoting it, reconfiguring it, filing it away into sliding drawers as though we were bureaucrats with no idea what any of it means. They’ve got nothing to say about it except that they know it didn’t work. It’s not moving onwards – we’re just like academic archaeologists.
(…) We are living in a conservative age, and it produces cowardly art.”
That about sums it up for me. There is much to be done. Support underground music. Support your favourite struggling artists and your favourite underground spaces like Black Wire Records, Sun Distortion, Animal House, Tyms Guitars, Dirty Shirlows and so forth. Don’t like the music that you’re hearing? Then make your own.