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Interviews : “Big guitars, big energy and a big heartbeat” – An interview with Wayne Clarris (Toxicon)

By on June 28, 2017

Toxicon – Wayne Clarris

Toxicon are a quintet from Geelong producing razor sharp modern thrash metal in the vein of Gojira and Lamb of God… the type of groove oriented metal that the great Dimebag may have thrown back a ‘black tooth grin’ to honour.

I first heard the band via the track “Circling” and holy sheet did I get a surprise! Toxicon produce one of the most original sounding riffs I have heard in a while. Given the opportunity to put some questions to the bands primary vocalist, Wayne Clarris, via email, I first congratulate the band on producing the fiercest, most likely to snap-a-neck riff released this year and ask him to elaborate on the bands influences and their music.

It would be impossible to narrow our influences down. Everyone in the band brings in something different with their musical taste and although we listen to all kinds of metal, we draw inspiration from all kinds of music. I get a lot of vocal melody ideas and phrasing from 90’s RnB and 80’s rock. It’s nothing for us to break out into a Kiss or Creed song during rehearsal.”

Sounds interesting! The band has released a full-length album in August of 2016. A bruiser titled Purge. For the benefit of the readers that are yet to become acquainted with the release, here is what Clarris has to say about it:

Purge is a concept album. The songs are a series of dreams, visions and communications warning of the impending demise of the world as we know it. The lyrics and artwork are littered with clues as to the story and central characters. It didn’t start out as a concept album but it all started turning out that way and just felt right. Several of the songs have double meanings, like “Deadly Sin” is about a friend (who) blew out on drugs and disappeared from my life.”

A concept album… so the visual of the live shows must share a theme or narrative with band’s material? It turns out you can anticipate a full on rock’n’roll experience complete with stage costumes! I ask Clarris to paint a picture of the bands live performance.

Big guitars, big energy and a big heartbeat! We’ve been working on making the show bigger and better over the last few months. The more fun the crowd has the further we try to push it! It’s a beautiful cycle! We have always themed our getup on the previous single clip we released for Void, astronaut jumpsuits and a somewhat formidable look but in the lead up to the “Circling Australia tour” we are introducing a new theme to mix things up.”

Based on that comment and having had a look at the outstanding video for the excellent track “Void”, which was released back in early 2016, I imagine that if the band had the budget the stage may end up looking like the interior of the interstellar cruiser from the Alien franchise film Prometheus!

Back to earth, I ask a few questions regarding the bands approach to touring and travelling.

We don’t really have a favourite town or city, clearly we love Geelong our home town but everywhere we go the people and bands are awesome. Very much looking forward to heading overseas in the not too distant future too, Tassie here we come! Just kidding although we will be making the swim to Australia’s favourite island on a future tour, we do have our sights set on Europe and America. (Regarding hardships on the road) … Nothing out of the norm yet. There’s the usual, losing stuff and running out of money. Drinking too much. Hangovers and spews. Sleeping on floors… but that’s all part and parcel.”

Many of the readers will have been on a road trip with a group of acquaintances. Clarris’s following description of life on the road may or may not resemble your own experience!

On tour with five dudes. Imagine it for a second…Servo food, small car, energy drinks, male nudity, sharing floor space or bunk beds. You become desensitized to it all after a while. It’s not for everyone but it’s really not that bad. Dreaming of a bus though. Now that’s living!”

What about a story from the road then that can be shared with the readers?

The last time we went to Sydney we performed at a Twelve Foot Ninja show that was wall to wall ridiculously fun. We played to a full house and punched out a ferocious set.

The next night we played a show at a tiny little punk bar. We figured the other bands wouldn’t really dig us because we weren’t really punk at all. Totally underestimated this show. Every band kicked ass!! Every band hung around after their set AND jumped around in the front row. Completely blew us away. Made some rad new friends that night.”

I have discussed this next point with rather a few Australian bands and artists. I ask the same question to ensure I can calibrate the answer… so the same question I put to Clarris is this: What is his (or the bands) take on the Australian music scene at present?

Australian music is finally starting to create its own personality. All Australian music is starting to have its own feel and sound instead of just being an Aussie version of a UK or American band doing well.”

It’s always interesting to receive the responses as they vary rather a lot. Clarris does hit on a point that I have felt for some time and I do wonder what is happening in our ‘land that is girt by sea’ over the past few years to encourage originality … and I’ll quote Denis Denuto in The Castle “it’s the vibe and aah no that’s it, it’s the vibe.”

The ‘vibe’ has shifted and it is easily the best time to be listening to Australian metal that I can remember. Outstanding, innovative metal from Orsome Welles, Aversions Crown and Vipassi to name a few… but there must be a downside to the scene at present and Clarris offers a worthy response.

The distance between cities and lack of population between them. Makes touring more of a chore and expensive in comparison to other countries. A recent lack of any heavy/alternative touring festivals, mostly due to the distance, population and (expensive) airfares I’d say. “

I have been keen on looking into offering bands the opportunity to perform in regional QLD and keep being reminded that one needs people to attend gigs for them to be a success… there are metal fans in every town and in between all over Australia so I do wonder how one can attract (say) a fan in Emerald to a gig in Rockhampton… a roundtrip of 550Kms and at least six hours travelling time.

Something for you regional readers to ponder… if you have any ideas don’t be afraid to hit me up!

As much as I agree with Clarris’s next point on how to improve the scene or as I asked the question, “What would you change?”… it will be a cold day in hell before state governments act and address the insidious problem that is the proliferation of gaming machines in licenced venues.

Outlaw pokie machines. That would restore the music scene to its former glory.”

I’m unsure outlawing the machines alone would bring punters back to venues alone, but it would certainly help!

Catch Toxicon at a venue near you through 2017!

July 8 – The Basement, ACT Event page
August 5 – Worldsend Hotel, South Australia Event page
August 11 – Evelyn Hotel, Victoria Event page

Head to the band’s official Facebook page for future tour dates.

About

Andrew is a musician who has spent many years performing on the stages of the pubs and clubs of QLD. A devotee of the broad church that is rock, punk, funk, jazz and of course all genres of metal… he now shares his enthusiasm via a burgeoning pursuit of music journalism. Follow him on twitter @i_c_e_man