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the AU interview: Lindsay McDougall of Frenzal Rhomb (Sydney)

A couple of weeks ago, just after he shaved his head, Larry Heath caught up with the iconic guitarist of Sydney's Frenzal Rhomb, Lindsay McDougall aka The Doctor of Triple J. They chat about the upcoming Frenzal tour, the new album Smoko at the Pet Food Factory, becoming "Silly Corgan" and plenty more. When you're chatting with Lindsay though, it's not often certain who's interviewing who...

Lindsay from FR: Where are you?

Larry Heath: I'm just at home, starting the day!

Right well that must be the life, laying around at home while the rest of us are doing the real work.

Yes, yes thats basically it! I understand you shaved your head. That's pretty epic...

Yeah, just yesterday. I think it's filed under stupidity. Johnny from Children Collide came on the show, and we talked about his videoclip for Loveless and he kind of challenged me. I was quite obsessed with the videoclip, it's quite striking. Shots of him getting his head brutally shaved, choked and his face all washed off all violently and stuff.

By the end of the day we decided that I was going to do it (shave my head). So yesterday, after getting a bunch of money getting donated to UNHCR and it's on Facebook, which is apparently very necessary in this day and age if anything happens. We created a whole videoclip, it's pretty amazing. People have been doing these comparisons, I got pretty close to John. I've become his shorter chubbier brother.

Speaking of which I hear Billy Corgan has joined the band?

Yeah, Silly Corgan I'm going to call myself. I looked like a combination of Billy Corgan and the Joker. So I'm going to go with Silly Corgan.

Why so serious indeed.

Exactly right, this is the thing I didn't realise I'm going to shave my head that I looked like Billy Corgan, I'm sure Billy Corgan didn't realise around the Siamese Dream time that he would look like Billy Corgan. As long as I don't have to have sex with A Veronica, I'm sweet.

That's just disturbing, but now you've got your new album coming out next week. Let's talk about it. What can we expect? I mean we've got a taste of it already. It's been five years since your last record.

You'd think we would have matured musically in those five years. We had five years in which to absorb the sounds of the world. Different punk rock paradigm shifts, different paradigm shifts in music in general. Yet we're still applying fucking four or five chords, with a couple of guitar riffs and swear words.

I think the main difference is that we managed to sound good this time around. Last time we recorded... and it's through no fault of all of the amazing producer of the last record, Phil Mackellar... we really decided to sit all in one room and play the songs all through together till we got it right, and that was it. That time it was quite quick - about ten days. We did this one in around 17 days. I was only in America for about fourteen days. Not too much difference in time, but just the way that they did it, made it so amazing.

It was this weird process where, we are all in different rooms and this weird kind of solitary confinement. What do you call when you are having your senses dampened? That kind of therapy. No idea what's going on outside, and you aren't in contact with anyone else. Sense Deprivation therapy or that kind of thing. I'm in one room with one guitar, and Jason Livermore, who is the very able-bodied, quite masculine engineer whilst Tom was in another room. Individually are being screamed at, to get it fucking right. Because we are in different rooms we can't reach out to each other for support. Because of the album we're doing different songs at different times. The recording of the drums got done in two days, mostly because he had both Jason and Bill Stephenson yelling at him simultaneously. I asked him for a capo, one little fucking capo for one song, Larry. Jason looks at me (in american accent) and says "Just play the fucking song".

*laughs*

It's quite a harrowing experience, people come out of these experiences quite changed. I think the album has changed as a direct result. I know when Jason was doing the vocals and Bill has this amazing technique where he will barricade you in the studio with your vocals and he has loose bowels, very large man and he exudes a lot. Fortified the bay around the room with his own arms. So Jason is fearing for his own life, he would stay in that room and sing. Til he gets it right. He won't go for a break, won't go to the bathroom, won't go for a walk outside because to walk through that thug, it was too great a danger. I guess the techniques they use, some of them have been brought down from Guantanamo Bay.

There you go, typically recorded in America. You've got songs on there like the Rude Tourist. Was there any inspiration from your time in America, utilised in the record?

They are very rude in America, no doubt about it. But in the non-english speaking countries when we go there, the rudeness of ourselves really does come to a fore. In Japan, everyone is so damn nice, and we don't deserve it. At least in America people tell you to get fucked. In Japan, the rudeness from us is met with thank yous and sorrys. You feel bad because as a nation and as a band we are very rude people. So in Japan, you're walking in the shops trying to buy beers with your balls out, and yelling no BUTTER! I don't want Butter! It's just embarrassing, it's an embarrassing situation and one thing that compartmentalising does.

Fair enough, you've got a couple of song titles that I wanted to ask you about. Edward Sausage Fangs? Is this your anti-Twilight moment?

It's not in that it was a narrative on a similar theme. Opinions of Twilight, I wouldn't call it many and varied across the band and across the whole zeitgeist. I know Tom our bass player is a very big fan of Twilight, downloads the movie as soon as it comes out. Sits in his room, darkened room watching all of those Twilight style shows, into True Blood and the American version of Being Human, especially the vampire thing.

This song was kind of fashioned around the idea that at the end of every train line, where you find the extreme personality types, are much less obvious. The only goth in the pizza shop, his this one guy Steve, he works at the pizza shop at the end of the train line, is much maligned by his peers in the shop, is treated like a prize that he's made himself by dressing like a goth. It's hard to maintain the gloom while he's pushing the meatlovers through.

It's very true and I think everyone can identify this, if you are part of a subculture in a suburban or rural area. The one thing that Steve or Edward Sausage Fangs as he's also known, has up his sleeve, is that he actually is a vampire. That actually comes to pass during the course of the song, when he finally has something to feed on towards the end. This is a fantasy piece, this is where we are heading, Larry. You know there are lots of bands that utilise fantasy, Coheeds and Cambrias, Iron Maidens etc. It's where we are heading... towards that sort of thing. It's a long song, at 2 mins and 34 seconds. Longest song on the album. It shows a maturation and development in the Frenzhal Rhomb sound, which I think people will appreciate. Also it's got a mad riff in the middle.

I imagine your next album will have a thirty piece experimental band exploring the sounds of a fantasyscape. There will be an angel on the cover, getting brutally impaled by a rhino...

...or by a unicorn. Keeping the fantasy going. For songs that last longer than 2 mins 34 second epic you might have to have thirty piece band producing that 2:34 opus.

I look forward to hearing that, and it's good to see you guys back out on the road. Getting some new material out there. In that kind of five year period, do you guys kind of like write ideas down and go when we record an album we are going to do that. Or is it very much kind of worked out when you got in the room?

Two years ago, we kind of realised that we can't keep playing these gigs and playing the same old songs. We understand that we are a heritage act, and we are constitutionally required to play the hits of the nineties, like any bands from your Jebediah to your Grinspoon. We respect that and understand that. But yeah we can't keep charging top dollar rate, for these bunch of old songs when people can just get the album. People know how bad we play the songs live, especially with YouTube, everyone can find out how bad we play live. Alright, we should bash something together, we live in different states so it's difficult to meet up. I don't have Skype.

So we kept writing, but we thought we might try and put something together in 2011. Well I think we said 2010, but Jason went overseas for a year so that put everything on hold for a bit. And then we re-met Bill Stephenson at the No Sleep Til festival last year. He said "well I got a bit of space between Rise Against doing Bob Dylan Covers. You want to come in"? I've only got three weeks, so we booked ourselves. We didn't know that we'd have enough songs but it turned out that we did!

It looks like we've caught back up to when your next interview will be. So we can leave it there, so you catch up and we can't be too mad at Adelaide.

Thank you very much, but you know I can't stay mad at Adelaide. It's one of those things, Adelaide is like a brutal husband, but a very good looking one. You do drop the charges, at the disgust of the police that have been called.

Like Nick Olivieri?

I was thinking along the lines of Nathan Byrd. The NRL player who beat the fuck out of his girlfriend and then got his mate to take the wrap. Said that he was playing golf at the time, and then his girlfriend wouldn't press charges, I think thats vaguely the story.

I'm sure there were naked photos taken during the process as well.

She's not young enough and he's not old and ugly enough to take that. That's more an AFL story.

That's what the code division comes down to.

Yeah that's how you can tell, if its a player agent fucking a sixteen year old thats AFL, If it's brutality against your girlfriend, that's NRL. Alright well thankyou very much!

Not a problem, I appreciate your time!

I look forward to seeing it on the AU review!

Awesome mate you'll see it there very soon.

Have a good one mate.

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The new album Smoko at the Pet Food Factory is in stores now and the tour kicks off September 1st.