May 06, 2014 4:33PM
Interview: Author Jimi Kritzler On Australia’s Musical Underground
And the book on bands that had to be written.
Writer and musician, Jimi Kritzler just brought out Noise In My head: Voices From The Ugly Australian Underground — a book about Australian music subculture, wherein he documents the practices and struggles of 50 of Australia's most innovative and culturally significant bands right now. Interviewing acclaimed acts like Royal Headache, The Drones, HTRK and Kirin J Callinan, Jimi gets personal with the bands on topics like songwriting, the scene, drugs, crime and death. Suffice to say, it’s insightful and important. We spoke to Jimi about the book (buy it RIGHT HERE) and the current state of great Australian music at its most marginal and best.
Jerico Mandybur: What makes the Australian underground music scene unique?
Jimi Kritzler: In the last ten years Australia has produced a host of interesting and yes, unique bands that are all making albums that will stand the test of time. Bands like HTRK, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, The Drones, UV Race, Oren Ambarchi, Forces, NUN and many others are producing records which leave leave them creatively peerless in Australia and around the world. There is an argument for Australia producing some of the most vital bands and artists in the world right at this moment and this book seeks to explore and uncover with brutal honesty the music these band produce as well as the damaged and beautifully sordid lives of those making this music.
A lot of these bands have been well received overseas. Why do you think that critics/fans appreciate Australian music so much?
Praise for the Australian bands covered in Noise In My Head has been particularly forthcoming from America and I guess Europe as well. I think overseas critics and fans see and obviously hear something in the music, be it the fact these bands sound like no one else in the world, the fact it can sound uniquely Australian without resorting to cliche or the fact the music made by the bands in the book sounds incredibly potent, harsh and reckless at times. These bands sound only like themselves.
What exactly led you to want to make a book about it?
I wrote this book because I felt Australia was producing band after band who were crafting brilliant LP's and living these interesting lives yet whenever you would read an interview with the artist or band, the interviewer would just be asking questions from the press release. It was farcical. Critics had gotten lazy and were no longer seeking out what was interesting and innovative. I knew these bands had the most interesting stories to tell about the music they made, about touring, about fucking up on drugs and picking up the pieces, about mental illness, about getting arrested, prostitution, about seeing the world in a way very few people see the world. These bands needed to be documented with respect and with actual research being put into the questions. Above all, these people playing in these bands had incredibly interesting stories to tell and I wanted to make sure that in this book they could tell the stores in their own words and I applaud every interviewee for our incredibly open they were about the most intimate details of their lives.
How did you go about choosing which bands you wrote about?
It was somewhat subjective, however all these bands represent in my mind the creative apex of Australian music. These are the bands people will talk about in 20 years time, long after all of today’s flash-in-the-pan hype bands have faded into utter obscurity.
What are your Top 5 Australian bands of ALL TIME?
That is an incredibly tough question. How does one decide between 1970/80's hard sharpie rock of Coloured Balls or the proto avant industrialisms of SPK or the noise tattered exorcisms of Primitive Calcuators? Or in relation to the book, the drug-demented balladry of Circle Pit or the pop genius of Twerps and Dick Diver or even the brilliant conceptualism of Kirin J Callinan? A top five of all time is an impossible question when there are so many contemporary bands taking the reigns of where the much-heralded Australian bands of yesteryear left off and in doing so are creating a musical mould and framework that is entirely groundbreaking. It is a really special time.
What songs changed your life?
What songs changed my life...This could be a thesis in itself but I can tell you the first time I saw Lucas Abela stand on stage with belt around his waist, holding a different array of music pedals with a sheet of glass held to his face, while playing in front of a group of Lismore rednecks was life changing. He pounded out violent white noise for 15 minutes until breaking the sheet of glass on his face and eating the glass until the white noise reached maximum volume on the PA and this small town crowd of rednecks went wild, screaming and hollering at a performance which encapsulated the ugliness and violence of the town they lived.
What are your thoughts on the idea of ‘dole wave.’
My book is 500 pages and not once is the phrase 'dole wave' mentioned. I think this adequately surmises my feelings about intellectualising 'dole wave,’ which in my mind is a non-existent genre. These bands who one might link to dole wave - Dick Diver, Twerps, Kitchens Floor, Bitch Prefect - they are just great pop bands. To force on them and the music some kind of socio-economic status is ridiculous. I don't think any of the aforementioned bands would ever describe themselves as dole wave. Dole Wave is a hilarious joke taken too far by critics struggling to link a batch of bands together who in no way subscribe to such a half-baked music theory.
What emerging bands should everyone go see live asap?
While none of the bands in 'Noise In My Head' are emerging by any means, you cannot go past the experience of seeing the aural narcotic beauty of a HTRK show, the primal violence of seeing Lucas Abela perform one of the most original music concepts ever conceived, the unadulterated pop music of sculptured pop Geoff O'Connor, the avant experimentalism of Oren Ambarchi, the outsider punk weirdness of UV Race, the unpredictable excitement of a Kirin J Callinan show and the electric excitement of seeing one of Australia's finest purveyors of timeless songwriting, Royal Headache, who cannot be explained with mere words as they simply write some of the finest Australian garage crank music of the last 30 years. I could go on but I promise you, reading about these bands and seeing them perform will open you eyes to the ugly Australian underground which at this point in 2014 is one of the most exciting cultural revelations Australian has ever produced.