TFN Interview with TFS Gareth Liddiard

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If you haven’t heard the name yet, Australia’s Tropical Fuck Storm, is a band you’re going to be hearing a lot more about. Releasing their debut, A Laughing Death In Meatspace on Joyful Noise Recordings this year. The debut reflects the state of the world through a funhouse mirror. It’s then chopped and screwed and deconstructed post punk style for your aural pleasure. I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with lead vocalist/guitarist Gareth Liddiard to talk about how the album got to America, other projects in the works, how to almost become an Australian terrorist in the U.S., the importance of knowing where you’re going when walking into a hotel room, and much more! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks again to Gareth for his time.

The Fire Note: How did you get connected with Joyful Noise Recordings?

Gareth Liddiard: We were looking for a label and we weren’t having a great deal of luck. There is a little record store in Indiana called Village Green Records, and they were really into us. The guy working there was kind of getting a lot of people into the album, A Laughing Death In Meatspace,and he would recommend it to a lot of customers that would come into his shop. Then he was doing a lot of imports from Australia and it’s quite expensive. So, he was getting onto us about getting a label and he hooked us up with Joyful Noise.

TFN: What prompted the cover of the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive”?

Gareth: Before we did our full length we recorded 7-inches and we would do one of our tunes on the A-side and a cover on the B-side. The thing with the coves on side b was we wanted it all to be Australian songs and just to sort of narrow it down to some sort of theme. We did the first three and we chose all the really cool songs. Then the last one we didn’t want to get anything that was too serious or worthy. The Bee Gees are Australian in a way, their Scottish, but they were sort of brought up here. No one here is from here unless you’re indigenous. If you grew up here you’re an Australian. The Bee Gees are proud, proud Australians.

TFN: You guys are in the middle of Gizz Fest 2018. How is that going for you?

Gareth: It was great. Gizz (King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard) is really great, they’re kind of like this hub. People sort of just gather around them. If you’re mates with Gizz you end up meeting a lot of people from a lot of bands from all over the world. They’re sort of popular enough and they tour enough and then they’re all kind of friendly and sort of eccentric and they make a lot of really cool friends.

TFN: Is there any King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard collaboration in the future?

Gareth: Yeah, kind of, we just started working on a funny thing that we did. They came out to my house, if they’re not working they just record, that is how they manage to put out that much stuff. If they’re having a day off they’ll just record a fucking album and they come up to my joint and just recorded a bunch of stuff. We just had this big funny jam which I’ve got to get into it and cut it up and make some bizarre, weird fucking thing out of it. I’m going to start working on that this month. We’re going to start recording the new TFS album and so while I’m in the studio I’ll do some of this Gizz stuff too and see what happens.

TFN: With the current album, A Laughing Death In Meatspace, I was watching a performance that you guys did on Paste. You said that album came together so quick. How did you do that? How did you pull off an album like that? Did you put all these ideas together? You said you barely had time to think about what you were doing and it just kind of came together.

Gareth: Yeah, necessity is the mother of invention I guess. We kind of just banged it out real quick. Part of the reason for the 7-inches was just to get us off our asses and we did the covers. It was great doing the cover songs because we were a new band and we had to learn how to play with each other. We had to sort of figure out whose job was what and how are we going to do this. Because you could do it like a straight ahead, four on the floor garage rock type thing then we could make it really weird. So, we wanted to make it really weird. Yeah, it was mad, it was just like working in a fucking weird laboratory anything went. We’re going to start doing the next album and we’ll do the same thing we just going to go really fuck shit up. You know rock n’ roll there are so many tropes it’s just so dull and people just keep doing the same old shit. There’s plenty of space, there’s plenty of ways it can still go. Like Gizz, they’re a fucking pop band, some of the weirder shit that’s out there for guitar music.

TFN: I know you’ve been making music for quite a long time with The Drones and your solo-project. How do you guys know so much stuff? I was combing through the album lyrics and there are so many references and weird symbolism. Were the other members in the band crucial to that? Because, it seems tough but, it seems so effortless. The album mantra seems to be fuck shit up but with purpose.

Gareth: Yeah, you do it with purpose. The other guys in the band they’ll help out. Often they’ll say “that’s shit” so I have to start again. They’ll come up with the lines. They’ll even say something in conversation and I’ll be like “Oh, that’s good.” It can be good to work on these things by yourself but sometimes you got to work on words with other people. If you think about Hip-hop and shit like that, the best period of Hip-hop late 80’s and the 90’s they were inventing stuff. There were not tropes really, they couldn’t just go back and grab a Chuck Berry riff or some shit like rock n’ rollers can. Just tune your guitar like Thurston Moore and just rely on something that somebody else has already done they had to fucking make it up. Plus, the audiences wanted them to fuck shit up. They wanted to be surprised and wanted to hear some outrageous shit. So, there was this whole fucking situation were being wildly inventive was the only thing you were supposed to do. You know, we’re just trying to keep it like that, it’s hard to explain. If good taste is the enemy of art, all that shit fuck that, there’s too many tropes and people need to chuck the tropes. One of my favorite people is Mark Kozelek from Sun Kil Moon. In the last two or three years he has gone “you know what? I’m sick of this,” and he’s invented a whole new genre which on the surface it seems really banal but, it’s actually incredibly deep. It’s the deepest shit there is. He’ll be talking about nothing and you’ll be like this is nothing but, it’s everything.

TFN: The album, A Laughing Death In Meatspace, It’s about nothing but it’s everything. I was digging deeper into the lyrics and you guys came up with a song about a laughing death disease infecting Silicon Valley. Where does that come from?

Gareth: It comes from not caring about being a rock n’ roller or being cool. Just fuck it, just do it, put the weird shit in there like Kurt Vonnegut did or like Sonic Youth. You just mess with it.

TFN: During the Paste performance I noticed you and Erica Dunn both had whammy bars on your guitar. Was the whammy bar crucial to the album? Was that something you guys wanted to include from the beginning? It makes the album so slinky, stretchy, and demented. It’s awesome.

Gareth: Yeah, I’ve never been able to play without a whammy bar, I really like them. I’ve always had one and I can keep my hand off of it really. Erica is the same, she’s got a couple of guitars and they both have whammy bars. That demented thing, it’s good and you can unsettle people. People who don’t know much about music will hear that sort of gentle whammy thing and they won’t know you’re doing it. It just sounds off kilter to them so that’s cool. I like that you can infect music. It’s like a psy ops, psychological warfare with music.

TFN: How did the video for “Future of History” come together?

Gareth: For a while we’ve always used the same guy, this Australian guy called Flags, he makes all our clips. He’s really great because he comes from skateboarding and BMX stuff. He’s really good at just doing stuff on the fly and improvising with what he’s got. We’ll just get together with hardly any plan and go what are we going to do, we don’t have much time. There was a bit of extra effort where we had to get my neighbor, he’s got a gun license. I got him to buy a kilogram of gun powder. I bought all these toy robots online for cheap. We built a really big set in my garage because we live out in the country. Then we green screened a bunch of stuff and bought a couple of remote control tanks and blew it all up, it was cool. It was fun to make. There was a hardware store in the country town that we live in. I had to get there and buy all this shit and they were like, “What are you making?” I had to tell them that we were making detonators.

TFN: Now you guys were just over here with Modest Mouse. What was that like? How did that go?

Gareth: It was great, we had a really fun time. We knew their guitar tech, they knew of us. I think they’re into The Drones and TFS. It’s hard, you can’t just ask someone’s booking agent or manager and get through them to the artist. But, we knew Modest Mouse’s guitar tech, we’ve known him for years. We needed to go to the U.S. before our visas ran out. We contacted him and were like, “Quick, get us a tour.” He talked to those dudes (Modest Mouse) and they said “yeah, straightaway.” It was great, it was cool, it was all big theaters, and it was beautiful. The crowds were great. Yeah, it can be a fucking nightmare but, their crowds were really good. They’re a great band, great people, and they’re fucking huge.

TFN: I heard about the “infamous” strip club story the last time you guys toured in the U.S. Was there anything like that that happened on the Modest Mouse tour?

Gareth: Yeah, there were a couple. Early on in the tour we stayed on the beach and had a night off. So, we went to Walmart and bought a real high end BB gun, it looks like a real hand gun. It shoots ball bearings and it’s real powerful. You might be able kill someone, you could definitely kill small animals. Anyway, we were shooting bottles, we were having fun with it. Then the tour started, I just put it away at the bottom of my suitcase and just fucking forgot about it. Then two weeks later we had to fly out from JFK to LAX. We’d had other thing that we needed to throw away to get on an airplane. So, I threw all them away so I thought well I’m a good boy. So, we went through security and I’m waiting on the other side of security and I can see my bag coming through. I can see my bag getting segregated from all the other bags and I went aw, fuck. Then this guy with a machine gun walks up to me out of nowhere and says, “Do you have anything you’d want to tell me?” And I said “Aww, yeah, it’s a BB gun, it’s not a real gun.” Out of nowhere about 7 or 8 other men with machine guns surrounded me. They took me into a room for about 10 minutes and questioned me. Then they took me out of the room and searched me, and did all this shit. It was pretty funny, they did a thing where they’d let me go and then come and get me again and then bring me back, yeah it hilarious. Anyway, in the end we nearly missed the flight. Another thing that happened in this hotel by the beach at the beginning of the tour. I went to get coffee for Fiona, she plays bass in the band and she’s my partner too. I walk out our hotel room, I went and got some coffee, I’m walking back. I just walked into the wrong room, I didn’t realize it. You open the door and there’s stairs there and I had to keep my eyes on my feet because I have these hot coffees. I walk down and now I’m in the room and I look up to the bed were I expect to see Fiona. But, there there’s this big, fat, bald guy naked on the bed on his stomach. There’s a woman with two fingers up his ass. He look horrified and she looked like she was totally cool with it and she said, “Oh, sorry.” She was cool as a cucumber. She wasn’t embarrassed at all and he was horrified. So, I went, “Aw, fuck, sorry,” and I just backed out of the room and went and found my proper room. That shit happens on tour all the time. Everyday there’s some weird, fuck up thing that happens. It’s funny.

TFN: It there anything thing that you’d like to plug? I know you talked about doing a new album, what details would you like to give?

Gareth: We’re literally going to start recording it this week. I have no idea what we’re going to do, no idea at all. We have no gigs for a while, which it cool. We’re going to come to the U.S. in September for our next album.

TFN: What albums were important to you guys this year?

Gareth: I don’t know, I was listening to a bit of Suburban Lawns, There from the 80’s, really fuck up weird 80’s post punk thing. Mohamed Rouicha, who is this guy from North Africa. It’s crazy, heavy, non-westernized, African music. It’s in a part of the world where everyone owns an AK47 so it’s heavy, heavy shit. I’m always listening to everything. We’re going to try and get a bit weirder for the next record.

-Interview by Christopher Tahy

Christopher Tahy

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