Words by Luke Buckler. Photos by Rod Hunt and Aidan McDonald
Unbelievably Bad Contributors
Clowns are a band that get results. They’ve been smashing around Melbourne like a child with ADHD for over five years, they’ve put out a couple of records on Poison City Records, and they’ve crushed tours in the USA and South East Asia. When they found out they’d managed to wrangle a slot on the very popular Groezrock Festival, they were decidedly stoked. They pulled together some other crazy shows around the Belgian festival, and got in the van.
Right after they got done going full boonta mental throughout Europe, UB checked up on bassplayer James to see how he was doing.
How’d the tour go?
The tour went really well. In fact, so well we were all surprised – surprised and stoked. Everything was all booked very last-minute as we only got the Groezrock Festival offer, which was the sorta centrepiece show as you will have it, very late. Pretty much as soon we got that, it was like, “Fuck, I guess we are going to Europe in five weeks,” which was pretty unreal to say. But yeah, none of that was an issue once everything was booked. Ridiculously accommodating people and venues at each shows, killer crowds, big merch takings and a seemingly endless amount of beer and snacks each and every night, what’s to complain about? Everything ruled.
What was your highlight? Who were the sickest bands you played with?
Groezrock was the highlight for me by far, and for everyone else I’m sure as well. It’s not every show you’re playing to a few thousand people at an open air festival with no barriers or security. It’s also not every day you can jump off stage and go see IRON CHIC, PUP, DILLINGER FOUR, SICK OF IT ALL and then finish your night off with seeing DAG NASTY. But that’s the obvious answer. I’d probably say the next highlight show wise was Lucerne in Switzerland. It was Tuesday night in freezing cold weather, but the people there went full boonta mental which was killer to see. It was also very heart warming that some people drove three hours through the Swiss Alps to come see us when they had work at 5am the next morning. Always mad respect to those sort of nutcases. We played two shows with NIGHT BIRDS from New Jersey on this run, which was totally killer. We’ve all loved them for years so it was mad to finally not just get to see them, but play and hang out with them as well. Did another two shows with PEARS from New Orleans and two with BAD COP/BAD COP from Los Angeles who are both kicking ass around the world at the moment, too. Other sick bands I’d mention would be LOTUS from Belgium who do a heavy as fuck, almost Converge sorta thing, who were rad; another Belgian band who played our last show in Europe called PAS DE CHANCE who had their Wipers worship running red hot and were great; and this German thrash band we played with in Berlin called ANTIPEEWEE who shredded hard.
What fucked up?
The dude at the bar we played at in Lucerne gave us a whole lot of weed but we got told not to take shit like that over the border from Switzerland into Germany. In the morning we still had a heap leftover so we had dump it just before border check. But then they just waved us straight through without stopping us, or anyone even batting an eyelid. That was pretty bullshit. I also had an incident at Groezrock where I did a very drunken and clumsy stage dive when DAG NASTY busted out a cover of “Little Friend” by Minor Threat. I did it right before that pause bit after the line “That’s as close as you get!” but I had my ankle caught in Brian Baker’s guitar lead and ripped it right out of his guitar as soon as I jumped. The show was stopped for a good 20 seconds, which I thought was pretty funny. But I’m sure that shit used to happen to him all the time back in the day.
How did your shows in Europe compare to your shows in US or shows in Asia?
It’s difficult to compare anything to what goes on in Southeast Asia and China because those places are literally in a realm of their own in regards to craziness and just plain weirdness. But comparing Europe and USA in regards to venues, general accommodation and friendliness, Europe was by far superior. We never got more than two free beer tokens each night in the USA. In Europe it was dinner, endless snacks, endless beer, a comfortable place to sleep and then breakfast in the morning before we left. That, and the support bands in Europe REALLY brought the heat in every city. Some nights I was genuinely taken back and realised that you really need to bring your A game over here because anything less than that just ain’t gonna cut it.
Do you reckon Melbourne is better?
For us Melbourne will always be the best, but that’s purely because we live there, and we know Melbourne as well as Melbourne knows us. For other bands it may not be entirely the case. Melbournians are extremely spoiled for choice compared to any other Australian city, we are overrun with constant shows, numerous perfect venues. As stupid as this is, the people can also be extremely tribal when it comes to what particular sub genre of a sub genre of a genre they choose to follow. It’s pretty dumb, but that’s just how it goes. So as long as you get with the right crew of people organising your shit you’ll be fine. I know living here and going to shows for years and years now I’ve seen tons of completely unknown international bands trek it out here, find themselves on the right bills and in front of the right people absolutely blitz it in Melbourne. But I’m sure there’s also plenty of stories that also go the other way.
Do you guys still have jobs, or are you full-time road dogs these days?
We’re just really lucky. We are young and stupid and don’t know the difference between good life choices and poor life choices yet. We all work crappy, flexible jobs that somehow keep us employed when we come back from tour, which is amazing. We aren’t full-time road dogs yet, but I guess as soon as one of our employers finally pulls the pin on our poor work attendance, then that’ll be the case. I’ve heard Centrelink is pretty cool for hesh dogs who play in bands, so that’s always a good fallback plan.
Which dead celebrity has bummed you out the most? Who should be next?
Out of the recent ones, it would definitely be Lemmy. It was such a grim reminder of the mortality of human existence that even a dude like that who we all conceived as some invincible god would eventually tear at the seams and cark it. Clowns got to play a big festival in Chicago last year that Mötörhead headlined which ended up being one of his last ever shows, so being able to witness that makes it now even more special.
Can punk culture and footy culture coexist in harmony?
Tough question. I don’t know if coexist in harmony could ever fully occur, but perhaps coexist in some sort of weird tolerating manner. It’s a much different culture these days than that of the bygone era of blind racism, homophobia, sexism and just all round bogan stupidity that you now hear about and almost look back in disbelief at some of it. Footy culture has definitely come a long way, though, and has definitely adopted some of those ideals punks have been fighting for society to adopt for a long time now, but there’s still so much more further to go and I’m not sure if it’ll ever fully get there. It really only takes one small incident by one individual to ruin the hard work of many, so I guess we’ve just got to get used to baby steps (indigenous recognition, female involvement, erasing any sort of homophobia, etc.). Jock mentality will never be welcome in punk culture in my books, that’s one of the reasons why we all love punk so much because it’s so seperate from all that bullshit. I know we have a secret group on facebook called AFL Punks where we can chat about this sort of stuff as well as get that general footy banter off our chests away from prying eyes. Unbelievably Bad is obviously cool, but I’d get in trouble for mentioning it on any other more mainstream music publication – we try pretty hard to keep all the dickheads out to keep it a safe place for footy talk. So yeah, in answer to the question – coexist in harmony? Probably not. But tolerate in harmony? I think so. Punks still need an enemy at the end of the day, haha.