By Danger Coolidge
Unbelievably Bad Editor
Adelaide doom crew Space Bong have hit an interesting point in their long, storied life – they can finally see clearly in both directions.
They’ll celebrate their past next month when they play their four-song, 70-minute “manifesto of drug-induced emptiness, despair and ultimately, salvation”, The Death Of Utopia, live in Melbourne and Sydney. The strange irony is, it’s only happening because the present line-up is so excited about the future it can finally nail all the old stuff!
Space Bong vocalist Kegan Daly tells it better than that…
What have you been doing since gigging for last year’s Deadwood To Worms record (x2) died down? Been writing, jamming or doing any Triple J’s Like Aversions [sic]?
We had a massive come down once the extended album tour came to a premature end. We weren’t able to tour Southeast Asia on account of a passport fuck up by our travel agent. It was a buzzkill that resulted in some serious reassessment for the future of the band. That wasn’t the only reason. The heaviness of being in Space Bong and the toll it’s taken over the past eight years has done damage. But the amount of creative energy and dedication currently in the band is without precedence. We’ve recorded for an EP and a split, with vocals and fine tuning still to be done. Currently looking for overseas bands to share the split with and do an Australian tour. On account of being fucked over by our travel agent, we’re in the middle of rebooking an overseas tour in Japan with the flight credits we were able to squeeze out of them. There was a question mark over whether we could convincingly continue Space Bong after being in a downward spiral for several years. 2015 proved that we’ve really only just started along the road to being middle-aged doomthugs. While we would never be allowed anywhere near a live-to-air Triple J microphone, we have been asked by CVLT Nation to contribute a reinterpretation of a song from Black Sabbath’s debut as part of a tribute album. We’re also playing a gig in an old Adelaide psych-ward in August that’s part of a Scandinavian black metal tribute night. True kvlt black metal is for elitist wanks, so we’ll be covering a Turbonegro song instead.
This “rebirth” of Utopia idea – is this a gimmick?
Gimmicks are a cheap attempt to gain attention. While I’m cynical as fuck and rarely trust people to be sincere, we’ve never treated our music as a plaything. The reason behind The Death Of Utopia Live is twofold: It’s been a very, very long time since we’ve had a stable line-up that’s been able to play our entire back catalogue. Our current line-up is in the fortunate position to be on the cusp of this, and more. Being able to play the entire album is a milestone for the band as a unit, which we want to share with one another in the live realm and with others. The second reason is that The Death Of Utopia was a coming of age for those of us in the band at the time. Not to mention many of our friends and contemporaries who were beginning to realise the meaninglessness of the lives we once thought had intrinsic value. It represents the deep descent into drugged madness and spiritual nihilism that is omnipresent in the modern world. It isn’t a concept album by any means, but it was written to be listened to as a whole. The lyrical themes overlap and recur throughout the album. What people think about our intentions is their business. But for us, the relevance is to remain in touch with the music and outlook that helped create the present, in all its bleak heaviness. No one can honestly say that things in this world have gotten better in the last 10 years. Everything has gotten worse by any objective or subjective measures. Material wealth is creating a spiritual poverty that only reinforces how much we lack universal morality as a species. The hope for individual and collective co-existence, progression and peace under post/modern conditions turns out to be a farce and lie fed to us by intellectual, political and economic ideologues. As the world burns to death one of the most relevant reactions is to reflect back the fear, sorrow and hopelessness we feel. We are the embodiment of our surroundings feeding back the negativity that engulfs us. That’s why playing The Death Of Utopia live is a good idea now.
The Death Of Utopia is held in high regard. Would you have expected that sort of thing when it was originally issued in 2009 by Anna Vo on her little An Out label?
The beauty of Space Bong is that we’ve never had any expectations. The unconscious urge to destroy and self-sabotage has always been very strong in the band. So positive outcomes or responses were never assumed, desired or sort after. The support we received from Anna was unexpected. In hindsight it was a stroke of good fortune to be encouraged by someone with such high personal and musical integrity. When I first realised the impact The Death Of Utopia had on some people, I was shocked and confused. I still am. The music comes from a place of honesty and vulnerability. I’m glad that other people can relate. It takes the cold, hard sting out of existence.
Is it true the whole recording was almost trashed?
This is true. Officially, it’s lost. We don’t have any studio recordings of the album. No digital files. Nothing. All we had once the engineer lost the recording was a rough mix on compact disc that we went on to release. We had nothing else. Looking back it feels like the chaos and self-inflicted pain of the time created a situation where that sort of thing would naturally happen. And it did. An act of karma that’s only one of a long string of failures that have been commonplace in our history. How we ever managed to play the shows we did, with the support of those around us, is beyond our comprehension. We’re in a new phase of Space Bong now where we are more supportive and understanding of one another. In the real world, we probably still come across as dysfunctional idiots. That’ll never change. But the karmic consequences are slightly less severe than in the past.
What’s the hardest bits of The Death Of Utopia to get right?
The really slow bits are always the hardest. You can end up in a trance-like state. You’ll lose concentration while in a riff and forget to transition to the next section.
What kind of training are you all currently undergoing in order to play continuously for 70 or more minutes?
We played the entire album live in Adelaide recently. Surprisingly it really didn’t feel like a 70+ minute set. The neck did feel a little sore the next day though. Stretches and staying off the darts before the show is the best training. For others though, I suggest a solid diet of DMT-laced joints and LSD sugar cubes.
The Death Of Utopia:
Space Bong will play The Death Of Utopia live in full in Melbourne on July 22 at Northcote Social Club, and Sydney on July 23 at Newtown Social Club.
Space Bong were interviewed in Unbelievably Bad #16, which you can still get from our online store: CLICK HERE!