By Sick Rick
Unbelievably Bad Contributor
Insane Hombres aren’t a household name and there’s probably still people from back in the ’80s, let alone the following 26 years of punks and thrashers, who aren’t even aware of the band, can you give a bit of information on the band? How did it all come to be?
Hombres rose from the ashes of Pictish Blood and Psycho Circus. Johnny joined after Thrash This Trash (probably Brisvegas’ first skate thrash band) folded. Hombres played punk hard and fast – but with breaks. The breaks probably constituted our signature. We strove to crossover metal and punk and thrash in between. We didn’t have a word for it back then but it eventually came to be known as ‘hardcore’. So I suppose we were gen 1 of hardcore. Making it up as we went along … in the great DIY punk rock tradition.
People put a lot of stock in a lot of the Brisbane bands of the late ’70s and early ’80s like Razar, Leftovers, Young Identities, etc but don’t seem to know about much else – can you give us a bit of an idea of what it was like in Brisbane in the second half of the ’80s with the boom of thrash metal and the downfall of the Joh era? How did the Hombres fit into the puzzle?
Hombres are considered old school today but I’d place us in the second wave of punks. We stood on the shoulders of giants – many of them ex long hairs. We were the next evolution of punk rock. Though we weren’t conscious of that. Those who came before us were fast and loud. We, on the other hand were blistering. That was the idea anyway. And literally that’s often how Sid and Terry left the stage – with bleeding hands.
We attended plenty of gigs that were chased down by Task Force (whom Razar immortalised), which were Joh’s bovver Queensland Police Force boys tasked with shutting down the public menace of punk rock. But they never shut down a Hombre gig – Task Force had been disbanded by then.
That’s how it was viewed back then. Punks were a public threat. And we were very visible. Walking advertisements for subverting the dominant paradigm which Joh represented. We were public enemy number one. Or maybe number two after the hippies and their demonstrations. Did we attend the demos? Yes we did.
The ’70s in Brisbane was oppressively conservative. Youth unemployment was through the roof. The same conditions that existed in Britain. It was no surprise punk rock rose in both places simultaneously. Did we feel oppressed? Yes we did. Though it was more a frustration with the way things were. And that included the music industry. It said nothing to us. It wasn’t playing what we wanted to hear. So we picked up instruments and said it ourselves. And we weren’t just speaking for ourselves. We were shouting out loud for every punter in the pit. We were their voice. That was important to us.
Back then the Brisbane scene was vibrant. But with the oppression came the exodus. A lot of our best punks jumped ship for Sydney or Melbourne who were more culturally open to an alternative voice. Their scenes thrived off Brisbane’s punk rock refugees. Were we political? Maybe, but we didn’t see ourselves as such. Certainly some of our song lyrics were. We’re probably best described as angry. Angry young men. Out to change the world. If wanting to make a difference in one’s world is political then I suppose the label sticks.
On reflection, we had a lot of causes in common with the hippies. We just had a different way of expressing ourselves: louder, harder and faster!
This, coincidentally, was recorded in Joh’s final year in politics, as his world fell apart and with it, the restriction of civil liberties and the unfettered growth of police power. We were Joh survivors.
Insane Hombres was rooted in hardcore punk but still had a very unique sound, what were the musical influences?
I’m not sure what our musical influences were. I’m not even sure we played music. We were more about putting down a wall of noise. Terry was a big Slayer and Sabbath fiend, Sid dug his punk and his rock and Ian was a punk rock purist. Johnny loved his rockabilly and ska – something to dance to.
I understand that Johnny was a massive skater and you always had Andy MacKenzie (Kwala Skates) at your side, was anyone else in the band into skating? Brisbane still doesn’t have much in the way of quality parks with actual skater input, what was that scene like back then and was it a big part of the Hombres time as a band?
You’re right, the quality of skateparks in Queensland is shyte. Always has been. Always will be, I suspect. But back then there weren’t any parks. We rode the urban environment, transforming it from its intended use into our use. We appropriated it. Walls, ditches, petrol stations, anything with a transition. We emptied our fair share of pools and Johnny had a ramp in both the houses he lived in after the Prince St. days. The band spent time hanging out and playing gigs at Moorooka Skate Shed. We even practiced there. I can remember a few ramp parties we played at as well including the Alva tour at Beaumont ramp – that was a huge day!
Skaters were punkers back in the day. Punk was the skater’s music. It was a natural fit; the two scenes coming together because punk was the only sound around fast enough to skate to. Johnny was definitely skate punk. He’d still describe himself in those terms. He still sneaks a quiet roll in occasionally but the body doesn’t heal as quickly as it used to and these days he’s obsessive about riding his motorbikes.
The band along with Andy MacKenzie are set to be releasing a four-song 7” this weekend, taken from a recording done back in 1987. How come it’s taken the band nearly 30 years to finally release this material? Can you give us a bit of background information on the recording session?
The recording was done down at Pyramid Studios down the Valley with Andy’s brother Ewan MacKenzie and Tony Byrne. It followed some other recording we’d done in our band practice room behind the old Tip Top Pie Factory. Ewan, already an accomplished musician, dragged in his 4-track reel to reel and we just threw down tracks. He did this thing called ‘ping ponging’ to capture the sound. We’d pretty well forgotten about the Pyramid recordings and dismissed them as an early amateur attempt to record. Terry had the tapes. It wasn’t until after he died (RIP) that we found them. So we got them baked by Matthew Gray, Zenith pressed a demo and we got to hear them on vinyl. Listening to it blew us away. So we’re releasing them in Terry’s honour.
Why choose to just do a launch instead of doing some sort of reunion? There’s a lot of bands that would have jumped at the opportunity to throw something together, many bands out there touring and playing without original line-ups from the “glory days”. I personally think it’s great you’re not doing a show but seem more focused on getting people out to have a good time and catch up.
We can’t reform the band. Terry is dead. It’s as simple as that. Insane Hombres was only ever a band of four brothers. We tried to mix it up toward the end when Ian left with substitute drummers and second guitars but it didn’t gel. How could it? It wasn’t the Hombre way. Better to kill the and dead.
The launch isn’t about us. It’s about the people who supported us. Our catch cry back then was ‘support your scene’. It’s still about that for us, even though we’re not at all the gigs we should be. It’s to give something back. The purpose of the launch is to act as a ‘gathering’. To bring together the old heads, punters from the old day who still remember but don’t get out like they used to. Sunday arvo beers at Sabotage in a punk-friendly, central environment, seemed about right, to release some new vinyl, throw up a slide show and spin some discs. Back in the day we released the 12″ [To The Core]. It was never enough, but it was an accomplishment back then when no-one travelled interstate nor recorded. Too difficult, too expensive against a backdrop where everyone ‘paid to play’. Now we’re a bit older and coined up we can release this ourselves. Sure, we’re charging for it, but we’re really putting it out there as a gift. If it works we’ll try to do another release the following year. And that will be it. Everything we have will be out there.
Being a band for four years gives you a very good amount of time to cause some mischief, what are some of the fondest memories of the Hombres years? Can you recall all the tours you did?
We toured nationally (if you don’t count Tasmania, WA or NT) five times. I think it’s fair to say we had some good times. Some of them very good times. Hanging with the other bands interstate was always the highlight. The scene was tight back then. We camped on each other’s couches, under tables, wherever we could get our head down. We’d help each other out. Borrow each other’s equipment. Organise each other’s gigs. We couldn’t have accomplished what we did without the other bands or indeed the scene holding us up and helping us out. It really was DIY back then. The scene back then was bigger than the sum of the parts. It’s one of the cornerstones of punk rock: inclusivity.
Upon the demise of the Insane Hombres what did you all get up to? Was hardcore punk still a big part of your lives and where does it all factor in now? Is life still about being louder, harder and faster??
Families and work. It’s not just about us anymore. Having kids teaches you this! Not that we grew up. In our heads we still think we are those 20-something guys. Ian still plays drums for Mouthguard – like once a year! Johnny graduated from skateboards to motorbikes. He’s obsessed with riding. It might be chemical. It was probably a natural progression from skate punk to dirty old biker. Unless he takes up flying jet fighters I don’t think it can get any louder harder and faster than scratching around on motorcycles in the bush or on the bitchy. We don’t get to as many gigs as we should but you will see us out there from time to time.
To wrap things up any final notes you’d like to make? People to thank? Messages to the filthy speed corps?
Huge props to Andy MacK from Lazer Tattoo Removals. And, of course, his brother Ewan back in the day. Thanks to Matthew Gray Mastering. Thanks to Zenith for pressing the reds. Shouts to Brad for hosting the launch at Sabotage. And finally Richard from NGM records who did the T-shirts. We salute you!
One final shout out to our friends and family and lastly to all the true believers out there still flying the flag – if you’re not dead, punk’s not dead!
The Insane Hombres’ 1987 Recordings 7” launch ‘gathering’ is this Sunday, December 18, at Sabotage Social, Brisbane from 2pm.