By Danger Coolidge
Unbelievably Bad Editor
The new monsters of rock are lurking in the shadows of Brisbane punk and hardcore. Whodathunk?
They go by the name of Knifer, and they’re doing a modern take on classic rock that walks a fine line in whopping-big stage boots – it’s not self-conscious or ironic, but nor is it stiff-necked and safe.
Comprised of current and former members of Last Chaos, Teargas, Sick People, Zodiac, Black Deity, etc., Knifer’s debut four-song tape sounds like the morning after at Castle Donington invaded by a vocalising baboon with an infected arse and manic depression. It falls somewhere between the arena and the gutter, or, as bassist Leo Price puts it: “somewhere between hammered and hungover”.
“It’s not the seventies, bands aren’t gods, there’s no money or corporate interest in this music anymore,” says Leo on Knifer’s medium voltage rock ’n’ roll sound. “Guitar solos have consequences now.”
Damn straight, son!
What inspired you punks to wanna play this brand of “medium voltage rock’n’roll”.
Hard to say, really. An urge to blast headfirst into all the clichés that growing up with the punk mindset makes you reject, maybe. The medium voltage rock’n’roll thing is really just a stupid joke, but it does actually kind of work for us. We’re working within the framework for a kind of rock music that a lot of people think of as bloated, excessive and prehistoric, but as we all come from a punk, underground, DIY or whatever you want to call it background, it comes out a bit…medium. I really like music that sounds somewhere between hammered and hungover. Like the band is simultaneously sinning and paying for it. It’s not the seventies, bands aren’t gods, there’s no money or corporate interest in this music anymore – guitar solos have consequences now. Maybe we’re “hard Brexit rock ’n’ roll”. That was very much a joke.
Knifer does classic rock in a way that doesn’t feel self-conscious or ironic. We like that. It must be a fine line, though, between paying homage and taking the piss a bit. Where do you stand on that – if you do, in fact, stand anywhere on that?
It’s a fine line. There’s nothing ironic in anything we do but it’s impossible to not be aware that a lot of people view bands playing throwback rock ’n’ roll in 2017 as an expensive and noisy form of cosplay. I believe totally in everything we do. We make this music cause it’s music we would want to listen to. I have the utmost contempt for people who treat their bands as elaborate jokes or as something they just fell into. How can you expect other people to give a shit if you don’t? That’s not to say bands should be “professional” or totally humourless. You can sound like The Shaggs and still believe you’re the best band in the world. We have a fucking toad with a battle axe on our shirts. Just, please, for everyone’s sake, don’t use ironic distance to hedge your bets and insulate yourself from vulnerability. It’s a cowardly waste of everyone’s time.
When was Knifer’s first jam?
The first jam was the weekend of last year’s Total Attack fest, so sometime in April 2016. If I remember correctly, we jammed on “Hit the Lights” by Metallica, “Iron Fist” by Motörhead and “All Knobs to the Right” by Medieval.
Where and where did you record your tape?
At Underground Audio in West End. Chris Brownbill engineered, mixed and mastered it like the gun he is. If I remember correctly we set up and jammed on a Friday night and recorded the four tracks the next day. Recorded basic tracks live, then overdubbed solos and vocals. The vocals were mostly one take with a few cool grunts and howls overdubbed in here and there. We all got much drunker than we meant to, which is why the whole thing sounds (to me anyway) really alcohol-soaked.
Putting piano into a proper hard rock track (“Conspiracy Of Silence”) is so ballsy. What is your favourite example/s of piano in hard rock?
There’s so many. Every maniacal Little Richard song. A bunch of Sonics songs. Blue Oyster Cult did it really well (“Flaming Telepaths”, “Astronomy”, “M.E.-262”), “Second Coming” by Alice Cooper. Basically all of Exile On Main Street but especially “Rocks Off”. “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. I like all the piano/keyboard stuff on “Strangers in the Night”, the live album by UFO. The piano part at the end of “Conspiracy of Silence” was something Finn was playing during a break and we all thought was cool, so Ryan whipped up a guitar part to accompany it and they recorded it with a couple of room mics quite quickly. The five-second piano part in “The Snake”, on the other hand, took about forty takes because Finn and I were both playing it at the same time and were quite pissed by that point. I like the idea of using instruments outside the standard guitar/bass/drums/vocals set-up. It used to be the standard for bands to use all sorts of shit on records, and I don’t think you should have to be able to pull off an exact replica of your record live. Compare “Sympathy for the Devil” on Beggars Banquet to the version on Get Yer Ya Yas Out – it’s night and day. Both cool, but wildly different approaches to the same song. I think a record should be more than just a document of a band’s live sound. The “band in a room” sound is, of course, an absolute must-have as a base to build on – if your record sounds like the drums were recorded in a cold storage unit in Cairns and the guitars were flown in from Auckland then your record is doomed – but it shouldn’t be adhered to to the point that it becomes restrictive. Side note: what I really want is a return of the evil horn section to rock ’n’ roll. My generation was deeply traumatised by the ska revival in the nineties, so people are understandably terrified of brass instruments, but like any powerful item, the trumpet can be used for good or evil. When utilised for evil (“Bitch”, “Under My Wheels”, “Crazy Horses”, “Evil Woman”), horns can be incredibly effective. Take all this with the caveat that I non-ironically enjoy saxophone solos, so I’m not really a person to talk to about matters of taste.
What’s the short-term plan for Knifer now?
We’re recording a two-song 7” in a couple of weeks that should hopefully surface around the middle of the year. Other than that, we’re playing Total Attack in April and will hopefully get around at least the east coast later in the year. Sorry for all the rambling in this, I’m quite caffeinated.
The Knifer tape will rock you: