Words by Tex Bradley. Pics by Rod Hunt
Unbelievably Bad Contributors
Shackles have been busy boys. In the past 12 months the band have made their first foray into the northern hemisphere with a three-week tour of Europe, toured the east coast of Australia with Magrudergrind, and released two 10″ records; the latest of which (Lifeless Paradise) is arguably their best release to date.
Unbelievably Bad catches up with Mark and Eddie for a recap…
There seems to be a more apparent d-beat influence on Lifeless Paradise EP, which is an interesting progression. Is this a side effect of touring with Famine?
Mark: While there’s definitely more of a d-beat influence on some songs, it wasn’t touring with any particular band that was responsible for it, as the record was written in downtime prior to last year’s touring stint.
Edward: We all like to listen to heaps of crust, grind or death metal, so with this band I think there will always be more of something on one release than another, which for this release and past has just been natural and not planned or extremely thought out. Also we were all pretty young when we first started. But for our new stuff I think it will be more focused as we’ve gotten a bit older and have done other bands and explored a lot more, so we don’t need to experiment so much.
You’ve used a different drummer for each side of the new record. Did you arrange the tracklisting to play to each drummer’s strengths?
M: Eddie wrote most of the songs and tailored them to each drummer. The drummer per side thing was his brainchild.
E: It was more just the window of opportunity more than anything, which drummer was able to jam or be in the same area. We all live so far away from each other so basically [Josh] Stooks’s side was a few days holiday in Noosa after playing with Long Knife that we jammed and wrote his side and then had a couple of more random jams whenever he was around (Stooks is pretty gypsy) with him before recording. And then Ben’s side a few trips down from Brisbane to his place in Tweed whenever he wasn’t playing in all his other bands haha. It was all very fast and sporadic and unfocused, but in a good way. It was just making the best of a difficult situation that still included everyone.
Is it difficult with two drummers and a somewhat fluid performing lineup (in the earlier days). Is there one main writer, or is it typically a collaborative effort?
M: Having two drummers makes things really easy. We just write with whoever is available. Both drummers have other projects and Joshua is really nomadic, so it means the band can still do stuff when someone is unavailable. It’s like a polyamorous love affair based in trust, but in band form. Speaking of unavailability though, I have actually been the most unavailable one of late but it hasn’t stopped the band writing.
E: It’s all collaborative. What riffs come up has been a revolving door between me, Matt and DJ. It’s never been a one-man band. Everyone likes playing with each other’s different styles, so the different drummer thing hasn’t been a strength or weakness with writing in our eyes, just fun. It’s definitely had its ups and downs, but once we are playing and jamming, all the stressful organising shit doesn’t matter. All the lyrics and majority of the aesthetics have been written by Mark.
Since Forced To Regress in 2014, things were relatively quiet for you guys in terms of releases, but you’ve smashed out two 10″ records within the last year. Are things starting to pick up steam again? Have you got anything else in the works at the moment?
M: Yeah, we’ve started writing for another LP. That will be a fair while off though. We were quiet output wise after releasing the mini LP in 2014 because we were playing a lot and starting new projects.
How was the Euro tour? Did you get much time to explore the continent, or was the schedule pretty strict?
M: The Euro tour was mostly fantastic. It was hard work and had its highs and lows, but we were really well taken care of and met countless amounts of great people. We had this Slovakian driver named Charlie who has played in heaps of skits bands (Abortion, Maresvin) who drove the tour just because he wanted to come along. The guy was 40, spoke four-five languages and wanted to spend a month with us for fun. He brought his own box of food and had jerky hanging on a jock strap in the cargo area of the van. As far as what we got to see, I would have liked to have soaked in more of some of the cities and explored a little more, but our schedule was pretty brutal as we played nearly every day, which was how I wanted it so I can’t complain and I’m incredibly grateful for what we did get to see.
Were you at all concerned about irony rearing its ugly head and evoking some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy while performing “Toasted” overseas?
M: Oh boy. Fuck, my views have changed quite a lot since I wrote that song. Nice way to open a can of worms, Bradley. The short answer is no, because terrorism has never been something I’ve been frightened of or concerned about in regard to my own safety. Although we were in Europe not too long after Paris and during a period where there were a number of smaller atrocities, we missed a lot of the larger cities and weren’t anywhere near the city centres when we did visit the larger places. On top of both of those points, from what I understand, the statistics of dying in an attack are incredibly low. This doesn’t mean I don’t think terrorism is a terrifying and important issue though. Currently I think the most concerning thing about Europe (and the West in general) is how many countries are swinging to the right and how polarised everyone is. (Note: everyone in the band has their own take on these issues and I certainly don’t speak for the other guys)
I heard there’s a Shitgrinder LP in the works. How’s that coming along?
E: All the instruments are recorded and Matt just has to do the vocals. He made a new logo and I think we have the main idea for the cover down. Should be out by the end of the year from the legend Ben at Televised Suicide Records.
What’s the process of creating the cover art for Shackles? Is it done entirely by hand, or is it digital? And do you choose images that reflect a central theme in the songs, or do you just roll with whatever looks sick?
M: The artwork is a mixture of hand-done mixed media stuff and digital tinkering. I try to create/choose images that work with the title and themes. Forced To Regress has a kind of Hobbesian theme to it, along with the idea that it’s not that hard for us to fall back into our violent and tribal tendencies if we’re poked hard enough. The artwork features primitive skulls mixed with modern war machines collaged, for some weird reason, in phallic shapes and patterns. With Lifeless Paradise the barbed-wire oval shape was a kind of representation of a painful passage or portal to nowhere, which is a loose theme that’s toyed with (in my own boneheaded way) a bit throughout the record. None of this stuff is too consciously dwelled upon when the art is actually being created, though. It’s all based on intuition, instincts and whatever crude materials (like barbed wire) and images (for cut and pasting) are available at whatever time, and it’s not until after it’s all done that I have a clear(ish) idea of what I was even trying to do.
How’s Byron these days? It was a bit of a hot spot for touring bands and homegrown stuff years ago, but that seems to have died down. If memory serves me correctly, none of you live there anymore, but I’m sure you get out there from time to time.
M: I live just north of Byron and everyone else lives in the state of the cane toad, aside from Josh. Byron is dead for heavy music, but there is the occasional gigs in Lismore put together by Robbie of Common Enemy and his cohorts. Shitgrinder played a show there with Abaddon Incarnate recently.
What’s the plan for promoting the new release? Is a tour on the cards?
M: We plan to play a few shows down the coast later in the year.
Lifeless Paradise 10″ is out on Resist Records: