Nothing put quite the sting on my ears in 2012 as the Satanic Rockers debut single did. Seemingly from out of nowhere, I was quite unprepared for it. It sounded like nothing else, quite simply. I didn't recognize the band members from any other groups and hadn't heard anyone really talking them up until the record arrived in my mailbox. Internet searches all pointed to a blog: James Last Appreciation Society. The blog itself had been around since 2010 and had links and downloads to tons of bands I'd never heard of (and a few I had) and turned into a great way to kill a few hours. Aside from talking up bands he liked, this Lynton guy also seemed to be the driving force behind the Rockers and quite a few other bands as well. You can go there and kill some time now, or take the guided tour of sorts provided below - along with all of Lynton's bands there are also wonderfully named outfits like Baby Hitlers and Maltese Falcons among many others to discover (and we're stepping outside of Australian to New Zealend at this point, if you'll allow). With the help of Mr. Brock Kappers of Little Big Chief Records (go there now to score your LP before it's too late) I was able to pin Lynton down for an e-mail interview before the Satanic Rockers faded into the ether...
TB: How and when did Satanic Rockers form and what is the line-up? Was it originally a solo project of yours? If so, how did it become a "band"?
Lynton: Satanic Rockers was originally the name I gave to a solo recording I did six or so years ago. My friends Josh and Dave kept pestering me to do a band under this guise, so it's their fault we ended up with a performing unit! It is the first band I have ever been in that plays my recording works live. So we stared here in Melbourne as a three piece band and eventually added my friend Tim on bass.
TB: So are the tracks from the 7" stuff you originally wrote for that solo project and re-recorded? Or were those songs altogether different?
Lynton: The track titled "Eviction" was originally on my solo CDR "Captain Rockers Lonely Horror Hotel", the B-side ("Rat Versus Boredom") was written after observing a sleazy music scenester in action and was on my "Heavy Fighter" album. Yep, they are both one man band generated! "Rat Versus Boredom" is a play on the aforementioned sleazester's band name (it's a character study that could be applied to any ruthless ladder climbing regardless of genre or industry). "The Eviction" is a hallucinogenic vision generated from poor impulse management resulting in death. It's about an indulgent Rocker holed up in a Horror Hotel.
TB: Are you (and the other band members) originally from New Zealand or do I have that wrong?
Lynton: Yes! We are all from NZ. I am proudly from the flattened city of Christchurch and so is Tim, Dave is from the natural wonder of West Auckland and Josh emanated from Wellington. I met Dave and Josh in Wellington which had a very vibrant scene and I met Tim over here in Melbourne. We are a devoutly NZ band in character, although I strongly feel that the audience enthusiasm and support here in Australia has kept me playing music. I moved to Melbourne over four years ago as NZ felt a bit claustrophobic and has very limited work opportunities.
TB: Could you sort of chart out some of your other projects for us? Following the blog, I've listened to/seen you mention Rockshop and Heavy Turkey among others. I got the impression Rockshop were a full band from when you were in NZ? And Heavy Turkey might be solo work?
Lynton: Dave Michaels (Satanic Rockers' drummer) and I have been making music together since we met in Wellington many years ago. We had a mutual friend who introduced us, then began our first band called Talent Quest (Justin Talau on drums, Dave Michaels on bass, Andrew Ritson on vocals and myself on guitar). That band went for a year or so and I guess it's like a real older brother for the Satanic Rockers in its drunken psychedelic anti-muso stance. The singer wrote great minimal punk tunes and tended to frighten the audience a bit - not me though, the louder he shouted the more I loved it! This band folded and turned into a freak-out group called Antiquest when the singer Andrew moved back to Wanganui. Antiquest (Rich Bits = vocals/anything, Justin Talau = vocals/whatever's at hand, me = drums and Dave = bass) performed to confused crusty punks and general freaks then evolved into Heavy Turkey with Dave on bass and vocals and myself on drums. That band was a higher energy funk noise rhythm blast and heaps of fun! People started to "get" this one. Dave wrote the material for Heavy Turkey, whereas Talent Quest were mainly my riffs married to Andy's lyrics. Antiquest was mainly us getting a bit laterally fucked and following our collective consciousness.
Rockshop was a four piece punk song-based band with my friends Kim Gruschaw on (LOUD!) vocals, Edie Stevens on mecha-drums, Kristen Wineera on Victorian metal keyboards and myself on guitar. Working with girls got rid of all the showing off for awhile and compelled me to concentrate on the basics. This band was a lot of fun and ended when myself and Edie moved away, quite a shame as we were just starting to get a stride going. I moved to Melbourne and the Turkey was well roasted so it was time for something new. Josh Jenkins and Dave were crucial in motivating me to get the Satanic Rockers going as a vehicle for my songs, without them I would still be drunk in my bedroom, but instead now I do it in public.
TB: What about Sod Cocks? Was that an actual band or just a tape you made?
Lynton: The Sod Cocks was myself on drums and my buddy Michael Banks on guitar, we were only sixteen and he was a half-Zimbabwean born-again Christian. We spent our school days cracking up laughing at imaginary nihilistic punk bands and making stupid noises. Sod Cock was one of these imaginary characters who would vomit into the microphone and perform bleeding in a barbed wire wrestling ring! One day after school I managed to coax him back to my house for a jam session (I hadn't played much before this, but had been taking drum lessons; or more likely watching my drum teacher show off with constant soloing while I got tinnitus!). My mum and her friend were in the next room laughing while I played my one drum beat with Michael screaming into the Sanyo tapedeck. He played a mean discordant guitar and was quite good at improvising monster voices about paedophiles and serial killers. One time Michael convinced me to go to church one Sunday morning to play on the instruments with him after worship. I went in my Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Blood Sugar Sex Magic" tee shirt and wondered why all the churchgoers were looking at me strangely. I wasn't accepted anywhere near their flashy gear and I thought their hand clapping was dull and forced. We had a couple of lunch time Casiotone death metal jams a year or so later on and that was all we ever did... I caught up with Michael in Wellington a few years back and he is still a comedy genius but has gone to the dark side and plays in a Crowded House covers band in order to sort out his drinking problem (i.e. get free drinks). This early musical experience (Sod Cocks) set me on my current path.
TB: So were Satanic Rockers the first band you were in to release a record? I'm guessing the others were mostly CDs and demo cassettes you did on your own?
Lynton: Yes, the Satanic Rockers are the first band that I have been in that has had vinyl released. Previously I have done small runs of CDRs, usually twenty to fifty copies. Albert's Basement recently released a large run of 80 Sacred Product cassettes which was nice.
TB: Back to Satanic Rockers, I'm interested in why the songs sound like they do. "Eviction" in particular sounds very heavy metal, did you start with that sound in mind or did it just sort of evolve that way? At first I thought it might be a song that was goofing on heavy metal themes, but then I realized all of the songs sort of sound like that. Are you an active metal fan?
Lynton: I listen to a lot of different music. When I wrote "Eviction" I was listening a lot to that 'Melissa' album by Mercyful Fate. That is a real classic and I never get sick of that one! I don't really "goof" on musical styles. It's mainly a lack of technical skill that points my guitar in the direction of heavy metal; simple and heavy. Sometimes my sound may take a random turn and I blame that on hearing Karlheinz Stockhausen as a teenager. Currently I have been really digging Darkthrone (especially "Blaze In The Northern Sky") and that German techno rock band called D.A.F. To me the spirit of black metal is very uplifting, when I heard Burzum at work the other week I started to laugh and then it got turned off.
TB: So tell us how the 7" came to be released - how did Quemada find you, or did you find them? Did the the fact that single did well initiate the writing of the LP, or were you planning that already?
Lynton: I guess the seven inch put out by Quemada is largely the fault of Pat and Michael from our sister band Mad Nanna. They hyped us up to Jon and he put out our record, easy peasey. Thanks Nannas! I was quite surprised by the enthusiasm generated from the first record, it came as a pleasant surprise to know that people find it a nice addition to a bit of weekend relaxation! All of the tracks on 'Fu Kung' except "Magic Wandella" were written before our 7" was released. We had a bit of a set going, I think perhaps a few tunes went by the wayside. If a song still feels somehow relevant I usually hang on to it as a performance piece but if the commitment or feeling isn't there then I tend to throw it out.
TB: Can you run down the songs on the LP for us briefly - i.e. when they were written, particular inspirations or anecdotes?
"Magic Wandella" - I wrote the words for this track when we were on tour with the Axemen, Mad Nanna, xNOBBQx and School Girl Report. We played a little country hall party in Wandella and Josh fended off some young jocks with our CDs kung fu style after they were messing with our piggy bank.
"Two Ugly Sisters" - I lived with a pop star from New Zealand when I first moved to Melbourne. She had a primadonna thing going and threw a couple of tantrums at me. I don't like what a few breadcrumbs of fame can do to an artist. The lyrics at the end are a reference to the Silver Scroll Awards held in NZ by the music industry. Dave came up with these words for me to use, I think the awards are a grandiose back rub for an ailing entertainment business.
"Micro Manager" - Power dyslexia is a social problem and can result in people becoming estranged in the workplace. I seem to have a habit of encountering bossy low wage bosses with either "punk rock" or "anarchist" tendencies. When I was working as a cook in a taco takeaway joint one of these characters said to me "I want to see your body move faster"! I thought this was very funny so I wrote this tune.
"Fruitshop Rat" - This is the sequel to "Rat Versus Boredom" and is about how the same character got me fired from work. I accidentally left a CDR with the aforementioned song in the fruitshop and he saw it, from then on I think he took a hard disliking to me and told the boss all sorts of things about how I wasn't doing my share of the chores.
"Regional Command" - This song is quite loose lyric wise and is an impressionistic look at military combat.
"Eviction" - Satiated to excess but still hungry, the rocker consumes himself to death.
"Neighbours" - I was living in a sharehouse in Elwood, Melbourne with my bandmate Tim. Next door an obese mother would argue incessantly with her son. The shouting and door slamming would literally go on for days and we thought that it could only end in mutual murder. I really don't understand how people can live such fucked up lives - it gave band practices a certain vibe knowing that so much hate was going down over the fence a couple of metres away.
"Cup Of Tea" - Take a break from stress, have a cuppa...
"The Legendary Pignose" - The Satanic Rockers fully endorse battery operated amplification. Easy on the ears, portable, nifty tone and a great soundsystem for spontaneous parties! The Pignose amp has it all! Josh came up with the thoughtful riff and Dave had the inspired idea of reading the blurb from the amp box....get liberated today!
TB: Please tell us about the inspiration for the cover art - it's quite striking, of course. Did you draw it?
Lynton: The cover was conceived and drawn by Tim Wood. When we made the "Xmas Fart Cracker" CDR covers from old pie packets he drew the original which I thought was genius! An erect penis in full terrorist mode kung fu-ing twin blocks of concrete! A bit like twin towers...I think it's about time an LP had a big dick on the cover and it seemed like a very fun packaging concept so I let this one roll.
TB: I'm really intrigued by the usage of the Pignose amplification - I guess it explains some of the sounds - how often are you using it on the songs? Where did you first come across one?
Lynton: Josh and I both played through Pignose amps whilst recording the 'Fu Kung' LP. I also put some of my vocals through one to get a good mid-tone. Tim plays his bass through a Roland mini cube amp which is also DC. Buskers have been clued up to the freedom of battery powered amplification for quite a long time. We wanted to bring that technology into the rock format. Through a PA these amps are quite dirty and fun but don't kill the ears (or back) like more conventional and much larger speakers. I loved the tone of the Pignose as soon as I plugged one in at the local pawnshop, it has quite surprising bass to mid frequency range which is where my ears like to sit. Also the ability to play anywhere is very liberating and it makes a great party sound system wherever and whenever you want to get serious...
TB: I wanted to ask about the artwork for your various CDRs - I really enjoy the military themed stuff, soldiers, planes, skeletons, nazis - where does that influence come from?
Lynton: Hmmm, the soldiers, skeletons and planes influence?! Well I guess that goes back a long way. When I was old enough to have a library card I would borrow a stack of World War II books from a converted green bus known as The Mobile Library. I was only about seven or eight and it would park on the side of the road every Tuesday after school. I remember feeling a bit shameful about it, as if it were a stash of porn mags! Looking at the drawings and photos really fascinated me and still does. The epic scale of human and technological combat during WW2 interests me, things got really out of hand! I see it as a series of opportunistic land grabs followed by brutal bureaucratic jurisdiction (I'm talking about the Nazis here!). The bad guys are far more interesting as their motives and justifications are quite complex compared to the Allies who, to put it very simply, were defending their homelands or colonial assets. I am devoutly pacifist despite my interests though and see violence as a total suspension of reason and communication.
TB: I always noticed you mentioned the Axeman on the insert to the 7" - are they "classic" NZ band you feel the closest bond to/inspired by? Any other bands from that time/place that really made an impact on you?
I got my hands on a copy of the Axemen's 'Three Virgins' LP and I was home! My friend Pat Faigan used to mention them to me as exponents of anarchic art punk so I was keen to hear them - and I wasn't disappointed! They seemed to have a sense of humour, hooks, heart and weren't afraid to fuck with their sound - perfect! When the Satanic Rockers got to play with them it was really nice because these guys are still true rocking and haven't lost their humour or heart - very inspiring! Their do-it-yourself spirit is the way forward as far as I'm concerned, read their Axemen Y2K blog for more history and sounds.
Two bands that really popped my ears out as a teenager were the mighty Gordons and the blazingly awesome Alpaca Brothers. I never got to see either of these bands live unfortunately but I saw the Gordons incarnate as Bailter Space perhaps four times when they were playing their first four albums. The sonic beauty of their early material still gets coiled in my cochlea! Alpaca Brothers were a dark sounding and loud band from Dunedin in the mid eighties. There's a certain sonic intensity not unlike the Gordons in their delivery, the songs seem to deal with subjective spaces and have a lot of beauty that feels aspirational but sincere. Have a look at their live clips on youtube for evidence!
Lynton: Growing up in Christchurch as a teenager in the Nineties I got to see some really good music as it seemed to be thriving during these years. When I started to play music and get slightly more social I would always talk to my older friends about music and they would fill me in on all this older stuff. I come from the more bogan side of town and I know this is quite sacrilegious, but I really didn't relate at all to the devoutley Velvet Underground influence of some of those old Nun bands (I have grown to really love the Pin Group though!) - I found it quite boring and too austere as a hyped up eighteen year old. Instead I would gravitate towards the shitty art metal of the Nineties-era Into The Void or the punk industrial damage pop of TMA-1. These two bands set the standard...
TB: What can you tell us about Sacred Product?
Lynton: Sacred Product is my solo recording project. I play everything including drums, bass, guitar, vocals, oscillator and bicycle bells. It is my multitrack method of writing songs. Most of my recording these days is focused on finished lyrical tunes that can be played live with Tim Wood (bass) and Jeremy Courbrough (drums). We call ourselves the Encounter Group, this is my main musical project at the moment. Albert's Basement was a catalyst in giving me the impetus to package my Sacred Product recordings into a tape cassette mini-album. All of the tunes were done between Christmas and early 2013 when I was mostly unemployed and had some lyrics floating around. Thanks Michael for putting this one out!
I recorded three more tracks during April 2013 to bring the tape up to album length and hope to have this released on vinyl soon.
TB: So does this mean the Satanic Rockers saga has come to an end? Why? What's on the horizon for you and/or the band then?
Lynton: Yes, the Satanic Rockers have almost finished. I plan to do an album release show in a couple of months to celebrate 'Fu Kung'. After that there will be no reunions. My current band The Encounter Group is where I'm at now so it would feel a bit retrospective to go back to the old sound - onwards and upwards! I felt with the Satanic Rockers I had worn out my creative interest in this format, everyone added a lot of colour to the sound which makes it all the more engaging but I was looking for a more punchy sound to occasionally throw off a hill. I wanted to bring the heaviness up a notch......Perhaps the Encounter Group will get on a plane and travel next year.
I plan on writing some new material for my new project and doing an album after we have done our run of gigging in the next month...no doubt there will be more songs about work and other slightly unpleasant daily encounters!
TB: I always have to ask this dumb question when I interview Aussie bands: So, I've been fascinated with Aussie punk since very early on in my music fandom, as there always seems to be something more primal or rugged or perhaps just non-bullshit to the punk music that comes from Australia. Someone once told me that's just a fantasy I have, being attracted to the exotic - bands are just bands wherever you go. What do you think as a native Australian? Is there something different about the music there to you, or something that American or Euro punk has that Aussie punk does/doesn't?
Lynton: Hmmm, I think it really comes down to particular taste. Aussies definitely have a good history of hard rockin' sounds and I think the geograhical isolation can work in one's favour in terms of creating a unique bend on music. Innovation usually happens when people lack resources or are pissed off with the way things are. When people have too many resources or are too comfortable there may be no impetus to create. There is a certain striving that comes from being an underdog. As far as romanticizing distant scenes and sounds I think that is bound to happen when things are encapsulated within the imagination of someone trying to piece things together from a distance...