Along with Skot Schtikla who was Bumscuzz in the Australian group Vocabularinist, there was also Listermint, Fast Craig, The Farnz, Feelbo and Dodger…heck there may have may been more on other albums. Frankie Death and The Photon Belt were a related and friendly project. It is hard to overstate the bizarre nature of Vocab’s music. From the almost unpronounceable “hasznasznisznasz” release to the one below, this was some unique wacked home recorded material. However, the underlying spirit was always one of fun not oppression, kooky experimentation instead of pretension.
I think i grew up in one of those last eras where having a tape deck as your main source of music was pretty normal (i turned 5 in 1980), turntables were around but as a kid i wasn’t allowed near them, but the tape player recorder (and with radio) was my main means of hearing and recording sound.
I may have made earlier recordings but i know at around 8-9 my friend Nicky and i would record our own introductions over the silent bit of tape between songs (i believe we said things like ‘and here’s deep purple with FIREBALL!)
It was also at around this age that i discovered how much i liked the sound when
the tape got chewed up (and also how it seemed to make everyone go crazy shouting, getting upset that the tape was stuffed) and the awesome feeling hearing the sound warp out to a slow stop .i guess i’d also found this in turntables used on different speeds, most of the ones i had around me growing up had the 16, 33, 45 and 78 speed options and also records suddenly being turned off in the middle of playing i found a similar attractive sound,that bizarre grinding to a halt.
So many times through my childhood and teenage years i would make various recordings and mixed tapes for my own amusement but never saw it as anything but being silly and having a laugh i certainly never intentionally did anything thinking i would show it to anyone or in any way compare it to released music i had heard up to that point.
I think one of the first things i would have heard that i recognized as ‘home recordings or sound collages’ or whatever that stood out from ‘normal’ music were the in-between snippets that are on the Zappa/Mothers ‘we’re only in it for the money’ album i mean obviously some of the tracks have serious musical ability to them as well but there was something in the messing around,talking and whatnot on there that excited me and made me first think ‘i can do stuff like that’ Compared to most of the polished 80 pop that was around at the time to hear that old Zappa at that point was a real ear opener to me ( i liked the songs, but it was the in-between stuff that really grabbed me)
i was active in sorta punk styled bands as a teenager also in which we taped ourselves a bit(we covered Louie Louie thinking it was wrote by Black Flag!) We had just heard of 4 track recorders at that point but no one could afford one. We used to record ‘in order’ of volume ie: drums furthest away, then next guitar (because it had an amp), then singing/yelling without a mic and lastly, closest to the tape deck would be the bass guitar as we had no amp for it(!) and we eventually would do ok at getting the recording so you could hear everything. This method i would say i was then involved in most for the next few years as we would still try to play conventional ‘songs’ but we just recorded them really shitty lo-fi but to us it sounded great, especially for free.
anyway forward a few years and i still didn’t really play any particular instrument that well and had just found myself screaming in a few bands of other peoples music. It was a lot of good ‘muso’ guitar shop types that i was surrounded by that were always very snobby about who could play what and when that led me and a few mates to begin just treating music as more a fun thing and a bit of a joke in the face of this seriousness.We would generally get drunk and start just recording any old shit onto a tape deck, us chattering, surfing the radio, finding the weird noises in-between the channels, bad singalong acoustic guitar and
bongo jams and also shitty little toy keyboards with bad pre-programmed beats…..
we’d sort of get drunk and record all this stuff in a frenzy and then listen back and just kinda laugh/shake our heads………there were many many of sessions done with no real intent, we just had no interest in learning Metallica covers like our mates but we wanted to make some kind of loud sound anyway……..these things may have never got beyond being heard if our mate Fil and his dad Joe did not open their own record store.
(mainly alternative, metal, experimental) knowing that Joe was very open minded and liked all kinds of music and wacky creative stuff (he had grown up in communist Czech around the time plastic people of the universe were in their prime and was a outlaw musician himself) i asked him ‘if i called the tape ‘what do you expect for $2’ could i sell it in your shop?’ because i figured then if people thought what a piece of shit upon hearing it, the title was already a disclaimer! even though the recordings were rubbish and i had no idea that there were actually makers and listeners of straight out noise and home made cassette recordings, really way out experimental stuff all over the world, i still had some bizarre notion that it was worth sharing……i guess the most far out stuff i had experienced at that stage would have been things like Butthole Surfers, early 4 track Beck, Ween….but still blissfully unaware that there were things even more bizarre, non musical, unique to be found……we of course like many people i’m sure thought our tape and style was a one off how wrong we were, we continued making these collage styled cassette of all kinds of sounds thrown together for the next few years, pretty much just giving them out to a small amount of friends that had had enough acid to appreciate it…..and just really for ourselves to have fun and satisfy ourselves sound wise what we weren’t finding as fans…….there seemed to be a point suddenly after moving into the city (Sydney) that people who liked these tapes and other people who made their own were popping up everywhere. there were shops that actually encouraged us to make copies and they would stock them (and they sold!) one of the first people in this period we met who made his own solo tapes was Frankie Death who was doing some small gigs in Sydney and we bought a cassette off him after his show.his show was acoustic (like john frusciante meets nick drake) but the cassette he sold us was by his ‘band’ the photon belt and it was an amazing and consistent sort of spaced out collage of ambiance , electronics and dirges…..and from that we met Ernie O who at the time as well as being a member of the photon belt was doing subvert fanzine, which put us in contact with other home tapers and also provided us with the first place to advertise our
tapes and talk about why the hell we did it.
i know in these years i was really fond of just loading my pockets up with tapes and going out and handing them out to anyone that would take one on the street and i also used to purposely leave them in places, like toilets…….i had at least one response from a person saying ‘hey i found your noise cassette in this pub toilet’ i used to really enjoy the idea of springing it on the unsuspecting!
anyway through, frank and ernie we met the stinking badger of java who were a prolific Melbourne band and were probably the 1st band with serious musical ability whom i met that had an appreciation for experimental stuff and the home taping DIY ethic. they not only did their own more improvised stuff on the side from the main band, all of them constantly exploring different genres and equipment, but they got involved with us a few times and did recordings together that were fun bizarre clashes of style and sound. another from this period whom i was introduced to was Macca, who did Taped Crusaders fanzinei had a mate in Sydney Con who had done a mainly punk hardcore zine for years calledBar Code The World and he was also open to reviewing our noise stuff. he also reviewed other zines and had suggested that Taped Crusaders was the one for us, and it was!from macca i got so many of his tapes and projects as trades and also trades from other acts that were in his zine, i don’t think i’ve made contact with so many people so easily when it came to home tapers, experimental musicians as when i got onto taped crusaders. got so many tapes and so many different sounds and ideas but also the way macca would describe the music i didnt think id even thought about it before so much on this level as the way he described things, it made me see it as something more i guess and i really felt a sense of belonging about the whole T.C thing despite never having met anyone in person, just the sharing of tape and thought on the subject was awesome and led and inspired me in many other directions as a player and a fan. im pretty sure it’s through taped crusader i started trading with Leigh Julian and his Smell the Stench tape only label and he also generously released both a band and solo tape of mine done exclusively for his label, i think the only ones we didn’t release ourselves. we also became aware of lucas abela doing live shows around sydney (he runs the Dual Ploverlabel in sydney and currently performs as Justice Yeldham, blowing glass like a noise sax) his shows would only usually lasts 5 minutes but would always leave a big impression.a stylus glove with multiple needles on each hand that could play different parts of a record simultaneously. a spring chest expander with a pick up in it with distortion, played by pinning it down with his foot, using one hand to strum and one to stretch it up and down, like bowing pitch bending strings, and of course with a drummer playing blast beats behind it! his style of noise was extremely LOUD, short sharp and fast and always very physical. so many experimental acts like ourselves had just hidden in bedroom or taken a ‘we don’t care if the audience is there or not’ approach but lucas made it exciting to watch as well as hear, he always seems like a chilled thoughtful nice guy until he performed and then and savage loon would emerge he always threw himself into performances. His label ran at the time with Swerve of Spazzmodics and numerous other experimental, demented disco and god knows what acts, Dual Plover was the biggest champion of all this kind of creative underworld, from releasing bands on their label, to promoting and help distribute others, like ourselves to putting on amazing nights of sound and music in the face of an ever increasing conservative sydney (around this time many many rock pub venues were closing from noise complaints) they always had a never say die attitude and eventually founded probably the best longest running performance space sydney had ever seen that catered for anything and everything, Lan Franchi’s Memorial Discoteque. Again we attended their shows, traded our music for theirs and were just generally inspired and stoked at what they were doing! another mob who we had heaps of trading with was a whole bunch of people in hobart Tasmania whom we met as a result of Jamie, who was from hobart , living in sydney and now playing with us (we had as well as the outright tape buggery band, the same band playing actual live shows doing a combo of the tape, noise weirdness and i guess something like a butthole surfers, alice donut inspired rock thing!) and when various tasmanians he knew in bands would tour sydney we would meet them through him, generally invite them over to jam, load them up with tapes and they seemed to be heaps into it and all would say they have multiple bands and recordings themselves aside from the bands they were touring with…..they weren’t kidding, i met tons of tasmanians this way and traded cassettes with them (they used to do zines and have tapes glued to them a lot) and discovered a couple of great little DIY labels unstable ape and consumer productions, both specializing in noise, tapes, experimental but also more conventional bands with a harder edge and punk ethos like Sea Scouts. We ended up touring hobart a few times playing both crazy rock and experimental noise shows and especially live down there they were much more receptive to it then sydney was, mainly at home , having house gigs or just sharing the cassettes was the norm, but in hobart, we could trade tapes, play shows, share the stage with acts even more demented than ours and generally just do our thing and pretend the whole music industry didn’t exist!
i also want to mention a couple of other major things that influenced me along the way.one was the ‘i wank hard’ prank….it went on for years, ads in street press, little write ups in the personal column of the music press, stickers everywhere that said ‘i wank hard’ no one really knew what it was or why but it went on and on and nothing emerged…..finally a after years of bizarre media printed riddles that always had ‘ i wank hard’ in there somewhere, a c.d emerged! plain black n white cover that just said i wank hard, plain back that said the same thing, swame on the spine and then when you open the booklet, 2 pages filled with:
and of course that’s exactly what was on the cd, 69 minutes of constantly building up laughter and that’s it……….something about that whole thing just made me think ‘yep we
can do whatever we want, music is what ever we say it is’ i enjoyed that, although i think most people that bought one were pissed! and the other was discovering receptive people overseas, which seemed absurd considering only a few years ago we didn’t imagine anyone in our own country would take it the slightest bit seriously! i believe it was the Stinking Badger crew who had made more overseas contacts and put us in touch with the likes of mick magic, don campau and jerry kranitz, all of whom ran radio and websites and labels totally dedicated to all the amazing music and sound outside the industry . They reviewed our stuff with a knowledge and insight to the whole experimental and music world and history in general that made comparisons to bands we had not heard of or had vaguely heard of but never thought it was something worth exploring. seeing other thoughts and perspectives like this on stuff youv’e created yourself really has a great influence on what you may do in the future, helps you grow and expand to be reviewed well by people who you feel a connection with through their words…….