Tropical Fuck Storm isn't just a whacked out name- it's a whacked out band. Formed by Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin after taking a hiatus from the art-punk psych band The Drones, the Australian band takes hard edged punk and adds an experimental electronic edge. Their newest album, A Laughing Death in Meatspace is their trippiest and meanest release to date, with songs about CIA secret opps, slashing people's tires, and multiple songs that feel like bad acid trips.
That's out next Friday, so Punknews' John Gentile spoke to Liddiard about the new LP, being mean on the Internet, and Men at Work.
“You let my tyres down” references CCTV. Have we, as a society, accepted an overall invasion of privacy as a norm that would have horrified people in the ‘70s? If so, what can we do about it? We’ve just accepted it. I can’t see how it can change back now. What to do? Do what Winston does in 1984 and try to look content.
Between the album’s title, the cover, and “Walking in the valley of death” on the song “The Future of History,” we see a recurring theme of death throughout the album. Is death something you often contemplate? I had a fair bit of it in my life in my early 20’s I guess. My girlfriend and my mum died and I went from not ever thinking about death to kinda hoping it would happen to me most of the time. I thought about it a lot more than most people in their 20’s. I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in life after death so life itself struck me as this wild paradox. You live then you die and then you’ll never know you existed so why not go crazy and do whatever you want? Or just do anything for that matter? Who cares because subjectively, none of this ever happened anyway.
Think about your experiences in the year 12,749,487 BC- that is the same experience the future has in store for you. An absence of everything including any memory of having lived. Think about Jeffery Dalmer or Hitler and what they did. Who cares? They don’t. And in 125 years no one on the planet will either because they won’t exist and will never have existed except to a bunch of people standing on the precipice of the same fate. So why not run down the middle of the street naked or go and marry a chimp in the jungle or even hijack a plane and see if you can land it on your house. Who cares? You never existed anyway.
But on the flip side, that's all totally bullshit.
Gareth, you’ve faced death from several sides. Your cousin was stabbed almost to death for being a drug dealer. Another cousin of yours was almost killed by fascists for prosecuting Pinochet. How has this shaped you? My cousin actually survived that stabbing. He’s a big bastard. How has all that affected me? It’s given me perspective I guess. I recently wrote down all the extreme shit that has happened to me and it seemed like the plot to a really interesting book. But the thing is, it didn’t feel like that when it all happened. It felt pretty normal. Normal life isn’t as boring as it feels. It’s like the six degrees of separation thing. I can get to Churchill in three and Stalin in four and that’s not unusual. Life is crazy.
That being said, what’s your take on drugs and drug dealers? I get the feeling that drug dealing is a great way to make friends and meet people. Drugs? Yeah I like drugs, though I'm not that dedicated to them. I took DMT for the first time after a funeral recently. You’d think that’d make the trip a bummer but DMT doesn’t care how you feel any more than combat or anesthesia cares. You can do it any old time. It’s a very convenient drug. And mind-bogglingly strong.
Likewise, What’s your take on lawyers? Timeless troublemakers, necessary evils, noble protector of the law of man, or something else? It depends who’s side they're on I guess. I don’t blanket hate on any particular group of people. The only way to deal with people is one on one. If you look at people en mass in their respective clumps they tend to look like a pack of cunts. One on one they’re mostly pretty cool. I generally like everyone I meet, but I also wanna kill us all.
What I really like about you all is how you merge certain electronic elements with rock instrumentation. The buzz sound effect on “Antimatter animal” is killer and reminds me of Bauhaus. That being said, considering that you are bending rock into a new form, is the standard rock format – guitars, bass, drums, 2:30 songs- in its twilight years? I think so. It’s like jazz I guess. By the 1980s most jazz was kind of crap. It was either horribly '80s or pointlessly retro, which is the antithesis of jazz. There were exceptions though. James Blood Ulmer and shit like that. I think rock n roll has almost reached that point in its own way. Though there are still a few roads to go down and explore. Plus there’s lots of good electro stuff now like Blevin Blectum, Makaya McCraven, NHKyx and people like that so pop music isn’t over yet.
I’m going off on a tangent here but I bummed a smoke of a guy on a park bench out front of a hotel in Austin years back and we got talking and he was really nice and quite funny. He asked what I did then I asked what he did and he said “l’m a singer” and I said “what band?” and he said “Bauhaus”.
“Shellfish Toxin” is a great song. I love the atmospherics. Is bad seafood something you’ve had problems with in the past? Yeah for sure. It’s a crazy feeling shoving a dirty prawn in your gob and having your body go full rogue ejector seat in front of everyone at the table. But that tune is actually named after the CIA program called MK-Naomi which had something to do with spiking people with shellfish toxin to make them feel like shit. God knows what for. I’m digging how it’s OK to be a leftie and into the CIA now. I’ve always been a history nerd.
On your album, you address Internet shaming. Yet, my president is the king of Internet shaming! Is he the symptom of a morally bankrupt society, or is he a pill poisoning decent society? He is. He’s a massive fuckwit internet shamer. I’d say he’s both symptom and illness. And everyone on the internet should be ashamed by the way. Here is my take. Keep in mind I am a life long left winger and an atheist but I don’t look down on anyone and I’m cool with people being religious same way as I’m cool with zebras having stripes. I’m also down with Bernie Sanders. OK….
The advent of reality TV desensitized most people to mediocre assholes. The internet has infantilized everyone and now the web resembles a massive bedroom full of spoilt teenagers screaming at each other over Emo music. Plus its just a massive pile of bullshit that has eroded whatever critical thinking faculties the human race used to have. No one likes experts anymore, whether they’re climate scientists or just elders with more life experience because experts seem to insult our perceived individuality or are seen as bullies who violate our First World right to live in a “my truth” day-dream that’s comfortably out of touch with reality. Then there’s the whole polarisation effect the net has. The far Left and the far Right are the same thing. Two poles of the same magnet repulsing one another into existence.
Ever notice how Nazism and Communism were born at the same time? It wasn’t a coincidence. The far Left are as responsible for Trump’s election win as the people who voted for him because the far Left alienated those voters (but the Left blames Russia even though Russia only interfered to make you all hate one another and start Civil War Two, not to secure a win for either the Republicans or the Democrats. That would be too hard to do). You can’t say this in public but the reality is a leftie won’t ever become a righty after being called a snowflake libtard by an American Sniper fan. And no Republican is gonna vote Democrat after being called a bigot by a moralising snob who looks down on working class people with a disdain that echoes Trump’s view of Mexicans.
For 99.9% of its existence, the Left has represented the working classes for fuck sake! Not any more though. The Left are the conservatives now. Both sides use a fundamental truth as a launchpad for their bullshit. If you tell a right winger that there should be no Mexican Wall they’ll say “oh so we should just tear up our passports and erase all the borders in the world?”. If you tell a left winger that Free Speech should actually be free they say “oh so we should all just unleash our inner Nazi’s and lynch one another?”. On the surface, both of those arguments seem valid but if you actually use your brain for a minute you realize its just spurious bullshit used to mask all sorts of ulterior motives that have fuck all to do with justice or fairness or law and order. And in the end, its justice and fairness and law and order that suffer.
I feel sorry for Bernie. His side of politics seems to be his worst enemy. While he’s trying to use the old-fashioned art of persuasion, most other people on the Left have taken to moral superiority which is totally counterproductive…. Yet strangely enjoyable. The far Left love moral superiority not because it’s right but because it's awesome fun.
The far Right love military grade weapons not because they need them to defend Freedom but because they are awesome fun. If you put the guns and moralising together you get Dirty Harry. Ultimately it’s all the same shit. But you’re not allowed to say that in public. BUT… In the end, you gotta look on the bright side. Trump isn’t Pence. Pence is a much worse fate. A third-rate Liberal Democratic Capitalist system beats a Margaret Atwoodian Religious Theocracy any day.
Whew! Let me try to lighten the mood! I love Men at Work and think they are as deep and clever as pretty much any band you can name – “It’s a mistake” as a shining example. Yet, in the states, Men at Work are often thought of as “one hit wonders.” What is the perception of the average Australian of this fantastic band? Yeah, they were really good. I think most Australians have a similar view to most Americans though. A One Hit thing. I’m not 100% but I think Men At Work are no longer around although Colin Hay still makes music. A few years back this crazy thing happened where my old drummer’s girlfriend was on TV and she innocently pointed out the similarities between a passage in “Land Down Under” played by their flautist and an old Australian kids song called “Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree”. The flautist had kinda dropped a bit of “Kookaburra” into “Land Down Under”. I don’t think he meant to, maybe he did. If it was deliberate it was was a totally legit and clever use of cultural reference.
Unfortunately, the publisher of the Kookaburra song was watching TV and decided to sue Men At Work for royalties from “Land Down Under” which was a fucking massive worldwide hit as you know. He won and the band took an enormous financial blow. But sadly the flautist was a depressive and the whole episode hit him so hard he killed himself. It’s really fucked up and sad. That publisher is a massive prick. He is part what Hunter S. Thompson is talking about when he said “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.”
So much for lightening the mood! Any other comments? Haha! No way. I’ve thoroughly overstayed my welcome. Thanks.