Thursday, November 03, 2011

Catching up with DX & Total Control

Mikey, poolside. 2011.

Let me be clear: the jury in my head is still out on Total Control. The Melbourne-based act issues records that fuse guitar & electronic music in a way that is definitely interesting & worthy of consideration. It sounds to these ears like some sort of re-working & reassembly of sounds I remember from 80s radio during trips to the orthodontist & home from Little League practice. I'm thinking of VH1 heavyweights such as the Eurythmics & the Georgia Satellites. Indebted to Flock of Seagulls, for all I know. Perhaps it's better described as New Wave. It's a feel-good type of sound, all right. And I simply haven't got an ear for it. This is how it sounds on record, mind you. It's the sound of mechanized pelvic exercises. On stage, however, Total Control, as I recall, is a different beast altogether & I'll be a face in the crowd at each & every area gig from now until the sun engulfs as all. They're furious & loud up there, even if there was a tambourine & keyboard.Last time through town, they dragged about a dozen weirdos onstage. Actual weirdos. Not just a bunch of normals acting at being weird. Guitar weirdo is a humble baby-faced fellow named Mikey and he's famous for his handsome smile & sunny disposition & for playing guitar in the Eddy Current Suppression Ring. On vox, a true weirdo-Internationale called DX. He also fronts a raging HC act called Straightjacket Nation & he's one of the great Aussie thinkers, as evidenced by Distort Magazine, the recognized bible of Cult Hardcore. Last time I saw him, he looked like a member of B'last, right down to the long hair and the Uniform Choice t-shirt. The other weirdos, I couldn't tell ya too much about. They all spoke a strange version of the English language & they all had their faces stuck in a jar of Marmite.

DX was patient enough to answer some questions.

So you've been on this soil a number of times, and you've probably traveled in the US more than most Americans. What the hell for?
I grew up ricocheting from one corner of Australia to another. I saw a lot of that country. I also found American hardcore at the right age, in particular the Midwest glories, which was a sophisticated and subtle imperialism as all that shit made me want to revel in the rewards of hard work (ie. spend money) and then the rewards of being a consumer (ie. Debt) by traveling your country at every opportunity.
 I'm driving thru AZ now and I prob see this joint much like any foreigner swollen with romantic frontier notions from film (it looks like a leone film at one point, then that scene in north by northwest with the crop duster next minute).

Why drag yourself on stage and perform your songs every night for a month or two? Can it be more rewarding with each consecutive night?
You spent most of the year working and reading and thinking and making songs. A couple months on the road is good to ensure you don't become entirely introverted and useless as a writer or as a worker. It's the work side of making music. As you'd probably be aware there is no cumulative glory, it ebbs and it flows, but there is a reward in moments like my ole bud R Charles taking a couple minutes outta the day to sincerely and formally interrogate my intentions.

This past summer, about a hundred bands from your native Australia flew over and criss-crossed the US. Is that the dream of every young Aussie Rocker? To clog our highways and soak up our entertainment dollars?
I'm certainly curious how you people have received the spate of antipodean traveling bands. I guess many people want to see an empire declining, some people want to exploit a second world economy for cheap records and drugs, some people want to take advantage of the fact that the Internet age has somehow imbued Australian music with a tinge of legitimacy and maybe a pretty Midwest farmers daughter'll really make em feel alright and some people want to tour somewhere where the drives are less than 12 hours between cities and you can speed on the highways easier and the tour can last longer than a week. Some sickos really just wanna tour, sir, can ya believe that?

There was probably a time when Australian punk rock-influenced music was distinct from what was coming out of America (and other places). You're a world-traveler, a guy with an insatiable appetite for music. Is there any distinction any more? Or are we just sitting in a big melted pot of tunes?
I could generalize that American bands are generally more theatrical and euro bands less song orientated and Southeast Asian punks bands more about the collective experience but thatd probably be more about looking for exceptions to the melting pot rule that I guess Brit nerd Simon Reynolds characterized as post Internet retromania.

I understand you're a heavy reader of Terry Southern. Want to tell me why I should spend some time on him? I only know he was involved in Easy Rider and I just read a piece of his involving a visit to a baton twirling competition in Mississippi.
My buddy Brace turned me onto Southern the day I flew into San Francisco and the first line of Red Dirt Marijuana had me hooked. The same drug addled hyper macho hunter dealt with, but less obviously swinging from Hemingway's ball sack and much funnier. My favorite writer right now is Joan Didion. She is brilliant, her smarts are intimidating and she can throw a word hard. Southern ain't in her league, but he can definitely play. His short stories are strong: check out the blood of the wig and heavy put away for sleaze laughs and Red Dirt Marijuana has something on Carver. The second day I was in sf I picked up about 20 books, I'm really looking forward to reading on this tour as the last few months I haven't had much chance. Happy to talk books with ya in Philly.

Catch TOTAL CONTROL live & in concert somewhere in the USA or in the EU at ATP, especially Monday November 14 at the Little Bar in Philadelphia w/ WATERY LOVE.

 The Hammer by Total Control

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