(creator of Shadowsix and Dampman comics)
When I was last in contact with you, you were drumming for the thrash band Malakyte. You recently quit that band. What were the reasons you parted company with them?
There are many reasons why I left Malakyte, and I prefer not to disclose all of them publicly. One of the reasons I will say is that I left due to the new goals of Malakyte which I wasn't in a position to commit to due to obligations I had outside of the band. My split with them was amicable. We're all still friends and I keep in contact with Malakyte regularly, and they're continuing with a new drummer. After I left Malakyte I took a break from playing music altogether for almost six months. I'm now playing drums in two bands here in Brisbane: Elkenwood, which is a folk metal band and Dragonsmead, a comedic power metal band comprised of members from different Brisbane metal bands. Dalton Wilson, guitarist from Malakyte is also a member of Elkenwood.
Before you were drumming for Malakyte you published a zine called The Fallout which extensively covered extreme metal in your home country Australia. It’s been a long time since the zine was active but do you still have copies laying around?
I occasionally come across a copy whenever I'm packing up to move house, haha. That or I get occasional "look what I found" messages from people doing the same thing. A few weeks ago I got a message from a radio DJ who had a copy of the compilation CD-R I released with an earlier issue, saying they were going to play a few tracks for an Australian metal themed night.
How is radio generally treating underground music these days? Are there any internet radio stations based in Australia?
Triple J, the national radio broadcaster has a weekly programme called 'The Racket', which has been on the air since 1990. Since their most recent host Lochlan Watt took over, it's had a greater emphasis on Australian acts and newer bands from overseas, which has been instrumental to a lot of their successes.
Who are the bands from Australia and other countries usually featured on The Racket? Is it only on traditional radio or can it also be heard via the internet?
Quite a diverse variety. I couldn't tell you the exact bands but they like to keep things pretty fresh and current. On last week's show I heard tracks from the new King Parrot album, the latest songs from Hidden Intent, Destroyer 666 and Hacktivist, followed by a Babymetal track... so you get the idea. They also feature interviews with bands that are about to tour the country. Triple J can be streamed from its website, and they also keep recordings of the last show online for a week after its broadcast.
How are Destroyer 666 doing of late, along with the other bands you mentioned are being aired on The Racket?
Destroyer 666 have just released a new record, "Wildfire". Hidden Intent just recently did a tour of Asia with thrashers Artillery. King Parrot are always on the road. They are currently touring Europe with Soulfly and Incite. I shared the stage with them a number of times in Malakyte. Their live shows are an experience unto themselves.
What exactly happens at a King Parrot show that sets the band apart from all others in Australia?
Their moshpits are intense, with vocalist Youngy often surfing the crowd or jumping on a punter's shoulders while singing. The on-stage banter is pretty hilarious. I guess what sets them apart from other bands in Australia is that they're not trying to emulate the styles of bands from Europe or North America. The band has its own personality, and they use a lot of Aussie humour in their shows and promotional material. Because of that, the fans can relate to them. If you watch their music videos (which are more like funny short films unto themselves), you'll know what I mean.
Who are some of the bands being interviewed on The Racket and touring Australia these days?
The last broadcast I listened to had an interview with Clutch. It's been a pretty good time for bands visiting Australia lately. We recently had 1349 on our shores, with Eluveitie coming in May. Black Sabbath are also due to do some dates of their farewell tour here this year.
After I interviewed you as editor and publisher of The Fallout, did anyone say they learned more about Australian metal?
A few people from the time I released the zine have said so. Not so much these days. My zine was a lot of fun to do at the time, but I doubt it had much of an impact. There are more websites like Metal Obsession and glossy magazines like Heavy Mag which have raised greater awareness of Australian metal locally and to the world, and they're doing a great job. There was also recently a documentary called Metal Down Under which I recommend. I have a funny story, actually. Every issue of The Fallout had a retrospective article on an influential cult metal band. In the third issue of The Fallout back in 2007, I did an interview with the bassist Karl from 1980s Australian metal legends Nothing Sacred. Apparently the interview inspired him to get the band back together to do a few shows years later.
How would you describe the Metal Down Under documentary to someone you were recommending it to?
It's a pretty comprehensive look into the underground of Australia's metal scene. You learn a lot about the history of Australian metal from the early days until now, why our scene is largely underground in scale compared to the North American and European scenes. Most importantly, you learn about the many great bands we have here. It is available on DVD. It can also be viewed on iTunes.
What new bands have become active in Australia since we did our previous interview?
There has been a definite change of the guard since our last interview in 2009. There's been a greater emphasis on extreme metal and grindcore. A lot of the pioneering bands from the 1980s and 1990s that we talked about in our last interview have called it quits. Probably the most prominent act to come out of Australia at the moment is King Parrot who are doing exceptionally well, especially in North America. They're a band who've played their cards right. Australia's thrash metal scene is also alive and well, with bands like In Malice's Wake, Harlott, Hidden Intent, and Alkira absolutely slaying it.
Are the same clubs that were active in 2009 still around in 2016? Have any new clubs opened since then?
None of the venues that were active in Brisbane during 2009 are still going in 2016. I can't speak for the venues in other cities. In Brisbane we have had a lot of great new venues open since then, like the Crowbar in Fortitude Valley which has done incredibly well. The Triffid is a recent venue for more established bands, which was opened by a former member of the Brisbane band Powderfinger. However, in Brisbane we're about to get new lockout laws put in place, which will most definitely hurt a lot of the businesses in Brisbane's entertainment precincts.
What are these lockout laws you are referring to, and how will they affect the local clubs in Brisbane?
We already have lockout laws in place where clubs and venues in Brisbane can't let anyone back inside after 3am. The laws are about to be changed to no "high alcohol" drinks after midnight, last drinks at 2am, and the lockout hour being pushed forward to 1am. This will hurt so many small businesses in the state's entertainment precincts, especially music venues.
How will venues deal with the new lockout laws so they can continue doing business?
That's the million dollar question. The changes will cut into the hours after midnight, which is the time when a lot of pubs and clubs make the most of their earnings, and makes up for any losses for shows that don't pull enough punters. To answer your question, I don't know how the venues are going to deal with these new laws. Without venues, Brisbane's music scene - which has been likened to the music scene of Seattle by multiple musical journalists - stops.
Are more people in Australia reading webzines and checking out bands online or reading print zines and buying physical CDs?
Definitely the former over the latter. These days, more bands are releasing their recordings online through pay-what-you-want apps like Bandcamp, and why not. It's a cheaper, more efficient option, especially for bands of a DIY ethic. More bands who release physical copies of their recordings opt for the vinyl format over CD, also. CDs just end up getting ripped to your computer, after all.
The last time I was in contact with you, you showed me some comic art you were working on. How did you become interested in doing comics and what sort of storylines were you coming up with?
I used to draw comics a lot as a kid just to pass time. When I stopped doing The Fallout in 2011, I started drawing again and started developing ideas for a more "serious" comic story. Over the last year I've been working on my own comic book series called Shadowsix. I'm also working on a comedy comic strip called Dampman. Shadowsix is about a young man who appears to be traumatized by his past as a vigilante. It's inspired by a lot of darker-themed superhero comics, like Watchmen (Alan Moore), The Victories (Michael Avon Oeming), The Scribbler (Dan Schaffer) and Kick-Ass (Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.). Dampman is a bit lighter-hearted and would probably be enjoyed by fans of Deadpool or The Tick. The first issue of Shadowsix I'm aiming to release by May of this year. Each issue of Shadowsix will contain a Dampman strip.
Are there any comic artists you were inspired or partly inspired by?
If I were to pick just one, I'd say Dave Gibbons. I was inspired by his art in the video game Beneath A Steel Sky (the poor guy only seems to be recognized only for his work on Watchmen!). If anything, I'd say I'm more of a "technical" drawer compared to my inker Anne Morrison, who has more of an "organic" drawing style. My art in the Dampman series isn't inspired by any artist in particular. It more or less takes influence from the art stylings of 1990s Saturday morning cartoons. I wanted to capture that aesthetic for a funny comic.
What work by Dave Gibbons would you suggest the readers check out, in addition to Watchmen?
Dave Gibbons was artist of Mark Millar's The Secret Service, which was the basis of the movie "Kingsmen". He also worked on a lot of stuff for 2000AD in the 1970s and 1980s including early stories for the sci-fi comic Rogue Trooper.
I guess you would have to visit a comic outlet with a section for back issues to find Gibbons’ work from the 70s and 80s. I haven’t seen the movie Kingsmen yet; how closely does it fit Millar’s The Secret Service?
It's a loose adaptation, but it follows some aspects of the comic such as the story of a young protege training up to become a member of the British Secret Service. Definitely worth watching. It's a nice alternative to the regular comic book films from Marvel and DC.
Do you read many of the comics published by Marvel and DC? Which titles do you read most often?
I'm more into the discreet serials of comics. My favourite series from DC is "The Dark Knight Returns" by Frank Miller, as well as Watchmen and anything to do with the Rogues gallery of DC. I'm more into creator-owned limited series from Dark Horse and Image than the ongoing material from Marvel or DC.
How did you begin to develop Shadowsix and how far as the concept and execution come along?
I first developed the story of Shadowsix in 2014 as part of an assignment in a graphic design course I was taking. I decided to continue the story after I had completed the course. However, my first draft of the story was too long. Given the amount of work it takes to produce a comic: scripting, penciling, inking, and even colouring, the story would've taken too long to complete. I decided not to be too ambitious and scaled the story back to a much simpler and more effective one. It's better to release a complete story, even if it's a mediocre one, than give up on it and leave it without a conclusion. The first issue has been complete, with the first stage of the second issue also finished. There will be six issues in total.
How much did you trim the storyline of Shadowsix so it was easier to manage? Explain how it will unfold?
If I had gone along with the original storyline of Shadowsix it would've been an ongoing series, and would've focused less on the themes I was trying to write about. I've scaled it back to a discrete series and reduced the story to a much simpler one. I can't reveal too much of the storyline without giving too much away, but it begins with what I told you earlier, and will unfold to something more.
How much work have you done on Dampman? What storyline have you been working on for the series?
So far I've completed six stories, with many more to follow. While each of the strips have their own self-contained plots, they're all threaded together in the same continuity. The basic premise is that he's a superhero whose superpower is... being moist. However, when he explains this to people they collapse at the sound of the word "moist". He's not aware that this in itself is his *true* superpower. I was at a comic convention last year when I met Dave Gibbons and Joe Jusko (artist who has worked with Marvel), and I showed them both some of the Dampman stories. Joe flipped through the book and said "Looks good, but I can't read it right now. What's the premise?" I explained it to him. Joe's wife who was with him at the convention started laughing, snatched the book out of his hand and said "I hate that word! Let *me* read it!!" She was in stitches reading the stories, enough to convince Joe to have a proper read!
What did Jusko think of Dampman after he took the time to read it? Was there an indication that he would help support it?
Just a lot of encouraging words and some helpful hints on my art style. Pointers on how to improve character anatomies, and whatnot. Joe Jusko is quite well-known for his near-realistic style of drawing, so it was cool to hear some of his advice.
At what comic convention did you run into Gibbons and Jusko? What else went on at the show?
In Australia we have a pop culture convention called Supanova, which encompasses Film & TV and gamer culture as well as comics. There was also a clinic Gibbons and Jusko hosted with Australian artist Tom Taylor about comics in the movie industry. Tom Taylor's "The Deep" comic also recently got adapted into an animated TV series, and had its première screening at the convention.
How often are comic conventions held in your local area? Do you travel to other parts of the country to attend conventions?
Supanova is held twice a year in my area - once in the Gold Coast in autumn and once in Brisbane just before summer. We also have Oz-ComicCon which is held around spring. Some of the locals often travel to the Supanova dates in other cities.
When did you hook up with the bands Elkenwood and Dragonsmead after parting company with Malakyte? Did you help start these bands or join them after they began?
Gareth Graham and Nicola Williams (the songwriters of Elkenwood) had been jamming together for over a year before they decided to make Elkenwood a full band. It started off with Gareth, Nicola, and bassist Callan Musgrave and I jamming some Agalloch covers before we started writing originals. Gareth has been a good friend of mine for a number of years and I was happy to help him as a favour while I was still in Malakyte. After I left Malakyte I was intending to hang up my drumsticks permanently... and that only lasted four months! Playing music is like an addiction... you just can't shake it off! I asked Gareth if I could join Elkenwood in a permanent position and he said yes. After a number of line-up changes, we have a full line-up in Elkenwood of about six people. Elkenwood's first single, "Uncreation" was recorded during the time I was out of the band, and features session drums from Overkill/Invictus13 drummer Sid Falck. Dragonsmead was started by Mousey Whitburn, who I used to perform with years ago in a Dethklok cover band, KlokBlok. It is comprised of members from various Brisbane metal bands: Before Nightfall, Karulean and Born From The Ashes, as well as three members of Elkenwood (Gareth, Amanda Terry and I)! It's all a bit of fun, and sort of a comedic love letter to medieval-style power metal bands. We recently played the LagerFest in Brisbane, with pirate metal legends Lagerstein.
What happened to KlokBlok since you were their drummer? Did they disband before Dragonsmead formed or are they still active?
KlokBlok disbanded sometime in 2011. Dragonsmead didn't form until about late 2015. Mousey, Ian and I from the first KlokBlok line-up are currently in Dragonsmead. Mousey is also a gig promoter in Brisbane. The members from the second line-up are still active - Josh is frontman of a death metal band called Dungeons Of Blood. Nick plays for doomsters Lizzard Wizzard (another band I recommend), and Nev does sound at a venue in Brisbane. I haven't seen or heard from Nick Cummins, the bassist from both incarnations of the band lately, so I don't know what he's up to.
Are you still in touch with the members of Brutal Ballet? I remember you were involved in a few collaborations with them. What have they been doing these days?
I haven't been in contact with them for a while. Yeah, KlokBlok were the backing band for their DethBallet shows in 2009. That was a learning experience. The last I heard about Brutal Ballet was that they moved to the UK.
How much material have you recorded with those two bands since you became their drummer? Is anything available from them? If so, is it being streamed anywhere or do people have to order it directly?
Elkenwood released their single "Uncreation" digitally during Solstice of 2015, and we're currently writing and recording music for an EP with a tentative Winter release. Dragonsmead should have some recordings out later this year also.
What press feedback has Elkenwood gotten for the Uncreation single since its release?
Mainly positive fan feedback, and we got invited to play at a folk festival in New South Wales in May. No press feedback as of yet. Care to review?
How do you balance Elkenwood and Dragonsmead whereas you were previously putting your energy into one band? How do practicing and recording sessions usually go with these bands? Do they have their own studios where they practice?
Dragonsmead doesn't perform too often as all the members have their own commitments, and one of our lead guitarists Michael Varlet lives in Melbourne. Dragonsmead and Elkenwood rehearse at a practice space in the inner-city suburbs of Brisbane, which is convenient for all the members.
When you were in Malakyte you filmed some promotional videos and posted tour diaries on Youtube. Do Elkenwood and Dragonsmead plan similar developments once becoming more active?
For Elkenwood, probably not. For Dragonsmead, probably. The band is still in its early days so we shall see.
How often is LagerFest held in Brisbane? How many bands are usually booked to appear at these fests?
LagerFest is a festival run once a year. It was held this year at Brisbane venue The Triffid with the release of Lagerstein's latest album "All for Rum, and Rum for All", co-headlined with US 8-bit composer Rainbowdragoneyes. The festival has seen some varied line-ups, from punk, power metal, death metal, to industrial, as well as similarly-themed folk and pirate metal bands. I forgot to mention Lagerstein in my recommendations earlier, but if you or your readers are ever looking for some decent pirate-themed metal, I recommend them!
What is pirate metal and in what ways does Lagerstein personify that genre? Are there other pirate metal bands you know of that you would recommend?
Pirate metal is exactly what you think it is! I guess it's derivative of power metal and folk metal, but with a pirate theme to it. Lagerstein personify that genre in their stage personae and attire, their song themes, and some other cool stunts they do. Before they released their latest album, Lagerstein buried some treasure in an undisclosed location. The CD sleeve contained a treasure map as well as clues to find the treasure in the lyrics. The only other pirate metal bands I'm familiar with are Alestorm from Scotland, whom Lagerstein have done tours with, and Swashbuckle from US.
Do you eventually want Elkenwood and Dragonsmead to perform outside Australia in the years to come? Where would you want those bands to perform first?
In Elkenwood we're trying to gain as much of a following as possible and get more recordings released before we set our sights on any overseas shows. Same goes for Dragonsmead, since it's kind of a side-project supergroup for most of the members. I know for a fact that Gareth, Nic and Mel from Elkenwood would love to play some shows in Scandinavia somewhere, haha. I would love to perform with Elkenwood or Dragonsmead outside Australia sometime, but we still have a long way to go.