Jessica Thornsby spoke to Michael Richards, drummer for Violent Soho.
For those unfamiliar with Violent Soho, how would you describe your sound?
Pretty heavy, pretty loud. It's great music to listen to when you're high, but is also really poppy. We like to call it stoner pop.
How did the band come together?
We all went to school together and sort of grew up in the same community. When we were in high school we used to jam around a bit. After we graduated we decided start a band, and it's basically gone on from there.
You're about to release 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend' as a single. What's the story behind the song?
I didn't write it, though the story goes that Luke B (singer) was engaged to be married to a girl who was a pretty serious Christian. Religious choice ended up being what broke up their relationship. As Luke would put it, she wanted to go to church more and he wanted to go to church less, so in a way, Jesus stole his girlfriend.
One of the videos for 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend' was filmed outside of the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Can you tell us how this played out? Is it true you caught the security guards on a break, and took the opportunity to treat passersby to an impromptu Violent Soho performance?
Basically, yeah. We wanted to film right in front of the Chinese Theatre, but after sussing it out, we figured there was no way we would get away with it and so decided to do it around the side of the theatre as we needed a full three minute window in order to get the entire thing done. Just as we were approaching we noticed that the security guards weren't there. They must have gone off for donuts or something. We pulled up in our van, set up our gear and just bashed out the song to the unsuspecting people walking by. We then destroyed the gear, hopped in our vans and drove off. It was crazy fun. A friend of ours, who set up the whole thing arranged for a few people to film it amongst the crowd. He also paid some of the people who dress up as super heroes in the area to sort of try and interrupt our performance. It all ended up being pretty chaotic and I copped a massive blow to the back of my head while we were destroying some of the gear, but man, that was fun.
I read that you have a tour mascot, a Mexican sausage called Tijuana Mama. Can you tell us about Tijuana Mama, and is he still touring with you?
Haha! We actually said thanks to our little mascot in the liner notes of our album. We have been touring the US for around ten months now and one thing you notice in this crazy nation is that people love to eat these processed meats. Most service stations are filled with entire processed meats sections. It's all mostly just different types of jerky and things. One thing we found was this spicy preserved sausage called a Tijuana Mama. It looked pretty damned disgusting. It's definitely not the type of thing that you would want floating around your intestines. Anyway, one of us bought one and drew a little face on it and we decided that we were going to take it around with us on every tour from then on. It lasted about six months in our van, but after a while we sort of noticed that it wasn't doing too well and was beginning to smell bad so we threw Tijuana Mama in the bin.
But the memory will live on.
Can you tell us a bit about 'In a Van: Violent Soho Photographic Exhibition'?
Our friend, Brad Marsellos, is a really great photographer. A couple of years ago we were doing a quick tour along the east coast of Australia and he asked if he could tag along in our van and take some photos. He came along and took loads of great shots and told us he wanted to use the pictures in an exhibition. Two years later he put together what became 'In a Van.' Just a collection of photos that he chose from that week's trip he did. The exhibition premiered just last Friday night, actually. It was a real trip down memory lane to see the pictures all on a wall in this gallery. It's a spin out to think how much more travelling we've done since.
How did you come to be signed with Ecstatic Peace Records? I understand label owner Thurston Moore, is something of a hero for the band?
Absolutely. Sonic Youth are one of my favourite bands of all time. It was a very surreal experience to meet Thurston and to have him ask us if he could put out our record. I remember when we went to meet him at this restaurant in NY. I was just totally spun out and couldn't believe it. I listened to 'Daydream Nation' on my iPod as we were walking to the restaurant from our hotel. The next minute I was sitting across from Thurston Moore, eating some trout and talking about Australian black metal. He's a very polite and humble person. It was real honour and a thrill to be involved with him and Ecstatic Peace! We owe a great deal to that bloke.
I read that Rick Rubin asked you to perform at his condo? How did that come about, and what was it like?
We did some showcase shows in Los Angeles and the day that we were going to be flying home we were asked by Rick Rubin if we would come and perform for him in Malibu. He was happy to pay for the change in flights for us to leave a day late. So, we went and played a private show for him in a recording studio down the street from his house. It was all very fancy stuff. There were guitars provided for us to use that were worth upwards of 50k. It was in this super rich studio where Weezer and Gwen Stefani had recorded their most recent stuff. All in all it was an incredibly surreal experience. We were all pretty flabbergasted to be playing a private show just for Rick Rubin himself. We did also get to meet him. He has this really strange aura about him. Almost like this huge spiritual presence. It was exactly like a mix between meeting Buddha and Santa Claus. Total bizarre. I really still can't believe that it actually happened.
Many of the songs off your debut full-length 'We Don't Belong Here' were re-recorded for your 'Violent Soho' album. Why did you decide to re-record, instead of working on a new album from scratch?
The original release that we had 'We Don't Belong Here' was an album put together of songs we had recorded over the three year period that our band had been around for at the time. It was all done independently and basically was released because we realised that over the time we had been together we had recorded enough high-quality demos to put them all together for an album. We only pressed about 1000 copies and sold them all locally around Australia at shows. Following on from that, we were eventually signed over in the States with Ecstatic Peace! and Universal Motown, who decided that they wanted to put a load more cash behind us being able to re-do the album over. When Gil Norton and Rich Costey came along saying that they wanted to work on the album with us, the entire process started over again. This time though, we were offered a full-time recording studio in Wales to work with Grammy award recognised people to release an album on a global scale. It really was worlds away from where we had come from with 'We Don't Belong Here.' Really it wasn't about making a second album but about giving all the best songs we had written up until that point the opportunity to be worked with on the highest standard available to us.
Just to make things even more confusing, 'Violent Soho' includes a few songs off your 'Pigs & T.V' EP which also featured on 'We Don't Belong Here' en route to winding up on 'Violent Soho.' How come you ended up re-releasing certain songs so many times?
Haha! From here on, it's all new songs, I promise. Basically, 'We Don't Belong Here' was just a collection of all the best recordings we'd done at the time on our own in Australia. Some of those we just took from 'Pigs & TV,' an EP we had recorded years earlier. We never knew if we were going to be able to release an album on a high scale such as what we got the opportunity to with 'Violent Soho.' If we knew that we would end up on a major label, we probably would have held off from releasing 'We Don't Belong Here' in the first place!
You're playing Lollapalooza next month, on a rather indie-centric line-up. How do you think you'll go down with the indie crowd.
Yeah, good. We've always played with indie bands so it's more familiar territory for us than many of the Active Rock/Modern Rock/ Nu Rock-disturbances we've had the pleasure of playing along with so far in the US. We really can't wait to play it. It should be quite special.
The Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist Ben Weinman recently remixed 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend.' How did that come about?
I'm not sure exactly how he got his hands on the track, but he did do and decided he wanted to do a remix of it. He asked us and we said, "sure." I don't listen to all that much electro music, but I was pretty damn impressed with it.
What memories do you have of the first Violent Soho show?
We played in our friend's back yard for his Birthday party. I remember Luke B smashed the garden light that was lighting the impromptu stage we were performing on. It was all on from there. Haha!
Who are your major musical influences, and did Violent Soho ever experiment with different musical styles?
We've never really experimented with any style but more just put our songs together in the way in which they most seem to make sense. A lot of our influences are bands from the early 90's and 80's. Mainly just hardcore or indie bands from that period. I think if you listen to our music you can really hear how we wear our influences on our sleeves. We've never really approached our music from being in a certain style though, we just play the way that we best play together and what most comes naturally to us.
And, finally, what can we expect from Violent Soho over the next twelve months? Is a UK tour on the cards?
We're going to be touring, touring, touring. Working on our follow up album, touring some more. Most definitely we will be making our way to the UK. Hopefully very soon we will be back on your side of the world.