If you grew up in Australia in the 90s it’s more than likely that at some point Regurgitator were your favourite band. Songs like I Sucked A Lot Of Cock To Get Where I Am, !(song formerly known as) and Polyester Girl saw the band scale the heights of the local music industry, making them an enduring symbol of the hey-day of Australia’s emerging alternative youth culture. Just listening to Tu-Plang or Unit brings back memories of staying up late on a Friday night to watch Rage, and then waking up bleary eyed the next morning with Recovery. It truly was a golden age.
Cut to almost two decades later and the band are still going strong. Having been through their share of breaks – the members having pursued multiple side projects over the years – with key members Quan Yeomans and Ben Ely having both moved back to Australia from Hong Kong and Berlin respectively, the Gurge are set to plug in once more. Working on a new album in Melbourne and recently being asked to perform their own re-scoring of legendary anime epic Akira at Sydney’s Opera House as part of the Graphic Festival, the band is currently on tour around the country, playing Festival Of The Sun in Port Macquarie and releasing a four-track EP in commemoration of the tour.
Catching up with bassist Ben Ely recently, Music Feeds got the low down on what the band have been up to, with Ben telling us about some of the stylistic experimentation they’ve gotten up to as well as describing their daring new method of getting the music to the fans.
Music Feeds: So tell me, you guys are back working together again, so how’s it been working together again after all this time?
Ben Ely: We’ve been having lots of fun, just playing around a bit; for instance, do you know the band Suicide?
BE: Well I love Suicide. We were playing Sucks A Lot Of Cock in rehearsal the other day and I went ‘I’m really sick of playing this song the same old rock way’, so I just played this drum machine beat and then I played this minimal bass line on the keyboard and Quan made this sort of art-school Suicide version of the song. So yeah, we’ve been having a bunch of fun just playing around with style.
MF: Awesome; how is it living in Melbourne, I mean Berlin is a great city, but it must be nice being back home…
BE: Yeah, I love Australia; it’s really great and I feel like I can really work here. Also, Quan and I are living in the same city for the first time in years and that’s been really great. I feel like we can get productive here, and Regurgitator is a good vehicle as there’s no real set formula, it’s not like we’re some middle of the road country rock band or anything.
MF: Yeah you’re not exactly Cold Chisel…
BE: Ha-ha! Yeah, I guess that’s probably why we’ve been around for so long, it doesn’t feel stale and it doesn’t feel like we’re going through the motions; it feels like we can continually evolve as artists and the band’s just a creative outlet for us.
Also, I really appreciate my musical friendship with Quan, and I appreciate it more the older I get. I have played with a lot of people over the years, but when you find someone who you really click with musically it’s like a good marriage you know, one that really works and that’s sort of rare these days.
MF: Yeah, I mean it’s a testament to your working relationship that you’ve been together so many years without taking a knife to each
BE: We kind of got all of our bloodletting out of our system back in the nineties you know, we’ve had breaks and stuff, but for some reason
it just feels great at the moment.
MF: That’s great to hear. Anyway, you guys were asked to re-score Akira recently at the Opera House; what was that like? I can imagine it
would be pretty fucking daunting considering how epic the original soundtrack is.
BE: The original score is pretty fucking amazing, and I bought that CD in 1993 after I saw the film just because it’s so amazing, but we wanted to really do it differently. Anything that happened in the film, we tried to do the opposite of what the soundtrack did. For instance when all the explosions happen at the end, the soundtrack is very silent, so instead we had all this sort of heavy metal guitar stuff, and we sort of forced that heavy guitar side into it, which in the end turned it into a bit of a teenage boy’s fantasy land of explosions, guns and violence with heavy metal riffs.
MF: Sounds awesome…
BE: It was pretty fun, and it was pretty funny the comments from the crew as we were packing down. I mean we sold it out and the room was full of comic book fans and the crew were saying ‘oh it’s so great seeing you guys playing these sort of heavy riffs in the opera house, you know the opera never sells out and you fall asleep about half way through it, it’s really fun having something loud and abrasive and
MF: Ha-ha! Cool. I wanted to ask you about the live show specifically, anything new or special you can fill us in on?
BE: We’ve been making films to go along with our songs for projections for the live tour we’re doing now. I mean, we’re always looking for ways to keep it fresh, like we did a show with a contemporary dance company a year or so back you know, sort of like a rock parody performance and after we did Akira we had so much fun we wanted to involve something like that. Obviously we couldn’t just play the film so we started making our own.
MF: Nice. Speaking of the tour, it’s a pretty hectic run of dates. Have you been training for it?
BE: I was thinking about that today, it’s probably a bit late to start doing laps isn’t it. As long as I don’t drink too much beer I’ll be ok I think.
MF: Yeah, stick to your clear spirits. Other than that though, how have preparations been coming along?
BE: Just great. We feel a bit inspired. We saw Peaches at the start of the year and just seeing what a great show she put on and we sort of felt that we’d been playing the same songs the same way for a while, so we’ve been pushing ourselves a bit more, doing remixes and making films. We’ve been taking it up a notch with rehearsing and stuff and trying to put on a bit of a better show and a bit of a different show what people have come to expect from us.
MF: So it’s more conceptual and less barnstorming art pop thumpers?
BE: It will still have the same kind of energy, but the sounds will be a bit different and the arrangements will be a bit different.
MF: I saw you’re touring with the Rat vs Possum guys; will you be getting them up on Jeys at all?
BE: No, but I’ve been working out a way of playing bass and keyboard at the same time, using taps so I can use my right had on the keys. Quan’s playing keyboards at times as well, and dropping the guitar, so it will be a three-piece rock band for most of it; and then there will be these parts where it’s got a bit more of an electro, Human League vibe to it.
MF: Fantastic, can’t wait. You’ve been working on an album for the tour haven’t you? How’s that coming along?
BE: We didn’t make an album, what we did was we just made an EP because we were so busy with Akira we didn’t really have the time to write a whole album. So we just put out a four-track EP for this tour, and now we’re also tampering with our website so that as we write and record songs we can mix them and put them online straight away so people can get them. Then when we come up to a tour we’ll release a hard copy on vinyl or CD or something for the people who want a
hard copy of what we’ve made between tours.
MF: That’s a really good model. I think that, for better or worse, the album has become a bit of a difficult art form; singles seem to have taken over the world and releasing an album in small parts on line seems to be the way forward.
BE: I think it also works really well for bands cos you can compose something immediate, and finish it and put it down and move on, you don’t have to worry about writing songs to fit in with other songs onan album, which will be good for us as it will encourage us to genre hop a bit more. Like I’ve got this 20 minute trance piece I made for the Akira show and I was thinking it would be cool to release it, but it just wouldn’t make sense on an album. I think this type of method will just allow artists to be more free you know, to just be able to write music without having to have this set idea about what the songs are going to sound like. It’s just a different world you know, it’s like going from vinyl to CD or even 8-track tape to audiotape.
Regurgitator play Festival Of The Sun 10th,11th December