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The Stabs

Written by Michael Carr on August 24, 2009

Having toured much recently, including Taiwan and New York, post-punk infidels The Stabs speak with us to spread malicious rumours about themselves. After playing some crazy gigs with their musical heroes, The Stabs are set to tour Australia again soon, including an appearance at the Flip Out Festival this weekend, with the release of a new 7″. Mark Stab gives us the skinny.

Music Feeds: What do you do when you’re not playing music? Any odd hobbies or twisted perversions we should know about?

Mark: I wish I had something more interesting – as I write this I have a cat sitting on my lap, I’ve stayed at home on a Saturday night cooking a vegan lasagne, watched a few movies and played some guitar. I’m sure the other two have done pretty much the same except they’ve probably got dogs on their laps.

MF: A bunch of party animals then, eh? So you guys have sold out two pressings of Dirt, how did that feel – the album taking off so early?

M: According to our press release we’ve also toured with Placebo. Truth be told we probably have about 30 copies left. It was great when that album did so well but as soon as it came out we went to America and then broke up for nine months which was probably pretty dumb, we maybe should have given it a little more attention.

MF: As a band signed to an independent label, do you feel like there is anything holding you back in the way the industry is run at the moment?

M: I’m still waiting for Molly to return my calls but otherwise no. It’s like that Kevin Costner film – ‘if you build it they will come.’ If you’re a band and you believe in what you do and you do it long enough – ‘if you play it they will listen.’ Or something.

MF: Nice. You guys have toured internationally on a few occasions, how did that come about and what was the reaction like overseas?

M: The first few trips we lined up ourselves since nobody else was going to do it and you can only play at The Tote so many times. A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to be sent to Malaysia and Taiwan on someone else’s dime which was incredible. A band could get used to that kind of treatment. The reaction has been pretty much the same the world over – in some places they bought us a beer after the show, in other places they chased us out of town with pitch forks.

MF: Well, the pitch forks bit doesn’t sound too good. How did it feel to be playing to crowds of people from different countries?

M: They haven’t all been crowds… It’s a nice buzz to be a long way from home with the sole purpose of playing shows and have people say they like the music you make. I guess the short answer would be that it’s validating.

MF: So how do your experiences here at home compare to those overseas?

M: I think we have a very very healthy band scene here in Australia. We’ve probably played with a lot more bad bands in other countries than we have here.

MF: Flip Out Festival has quite a line-up, who are you most excited to be playing with?

M: James Arthur’s Manhunt, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Naked On The Vague, The UV Race, Deaf Wish, Zond.

MF: Who would you recommend our readers be sure and catch?

M: James Arthur’s Manhunt, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Naked On The Vague, The UV Race, Deaf Wish, Zond and if you’re in Melbourne make sure you also catch The Native Cats.

MF: What was it like being selected to play ATP? Do you have any good Bad Seed stories?

M: The sun shone very brightly on the day we were asked to be a part of that thing, it was a real coup. Top Bad Seeds stories would be that Nick Cave was wearing a pair of tight stripey pants at the welcoming barbeque, Mick Harvey’s a real nice guy and I hope that some time soon they make it big enough that they can afford the little luxuries in life such as razors and shaving cream.

MF: Aside from ATP you’ve also toured with Mudhoney, Roland S Howard, The Scientists and Lubricated Goat, what’s it like to be playing with such legends? Is it hard to go back to playing indie gigs in pubs etc?

M: Sometimes you have to pinch yourself, other times you walk a little taller and occasionally you break a string and can do nothing but stare at your shoes. Anybody who finds it hard to go back to playing with their friends after playing with their heroes is a fucking idiot.

MF: Any good stories from those tours?

M: ATP – Rowland Howard stole my 9V battery. Later he stole my tuning pedal but eventually gave it back. MUDHONEY – I drank all of Steve Turner’s booze while he was onstage, wound up in a wheel chair and later passed out in an alley in downtown Portland. ROWLAND S HOWARD – We drank too much and played like shit, after the show Mick Harvey took off his shirt and squeezed into a tiny girl’s style Stabs’ singlet and posed for a photo looking like The Energizer Man. SCIENTISTS – Mudhoney do We Had Love way better than Scientists ever did. Frantic Romantic is a great song but he should never have tried it outside of that first Scientists’ record. LUBRICATED GOAT – We played with The Goat at The Knitting Factory which is a world famous venue in New York City. If you’re a touring band steer well clear of that shit hole. I did ALL the work, lined up the bands, sent in the posters, gave everybody the relevant information – all the alleged band booker had to do was receive my emails telling her what was happening on the date she’d so graciously allowed me to do her job on. Come show time and they sting us with some bullshit deal where patrons get questioned on the door as to which band they’ve come to see (one band only), the venue takes the money for the first 20 people there to see your band and after that you get 80% of the door price from people there to see you. So after all that work my band who’d spent about ten thousand dollars to be there walked away with SWEET FUCK ALL. Not even a dollar. To Lubricated Goat’s credit they gave the three of us a free Goat t-shirt each which we all wear with pride to this day. They did of course, take all the money without batting an eyelid!

MF: That sounds like a raw deal. Now, how do you record? Is there a big emphasis on recreating the mood and feel of a live performance?

M: We’ve always been conscious of live shows being one thing and recordings another. Having said that most times we record a song with all of us playing and then build on that with overdubs. We very rarely replace tracks completely and from memory we’ve only ever recorded one song one instrument at a time.

MF: What can we expect from Dead Wood? How does it fit in with the rest of your work?

M: We’re all very proud of this record. I think it shits on DIRT, we were just a lot more comfortable making this one and I’d like to think that comes across. This album is beginning to lean ever so slightly to being a studio album, as in something we can’t recreate live. There are two songs on there with piano that we’ve never performed outside of the studio and probably never will. There’s talk that our third album will be even more like that, we all want to branch out from the guitar band thing and bring in some other instruments – you can only stick your guitar in front of your amp and call it a song so many times.

MF: What else do you have planned in the next few months we should be looking out for?

M: We’re in the middle of organising a split 7″ with James Arthur, it probably won’t be out in time for the shows we’re doing together around Flip Out but it will definitely be out this year. And of course our album DEAD WOOD will be out on Spooky Records in the next couple of months and we’ll be touring that around Australia.

MF: Finally are there any bands, local or overseas you think people should be keeping an eye on?

M: So many, where to begin? Last week I saw a band in Taiwan called WHITE who are from China – incredible. Kinda like a cross between Silver Apples, Fuck Buttons and Suicide. I picked up ROWLAND S HOWARD’S new 7″ yesterday and I’ve listened to it about 15 times already. I can’t get enough of the 7″ by Sydney band THE ATROCITIES. I dunno, buy a WU TANG CLAN record, a DAVID BOWIE album and go see MOTHER AND FATHER.

MF: Is there anything else you want to talk about, be it musical or non-musical that you’d like to talk about? A particular obsession or passion?

M: Yeah – what’s with airline food?

We’ll leave you to ponder that one. For more info on The Stabs head over to their Myspace page. Check out our further Flip Out festival coverage here.

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