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“I Want As Many People to See Me Die On Stage As Possible” – A Chaotic Interview with TISM

When cult Australian band TISM announced their reunion earlier this month, expressions such as “long-overdue reformation” and “nostalgic delight” peppered the discourse. However, one word that was missing from the majority of discussions was “chaotic”.

Yes, after 18 years, TISM have found their way back into the public consciousness, with a trio of performances lined up as part of this year’s Good Things festival. Appearing alongside bands such as Bring Me The Horizon, Deftones, and NOFX, the group are the highest-billed Australian outfit on the lineup, and likely the most-discussed.

As veteran fans eagerly await the chance to see the band perform for the first time since 2004, many have also begun to share stories about TISM’s glory days. Sure, TISM might have found a way to win two ARIA Awards, storm triple j’s Hottest 100, and achieve commercial success, but it was their live shows where they really shone.

Armed with a sense of ferociousness and danger that’s all but absent from the local music scene these days, vocalists Humphrey B. Flaubert and Ron Hitler-Barassi were a commanding presence when they appeared before a crowd. Often, fans were left battered, bruised, and yet still completely mesmerised by what they’d just witnessed.

These characteristics were a feature of TISM’s press appearances too, where they would frequently ensure all journalists regretted the experience. So, when Music Feeds was given the chance to interview the iconic group, it was a decision too good to pass up – but also one fraught with danger.

Although the standard approach to a feature article about the return of a band like TISM might be to share a lengthy, narrative-driven write-up, the only way to accurately capture the sheer chaos of an interview with TISM is to share it in its entirety.

TISM – ‘For Those About to Rock’

Ron Hitler-Barassi: Tyler, we’ve heard you’re ex-Rolling Stone. That doesn’t exactly put us into the fucking good books. You know, you’re not actually in the good books, mate, because Rolling Stone is the sort of snotty, arrogant, self-important magazine that always put us down.

And our solution was to go away for 19 years, and we’ve come back now in 2022 and what’s happened, Tyler? We’re “beloved.” And what’s the difference? Only the passing of time. So I’m just saying this to you, and warning you, you’d better be on your mettle and prove that you have risen above the Rolling Stone morass from which you rose.

Humphrey B. Flaubert: Tyler, what we really want to know is when was the last time you had a bit of a clean and brush?

Music Feeds: Oh, I’d say it’s been quite a while. You know what us music journalists are like.

HBF: Well, dental hygiene is very important when you are listening to music.

RHB: It affects the message.

HBF: I think it sort of affects the vibrations of the music.

RHB: The inner ear.

HBF: The young people of today have such beautiful teeth that I think they miss the nuance of fine music, because the vibrations are so perfect. And it’s the imperfections that are… You know, if you take Freddie Mercury for example, that overbite is the reason why he was such a magnificent star. And somebody like Bruce Springsteen who has a magnificent underbite – sort of like an Australopithecus man like underbite – that is why he is in the pantheon of great music.

So don’t go to the dentist, unless those things are so rotten that people can smell you for miles away. That’s my advice.

RHB: See, people have waited years for this and I think it’s been worth it.

RHB: Tyler, this interview’s been going for a while. We’re musicians; we’re actually serious musicians. Like Picasso said, he was 60 years old and he painted a ball and he was going to get thousands and thousands [of dollars for it]. And they said, “Why would you get thousands for something that took you two minutes?” And he said, “It took me 60 years and two minutes.” And this is where we feel we’re at, right?

We’ve been doing this for many, many years, and you haven’t asked us one serious question – not nothing about our music, nothing about the creation of our art. You’re just gibbered and jabbered for 20, 30% of this interview.

MF: Look, you’re right. Let’s change the direction to the reason that we’re here.

RHB: Are we playing Eurovision, Tyler? We’re thinking seriously about Eurovision, right? We’re artists, as I just said. There’s Picasso, there’s many references to various literary figures and stuff. We do wear masks and we’re anonymous, but nonetheless, I think Eurovision… we’re going to represent Russia.

I think there’s a sort of a neglect in Eurovision for the Russian point of view. And I think someone needs to stand up and finally say what we’re all thinking, which is, “There’s something to the Russian point of view.” The Russian point of view summarises something like this: You slightly piss me off, so I’m going to invade you and kill all the innocent people.

Now it’s not an attractive point of view, it’s not one that we necessarily support, but we think it should be out there at the Eurovision contest. Don’t you think? We’re going to invade the Russian consciousness and, Tyler, no one’s ever invaded Russia and it hasn’t turned out well.

HBF: Cracking beef, the Russians, too.

TISM – ‘(He’ll Never Be An) Ol’ Man River’

MF: Look, we are here to talk about the band’s addition to the Good Things lineup. So the pressing question is, why exactly do TISM feel that this is a good idea?

HBF: I heard that when The Veronicas played at the Good Things festival – was it last year or a couple of years ago? – the metal fans formed what is known as the “wall of death” in the mosh pit, which is when they separate and a giant chasm forms between them and then they sprint really fast and smash into each other.

And we’re not certain, of course, Tyler, whether that was an ironic comment on the scheduling of The Veronicas at the festival or whether that was just sheer joy at The Veronicas’ music, but that really inspired me. And I thought what could happen at the Good Things festival is that I’m hoping the metal fans won’t do the wall of death necessarily – well, they will do the wall of death – but they’ll kind of reinterpret it a bit to form a shape, which looks like an X-ray of my prostate because that is the wall of death.

MF: So, TISM are expecting a very large crowd, is that what you’re saying?

HBF: Well, I don’t know, but certainly I want as many people to see me die on stage as possible, which is the most likely outcome.

RHB: That’s right. And the other thing, we really like the Good Things lineup and we’re actually there to see a lot of the bands. Humphrey, I know, is looking forward to the Ray Conniff Singers, but I’m very excited about Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. It’s only people with the credibility of Good Things to get Herb and the Brass boys out here.

And the Good Things people, not only have they got credibility, but they have got a very good line in cocaine. I think you should quote this and put this on the internet, because nothing could go wrong when you say libellous things on the internet. You can trust me, of course, on that.

But they’ve got good cocaine and Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass are exactly the sort of band that the wall of death suits. When they start hitting those marimbas and those metal drums and, you know, that horn that comes with the salsa music, that wall of death goes nuts for that crap.

HBF: Absolutely. I believe also Florence and the Dental Machine will be playing at the festival and I’ll be checking them out. Of course, The Kid LAROI will be on the bill, but only as a dental nurse. But I’d certainly appreciate The Kid LAROI being the person to say, “Here’s some mouthwash, swish it around a bit, and spit it down the drain.”

RHB: Just excuse me – Humphrey, I’ll just put you on mute for a while. Tyler, I just want to explain Humphrey’s dental obsessions, right?

MF: Please do. 

RHB: There was a very traumatic… he’s been re-traumatised. As a young boy, he had a severe overbite. It was a grotesque look. It looked like an oval set of goal sticks from an AFL field sticking straight out from his mouth. And he does have these periods, especially now that we’re older men, where he keeps returning to sort of a dental theme. And I just want you to be understanding about that. Now, let’s just put Humphrey back off hold.

Now the other thing is, The Kid LAROI, we taught him back in year eight. You know, his real name of course, is Roy the Kidley. He was plain old Roy the Kidley back then. He was a good boy, did all his homework well, and what I really support about that is just like Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, I think there should be more names in rock like Roy and Herb and maybe Des and Les. Of course [TISM’s] got Les Miserables, so we are doing our part there I think.

HBF: It’s a great name.

RHB: I actually think I’m going to call the Good Things people and see if they can actually recast the show so there’s just good old Des, Roy, Ted, Gordon – Gordon would be another good name, I think – those sort of names. I mean, there’s all these bands I’ve never heard of. Like, Bring Me The Horizon – there’s not even a name in that.

MF: It’s basically a name that was just designed to bring in the young kids, I’m sure.

RHB: Oh, hold on, actually, I’m looking at the poster. Oh, no, it’s Herb Alpert & Bring Me The Horizon. That’s all right.

HBF: Horizon, of course, is a machine which helps the drill to work with much greater efficiency. “Bring me the horizon,” says the dental technician to the dental nurse.

MF: Well, that’s starting to make a lot more sense now.

RHB: Look, Tyler, there’s no need to freaking suck up. That makes no sense at all. What do you mean, “bring me to horizon”? In that case, in Humphrey’s deranged scenario there, he was saying the horizon was a dental implement. There’s no need to be polite, Tyler. You’re the journalist. It’s nonsense and it always was nonsense.

MF: Look, I will admit I’m just being completely diplomatic in lieu of asking the actual hard-hitting questions.

RHB: The man is mad, Tyler.

MF: Well, clearly this is why it’s been 18 years since you’ve played together.

RHB: 19 years and I haven’t had to listen to this, and the first two interviews back, he’s talking this garbage. Is it any wonder we haven’t been around for 19 years.

MF: Well, that’s the question. It has been 18 years since the band’s last show, so why now? Is it an artistic statement, a cash grab, or a combination of the two?

RHB: Is it 18 years? Shit, we should wait another year. I thought it was 19 years.

MF: Oh, you know, if you’re rounding up another year, I think it is.

RHB: I’m rather disappointed.

HBF: Well, how long is a piece of string? Or how long is a piece of floss? I really hate it when people say that. You know, Solomon Asch did an experiment with pieces of string where he got a group of subjects in the laboratory. Ten subjects, only one of them was a real person and nine of them were actors. And he showed them two pieces of string. One was short, one was long, and he asked them to name the short piece of string.

And the actors all said the long one, which meant that the one person who was real – even though they knew the short one was short – chose the long one. And I’ve got no idea where I’m going with this.

RHB: No, that’s peer pressure. That’s a very good point. I can remember Roy the Kidley, he had horrible braces back in year eight. His teeth looked like someone had punched him in the mouth. I mean, we all want to, but someone actually did in year eight, right?

And that year, when Roy The Kidley had braces, this is why he’s so emotional as a young man – admirably emotional and open about, as his last album will tell you, the many dental procedures that he’s had to go through. And it’s quite touching. I think.

‘The Root Canal’, that’s the song of his that I find is very hard to listen to because it’s so searing and deep when he raps about the exposure of his soul that came about during those root canal sessions. Also it’s unfortunate that the dentist he went to actually used those old school lead and gold fillings that don’t actually match the plaque of your teeth. That’s a scar that he’ll carry, I think.

TISM – ‘Saturday Night Palsy’

MF: Look, while I do still have a couple of moments left, I should ask the question though, with the reunion shows coming up, there’s preparation involved, and the band needs to get match fit. How’s it going behind the scenes? Are you ready to return to the stage?

RHB: You know those little electronic stair things for old people, where the old people go to the bottom of the stairs and they electronically lift them up to the top of the stairs? We’ll be having that, but, Humphrey, what was it called again? The something of death where they clash?

HBF: The wall of death.

RHB: The wall of death. I mean, we’re going to be having the wall of death, but it will be an assisted wall of death with various walkers and safety barriers so no one gets hurt. I mean, if you break a hip at our age, Tyler, you know how bad that can be.

So the wall of death might take slightly longer at this year’s Good Things festival because it’s an uneven surface. No Zimmer frames, you’ve just got to be very careful with them. So as the two approaching armies – I think you could call it – of wall of deathers slowly stumble towards each other, we’ll be up on stage going, “This is the answer to Tyler’s question. This is what our live performance will be like.”

MF: Well, I’m sure it’ll be more than worth the wait. But look, these are all the questions I have for you today. So, I’ll say thank you for taking the time. I’d say it’s been a pleasure, but then again…

RHB: It hasn’t been.

TISM – ‘Greg! the Stop Sign’

Further reading

TISM Share Scott Morrison’s ‘Real’ Concession Speech In New Missive

Bring Me The Horizon Headline Stacked Good Things 2022 Lineup

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