Prog Blog: Serious Beak Interview

Sydney supergroup Serious Beak earned the keen attention of local musicians and prog fans last year when they dropped their toe-tapping, mind-melting fusion of metal, math rock and pseudo-grind – the unpronounceable debut Huxwhukw.

Now the band have finally found the time to grace the East Coast of Australia with their tidy live show. I took a few minutes to quiz dronepals Lachlan R. Dale (guitar, also of local riffmongers Adrift for Days) and Gene White (drums) about their plans and the state of the nation. These kids are known for their outspoken opinions on all things music and society, so it’s a great read. You can check a similarly entertaining interview of the band over at Metal Obsession with my buddy Mitch Booth.

Prog Blog: It’s been a while since we saw the Beak; where have you been?

Lachlan R. Dale: We have been hiding in caves, surrounded by crystals, and awaiting the siren song of record label A&R reps with slick-back hair and shiny, tightly-fitted suits.

PB: You recently announced plans for a remix album; how is it going and why did you decide to do this?

LD: I’ve just always enjoyed the idea of allowing people to transform your work. I engage in appropriation in visual design all the time.In fact the ritualistic noise convent I play in Dyke Destroyer tends to engage more in absurdest written and visual appropriation and transformation than playing music.

Serious Beak also went through a long period of jamming and collaborating with a range of individuals before finally settling on our final structure of two guitarists, a bassist and a percussionist. We jammed with Nick Soole of Slimey Things; Josh Head of Squat Club and Anklepants; John Ryan of Cruachan; Lachlan of Godswound; Brian Campeau of The Rescue Ships … and probably many more people I can’t remember. We also had versions of our songs with vocals sent to us by Moz Troniquz, and Dillion of Machinoir noise superstardom.

At various times we considered getting a vocalist, a violinist, a saxophonist, another drummer, and a noise bloke … so we’ve always wondered what it would be like to have those collaborations. Gene especially – he’s always held plans to rework and transform themes, segments and ideas from the album.

I think what sealed the deal personally for me was seeing Death Grips put all the stems from their awesome album Exmilitary online for everyone to fuck with. Then, when we released Huxwhukw we found a whole lot of incredible musicians that we all hold in really high regard really liked the album, and the concept just sort of rolled on from there. We just asked a few people if they’d be interested, and the answer was a resounding yes.

PB: In a recent interview you mentioned you don’t plan to play live very often; is this by choice or necessity?

LD: First one then the other. Serious Beak material takes a very long time in its construction. I believe Tui/Tuo was written over an 18-month period – and that’s not 18 months of regular jamming mind you. It takes a considerable amount of practice and rehearsal to get ready for a show, so when that happens we have to stop writing new material. Our desire to work on new material is definitely one element of why we won’t be playing very often.

It’s also about our respective personal situations. Gene has a 3-month-old kid named Maddox, is working insane hours and is also taking part in a big drum musical production called Drumstory. Morts has a 1-year-old kid named Sotaro. Tim is working and studying. I’m trying to juggle a number of bands, study, run my little record label and work full time – as well as indulge in my other interests: reading, writing, hiking, etc. Time is limited.

Gene White: We take too fucking long to write one song and we don’t need to be sidetracked by rehearsing for gigs.

PB: What is the reality of life in an independent, underground, experimental rock band? How do you make ends meet and fund recording and touring?

LD:: Well, you forgo a lot in order to indulge yourself in your art. Serious Beak are never going to recoup the costs for recording and printing Huxwhukw. It’s just not going to happen. Adrift for Days are never going to recoup the costs of Come Midnight. We don’t expect to even come close to breaking even on tour. It’s just a reality that we face.

Not that we overly care, mind you. I’d rather be broke and content than rich and empty. I’m also very conscious of never wanting to have music act as my main source of income. It’s meant to be separate and pure from the demands of economics. We all work day jobs – and we’re all doing just fine with that.

GW: You man up and get a job.

PB: Some people (such as myself) say that it’s not the best bands that get noticed, it’s the hardest-working. What do you say to that and how do you think a boutique artist can survive and be heard in today’s saturated world?

LD: I can’t even pretend to care about that man. I take drugs and play drone. I play music almost entirely for myself. It’s good for my soul. If I didn’t do it, then my soul would suffer; I would be walking around with misery in my eyes and confusion in my mind. It’s unimaginable.

Let other bands pretend to be businessmen and hedge their bets by analysing their target markets before they record an album. I could not care. This is catharsis for me.

GW: If I wanted to make a living of playing music I’d play in a wedding band or move overseas (out of Australia) and slog it out playing a slight tilt on whatever’s hip at the time. But I like my job and life is so good in Oz.

PB: Even the so-called experimental rock band is becoming a common occurrence these days. Kid can play in odd time signatures and jam instrumentally for hours on stage, to varying degrees of popularity. What’s the difference between the Beak and another tech band like Periphery or Animals as Leaders, and why the disconnect in audience type and quantity?

LD: I guess the fundamental disconnect is in the fact that we’re not really metal. I mean, sure, we use distortion and have the occasional blast beat or something, but we’re really not building off the foundations of death metal or any of those traditions. Our inspirations and techniques are Latin music, jazz, fusion, chicken-pickin country music and so forth. Even Animals as Leaders — as incredible and amazing as Tosin Abasi is as a guitarist — the essence of what he plays is still going to be pretty predictable. It’s still going to be pretty metal.

Also, we don’t indulge in wankshred.

GW: So do you think we’re like those bands? Just remember we’re “progressive rock” when you put on your next Progfest; “experimental” for the next Featherfest; and “extreme metal” when the next Blood, Guts and Gore Festival comes around.

My writing philosophy is I just write for myself and ALWAYS ask myself do I like this?

I think a trap bands fall into is “difficult is better”, or “we have to play to these pre-determined rules so we can fit in”. I also think bands in general forget to say “What makes this song special and different to the last?”

In jam we muck around lots and have musical jokes with each other — it’s all very fun and nerdy. I guess our biggest fan base is just other nerdy muso’s. And, for at least the moment, people that don’t mind heaver music. We get a bit of a cross section at our shows and that is awesome.

PB: What are your goals for the Beak and where do you see the band over the next 12 months?

LD: Our goals are to write more music. Our fears are to fall into a trap of predictability, or to cease to have time in our lives for Serious Beak. We have to watch these next 12 months carefully so that we hopefully still exist in one year’s time.

GW: To finish at least 1 more song

PB: You released your album on Art As Catharsis records; tell us a bit about the idea behind the label and what’s involved in making it run.

LD: I like lots of obscure music. I try and force other people to like the music that I like with big words. Art As Catharsis began solely as a hub to promote the musical projects I’m involved in, but already within 6 months it has ballooned to become much bigger than that.

What makes it run is my love of music, my inability to take it easy, and the help of my gorgeous girlfriend Monika.

PB: Where are you playing?

Adrift for Days: 5 April at The Sandringham Hotel with Futility (ACT), The Veil and LINT.

Serious Beak: 7 April at The Lansdowne Hotel with Lo!, Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt, and Killsong.

Adrift for Days: 4 May at The Bald Faced Stag with Tangled Thoughts of Leaving (WA), and Meniscus.

HUXWHUKW is out now on Art As Catharthis Records http://artascatharsis.bandcamp.com/album/huxwhukw

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