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Frenzal Rhomb: R.I.P. Jay Whalley, Intellectual Motherfucker

Frenzal Rhomb

Frenzal Rhomb. The name itself incites a feeling of warmth. A sense of nostalgia. A smell… Probably best left undescribed. The Godfather of punk rock for every angsty Western Suburbs teen of 1997, Frenzal soared to the top of the ranks with a smorgasbord of national controversies, uncompromising live shows, and such influential classics as “Bucket Bong” and “Guns Don’t Kill Ducklings, Ducklings Kill Ducklings”. At the centre of it all stands Mr. Jason Whalley, a man of many incredible achievements – most notably, the current Guinness World Record for Largest Quantity Of Mould Accumulated In His Fucking Dreads. In a haze of anticipation for the band’s Soundwave debut, BLUNT got Whalley on the phone and straight down to “business”. Kick your feet up, crack a cold one, and prepare to be transcended – this right here is The Definitive Frenzal Rhomb Interview™, partially because Whalley finally breaks the silence on Fat Mike’s testy face-kicking habits, and partially because it’s the first one since 2004 that doesn’t reference the Jackie O incident… Wait. Fuck.


Frenzal Rhomb is sort of the quintessential Aussie punk band – how have you not played Soundwave before?
Every single year, [AJ Maddah] would come up to us. “Please, please play! I beg you!” He would get down on his knees, and it was embarrassing. He’d cry – he’d just sort of sob in a corner. “No, AJ, No! We’re not doing it! We’re not doing your festival!” And y’know, eventually we just felt sorry for him. He was a wreck. We just couldn’t put him through that for another year.

Do you think you’ll get many Prodigy fans chucking a rave to some Frenzal?
Festivals for us are always along those lines. We’re always playing in front of 50,000 Powderfinger fans, or 100,000 Foo Fighters fans. If you wanted to buy a ticket to a Frenzal show, you’d pay 30 bucks to come and see us at… Gosford Leagues, or whatever. But when it comes to festivals, nobody pays that much money to come and see us. We’re there as sort of vibe merchants – and to steal things, y’know, get a lot of money and get out of there… I don’t actually know if we’re getting paid [for Soundwave], to tell you the truth… I’d assume we are! But yeah, we’re just there to have a crack at it. If there’s some Prodigy ravers in front of our stage at all, then I’m sure they’ll have a nice time. We’ll play “You Are Not My Friend”.

You’re pretty well versed in the art form that is stirring shit up. How long do you think you’ll make it into Soundwave before AJ hates you?
Ah, look, I think he already does to be honest. So y’know, it’s about maintaining that level of hatred, I guess. Just trying to keep that fire stocked. I’ve looked briefly at the line-up, and I’ve forgotten a lot of the bands that are playing, but a few of the bands we have some history with – I know the Deftones threatened to shoot me the last time I saw them.

Hold up. What?
We played… I think it was a Big Day Out, maybe, and we had a song called “Ball Chef” about this guy in Colorado who was cooking rocky mountain oysters (bull balls). And so we wrote this song about the chef that was cooking balls – a stupid song with a stupid premise – it kind of came from a vaguely vegetarian angle as well, to appease ourselves in thinking that we were actually writing something decent. So we introduced it on stage by saying, “This song goes out to the Americans, because they eat balls! And if you don’t believe us, you should go backstage now and see Deftones munching a huge plate of balls!” And no one minded – no one probably heard it because were on at, like, 10 o’clock in the morning or whatever – but the Deftones heard it, and they didn’t like it. They got me in a circle of these enormous gentlemen and said, “Why’re you using the ‘D’ word to your own devices?!” – I assume the ‘D’ word is ‘Deftones’ – and then they threatened me, they were like, “If I had my gun right now, I’d shoot you in the foot!” I was fucking terrified of those guys… But they’re actually lovely. I’ve talked to a couple of them since; we interviewed one of them on the radio and I reminded him of that story and he goes, “Yeeeeah, that sounds right”. So anyway, it’ll be good to catch up with them and hopefully have a slightly different relationship, less fraught and laden with insults.

You’ll be reunited with NOFX at Soundwave, and I mean, especially after the last time he kicked a punter in the face, Fat Mike doesn’t have the most glowing of reputations. But behind closed doors, is he a goodcunt or a shitcunt?
To be honest, he has kicked more people in the face than you would ever imagine. He’s a kicker! Yeah, he kicked me in the face. He kicked our entire band in the face, that’s how we got signed. We let him do it, we thanked him for it… Yeah, he’s a violent motherfucker!

Frenzal Rhomb has been going strong for 23 years now, and you’re still kicking arse at it and giving it your all. How the fuck do you still have that kind of energy at this point?
It’s mainly the shows, I think. The shows are hilarious and fun, and they’re always a tremendous party. That’s what keeps me interested. Every time we play, all these people turn up and go nuts, and I’m always sort of flabbergasted and excited by that. I run a little recording studio and I get a lot of young punk bands coming through, and that also gives me a lot of energy for it. We get a lot of these kids that come in, and they’re playing this really aggressive music, over-the-top and raw, tortured kind of punk stuff. And fuck, it’s so good! There are so many really good bands, especially in that DIY sort of scene. So many people putting on good shows, making good records; there still seems to be a reason to keep doing it, I guess.

What are some of the bands in the DIY scene that BLUNT readers should check out?
I’m in love with this band called Canine at the moment, they’re amazing. There’s a band called Thorax, who are great. Lots of bands coming out of that Blackwire scene – but I’m really lazy and that’s near my house, so it’s actually the only scene that I know about… That and The X Factor.

Even with all the shit that’s gone on between the four of you – Gordy’s arm, you having a fucking brain parasite removed… There really is no stopping you guys.
Lindsay [McDougall] had a detached retina the other day! One of his eyes nearly fell out. He had to have an emergency surgery on his fucking retina, they had to sew it back on. After his honeymoon – he wasn’t entirely sure how he did it, because they said it was from “high impact trauma”. But when he told me what happened, I was like, “Yeah, seems fair.” And Gordy’s good now. He’s doing all the right things and getting some very positive feedback from his neurologist, so yeah, he’s on track! Someone on Facebook said that his arm at the moment looks like a mongoose eating bamboo when he has a drumstick in his floppy, limp hand. But it’ll get better. He’s a fucking legend, so he’ll be back soon enough.

You were supposed to head off to Colorado in September to chuck together this new album, but of course, that didn’t exactly go as planned. What’s the go now?
I think we’ll probably have to rework a couple of the songs. I did have a listen to the demos the other day, and there’s some good stuff on there, so hopefully we won’t have to do too much. But yeah, we’ll have a few more demo sessions, I guess. We have our flights valid until June, so if we don’t go before then, we’ll just all go on a drug holiday to Colorado, get high and hang out. But we’re very positive about the concept of Gordy getting better within the next couple of months!

 

“I looked over, and this completely naked man – the lead singer of Clowns – fell from two metres above him, stagediving, so his cock’n’balls went right into Nigel’s face as he hit the ground. It was such a great moment in time.”

 

There are some songs in your discography that have some real meaning and social commentary, and there are songs – most, probably – that just mean sweet fuck all. What kind of songs are you most into writing at the moment, and what kind of mood or vibe do you want to take album nine in?
I guess I’m still searching for the perfect song that combines those things, where you can have a total throwaway, meaningless piece of bullshit that actually is incredibly deep and changes people’s lives. I think that’s why we keep putting out new records, because I always think we can do a better job, or we can make it sound better, or we can make it catchier, or more interesting lyrically. On the last record (2011’s Smoko At The Pet Food Factory), I feel like we got the closest to melding all the elements of Frenzal, but there’s still… we can do better.

Do you think you’d ever take a full album “seriously”, or will Frenzal always be a band about having fun and chucking a laugh?
Yeah, I think without that stuff, we’d probably kill ourselves. So I think unfortunately – or fortunately – that’s part and parcel with the band. I mean, it’s a black humour that humans have. All of my friends have that. People that don’t have that, I don’t really hang out with – that’s not through choice, it’s just the people that we gravitate towards, I guess, people with that sort of dark humour where there’s not that many boundaries. That to me is not just part of keeping the band going, but keeping going as humans. Because otherwise, what do you do? Just stare down the precipice of your inevitable death?

Would you say that it’s important for punk bands not to get too caught up in that clusterfuck of politics and social issues, and just kick back with a tinny or 12 from time to time?
Oh, no! I think it’s great when bands can do it. I’m not so great at that, that very serious kind of political commentary. So when people do do it, and do it well, I really like it. I love bands like Propagandhi… Midnight Oil, even, despite everything that’s happened. I love [Peter Garrett’s] lyrics – and Rob Hirst’s lyrics – but yeah, I can’t really do it. I applaud people that can.

As jokey as the music behind Frenzal is, you’re all pretty intellectual motherfuckers.
That’s actually going to be on my gravestone. “Here lies Jason Whalley, intellectual motherfucker!”

What’s your opinion on the way things are going in Australia right now?
Well, y’know… Malcolm Turnbull… I love that expression, “lipstick on a pig”. I like pigs – although I’m a vegetarian – but I don’t like the pig in that analogy. It’s exactly the same policies, exactly the same horrific fucking torture that’s being perpetrated on the most vulnerable people in our society. But it still feels good! That fucking cunt is gone! It’s a terrible admission to make to one’s self, but there’s just a generally lighter mood. I was actually talking to a Labour frontbencher the other day – who I will name as “Albo” – and I was asking him that same question, like, “How do you feel now that Tony Abbott is gone?” and he was like, “Well, as much as it’s made their jobs much harder, it’s so much nicer in parliament, and in the general mood of the place. It’s less aggressive”. Even people that know him were going, “The guy’s a fucking psycho!” He was a fucking nut job! He was ruining the country; good riddance to that rubbish. As much as the policies haven’t improved in any way, shape or form, there just seems to be this general feeling – and it really could have been anyone that stepped into that position. I’m not a Turnbull fan by any stretch, but anyone would have been better than [Abbott].

You’re about to head off on the Friendless Summer tour across some of the cities less visited by other bands. What’s it like when people in places like Walgatt come up to you and go, “Fuck yeah, Frenzal!”
It’s great! It’s good – I mean, you can’t talk to anyone because they’re all horrendously racist, but it’s lovely to go there and meet up with all of those people, and talk about sports. I’m looking forward to that summer tour, especially travelling with Clowns. They’re fucking mental. The last time we played with them, we were launching the Frenzal Rhomb beer in Geelong. There was a lot of people there, but because the Frenzal Rhomb beer was 7.8%, there was a lot of people in the crowd making really poor decisions. We had Nigel [Melder] from Mindsnare doing stage tech for us, and y’know, he’s a very handsome, buff, muscly, tattooed man, and he was sort of crouched around Lindsay’s pedals, stopping stagedivers and doing his job. He had his back to the crowd, and I looked over, and this completely naked man – the lead singer of Clowns – fell from two metres above him, stagediving, so his cock’n’balls went right into Nigel’s face as he hit the ground. I had to stop. I couldn’t sing, I was laughing so much. It was amazing. It was such a great moment in time.

There are a lot of Frenzal fans in their 30s and 40s, but you’ve also got fans coming to the shows that are barely pushing 15. How does it feel having these kids that weren’t even born in ’95 discover and connect with Coughing Up A Storm, for example?
Yeah, nah, it’s nice, I’m glad that they’re into it… It’s kind of weird. I actually met this kid at a show on the weekend, and he was like, 15. He was like, “Man, I’m never going to see Frenzal! You guys never do all ages shows, and Soundwave is too expensive” and I was like, “Ah, it’ll happen. I’m sure we can sneak you in or something. How did you hear about the band?” And he was like, “Oh, from my maths teacher!” …That’s our demographic! Maths teachers! But yeah, there are some young kids getting into it, and that’s great. If you ever play a tiered venue, you can always see the age demographic kind of span from the front of the stage to the back of the room, upwards, towards the comfortable seats.

On the side, you play in a killer Poison City band called Chinese Burns Unit. Last we heard, there were seven songs ready to go for an album – how is everything going in that band?
It’s good! That was actually the show I was talking about where I met that kid, we played out at Beatdisc in Parramatta. Have you ever been out there? It’s a cool shop. But yeah, it’s a slow process. We do everything ourselves, we record everything ourselves, and so as a result, a lot of the time we’re just off doing other things that actually get us money. The Chinese Burns Unit is a slow moving creature, but it moves nonetheless! We’ve got a bunch of songs, and I think we’re going to do some more recordings in a couple of weeks. I’ve actually been touring with this other band called The Neptune Power Federation, which is my wife and I – my wife sings – Fox and Dean from Nancy Vandal, and Troy from… A million bands. It’s basically a stoner, ’70s kind of space-rock album about time travelling witch hunters. We’re in the middle of constructing an enormous bong with a giant pentagram and a smoke machine inside of it, and a theremin on the back that my wife plays.

Frenzal Rhomb / Clowns Tour Dates

Thu Dec 17th – Carmens, Miranda (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Fri Dec 18th – Marlin Hotel, Ulladulla (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Sat Dec 19th – Fitzroy Hotel, Windsor (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Sun Dec 20th – Baroque Room, Katoomba (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Wed Jan 6th – Hoey Moey, Coffs Harbour (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Thu Jan 7th – Club Forster, Forster (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Fri Jan 8th – Chelsea Heights Hotel, Chelsea Heights (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Sat Jan 9th – Village Green Hotel, Mulgrave (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Wed Jan 13th – The Northern, Byron Bay (18+)
Tix: moshtix.com.au

Thu Jan 14th – Solbar, Maroochydore (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Fri Jan 15th – Spotted Cow, Toowoomba (18+)
Tix: oztix.com.au
Sat Jan 23rd – Soundwave Festival, Brisbane
Tix: soundwavefestival.com
Sun Jan 24th – Soundwave Festival, Sydney
Tix: soundwavefestival.com
Tue Jan 26th – Soundwave Festival, Melbourne
Tix: soundwavefestival.com

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