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Tomahawk can’t help being the outliers

Supergroups have long been synonymous with overwhelming egos coming together to create underwhelming music, packed full of pompousness and arrogance (for reference: Chickenfoot, AxeWound, The Winery Dogs etc.) A common accusation levelled against them is that the product, more often than not, bears, at best, a watered-down resemblance to the musical DNA of those involved.

When it comes to Tomahawk however, the chameleon-like outfit fronted by Faith No More/Mr. Bungle mastermind Mike Patton, further associated with the likes of The Jesus Lizard and Helmet, perhaps the only expectation that historical fans have is to expect the unexpected. Careening between semi-conventional alternative rock and synth-fused punk throughout their 20+ years of weirdness, their latest offering Tonic Immobility follows the trend of its predecessors; to tear up the rule book, throw the scraps in the fire and dance in the flames.

Indeed, the band’s activity has become as unpredictable as their sound, with Tonic Immobility being their first offering after eight years of total dormancy. So, what prompted this sudden re-emergence?

“Well, this album has been written sporadically over the past few years,” admits guitarist Duane Denison, who is also known for his work in The Jesus Lizard. “I think we had demos for it as far back as about 2015. The big thing is that we just have to work around all our schedules – especially Mike – so we never really know when we’re going to have time to get each record out.”

Drawing comparisons to the band’s breakout 2003 release Mit Gas, Tonic Immobility finds Tomahawk on a more focused trajectory, with the experimentation somewhat dialed back and Patton’s knack for melody given the centre stage.

“There was talk over email about doing something like it,” notes Denison in reference to Mit Gas. “But we kind of decided that the last thing that we wanted to do was to just follow what other bands have done, and we’ve never really been about lumping ourselves in with the rest of the pack, you know?

“It’s such an event to get us all together, even online, just to talk about where to take the band. We’re still super passionate about it though, and we really love what we’ve done here.

“Tomahawk is a great creative outlet for all of us to explore sounds that we can’t really do with other bands; that’s never going to change.”

After the group’s 2013 offering Oddfellows, which saw them tour Australia as part of the 2013 Soundwave Festival package, there were fears that the near-decade-long gap between drinks, not to mention a global pandemic, could be terminal for the project.

However, Denison notes that, if anything, the push to release music after such a break is a testament to the members’ commitment to cutting weird riffs to tape.

“I guess, if anything, the fact that we still want to put records out even with an eight year gap between them shows that we’re still keen to keep pushing with this project, and we still have that drive there,” he says.

“You can never plan ahead with this band; that’s what makes it so special though. Every time we release music, it feels like a big deal that we’ve been able to make the time to put aside our other projects to get some more material out there.”

With no plans of touring on the horizon, we close the interview by posing the idea of a Tomahawk live stream to tide fans over with a once-in-a-decade live fix from the entity.

However, in true outlier fashion, Denison notes that it wouldn’t be Tomahawk’s style to wander down that path.

“Will we do a live stream? I don’t think so. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the live stream idea. Some of them have been really cool, but it’s not quite the direction that I want to go in. I’ve got nothing against the bands that decide to do it – but I don’t think that’s the direction that we’ll be going in.

It’s better to just live in the present and enjoy what there is on offer – and I certainly hope that people will benefit from this record alone.”

Tonic Immobility is out now via Ipecac Recordings.