Author: mattdoria

AFI: Keeping The Flame Alight (an interview with Jade Puget)


Good morning! I went to bed at 2am last night and woke up at 6am, but for some strange reason, I feel incredibly well-slept. Coming from someone who can sleep (and has slept) 18 hours straight and still feel tired, that’s pretty fucking phenomenal – especially considering I am so far behind with AG #144 and I really could use every second I’ve got. 

But ANYWAY, last month I had a really nice chat with Jade Puget of AFI. I found him incredibly insightful and very bubbly, easy to riff off of and carry the interview along. I’d shopped the story around for a few weeks before their latest record Bodies came out, but I sadly couldn’t get an outlet to bite on it. The record has been out for a hot minute now (it streeted on June 11th), so I figure it might just work best to throw this piece up here and let it shine on its own merit. 



When they formed in the hazy Californian winter of ’91, AFI were nothing if not enthusiastic. None of the four wide-eyed ragamuffins knew how to play an instrument (no, literally – they didn’t even own any), but that hardly stopped them from thrashing away to their hearts’ content, in time making their full-length breakout with 1995’s Answer That And Stay Fashionable. Co-produced with Rancid members Tim Armstrong and Brett Reed, the record was, by and large, your stock-standard hardcore punk affair: loose, gnashing guitars, scatter-paced drum fills, and scratchy yelled vocals dripping with venomous teen angst. 

Looking back on the record in 2021, it’s… Well, it’s something. It’s hard to believe Answer That And Stay Fashionable was bashed out by the same AFI that made Bodies – the band’s kinetic and kaleidoscopic 11th LP, due June 11th on Rise Records. On the new record are glimmers of the crunchy, mosh-ready mania that AFI cut their teeth on, but there’s also a tinge of the seedy, soul-gripping emo they dipped their feet into on 2003’s Sing The Sorrow, and a solid dose of the effervescent new-wave vibes they’ve explored in recent years. There are also tracks that sound unlike anything else AFI have ever done before; it’s a triumph of the band’s storied past, but also a defiant charge ahead in their eternal pursuit of innovation – it feels purpose-built to celebrate AFI’s 30th anniversary.

Except according to guitarist Jade Puget, the impending milestone never even grazed his mind until last month. As far as he’s concerned, every AFI record is the debut effort from a new incarnation of the band. Reinvention is crucial, he stresses, lest they lapse into a soul-sucking cycle of half-assed insipidity. As Puget ruminates to [insert outlet name here], Bodies is a snapshot of AFI in the present day, and there’s no telling where they’ll go – let alone who they’ll be – from here.

One of the really exciting things about being an AFI fan is that you never know what’s going to come next. You’ve gone from hardcore to goth-rock, to pop-punk, to indie-rock… You’ve been everywhere, man. How much of that creative process is just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks? Do you see a value in experimentation?
I do! As a songwriter – and y’know, as a musician and an artist in general – I think stagnation really is the death of creativity. If we were to just remake our most popular albums, or try to replicate the formula that sold us the most records, I don’t think we would still be a band. Because sure, you might make more money or sell more records, but it’s just so soul-crushing. Even if you fail or people don’t like it, to strike out in a new direction is still more artistically rewarding. 

Has there ever been a time where you’ve done something and then stepped back and gone, “Okay, shit, we might have taken it a bit too far here”?
I mean yeah, all the time [laughs]. I actually brought this up to Davey the other day and he doesn’t even remember it, but when we were writing for this record, we somehow ended up with a reggae song. Y’know, obviously AFI is not known for its reggae – and it certainly wasn’t what we set out to do – but that’s just the way the song happened. And at the end of it, we were just kind of looking at each other like, “…How did this happen!?” But it was a good song! I actually ended up finished it after the fact, and I really like it! I don’t think it’ll ever see the light of day, but y’know, it’s fun to explore those paths less travelled when the opportunity comes up.

So where did the inspiration for this album’s thematic palate come from?
There wasn’t any particular thing where it was like I went through some traumatic experience, or had a bad breakup, or anything like that. It’s more just that at this point, I’ve been writing songs for a long time, so I just take everything in. It could be the weather, or a movie I just watched, or a book I’m reading… Y’know, you just kind of internalise everything that’s happening in your life, and then it somehow comes out in the music.

The stylistic ebb and flow on this record is truly something else. You’ve got tracks like Dulceria” and Tied To A Tree”, which are really deep and atmospheric, but then you’ve got tracks like Begging For Trouble” and Looking Tragic” which are really bright and energetic – and the way they all gel together is magical. Is the dynamic of mood something you were very conscious about?
I’m glad it happens that way, but when we sit down to write, we really have no plan for what we’re going to write. At the end of that process, it’s just like, “Okay, what are the ten best songs we have here?” But with a song like “Tied To A Tree”, you can’t write too many of those in a row or you’ll just be incredibly depressed. So you have to write something like “Begging For Trouble” to sort of cleanse your palate.

Is that diversity a testament to your creative chemistry as a band?
Yeah, even though I write all the music, I don’t try to take over it with all these crazy guitar theatrics. In fact if you listen to our records throughout the years, you can actually hear that I’ve become less and less interested in making my guitar any sort of focal point. To me, the guitars have just become another tool in my arsenal of songwriting techniques, and it just needs to be in its place and have its time. You don’t need to have these giant stacks of guitars constantly assaulting you. If you let the guitar have one cool moment in a song, that will be more impactful than having it hit you over the head for the entire song. So now I can create space for Hunter [Burgan, bass] to have his moment, for the vocals to have their moment… For everyone to have their moment. 

Is that something you’ve found has come more naturally to you with time? 
Yeah. I think as I’ve become a little more adept at songwriting, I’ve realised that making a good song isn’t about having everything sounding huge all the time. I think on this record especially, you can see that those spaces in the music can be just as impactful and as powerful as 13 layers of guitars.

Do you ever trawl through the catalogue and reflect on AFI’s evolution, or is your focus always set on the next chapter of the journey?
I’m always just trying to move forward – and I think Davey feels the same way. Y’know, sometimes I’ll sit down with my guitar and I’ll try to be like, “Okay, I’m gonna write a fast song!” Or, “I’m gonna write a song that sounds like something from The Art Of Drowning!” But when you try to force something like that, it never tends to work. It feels inauthentic. It feels uncreative. Now if that was to happen naturally – if I was to write some fast old-school punk song because that’s what I had stuck in my head – I would be all for it. And sometimes we do write that kind of stuff, and it’s okay, because it came to us naturally. But I’m not really one to reflect on our past; I’m certainly not one to throw on an old AFI record and rock out to my own music.

Do you have any plans to celebrate AFI’s 30th anniversary this year?
Yeah, we’re trying to figure that out at the moment. We’ve gotta do something cool, right? It is a big milestone – I don’t think very many bands get to 30 years – so we’re trying to think up something cool for the fans, a way that we can celebrate the whole history of the band and all the records we’ve put out. 

How strong would you say the band is right now? Could you see AFI kicking on for another 30 years?
I mean, I hope to die well before that [laughs]. But if it does happen, I won’t be complaining. I think as long as we’re able to make music that excites us, we’ll keep it going. That’s really the key to everything. If at some point there’s nothing left in the tank and we start retreading old stuff or it’s just not fun anymore, that will be when we call it a day.

I like that vibe. Sometimes you’ve just gotta go with the flow.
Yeah! I mean, that’s how we started. When we were kids, we never had any master plan – we were never looking forward to the ten-year anniversary or thinking about a five-album plan, or going, “What are we going to do after this record?” It’s always just been about taking it one day at a time.

Is that harder to do when you’ve got label contracts and expectations to meet?
No, because strangely enough, I really feel like all four of us still operate on the same wavelength; we still have the same approach [to AFI] that we did when we were a DIY punk band. We’re not going to do anything because we owe it to a label, or because we need to make money. It’s never going to be about that. Whenever we go to make a record, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Is this real for us? Is this authentic? Are we having fun?’

Well if the energy isn’t there for an AFI record, you’ve all got side projects to channel your creativity into.
Yeah, exactly. Blaqk Audio is my main side project, and that’s always a fun escape. In fact, Davey and I are writing a new Blaqk Audio record right now, so we’re hoping to record that soon!

NME news roundup: July 21st-24th, 2021

OH SHIT HEY! Man it feels like the past week has just shot right the fuck by. It’s been hectic.

Literally no more than two hours after I posted the last roundup, I wound up back in hospital – this time getting stitches and a tetanus shot because I’d stepped on a shard of broken glass that just tore through my foot. Fun times, right? I truly cannot catch a break.

But it’s been a good week! It’s been a BUSY week. We send Australian Guitar #144 off to print next Friday, and munching through a full platter of assorted health crises over the past two months has led to this issue being an especially stressful one. And there’s been SO much going on in the world of new music, my shifts at NME have been go, go, go. But I’m loving it! I wrote nine pieces yesterday! The chaos is truly exciting and I hope it never ends. Karen, if by some random stroke of embarrassing luck you’ve stumbled upon this (I’m sorry), please roster me on literally every day in August. AG always goes on a lil’ semi-hiatus for the month after an issue sends, so I’ve got the time!

My highlights for this week were the new tracks by Gretta Ray and Those Who Dream – cop them both after the jump! (And if you would be so kind, please consider clicking on an ad or two! I am currently quite on the poor side and every click is a cent I can put towards a sweet, sweet sausage McMuffin).

In non-news music news, I have been absolutely rinsing the new Turnstile album this week. I got a stream of it on Wednesday so I could review for AG144, and I must have racked up at least 100 plays so far. So far it’s my third 10/10 score for this year, following Girl In Red’s If I Could Make It Go Quiet and The Small Calamities’ Moments Of Impact. We’ve decided that AG’s album reviews won’t be syndicated to the Guitar World site moving forward, so I’ll pop my review of GLOW ON here when it’s ready.

I’ve also been listening to the new Courtney Barnett album a lot – and not necessarily because I want to? Sometimes and Tell Me were my #1 albums for 2015 and 2018, respectively, but I’m having a lot of conflicted thoughts on Things Take Time. I’m revising a lot of songs in different contexts and headspaces, trying to figure out how to make them click. But for the most part, it’s falling very flat. I’m going to review it for AG, but I also want to review it for NME – I have a lot of thoughts on this record that I can’t quite cram into 120 words.

Otherwise, I’ve been super out of touch on new album releases. There’s probably a good 200 albums I need to put on my backlog at this point. I severely doubt the new Kanye LP will end up on it; not because I don’t want to listen to it – even for all his migraine-inducing headassery over the years, I cannot deny the man makes some top quality shit – but because let’s face it: the album is never coming out.

WEDNESDAY, 21/07/21

Britney Spears’ new lawyer says he is “moving aggressively” to remove singer’s father as conservator

Martin Kahan, acclaimed KISS, Rush and Bon Jovi music video director, has died at 74

Listen to Clowns’ new tongue-in-cheek love song, ‘Sarah’

Hayley Mary makes the most of isolation in new video for ‘Sullen Kink’

Katz and Fractures team up for atmospheric new single ‘Forward’

Listen to Those Who Dream’s psychotropic new single ‘Bubblegum’

THURSDAY, 22/07/21

95 per cent of Australian punters would be “impacted” if live events don’t return in 2021, says LEIF study

Half of the Federal Government’s $200million RISE funding remains unspent

I Prevail announce Australian tour dates for 2022

Semantics share pummelling new single ‘Sleep At Night’

FRIDAY, 23/07/21

Coldplay shoot for the stars with their cinematic new track ‘Coloratura’

Listen to H3000’s cosmic new single ‘Flames’

Stevan amps up the vibes on emotive new single ‘Hope It’s Not’

Listen to Gretta Ray’s enthralling new double A-side, ‘Duology Three’

The Living End lead the inaugural Live At The Park festival lineup

Teen Jesus And The Jean Teasers yell their hearts out on fiery new single ‘AHHHH!’

Eliza & The Delusionals drop silky single ‘Save Me’, announce rescheduled Queensland shows

Hear Gretta Ray put a soul-stirring spin on a Gang Of Youths gem for Like A Version

SATURDAY, 24/07/21

Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama are turning their ‘Renegades’ podcast into a book

Atlanta officially declares July 22 to be Kanye West Day

Vince Staples celebrates the here and now in his NPR Tiny Desk (Home) concert

Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker record songs in Simlish for new Sims 4 expansion pack

Amyl And The Sniffers, Spacey Jane and Jaguar Jonze lead 2021 Wave Rock Weekender lineup

NME news roundup: June 29th – July 17th, 2021

Okay, so just like the last one, this NME news roundup is coming way later than it was meant to. But I have a solid excuse: I was in the ICU with a life-threatening blood complication when this one was supposed to go live. So it didn’t, obviously, and I’m bundling two roundups together again.

As a wise man named Slowthai once said: “Deal wiv it.”

(Also, in case you were wondering, I am fine now! I’ll probably write a little ramble about how I almost died for this blog later today, ’cause I have AG admin work to do and I’m gonna need something to procrastinate that with).

TUESDAY, 29/06/21

Babymetal announce ‘10 Babymetal Budokan’ live album, director’s cut livestream

Mogwai announce North American tour dates for 2022

Jamie Lynn Spears speaks out in support for Britney: “I’m so proud of her for using her voice”

WEDNESDAY, 30/06/21

Watch Tyler, The Creator perform at a kid’s birthday in the new video for ‘Corso’

Demi Lovato set to host talk show: “No topics are off limits”

Watch Olivia Rodrigo’s new concert film ‘Sour Prom’

Dominic Breen postpones debut album release, cancels shows following leg injury

Teenage Joans share cinematic video for ‘Wine’, postpone EP launch tour

Watch Apate’s music video for their new single, ‘Liar’s Tongue’

THURSDAY, 01/07/21

Rap icon Biz Markie is still alive, manager says, after rumours of his death on social media

Chasing Ghosts announce ‘Homelands Colonies’ tour

Listen to Flowerkid’s emotive new single ‘It’s Happening Again’, featuring KUČKA

The Kite String Tangle and Woodes share new Tornado Club single, ‘Intuition’

SATURDAY, 03/07/21

Curb Records sues Tennessee governor over transphobic bathroom bill

Scott Weiland and Robert Trujillo’s sons have formed a new band called Blu Weekend

Listen to a snippet of The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber’s new collab, ‘Stay’

TUESDAY, 13/07/21

Suicidal Tendencies bassist Ra Diaz to fill in for Fieldy on Korn’s summer tour

Vince Staples keeps running in the new video for ‘Are You With That?’

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard share Hayao Miyazaki-inspired animated video for ‘Interior People’

Listen to Shannen James’ dancefloor-ready new breakup anthem, ‘Separate Ways’

Twelve Foot Ninja share details of new album, novel, comic and tour dates

WEDNESDAY, 14/07/21

The Kid LAROI confirms July release and partial tracklist for ‘Fuck Love 3’

Dani Filth responds to Ed Sheeran saying he “would not be opposed to creating” a death metal album

ACLU and other rights groups back Britney Spears’ request to choose her own lawyer in conservatorship case

Dave Mustaine says David Ellefson will not rejoin Megadeth, teases bassist’s “mystery” replacement

Vivid Sydney 2021 rescheduled due to surge of local COVID-19 cases

THURSDAY, 15/07/21

Jeff LaBar, guitarist of glam metal band Cinderella, has died aged 58

Watch Olivia Rodrigo appear at the White House to promote COVID-19 vaccines

Holy Holy team with CLEWS for buoyant single ‘The Aftergone’, announce album tour

Brisbane Festival announces full 2021 programme for September with Client Liaison, Alice Skye and more

Watch the chaotic new video for RedHook’s latest single, ’Kamikaze’

Hear Vance Joy perform an enchanting acoustic version of ‘Missing Piece’

Newcastle musician Daniel Hanson jailed for 28 years on 14 charges of rape

FRIDAY, 16/07/21

Listen to Gang Of Youths’ surprise new EP, ‘Total Serene’

Foxing drop the dynamic title track for ‘Draw Down The Moon’ alongside André De Shields-starring video

Mark Hoppus shares more details of cancer diagnosis: “I’m stage 4”

Trippie Redd links up with Lil Uzi Vert for poppy new single ‘Holy Smokes’

Watch Billie Eilish perform a striking live version of ‘NDA’ in-studio

Hear Haim’s summery tune for the ‘Last Letter Of Your Love’ soundtrack, ‘Cherry Flavored Stomach Ache’

Miiesha continues the story of ‘Damaged’ in bouncy new single, ‘Made For Silence’

SATURDAY, 17/07/21

Biz Markie, pioneering ‘Just A Friend’ rapper, has died aged 57

American Football’s founding drummer and trumpeter Steve Lamos leaves band

Conan Gray almost burns down a café in the new video for ‘People Watching’

Three new Metallica jigsaw puzzles set for release in September

NME news roundup: June 14th-26th, 2021

Hello, blogosphere!

Apologies for this roundup coming a tad (see: heaps) late – wild times in battery city. Below is everything I’ve covered for NME over the past two weeks! Yew!

MONDAY, 14/06/21

G Flip comes out as non-binary: “That’s who I’ve been my entire life”

Quivers announce Australian tour in support of new album ‘Golden Doubt’

Listen to the kaleidoscopic Dan Shake remix of The Jungle Giants’ single ‘Treat You Right’

Mansionair share bubbly new single ‘Don’t Wait’ and Australian tour dates

TUESDAY, 15/06/21

Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and Tyler, the Creator lead 2021 Day N Vegas lineup

Japanese Breakfast shares the first taste of her ‘Sable’ soundtrack with ‘Better The Mask’

Raave Tapes lead Hidden Lanes Festival 2021 lineup

San Cisco seek compensation from Queensland Government following NightQuarter closure

Watch the hunger-inducing video for Larsen’s new single ‘Eating Me Alive’

WEDNESDAY, 16/06/21

Watch the ultra-trippy video for Liars’ new single ‘Big Appetite’

Haim, St. Vincent and Charli XCX lead the 2021 All Things Go Festival lineup

Mykki Blanco links up with Blood Orange for glittery new single ‘It’s Not My Choice’

DZ Deathrays share new single, ‘Golden Retriever’, and announce national album tour

Sheppard band members’ father arrested again in Papua New Guinea, facing new charges

The Chats and Cosmic Psychos join forces with eMusic Live for concert livestreams

FRIDAY, 18/06/21

Listen to the 420-friendly new single from Milky Chance, ‘Colorado’

Courtney Barnett announces US tour dates for 2021 and 2022

Watch Milan Ring put a soulful spin on two SZA gems for Like A Version

The Veronicas tap into their emotive side on the dancefloor-destined new single ‘Goodbye’

Hayley Mary announces ‘The Drip’ EP launch shows

Watch Amy Shark have some truly awful luck in the new video for ‘Worst Day Of My Life’

MONDAY, 21/06/21

Chuck D announces graphic novel to celebrate 30th anniversary of Public Enemy’s ‘Apocalypse 91’

Miiesha, RVG, Nina Las Vegas and more announced for Brisbane Winter Sessions festival

TUESDAY, 22/06/21

Tame Impala share psychedelic ‘Rushium’ teaser video

Interpol, Modest Mouse and M.I.A. lead the 2022 Just Like Heaven festival lineup

T-Pain says he slipped into depression after Usher told him he “fucked up music for real singers”

KoRn bassist Fieldy announces touring hiatus to deal with “bad habits”

WEDNESDAY, 23/06/21

Tyler, The Creator drops a lush new single and video, ‘WUSYANAME’

Snoop Dogg, Al Green, 50 Cent and more announced for Once Upon A Time In LA festival

Watch a face-painted Emerson Snowe stumble down the street in the video for ‘Man, It Don’t Matter (What They Say)’

NSW COVID-19 restrictions tightened for a week, outdoor concerts now capped at half capacity

THURSDAY, 24/06/21

Olivia Rodrigo to stream ‘Sour Prom’ concert film next week

Listen to Lucy Dacus put an ethereal spin on Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’

Watch Modest Mouse rock out performing ‘We Are Between’ on ‘Fallon’

Vince Staples to make his graphic novel debut with ‘Limbo Beach’

Tropical Fuck Storm share new single and video, ‘G.A.F.F.’, announce third album

FRIDAY, 25/06/21

Listen to the luminous new Fletcher single, ‘Healing’

Sleater-Kinney release Amazon-exclusive EP ‘Live At The Hallowed Halls’

RVG announce first interstate headline shows in support of ‘Feral’

Bootleg Rascal and Saint Lane join forces for funky new single, ‘All About You’

Foxing share explosive new single and North American tour dates supporting Manchester Orchestra

SATURDAY, 26/06/21

Cardi B says female rappers are “the most disrespected” despite making “great music”

Sleigh Bells confirm new music is on the way with ‘Unannounced Album Tour’

Chase Atlantic share Spanish-influenced new single ‘OHMAMI’

The Great Ed Square Snack Crawl Of 2021

I’ve had a pretty shit week, so let’s kick this post off with a really nice, happy photo of Bruno. I took it during one of our last walks for the RSPCA Million Paws Walk last month – Milo and I were both absolutely ruined by that point, but Bruno was having the time of his life going out and sniffing up a storm every day. And that’s all that matters, really. He had fun going walkies, and we had fun watching him have fun.

But yeah – this week, man. My mental health just tanked at the start of it, and didn’t really recover – I still feel like shit, but I guess I’m trying to keep my chin up? Kind of? I said ‘fuck it’ and did some things I ~wanted to~ over the weekend, which was nice.

Friday night, Milo and I drove into the city to see Cxloe play at the Oxford Art Factory. We got dinner at BL Burgers (the micro offshoot of Sydney’s hands-down best burger joint, Bar Luca) and I tried the Queen Bee – their special of the week for this week – which had honey butter-dipped fried chicken and pickles on a milk bun (it also had coleslaw and sriracha mayo, but I’m not that hot on either so I kept it simple). The chicken was a little too spicy for my embarrassingly white tastebuds, but otherwise it was another smash hit from the brains at BL. 

We also got these super delicious, made-to-order mini pizzas from Detroit Sliced Pizza – I can’t remember what Milo got (except that it was some kind of vegetarian one), but I got the Roast Pumpkin slice that had a pesto aioli, pine nuts and feta. I was full as a butcher’s dog from the burg, so I had it for breakfast yesterday morning. Truly life-affirming.

There’s this one Indian street food place on Oxford Street that I always walk past and become immediately hypnotised by how good it smells. Well, okay, there are actually three on the same block, but it’s this one in particular – the north-most, with the red sign – that always looks the best. I finally gave in to the smell and tried a vegetable pakora. It cost – get this – a fucking dollar. One dollar. 100 cents. No shit, I found a fresh, hot snack in Sydney – on fucking Oxford Street, no less – for A DOLLAR. And it was delightful. Crunchy, savoury, filling, a tad spicy… Happy belly, happy baby.

Our last culinary stop on Oxford Street was a convenience store called 24/7 Baby, which drew us in with their TikTok famous F’Real shakes. I got a cookies ’n’ cream shake, and Milo got mint choc chip; mine was delicious (and surprisingly not too sweet or overbearing), and Milo’s was, uh, pretty fuckin’ bad. It looked like radioactive sludge, and tasted like peppermint essential oil. But they liked it, so all in all, it was a win-win sitch. 

On the way home, we got lokma from Loukoumades on Greek Street in Beverly Hills. I am always a slut for lokma (there’s this one place in Melbourne that we always order from because they do the most incredible, soft, warm and rich lokma) but these were total shite. Oily, chewy, bland… It only cost a little over $20 for two servings, so they weren’t too bad on the price side, but yeah, never again. Ah, well – we tried something new, and not every new thing you try will be a hit. You live and learn!

So Friday night (and Saturday morning, by proxy of those leftovers) was pretty food-oriented. Saturday was my only day off this week, so we decided to have a quiet one inside and just zen out – maybe fire up the PS5 (which has been gathering a mighty fine coat of dust in recent months) and chew through a bit of Ratchet & Clank. I somehow managed to throw my back out in the shower, so I was pretty keen to move around as little as physically possible…

…Then we decided we were unbearably bored at home, so we made plans to go out. We’ve been wanting to check out Ed Square for a hot minute – it opened in April and is now our most local shopping plaza, and there’s a bougie new Event cinema there with reclining seats as standard – so we figured it’d be nice to catch a movie and some dinner there. We were going to book tickets to catch a 6:20pm session of A Quiet Place Part II, but it was completely sold out by 1:00pm, so we opted for the 9:00pm screening. 

As for dinner, we had no idea what restaurants had opened up at Ed Square, so we hit the website – to which we found there were so many of our usual going-out go-tos. They had a BL Burgers. They had a Gami Chicken & Beer. They had a Sushi On Fire. There was an Indian restaurant and gin bar that looked phenomenal (Masala Kitchen), and a cute lil’ dumpling spot with a small, but super promising menu (Baby Bao). 

What are you to do when there are so many options, but make two punishingly indecisive people choose from them?

Well, why not go to all of them?

Thus the idea was born: The Great Ed Square Snack Crawl of 2021. Five hours, seven restaurants, one bubble tea spot and an endless supply of good vibes. My back fucking caned, and I was brutally exhausted from the past week, but I was determined. Not just to eat a whole bunch, either, but to spend a nice day out with my partner and enjoy actually living my life for a little bit.

The crawl started at 3:00pm with bubble tea from Chā Bar. I got a mango tea and Milo got a strawberry-lychee blended drink. The mango tea was really nice. It wasn’t overly sweet like a lot of bubble tea places tend to make them – in fact I think the only thing sweetening it was the fresh mango puree in it, unless the tea base was pre-sweetened. Milo’s drink stumped me a little bit – it was delicious on the sip, but the aftertaste was so blunt and chemical-y. I had to keep trying it every few minutes to decide whether I liked it or not… I don’t think I did?

We got dumplings from Belly Bao to go with our tea. I got xiao long bao (pork soup dumplings) and Milo got ‘emerald’ dumplings (mushroom and spinach, in the most adorable matcha-coloured pastry). I didn’t try Milo’s dumplings because I don’t like mushrooms, and Milo didn’t try mine because they don’t like pork – but we both really enjoyed our own orders, and mutually agreed that the chili oil we got on the side was bullshit good. Like, unfathomably good – maybe the best chili oil we’d ever tried? I don’t know, I don’t think either of us have tried enough types of chili oil to make a definitive judgement, but it was really, really good. 

We didn’t get the golden mantou (fried buns served with condensed milk), but they looked delicious. I’m definitely getting those next time – and there will definitely be a next time.

Stop #2 was BL Burgers. Technically the BL at Ed Square is one of their ‘Loaded by BL’ restaurants, but they don’t do the build-your-own-burger/hotdog thing that separates Loaded from a standard BL, so I’m refusing to call it an actual Loaded. Yes, we already had BL on Friday night, but we both got chicken burgers then, and BL does the single best beef burger in Sydney, so we pretty much had to stop in. We shared a classic BL Beef with the lettuce and tomato swapped for streaky bacon. I also got their house-made lemon, lime and bitters. 

The LLB was pretty weak, but the burger was one of the best I’d ever had from BL. The bun was pillowy and warm, the beef beautifully seasoned and cooked to medium, and the Dijon-forward sauce was creamy and savoury. Honestly, I don’t see how anybody could choose Mary’s or Milky Lane over BL when it comes to premium burgers in Sydney. BL have been the undefeated champions since the day they popped up, and their reign hasn’t been even slightly threatened.

We took a short walk around Ed Square to settle our stomachs, and there were two things I learned. Firstly, walking on a strained back doesn’t help the pain settle, it only exacerbates the pain. Secondly, Ed Square was massively overhyped – it’s relatively tiny, all things considered. But it’s cute and ticks all our boxes for what a good plaza should have, and it means we have an Event cinema ten minutes away from where we live.

Our next stop was Masala Kitchen, where I was extremely keen to try a gin cocktail… Before seeing how much they cost. So we shared a Tropical Punch mocktail, which had strawberries, lychee, pineapple syrup and fresh-pressed citrus. It tasted like a liquified assortment of Skittles, except notably fresh – $12 well spent. We got these pinwheel samosas that were perfectly seasoned and struck the perfect balance of crunchy and soft, and one of those bougie apple desserts that look like an actual granny smith apple. The latter was a little underwhelming, but a cute and cool little experience nonetheless.

We checked out the iPlay arcade next, but it was packed with screaming children and their apathetic parents, so we couldn’t muster more than 20 minutes or so. I used to be the best at skee ball, but tonight I fucking sucked. I’m blaming it on my back. I outright refuse to accept that I am no longer a certifiable skee ball champion. We also played a Wizard Of Oz slot machine, on which Milo kept scoring jackpots and winning cards worth crazy amounts of tickets; if I ever develop a gambling habit, I want them by my side.

The next stop on the food crawl was the one we considered our ‘main course’: Gami Chicken & Beer. We ordered the smallest amount of fried chicken possible – a half bird – with sweet chili sauce on the side. To drink, Milo got a passionfruit mocktail (that was shaken for them table-side) and a canned Korean grape juice that had actual whole grapes in it. I got a Thunder Road Gun:Bae lager (brewed specifically to pair with Gami’s fried chicken) and a canned Korean pear juice that had actual pear chunks in it. 

The beer was delicious and did pair really nicely with the chicken, but the pear juice was rank. Milo dug it though, so we swapped our juices. Yes, I realise how bad that reads out of context. I also (very impulsively) ordered a plate of hotteok, which was like deep-fried mochi filled with brown sugar paste and crushed nuts. The texture was a little off-putting, but it was otherwise wonderful.

The chicken was obviously the star of the show, though. On its own it was super flavoursome and super juicy, with the breading understated, yet impeccable. But with the sweet chili… Oh my GOD. It was super thick and super sweet, but also super savoury – a true culinary experience. I don’t think my dad likes fried chicken, but I feel like I have to take him to Gami anyway, if only for the beer and the chili – I’m sure there’s something else he could dip in it to take his tastebuds on that night-making rollercoaster ride.

We considered our next stop to be somewhat of an interlude. We got ice cream from Royal Copenhagen – I got banana, and Milo got vanilla choc chip. I’d say we’re usually pretty adventurous when it comes to ice cream flavours, but tonight we both just wanted something simple and sweet, which we’d know would be good. And it was. I do kinda wish I’d gotten a waffle – I have fond memories of my Nonna taking my sister and I to the Royal Copenhagen in Manly as a child, and the smell of fresh waffles was always the highlight of those trips – but my belly full of chicken, beef, pork and samosa said, “Don’t the fuck you dare.”

Besides, we had two more places to hit. First up was @Mex, which I didn’t realise was Halal until after I looked at the menu and thought to myself, “What kind of Mexican joint doesn’t have a pulled pork option!?” Milo and I both got the same base tacos, with beef carnitas in mine and grilled chicken in theirs. Both of them were so nice that I didn’t realise I hadn’t taken a photo until Milo only had half a taco left. The restaurant’s staff was a bit all over the place, but the food didn’t reflect that at all.

Lastly, Milo wanted a teriyaki chicken bento box from Sushi On Fire to take with them into the movie. I can’t stand sushi in any of its forms, so I sat this one out – plus, I still had leftover hotteok from Gami resting under my shoulder, so I was all good for movie munchies. We got a second round of bubble tea on our way to the cinema – Milo got another strawberry-lychee blended drink, and I got a watermelon blended drink. I didn’t rate it. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t anything I’d order again.

A Quiet Place Part II was pretty decent. It wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first, it had some pacing issues (which especially stood out for how short it is) and its plot was a bit thin, but for what it is, it’s a really enjoyable little slice of good-natured horror. And much like in its predecessor, Millicent Simmonds stole the show as Regan. I want to think there’s plenty of potential for a third film, but I also think Part II wraps the Abbott story up really nicely. I’m excited to see what comes of the spin-off that recently got announced, too. I think there’s potential in the Quiet Place franchise as something like Final Destination, where the focus lies on a new cast in every instalment.

The new Event is great, too. It’s a really small and cosy cinema, but it’s beautiful and ridiculously comfy. I can’t wait to see Black Widow there next month.

We got home at about 11:30pm, and I was out cold within 15 minutes. All in all, I had a great day out – mostly because I got to spend it with Milo, but also because I got to eat a lot of really nice food and see a movie I’d been dying to for the past two years.

If you made it to this point:

a) What the fuck is wrong with you?

b) Thank you!

c) I’m sorry this has been one giant, barely cohesive ramble. I didn’t proofread any of this before publishing it, and I’m certain it shows. I just wanted to pour my thoughts out somewhere before the memories faded from my slushy, rotting brain, and here seems like as good a place as any. 

NME news roundup: June 7th-13th, 2021

This week has been pretty solid for new music: we finally got that enormous comeback from Lorde, Dear Seattle and Between You And Me both popped back into the spotlight, and we got new tracks from The Front Bottoms, Weezer, Manchester Orchestra and iDKHOW (among plenty others).

Also, Trophy Eyes announced some shows! I really wanted to get tickets for that Oxford Art Factory gig next month, but a) they were $60 each, and b) they sold out in like five minutes anyway. Ah, well. I might try to see if I can review it for someone. And there’s almost certainly going to be a theatre tour later in the year when LP4 lands.

I’m not really keen to talk about how my own week has been this time around – I might write a separate post about the day I spent with Milo at Ed Square yesterday, if I don’t immediately zonk out after I chew through some errands – so let’s jump straight into all the stuff I reported on for NME this week!

MONDAY, 07/06/21

SZA reveals she “burst into tears” during a rehearsal of ’20 Something’

Listen to Porridge Radio put their spin on Love Of Everything’s ‘Happy In A Crowd’

Listen to Wooze’s steamy new single ‘Witch Slap (IOU)’

TUESDAY, 08/06/21

Lorde teases her return with ‘Solar Power’

Listen to Dear Seattle’s cruisy new single ‘In My Head’

Skegss announce national ‘Rehearsal’ tour dates

Watch the cinematic new video for Ngaiire’s single ‘Closer’

The extended program for Leaps and Bounds 2021 has been unveiled

Tones And I announces debut album ‘Welcome To The Madhouse’

WEDNESDAY, 09/06/21

Serpentwithfeet puts his spin on a Lesley Gore classic with ‘You Don’t Own Me / Canopy’

Migos unveil ‘Culture III’ tracklist featuring Drake, Juice WRLD, Cardi B and more

Megan Thee Stallion and Marshmello team up for the club-ready ‘Bad Bitches’

Listen to Chelsea Warner’s moody new single ‘Drama’

THURSDAY, 10/06/21

Sleater-Kinney share new single ‘Method’, announce livestreamed variety show

Listen to Manchester Orchestra’s grungy contribution to DC’s ‘Dark Nights: Death Metal’ soundtrack

Watch AC/DC conjure up the dark arts in their new video for ‘Witch’s Spell’

The Front Bottoms announce 2021 US tour, share new single ‘Voodoo Magic’

Watch The Goon Sax get weird in the video for their new single, ‘Psychic’

FRIDAY, 11/06/21

Illuminati Hotties announce new album, share new single, ‘Pool Hopping’

Listen to iDKHOW’s melodramatic new single ‘Mx. Sinister’

Listen to Skrillex’s star-studded new single, ‘Supersonic (My Existence)’

Weezer take aim at Pitchfork in punchy new single ‘Tell Me What You Want’

Trophy Eyes announce intimate Australian tour dates

Listen to Between You And Me’s spirited new single ‘Supervillain’

SUNDAY, 13/06/21

Watch Noel Gallagher play Oasis’ classic ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ on CBS This Morning

Foo Fighters announce intimate gig for vaccinated Los Angeles fans next week

Polo G arrested in Miami following alleged battery on a police officer

I think in general, the highlight for this week was the hotly anticipated return of Lorde. I don’t think “Solar Power” is her strongest work – not by a massive stretch (IMO it sounds like a half-assed rip of “Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend) – but it’s great to see the queen of pop back in action, and I’m extremely keen to get my hands on the full album, whenever it drops.

I figured the new Front Bottoms track would end up being my personal highlight, but the more I listen to it, the more it feels like a very generic, uninspired track from the band. They have a solid dozen other songs that sound pretty much exactly the same.

The new Skrillex, on the other hand, is great. I love the way it blends his old and new styles (which is no doubt mostly thanks to the input from Noisia), and what it adds to his recent slate of comeback singles – it’s definitely my favourite out of the three. Now I’m just waiting for the album announcement. It has to be coming, right!?

I’m also really stoked on the new Illuminati Hotties single. The album looks super promising, and I’m really hoping I can jump on the phone (or Zoom) with Sarah to vibe on it before October.

NME news roundup: June 1st-6th, 2021

Good morning, internet!

I’ve been waking up at ~6am every morning for the past week, which may seem pretty benign to most people, but has been a struggle and a half for me. I’m typically the polar opposite of a ‘morning person’ – even if I go to bed at, like, 10pm, waking up before 10am and not feeling like total shit is the epitome of miraculous. But over the years, I’ve come to realise that when I have been forced to wake up early (or y’know, in the morning at all), my productivity has thrived. I don’t know how to explain it, but for some reason I do my best work in the morning, and whenever I wake up early, by the end of the day I’ll have wound up with waaaaaay more done.

So for my first proper month as a news writer for NME Australia, I’ve been taking all morning shifts. I’m definitely still getting used to having a “normal” routine and adjusting my body clock to that routine (it has only been a week, though, so I can’t expect to have it 100% down-pat all of a sudden), but I think it’s been really beneficial. And I am loving this new job. People have always found it weird when I say I really enjoy writing news – including my new boss – but I genuinely do! It’s a cool thought that someone might see a news piece I’ve written about an artist they like, read it, and get excited over what that artist is up to. I like being able to have a hand in that narrative. I used to get in trouble all the time when I was in high school because I’d be aimlessly browsing Music Feeds instead of studying.

TLDR: Music news is awesome. Big fan.

I bundled all of my NME pieces from May in my last post dump, but came to realise after it went live that including them in those posts going forward might clutter them a bit too much. I did six shifts in May and wound up with 35 articles – I have a total of 22 shifts in June, so if I stuff them all into the next post dump, it’s going to be, like, 95% NME news articles. So I figure it’s a better look for the blog (and easier to manage) if I do these dedicated news roundup posts, and let them breathe on their own a little bit.

Also, I think I’ve come to the decision that every post on this blog (that doesn’t already have its own piece-appropriate header) is just going to lead with a photo of Bruno. His inclusion instantly makes the post 500% better by default, and really, how could you not want his adorable face to be the first thing you see every time!? The photo above is currently the wallpaper on my iPhone, and has been since the day I bought it (it was one of the first photos I took on it). The yellow lab he’s chilling with is my sister’s dog Louie – he’s a little shit, but I love him anyway. He and Bruno are inseparable – especially when there’s a pool and/or ball involved.

Anyway, here’s all the news I reported on at NME over the past week!

TUESDAY, 01/06/21

Watch Second Idol’s lo-fi new video for ‘Out Of Time’

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard release ‘Live In Sydney ’21’ album and concert film

Watch King Stingray perform ‘Hey Wanhaka’ and ‘Get Me Out’ for triple j’s ‘Live at the Wireless’

Watch the video for Bukowski’s emotive new single, ‘Elevator Song’

Watch The Rubens perform their single ‘Muddy Evil Pain’ live from The Bunker

WEDNESDAY, 02/06/21

Khalid and The Killers lead the lineup for virtual Splendour In The Grass spin-off

Listen to Chasing Ghosts’ “challenging” new single, ‘Dig’

The Million announce ‘Why We’ll Never Be Together’ tour dates

Listen to Mia Wray’s innuendo-packed new single, ‘Needs’

The nominees for the 2021 AIR Awards have landed

THURSDAY, 03/06/21

Denzel Curry channels his inner Batman on new song ‘Bad Luck’

Lady Gaga links up with Versace for a new Pride-honouring capsule collection

Listen to Boy George celebrate his 60th birthday with ‘The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread’

Midnight Oil confirm their 13th album will be launched at Bluesfest 2021

FRIDAY, 04/06/21

Watch Ball Park Music put a bold acoustic spin on Holy Holy’s ‘Sentimental And Monday’

Gang Of Youths are teasing a new release titled ‘The Angel Of 8th Ave.’

Listen to the late MF DOOM remix The Avalanches’ ‘Tonight May Have To Last Me All My Life’

Not A Boys Name dips into disco on his thematically dark new single, ‘Psychopath’

Listen to Thandi Phoenix’s flirtatious new single ‘Overdrive’

Listen to Death By Denim’s vibe-heavy new single, ‘Small World’

SUNDAY, 06/06/21

Tom Morello and The Bloody Beetroots team up for blistering new single ‘Radium Girls’

Dave Chappelle’s poignant ‘8:46’ special is being pressed on limited-edition vinyl

Listen to Blood Red Shoes’ true crime-inspired new single ‘A Little Love’

Listen to Fangz tackle racism on their ripping new single ‘Prove Me Wrong’

I think the highlight this week was that King Stingray performance for Triple J – those four new songs are fantastic, and I truly cannot wait to see them live for myself. And, of course, “Hey Wanhaka” and “Get Me Out” (the two songs they’ve released as singles thus far) sound incredible in their live versions. Fingers crossed thrice over for a proper, full-on headline tour when the plague dies down.

Also, I’ve heard that new Gang Of Youths single, and it is fucking phenomenal. Y’all are not ready.

Australian Guitar #143

Hello! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve been able to make a post like this (thanks to a lil’ delay in the system), but it’s officially here: the insanely overstuffed 143rd issue of Australian Guitar. I’ve had Rivers Cuomo on my “interview bucket list” since the day I started writing, and even though it happened a little over two months ago, it’s still completely surreal to me that I got to chat with him one-on-one for this issue. We vibed on Van Weezer and OK Human, the 25th anniversary of Pinkerton, and the four-album saga Weezer are (supposedly) going to drop throughout 2020.

I have to give Emilie at Warner the biggest shoutout known to humankind for this – we’ve been hustling hard to make this cover happen for over a year, and we finally made it happen! I am so, so, so, so, so, so stoked on how it all turned out. 

When I started working on this issue, I was kind of worried I wouldn’t be able to fill the top end of it with enough features; the first few weeks were pretty scant on album/tour announcements, and I figured I’d end up having to syndicate a few pieces to fill in the blanks. But all of a sudden, the opportunities just came flooding in, and I even ended up having to cut a whole bunch of editorial that I’d otherwise consider priority material. Like, look at that lineup – that would be the sickest festival bill of all time. 

I have literally no idea what AG #144 is going to look like right now, and that’s… Actually kind of exciting? It’s fun having a completely blank slate to run wild with. I know we’re going to do some massive, over-the-top Bluesfest special, which will be really cool. I’m wondering if we might do a non-artist cover story for the next one, too – our last one was the Signature Sizzlers feature in #139, so the timing is ripe. I’m gonna keep an eye on the release calendar for the next month and a bit before I make a decision.

For the moment, you can read all about what’s in Australian Guitar #143 over on the Guitar World site. Copies are on sale now at newsagents all around Australia, online via Techmags and iSubscribe, and digitally wherever great magazines can be downloaded. 

March/April/May ’21 post dump!

So this time I actually have an excuse for leaving this blog out to gather dust – I have been keeping myself super busy lately! And I’m feeling all the better for it!

I’ve picked up a new job as part of the Australian news team for NME, I’ve been writing a bunch of editorial for BLUNT, and I’m still going strong with Australian Guitar. I’ve also teamed up with the absolute gems at UNFD to write for their new podcast series, showcasing highlights from their back catalogue in celebration of the label’s ten-year anniversary. You can check that whole thing out here.

Milo and I are planning to move in the next few months, too, so there’s been a lot of time spent hoarding bits and pieces, looking at places, and hashing out a game plan. We did the RSPCA Million Paws Walk this month, which was an absolute blast – as you can see above, Bruno was definitely the biggest fan between us. We raised over $1,000 for pups in need! Go us!!!

Anyway, here’s everything of mine that got published around the web throughout March, April and May of 2021 ☺️


A very belated chat with Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins


Death From Above 1979: “We’re free to run wild”

Drown This City: Finding the colour in trauma

Twenty One Pilots: A world of imagination

Teenage Joans: High school, heartbreak and hunger

In retrospect: Hellions’ ‘Opera Oblivia’


Plini: “I’m really happy with everything on this record, which I don’t think has ever happened before”

Orianthi: “I wanted to really mess with my sounds and try new stuff”

Psychedelic Porn Crumpets’ Jack McEwan: “It’s the clean tone that really defines what a great guitar sounds like”

Jess Locke: “The world is insane at the moment – I feel like I couldn’t help but just absorb everything!”

Evanescence’s Jen Majura and Troy McLawhorn: “I think it’s a very beautiful, very meaningful, very REAL album”

Foo Fighters’ Chris Shiflett: “In 25 years, we’ll all be on stools, playing ukuleles and doing ballads – but we might still be going!”

Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen: “We’ve loved Australia since the first time we went there in 1978”

Greta Van Fleet’s Jake Kiszka: “We wanted to create something orgasmic and cinematic”

Carla Geneve: “It’s really honest and transparent songwriting about what I was going through”

The Rubens’ Izaac Margin: “I’ve kind of gotten over the guitar sounding just like a guitar”

Adrian Smith & Richie Kotzen: “The style of the record came from our instincts and how we play together”

Middle Kids’ Hannah Joy: “This album is a bit more reflective – there’s a bit more space and it’s a bit more dynamic”

Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull: “It was like we had only finished the edges of a 2,000-piece puzzle, and then we had to figure out the insides”

Tomahawk’s Duane Denison: “There’s a political statement to be made in the whole concept of a band”

Tigers Jaw’s Ben Walsh: “This band has always had a really great sense of community around it”

Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite: “2020 was such a crazy year that we were just trying to get through it more than anything else”

A Day To Remember’s Kevin Skaff: “We threw out the imaginary rulebook that never existed”

The Pretty Reckless’ Taylor Momsen: “It was very literally music that saved my life”

NOFX’s Aaron ‘El Hefe’ Abeyta: “We’re older now, so there’s a lot more sad shit to write about”

The Bamboos’ Lance Ferguson: “I found it far more enjoyable, because everyone was putting in more creative energy”

St. Vincent: “I wanted to make something more grounded – more, like, from the guts”

Epica’s Mark Jansen: “I cannot stand when things stay the same for too long”

You Am I’s Tim Rogers: “I was always writing – it was just that I wasn’t being a good friend or bandmate”

Melvins’ Buzz Osborne: “We’ve written and recorded more than 500 songs – what can we do to keep it fresh?”

Mannequin Pussy’s Marisa ‘Missy’ Dabice: “It felt like a lifeline to suddenly have something to pour ourselves into”

Waterparks’ Awsten Knight: “I wanted to make Greatest Hits sound more grand and expensive, and just massive…”

Royal Blood’s Mike Kerr: “We wanted Typhoons to feel like a debut record”

Teenage Joans’ Cahli Blakers: “I don’t think a song is ever truly done as soon as we’ve finished writing it”

Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready on teaming up with Fender to recreate his prized 1960 Stratocaster

The six-string origins of DZ Deathrays

Birds Of Tokyo fill us in on their favourite summer jams

Australian Guitar’s Fresh Frets: Vol. 7

Spotlight: Axel Carrington of New Talk

Spotlight: Kai Cult

Spotlight: Jack Gray

Spotlight: Rhys Hope of Highline

Spotlight: Marie Ulven Ringheim, a.k.a. Girl In Red

Spotlight: Tynan Reibelt of Deadlights

Spotlight: Tyne-James Organ

Spotlight: Josh Renjen of Drown This City

Producer Profile: Shane Edwards

Nova Twins – Who Are The Girls? album review

Stumps – All Our Friends album review

Hospital Bracelet – South Loop Summer album review

The Weather Station – Ignorance album review

Hayley Williams – FLOWERS for VASES / descansos album review

Citizen – Life In Your Glass World album review

Erra – Self-Titled album review

The Antlers – Green To Gold album review

Death From Above 1979 – Is 4 Lovers album review

Felicity Urquhart & Josh Cunningham – The Song Club album review

The Small Calamities – Moments Of Impact album review

Drown This City – Colours We Won’t Know EP review

Live Review: Yours & Owls Festival 2021


Listen to Alex Lahey’s original song for Netflix film ‘The Mitchells Vs The Machines’

Listen to Eliza & The Delusionals’ catchy new single, ‘YOU’

Luca Brasi to headline Gold Coast’s 2021 CRAFTED Beer & Cider Festival

Unreleased XXXTentacion songs to be offered as NFTs

Fucked Up premiere colossal 26-minute collaboration with Julien Baker

Phi11a to embark on national ‘Riot’ tour in June

Watch Tim Minchin cover a fan-requested Ball Park Music hit for Like A Version

Listen to the vicious new Apate single, ‘Under My Skin’

Skrillex teams up with Swae Lee and Siiickbrain for guitar-driven single ‘Too Bizarre’

Red Rocks Amphitheatre offers COVID-19 vaccine at its events

John Mayer assures his next album will “all fire up very soon”

Listen to Vance Joy’s bubbly comeback single, ‘Missing Piece’

Amyl and the Sniffers announce June residency at the Croxton in Melbourne

Regurgitator celebrate 25 years of ‘Tu Plang’ with a surprise deluxe reissue

Listen to the effervescent new Odd Tastes single, ‘It’s Alright’

Alanis Morissette releases new song ‘Rest’ in support of Mental Health Action Day

My Chemical Romance announce 2022 Australian arena tour

Danny Elfman drops video for new version of Oingo Boingo’s ‘Insects’

Members of Deftones, Killswitch Engage, In Flames and more deliver heavy metal cover of Björk’s ‘Hyperballad’

The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodríguez-López uploads 62-album catalogue to streaming platforms

Listen to Katz and Sophia Brown team up on a new single, ‘Only You’

James Reyne leads inaugural Valley Sounds acoustic festival lineup

Clare Bowditch stresses a need for vaccination increase to save Australia’s music industry

Wolfmother and Hayley Mary lead the inaugural Byron Music Festival lineup

Listen to Yorke’s groovy new single, ‘Window Shopping’

Moss crowned the winner of triple j Unearthed’s 2021 collab contest

Hilltop Hoods and Nai Palm are the Australian ambassadors for Record Store Day 2021

SBS cancels plans for Eurovision Asia Song Contest

Members of Tonight Alive and Stand Atlantic lead Crowbar Sydney fundraiser show

Listen to two new Juice WRLD tracks, including Lil Uzi Vert’s ‘Lucid Dreams’ remix

Polo G sets a release date for new album ‘Hall of Fame’

DL and Nathaniel team up for soulful new single, ‘Love’

Listen to the catchy new single from Down For Tomorrow, ‘Sentimental’

DZ Deathrays, Stand Atlantic and more streaming live sets on Amazon tonight

Oly Sherman announces debut album, ‘Land of All Pretend’

A very belated chat with Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins

Towards the end of the cataclysmic shitstorm that was 2020, a few weeks before The Smashing Pumpkins released their towering 11th album, CYR, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the band’s notoriously enigmatic and elusive frontman, Billy Corgan. This was for the January issue of Australian Guitar (#141 – read more about that here). 

We had a 15-minute phoner booked in, and knowing Corgan’s general reluctance towards the press and tendency to give tight, concise answers, I’d fully expected it to be a quick in-and-out type situation. But much like a good chunk of their discography, our call went on for way longer than it realistically should’ve. I think I caught Corgan on a good day – he was very animated, very friendly, and happily waxed lyrical about topics I thought he’d brush off entirely. 

However, due to the pitfalls of print and the onerous word-counts we have to abide by, lest the magazine look like a crowded mess of crammed-in text, most of our chat wound up on the cutting room floor. Usually when an interview runs longer than it’s supposed to and I end up with a kilo or two of leftover copy, there are two routes I can take: I can either ditch what doesn’t make it to print (which I do when all the extra stuff is superfluous or waffly, or not interesting enough to justify bothering with), or I can scribble up a second feature to pitch to another publication.

I was really quite stoked with the 2,000 words of content I had left over from my call with Corgan, so I held on to it, my intention being to write a second article with it and sell that to a publication that didn’t have their own feature to plug CYR. And there ended up being a publication onboard to buy it! 

The only thing is, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The editor I was in contact with wanted authorisation from the Pumpkins’ publicist to run the piece, and by the time that came though, we were both on our holiday breaks, and I missed the green-light landing in my inbox. By the time I came across it, CYR had been out for over a month, it was right after Christmas, and I’d just kind of accepted that our plans for the handover had fallen through the cracks. 

I’d just been paid for the last issue of Australian Guitar, too, so I wasn’t super fussed about missing out on that extra payday. My plan was to wait until I’d started easing back into ‘writing mode’ at the start of the new year, and make this transcript the first thing I posted on my blog for 2021. But alas, thanks to the fact that I have the memory of a fucking tadpole, it ended up buried in a folder on my MacBook until five whole months later

But, like, fuck it, right? I put effort into planning this interview, studying for it, doing it, transcribing it, and cleaning that transcript up – so I’m not letting it die. 

So, in short, here is about half of a chat I had with Billy Corgan around the time The Smashing Pumpkins’ (unfairly maligned) latest album CYR came out. If you’d like to (see: please?) read the other half, you can click these few words of bold text right here to read it on the Guitar World website (or track down a copy of Australian Guitar #141 if you’re all about that physical mag life).

PS. I was honestly really surprised to see this record get slapped with such a mediocre reception. Shit bangs hard.

For a great deal of this record, it sounds like you’re using the guitar as a tool to complement the synthesisers, as opposed to vice versa. But at the same time, you’ve managed to maintain this very analogue, full-band sort of sound. How did you go about striking that balance?
It’s just a lot of layering. I don’t talk about this stuff in public a lot, but I’m a big fan of layering sounds. When people listen to the record for the first time they assume there’s no guitar in there, which is not true. There’s actually a lot of guitar on this record, but it’s kind of hidden in the layers. 

There’s a thing I call ‘masking’ – Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys used to do it a lot – where let’s say if you have a piano and a guitar, you have the guitar sound like one thing and the piano sound like another, but if you put them together in a certain way it creates a different type of instrument; you’re not quite sure what you’re hearing. That’s what I mean when I talk about layering – it’s this game of trying to put instruments together in a way that sounds unfamiliar, but tonally isn’t strange. It’s all familiar range, but you’re reacting to it differently because it’s not the typical sound you’re used to hearing. I’m really into a lot of boring stuff like that.

I’m curious about how that will translate to the live set, because there’s three guitarists in the band between James [Iha] and Jeff [Schroeder], but with a lot of these songs, you’ve got long stretches where the guitar is at most a minimal element.
Well when we play live and we do songs like that from over the band’s 30 years – songs like “1979” and “Eye” – we just use backing tapes, and we kind of play the guitar intertwined. That’s been a really effective strategy. So in essence, we kind of do a variation of the song that’s more guitar-voiced for the stage, with the backing tapes filling in the blanks. And it sounds fine.

I feel like because of how much musical ground the Smashing Pumpkins have covered over the past 32 years, you are one of those few bands that can truly get away with anything without ever seeming inauthentic. Do you feel like you have that true creative freedom to do whatever the fuck you want?
Pretty much, yeah. But it’s not been an easy thing to do, y’know? Because the music business is not set up for bands like us – the music business is set up for a band that does this and a band that does that. And those bands market those sounds, and consistently build on that marketing year after year, until people get bored. I, from the beginning, never wanted that – and it’s caused a tonne of problems. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it’s definitely not been the easiest path to take. 

Do you still have that attitude of wanting to rebel against the music industry, or the labels you were given by people like me?
I think it’s more about rebelling against perception. I won’t include you in this, but I think throughout the years there’s been a lot of lazy takes about the Pumpkins. It’s like when people call Zeppelin a rock ’n’ roll band or Sabbath a doom band – it doesn’t really sum up all the nuance of those bands’ sounds. [The Smashing Pumpkins] is very much a product of its time, and we were always quite comfortable with being chameleonic. 

I mean, I still have snippets of reviews we got from before our first album came out, where they said we sounded like The Black Crows, REM and The Cult. I like all those bands, but that’s not even remotely close to what we were going for. But they said that because they couldn’t figure out where we were coming from, and those were the closest names to lump us with. I don’t know how many studio albums we’ve released at this point, but y’know, we’ve always been a fairly dominant musical unit, as far as our ability to generate music in a bunch of ways for a bunch of different eras. 

But the rap on the band tends to be about other stuff – mostly drama about me that isn’t reflective of who I actually am. So it’s kind of a weird thing – the best argument I can make is just to keep achieving musically; I could argue with you about how the media perceives me, but that’s kind of a losing argument because at the end of the day, you’re the one writing this article, not me. Y’know what I mean? I’m not saying this to you personally, but it’s like, I’ve lost the battle many times already – I’m not going to change anybody’s minds, especially if they already have some sort of bias against me – so the best I can do is just keep achieving musically. 

And I believe that eventually, through streaming, through new generations of fans, and through a different world which is in many ways more beneficial to my way of doing musical business, it’ll just all sort itself out. But yeah, I still have a chip on my shoulder, y’know? 

Well, I like that you’re able to approach that side of the argument with some optimism.
I feel very lucky, y’know? I feel like I’ve had a great musical life. I was even thinking about it today, before I did all these interviews, that I don’t have anything to complain about. As a musician, I’ve lived every dream I’ve had and I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do. There was one period in my life where I worked with Tony Iommi, I played a concert with David Bowie and I interviewed Eddie Van Halen. Those were all childhood heroes for me, and I got to put myself on their level. That’s an incredible life to live. 

I think I’ve been mistreated many times, sure – but I’ve also been a part of the arguing, so that’s okay. I don’t feel like a victim. I have two healthy children, a lot of great fans… The fact that someone like you is interested in what we’re doing right now is great! And there’s no “dot dot dot”, there’s no asterisk – it’s been a great thing. It’s been certainly more great than bad.

So as the next chapter in the Shiny And Oh So Bright era, how does this record continue the story that you started telling with No Past. No Future. No Sun.?
It’s a bit convoluted because when the band got back together with James, I wanted to do a musical, but there wasn’t a lot of energy in the band to do it. So I’d written some songs for the musical that ended up on No Past, and that kind of set me off on this narrative pace. It’s like the dream of the character versus the story of the character; right now, we’re working on a sequel album to Melon Collie and Machina, which is like a continuation of the characters’ stories that we explored on those albums. 

But I think the Shiny And Oh So Bright story is ultimately more about the band’s journey… It’s going to be hard to talk about it until the third volume comes out. We’re three quarters of the way done with that, and I think once it comes out, it’ll explain why I did what I did. But right now, I think it would just confuse people if I tried to explain it. 

How does the Shiny And Oh So Bright narrative continue past this album?
Well y’know, we’re doing the Machina reissue soon, and when that comes out it’ll explain the whole narrative of that project. I’ve never explained the Machina narrative. The Melon Collie one is much simpler in the sense that it’s just the rise and fall of a star – it’s pretty simple rock ’n’ roll stuff – but Machina is way more convoluted and crazy. And I think once I explain the concept behind that, it’ll become more evident where [Shiny And Oh So Bright] is going. But it’s hard to talk about that before it’s done. 

Y’know, we live in a clickbait world, so if I say one thing about it, it’ll be twisted into a million other things and everybody will expect something different to what was implied. I have a funny story about that, actually: when we were doing Adore, somebody asked me what kind of album we were making and I jokingly said, “We’re making a techno album.” Next thing you know, there were headlines all around the world like, “Pumpkins Announce Techno Album”. Then every interview was like, “So Billy, you’re making a techno album?” And I’d have to be like, “No!” I’ve been burned too many times by running my mouth early [laughs].

I suppose CYR would be the closest you’ve come to making a techno album. It just took a while!
[Laughs] That’s a good point! The BPMs are a little too slow for techno, but we’re getting there.

What is it that you like about having these bigger, more expansive conceptual projects that span several albums, like Shiny And Oh So Bright or Teargarden By Kaleidyscope?
I think it just engages my creativity at a higher level. Let’s say you’re in the band, right, and tomorrow we’re going to start a new Smashing Pumpkins album – the weight of expectation on that is too much for me to deal with. The expectations are usually in people’s minds – it’s not my version of The Smashing Pumpkins, it’s everyone else’s. So I need something to lean into that balances expectation, reality and my own creativity. 

I have to allow myself a very wide berth to express myself. And generally speaking, if people let me do that and support me in that, they’d get more of me that they like. But if I’m stuck in a computational frame where I feel like I have to limit myself, I think I end up with records that are… Not my best. It doesn’t mean they’re not good, they’re just not my best. 

Do you find that you get creatively wrapped up in those worlds like a method actor would with a specific role?
I’m bad in that I go totally into it, and then I never want to hear it again. It’s a bit whorish, but it works for me. 

Do you like when it takes a few listens for an album to really make sense?
I do. People like to tell me that they don’t really understand my records until they smoke some pot, because it allows them to hear all the layers that are in there. That’s what I was talking about earlier with tonal stacking and layering and all of that. If you look closely at a great painting, you’ll see there’s a lot of depth in the work. You can look at it for five seconds and go, “Oh, it’s a lady on a couch,” but if you really look, you’ll see shades and tones and an emotional quality – and that’s the way I perceive music. 

There should be a romantic quality that you have to peer into it to find. Unless it’s strictly primitive by design. I do like a lot of primitive music as well, but when it comes to my own music, I’m much more interested in exploring the other side of the spectrum: those highly produced, highly controlled, yet still organic atmospheres, of which I have a lot of control.