Severed Heads interview on 2RSR-FM Radio, Australia, 1983
Originally from the Bigot Booklet.
HTMLized/edited by Dave Watson/SHLF, 1999 10 04-12.
("Houses Still Standing" is played.)
Tom Ellard: Bomb Tokyo, bomb Japan.
Announcer: And that, I believe, is Severed Heads.
(The band makes various giggling noises.)
Ann: ...with a track called "A Million Angels," and we have Severed Heads in the studio today.
Paul Deering: Wrong.
TE: A million what?
TE: No, no no...
PD: A million tighter tighters.
TE: That's what the funny little bands on the record are. They tell you which track you're playing.
Garry Bradbury: A million sparkly little fireflies crawling up your trouser leg.
Ann: A million sparkly little...
Omnes: ...fireflies crawling up your trouser leg.
Ann: Well, just to introduce you, it's Tom Ellard, Paul, and...er...
Ann: Bradbury? Paul Deering and Tom Ellard from Severed Heads.
GB & TE: That's six of us!
PD: Von Deering.
(Giggling and scuffling noises)
TE: Von Deering.
Ann: Von Deering, and...
TE: Actually, "Fon"...
Ann: I was going to ask you about...what records you people listened to when you were about 13 or 14. Can you drag up any really horrible names of horrible bands that, um...that you'd be ashamed of now at all?
GB: (Groaning.) I'm not ashamed...of it. Oh, yes, I used to listen to Gary Glitter and Sweet and Suzi Quatro and Noosha Fox and...
PD: ...and T. Rex.
GB: A girl at work is going to get me Noosha Fox's address and I'm going to send her a copy of the album.
Ann: Noosha Fox? Who's that?
GB: Remember that band Fox? (Sings:) "All I've got is a single bed..."
TE: I didn't actually listen to anything at about that age.
GB: He only had ears grafted on at about 18.
TE: No, about 16. I bought the Snivelling Shits single; that was the beginning of it all. I don't have any empathy with T. Rex and all of that stuff. They've been playing it to me recently at an attempt at re-education. They say, "here, LISTEN TO THIS!!!!" and they put on T. Rex or they put on Gary Glitter and it just sounds like some horrible warbling flatulent...
TE: ...dreck (giggling).
Ann: You're very good at describing music you don't like (laughter).
TE: Um, that comes from a great deal of practice, because there's so so much music around that's totally unlikeable. If you think about how many records are released every day and how bad some of them are, it's amazing that there aren't words in the English language specifically designed for use in describing bad records and bad music.
Ann: Well, do you think you can invent some?
TE: We're in the process of doing so, yes...
GB: (Speaks in tongues.)
GB: (Speaks in tongues.)
TE: ...not so much the words as the inflection of your voice...
TE: ...as you breathe down your nose at various things...
GB: (Sniffling noises)
Ann: You might be interested to know that the sound effects in the background at the moment which you cannot hear, but those at home can hear, is is Harry Secombe singing...
GB: "Girls Are Made to Love and Kiss." GET IT RIGHT!
Ann: Have you any words to describe that sort of music?
PD: Garbage. Utter garbage.
GB: I like it. I couldn't resist the television advertisement for it so I ran out and bought it.
Ann: Oh, NO!
GB: The one where his eyebrows sort of bounce...
(Various choking sounds in background.)
TE: Have you seen...
GB: ...in the garden, plucking roses.
TE: ...the cover? Garry showed me. On the front he's got no hair at all and on the back he's got lots...
GB: No, that's the other one...
TE: So you've got two Harry Secombe records...
Ann: So you were fooled by two TV commercials.
GB: No, the other one, I didn't see an ad for. I just found it at Edel's.
TE: No, they actually pitch those ads so that you actually go out and buy lots of Harry Secombe records. At least three or four of each particular release.
Ann: Weeeell, we've got a new song on at the moment, which is, "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face."
GB: (Sings:) "I throw the custard in your face..."
Ann: Could you repeat that, please?
TE: It's gone.
GB: Shall we play another track off the album?
Omnes: Yes, yes (etc.).
Ann: Well, we do have "Dead Eyes Opened" on a...
TE: No, don't play that one...
GB: No, play the first track on side two.
Various voices: Watch the needle! Where's the record? Over here. etc.
GB: Used to be called "The Voice of Iran."
Ann: "The Voice of Iran."
TE: No, it was never called "The Voice of Iran."
GB: It was.
TE: It has the Voice of Iran on it.
GB: (Mumbling:) Well, at one stage it was called "The Voice of Iran"...
TE: There's a set boundary definitional error in there somewhere.
GB: (Mumbling:) ..."Big God Sky," well, anyway...
Ann: Well, you caught us unawares there because we're in the process of cuing it up...
2nd Announcer: No, we're not.
Ann: Well, here it goes.
TE: Turn the microphones off for a second, will you?
("Godsong" is played.)
Ann: And the song you just heard was by Severed Heads. It was called "Epilepsy '82."
Severed Heads: Wrong. It's called "Godsong."
Ann: Sorry. I was looking at the wrong part of the record.
TE: That doesn't help (giggling).
Ann: No. How did Severed Heads start?
TE: You've got to differentiate between...
PD: Jayne Mansfield.
TE: Shut up. You've got to differentiate between the band as it is and other incarnations of it. It's best only to talk of the band as it is. Whereas there has been this outfit called Severed Heads for about four years, this particular version of the band is fairly recent, this particular musical style only about a year and a half.
TE: It has been fluctuating quite wildly. It seems to have settled down just at the moment. This particular threesome and video player would be six months or something like that.
Ann: You mentioned a video player there. Do you find that playing video clips, or, not actually clips, but video and film work along with your performance helps?
TE: I think it's important to have some sort of visual component along with the music, and a lot of people have said that, when they see us live, the visuals and the music seem to click together quite well. The problem is, a lot of the time, with things like slides and all that, people don't put the care that's necessary into things like slide presentations. And that's given slides a bad name. And so we try to avoid them because of what other people have done with them, so we use things like video.
GB: We used to use lots of Super 8 film loops, too, but there's been a sudden onslaught...
TE: We went down to Melbourne and it was so rushed that I sent some films to be developed and gave the return address as the place where we were going to play, you see. The idea was that we were going to turn up and the films would be available. But only one turned up, and half of it got chewed up. And so we resorted to making a loop of that actual bit of film that we had, which I think was Julie Anthony walking into a bank and being accosted by that man in the big green dragon suit. And had it going around and around. Right...
GB: She's lovely...
TE: And we did that a bit. We did the same thing when we got back to Sydney. As far as I understand, it wasn't a very well-known technique at the time, but if you go and see a band nowadays, there's so many film loops...
GB: ...and slides...
TE: ...and slides and things like that. It drives you completely up the wall.
GB: Back in those days we had two inflatable sex dolls as backing singers as well. We used to prop them on stage. They never made much noise but they made us look like ABBA.
TE: Or the Human League or something like that. They've very nice round mouths, you see, just the right size...
GB: ...you can stick a microphone stand in their mouth...
TE: ...right deep into their mouth...
GB: ...prop them up...
TE: ...they stand on stage with their arms sticking out...
GB: (Sings:) "You float in my new pooooooll..."
TE: ...their eyes wide open and blue and those microphones...
GB: ...very attractive.
Ann: Well, now we're talking about live presentations, could you briefly describe what each member would be doing during a live performance?
TE: It's totally interchageable. Each member could be doing...there is a bank of equipment available to all the membership and each member would, at some stage or another, use each piece of equipment. The last time we played live--we can only talk about each show as it comes--the last live show, I had a go at standing up with one of those SH-101's hanging 'round my neck. A bass synthesizer sort of thing. I didn't really like it, but I thought it would help in an onstage presentation. It's not like, there is a drummer or a sax player or a guitarist or a vocalist. It's just not like that at all.
GB: Some songs, you might not even do anything. Might just stand there because, y'know, if it's not necessary to add anything to what we've already got going on stage, then you just let the tape run.
PD: Not much anymore.
TE: We write scripts for each show, of what we're going to be doing at any particular time, and if somebody's going to have a cigarette break, then they have a cigarette break.
GB: Or goes to the bar and buys a beer.
TE: Yeah. "Go to the bar and buy a beer," it might say on your thing. Such-and-such plays the bass, such-and-such hits the Syndrum and and the other goes and buys a beer. Other times it's quite complex. Also, it might be, you've got a couple of songs in a row, it might be that, the third one along, I've got a complete and utter clash of instruments. You've got one machine doing one thing in one song and a completely different thing in another. And without programmable pieces of equipment, it means one person has to be there adjusting a piece of equipment...hmmm, they're fighting over the records there...so that another person can come along and find it ready for the next song.
GB: Anyway, play "Exploring the Secrets of Treating Deaf Mutes."
Ann: How does Severed Heads feel about their live presentation? When you go on stage, it's not exactly dynamic. Do you think it's necessary to be that way?
PD: It seems that a lot of people are saying that, but it's a lot more interesting than watching four geeks running around on stage doing the same old clichéd microphone clutches and guitar cock thrusting motions and so on. It's just as interesting as anything like that.
TE: I would agree that very recently there's been a whole rush of people going, "oh, your live shows are really static and uninteresting, and how do you feel about that?" And what I feel about that is, "nuts."
PD: And people used to talk about how interesting visuals were. It just seems to be some sort of feedback effect from some people saying it in the first place.
TE: Talking about another band I saw on the weekend who might be slotted into the same sort of genre we're in, and they'd have a frontman who'd run 'round the place yelling, writhing, clutching his microphone, running up and down offstage, and I sort of looked at him and I thought, "y'know, that's really pathetic." It's all this sort of hoi polloi and it doesn't really do anything. It's like supposing one of us said, "right, I'm going to run 'round the place and do an Iggy Pop," which is what this person was doing. Well, okay, sure, fine, it might fool some people, but we're not in the business of fooling people. If we're playing our equipment on stage, we're playing it. We're not doing a big goosestep to impress the folks.
GB: We're not hitting the audience with flamethrowers and chains and things.
TE: There is no need for that sort of thing at all. I mean, one of the most dynamic things I've seen is a full orchestra. They're just playing their instruments, and that's wonderful. Much better than seeing a rock band.
GB: Much better value for money.
("Exploring the Secrets of Treating Deaf Mutes" is played.)
Ann: I understand that you've done four albums over the years, and that's Ear Bitten, <<clean>>, Blubberknife, and the new album we've been hearing tracks from today, which is Since the Accident. How do you feel about these albums? Do you feel there's been a progression...?
GB: I feel that they're flat and black and circular.
GB: I like to cover them with baby oil and snuggle up to them in bed at night.
TE: There has been...
GB: But they need a larger hole in the middle.
TE: ...even in just the equipment. On the first album, it was done with just two cassette recorders...
GB: A hiss extravaganza...
TE: ...and it's not a record you actually listen to, it's a record you have. I mean, most people I know would have a copy, but they wouldn't actually listen to it. Which is fair enough. And the second album, like most second albums by most bands, is a fairly torturous self-indulgent affair with a few bits in it which were nice. I can't like anything old. The moment it's seconds old, it's not fun anymore. The older the records get, the less fun they are. Things really take off from the third one, which was Blubberknife...they're all gesticulating over there...
GB: Blubberknife only came out on cassette. It didn't come out on vinyl.
TE: Which was...you're wondering what track to play?
Ann: After a bit more talk, at least...
TE: Well, cue it up on "Dead Eyes Opened," 'cause then you get "Golden Boy" after...nice contrast. With Blubberknife, it had to be on cassette because it's a C90 and there's a lot of material on there, including a full live show.
GB: Like, one track was 30 minutes long and couldn't possibly be put on an album anyways.
Ann: Do you think that you're very spontaneous to your music?
PD: Not live, because it's all planned out before we go on.
GB: In the studio...
PD: In the studio, it's pretty spontaneous.
GB: Ideas tossed around.
TE: I think the others might agree with me (that) it's a sort of feedback process between the state of mind, the equipment, the amount of tape available and the sounds we've been listening to recently. Like, a typical day might start when Paul comes with a cassette off, like, a Harry Secombe record or Korean Court music or something like that, and he says, "listen to this," and we think, "well, what happens if we stick it into that?" and, "what happens if we put it with this and get rid of that bit?" and so it's using the eight-track recorder as a sketch pad. And putting six things on, rubbing four off, putting another two on, that sort of thing. The music does write itself, to a great degree. It sort of evolves. A lot of the stuff we've done has appeared before we've even realized it. We might spend three hours working at something. It completely buggers up. Just, "nothing there," "it's not gonna work," "it's really tedious," "we hate it." And we might turn around and have a cup of tea and a cigarette, come back again and fiddle with it for five minutes and, all of a sudden, there's a track staring you in the eye, gnashing its teeth at you. These tracks, y'know, they are the fascists and we must obey. I might have said this before, (but) there's this Liberace record I've got, and there are certain sounds on something like a Liberace record that, when you hear them, you have no choice! They must be used and they must be used in a certain way and they really dictate. They carry the big stick and force you to do things with them. It's sadomasochism, and the music is the sadist and we're the masochists.
Ann: Well, how do you explain the difference between your more danceable music like "Dead Eyes Opened"...
TE: There's no difference.
GB: It's all the same.
TE: It all happens the same way. We like it just as much
PD: It all comes out of not being like some people and listening to only one kind of music at the exclusion of all other types. When we do something ourselves, we can like it in the end, whether it sounds poppy or sounds really noisy in the end, but it generally isn't planned that way.
TE: It's never planned that way. We never sit down and say, "right, we're going to do a pop song." We start off with a rhythm, or we might start off with a sound, and...
GB: Or a loop or anything. It's just basically the same type of critical viewpoint that goes into each one. It's the same kind of dynamics involved, the same sort of...
TE: Also, the tracks will, they will take shape...
GB: Some (unclear), some you can't. That's basically it.
TE: ...not in any direction, so you might have a track which some people will call danceable, and then a little bit further on in the creation of it, it's not danceable, and then it might swing back and be "danceable" again. It's not that we say, "right, we're going to do something danceable." We sort of do a track and it sort of wavers on the boundary between the two, if you want to call it that, and then, then it just is! And the random thing is, it might be in some people's definition of danceable or it might not. Whether it fits in, that's nothing to us, or nothing to it, really...
GB: If you were a quadraplegic squid, you wouldn't find it very danceable.
Ann: I dare say that quadraplegic squids don't find very much music at all danceable.
TE: I have a great empathy with people who would be quadraplegic squids. The thing that annoys me beyond all measure are people who come up to me and have criticisms with our music because it's not put together in a danceable way, or it could have been a great dance single but we didn't put the effort into it to produce it like a dance single, and these people do not understand that we never set out to do a dance single.
GB: We might if we ever decide to.
PD: We did a few weeks ago and it went really badly wrong. It was meant to be a dance song and it ended up a hideous wall of noise.
GB: Which is really good!
TE: You mean live, live.
PD: Occasionally, we do pop songs and they either turn into really horrible, abysmal pop songs which no one would want to hear, or else into something campletely different from how we started off.
GB: When we did "Dead Eyes Opened" at the San Miguel a couple of weeks ago, halfway through the set someone yelled, "do 'Dead Eyes Opened'," and we yelled back, "you wouldn't recognize it," and when we finally came 'round to doing it, (it) just...(sings:) "fell to pieces in our hands."
TE: No one recognized it (laughter). It had the same backing rhythm, I think, but there was not much else akin to the record.
Ann: Something else that seems rather interesting, the other piece of live recorded music you have on the 2JJJFM EP...
TE: It doesn't matter, because it's not the same band.
Ann: What do you mean, "not the same band"?
TE: It's just me having fun, and I think it even says on the sleeve notes that it's not to be repeated. It's like me, sit down one afternoon, cook up something and have a bit of fun, have a booze-up 'round at JJJ, and I've just forgotten about it.
Ann: How do you feel about that? Because it didn't seem to work as well as Severed Heads did.
TE: It was not the sort of project that felt right. I was just very aggro on the day. I wasn't very happy with the whole thing, but, at that particular time, it was pretty much up to me to come up with something. Because it's better to come up with something and have the name distributed around the place, than to say, "no, I'm sorry, we're not able to do anything."
PD: For some reason, people seem to have liked the song, although god knows why.
TE: Obviously something I've done by myself...
Ann: People like Boy George.
PD: There's no comparison. Tom is not a transvestite.
(Various scuffling noises.)
TE: Well, actually, I am. I've been meaning to tell you all these years, I'm actually a woman.
GB: Oh, actually, we're all sitting here in the studio dressed to the nines sipping...
PD: We look like the New York Dolls gone wrong.
Ann: Getting back to "Dead Eyes Opened," I notice you have (the) voice of Edgar Lustgarten...
TE: Edgar Lustgarten...
Ann: Do you repeat the tape live? Do you have that on the backing tape?
TE: Yes. None of us try to do his voice because it'd be impossible.
GB: We could get him to turn up and do it, but...
Omnes: He's DEAD!
TE: That recording was made on the BBC in the 1950's. He used to present this show on Sundays called Scales of Justice. He wrote books, and he would read out his own books, and it's that actual quality of the man's voice that's at issue in that song. That he's talking about severed heads is an extra benefit.
GB: To do with the business of us doing that live, that's the whole problem with us playing live. You've got drum machines and vocal tapes, and what is there that's particularly live about that? What's the point of playing that live? Playing it live doesn't really enhance it. You've just got to do that to get across to people.
PD: I don't agree with that, because I think that playing it live means that there's a potential for accidents to happen, and sometimes they're good.
GB: Sometime's they are, but...
TE: It's not good for a band to be safe all the time. I would agree that there have been accidents that we've encountered live that, in retrospect, have been good, but on the actual nights I feel like being buried with slabs of concrete put on top. I would love...
GB: That could be arranged.
TE: I would love a live show where everything went right.
("Dead Eyes Opened" is played.)
Ann: Severed Heads have specifically requested that we play a Deep Purple (song) while we leave the loop on their song going, so...
PD: It was so ugly that we had to hear it.
TE: If we had a third turntable we could play Harry Secombe as well.
GB: I brought a Pearl Bailey record.
PD: What you said about having taped voices on stage, well, that whole situation will be rectified pretty soon, 'cause we're getting a highly sophisticated voice processor, from America, which can analyze the tone of any historical person's recorded voice and reproduce those tones when spoken into through a microphone. So we'll be able to dig up people like Winston Churchill, and do Churchill's speeches onstage. It turns your own phonemes into Churchill's.
TE: It's very good. It's activated by, um, y'know--you've heard of pressure-sensitive keyboards? The pressure of the air going into the microphone will activate one of two different modes of speech, one which will be accented and the other unaccented, so you can have--if it was Hitler you could do normal Hitler and screaming, over-the-top Hitler, just by how loud you speak into it. And it's gonna be custom-built by these people...(trying not to laugh).
Severed Heads: These people in America...
PD: Actually, Motorola Semiconductor are making it for us.
GB: An offshoot of the Electroharmonix company...
Ann: I'm sure it'll be a boon for impressionists everywhere.
TE: A boon. Yes, It'll be a baboon...
(Tom and Garry break down.)
PD: We're getting the prototype...
TE: We're getting the one held together with rubber bands...
GB: These help the reverberation...
Ann: The rubber bands...
(Garry twangs the microphone stand, making a loud BOING!)
Ann & TE: We've found springs on the microphones!
(Boings and scraping noises get louder and eventually rampant.)
Ann: No, no, no, no! Please!
TE: There'll be tears before bedtime!
Ann: Just in case somebody listening hasn't got a clue what's happening, neither have we. Severed Heads are in the studio here at Radio Sydney. Tom, Paul and Garry...
TE: ...a layer of crud...
GB: ...cream of asparagus soup...
PD: ...and the fourth Severed Head, Arnold, who doesn't often appear...
GB: ...he doesn't say much...
PD: ...quite a quiet little chap...
TE: (Cracking up.)...he's the squid that we were referring to a while ago...
Ann: I think I might ask a question, as this is supposed to be an interview.
2nd Ann: Who told you that?
Ann: Now, actually...
TE: Could you not say anything for a second? Just shut up for a second. I'm gonna turn my cassette over.
(Garry cracks up. Silence.)
Ann: Paul Deering recites Deep Purple's deep and meaningful lyrics!
(Paul recites underneath the following dialogue:)
TE: You were gonna ask a question.
GB: The question is...
Ann: Do you have any trouble setting up live gigs?
TE: Yes! We have at least ten billion knobs which all have to be fine-tuned before we can get on. And bastards, like particular bands we won't mention, don't let you get on stage until...
PD: ...about ten minutes before we're...
TE: Ten minutes after!
(The band's voices now blur into confusing babble.)
GB: "Please, mister, they're opening the the door in five minutes. Can we have our soundcheck now?"
TE: Right, next question.
Confused voices: ...you were going to start a rumour...actually, the moment they hear...a rumour...barricades...the things that really...sorry, yes...you were going to start a rumour?
2nd Ann: Here's your golden opportunity. You can really start a rumour now.
Severed Heads: Umm...
Ann: They've all gone quiet!
Severed Heads: Tom secretly dresses up in red leather, and...Oblivon's baby has webbed feet.
Ann: (Under the above:) Incest is always a good topic.
GB: Or probably will have. Has it popped?
Ann: I think we'll cut the interview at that point. Incidentally, the voice you hear in the background is Paul Deering reciting words...
PD: ...killing one and injuring 18...
2nd Ann: Let's get rid of these creeps.
(They go on to talk about future 'gigs,' etc.)
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