2009 was certainly the Year (Australian) Punk Broke (Again) around Termbo HQ. It was like discovering the country's music all over once more, even though when you get down to it, the continent could be the second best source of great music in all of history. At least in my mind. I've discussed my fondness for the rough-n-tumble taters-n-meat r-n-r from Oz time and time again, where primordial rock ooze seeps from the cracks in the dry earth and pours thickly from the swamplands in my mental image. Quality new bands and records are coming by the fistful, and once the neophyte absorbs ECSR as the big daddies of the scene and the Ooga Boogas as their bumbling brothers and the UV Race as their bratty cousins, there's still a wonderful under layer of emerging acts, with Chinese Burns being one of the most impressive. Their debut single was one of my favorites of last year, not just from the Australian Rock category but from the world in general, a dangerously paced and furiously punk take on plain and simple garage-based rocking. Four legitimate killer kuts on one slab, all hits and no misses. I bought in quantity and sought out more, which led to me getting a grip on their demo and some killer live action via Aussie comrade Owen of Straight Arrows. Thanks to him I ended up in contact with these fine gents, realized they were also linked to Feelin' Lucky who released a pretty fine budget rock LP a couple years past that slipped through the cracks for all but the most astute fiends on this side of the pond. Pressed in a grossly limited quantity, it's somehow still available from some distros, but I imagine not for long. And as for the Burns 7", it's in a second press now (with an inverse sleeve, for all of you keeping score) and you really should seek out a copy before it's too late, or your "collection" will be lacking one of the most exciting singles of recent vintage. Whilst gushing over said record and grilling them for more info over e-mail I figured we might as well just turn it into an interview, since there are few bands I'm more excited about these days anyway. And there we go...
TB: Please tell us who is in the Chinese Burns, how old you are, and what your favorite punk record is.
Xavier: Xavier. Born 1981, and here's five: Onyas "Heterospective", The Sailors "Violent Masturbation Blues", Angry Samoans "Back from Samoa", Boondall Boys "Hard Rubbish", Teengenerate "Get Action".
Ben: I am 27, Brad is pushing 40. Brad doesnít like reading his words in print (except on message boards) and he declined to comment for this interview, so we will speak on his behalf. The best punk record ever is the "Feel Lucky Punk?!!" comp that was put out through Crypt.
TB: Damn, I didnt realize how "mature" you guys were! I thought you were a bunch of teenagers. So I take it you all have day jobs and such? What do you guys do in "real life" when not rocking?
Xavier: Yeah we have day jobs, I've got a computer desk job, Ben is a record store clerk and when Brad does work (not very often) he gets abused by people like Lily Allen.
Ben: Brad is a photographer.
TB: Have you guys been in some other bands? Please tell us about them.
Xavier: Eat Laser Scumbag: great live, shit on recording, Brisbane buzz band. Les Fancy Boys: homo-erotic faux-French punk pop band, we toured China.
Ben: I was in a parody skate rock group called R.A.D. which put out two tapes and a split 7Ē. I also had a Rip Off style punk band called Feeliní Lucky which put out an LP thatís still floating around. Bradís long term band is/was the Hymies who are like the Dwarves meet the Meanies or something.
TB: Where exactly in Australia are you from? Melbourne? Brisbane? How is living there different from living in other Australian cities? I'm trying to figure out how Aussie cities "rank" sort of - someone told me Sydney is like the San Francisco of Australia, so what does that make your city, as a comparison for us dumb Americans?
Ben: The band formed in Melbourne, which has the most Smiths t-shirts per capita in Australia. We all grew up in Brisbane and started our first bands up there. Xavier still lives in Melbourne, but late last year Brad and I fled back to Brisbane, which is in the state of Queensland, which most Americans would equate with Texas. Itís big, hot and conservative. Brisbane is good, but too far away from Sydney and Melbourne for most touring bands to bother with too often. Brisbane to Melbourne is about the same drive as New York to Miami according to the internet.
TB: Please tell us how Chinese Burns came together and came to record that demo/first single? Did you guys release that 7" completely on your own?
Xavier: I know these two from Brisbane bands, they moved to Melbourne, we fooled around, it got heavy and they fuckin' left (pardon my Australian). And yeah, it's out on our Mustdestroymankind label which has six releases out, mainly my shit that no one else would put out! We recorded it at Bradís house with Mikey (ECSR) and his 8-track, sent it to Owen (Straight Arrows) who wanted to mix it, and we were happy with the result. We've got some more songs from this recording that we'd like to put out. We also have a new 7", one-sided, called "Rohypnol" out on Leather Bar Records that should be out very very soon. This song highlights our uncanny intelligence.
Ben: Yes, Xavier talked us in to doing a band. It seemed like a good idea as we all played different instruments and we had time to spare. It came together pretty quick, I think "Can Dig" was the first song we wrote at our first practice. There was no plan for what we would sound like, most songs are based around Brad stealing bass lines from his old goth records.
TB: So you guys didn't have any sort of plan for what you wanted Chinese Burns to sound like? Like Feelin Lucky seemed very Supercharger inspired, and Hymies very Dwarves-ish...was there any overt inspiration or starting point band for the Burns "sound"? (ed: Brad mysteriously appears for this portion of the interview...)
Brad: Nah, Ben and me didn't want to even play, we were kinda over doing bands, but then you just start doing it again and love doing it and you get a burger and beers and and whine about life and then it all makes sense. Writing songs is easy cause you just take an old disco song, reverse what the bass plays and the rest follows easy.
Xavier: Ben and I talked about doing something when he moved down to Melbourne, we had a vision but that got chucked out the window pretty quickly.
Ben: I don't remember a vision, we would usually just jam and see what we came up with.
TB: There seems (to us Americans) to be a recent rebirth of great new Aussie bands and zines? For a while there all we knew of were The Sailors until this new wave apparently kicked off w/ECSR. True? If so, is there any reason for this or are we just now seeing something that was always there?
Ben: It definitely seems like more good Australian bands are nailing it in the "studio" and putting out wax these days, compared to the earlier part of the decade.
Xavier: There's heaps of killer bands in Australia but I guess with the Current's current popularity more people seem to be pricking their ears to what's happening on this side of the Pacific. Also you've got people like Bruce from Memphis who knows his Australian shit and helps everything relate a bit more nicely over there. It's great how Super Wild Horses, Total Control and UV Race are heading over to play shows in September!
TB: Bruce is a phenomenal man and the reason I first heard Chinese Burns. Is he an official Australian Ambassador for rock relations in the US? How do you guys hook up with him?
Xavier: Through the power of the internet. I met him when he came out playing drums with James Arthur's Manhunt last year, we played with them at the tote. Between him and Richard Onya there's some pretty healthy Memphis/Melbourne crossover thing happening, bonza for everyone!
Ben: We'd probably still be trying to flog off the first run of 7"s if it wasn't for Bruce helping out in the states. On ya Bruce!
TB: Exactly how popular are Eddy Current down there now? I heard they won a grammy or something? Has this helped other garage/punk bands down there, like made it easier to get gigs and such?
Xavier: ECSR keep on rising. They just did a sell out national tour ending in Melbourne at The Palace which holds nearly 2,000. They're keeping it real, and always help out with local garage/punk bands. Not only are they a shit-hot band but great dudes and much respect to 'em. I saw the Ooga Boogas play last night, they're the ECSR that you can still go to a show with under 100 people without dicks everywhere, and just as good.
Ben: Yeah Eddy Current are quite popular these days, they get played on the national youth radio station a fair bit and have probably won a few hearts with their raw guitar and brash Aussieness. Their live show is unstoppable, even when they opened for Devo to a bunch of old timers, they got cheers for encores. Donít know if this has helped anyone else get a gig, youíd have to be pretty shit to not be able to get a gig in Melbourne.
TB: Do you guys know Mad Macka well? Tell us a good story about this rock legend.
Xavier: Macka is king! On the way to the first Chinese Burns practice Ben gets a call from Macka, who just landed in Melbourne to record the new Cosmic Psychos record, and he asked what we were up to and so by the time we got to the practice room, set up and fumbled around for 10 minutes, Macka arrives, sherry in hand, sits patiently and observes the young men having a crack at it. Tough audience.
Ben: Macka lives in the Brisbane suburb of Boondall with his lovely wife Delene and enjoys King Snake Roost.
TB: What does the name Chinese Burns mean and how did you pick it? If it's what I think it is (when you grab someones arm and twist in opposite directions causing a "burn"), this is what we refer to as an "Indian Burn" in the states....Were there any other band names considered?
Xavier: Yeah that's it, I think Ben came up with it, and now these fools from Sydney have started a band called Chinese Burns Unit, they could have at least done a bit of research. We had some other names, the first one Banalarama was pretty funny for one afternoon.
Ben: Surely it's common courtesy these days to google potential band names before you commit to one. On the other hand, I doubt it will effect either band.
TB: Chinese Burns Unit? Hah! Have you heard what they sound like at all?
Brad: Has-been vegans with too much time and power riffs, horrible. The singer chap was in an equally terrible band called Frenzal Rhomb and went on to be a radio DJ that sucked balls.
Ben: Frenzal Rhomb are like the Australian NOFX.
TB: Who came up with the art for the 7"and why a sheep? Or is that a lamb?
Xavier: That's our art guy, Brad. I don't know what's going on there. That's his arse on the B-side label too, so smooth and hairless for a Greek.
Ben: Brad said the lamb art is a Kurt Vonnegut drawing from Breakfast of Champions, he just gave it devil horns. "Lamb of Satan". It's a nice, clean image. We were sick of seeing records and flyers that looked like some pattern someone doodled during maths class.
TB: What current bands are some of your favorites, both American and Australian?
Brad: I like Boondall Boys, Los Hories, Chimney Sweeps, The Clean, Nobunny. Dead Moon, Sulphur Lights,
Xavier: Current bands, gimme Boondall Boys, yes! Deaf Wish, Turnpike, Straight Arrows and Ooga Boogas.
Ben: I love the Spits and Nobunny so I'm pretty jealous of that US tour that's happening. Pissed Jeans. Late Arvo Sons from Melbourne.
TB: Who are the best band ever from Brisbane?
Brad: I would vote for Strutter here, but we would all most likely argue about this all night. The Onyas a close second, The Sips third. Worth a massive mention are The Seventeens, Not From There, The Busymen, The Hekawis. The Saints are good but over-rated and should stop playing now cause they look stupid.
Xavier: One of those, not the Seventeens, maybe Standing 8 Counts 'cause Ben can't stand them. Or Dick Nasty too.
Ben: Saints are the logical choice, with three choice albums under their belt. But yeah, Chris Bailey's antics at the recent reunion gigs were despicable and may have tainted the band for many. All the Brisbane 'Murder Punk' stuff is classic and makes you proud of your humble backwater.
TB: So are the Mad Max movies an accurate portrayal of life in Australia?
Yes, but with a lot more flies and less bondage gear. Maybe not Mad Max 3. Watch Wolf Creek for the true Australian portayal of life.
Xavier: I'd go with Petersen.
Ben: Check out the film Wake in Fright.
TB: What footy team do you guys back and who is your favorite player?
Brad: Lions, ftw.
Xavier: Melbourne Demons, one of the oldest football clubs on the planet (formed in 1858), they have the best looking jumpers too, navy blue and red. Jim Stynes is one of my favorite players but he is now the club chairman and is going through a public fight with cancer, an inspirational figure, a leader, a good man. Melbourne have spent the last three years as the loser team of the league, finishing last and winning three games a year. From bottoming out (some people may say they tanked on purpose) they've been rewarded with the top draft picks. Just this season they've turned a corner, they're a young side, they've got the belief, they're winning games, they just won three in a row (which they haven't done since 2006). These guys are some of my favourite Demons: Jack Grimes, Jack Watts, Jack Trengove, Tom Scully, Rohan Bail, Liam Jurrah, Austin Wonaeamirri, young fellas, the bright future!
There's also this Renegade Pub Football League which i'm just going to drop in here, this year there are six iconic Melbourne pubs/venues which are the heart of Melbourne independent music with their own footy team, a great community. Check out this blog. That guy passed out on the field is Rupert, he played bass in Chinese Burns when Brad went overseas for six months last year.
Ben: Queensland Reds (Rugby Union), Lions (AFL), Broncos (NRL). Having said that I've watched about one game this year.
TB: Owen sent me a live recording from you guys that sounds great, he said the gig was on a boat? What was that gig like? Sounds very Sex Pistols-esque.
Xavier: That was on Valentine's Day on the Brisbane River on a boat cruise earlier in the year for some friends 7" launch - Sweet Dreams and The Narwhals also played. There's also this which was our last gig we played in Brisbane that the same dude recorded.
TB: Do you guys have any intentions on coming across to the States for a tour? Do you guys have and records planned after the "Rohypnol" 7"? Or more recording sessions coming soon for an LP perhaps?
Xavier: If everything aligns we'll be over there. We have some other stuff recorded we might put out later in the year on a 7". "Calculator", "Fungus Face", "Goose Step" (ed: leftover tracks from the demo). We've got new songs too but living 1600 kilometers apart makes it a little difficult to record for the moment.
Ben: All of those things would be nice, we'll see what we can do.
Xavier: I wanna go to the States, maybe we can get our arses over there next year for Gonerfest or something.