Monthly Archives: March 2015

Feature: The Dead Salesmen

The Dead Salesmen are one of our country’s musical treasures. The revered Ballarat group deliver profoundly affecting songs; articulating the deepest of sorrows while offering a life-affirming sincerity through shimmering, stirring melodies. In a special partnership with Heart of the Rat Records, The Dead Salesmen’s brilliant 1998 album, Amen, will be reissued on limited edition deluxe vinyl. What’s equally exciting for devoted followers is the band will perform together for the first time in 13 years to launch this special vinyl reissue of Amen.

“Sonically, it’s definitely the best album we ever produced,” says bassist Patrick Bath, “and thankfully it was recorded on big two-inch tape, so it’s got a very nice, warm analogue feel, which lends itself very excellently to being on vinyl.”

For Bath, The Dead Salesmen’s three albums – Jealousy (1993), Bluestoned (1995) and Amen (1998) – capture three distinct periods in the band’s existence. “The first one was very much a youthful album; it’s a lot faster and it’s got a lot of exuberance and energy about it,” he considers. “The middle album is our dark period and that’s where we’re getting a little bit grungier… The third album has a real beauty to it… There’s a maturity and intelligence to the lyrics.”

Although the bulk of Amen will be performed at the launch, the band will also play numbers from Jealousy, Bluestoned, and possibly some off their EPs. Bath has been making albums since he was 16, but knew very quickly that The Dead Salesmen represented something he wanted to be a part of.

“When the Duo [singer Justin ‘Hap’ Hayward and guitarist Justin Ryda] got together and wanted to make their first recording, I was helping to produce and we made a tape and sold it ourselves at record shops,” he relates. “I had my own funk band… [But] I was so immensely impressed with the songs that the Dead Salesmen duo were coming out with that I was extremely happy to let go of that band and become a member of The Dead Salesmen.”

Julitha Ryan – who joined the band for the recording of Amen and their Only Fire EP – will be on stage with Bath, Haywood, Ryda and drummer Len Hyatt for the vinyl launch. Despite playing their last show together in March 2002, they’re all closer than ever. “We played very solidly for around ten years and we were living in each other’s pockets,” Bath recalls. “I dearly love all the members of the band.”

Across their career, The Dead Salesmen always maintained their integrity, sincerity and artistic ideals. “When you’re in a band, it’s like you against the world,” says Bath. “At the time we were together, we really believed – and still do – that we were something really genuinely special. So that in itself led to us wanting to maintain this integrity and I even think when we finally split up, it was partially that if we can’t be as great as we possibly can be… if we can’t live up to our own ideals then we didn’t want to do it anymore.”

The special reissue of Amen on deluxe vinyl is selling well, so Bath hopes to, ultimately, reissue all their albums on vinyl. “That would be my dream and then launch all of them,” he enthuses. “There is a bunch of songs we wrote that never ended up on an album and I would love it if we actually got together to record those last few songs. It would be a question of us all being able to find the time and being able to really commit to doing it with the same authenticity that we did everything else with, so as long as we felt we were in a position to do that, I think we could possibly do it.”

Christine Lan

Review: Mark with the Sea – When the Blood Runs Dry

Gliding into my earphones with a healthy mix of noisy electric guitar is the opening track ‘Bows & Arrows’ from Mark with the Sea’s new album When the Blood Runs Dry. With the rollicking trashing cymbal crashes and Hammond organ tumbling along, although I haven’t had the opportunity to see Mark with the Sea live yet, they will definitely be on my list to see this year.

Marc Oswin is one of the locals that has been playing around the Ballarat scene for many years now in different projects and bands, but by far this is the most exciting thing he has ever done. The second release from the band and the follow up to 2013’s 13 Years, the choruses of the tracks that make up this album are catchy and something that if you listen to this album a couple of times, you will be singing along in no time.

Regarded as a poetic and literal songwriter, the lyrics that make up this album are both intriguing and enjoyable to listen to. One of the highlights of this album is ‘Fractured Parts’. From the reverb guitar lines and the soft acoustic tones, this tune has many layers to the sound producing something that is a new discovery every time.

Having played in Geelong at the NightJar Markets recently, Mark with the Sea is set to play a few shows over the upcoming months so make sure that you catch them and pick up this tremendous local release whilst you are at it.

Written by Tex Miller

Review: HEADS. – s/t

Oh hell yes, this is my sort of music. Distil the syrupy sound of the melvins, throw in the squally punk attitude of McLusky and stir it all up with a magic pinch of anarchy and you’ll have the Recipe for Heads, the Berlin-based band who are responsible for this debut release. Perfectly mixed by Coilguns lunatic Jona Nido and beautifully mastered by Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna), this self-titled LP is a stunning example of what the underground can achieve and it is a must have for anyone who worships at the altar of disaffected noise-mongers like the Melvins, Jesus Lizard and Sonic Youth.

The album opens with the sludge-bass groove of ‘a mural is worth a thousand words’, a menacing, skull-flattening piece of work that recalls Mclusky’s wonderful ‘…do Dallas’ album with its sneaky guitar lines and half-spoken, half screamed vocals. As an album opener it’ll either have you hooked, and ready to worship at the band’s collective feet, or running a mile. Guess which side of the fence I’m on. Next up is the brilliantly titled ‘chewing on kittens’ which sounds like a cross between ‘night goat’ and Tom Waits. It’s fabulously dirty, suspiciously groovy and delivered like the last will and testament of a disillusioned preacher on the run with a bottle of whiskey and a lascivious nun. Throughout the guitars spit and burn, the drums are a disturbing rumble and the vocals whisper uneasy thoughts deep into your conscious, leaving you broken and confused. Now thoroughly locked into your brain, the band continue their mission to diminish your soul with ‘skrew’ which sounds like Nick Cave at his most intoxicated fronting Oxbow. There is little in the way of redemption here, just a gaping crimson vortex leading to the underworld beckoning, always, for you to follow. So much for the first side of the album, if you’re listening on vinyl, as it spins to its end, you’ll be lucky to still have your sanity.

‘Black river’ is a song with a lighter touch, and the first one to lead with guitar rather than bass (not that the band’s cruelly distorted bass monster isn’t lurking around, just waiting to tear into you) and, with its dark lyricism and drawled vocals the track recalls a mix of Rollins Band, Nick Cave and QOTSA. It’s the sound of fatigue given its own unique sound, and the somnambulant drums which power the track keep the pace hypnotic rather than hyperactive, always sucking the listener further into the Heads’ pool of sludge. At six minutes, the real trick that Heads pull off is keeping the interest whilst delivering a musical arrangement that is Spartan to say the least. What is important here, however, is what the band don’t use and the spaces between notes speak volumes in the parched dry, bleached-bon desolation the band evoke. With taught percussion and some truly bowel-destroying bass, ‘Foam’ is an album highlight that is somewhere between Grinderman and Rollins band and which never fails to hook you in. The album ends, all too quickly, alas, with ‘the voynich manuscript; and you can only hope that the other seven songs recorded during the session will see the light of day sometime. ‘The voynich manuscript’ is a five minute exercise in subtle horror, as filthy as a blood-spattered basement and yet devoid of the adrenalin pounding horror of a madman with an axe (or a rock band, for that matter) with guitars largely employed in adding texture and atmosphere rather than flaming riffs.

Heads are clearly not a band for everyone. Those who are familiar with Coilguns will be surprised at the band’s comparative subtlety and deeply, deeply impressed by Jona Nido’s stunning production job. What we have here are a band who look back to the art metal of the early nineties and crossbreed it with the maniacal fervour of Nick Cave and Tom Waits to create something uniquely malevolent. It’s hard to imagine another band who sound like this, but if, like me, you miss the days when bands were able to craft something truly unpleasant without resorting to either massive riffs (although plenty abound when the need arises) or harrowing screams, then this self-titled little beauty will be right up your alley.