Items filtered by date: January 2013
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 15:21

Chocolate Strings: They're Back

After a two-year hiatus, local reggae funksters Chocolate Strings have recently reformed.

Frontwoman Ofa Fanaika speaks about how the band’s revival has come as a pleasant surprise.  “I don’t know whether or not Chocolate Strings were thinking at the time that we broke up that we were going to get back together,” Ofa says over the phone. “It was sort of unplanned that we were going to get back together at this particular time, but it just worked.”

Initially starting back with some informal jamming, things quickly became serious for the eight-piece band as they found themselves kicking things off with their fifth appearance at the Woodford Folk Festival.

Ofa remains humble, not only giving credit for the reformation of Chocolate Strings to other members, but also taking a larger part of the responsibility for their split.

“I was really just getting so loose and just being a fuckwit at festivals,” confesses Ofa. “I just really needed to take some time out, mainly with booze and drugs. So I put my hand up and said that I wanted to have a break and then we did.”

Although she talks with renewed positivity about the band, Ofa admits there are still challenges for Chocolate Strings, such as the fact that guitarist Alex Skinner lives in northern New South Wales and is expecting the birth of his first child any day.

“It’s been really difficult for him because he had this baby Chocolate Strings six years ago and now he’s having a baby with his life partner and you can see that he’s kind of torn between two worlds.

“He basically does so much driving at the moment,” continues Ofa. “He was … crashing on one of our couches for the night and then heading back the next day. He’s been a bit of a trooper.”

Armed with the same line-up as before their split, Chocolate Strings are excited about their return that they’ve planned two consecutive, stylistically different shows in their original hub of West End to celebrate.

“We just want to return to where it all started,” Ofa says. “The whole idea is just that we want to play back in West End and do two big shows there before we think about going anywhere else.”

Chocolate Strings play The Joynt February 1-2.

Published in Rock
There is truth in the idea that bands often emulate their hometown.

The Dandy Warhols seem perpetually lost in a cloud, just like Portland, Oregon. And Queens Of The Stone Age have a tendency towards that sparse harshness echoed in their natural habitat of Palm Desert, California. So where does that leave The Amity Affliction, the most notable band to emerge from the wonderful, beautiful oasis of Gympie? Well, let's think for a second. What is it that defines Gympie as a town? It's the all-you-can-eat Pizza Hut that gives the town its identity. True, the competition isn't exactly fierce, and the Pizza Hut does win easily. Yet despite the satisfaction that comes with eating five pizzas at once it's hard to see how a band could emulate a Pizza Hut. One thing, though, is clear — in finding exposure on the world-stage, The Amity Affliction have overwhelmingly defied the odds of their hometown.

"Success wasn't something that came easy — we worked very, very hard at it. I don't think there's much luck involved, to be honest."

Ahren Stringer says the word 'luck' with disdain, like Amity's bassist has no time for anything other than blood, sweat and tears.

"We've been a band for a very long time, eating shit for a very long time. You have to go through all of that to get noticed. A lot of bands these days expect shit to be handed to them, which is really not the case. I guess we feel like we deserve it now, but at the same time we're grateful. But those early years... you know, we really needed those years to get better at writing songs and get better at being a band. We blossomed a bit later than a few other bands in our genre, and it was a lot of hard work...
especially when you're juggling jobs and can't really focus on your craft."

By 'craft' I assume Ahren is talking about his music, although he may just be a keen member of CWA. Regardless, the success of The Amity Affliction (in Australia at least) has pended heavily on one radio station.

"Triple J's always been pretty good to us. I mean, we've been on 'Short Fast Loud' for many years now. I guess us and Parkway [Drive] have broken into the mainstream cycle; more and more people are getting into heavier music. And I mean, getting played on the radio is kind of wild, it's great... I never thought it would happen. Stu Harvey [from 'Short Fast Loud'] is definitely a big part of heavy music in Australia, and he's definitely responsible for getting bands like us on the radio."

Despite some preferential radio treatment, The Amity Affliction's latest LP, 'Chasing Ghosts', has seen the band return yet again to the US to record and produce their next album.

"Australia is a quarter the size of America," says Ahren. Close enough. "There's not anyone here that can produce world-class records like there are in America. There's so many better producers who have more experience with heavy music. Everyone who wants a good sounding record pretty much goes overseas to do it."

So what would the LP sound like had Amity decided to record it in Australia?

"It would probably sound like 'Severed Ties' which is a very bad mix. It's dull, bassy and dry. Our latest record sounds miles above our first record."

Other than one very, very important February afternoon, The Amity Affliction isn't preparing to spend any great deal of time on Australian soil this year.

"We've talking about writing an EP to release before our next album, but we're not 100 percent on that yet. But other than that, just touring. We've got a US tour lined up, we're trying to get back to Europe and the UK, and of course there's Soundwave."

The Amity Affliction play the Surfers Paradise Beer Garden Saturday January 26. They also play the sold out Brisbane Soundwave Saturday February 23.
Published in Rock
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 14:57

Tim Rogers & The Bamboos: Soul Medicine

The Bamboos are establishing a name for themselves as one of the hottest tickets in town.

So much so that the Melbourne-based nine-piece were nominated for not just one, but three ARIA Awards in 2012. But group guitarist and songwriter, Lance Ferguson, enthuses their nomination for Best Australian Live Act was most rewarding.

“It was amazing for us because we've been making records for a very long time,” Lance says. “[But] it was especially nice to get the Best Australian Live Act nomination because we've worked so hard on that side of the band.

“It felt nice that we'd finally been noticed by the music industry at large, and even though we didn't walk away with anything, it definitely felt like a big win in a lot of ways in that we're now on the radar in the music industry.”
However, rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in Australian music is second nature for Lance. Try collaborating with Megan Washington, Daniel Merriweather and a host of other guests on your latest album; then try rounding up the star-studded cast to perform the album in its entirety. Did someone say logistical nightmare?

“The 'Medicine Man' album [is] really guest heavy ... so I always knew it was going to be a challenge to take that album out live because to round up all of those people was going to be nigh on impossible.

“But we did two sold out shows at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne and we were able to get every guest who performed on that album on those nights – except Aloe Blacc as he's based in the US. I think those two nights … were the highlight of my year.”
Writing 'Medicine Man' also marked yet another milestone for The Bamboos: a collaboration with Tim Rogers – best known as the vocalist and guitarist of You Am I – or as Lance puts it, teaming up with “living Australian rock & roll history”.

“I actually wrote 'I Got Burned' myself and I wrote the chords, the melody and the lyrics, and when I originally gave it to Tim, I said, 'look, here's the song I've written … but it's liquid in that you can mould it to whatever you like'.

“He came back to me straight away and said, 'love it, everything's right and everything fits with me'. For me as a songwriter, it meant a lot that someone such as Tim Rogers came back to me and said my song sounded great and we'd [play] it the way it is.”
Tim tells a similar story. “I ... trust Lance and I'm real inspired by what he's done,” Tim says. “I've got a stealthy ego, but I know I haven't really done much original. So when a guy like Lance plays me a demo, I follow it and wanna learn from him. He knocked back a [couple of] instrumental ideas I had and [you] know what? He was, potentially, right.”

And reminiscent of '60s Chicago soul music, the falsetto harmonies on 'I Got Burned' might have you second guessing whether Tim's pipes are actually behind the microphone. But don't worry. Plenty of experienced Australian DJs were baffled, too.

“When they were taking 'I Got Burned' [to] radio, one of the strategies was to not tell anyone who the vocalist was,” Lance explains. “But I was thinking that maybe we should highlight the fact it's Tim because of his profile and everything.
“But [that] was the strategy we went with, and the thing was [only] 1 out of 40 [commercial radio DJs] picked that it was Tim Rogers – you know, him singing in falsetto, and people aren't really used to hearing him sing that way.”

“[It didn't] surprise me,” Tim says. “Commercial radio has never taken my voice to its comely bosom which suits me just fine. Having a radio 'hit' means you have to play the bloody thing for the rest of your life. Who wants that?”

The success of the collaboration has paved the way for the appropriately titled national tour, The Rock 'N' Roll Medicine Show. And while the two initially met at the 2011 Big Day Out – where Tim had the unlikely task of making fruit platters for those performing –  Lance reveals the idea to commence a tour together didn't spark until the 'Medicine Man' album show at the Corner Hotel.

“He got up live with us [at] that show at the Corner Hotel and did 'I Got Burned' and a Rolling Stones cover called 'Can't You Hear Me Knocking', and he absolutely smashed them out of the stadium with his performance. After that I was like, 'maybe we could go further with it?' And Tim was definitely enthusiastic about it as well.”

The Rock 'N' Roll Medicine Show sounds like the kind of tour that comes once in a lifetime. Not only will The Bamboos and Tim perform 'I Got Burned', but also You Am I covers “arranged Bamboos style” and a variety of hand-picked covers. And if that doesn't have you sold, throw in a couple of new originals The Bamboos and Tim have been busy concocting over the past few months.

“This will be an entertaining show,” declares Lance, “not only for the crowd, but also for us as a band because … it always invigorates the band when you get to play a whole bunch of new material after you've been playing your same set of songs for six months to a year.

“[And] playing with Tim Rogers is going to be like trying to catch a tiger by the tail, but I like that; in fact, I love that. So as much as we rehearse the stuff I've been talking about … there's still going to be an element of danger and unpredictability that he brings to the table.”

Tim Rogers & The Bamboos play the Queensland Performing Arts Centre's Concert Hall Thursday February 28.
Published in Rock
Tuesday, 22 January 2013 10:49

Time Capsule - Part 3

Scene Magazine celebrates 20 years on the streets in 2013. Each week this year, in this column, we're looking back at what we, and you, were doing.

amass1994: While The Site (see last week’s column) was setting a frantic pace, the (underground) dance scene was burgeoning. Directly opposite (yep 15 metres), The Roxy (Arena today) presented a vast fare of raves, sometimes with head-to-head dates and nearly always with controversy including whether acts would appear: Boy George - he did; Sasha was billed at both venues! The real one, (God is a DJ) appeared at The Site, while the ‘ring-in’ appeared at The Roxy.

Dome Dance Bar opened in Park Road Milton boasting open-air roof (later The Toucan Club) with resident DJ the late and much-loved Stuart Dufty, while the Gold Coast’s unique dance scene was spearheaded by Tunnel which presented club raves such as Arctic.

Australia’s longest-running dance club, The Beat (still going today and still 7-nights-a-week), was nigh on the height of its powers feat. Angus (RIP), Kesson, Edwin, JenE, MC Control and Angie.

Thief’s driving hardcore series, Roundabout became a regular fixture at venues in the CBD, The Dome and The Roxy.

Rave gear was available at Chi Chi Deluxe (who were also running The Chi Chi Dancers), Hyaena, Blonde Venus and The Mask, while made-to-measure iridescent lycra! and PVC were on order at Young Designers’ Showroom (YDS), the first retail outing for respected Brisbane fashion identity, Natalie Denning, whose present stable includes Bessie Head (Wintergarden), Dirtbox and Fallow.

 

 

dome-dance-bar-  arctic 
 blackout-1  hard-ware
 roundabout argon2 
Published in Time Capsule
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 16:31

Paranorman: Film Review

Leslie Mann, Anna Kendrick, John Goodman, Casey Affleck. Directed by Chris Butler, Sam Fell.

‘ParaNorman’ is the next production from the company that brought us the groundbreaking, Academy Award-nominated film ‘Coraline’, so expectations for the film were high. The 3D stop-motion comedy thriller is all about one small boy who can speak to the dead and must try to save his small town from a centuries-old curse. Norman Babcock (voiced by Kodi Smith-McPhee) is an appealing outcast, a slightly weird outsider who can see dead people and prefers the company of his grandmother’s ghost to any of the living inhabitants he knows. One day a distant relative gives Norman the task of lifting a curse, placating the witch and avoiding a Zombie apocalypse. Sounds like a daunting task, but endearing oddball Norman is stronger and tougher than he looks. Plus he has a trusty offsider. This film succeeds by marrying together horror and comedy and educating the audience about bullying and misunderstanding at the same time. Featuring well known actors Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick and John Goodman, the film’s greatest achievement is that it manages to be funny, scary and entertaining all at the same time.

4 stars

‘ParaNorman’ is in cinemas now.
Published in Film
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 16:27

Gangster Squad: Film Review

Josh Brolin, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn. Directed by Ruben Fleischer.

Director Ruben Fleischer ('Zombieland') consistently delivers fun and entertaining movies and 'Gangster Squad' is no different. Based on a true story and set in the 1940s, a secret crew of incorruptible cops set out to take back Los Angeles from the Brooklyn mobster, Mickey Cohen. Sean Penn nails it when playing Mickey Cohen, a soulless creep whose glare will make your skin crawl. The all-star squad includes a couple of favourites — Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Giovanni Ribisi — all who bring their own unique performances that make this movie so entertaining. One good thing about this film is it doesn't take itself too seriously, Ruben made sure that his wisecracking style wasn't lost amongt the action. This does create a few cheesy moments but entertaining nonetheless. Just a heads-up: blood and guts is to be expected in an action thriller like this, but somehow it still manages to twist your stomach with a few surprisingly graphic sequences. 'Gangster Squad' seems to be a mashup of 'Scarface' and 'The Good Fellas', splashed with elements of 'Zombieland'. So many films have tried to follow in the footsteps of the classics only to let us down, but this film delivers on its promise to entertain. It won't change your life but it'll make your day. 

3.5 stars

'Gangster Squad' is in cinemas now.
Published in Film
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 16:16

Same Skin: Theatre Workshops

With over 30 years of theatrical experience as a performer, director, writer and artistic director of a theatre company in the UK, Angela Witcher has turned her sights to making the theatre a broader, more inclusive experience.

This January the Brisbane-based thespian will launch the 'SameSkin' project, a series of theatre workshops open to people from age 11 to adult with or without disabilities. Held at the Bird's Nest Theatre in Redcliffe, the eight-week long workshops will encourage participants to express their creativity through the mediums of acting, dance and physical theatre. Artistic Director Angela Witcher's passion for making the theatre more accessible started in the UK.

“I started a theatre company back in the UK, where I worked with kids from disadvantaged families and quite a lot of kids with autism,” Angela explains. “I suppose because of the work I have done with people with disabilities, the 'SameSkin' project came out of that. I went back to the UK for a few weeks last year and worked with a company in London called Chickenshed Theatre. They have been going since the 1970s and are a fully inclusive theatre company. So I want to be able to create something similar to that, but it's obviously going to take a while to build it up.”

Professional dancer and choreographer Zaimon Vilmanis will join Angela in this venture, promising a fun learning experience with flexible teaching methods. “It's a lot about making friendships, teamwork, supporting each other, respecting their colleagues and the environment, and taking responsibility. Because they're putting on a show, and even if it's just a small thing or a showcase for the parents, they've all got the same level of responsibility for getting that done.

For more information or to download an information package, visit insideoutsidetheatre.com.
Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 16:10

Danny Bhoy: Comedy In Preview

Happy-go-lucky Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy turns to the dark side for his upcoming Australian tour.

“I’m in my flat, it’s pissing with rain here. It’s just miserable … that’s not a good way to start the interview, is it?” offers Bhoy. “I don’t want to venture outside because it’s full of drunken Christmas parties, messing up the street.”

The Scottish comedian’s curmudgeon-like attitude is surprising, but there’s still a sense that he’s only half serious, especially when he adds the throwaway line that “it’s making me wish that Germany had won the war”. His onstage persona is well known to Australian audiences — boundless energy with much leaping around the stage with an infant’s grin. But just for a minute, let’s cultivate his inner grump by recalling the ghosts of office Christmas parties passed.

“The office Christmas party is tragically the red light fuse for comedians,” he continues. “We get paid to entertain these people for Christmas, and they are easily the most horrible gigs of the year.

Everyone’s getting absolutely wasted, and you have to go out and try and make them laugh. Plus everyone thinks they’re the funniest person at the Christmas party. And you’re dealing with a bunch of work people whose loyalty is more to their boss than to you. So it doesn’t matter if you’re technically, and in every other way, shape or form, a better comedian — if he heckles you, they’re always going to go with the boss.”

Everyone knows Danny Bhoy the joker, the jester, the merry prankster cracking jokes on everything from the benign to the taboo. His latest show, 'Dear Epson', fuses the obtuse observational work of previous tours with the Larry David-esque sly rage you’re reading about right now.

“The impetus of the show is Epson, the printer company. I wrote to them, asking how they get to the ludicrous cost of their ink, how they arrive at that sort of price which I guess is the type of letter that people want to always write but never get the time. That was the first letter, and writing it felt so good. I read the letter to my tour manager and he was pissing himself laughing and told me I had to write more of them.

“It got me thinking about other places and people. I started off writing to companies about little things, but halfway through preparing the show I thought ‘well, I can’t just do this for the entire show’. I started writing to old schoolteachers, people from my past that pissed me off that I never got around to haranguing. So the show starts with me attacking these little things which moves on to bigger things which then moves onto personal things. It’s incredibly enjoyable.”

If Bhoy spent his time condemning acts that only ever impacted on his life, 'Dear Epson' would come off like a self-indulgent moanfest. But the hotel with draconian checkout policies, the guy holding up the queue at a coffee shop with his convoluted requests, the inane chatter that occurs in elevators — these snippets of annoyance are both personal and universal. Are we losing our patience or is the world actually getting more annoying? Danny doesn’t take sides, but his intentions seem noble.

“I wrote these letters on behalf of a generation of people that don’t have time to, and these things piss us off on a daily basis. Nine times out of ten I get a letter back get a letter saying ‘we are very sorry to hear about this and we will take this very seriously’ and it’s all typed and some guy just puts a signature on it. Quite depressing, really.”

Depressing, yes, so let’s change the subject. For a break between tours, Bhoy treated himself to a short holiday in New York City at the end of 2012. Nominally to witness firsthand the presidential election circus — he admits to being “kind of obsessed with American politics” — Danny arrived at the tail end of Hurricane Sandy, which cranked up the surreal-o-meter into the red.

“I got in when the worst of it was over. And actually, the year I last toured Australia was the year of the big floods in Brisbane and it was the same sort of thing. I got in a few days after. I’m not saying there’s a theme, but I’m basically a benefit comedian in reverse. If I’m doing a show, you should probably get out of town.”

Danny Bhoy performs 'Dear Epson' at the Brisbane Powerhouse from Mar 18-23, the Gold Coast Arts Centre on MarCH 26 and Toowoomba’s Empire Theatre March 28.

Published in Comedy
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 16:04

Nicky Romero: Wherefore Art Thou?

Nothing is going to turn the Nicky Romero ship off its course - not even a massively grueling touring schedule.

“I've just gotten back from a long tour,” chimes the youngster from the Netherlands. “It started on Boxing Day in England which was an awesome way to start. I did two gigs in one night — one at Gatecrasher Birmingham and the other at Cream in Liverpool! After that, it was straight off to the United States. I started out in Miami where I played the Space Terrace for the first time! Some more gigs after that we landed safely in Los Angeles where I had the pleasure of recording my label's first official video clip for my track with the Nervo twins, ‘Like Home’.”

So at the end of a whirlwind year that he says was an amazing experience, Romero is getting ready to smash Australia with some countrywide dates. But it hasn't been all-roses for the youngster, who could just as easily have headed a different path if it wasn't for his drive, commitment and determination.

“It can be a very intense life in music,” he admits. “Though I feel blessed to be in the position I am in today. It is every musician’s dream to be successful so I have to be very thankful to be doing what I love every day. My career is everything I hoped it would be — and more. The people I get to meet, the places I go, as well as the overall impressions I get every day — it is all one great gift!”

Touring aside, the lad has been rather busy in the studio since his 2012 EP ‘Sparks’ rattled a few feathers (in a good way).  “Many things have been going on musically recently. I produced a track for Rihanna that features on her latest album ‘Unapologetic’. I also released that track with the Nervo twins, that was released on my own label Protocol Recordings which was great as well.” Label wise too, Romero explains how he has signed another track on his imprint by Tony Romera called ‘Pandor’. “David Guetta also asked me to do a remix for his track with Ludacris and Usher called ‘Rest Of My Life’ which will be released shortly too; so all in all we have some great collaborations lined up for 2013!”

The notion of ‘keeping busy’ for Romero may well be an understatement — it doesn't hurt to dream, though, and despite having released tracks on some big labels already, he’s got even bigger goals for the future.

“It's my lifetime dream to work with Timbaland, actually,” he admits. “This is aiming for the stars but I hope that things will become reality some day! Otherwise, some of my collaborations have just come about by hooking up with artists who I had respect for. I am very happy with my collaboration with Avicii for example. My team has played a great part in my success too and we all work really hard — and the results keep coming in, so that is very exciting!”

He acknowledges the special feeling you get as an artist when you receive recognition from your peers, especially since many of them have been in the music business for considerable periods. “It is very special and I am thankful every day,” he professes proudly. “But what is also really great is that I have such an enthusiastic and loyal fan base. Just this week I received a video put together by my hardcore fans to wish me a happy birthday. It was absolutely touching and overwhelming! Also, playing to crowds all over the globe and seeing people partying to your music is one of the most fulfilling things in my life next to making the actual music.”

Clearly then, the Dutchman couldn't be happier. His performances have developed now to the point where he is playing his sets with a majority of his own music. “I try to mix the hottest tracks of the moment into my sets; and I try to feel out the crowd I have in front of me to see what gets them going. I always try to bring a mix that is fresh and reflective of what I am feeling at that time. I always play a good mix of different genres but I do try to stick with a story — it depends on the vibe of the festival, the crowd and so on.”

Finally, while Romero longs for a day off, he admits that even when he does get one, he usually spends the time in the studio doing an even longer session than normal. “A far distant second to music is my motorbike, too,” he says, almost as though he’s surprised to remember he has a life outside of music. “Riding that is a passion and helps me clear my head! Otherwise, at the gigs you can expect me to go all out and bring the freshest tunes, new productions and loads of energy!”

Nicky Romero plays the Big Day Out at Gold Coast Parklands on Sunday January 20

Published in Electronic
Wednesday, 16 January 2013 15:58

All Time Low: Let It Roll

All Time Low are back! Guitarist Jack Barakat talks label changes, ‘Don’t Panic’ and summer festivals.

You should have seen All Time Low by now. The foursome grace Australia with regular visits, and are back again for Soundwave in 2013.

"We're really stoked," says Jack. "I don't even think we're supposed to be on Soundwave, but we were like, wow, this lineup's awesome! We tweeted AJ and said, ‘can you please put us on these shows?’"

The band's ever expanding back catalogue means there's more to choose from every time they return. Jack reassures us that older songs will make an appearance - even if some fans are too young to recognise them.

"We play ‘Coffee Shop’ sometimes, and not everyone knows it. Festivals are always difficult because we have five albums, so we're trying to squeeze songs in there, but we also talk a lot. We always close with ‘Dear Maria’... not to ruin any surprises."
New album ‘Don't Panic’ is arguably their most important release, and finally rises above the pop/punk formula. Jack agrees that it was make or break time for All Time Low.

"’Dirty Work’ was a big album but not as big as ‘Nothing Personal’. There was a lot of pressure to make a comeback, and write a record that was going to solidify our fanbase. We drew influence from all our albums, and it worked. We didn't really know what to expect, and the reaction was overwhelming.”

After an experiment with Interscope, the band's decision to return to Hopeless Records is paying off.

"The major label had different expectations, and different views on what they wanted to do with us. It was something we weren't used to, but it was an amicable split," Jack explains. "I think Hopeless made the most sense out of all the record labels. We wanted to go with someone we knew would work, we didn’t want to do another guinea pig project again."

With their best album yet under their belts, All Time Low are reinvigorated and free to enjoy the ride.

"We're definitely going to take some time to tour the world. We haven't really played the new album live yet except for the US, so we've got a lot of catching up to do."

All Time Low play Soundwave at RNA Showgrounds on Saturday Feburary 23.

Published in Rock
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