TONE DEATH fanzine : November 1982
FORTY MINUTES LATER, TONE DEATH WERE AT THE OTHER END OF LONDON, AT THE RESIDENCE OF ONE DOMINIK GUERIN OF SPK, WHERE THEY WERE TREATED TO A SHOWING OF THE VIDEO HE HAS COMPILED, ENTITLED DESPAIR, ONE HOUR OF VISUAL BEAUTY, INCLUDING BOTH LIVE AND DEAD AKTION, AND SOME STUNNING VISUAL SHOTS, WITH A SOUNDTRACK RUNNING RIGHT THROUGH, COMPRISING OF BOTH EARLY AND RECENT SPK MATERIAL. AFTER THE SHOWING TONE DEATH ASKED HIM A FEW QUESTIONS
TD: Could you give us a brief history of SPK the group.
DO: Well it started in January 1979 in Australia out of frustration with the music scene. There were four members of the band then, including a guy called NI/H/IL, who subsequently committed suicide, which made quite good publicity for SPK at the time. He did it before Ian Curtis too: it was very trendy at the time. Then there was Graham, who works under a theory of obscurity. He never uses his real name, so he is now Oblivon, which is a very effective psychiatric repressive drug. That is the name he uses on the second LP and he is the one consistent surviving member of SPK. Then SPK moved to London. After the first single and album I was involved in the music as well, and there was another guy called Mr. Clean, who has since moved on to greener pastures. Then we went back to Australia and recorded the second album. After a brief tour of America we spent about nine months back in Australia just playing a couple of gigs, then toured America again, then came back to London. In that time, we've concentrated very much on the visual content of peformance, the performance art of the individuals on stage like chopping up cows and sheepsheads, etc, as you saw on the video, and throwing this at the audience, which makes a change from the audience throwing things at you. We have also incorporated slides and films into our presentation, and recently video tapes as it is a more convenient medium. We've decided to come back to England for a final assault, and see what happens. One thing we've noticed that is coming into vogue is metal percussion. We've been doing that for three years. Weve also been using visuals for three years. We have always used different mediums to express ourselves, so we don't want people to think were cashing in on these things.
TD: So is SPK still functioning as a group?
DO: Definitely until at least the end of the year, when it could branch off into something else. I'd like to squash the rumours that it's a disco band now.
TD: Could you tell us about the compilation of the
DO: It's having access to the information that is the most important thing. You have to know where to find things. It took about a year to compile, working seriously on it, and a lot of the info was got through a number of medical schools, visual material from books, etc. I think at some stage, for people who were interested, it would be a good idea for us to publish a leaflet giving details of our sources of information, so other people could have access to the same things. But it's difficult to be more precise because it could be a bit incriminating in some ways.
TD: What sort of reaction do you got at gigs when you
DO: Quite extreme. At one stage we played in a place called the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis which was a mainstream arts centre. They had a massive super-8 projector that could project an image 2ft high by 30ft wide. When the promotors saw the film they rushed outside and put up a huge disclaimer warning ticket buyers of the grossness of the content, that they might be shocked. But I think this had the opposite effect of encouraging people to come along.
difficulty in speaking/voice modulation, chest wall vibration, swaying sensations, lethargy, drowsiness, headaches and fatigue.
middle-ear pain, difficulty speaking/voice modulation, severe chest wall vibration, severe abdos vibration and nausea, falling sensation, lack of concantration drowsiness, severe fatigue/headache
severe middle-ear pain, respiratory difficulty, severe chest wall vibration, gagging sensations, spasm of uncontrollable coughing, nasal cavity vibration, persistent eye watering, fear symptos (including excessive perspiration/shivering), severe fatigue/headaches.
TD: Like TG at the ICA?
DO: Yeah, I suppose. But over a third of the audience walked out once the film started. Afterwards even the people who booked us said they had to walk out, it was that overpowerin, the volume of music and the sheer size of the image. Other people have made themselves sick.. What were isn't just for shook value, were trying to make alternative outlets of information, trying to stimulate peoples imaginations, and also to question certain aesthetics that exist, why one thing is deemed beautiful, while another thing is seen to be ugly. For instance, some of the slides of dissisected bodies in jars, etc, I think are really exquisite works of art in a way, theres nothing really vulgar or ugly about it, it's just the cultural interpretation of it, that we are brought up not to want to see that sort of thing, that it's not nice, which links up to what I said before out access of information. You see, all this type of thing is kept away from us, like the dissection of the human body. It carries forward the power of medicine, which builds up a whole mystique around itself. What we're doing in a way is questioning that, saying that everybody has a right to that information.
TD: Moving to the latest LP, how long did that take to
DO: That was a massive effort that took about nine months.
TD: So you spent a lot more time on that than the first
DO: Yes. The first one was recorded in about two months in a squat in Vauxhall, British Rail going past
TD: Then about the backing tapes on 'Leichenschrei.
Is there any real meaning behind them, or are they just used to
complement the overall sound?
DO: There is a definite meaning in all the music. It's difficult because there are so many different tapes used. I think it relates back to the visual content again because what we're trying to do is have an access to as many different multiple sources of information as possible at say one time. So what we don't want is to create a regressive form of music where you can just sit back and tap your feet because it's predictable, and you know what the next note is going to be, and you feel happy just bouncing along to the music. Whereas what SPK is trying to do is, where you play the record again, you notice something else to concentrate on, and so on, every time you listen to the record.
TD: What about the stuff you recorded since then, is
that more accessible still, bearing in mind Leichenschrei
is more accessible than Information Overload Unit'?
DO: Some of it is, some of it is quite poppy, some of it isnt. Now theres more of a juxtaposition between accessible music, which people can disco or pogo to, then all of a sudden there is a switch to the hardcore SPK sound. It's just punctuated with that and its just another way of exploring the extremes of the sound working on as many things as possible at any one time.
TD: Whats the idea behind the cover of Leichenschrei?
DO: The graph on the cover is an illustration of an electro-shock treatment and the literal translation of the German LP title is "the scream of the corpse", and superimposed over the graph is a face of a decaying body representing this. On the back of the cover is a picture of an interesting venue that we set up in Sydney, called The Brickwerkz', which had a superb courtyard, a huge pit, masses of machinery, and we played in front of huge kiln or chimney. We went to a lot of trouble to organise it, and it took over three months to get permission through the local authorities. We had to hire scaffolding and generators to set up our presentation. About 350 people turned up.
TD: Is that the biggest diskoncert youve played?
DO: No. 700 turned up in San Francisco, when we played as support to Flipper, who are quite big there. Whenever we return to a city to play we seem to pick up a hardcore following. The last time we played in San Francisco was interesting. There is a performance artist there called Mark Paulin who did a flame throwing display, huge flames shooting half way back down the hall. But at at one point the flame just flopped onto a girl at the front of the stage. Fortunately she had a thick coat on and the people around, her put her out.
TD: What about record sales?
DO: The west coast of America is quite big for us, but we haven't sold many in the east although we had a good reception when we played three times in New York.
TD: How well have the LP's sold?
DO: The first one has sold about 2500. The second one has so far sold more, but it's hard to say exactly how many because we did it through an American company, Thermido;r they pressed 2000 originally and it's gone to a second pressing of 2000. The first one we did ourselves, and made quite a lot of money out of doing it independently, but we were also ripped off by distributors. So we decided this time to go 50/50 with Thermidor, who handle things very well in America for us, but not so well for Europe and other places.
A CROSS-SECTION OF GREAT AUSTRALIAN SPORTSMEN
LtoR: GREG CHAPPELL, ROD LAVER, DOMINIK GUERIN.
TD: Can you give us any details of your forthcoming
DO: The tour begins on November 20th in Berlin at the SO36 Club. Then it's Hamburg, Hanover and Frankfurt It's fitting that we should be going to Germany because the original SPK was the Socialist Patients Kollectiv, who were the lunatic fringe of the Baader-Meinhof group. SPK was set up by a Doctor Uber. They believed their illness was caused through the structures of capitalism and that to cure their illness they had to destroy capitalism, and specifically the institutions that they were incarcerated in. So they started a terror campaign. But they had a number of problems. Being schizophrenics they tended to blow themselves up and not achieve anything which was sad, although they did d produce a very interesting manifesto.
TD: Have any of you ever been in previous musical
DO: The hard core haven't, but two original members were in a band called Secret Secret, who achieved some success in Australia on a commercial level. Friends who are in bands have helped out on our records.
TD: Any forthcoming products?
DO: There may be a final SPK album, but it's all in a state of flux at the moment. We don't want to do the same thing for too long, we want to show people what we're doing as quickly as possible. We want to move onto other things, for example, I want to move into making films, and other people in the band might want to make a different type of music as well as that. But that is for the future to tell.
TD: Finally, what do you think of the other 'extreme'
bands around at the moment, such as Whitehouse, Nocturnal
DO: Whitehouse I don't really know anything about. Nocturnal Emissions are really uncompromising, thats what I like about them. Lustmord is perhaps the most entertaining of the extreme bands, because theres always an element of parody in what Bryon does, so I really like him as well.
THE VIDEO DESPAIR' COSTS £19 FROM DOMINIK AT 68 BONNINGTON SQUARE, VAUXHALL, LONDON SW8 1TG. G.L.
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