Jay Whalley – Frenzal Rhomb ‘Shittalking with a Lazy, Good-For-Nothing-Asshole’

Frenzal Rhomb are probably the most recognisable band in Australian punk rock history, and easily the most infamous. They are iconic for their sense of humour and die-hard fan base – the band has a way of connecting with the average Australia whilst simultaneously championing social issues (something which isn’t so easy to do in this day and age). After 6 years the band is finally ready to release a new record – Hi-Vis High Tea, which drops on May 26thDave Mullins was lucky enough to chat to frontman Jay Whalley about the new record.


What’s been happening?

I’m sitting in my recently built studio about to start a day’s work

What’s the story with that, I don’t know much about the studio?

Oh yeah, so I’ve been doing production stuff over the last 8 years or something. The old room that I was working out of went the old way of most interesting things in Sydney and got demolished. So finished building a new one in Marrickville. So yeah, doing stuff, recording bands.

I’m recording Mr Peter Black from the Hard-Ons group. Last year we released a song a day and we recorded 366 songs, so that was kind of nuts but that all ended at the end of December. So now it’s been days since he’s released any new music. So now he’s doing this new record. 

Is that a solo thing he’s doing? A solo album?

Yeah, a new solo album. That’s also along with doing a new Hard-Ons album and a new Nunchukka record. Which makes Frenzal Rhomb really seem like a bunch of lazy, good-for-nothing assholes.

Well, haha, that’s the perfect segue for my first question

Well, yeah ‘are you indeed a lazy, good-for-nothing-asshole?’

Haha, yeah. So, it’s been about 6 years since you last released an album, was it just a matter of the timing lining up for getting this album out? Or is there more to it?

Ah yeah, we also find that even though we can write songs, it’s hard to write good songs. And because we all live in different places it’s kind of hard to get together. And we feel like, we may as well wait until we’ve got a bunch of good songs, and put that out, rather than put out the worst record that anyone’s ever heard. So we’ve attempted to compile all the decent songs from the last few years on this new record.

And you recorded with Bill Stevenson at The Blasting Room, how was that? It’s your second time working with him, I think?

Yes! It’s always a bit of a holiday over there, to be honest. Because we always demo everything before we go and once you get there you just sort of plug yourself into his machine and just try and do your parts good and then he makes it sound sweet!

That sounds good. I hear he can be pretty demanding. Did he bring out the best in you, or did he whip you and yell at you?

He is a fucking tyrant. But in a kind of mild-mannered way. He yells whenever you sing something kind of flat and he says things like “fuck my life… oh, fuck what are you doing to me? Oh god, do it again… Oh my god, do it again!” So that can be pretty demoralising after ten days of doing that. But I’m sure there’s no malice in it. Except for when he looks at you and says you’re the worst piece of shit on Earth. Stuff like that. But you know, no not really, he’s fucking great, he’s really good.

Oh well, the results speak for themselves, he’s been involved with some of the best records over the last ten or fifteen years or whatever, so that’s cool.

He has, and ours.

Does it help with your own recording? Have you learnt any tricks, or just how to yell at people better?

Ah yeah, I learned what not to do. How to not completely undermine someone’s confidence. But yeah, I learnt a lot of little tips – little tricks – from working with those guys. Mainly just how to leave early. You know, just clock off at 4, start at 11 the next day. Nah, they’ve got a good work ethic. Those kids… those guys… over there.

Love it. Love everything about it. So the new album. Something that struck me as funny is that there’s a song called Bunbury on there, about Bunbury. The Prince is legendary and the town itself is impressive for its scene. Can you tell me a little about that song?

Well, it is called ‘Bunbury‘ and it is about, as you suggested, the town of Bunbury. And specifically, the wonderful establishment known as The Prince of Wales. Which is one of those rare beasts in regional Australia which combines awesome like-minded people that run it and that country Australia chaos that comes along with those long-standing touring venues. The people that run it are fucking cool and they have a tradition there, I’m not sure if you know – it’s quite legendary – and I’m not allowed to really be talking about this in public so if anything happens to me you’ll know that this is why.

So they bring out this thing called ‘the Stump’ at the end of some nights, I’m not going to tell you if they still do it or not, but let’s just say they still do it. They bring out a large tree stump and hammer nails into it, and you put money into the middle of this stump and then pass the hammer around and whoever gets the nail flush with the stump first gets the money that’s on top of the stump. And you know, there’s a lot of intoxicated people and hammers and nails and it’s horrendously dangerous… and possibly illegal. And it’s just one of those things that you just do not find anywhere else.

That’s really weird, I’ve been there plenty of times but I do not know that one.

Yeah, I think there used to be a staff member there that was trafficking wildlife from Russia. True story. He was busted trying to traffic bears, like small… child… cubs through various back channels, through the docks. Maybe through Fremantle or something. Yeah, selling bears on the black market of Australia. It’s fucking weird. It’s a wild place.

It is. And when you play that song in Bunbury the Universe is going to implode, it’s going to be amazing.  

I hope so, I mean, that’s the only place where people will give a fuck about that song so let’s hope it’s good.

I’m sure it will be. What else do you explore on the album?

Well the whole thing, as Lindsay was saying, is a concept record with 20 different concepts. And initially the idea behind Hi-Vis High Tea that we’re all complicit in the destruction of the planet and we’re basically whipping it up on the dead, rotting corpse of our mother Earth. And that was something that I wanted to address on this album. Unfortunately, I only addressed it on the album artwork and on one other song. But, you know, it’s a sound concept.

Yeah. It’s a good concept, and you did it, at least.

Yes, that’s right. But yeah, a lot of concepts. Like Classic Pervert, how sometimes it’s hard to tell these days, with the way that people dress – with the lank hair and glasses and little tiny shorts and jeans with no socks stuff, you can’t really tell if someone’s the guitarist in the most successful band in the country or if they’re a pervert or a paedophile from 1978.

Oh yeah, I get that reference! That makes sense…

I’m trying but I can’t even think of any other songs off the record.

That’s alright.

Oh yeah, I’ve been buying drugs off the dark net. Which is something you’re probably not supposed to say out loud in public because that defeats the purpose of all the encryption that I had to go through to get the drugs through the post. But yeah, I think there’s a song about that.

Oh yeah, I saw that in the social media, press release or whatever… something about the dark net…

Really? I’m really failing at this encryption business.

Yeah but you’re trying, so that’s okay.

Someone was saying that the other day because my screensaver on my MacBook is this big black screen with floating words ‘Jason Whalley’s MacBook’ and they were like “you probably should change that for the when the federal police come around and ask you who’s computer is that?” Because it’s all about plausible deniability. Which will be easy in this interview because I have been speaking a lot of rubbish so far.

Well, that’s good because that’s what we’re here for. We don’t want facts, we want interesting anecdotes, true or otherwise. It doesn’t matter.

I have said ten things and only one of which is a lie.

That’s good. It’s more than I would ever have hoped for. So this is a bit of throwback… I love the cover of Flying South you guys did for the Fat Wreck Tony Sly tribute. Do you play it live much?

No, not even once.

Not even once!?

Not even once, that’s sad.

That’s so sad.

And quite hopeless on our part.

Well, you know, if you’re looking for something to throw on the setlist when you’re in Perth I know at least one person would be excited.

Well, that’s all it takes sometimes to bring the whole vibe down for the concert, just one guy yelling his head off for one obscure song.

Hah, yeah “I know this!” haha. You know, from the original I would have never pictured that it could work, but it’s one of the best on the album. Was it Fat Mike who chose that or was it you guys?

I think that we came up with it. I think by the time it got around to us we were probably left with a choice of three songs and I think that song felt like it had references to Australia in it. Well in my mind because we can obviously never ask him, but in my mind, it had references to Australia. You know the whole ‘flying south’ thing. I think there’s a line in that song about Devonshire Street which is a street in Surry Hills, in Sydney, but I’m not sure there are Devonshire streets around the world but anyway. But in my mind, it was all about Australia and as the Australian representatives, it seemed like it would be a good song to try and tackle.

He does have quite a few on that album… I think it was Joey Cape who was saying that Devonshire and Crown is about that…

Oh yeah, that’s what I’m thinking off…

But yeah, Flying South makes sense as well. He wrote a lot while he was on that Australian acoustic tour…

It was either about Australia or Mexico.

Either or. We’re basically the Mexico of the southern hemisphere.

That’s right.

I can make that work. So you’re a really busy dude, you’re in a couple of other bands including Chinese Burns Unit and you were doing that thing with Blackie last year. Have you got much going on the side at the moment?

Only if you’re into satanic, time-travelling, occult metal. Then yes, I do have another project. We’re called The Neptune Power Federation and my wife, Lauren Friedman is the lead vocalist and she is a time-travelling witch who is from another planet who has come through space and time to destroy the Devil. And we are her minions who play mad, heavy ‘70s riffs in the background while she summons a black mass around her. So there’s that. And you know, buying groceries and being a dad.

Those are also things, so that’s good.

Yeah, we’re playing with The Dwarves tonight actually – The Neptune Power Federation. So that will be fun. And playing with Clowns in a few weeks, also, fun predicted. But you know, who cares about that in Western Australia? But hopefully, one day, The Neptune Power Federation will get to come to the Western Australian area.

Yeah, well this interview is for all around Australia, or whoever the hell wants to read it, but that’d be good. But if you want to bring things to WA, it’s great, everyone here loves music. Or at least, I do and I think I can speak for the entire state on that matter.

Awesome

So you’re heading out on tour in June, with Totally Unicorn, you’ve got the new album coming out in May. Are you excited? Are you ready? Is your body prepared?

I am excited. I feel like I should be slightly fitter. Like I should ride my bike a bit. Because I didn’t do that on the last tour and I felt like, every night, I was having a stroke about halfway through. So this time I’m going to endeavour to be slightly physically fitter. Although what do I have to do really? Just slam my head around a little bit and sing some songs. It should be good, I’m looking forward to it. We’re doing the regular run where you go Perth, Montreal, Gold Coast, so…

Just your standard

Yeah, just your standard Perth, Bunbury, Montreal, Miami Shark Bar Gold Coast, Brisbane kind of leg.

Well it makes sense because you need to get some poutine after being in Perth

It’s true. And it seems like it’s ridiculous to travel for 27 hours for one show, but they’re paying us a fortune, so… you know.

Well cool. That should be pretty awesome, it’s a pretty cool line up.

I think so, even though we’re gonna be jetlagged as fuck and then leave. Actually, I’m going to go camping there for a couple of weeks with my wife and child. But yeah, it’s gonna be good.

Well cool man, everyone is pumped for the tour and the new music, obviously I’ve been listening to it and I love it. Can’t wait to see the band out there. Thanks so much for talking today.

Awesome man, thanks heaps

Interview by Dave Mullins

Hi-Vis High Tea is Out May 26th. Pre-Order your copy here

frenzal tour

Frenzal Rhomb – Hi-Vis High tea Album Launch Tour

Fri 16th June Capitol Perth
+ Guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2nfJsqz

Sat 17th June Prince of Wales Bunbury
+ Guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2o7sHLN

Fri 21st July Triffid Brisbane
+Totally Unicorn & guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2nqe9dl

Sat 22nd July Miami Tavern Gold Coast
+Totally Unicorn & guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2o7QuLw

Sun 23rd July Solbar Maroochydore
+Totally Unicorn & guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2nac2It

Thu 27th July Music Man Bendigo
+Totally Unicorn & guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2nqbMHc

Fri 28th July Pelly Bar Frankston
+Totally Unicorn & guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2nLw4Mo

Sat 29th July Corner Melbourne
+Totally Unicorn & guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2musTZr

Fri 4th August Cambridge Newcastle
+Totally Unicorn & guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2neWepq

Sat 5th August Metro Sydney
+Totally Unicorn & guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2niWYtK

Fri 11th August The Gov Adelaide
+Totally Unicorn & guests
Tickets: http://bit.ly/2mTiXDS

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