Sounds You Need In Your Ears
Episode 4: Full Scale
Full Scale are:
Ezekial Ox – vocals
Jimmy Tee – guitar
Leigh Miller – bass
Chris Webber – drums
For most people, the name Full Scale registers barely even a blip – an insignificant jot that they’re almost blissfully unaware of, if even at all. For some others of us, like myself, it conjures a recollection of a bright flash followed rapidly by an expectant hum never quite quelled despite many years waiting. Their brief entrance into the scene offered some of the best music that Australian hard rock had to give. Such was their talent that I expected them to go on to be massive international stars. They never did achieve that tempest, but the blueprint for that was always there.
This saga really came to the fore early into the turning of the millennium. Nu-metal was on the charge, offering a blurring of the lines that had for the preceding decades existed between rap and rock to herald a new age of integration and progress. Limp Bizkit and Korn were both blazing the charts, and Red Hot Chili Peppers were at the height of their popularity. Even Rage Against The Machine continued to be on the charge on the back of their last release of original music. Truly, then, this was a very fruitful time for the combination of rapid-fire lyrics and hitting rock music slotted in behind it.
Closer to home here in Australia, there was a similar movement to the larger one happening at a global level, but with our own unique twist. Superheist, Jerk, and several others were finding moderate success — occasionally even breaching into mainstream programming and becoming an accepted form of music in the general populace. Full Scale, then, were poised in the perfect position to take over the national scene at the hand of their charismatic frontman, Ezekial Ox.
One small problem. Aside from outfits like Goanna or Midnight Oil, Australians don’t tend to like their music being mixed with an overtly political overtone. Sadly, for Full Scale, that was sort of their trump card. Much of their collection is driven by scathing social commentary, taking square aim at things like beguiled foreign policy, organised religion, and conspicuous consumption.
In certain instances, it can be utterly relentless, too. Take for instance, “The Heimlich Manoeuvre” (one of their later releases) — it takes litany of topics to task with no uncertain terms and fires the accusations off like a machine gun. It also proffers such charming lyrics as, “Although desexed / I can fuck you with a strap-on” with such intensity that you get a little bit fearful that Ezekial is hanging around in the next room ready to attack you like a dog.
They’d been around for a while by the time they first caught my attention, under the original moniker Full Scale Deflection. Mostly dwelling in the Perth underground scene, they put out their first release, the independent Symptoms Of Chaos. While a fairly solid album in its own right, it was only a minor glimpse into the freight train it would later come to represent.
Seeing them was one of the greatest experiences in my musical upbringing. We find ourselves again in the much-storied Skinny’s Records, former home of Brisbane’s degenerate youth for a generation.
The day has been tipped to see the mercury hit 34 degrees by noon; along with it, the humidity, predictably, is approaching what seems like one million. Usually in-stores at Skinny’s were a non-event in terms of comfort — what do you want? it’s a record store with a bunch of amps and a drum riser in the corner — but this day was a level I’d never before, and thankfully, never since experienced. From overworking itself to keep up with the seething swell of bodies now pasted together with a combination of testosterone and sweat, the air conditioning unit gradually became less and less effective. For those playing along at home, the outcome is predictable (that is, it died in a cacophony of bangs and whurrs). That comfort of hindsight isn’t especially conciliatory.
The prediction of 34 degrees proved to be inaccurate. By 11AM, with roadways starting to become liquid once more, and humans audibly crackling in the morning sun, we’d hit 36. Inside the building — now warm enough to have vapour trails rising from the mass of flesh — my teenage carcass could only thank whatever benevolent deity of rock had done my good grace by allowing me to be in the front row and not congealing into some kind of primordial ooze with the rest of the punters. More so, however, was the fact that I was within about a meter of one of the most intense performers I have ever seen.
In the absence of any fanfare, a collection of casualties of rock arrive on stage, almost as if they’re trying to downplay their presence.
At this point, I sincerely had no idea what I was in for — the delirium of heat, the discomfort of now having an extra layer of skin composed exclusively of mineral salts, and the general malaise of being a teenager made to wait had all taken their toll. The scent of body odour rapidly rising from the now-sopping floor was astringent to the point of burning the olfactory. Humidity had now risen to levels otherwise seen some 5000 meters below the surface in the Marianas.
None of us were aware just how fitting this setting was — it was almost as if the man standing directly in front of me had commanded the sky to send forth all of the energy it could muster to give him the impact he deserves.
It’s not like he needed the help. For those of you who haven’t seen him, Mr. Ox has a fairly commanding presence. He looks like he wrestles his namesake for breakfast and then laughs about it, and he moves with this abstract rhythm that looks like the bastard spawn of Iggy Pop and a rattlesnake traversing stairs. He’s shirt off, pectorals glistening from sweat — every other fucker in the building wishes they could’ve been, too — accompanied by bare feet and what my then-girlfriend termed “Aladdin pants”. They’re made of this crazy, iridescent purple ruched velvet, and could’ve easily accommodated a small family of dissidents (ironic, given his lyrical content I assure you). We’re stood, transfixed on this man, jutting like a praying mantis in front of eyes now struggling to focus.
The lights suddenly rise to the brightness of a dying sun, an apocalyptic mirth rises, and delicate guitars courtesy of Jimmy Tee and bassist Rob Kaay emerge. Palm muted, thoroughly altered by modulation, and peppered with distorted fury. Eventually the modulation disappears and is displaced by the sizzling resonance of Matt Crute‘s cymbals, and the Ox is moving like a cobra in a wicker basket. Like being thrown out of a plane with a bungee cord on, we reach this momentary zenith of comfort, and then are suddenly are snapped back with violence and force. The switch was severe enough to evoke nosebleeds, cauterised immediately by the scathing fire coming from a stack of amps, wailing in unison like a pack of wounded dogs.
The tempo only momentarily abates for the next two and a half hours, and only for the members to either re-tune to the lowest tuning human ears can deal with, or take sips to stop from becoming desiccated humanoids. To this day, I can still recall the acrid scent in the venue.
At the time of that show, they’d just released their sister EPs, Black Arrows and White Arrows. I’d hate to tell you how many times I’ve listened to White Arrows over the years, but it was only relatively recently I got my hands on a copy of its counterpart. They serve as a perfect yin/yang duo; while they share more similarities than differences, they easily stand bifurcated — like a Use Your Illusion for modern, politically-conscious teens.
On the backs of the intensity contained on that pair, it still amazes me that their careers didn’t go stratospheric. They had all of the hallmarks of success built in, complimented with an extensive touring schedule locally to help the cause.
After a move to Los Angeles, they recorded what was to be their first, and indeed, only full-length album as Full Scale – fittingly carrying the same moniker, delivered in 2005 under the guidance of Columbia Records. Featuring a re-recording of the majority of White Arrows (with a few notable omissions — like the track, “Yellow Brittle”, a scathing indictment of the rampant and pervasive epidemic of paedophilia within organised religion, and the appeals to “Oprah fucking Winfrey” on the “Empty Texas”) along with several new offerings.
The new ground covered topics that remained, in concept at least, in many ways true to their original message. There was a lot to take in. “Sixteen Today”, detailing the plight of one of the “boat people” succumbing to Australia’s questionably legal human rights record in regards to offshore arrivals, is one such moment. Sadly, that pleading for the innocents was drowned in a sea of watered-down acceptability; the corporate monster that they’d found themselves swallowed by had diluted their talents and castrated their fury in a way that was painfully obvious. They were a lion caged, stripped of so much of their voice to speak for the those who cannot themselves. There was still bite left in the beast, but its teeth could only extend so far.
They were threatened with numerous legal proceedings during this period over their use of the name “Full Scale“. That made promotional collateral almost non-existent — for both their album, and their touring in support of (hed) P.E. As a touring act signed to a major label, the way that you are pushed to the public can offer you a slingshot to stardom, or a fast track to failure. This was never fated to end well.
Eventually the band, lamentably, dissolved for myriad reasons. After the disastrous outcome of their dealings in the US with the label, legal wrangling, and vicious in-fighting, there was little left to do. And so, that chapter was done. All of this is documented in the documentary, “Color, Light, Movement, Sound!”, a following of the band from not long after their conception, right through to their demise.
They’ve come back a few times briefly, mostly under the label Full Scale Revolution – a fairly fitting moniker, all considered – but the promise the old guard had was never really realised for most punters who had their ear to the ground for a long time. There was so much potential, so much promise, just extinguished. Ironically, it wasn’t the hypercritical lyrics that did it – it was one of the most innocuous aspects of the outfit – their name. It almost feels poetic.
Ox moved on to form a new outfit, Mammal, which bears many of the hallmarks of the band he poured the better part of a decade into. In some ways, it’s the spiritual successor to Full Scale as the band stood when they returned to Australia after their ill-fated journey to the US; it’s a stylistic continuation, and slots between the old line-up and the varied ones that Full Scale Revolution has offered during its short stints.
That is, until 2018.
At the start of this year, hints were dropped that a national tour would shortly ensue – and indeed it did. During the first few months, the boys crossed off a 7-show tour across 6 cities (one of which was Bunbury… Bunbury?), bringing with them new tunes. There was even new music committed to record for the first time in over a decade — including the release of the track “Jurassic Graveyard,” a return to fairly solid form despite such a long time off. Ezekial Ox and Jimmy Tee remain from the old, accompanied by newcomers, Leigh Miller on bass, and Chris Webber on drums.
It offers hope that they may just get their day in the sun yet. Will they get the due return from their talents? It remains to be seen. But fame or not, they at least deserve to be heard. Their sound is powerful and their message, despite momentary wavering from point, remains critical and powerful.
Put them in your ears. You’ll thank me for your efforts.
Feature by Benji Alldridge