We all know that political rock bands have the potential to make you stop, think, and make a positive change in the world around you with their heavy, in-your-face approach – and for most bands, it works well. But on the lighter side, sometimes you just want an act with soothing melodies and catchy chorus’ informing you about the world in a light-hearted manner and I think I’ve found the perfect Aussie band if that fits your preferences… The Opinion Industry!
Immediately when I heard their latest single (out officially today) I was taken back to the 2006 style of MC Lars and his worldwide smash hit ‘Download This Song‘, which placed Record Labels in the cross hairs and educated us, the listener, on how these companies were taking us all for a ride by encouraging us to “download his song” as a way to fight back against the label’s exploitation of their artists and us consumers with their price gouging products and services which earned them more and paid their roster artists less in the process
In the case of ‘They’re Recording This‘ Sydney trio The Opinion Industry shine a light on the companies and government departments listening in on our conversations and watching our online activities – completely disregarding privacy regulations – leaving us feeling like we’re constantly being monitored in a Truman Show scenario on a daily basis. You may turn a blind eye to it, but it’s still happpening regardless.
I was captivated by the first listen and immediately went back to their previous single which was just as good and decided I had to do a follow up so join me as I sit down with frontman Benj Axwel for a chat all about the band, their motivation to make noise (in a fun, positive way) and I also convinced him to put his money where his mouth is and front up with his own opinions on the industry and world around him…
Benj, finding out about your band and what you stand for was such a refreshing moment this week – before we jump into the nitty gritty – give us a rundown of how you, Cruisy and Ben joined forces?
*puts guitar down* Thanks mate. Getting that cut through on our message and turning people onto our ideas is why I decided to get ‘The Opinion Industry’ together. We didn’t see anyone else generating open discussion through music the way everyone needs to see at the moment. So it’s great to see that this resonated with you.
Cruisy and I were in SLEIGHT OF HAND based out of our hometown Newcastle, since we were teenagers and wrapped that up after 10 years of touring, recording, grinding etc. When looking at getting back into doing a band project again after some much needed time away – it had to be him. Cruisy is not only a gifted and skilled musician, he has an innate ability to write ‘songs’ rather than ‘the drums’ which is so hard to find and makes music come together a lot quicker for The Opinion Industry.
MAC and I have been working together in covers bands on and off for a few years and when we both found ourselves living and working in Sydney and when he left his previous band, hit me up for ‘anything that was going’… this… this was going. All three of us are Ben – so fate decided the line-up.
You’re using your years of musical experience to dive straight into this new project, The Opinion Industry, a political rock band with a tongue-in-cheek look at the messed up world around us and the characters within it. What made you guys head down the light-hearted path as opposed to the in-your-face approach like bands such as Anti-Flag, Fever 333 and Rise Against?
Good question. The thing is we aren’t political or anti-political – I’d say we are more ‘topical’, with a more ‘what’s actually going on here’ approach. Governments are made up of people that don’t know what they’re doing so that would make them an easy target for song writing really. The great bands you mentioned certainly present themselves in a political way and I personally am a big fan of bands like Billy Talent, Midnight Oil, COG, RATM, SOAD that make their position known on most issues. In our band – the opinions can be worlds apart at times so writing the lyrics and taking them to the boys is always met with acceptance first before rephrasing to drive ‘a discussion’ rather than pushing an agenda. Unless of course we all feel the same way – then we just accept it must be ‘fact’ and anything else is flat-out wrong! haha.
Why light-hearted? I am a clown and so that comedic element just comes out anyway and the boys are responsible for encouraging that – everyone is really funny in The Opinion Industry. There is definitely a satirical vein that runs through our songs so comedy is just a great way to deliver a message. One rule in the band – if it’s funny, you have to say the funny thing!
Inspiration-wise, you’ve listed Rage Against The Machine and System of a Down as big influences of yours. What is it about those bands that get you fired up to make the music you have so far?
Try and relax listening to ‘Take The Power Back’ or ‘B.Y.O.B’. Nope – you are sitting up and paying attention and investing your mental energy into what is coming out of those speakers. As we have topics in our songs that are ‘in the now’, we have some things we want to talk about and we want you to absorb that. Those bands haven’t put out new music in years, yet still headline festivals and concerts on every continent in the world – it works, and it’s good.
We love it, you love it (yes… you love it) and in a lot of ways – it hasn’t been done better since.
Your first single ‘Opinions‘ is an unofficial anthem for the Karens and keyboard warriors of the world – did you have a personal run in with someone who inspired this earworm?
Every.f**king.day. We all do and that’s what causes all the fights on the internet. And the range is wide and varied right? From the hero in the comments section that wouldn’t dare say the things they say online to someone’s face, to the idiot that won’t make way for the senior citizen in the street entering the shops. ‘OPINIONS’ is about actions speaking louder than words – so I’m following this advice – and made a band.
Mate, we are so happy with the way that song came out. ‘OPINIONS’ is our mission statement and for us to have a song like that, that announces us and tells people who we are (and we are you) was a stroke of luck and the attention it’s still getting is a credit to it.
Now you’re taking on the government and BIG TECH companies (via ‘They’re Recording This’) who invade our privacy and access our personal information any which way they can via our smart devices. What was the final straw that made you go – “nup, I’m writing about this!!!”
I remember the moment sitting in bed, lockdown – day XYZ July 2020, with my wife watching 60 minutes. Ad comes on the tele… from a bank…. soft caring feminine voice, ‘Hey, we know it’s tough for you right now. But just know we are here in these difficult times’ Piss off you are! You are still accruing interest on my mortgage you bastards… sorry for yelling, honey can I get you anything from the kitchen? – went something like that. Don’t tell me what I am OR am not feeling. I happen to be in a very creative space right now and feeling pretty good about it.
The scary thing is when you just ‘think’ of something like trimming the hedge and it comes up as a sponsored ad in your feed. Then you start thinking, ‘When did I say anything to anyone about hedge trimmers… or the hedge?’ – you think you’re going crazy. That’s what they’re doing, it’s disgusting, it’s not normal and should never be normal. So then a song fell out of me – quickly. To quote Thom Yorke – You are a target market.
You guys are based in Sydney – where you’re currently under the leadership of someone unfit to handle the job – Would that be a topic you’d cover on future releases or where do you draw the line on what’s acceptable to write about and what’s better left unsaid?
This situation with lockdowns is a complete and utter clusterf**k and whilst I am not a fan of said leader on most days – I’m not sure anyone is fit to handle that situation. Mistakes have been made but mistakes were always going to be made. However I respect your ‘opinion’. 🙂 I would never write myself off from covering something in a song because that would be censorship and there is nothing worse in my eyes, we have Dee Snider to thank for that.
This approach will likely ruffle feathers in the future but if I cater to the ‘cancellors’ who are moving the line constantly – on a whim then where do we end up. More on this in future songs….
Let’s have some fun, inspired by your band name, what’s your opinion on the following industry subject matter:
The Sports Industry vs Music Industry in a Covid World
I enjoy sport and I enjoy music so to me they aren’t in competition. There has definitely been a different standard held to the two respective industries regarding COVID protocols and live performance, but for me personally I have enjoyed watching sport on the TV, so why haven’t we seen live concerts shown on the TV? The New Year’s Eve coverage by the ABC and the Bushfire Relief concert on (i can’t remember) was fantastic, and I’d tune in every week to that. As if advertisers wouldn’t flock to it too… because they are here for you in these difficult times.
Reality TV Shows creating “Instant Musicians”
There is a generation of people growing up thinking that is the only way it can be done and once you’ve done a reality show you’re tainted with a brush – a bad one – don’t do it. Josh Homme (QOTSA) said ‘There is no ‘Rock N Roll High School, get out there and suck for a while’ but there also isn’t a lot of new rock n roll either – those ‘reality’ shows have done that in some ways. There are less avenues to crack the established ‘attention walls’ but musicians need to be more resourceful if they want to be successful today. We have taken the approach of spending a lot of time getting your music and content ready, then spend all your time and money marketing it – I haven’t picked up a guitar in a month. (I have some time booked next quarter).
Commercial rock radio stations not supporting decent Aussie bands that post-date the 80s
Look at that sentence – ‘Rock Radio’ is the vehicle for a ‘Commercial station’ and songs from the 80s are ‘commercials’ now. One Radio station has 12 songs on repeat and 9 of them are ‘Shine’ by Collective Soul. It’s an interesting conundrum because the first batch of The Opinion Industry songs were 4 to 5 minutes long – this new batch are 3.30mins or less each with bulletproof hooks and three choruses in each – no intros – no instrumentals, none of which was by accident. To do otherwise is not wrong but we want to build ourselves to a point where we can be RUSH if we feel like it and in all honesty, these songs are the best we’ve done. Nirvana kicked the door down and there is no reason why that can’t happen again, whether it’s us or some other kick-ass Aussies.
I’m hearing you and I’m nodding profusley! Well done. Now, before we wrap up, let’s take a leaf out of the Big Tech’s book and leak some private information the band may be working on… anything you can tell us about The Opinion Industry’s future?
We have three more singles with videos to release this year before an EP and have more studio time booked. We have some more cracking ‘opinions’ to lay down. We are talking to some established music industry people overseas who heard ‘OPINIONS’ and are keen to get involved with the band’s potential which is exciting. As soon as the green light on lockdown lifts – definitely shows… loud ones.
We have so much fuel in the tank so the future is keen to have us.
Nice. Any final thoughts we should all pay attention to?
Band wise? Tik Tok – we’ve taken to Tik Tok like a beer to lips so follow us and our Reaction vids are great too.
Be kinder, be positive, don’t be bored – get productive, we did! ….Pay Attention…. that’s a great song title … thanks for that one. All the latest via our website.
Great mantra, I’ll start – I really enjoyed that interview and your two singles so far. Exceptionally keen to see what else you can do for the world…
Interview by Paul Browny Brown @brownypaul
Stream ‘They’re Recording This‘ on repeat here