Music Arts Food
FRENZAL RHOMB By Billy Dixon There’s no more quintessentially Aussie punk rock band than Frenzal Rhomb. They’ve had their music banned from the Aussiest of Aussie radio stations, Triple J, led the Vans Warped Tour around the country and opened for some of the century’s biggest punk acts like Blink 182, NOFX and Bad Religion. Lead singer Jason “Jay” Whalley’s even had on-air verbal shitfights with Austereo personalities Kyle and Jackie O. As individuals and as a group, they’re intimately familiar with controversy, fantasy and personal injury. Right now, Frenzal Rhomb are in the midst of their umpteenth tour of Australia. Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up. The story begins innocuously enough, with Jay and high-school chum Lex Feltham starting the band in the Sydney suburb of St. Ives shortly after leaving high school. Taking the name from a pet rat, they played Big Day Out in 1993 and were quickly absorbed by the fast-paced and unpredictable world of punk rock. “We’re experts at hospitalising ourselves… we’ve got a replacement drummer for the coming tour because Gordy broke his arm recently while educating members of the public on the art of stage diving, Lindsay had a detached retina, which is piss-funny when we’re out because it looks like he’s winking at everyone, and obviously the pig-worm thing… it’s crazy,” admits Jay, whose own mythical journey through the medical profession has spread rumours of everything from heart attacks to trench foot. His mum fell ill recently too, but at least they
Mornington News 22 December 2015
didn’t need an orderly. “I took her to my local hospital, straight to her room. ‘This way, mum… turn left here.’” All is well now, but it’s only ever a matter of time before their very own creative culture strikes again. These are the professionals who put their lives on the line, day in and day out, so that we might enjoy a few moments of furious fun. It’s a thankless job only heroes could bear, and yet all Jay asks for in return is “lots of money.”
in the UK, US, South Africa, Israel, Taiwan and Japan. More recently, they played with Clowns in Geelong (the Australian hardcore outfit, not the “terrifying props,” I’m assured), and they’ll be returning along with The Hard Aches and more on 8th January next year. “We’ll be going around to all the little towns, and playing our music there. It’ll be great, especially if there’s people in the towns… we’ll have someone check that out beforehand.”
Their lineup has changed a number of times, but always with Whalley leading the charge. These days, Tom Crease dons the bass and provides backing vocals, drummer Gordy Forman has been part of the crew since the late ‘90s and Lindsay McDougall, also known as The Doctor on Triple J, backs up Jay on the guitar and moonlights his buttery-smooth radio voice for vocal support.
When he’s not on the road with Frenzal, Jay focuses on putting other Aussie acts on record and giving them some much-needed coverage. “I’ve been recording and producing for other bands… it’s fantastic seeing young guys come in, getting excited about aggressive punk rock.” Indeed, it was the commercial world’s borderline-disdain for Australian artists that led to Whalley’s spat with Kyle Sandilands.
Jay was actually The Doctor’s radio compatriot in their early days at Triple J too, with their breakfast radio show ironically titled “Jay and The Doctor.” All those early starts took a toll, as Jay explains that after “three years of breakfast radio… you start so early, I could feel my personality changing by the end of it all.” Bailing on the lot in 2007 for a trip around the world with his missus, Whalley returned to reunite the band in 2009.
Their set was cut short by the late arrival of MC Jackie O at Darwin’s 2004 Bassinthegrass festival, so they just started playing over her. It led to threats of blacklisting by Sandilands from the Austereo network, who Jay argued rarely played anything Australian anyway. It’s an interesting debate given the mandatory levels of home-grown content our television networks are required to broadcast – no such rules apply to radio.
But they’d already been pretty much all over the globe. Sucking All Over the World, bonus content from their album Forever Malcolm Young (’06), showcased some of their antics
Of course, it’s not all about the music. “I share the care of my six-year-old child with my wife, so when I’ve got him we get to do guided reading in his class, show and tell at kinder and
things like that!” But even his better half is into the art of sound. “We’re in a group called Neptune Power Federation… my wife is the singer. We’ve written a full 100-page graphic novel called Lucifer’s Universe, where every chapter accompanies one of the songs on the album (Music from Lucifer’s Universe).” Together, they “even built a giant space bong in the back yard with a smoke machine in it, so she sings her haunting lyrics from inside this huge smoking bong!” It would be a bodacious prop to have on tour. “It’s modular, so it breaks down into pieces, but I don’t know about taking it through airport security.” Frenzal Rhomb, unlike other ‘90s rock bands that faded into obscurity only to suddenly hit the airwaves again a decade or more later, have been going strong for more than 20 years. “We hope to release our new album in September 2016. Gordy will be back on drums for the recording, so we’ve pushed the dates back a bit just to be safe. It’ll be great to get back out there.” When asked if he’s noticed his fans age over the years spent on-stage, Jay quips “most of our fans were about 13 when we started playing, so it’s not like they’re old. They’ve still got it!” Frenzal Rhomb are playing with Clowns, Heads of Charm and The Hard Aches at the Chelsea Heights Hotel on Friday 8th January, 2016. Tickets are available at the venue or from moshtix.com.au.
Mornington News 22 December 2015