Fed up with reading band interviews that regurgitated press releases, Jimi Kritzler spent four years interviewing over fifty underground Australian bands.
You might’ve already known Jimi Kritzler from Melbourne band White Hex, but you probably didn’t of his work as a documenter of Australian music. Fed up with reading band interviews that regurgitated press releases, Jimi spent four years interviewing over fifty underground Australian bands. The result is Noise in My Head: Voices From An Ugly Australian Underground which explores the unique experiences of Australia’s best and probably brokest bands.
Noisey: You focus on not only the music of the last five years, but also on the underground scene as a whole. Were some of the stories you came across intense?
Jimi Kritzler: As far as the more intense stories, when someone’s talking about being in a mental institution, that’s intense, or when someone is talking about being a heroin addict to the extent that they became a male prostitute, that’s intense, or when someone’s talking about the suicide of their band member, that’s intense. More than intense, the stories were very personal and I respect a lot of these people a lot more because of how open and honest they were with everything.
Do you feel that the bands you’ve covered will be remembered in the same iconic light as bands like The Birthday Party and Models?
I think a lot of them deserve to be. Some of them don’t deserve to be remembered, but I’d say a lot them do because I think they’ve done something intrinsically personal and unique, and I think that’s the key. Take that with a grain of salt. Some bands are brilliant for the sheer fact that they shined bright for five minutes and they’re brilliant in those five minutes. Twenty years down the track, probably not, but that’s maybe one or two bands in the book and they’re brilliant for the reason that they are what they are. And not all bands have to be, or will be remembered. But I think the stories they tell probably will be, and a lot of the bands in the book just might be.
Like a “My Sharona” kind of thing?
Yeah—but without the number one hit.
Do you think that drug culture is romanticised in the underground scene?
Maybe from the outside if you don’t know these people. But if you know them and know what some them have been through, then I don’t think it can be romanticised because it’s devastating and I don’t think the book romanticises it. It rather just tells the story in black and white of what these people have been through. There’s nothing romantic about it, at all.
Australia’s underground scene has been compared to America’s No Wave scene in the 80s. Do you think this is true with the music you explored?
No Wave burned out very quickly, all the bands like Mars, DNA and Teenage Jesus have certain aesthetic similarities and sonic similarities but they’re very different at the end of the day. I don’t know if I agree with that. It feels like No Wave was a definite scene, whereas I don’t think Noise in My head represents an actual scene, or more a collection of bands that represents in my eyes the creative or artistic pinnacle of underground music in Australia today, the bands that are doing something unique and interesting. But as far as No Wave, I guess you could draw that similarity—maybe— not really sure.
Do you feel like the scene has been affected by changes in licensing laws and the closure of historic music venues?
I don’t know if I buy into that, you know how Melbourne has this whole tendency to be really passionate about “Save The Tote” and to march and all that.
To be honest, I’m not very interested in it. I’m not saying close the Tote or anything. But I don’t think it affects anything because there’s always another bar to play, as heartless as that sounds. To me a record is more important. Seeing a band live is amazing and it’s so important but no, I don’t think it affects anything.
Sure. But don’t you feel that the culture really grows in those live music venues?
Yeah you’re probably right and if a venue is really flourishing. I’ve often seen new bands pop out of nowhere from that, and that can always be interesting. I sound like a heartless cunt but I could never imagine myself marching and holding a sign to save a venue. But people gotta do, what they gotta do I guess.
What do you think is the most underrated city for music?
Do Sydney and Melbourne still hate each other?
Yeah I guess so.
Sydney will say it’s underrated and I feel Melbourne is really overrated and it feels it’s justified in being overrated. I feel like even small towns like Newcastle and shit can occasionally be surprising or rewarding. Like Adelaide! I reckon Adelaide! I’m putting my money on Adelaide because it’s always very rewarding. People just seem more generally interested or excited without the necessary social thing that comes with it. I’ll say Adelaide for the sake of a simplistic answer.
Why do you think that Adelaide is the best city for music?
Oh I don’t mean it in that regard. When you play a show there, people come out. I think all around Australia, people could make its case for an interesting culture or centre for music. Everywhere has its place. I don’t leave Melbourne enough to know anymore. I’ve become a hermit. I’m an old man.
So what’s next for underground music?
I think that’s maybe the aim of the book in a really unconscious, subtle way. All the bands are so different, there’s no overarching sound that binds them together. I don’t think I could say. “Free Jazz is the next thing, that’s going to really bring it home next year.” Because all these bands sound so different and they will continue to sound so different. I guess there’s more of a focus on which bands will continue to do interesting things, rather than which sound will be the next thing. There’s a big argument for Australia actually producing better bands than America or anywhere. I’m sure people will disagree.
Jimi’s book Noise In My Head: Voices From An Ugly Australian Underground is being launched at Boney on 1 May, featuring live performances from Forces, UV Race, as well as DJ sets from HTRK and NEW WAR.