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June/July 1994

by Mike O'Meara

Head Like A Hole: On The Couch with Mike O’Meara

by Mike O'Meara

Head Like A Hole: On The Couch with Mike O’Meara

Head Like A Hole have just released ‘Flik Y’Self Off Y’Self’, the Wellington outfit’s second album, and are touring the nation during June (1994). Since forming in 1991 the band have previously released two singles, a four-track cassette EP titled ‘Shitnoise’ and ‘13’, their debut album, in July 1992. HLAH have a reputation for the ferocity of their live performances. Writing in Australia’s Hot Metal magazine, Jeremy Sheaffe described it as “…a sonic blast of refreshingly disruptive noise.”

The nudity thing is apparently no longer de rigueur, Head Like A Hole’s last Auckland gig saw most band members wearing height-of-fashion-in-the-seventies safari suits. After their Big Day Out performance Russell Baillie noted in the NZ Herald, “…the kids went wild for HLAH – and the band went wild right back at them.”

First single from the new album, Faster Hooves, is also performing on local charts, supported by a typically ridiculous and clever wild-west video. I talked to bassist Tallbeast (Andrew Durno) and singer Booga Beazley recently at Festival Records, who distribute their Wildside label, about the band, touring and a few other things.

So how did ‘Flik Y’Self Off Y’Self’ come about?

Booga starts: “Well, we’ve signed to a company in Germany called Modern Records, which has offices in Berlin, London and Japan. The label we’re on is called Other Time. The new album is the second part of a four-album deal. The basic tracks were recorded at the old TVNZ Shortland St studios in downtown Auckland, then mixed at Revolver.”

Tallbeast: “At that stage we listened to it and thought it was shit!”

Booga: “Yep! Then Date went back to Revolver and re-recorded it all again, then we chose some old tracks, some new tracks and some live ones, even some tracks off an old four-track recording. Then we mixed them all together with Nick Roughan [ex-Skeptics] producing.”

Datehole (guitarist, Nigel Regan) is responsible for the graphic designs which grace (if that’s the right word) their recordings, and he will also be responsible for a two week European press tour promoting the album in July. There are interviews arranged in England, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Holland. So how do they feel about the new album now?

Booga: “To tell you the truth I haven’t heard it yet, but I think maybe we needed more time to prepare the songs and to develop them a bit more.”

Would you say you’ve found more direction on this latest album?

Tallbeast: “No way! I don’t think we’ll ever find direction – that’s one of the saving graces of Head Like A Hole.”

Booga: “Possibly and possibly not. I’d like to find some sort of agreement where we can write songs. Some sort of common factor which is Head Like A Hole, not just having songs like, that one’s Date’s, that one’s Hidee’s [Mark Hamill, aka Hidee Beast – drummer]. I think it needs more dynamics happening. We need to find some middle ground where everyone can participate equally in a more cohesive existence.”

When a new idea is brought forward to the group is it debated rigorously?

Tallbeast: “Ha! Most ideas fall flat on their face. It’s hard to understand the others’ points of view, to get on to the same level… We got back into jamming about nine months ago.”

Booga: “We practice two times a week and we come up with some pretty wicked stuff, but all it takes is for one of us to go, ‘Na’, and that’s it.”

So do people walk out of practice?

Tallbeast: “Yeah, it happens, but not all the time.”

So you’re trying to tighten as a band?

Booga: “We just want to improve it and write some damn fine music, but there are some barriers up at the moment. Like I can’t ask a simple question and get a simple answer – it’s like it gets too complicated. All I want is a simple answer.”

Tallbeast: “We don’t have a perfect working relationship at the moment.”

Booga: “We used to. It used to be more mellow. Now it’s more of an issue of individual professionalism and that just complicates things.”

Isn’t that just another of Head Like A Hole’s saving graces?

Tallbeast: “I think at the start it was – now it’s just stupid. Initially we were all buddies but it never got to the stage where we’d socialise as Head Like A Hole, and now it’s becoming more of a job in some respects.”

So the band comes first?

Booga: “It used to, but now some meetings are stupid because some issues never get resolved. But it is something I like to whinge about.”

Do you have a good working relationship with your management?

Booga: “I work with Gerald [Dwyer] in Wellington but, like any relationship, it has its ups and downs. Sometimes it’s not as relaxed as it could be, but I can’t see how it’s harmed us. It’s pretty cool to have someone who knows what to do.”

Is there gonna be that third album?

Booga: “I reckon there is, if everyone can mellow out and sort their shit out and say ‘This can happen, this is where we are, and this where we might be.’”

Head Like A Hole have become one of New Zealand’s biggest drawing live bands, playing to 1000 people at the Powerstation late last year, and filling it again at the beginning of this tour. This year they also played Big Day Out, Strawberry Fields, university orientations… the list goes on. Now they’re on the road again, promoting the new album. Do the pressures of being so regularly on tour take a toll?

Tallbeast: “It’s all for one really. This is a chance of a lifetime. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was 16 but, yeah, I want a personal life. But, as I said, only one chance of a lifetime…”

Are you looking forward to touring?

Booga: “It will be focking better once we get on the road.”

Do you have a certain style of performance?

Booga: “Essentially we cater for a younger market that’s quite willing to put themselves in a sweaty mass and dig the noise.”

So do you think your strength lies in the live performance arena?

Booga: “Yes – because the stage is a platform for improvisation and for us as a band it keeps the music more entertaining.”

Tallbeast: “We’ve got limited attention spans, heh!”

Last time you toured, in June ‘93, you took Steak and Funkmutha along with you. Are they coming along this time?

Booga: “No, we’re going to arrange bands in the towns we play in to support us, though there are three gigs with Dead Flowers. We’re bringing Steve Woolfe [saxophonist] along to play on some songs. We really want to get a tight set of songs happening. The thing about playing live is that it’s what we really enjoy doing.”

 

Well, at this point, like these guys, I knew when to leave the room. Updates since the beginning of their Safari Tour include reports that hundreds were turned away from their Powerstation gig, and the next day’s trip to Framptons at Mt Maunganui took longer than expected due to a wrong turn taking them to Whangamata. Hopefully, they will have better navigators once HLAH get to the autobahns of Europe.

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