Monday, February 2, 2009

Regurgitator, April 1996

By Darryl Mason

Chances are, you're not likely to hear a more infectious, pop-catchy Australian tune this year than Rinsing (released as Sucked A Lot Of Cock To Get Where I Am), the opening song from Regurgitator's debut album Tu-Plang. Problem is, it's highly doubtful that you'll hear Rinsing on any radio station, short of a 3am airing on JJJ when the moral guardians of our (thankfully) perverted society are all fast asleep in bed.

Regurgitator bassist Ben likes the idea that they have come up with a song like Rinsing that screams "I could go Number One!" but in the process shot themselves in the foot because the lyrics doom it to be practically unplayable on commercial FM radio.

You see, Rinsing is a song about how far some people are willing to go to make their dreams come true, even if it means dropping to their knees and copping a load in the mouth.

"Rinsing's a generalisation of ambition, I guess" says Ben. "Doing whatever you can, or have to do, to get big. To make it. It's straight to the point. We didn't mess around with that one."

Witness the first line, and chorus, of Rinsing's lyrics : "I sucked a lot of cock to get where I am/I only wanna be the best that I can".

Not that Regurgitator had to subject themselves to such humiliations-of-stardom maneuverings to score their major label record deal. Far from it.

When Regurgitator were first offered a recording deal by Warners in mid-1994, they had barely performed a handful of live shows. Dreams of fame and fortune courtesy of Big Rock Star status hadn't even entered the 'Gurg's collective head at that stage.

Ben and drummer Marty had been playing together in Queensland for years in various bands before they heard about Vietnamese guitarist Quan, who had been making a bit of a name for himself with his musical experimentations.

The trio got together, started jamming, and within a week had played their first live show in a park. The fact that they only had four songs down and ready to go didn't deter Regurgitator from taking to the stage, they simply played the same four songs over and over until their set was finished.

"I walked past that park about two days ago," says Ben, "and I was just thinking 'we were so stupid back then'. We got offered the deal not that long after that gig. A tape from our rehearsals was sent down to Warners in Sydney by a friend of ours, and they rang back and asked us if we wanted to do some recordings. We were uming and ahhing for about six months, because we didn't know what we wanted to do, what we wanted to put out.

"The first EP was recorded after we'd been together for two months, and it was going to be a demo sort of thing, something to send out to people, but it ended up being the EP."

That first EP scored some airplay for the band and rose to the upper reaches of the alternative charts. It was the second EP, New, and songs like Blubber Boy and Track One that saw Regurgitator finding the beginnings of a national audience.

Regurgitator recorded the Tu-Plang album in Bangkok, partly to save money but mostly because the chaotic city was a world away from their hometowns in Queensland.

The band were flying to Europe for their first international shows last year when they stopped over in Thailand, and squeezed in a few days off.

"We looked around at some studios while we were there," says Ben, "and found this really good one for really cheap, so we thought we'd save money as well as go to a bizarre place to record."

Not being able to afford to freight a truckload of musical instruments and recording equipment over to Bangkok, the band made do with what was lying around the recording studio.

"We found all these old Hammond organs and busted up old trashy keyboards, so we used those, but they sounded really good. We made use of the bits of junk that were hanging around and we borrowed whatever instruments we could. We had to fix up a bit of the stuff before we could use it. I played my bass on the album through a worked over guitar amp."

As bodgy as some of the recording sessions may seem, the limitations of a cheap recording studio and having to make the most of whatever instruments they could lay their hands on means that Tu-Plang is, more often than not, a highly experimental adventure, not only in the recording techniques used, but also in sounds, rhythms and styles.

Tu-Plang is Thai for juke box, a more than appropriate album title considering the 16 songs that lie within. From a '60s surf-guitar outing to furiously catchy '70s flavoured pop songs; from hardcore techno to ambient synth stylings; from head-kicking gansta rap to metal heavy rock; from a bass thrumming ode to fortune cookies to a stuttering keyboard instrumental, Regurgitator have lived up to the high expectations stormed up by their first two EPs.

Regurgitator's diversity has flourished not only as the result of their individual love for a vast array of music, with a particular fondness for hip-hop and rock, but also due to the changing tastes of music listeners at large. More and more are finding their tastes spread across the board, no longer limited to strictly rap or blues, heavy funk or die-hard death metal.

"Some people are pretty true to their styles," says Ben, "and they become known for one sound or style of music. People come back to them again and again because they know what they're going to get. I don't think people necessarily think that way anymore. Some people are into metal or some people are into techno, but there are also people who listen to everything now, music from everywhere. And a lot of these styles are now crossing over into each other, taking elements of one style and mixing them with another. It's changing, all the time. Which is good for us, we'd be bored if we just played one type of music."

Did recording the album in Bangkok influence the sounds of Tu-Pang?

"I think the place had an effect on us personally. The effect was not so much on the music we made, but on ourselves living in that environment. Where the studio was, it was really a Third-World kind of place. There was this big canal area, a low lying floodland, and all these people living on stilt houses over the water, and they'd shit and piss in the river and just throw their garbage in there. The whole area just stank and was filled with rubbish. It was a poor standard of living, but the people there were really beautiful people and really nice to talk too and really happy. They didn't seem to get down on their surroudings. They had a real love of life."

Regugitator have scored themselves the opener for the Red Hot Chili Peppers tour of Australia. It's not a bad way to launch their debut album, to thousands of people every night. But Ben says they won't be undertaking all that much extra preperation for the tour.

"Ahh, we're a bit lazy, so we'll probably end up doing most of our rock songs live," laughs Ben. "No, we'll be doing some of the songs with sequencers, all the guitar stuff will be live. Maybe we'll clown around with a few samples. We haven't actually thought about it all that much."

But doesn't the tour start in two weeks?

"Yeah, I guess we should get prepared."


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