Mont Icons

2: Punk tattooist Spider Death on fanaticism

MONT sits down with Spider Death, a Melbourne-based visual artist, tattooist and former member of various punk bands. Spider talks about his history in Sydney’s punk scene and Kings Cross tattoo culture. Spider details his obsession with punk icons Sakevi Yokayama (GISM) and Nick Blinko (Rudimentary Peni).

Episode Transcript

MF = Mahmood Fazal

S = Spider Death

DX = Daniel Stewart

DX: Welcome to Mont Icons. In this episode, we interview Spider Death, a Melbourne based visual artist, tattooist and a former member of various punk bands.

MF: Welcome, Spider.

S: Hey, how you going?

MF: What have you been up to?

S: Fuck I just got out of lockdown as if as we all have just been getting slammed at work man. Working heaps I've really missed it. I really enjoy not being stuck at home cutting fucking records over and over. It's like dubbing tapes. But it's like, I got to heat these things up to 40 degrees and just sweating my fucking ass off. I shouldn't, I shouldn't be so upset about it but just it's supposed to be like this Zen thing. But there's nothing Zen about it.

MF: Well, yeah, cutting records is supposed to be like a Zen process?

S: That's why this that's why I bought this record presses to start with because tattooing is so stressful. And I thought I could do this at home and put out my bands records and stuff. But it isn't. It's like so many so many variables constantly. And I'm putting out this Enzyme record at the moment. And they're good friends, but they’re fucking ball breakers, man.

DX: Maybe give it back a bit of background on Wintergarden.

S: Oh, yes.

DX: For people who haven't heard it.

S: Yeah, sure.

MF: It sounds you started like, what? The whole story? Yeah, well, that's kind of like.

S: Yeah, um, it was actually Will Canning. He wrote to me once and said, Do you know a place that can press 50 Records, and I said, No. And I thought, fuck, that's something I always want to do. Like I've always released records and put out fanzines and stuff. But to go that extra mile and actually make the product yourself would be wild. And so I can, so I bought a record lathe, and I had to study it for years. Because it's such ancient history, I had to go to libraries and stuff. And I was lucky to buy one and have a bit of have a bit of help from this guy in Perth that sort of coached me along the way. And since then, I've put out about 20 records of just local bands, some overseas guys, but mostly, most of the time, it's bands that people don't really know about. But it's gotten to the stage where I can't keep up with, like, the product, like I'll put out 100 Records now and it'll sell out in half an hour. And it's kind of like it reminds me of like, I work on this thing for months, months, and it's over in like 10 minutes, you know, but I'm pretty grateful for ‘em.

MF: But, like what's what's the point of records, like why are records like a big thing in your in your scene? And why do people still buy records?

S: That's a good question.

DX: That's a really good question.

S: I think it's more of a collectible thing, like nostalgia…

MF: but it's always been tied to that. The kind of punk, DIY thing from the get go. What's that about?

S: I think it there's a bit of record collecting, like money, like people collect shit, like people, like we saw outside, all those kids line up to my fucking sneakers. It's like that shit. You know, it's like an obsessive thing like, fanatical. Like, I must have everything sort of thing. And it also, I guess the purists love hearing things on records, because it's gonna sound better and all that shit.

DX: You know, I think there's also the reason that I like Winter Garden, there's this feeling of the physicality of the object, that is that is disappearing, like the only real physical objects that we really interact with our Phones now, and, and, and having like, music kind of come to you not filtered through, like a major company or whatever, like they added directly be able to pick up a record that I know Spider. I mean, can you describe the process that you go to make these things? Because I think that yeah, it gives a pretty good picture of like, why it is kind of a special kind of item.

S: Yeah, it's okay. So I get, I get the band to send me the tracks on a CD, because I don't have a computer. So I still have a fucking like old CD player. So I run the CD through player through a record lathe, and record lathe, like, imagine a record player, but in reverse, and instead of it picking up music, it has a needle that cuts and this sort of cuts music into discs of plastic. And I get these plastic discs, discs made in France and shipped over. And imagine like, you know, when you used to go to bars, and you'd see like a piano that plays itself, and it has little dots in it, it's kind of like at picking so the needle sort of puts in little dots of music into this piece of plastic. And it happens all in real time. And there's I mean, I have to heat them up and cover them with lubrication. But it sort of takes forever. And sometimes like when I was making the Low Life records, the center holds on all the blank records are always too small, so I have to use a scalpel to sort of drill them out. I fucking bled all on like five of these Low Life records. I don't know where they are now. Some poor bastard has all these brown fucking Cuz I thought I sent him to Cristian is a bit of a joke but he's like, I don't know he talking about so…

MF: And that's what makes like really rare items rare right those quirks and it's the imperfection gem with Nike’s like imperfect Nike’s are the ones that go for like ridiculous amounts of money and it's the same with records I like it's the ones that are a bit fucked or they've got a bit of a story behind them

S: or some fucking blood or…

MF: What was the first artist or musician that you were obsessed by and wanted to collect all their fucking records because I know for me when I was young, I loved music and having a record was like, the biggest physical thing I could own of that artist and like I could hold and like leaf through or whatever I remember. Um, Isaac, Isaac Hayes, the Black Moses record, and they had this amazing foldout, like crucifix and he's like, Jesus in his beautiful robe. And I just thought it was the fucking coolest thing in the world. But who was that for you?

S: It was GISM. 100%. I remember like I was, you know, it was 1998. And I just heard this band. But there was just such a dark mystery about it that no one knew much about it. And the people that did know about it thought it was like, horrific. Like this guy Sakevi Yokoyama, the singer. He would just like he was kind of wired in like, he was obsessed with war and destruction. And it was just like, I read a review last night of this record saying it was: imagine being, living in a world full of darkness. You know, and I was like, that's exactly what GISM was like, it was like a soundtrack to an apocalypse.

And when I heard this band, this is pre-Internet, and you couldn't really find out much about it. You just had to ask other old timer punks, like do you know about this band, and there's all these weird bootlegs going around but this guy Sakevi, he used to like beat up people that bootleg his records, he stabbed someone for selling bootleg records. And, you know, he used to poison the drinking water at his shows and shit like this. This is like, it made fucking like, GG Allin look like Mother Superior, you know, like, like all this crazy shit. And I became so obsessed with it. Even like all the imagery and stuff. It wasn't just the music. It was like, these crazy fucking drawings and collages and stuff.

And yeah, I was fuckin obsessed with it. I remember going to sleep just thinking about it constantly, you know.

MF: I really want to talk to you DX about the pre-internet world of underground music. Like I interviewed Stephen O'Malley about it. And he describes it like if it became this kind of strange, mythical world that like, you had to write to people across the world, and they would write back and you never fully knew anything. It was kind of like this construct, like this fantasy world that everyone was a part of, because they never saw each other, they just wrote to each other and sent it toyou.

DX: That's actually how me and Spider first became mates was, I found a zine that he did at a shop in Sydney. And I got at home and I was just like, I didn't know what your inspirations or motivations were. But it was my first exposure to like, kind of the evil side of crust. You know, this kind of that scary side of like punk and I wrote you a letter.

S: Yeah.

DX: And we started corresponding like back and forth. So whenever I saw Spider it shows like we'd start talking and we were coming from like, different areas of punk. Definitely. I was definitely from the more kind of the sober, disciplined hardcore mentality. And, but we went to the same shows because that's what punk was in Sydney, like you'd you'd always just go watch bands that you'd have like, like, street punk bands, playing with like, chaos punk bands, playing with straightedge bands, it was the way that it worked. And we were attracted to definitely mutually attracted to kind of mixing with as many different people as possible. And we were having like a kind of discussion that I couldn't have elsewhere, like with other punks. So that was definitely an illustrative example of what you're talking about. We, we, we've been mates ever since.

But Spider was also one of the first people that introduced me to GISM and it wasn't even directly it was just through his fascination. Like and I just that, that, that that kind of myth building that you were doing was really like effective. You know, you're you're one of the early champions of this band, and I heard I heard it so out of nowhere, and it terrified me.

S: Oh, yeah, it's fucking scary. Yeah, like, there's even rumors of Sakevi trying to shoot down a plane. Like there's always these stories that get snowballed. And who knows. He might have just had a slingshot. He was shooting a bird but like, you know, all these folklore sort of stories…

MF: that's the beauty of that time is that there was like, all this mystique and like storytelling and rumor and whispers, but now you don't have that because everyone's just got an Instagram profile and you could just message them or sit watch them like having coffee, or like drinking a beer or you know, like living their normal daily lives. Whereas in back then you could, these artists really constructed this mythology.

DX: it's kind of why I think that GISM is going to have this enormous resurgence because no matter how heavily documented they are, and he's, you know, Sakevi, just put out a book, Detestation’s about to get reissued on Relapse, I know that we'll always have this like, impenetrable core that just can't really translate into the modern life. It'll always just seem like insanity and and darkness.

S: And the people that know like a lot of a strong intel are Japanese and they're not going to talk to you about it out of respect. Oh, yeah, like, they're not gonna say like Japanese people like of that era won't really divulge information about not only GISM but other bands.

MF: I found that when I went to Japan and was retracing Yukio Mishima’s footsteps and no one really wanted to talk about him. Even, even like fans would be would be really awkward and just not want to divulge too much. Because everything as a Westerner that they say or do is a reflection on their whole society. Even even like the smallest interactions, they feel like they're suddenly representing the whole country in in this small exchange.

DX: Yeah, I found the same thing when talking about Mishima either people would be really quick to point out kind of the, the right wing affiliation and all the stuff about him that that kind of horrifies and frightens people, like, they would point that out straight away and establish the conversation like that, you know, and, and, and, or they just would pretend to have never heard of him, which was like, way more fascinating because it's not true. I met a guy studying literature, contemporary Japanese literature, and he like, looked me in the eyes. And he said, I've never heard of Yukio Mishima.

MF: Wow.

DX: And but I think yeah, I think it ties into what you're saying, I think also he’s frightening, as well. Like, you know, some of the associations that people have with him. Like so, so horrifying for them. That that they just don't want to talk about it. I was talking to very, very left wing punks, like kind of thing. And I think their approach was more to deny everything. And forget kind of which which is is is definitely a historic method that every culture tries to do to try and wash away the evil past.

MF: just just going back to that that thing we're talking about because I don't I really am fascinated by it. Do you do either of you have any like weird instances where you would like writing to someone and then you met them and they were like completely fucking weird or different or strange or they just sucked in real life that …

DX: So many times. And it was it was way stranger then when you kind of made a friend online and meet them in the real world. Like it was way stranger when you've had this intimacy of getting a letter that's handwritten.

S: Yeah. Yeah, actually that happened to me when I met Frank from Atrocious Madness. We wrote to each other for years and years and then they came out here and like 10 years later and there's there's some guy just selling records like on the street and I went Oh, like when check it out. I saw this weird punk standing there. You just kind of just standing there like talking to someone and I was like, “Hey, buddy, do you want to get out of the way?” He Frank he's like yeah, man. I'm I'm really sorry. But yeah, I don't think I've met anyone that I've really been that upset about meeting them. I don't think I've ever built anyone up that too much in my mind to be like I can't wait like I got like a like a hard-on to meet this person. I don't know that I can think of really.

MF: What bout you Dan?

DX: Yeah, definitely.

MF: Um, what's the standout?

DX: The standout is…

MF: Douglas surely.

DX: Nah, I would say like the the standouts of this are the stories of the people that like frighten you, like you've like written letters with them and completely misread like the level of the like kind of psychopath obsessive kind of behavior. And you kind of realize, oh, like, and that's one thing about kind of punk that, that, like, we, we can kind of relate to that up to understand is that like, for so many people that's like you shake like society and these people fall to the bottom right and the ends and sometimes that's where they end up like in punk.

And you can like that issue of like, damaged mental health, like you're exposed to it a lot if you're going to a lot of shows and like, that whole world is full of that kind of thing. Yeah. And then occasionally there's that person that just won't let you go. And sometimes I've had letters like that when I was younger, and going to meet people and just being like, Oh, I was on another level. I thought we're taping trading tapes here. But like, now suddenly we’re like, Thelma and Louise or something like

MF: Oh, that’s dark.

DX: I'd like to hear like, if you've ever met a Sakevi obsessive on your level, and what that interaction was like.

S: let's see. I don't know if I have to be honest.

DX: I definitely haven’t.

S: I don't know if I have. I mean, I know a lot of people have dabbled with it. But nothing that extreme. I have written to him or I think I've written to him via email recently. I was gonna send him a painting. Yeah, I don't know. I was gonna say I was gonna ask you Mahmood. Like, have you ever been writing to people and I think they're gonna meet this big gangster guy.

MF: And they meet me.

S: Yeah.

MF: Fuck you.

S: Do you ever get like some crazy fans? And like?

MF: Not really. No, not really. I just I get like some fucking flops messaging me every now and again being like, but some like one of my guys. Yeah, why not one of them. One of them is just like asking all these like weird questions and then like, like being mad supportive and being like, I love what you're doing, you know, for mental health. And then they'll just like send you a really abusive message and be like, Why the fuck did not reply in your fucking dog bra. And it's like, I don't care about shit like that. But I don't really have people writing to me, I'm trying to think if I've ever written to someone and then I was a big fan of doing this but we're in other fields like meeting filmmakers that I really like, meeting musicians that I like, or artists in Melbourne that I like and just catching up with them. I think I mean, oh, Amiel was one that I wrote to was because he was this kind of mythic, mysterious figure in, in Australian cinema. Like he was known as like, yeah, this this odd, odd character that, you know, was sleeping in a warehouse and just making like these insane arthouse films and like, yeah, I was really inspired to see to speak to him and just be like, Who is this guy? Throwing horses out of a helicopter? You know, and sleeping in a caravan filming it. Like what the fuck? Like, who's? Who is this maniac that then? Yeah, and making films with like ex-prisoners and the like theater shows and filming Shakespearean theater shows, ex-cons like coming out trying to reintegrate like just. Yeah, I was pretty, um. But yeah, people are always like, I feel like in some ways, not Amiel. Not Not to say this about Amiel but most people you meet, they kind of never live up to your imagination. I think they in it because you're caught you've cut, you've made this construct in your head that's can never be fulfilled, because it's your own fantasy.

S: Yeah, that's true.

DX: Well, that's kind of how we met, like, we met quite, quite oddly, like, two people meet, brought together by Spider.

MF: Well, yours is an interesting one, because you don't have an online presence. So meeting you is kind of that all in that in that realm in that old school sense where people have to email you to meet up with you. And it's got that it's got that same sort of energy where you're like, yeah, yeah. So that was cool.

DX: I want to talk a little bit a bit more about your personal kind of experience with discovering GISM and obviously, like, absorbing that influence into your life. So can you kind of paint a little picture about where you were living at the time and maybe describe your appearance?

S: Okay.Yeah, I was. I just moved back from America. We grew up in America, for part of my childhood in San Francisco, because my dad helped write what is it coding for the internet?
Anyway, so I was like, exposed to a lot of bands over there. Anyway, so we move back and I was 18, 1998. And I was living in Newtown in Sydney. And I had like fucking like, half white and half black kind of hair. And I used to spark it up with PVA glue, cuz it's curly.

MF: That's cool.

S: like full on, like Rapunzel shit, it was now I hard to work with man. So I used to have PVA glue, but after a while, it sort of just turned into dreadlocks, because I never washed it out.

MF: That's not a look.

S: But, um, I think at the time, like, I was doing like a lot of speed. And I used to make my own homebrew cider. And like, it made me so sick. But it was like, so cheap.

I think I really harnessed GISM when I got sober. Because when I got sober, I was a real dry drunk. I was talking about this just before, and I would go to shows kind of itching for it to kick off. And I sort of wanted to bring violence back to shows and I thought it was this really cool thing.

MF Yeah, me and Christina, were talking yesterday, and she said, you bashed one of her friends because he was wearing a Rancid t shirt.

S: I don't remember that. I have no comment on that. Yeah.

MF: And I was like, who the fuck is Rancid, what? What is Rancid? And why did he hate it so much?

DX: That definitely makes the story that much better, that you don't know who Rancid is.

S: I reckon it’d have to be more to that.

DX: These kinds of spurious allegations... Do you want to do want to talk about that that experience of like harnessing GISM to get sober for a bit because I'd like to stick on that just for a second?

S: Yeah. So um, I used to go to the gym a lot. And you know, I was doing odd jobs here and there, but I had this band at the time. And when I performed on it to be like, even though the music was nothing, like isn't, I kind of liked this kind of fear that he had in the audience. And so I, you know, I used to, like, get into the crowd and beat people up and all that shit. But then I had this idea. To get it more interactive, I used to get a $10 note, and sticky tape to my forehead. And I used to try to get people to come on stage and like beat me down to try to take it. It didn't really catch on until like the third show. But by the end of it, man, I remember this girl got on stage with a fucking Nokia phone, those bricks and she was just beating me with it, and there was blood everywhere. And it's sort of like at the time I thought you know, it was kind of like this great way to make punk really cool and exclusive because only the true fans would come.

But the true fans just turned into like these fucking big like knucklehead footy players that just want to beat up this little punk kind, it kind of backfired kind of like the people I don’t want at shows, these macho guys, but um, that's part of my GISM harnessing power…

MF what was the scene like back then just describe that a little bit? Because I'm an outsider to this world. But like, what? Yeah, what what was the vibe like in in Australia? And then maybe, obviously, how was it different and unique? How are the fans weird and different in an Australian sense?

S: I feel like it wasn't as uniformed as it is now. I don't, it wasn't as categorized obviously. And I think people you can tell by the patches someone had, like, you know, everyone has a certain dress sense now.

MF: And what does that mean? Like the patches because that was a bit of a thing back in the 90s. Back in the 80s, so people would wear jackets and put patches and studs and jackets.

S: Yeah. But there's sort of like it was always strong in Melbourne, the chain punk. It was always very heavy, Full Metal Jacket. Whereas in Sydney, it was a little bit but not really.

MF: What does that come from? Like, what's that about? Okay, it comes from like, punk from like back in like 77 in the UK. I feel like punks used to wear dog collars and stuff and just to keep the cops off their back just to look more menacing and…

DX: There’d also be a big influence of biker culture and the kind of leather jackets and matches and stuff in the style would definitely have come out via a cross between kind of like, yeah, S&M kinda motif and then like bikers and stuff like that. I think it was basically about menace. Looking looking as if he crawled out from under a bridge and in many cases, people crawled out from under bridges.

MF: Okay, why did you want to look like that Spider?Like with me and my boys. We want to wear Versace and like yeah, gold watches and I know now you do love you've got a Versace bag and you’re style has changed up. So why did you want to look like you crawled from a bridge.

S: I guess you want to go to the most extreme side of one subculture. as you can , embrace every single side that it has. And I think when you think about it like the punks when they started, the only kind of like weird subcultures that were around were bikies and S&M stuff. So they took a bit from both. And then like, if that's all you got, like, whatever's accessible at the time and use glue and shit in my hair, because it's, you know, that's put up, there wasn't a Versace then.

MF: But why did you want to go to the extreme end of a subculture?

S: Because you kind of want to live it embrace everything. I mean, I had nothing else to you have nothing else really to look forward to? You know, I couldn't get a job. Like, I already had tattoos at that stage. And I was super young. And like, no one would employ me. And I sort of finished school in America. And it was kind of like this weird sort of, couldn't really prove it, though. Because we never had tax file numbers over there. We were kind of illegal aliens. But we weren't. It's kind of complicated. You know, there's part of my life that's kind of blank on paper.

DX: Same!

S: Yeah.

DX: like a really important part of my life. And, and willfully. I think like punk does that. Like you willfully try and evade as much paper as possible, right? It's like, being an absence in the world is part of like, the ethos of it like you. Like, you don't want anyone to know, where you are, who you are, who you hang out with, like, and that that comes from, like, obviously, the long time kind of rub against like, other kind of like I was saying, shake society, the people down the bottom are generally the ones that don't want people to know where they are, you know? Yeah. And you also create fake names, like, and fake identities and you make sure that everyone knows them.

S:Yeah.

DX: Like spider.

S: Yeah, exactly. 100%

MF: Yeah. Why do you call yourself Spider

S: I was a nickname given to me because of this tattoo on my elbow, who gives a fuck. Because and like, you don't think of it now much as a spider with an elbow like it gives a fuck. But back then in like the late 90s, you would never see a kid that young with a with a tattoo. Like it was kind of weird. Everyone's like, well, like 18 you got like a bunch of tattoos on your forearm, what are you doing?

MF: That? That's that's it that's worth highlighting? Because it was the same in criminal culture when I was growing up. Only like the baddest motherfuckers had tattoos. Yeah. And then people that had like hand tattoos. They were like the fucking Yeah, that real bad. Like, yeah, so what was your experience of tattoo culture? Like in when you got that tattoo? How did people around you behave and act?

S: My parents weren't happy, obviously. But, and I couldn't get a job. I think I just end up working out worked as a screen printer for a long time in a factory. Tattoo culture was so different than, you know, especially in Sydney. It was very controlled.

MF: and at the intersection of bikie culture again, yeah, bikie culture really capitalized off the tattoo thing.

S: Yeah, you know, like, you couldn't. And like, you're like you're saying about getting your hand tattoo, they wouldn't do that. There. I there was a lot of rules, and you couldn't get certain stuff

MF: Tell us a bit about those rules.

S: Well you couldn't get your hands or your face tattooed back there. Because it was the Queen's property.

M: Whoa.

S: Yeah, and or any, any. There was other rules. Like if these guys found out someone was tattooing it in their house, they just go there and like break his hands. Like she like that. Whereas everyone in Melbourne, like most people tattoo out of their houses, you know, and I've always wondered why. There hasn't been a lot of that sort of stuff in Melbourne. Like, do you know, like, there was never big tattoo bikey sort of thing here.

DX: I was. I was speculating on that when I first moved here, and yeah, do you remember when we were younger? Do you remember? When like blue murder and shit was? Like, popping up in Sydney? But do you remember that Victorian police had the worst reputation? Like where I was from in Wollongong, people would talk about like, how deadly it was in in Melbourne.

S: Yeah.

DX: So that's one thing that I kind of speculated on was…

S: yeah, I remember coming to a protest down here in like 99 and Kate and Bart were warning me about Victorian police and like how they're like the worst in the world and stuff, right.

MF: They were fucking scary back then. Like they were straight up. fucking scary. Like, yeah, even I mean, just the amount of shootings that were going on, like it went on. It's well documented that more police shootings happened in Victoria in the early 90s than every other state combined.

DX: So yeah, that I think that that reputation kind of seeped into where we're living. And I mean, I lived all over Australia when I was younger, but I by the time I got to Wollongong, that was like, something that you just absorbed, like through the air, like people were talking about. So I think that might be one thing that's...

MF: Definitely. Bikies were running, since they had a, though they had a stranglehold on it. And there was a period where, you know, you just can't open up a tattoo shop in certain areas. You just can't, unless you, you kick up to someone, you still I mean, I don't know what it's like now.

DX: I’ve got no idea.

MF: There. Yeah. I don't know what it's like now. But, if I was to take an educated guess, I would say that there's, there's there's a strong link…

S: maybe was just more visible in Sydney, because so many shops were just getting burned down. Or Yeah, people will kind of just trying them out, you know?

MF: Yeah. Yeah. And there were there's little telltale signs, like, you know, certain tattoo shops will have specific colors, that to kind of signal to other to other people that they're affiliated with this club. Or they'll use the same font.

S: Yeah OK.

MF: Yeah, it's pretty. Yeah, there's a strong, strong link there. But what did you It must have been fucking scary. But it had it was back then like the people coming in to get tattooed. And the culture like all those old head tattooists was kind of they were they were all a bit fucked up and crooked and doing shit on the side as well.

S: Yeah, a lot of them are on like amphetamines all the time, especially the guys in the Cross. I remember I was talking to one of the guys that used to work across, we still does last time I was up there. And he said, he used to start at midday and finish at four in the morning. And then just go to the pub for a couple of hours, sleep out the back of the shop and then start again. But what was it? Yeah, it was, um, I remember when I first started getting tattooed in the shops. And the guy that was tattooing me, his boss would just roll in and say, there's five club members coming in after this, you've got to stay back and tattoo all of them. It's gonna be for nothing. And like, you just don't have the say in it like, cancel your fucking day cancel your fuckin night. And it's just like, you know, you have to do.

DX: When did you get into it?

S: I started getting I started getting tattooed when I was 18. And we've got a few, but I've really started pumping it out when I was about 23.

MF: And what year were we in?

S: Early 2000. Yeah, like 2002 or something. And that's when I started going in every week. And if I wasn't getting tattooed, I just sort of hang out and just sort of absorb it. And I became really good friends with the shop in Newtown. And all the guys there. You know?

MF: There must have been some red hot shit, you can tell us that went down. Those don't mention name.

S: So now I remember I remember the boss of that shop. He's just right into the shop on his motorbike into the show variety and just let's start revving it up. And like if people are getting tattooed. I remember there was a one one guy tattooing. This isn't a joke. And, you know, he was tattooing this girl on the corner while her friend was sitting behind him watching. He was tattooing like a lower back. You could see the handle of an umbrella sticking out of the back of his pants.

MF: That's what I was gonna say. Like, I heard stories of people with an umbrella on the counters in tattoo shops in Sydney. It was a pretty common thing, especially in the early 2000s for sure.

S: Yeah, there was a lot of a lot of umbrellas I mean, you go to the bathroom. And you could see that there was a wall patched up with like this weird bit of plywood kind of loosely screwed on there, behind that plywood. You know, it's like behind their like, yeah, like little hidey holes and stuff.

MF: Yeah, cuz there was a red hot shit happening in some of those tattoo shops like cops getting firebombed and all sorts of crazy mad shit was going down back in the day.

S: Well, I remember that story. I remember that. If I can touch on that story. I remember this. This paddy wagon like just broke down at the front of the tattoo shop. So, this guy went to the police station and said, you got to move this paddy wagon, like, because everyone's gonna think I'm a snitch. And they said, oh we can't it's broken down. And he said, well, I'm just gonna torch and I said, Okay. And there's footage of him and he goes back with a can of kero and just lies the fucking thing on fire. Yeah, but the funny thing was a couple years later, there was a tattoo Expo. And this shop, like had a booth at the tattoo Expo and their shirts were the fucking car on fire.

M: That's real sick.

S: Yeah, it was cool.

M: I want one of the T shirts.

S: I wasn’t there, I saw a photo of it. It was sick.

MF: That's sick. But yeah, I mean, that's that's the real thing. Like if you if you run if you're involved in that world, and there's a cop car outside your shop in sight, and you can't explain why it's there. Yeah, people are gonna start ask. And the thing with that sort of shit is, they're never gonna ask you directly. They're just gonna assume. Yeah, like, they're gonna assume that you're, you know…

S: Like, it's what are the odds? It's gonna break down in front of a fucking tattoo shop? I feel like it was just like.

MF: Oh, for sure. For sure. Probably after him for something and putting pressure on him. And yeah, wanting him to give him information for something. And if I can do that sort of sneaky shit all the time, and especially back then we're talking. Yeah, cops would do all sorts of fucking slippery fucking piglet shit.

S: I’ve have been hit with a phone book a few times. I still do. That's very old school. Strip you naked and beat you with the Yellow Pages because they don't have yellow pages anymore.

DX: I wonder what they use.

MF Yeah, one of the stories from Western Sydney in the early 2000s of people getting like kidnapped by dogs who had deals with police, like, so these informants who had deals with police would go and do kidnappings for ‘em and shit. So it's not like the cops doing it directly. It's like, they've got these snitches on that. Yeah, they'll do all sorts of mad shit back then. Yeah, but yeah, so then you… At what point do you realize I want to make a life out of tattooing people? Like how does that happen?

S: I wanted to do it for a long time. But I sort of had to keep asking these people for about a year. And then when it came around, the guy that was tattooing me for free all the time said, Look, I'm going to open a shop. But my boss said, I can only open a shop. If I leave Sydney for a year, there was old rule, if you leave your shop that you're working in Sydney, you can't work in Sydney for a year. And then so he left when he came back, he opened up a shop and he took me on. And it was great. And then the rest is history, you know, and then I mean, it took me years to actually figure out what the fuck I was doing though.

DX: But you're always drawing. Like, I remember, you had such a distinctive style. Going back to the first letters you sent me and stuff. I'd like to hear a little bit about like kind of your visual references back there because they've definitely carried through the whole time. So you had a pretty like, solid aesthetic sense.

MF: So how important was that for the world that you're in? Like did did all these tattoo artists back then have to have like, their own edge in their own style, because now a lot of it just looks the same to me, to be honest. But back then, like each artist had like a very distinctive, like fucking style.

S: I guess. I don’t know where to start. Back when I first started drawing, and I was involved, like just getting into punk music. I was obsessed with Nick Blinko, you know, and I still am. I just recently bought his book. And I think it was just I was drawn to the obsessiveness of strokes on the paper. And you could tell like it was just, he would just sit there for fucking days. And I'm just some I mean, I've always been obsessed with someone so fanatical about anything, even if it's fucking like fanatical about a football team or something I'm so I've always been sort of drawn to anyone that's obsessive. So much that is deteriorating their health.

DX: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit give like a background into Nick Blinko? Because, yeah, so I think that would help to kind of paint the picture more

S: Nick Blinko had a band called Rudimentary Peni. And they started in I think it was like, early 80s. They were on Crass Records. It was like three chords sort of punk rock, but it was pretty… so it was very goth, and he would just scream. And the songs were so simple. And they sort of just went on and on. But a lot of the themes of the songs were about Lovecraft and shit like that. And it was just it was a punk band, but it was kind of kind of left wing like it was just, it wasn't really about politics per se. It was a lot of a lot about human condition, but wasn't stuff about smashing up Maccas or anything. Something about that spoke to me because it was very naive as well. And it wasn't like this studded jacket thing that everyone was sort of grown to love. It was really interesting. I think I've always been drawn. The thing that drew me to him was his artwork.

MF: And was there a particular artwork? And what did that look like?

S: I would say, as was probably the default outpost of death church, I showed it to my house that was just this monolithic fucking six panel, LP thingamajig it would have taken him, you know, ages to make, he talks about a little bit in Primal Screamer, the like, he wrote this autobiography, in the sense that he's he was his psychiatrist in diary notes. Like, the whole thing is kind of cooked. It's very cool. Have you read it?

DX No, I'd love to read it.

S: Yeah, it was it came out in like ‘98. So he wrote this book about, you know, he pretend to be psychiatrist analyzing himself. It's kind of very jagged. But he talks about how he used to make artwork in his basement surrounded by all these televisions that didn't work. But he plugged them on for the white noise for inspiration. So different tones of white noise. And that's how he sort of came out with ways to write songs. It's pretty, it's pretty intense, it’s a fucking good idea.

DX: He also struggled with mental health. Yeah, do you want to talk about that.

S: Yeah, he did. I'm not really sure what he's what he's been diagnosed.

DX: Because it was such a, I always felt that was such a key part of Rudimentary Peni. I was like, this, this feeling of like, this oversensitive person you're suffering for for all of the ills. Like he really. He really like how in anguish, you know, here is definitely different to a lot of those kind of Crass bands where there was there was less outrage there. And there was more like pain. That was really, and still, I find it really effective. But I don't know very much about Nick Blinko. And I've never seen a photo of him or anything like that. I've given him this wide berth in my mind and allowed him to be this maniac scribbling in a basement.

S: From what I've heard, he was locked in, locked up for a long time in a metal home. But I feel like he's probably been out for a little while now. Because there's a lot of projects, and he's doing a lot more collaborations kind of surfacing this a little bit, I know, a gallery in LA that I'm friends with, they're always talking about how they're gonna do a show with them. And never really eventually, I mean, they've done some official merch, but, you know, like, I think we all know, people like this that are super sensitive. And he would probably put his whole fucking soul into like, an artwork, or a song. And he probably feels so damaged and worn out afterwards that he just has to step back for a couple years, you know, and I felt like that after a project, you know, like, but for him, it'd be like, times fucking a million.

DX: And if we could do like, something, to tie these two characters together, it would really just be that fanatical, obsessive devotion, you're talking about two very different reactions to the spirit of like, punk and, and, and, and what happened there. Like, and do you feel like you in some sense, like, how do you reconcile, like, having two such heavy influences, but both of them, I don't think would get along in any respect, you know.

S: Nah they wouldn’t man. Poor old Nick I think would just leave the room. But saying that, you when you think about it, they're both at the same level, but they're just their emotions are just wired differently. Whereas Sakevi is very vicious and hard and fierce. Nick is like, he's, he's angry, but he's probably very timid, but they're both fanatical and they're both all or nothing. And they're both just like, hundred miles an hour. And I feel that's, Yes, I feel like they're probably the same people, but it just different, maybe different emotions, you know.

DX: These kind of characters that we know, people like this, you know, not as iconic and established. But the reason that we're attracted to punk is because, I mean, punk is such a huge world and it's 99% of its really insipid and boring shit, like, really tedious and like flat, and, and kind of, like, nothing.

Yeah, but those few characters like that. Like they justify the entirety of human endeavors like they completely like, put their push their push music forward, and they're still inspiring us today to kind of do that. Can you think of like anyone around you like kind of growing up that you kind of saw that spirit in? Can you Mahmood? Like, it's not like it's completely different?

MF: Yeah. I mean, it's not like I was always drawn to people that can zero in on, like, close that intensity and funnel it into something, something that you can look at, or Yeah, I think in my world, it's not so much an expression. It is if you think about it, like in an abstract sense, people being extremely violent to achieve an end.

S: Yeah.

MF: Like, in that sense. When I was when my thinking was completely different, sure, I was inspired by certain figures, because they could just be extremely violent and achieve an end. But anyway, it was just like, yeah, it's like something warlordish, or Yeah, something from like, a bygone era where you would have these warrior type figures that could just, you know, run into a house and do whatever they want, or just had no. Yeah, could hold could hold court in a conversation, but could also have that willingness to sacrifice their lives to achieve an end through violence, it's pretty, pretty fascinating thing to be inspired by. And then you have other people who are, who care so much about or don't give a fuck, to the point where they're willing to get huge whacks for being involved in a motorcycle club or something like that, we'll go and shoot a rival club member in a public place on the cameras in, there's there could be 100 people around watching, which literally happened.

So that kind of thing is an extreme thing that I found, inspiring is probably not the right word, but it had an effect on me that someone would be so willing to do that to just give away 25 years of their life just like that, for a cause and a belief. And I feel like that sacrificing for belief is something that's really eroded with the internet.

DX: Yeah, it's interesting, you say that, because the, a lot of people would posit that, that the internet really facilitated certain people to, like, be able to connect and and propose, like, I'm talking specifically about terrorists, like, there's like, the network that the internet has given has allowed certain people that, like, probably wouldn't have been radicalized, or probably wouldn't have gone that far alone, like in the 90s, in their bedroom, might have even got into like, just like gangster rap or whatever, and worn like a Rancid t shirt.

But now that they have access to other people with that level of intensity that they are prepared to like, kind of step off in that respect. So yeah, I think there's there's definitely a tension there. Like, certainly, aesthetically, like not many people are willing to go that far. But there are like, there are definitely people that are the internet's facilitated them to step forward into, like more levels of intensity and more levels of like, communion with other people in that regard.

MF: Yeah, I wonder how, for some reason, in my head, that seems a bit different. And trying to figure out why that is like, it feels like, a bit more shallow. Maybe it's because with Islamic terrorism, for example. A lot of these young kids who are inspired on the internet happens in like four months, five months, and then they just go and do it. Whereas in the guys that I'm talking about lived by a code of ethics for like 25 years, and then they'll do this, express, they'll express they'll do this heinous act of violence, because it's like become this deep seated philosophy that they've considered deeply and they believe.

DX: it is definitely complicated. When I threw that out, I went to the very top. But um, to speak of like how someone in four months can go from being, like, one person to another person, I would say that's like, really common within when people get into punk and like, it's your level of intensity and, and kind of focus can kind of be the difference between you becoming like a Nick Blinko or Sakevi, or Spider, You know, like that kind of, like, can you remember that kind of phase that really that phase where you went from being? Like, J? Yeah, to spider?

S: Yeah, I think. I feel like it was when I first moved out of home. And I had nothing really left to lose, not in a bad way. Like, it's not like I was down on my luck. And I wanted to end it all. I had like the world of my fingers. And I wasn't living at home and I sort of had means to do anything I want, so to speak. You know, what I actually got a good story about, remember the guitar player from Sewer Cider?

DX: I don't remember. But I do remember Sewer Cider. Tell Mahmood about the band briefly.

S: Because it's the first punk band was called Sewer Cider, but spelt like Sewer, you know, like shit, and the drink. Anyway, we had this band, it was this crust band. I was like, 18 years, very young. And sounded kind of like Concrete Sox or Deviated Instinct. It was, it was, you know, very crust anyway. Our guitarist, I don't wanna say his name. He went from normal man to Sakevi within years. Like he ,and I never knew this about him. He got really involved in politics, he moved to Barcelona for a bit, came back, went to a protest, threw a bag of marbles under a horse tried to hit a cop with a hammer. Oh, yeah, he's like, he was gonna do time for animal cruelty or some shit. Like, but he's, he's living. I think he was hiding out in Barcelona for a long time.

MF: Wow.

S: And doing all sorts of stuff. And I've, I've seen him, like since seen him once in the last 20 years, just randomly on the street. Like, it's like David Hicks. But yeah, he's a perfect example of like, you know, going, he was very extreme and very fanatical. Not so much about punk music, but about politics. Yeah, but punk was just the catalyst that drew him towards it.

DX: Yeah, I can think of quite a few characters like that. Yeah. When we were growing up. And one thing I would kind of the probably one of the biggest things that I would say hasn't carried from that time. Was the, the kind of the presence of anarchists. communists were like, really left wing extremists. And then also, like, skinheads would like, you know, say, like, really? Like, basically, you'd have like, poles like you'd have, like, I can't remember, express express moments in my mind shows where everyone was hanging around like you. I'm not talking about like racist skinheads. I'm just talking about sketchy guys that, you know, say sexist things or something like that, like, you know, just

MF: There would have been racist skinheads back then certainly.

DX: I'm talking about what I'm talking about more shows where you go to, and there'd be this massive tension in the air. It was, skinheads would come to a show but it wouldn't be to watch bands I'm talking about, like, just that mix of really extreme polls of like, really PC people. And really un-PC people that would willingly together, go into the same space hang out and watch bands like together that I'm personally that that does, definitely doesn't happen anymore. Like, people don't…

S: No

DX: don't hang out together when like it's either woke or you're like, not, and you just like don't want to be around each other. Like there's like, and it was a necessity to bit be in those spaces, because that's where punk was happening.

MF: But now like, what is what's the punk scene like now? Because my experience of it is it's extremely woke. There’s no mosaic of different opinions. Definitely.

DX: So yeah, but but also like, it's, it's really woke, but you don't have that kind of intensity of like, the kind of anarchists or the like the communists or people that would come at us from straight up, like committee meetings and spend their lives like, in and out of meetings, strategizing.

S: Yeah.

DX: And, and there's not that influence of like, like politics as an actual life practice, of like fighting against, like, this is it like society that kind of thing has gone in a lot of respects and what what is really left? Is that kind of this sensitivity of the of the work kind of PC thing or whatever you want to call it like, that's definitely…

MF: What would happen if I went to a show and headbutted someone, would that be like,what I get challenged.

DX: It's just you just don't do that kind of thing.

MF: Like it's like that's wack is I know, wack that it's infected the same or as the same evolved in a quite organic and beautiful way to, to appreciate because I, I've always been one to enjoy the friction and in the friction of ideas and even though they’re fucked, I feel like that's how we figure figure things out. And that's what makes sense, certain scenes interesting is that they're dynamic. And they're a bit dangerous, and they're a bit fucked. In the end. It's this life thing, because life is a bit dangerous and fucked in. Yeah, I don't know,

DX: There's definitely friction yet still exists. I'm not trying to say it's like watered down or, like, you know, punk is is in Melbourne, in many respects, like, a lot of good bands and stuff. But I'm talking yeah, that kind of friction doesn't exist. As far as I've seen from the shows I've been to where people would actually give you leaflets…

S: That was big.

DX: They have a leaflet about vivisection or something like that. I haven't seen that happen for a really long time.

S: Yeah, yeah. And maybe because back then it was kind of a new entity. You know, it was like people like you, or there's some bands playing down the show. I don't know what it is, though. Some rock bands like just like, like, Joe that just finished his job. Like, he's a plumber or some shit just went in for beers. I'm watching his bands out, like, but now everyone knows what it's all about, you know, to a degree.

DX: Yeah, I think um, I, I'm not particularly fond of that era. Like, when I look back, I'd like wasted many, many hours watching shitty bands in like, rooms that sound like shit. But that that sense of friction that you're talking about? I've definitely sought that elsewhere. So like, I'll go to see. And it doesn't really happen very often. But I'll go see someone do a talk, for example, that Tarkovksi talk that we went to see from our friend Val. And you kind of look forward to that anxiety happen. When the question time comes and people kind of asking this mad Russian genius questions about Tarkovksi. And you hope, that like you can see that there's like, like people with hard principles in the room and hard beliefs that are prepared to like argue and fight for it. So I think I just seek that stuff elsewhere.

MF: You know, it's interesting, because it feels like everything is so polarized now. And it's like, it's very rare that those opinions intersect or like coming together or cross paths. I don't know where that happens. Like, yeah, I'm just whereas in back then in subcultures that happened all the time. Yeah, but now I don't know. I don't know where that happens. Like Where so, where do people's belief systems? Cross cross paths in an interesting way? And I think musics a really fucking interesting way to be exploring, yeah, belief systems and, and challenging belief systems. Yeah.

S: You know, I think I was talking to Mahmood about this outside. I think the way I'm the reason I'm like this, is because I recently got, I see a shrink. Well, I did I just I recently walked out. That's all another story. But she seems to think that I have severe ADD. And I told my mom, my mom said, I thought you did? Why didn't you do anything? But I sort of like, I mean, it's not a bad thing. And I feel like it's working for me. And I think this is why that I can't, you know, like, if I'm making, like, some artwork or record, I can't stop thinking about it. Even during this interview, I've been thinking about all the stuff, and I can't switch off and it's sort of like I lay in bed even thinking about even watching TV with Tessa. And she's like, Oh, this is you know, laughing. And sometimes I can't even pay attention. I just laugh with it, oh yeah, that’s a funny part of it. I think that's why I get…

MF: I get in a lot of trouble for that. Exactly.

S: Yeah.

MF: And it's drifting off into my head thinking about what I'm writing or some or like this very particular sentence, and it will just suddenly as I'm driving or as we're having dinner, it'll just impose itself on me and I can't shake it. And I have to correct it. Like in that instance, or like a better way to say that sentence will just infect my brain and I fucking cannot for the life of me, stop myself.

DX: That's one major reason why I had to pull back from writing because I was doing it so much and I would have that exact same thing. Like a word. Like, I'd read a document like delete a bunch of stuff and then go away and then like a single word would like come into my head and I'd be like, bailing on a show to go home to like go to my computer and delete that word. Just like completely fixated. And and when I'm writing at my best like when I'm doing a really good job and I'm I'm really flowing quite well. It's totally fine. But then like when I get in that headspace, I’ll like delete months of work I've like written so much stuff that I've just like deleted really over one word that I just couldn't reconcile with the whole thing just like ruined everything for me.

MF: Does that happen in music like the obsession to fix a certain part or a lyric or or something that just keeps you up at night?

DX: Well, I have a feeling that we can tie this back in with Sakevi quite well because I feel like his obsessive kind of like nature like really slowed that band down towards the end and kind of I don't really know too much about it. But um, that kind of almost like Axl Rose like striving for the making the perfect perfect record and then it just never happening. Do you know anything about that? Like what basically what happened to GISM?

S: Well, I think the performed the The Man LP, I think they he spent so long building it and I think I don't think at the time it was received very well by the public. I know Pushead made this poster for that was only available if you mail order, but the numbers were so low I don't think it ever went through something but there are copies of the poster through this record store.

I think it kind of flopped pretty hard. And I think I think it was also probably the guitarists influence Randy is a bit of a rock and roll guy.

DX: One thing I just wanted to kind of hear from you is basically what's been your routine the keep your yourself like going through all this like few months like I don't like talking about COVID very much to people but being in Melbourne like this is something that is gonna have an effect on us for years like what yeah, that that time that we spent… How did you get through it just give us your your routine?

S: Yeah, I had a I used to write this routine the night before. So I didn't wake up and play Angry Birds on my phone because I've been obsessed with that since I got sober. I can't stop thinking about that as well. Because I came second in the World Tournament about five times now. I can’t help it man. All right, all right. So I used to I used to have a routine like I'd wake up have a coffee pretend to get dressed for work, take the dogs for a walk and then at about 10 o'clock start working on whatever it is and then have a lunch at one and then work a little more and then do some house stuff you know, but I just think it was just vital that I had a timetable each day. Like I need some kind of structure in my life some kind of rules, or I just get carried away on one thing you know.