Arriving in the “wet heat” clubs of Brisbane and Queensland, Australia as a quartet, Slug Guts made for a perfect addition to the swelling chaos currently being produced by natives like Circle Pit, Naked on the Vague, and even the hypnotic squalor of Fabulous Diamonds. This stable of Aussies claiming respectfully different areas of turf on their gigantic continent have tapped into the burbling lifeblood of Australia’s grimy lineage of post-apocalypse punk. Funny how that ancestry—from the Saints to the Birthday Party to Feedtime to Primitive Future’s 2010 favorite Circle Pit—can be made accurately filmic in a Mad Max marathon. Slug Guts debut LP, Down on the Meat, yet to be readily available in the States, is pummeling, drug-trail, dry-hump punk. You can hear them mirroring all of those guttural echoes from the past, straining for the same catharsis brought on by boredom and self-abuse. It’s frightening stuff, which is why they’ll have a definite advantage when their first release to be wrought unto the American underground, second album Howlin’ Gang, has the Sacred Bones seal of approval attached. I’ve yet to hear the results, while the second incarnation of Slug Guts has grown to a six-piece in the interim. Howlin’ Gang arrives next month and in talking with guitarist and former singer Jimi Kritzler, it sounds as if it will be equally schizophrenic.
We always start off by asking how the band started. Can you tell me how everyone got together and if you played in any other bands worth mentioning before this?
Jimi Kritzler: I had got back from roadie-ing across America and some shows in Europe and Eastern Europe and was back fuckin’ around in Brisbane. Me and JD would sit in my dank house listening to tunes, watching the neighborhood meth heads and generally wishing we weren’t in this town. We roped in Falco, who we both thought was kind of a piece of shit. We played a couple of shows and recorded our first LP after a few months.
Did you find that the scene in Brisbane was accepting of what you were doing or did you know going in that the music you were making was confrontational?
JK: Um, it is hard to explain Brisbane. It is a pretty fucked town. It’s really fucking hot, wet heat, slow moving and the fact that there isn’t that much to do or reason to get out of bed for us besides being in this band kind of means it is everything for a few of us. We never set out to be confrontational at all, but if it is confrontational, it might be because the last few years, which coincide with being in Slug Guts, have been pretty full-on and strange. A lot of people in this town intensely dislike us as people but still come to our shows, which can be weird.
The vocals are something that seems like a decisive line in the sand—either you’re with it or you’re not. How did you settle on that voice and how is it emblematic of the band?
JK: I guess you’re talking about my voice? I sung on the first LP, Down on the Meat, but I don’t sing no more. I started growlin’ because I really dug Edgar Broughton, Beefheart and Howlin’ Wolf’s croaking. That and I couldn’t sing for shit. When it came time to do the second LP, I refused to do the same thing because it would make the records sound pretty similar. So JD became the singer. It is better this way.
Seems like there’s a lot of this abrasiveness surfacing in the Australian underground again, with bands like Circle Pit and Naked on the Vague making widely heard records. Do you feel a kinship with these groups?
JK: Yeah, I guess we do. I mean Slug Guts is totally different to both of these bands, but we dig what they do. I have known Angie and Jack from Circle Pit since Jack was like 14 and Matt and Lucy from NOTV for maybe a little less but still a pretty long time. Although we live a thousand kilometers apart in different cities, we all met when we were younger and have remained friends. Last time we were in Sydney, we played with them both, but as far as kinship, I haven’t really thought about it. They are just old mates.
Why do you think this grittier, darker rock has re-emerged in Australia?
JK: No idea. Boredom? Isolation? Shitty drugs at cheap prices?
Obviously older Australian groups like the Birthday Party and the Saints are an influence on Slug Guts, and I think those bands feed into the ’80s revival of Aussie post-punk like Lubricated Goat, Bird Blobs, Feedtime, and onwards. Do you have any theory as to what it is about your country that breeds this sound?
JK: I don’t know. To be honest, I think when we started we had that Feedtime/Lubricated Goat thing happening, but these days I don’t reckon we sounded anything like those bands. Having said that, we just recorded a Lubricated Goat cover which will maybe end up on the third album. So fucked if I know what I am talking about. As for Australia? Maybe because we are so far away and disconnected from the USA and Europe, we just do what we want. When we write, we never think about sounding Australian. We just do what we do.
Do you think Nick Cave gets the respect he deserves in his homeland? Are the younger bands cognizant of his body of work?
JK: Yeah, he does, way too much for my liking. He is a bit of a show pony. I don’t dig his “poetry” at all.
Do you consider him a national hero?
JK: Hah! No. Australia tries not to label upper middle-class junkie poets as Australian heroes. Career criminal Chopper Reid would be an example of an Australian hero. Nick Cave would be an example of a public figure who Australian men would label a “poof.” I just think of him as a self-indulgent twat.
Is there anything else native that you think needs mentioning when discussing your influences?
JK: VB (Victoria Bitter), Champion 30 gram pouches, backyard chemists Australia-wide, de factos, MAX employment, Spring Hill.
I’ve heard Down on the Meat, but you’ve got a new record, Howlin’ Gang coming out on Sacred Bones. What was the biggest difference in the recording of this new album? How did you want it to compare to the first one?
JK: Down on the Meat was recorded in the first five months of the band. It was recorded in seven hours. Howlin’ Gang was recorded over 24 hours straight, with a bit of extra recording a few weeks later. Howlin’ Gang is really different to Down on the Meat. We really did not want to repeat ourselves. I love Down on the Meat, but fucked if we are going to record eight albums which all sound similar.
Do you have any expectations for your first tour of the States?
JK: I think we are touring the USA in June. Meth moms—lots of them.
Fill in the blanks:
In high school, I was listening to ______ doing ______ in the ______ with ______, wishing I was ______.
JK: We are all high school drop-outs.