All posts tagged photo

  • Men’s Health story: ‘Jason Momoa: “There’s Too Much Shit I Want To Do”‘, November 2017

    A cover story for the December 2017 issue of Men’s Health. Excerpt below.

    Jason Momoa: “There’s Too Much Shit I Want To Do” 

    Jason Momoa put in the work to make it big in Hollywood, but his passion for being a husband, dad, friend, climber, surfer, and all-around rascal makes him the man he is today.

    Jason Momoa cover story in Men's Health, December 2017, by Andrew McMillen: "There's Too Much Shit I Want To Do". Photograph by Damian Bennett

    Glad for a few hours off from shooting Aquaman, Jason Momoa is shirtless and polishing off a bowl of chicken and peanut butter. A superhero physique requires that he ration his carbs to even enjoy Guinness. But as he’s quick to tell you, being Aquaman has its perks too.

    The meal over, the Hawaii-born actor, 38, stands beneath a custom-built indoor rock climbing wall that plays an integral role in his workout routine. In short order, he’s excitedly leading a tour of a man cave that has become an important refuge during his six months of filming here on Australia’s Gold Coast. Between filming commitments, this cavernous space offers the extensive gym and weight training machines Momoa needs in order to maintain his muscular, 230-odd-pound frame.

    Of even greater interest to Momoa than lifting heavy objects, though, are the musical instruments set up in a far corner of the space. “Look at this thing, man!” he says, strapping on a Fender bass. “This thing is so fuckin’ badass!” He plugs in, flicks on an amplifier, and gives a groovy demonstration of his new creative outlet. Using his thumb and fingers against four strings, Momoa plays in a pop-and-slap style that’d sound at home on a vintage Red Hot Chili Peppers record. “There’s a bunch of stuff I want to learn. Instead of waiting around on set all day, I’d rather be learning something cool.”

    The photographer approaches for a few candid shots, and Momoa rolls his eyes. “We’ll do it later,” Momoa says to him. “Let me get a shirt on.” To me, he says, “That’s all they want–me with my shirt off!” He laughs, plays a few more notes, gets lost in the music, and then reconsiders. “Ah, fuck it. You can take one. Momoa continues with the funky technique and then switches to a more intricate piece. “I just started learning this,” he says, eyes on the fretboard. “I just can’t sit still, man. There’s too much shit I want to do.”

    To read the full story, visit Men’s Health. Above photo credit: Damian Bennett.

  • Qweekend story: ‘Beat Generator: Tom Thum’, October 2013

    A story for The Courier-Mail’s Qweekend magazine, originally published in the October 26-27 2013 issue. Click the below image to view as a PDF, or read the full story underneath.

    Beat Generator

    A young Brisbane man with a versatile voicebox has built a career out of the unlikeliest of musical talents.

    Qweekend story: 'Beat Generator: Tom Thum' by Andrew McMillen, October 2013. Photograph by David Kelly

    Story Andrew McMillen / Photography David Kelly

    Moments after completing the most important performance of his life, Tom Thum gave a gesture that seemed fitting: he leaped in the air and clicked his heels. The Brisbane-based musician had spent the last eleven minutes with the thousand-strong Sydney Opera House audience in the palm of his hands, entertaining TEDxSydney conference attendees with little more than his voice and a microphone.

    “My name is Tom, and I’ve come here to come clean about what I do for money,” he said upon taking the stage in May. “I use my mouth in strange ways in exchange for cash.”

    Innuendo aside, Thum’s description of his own talent couldn’t be more apt. Beatboxing — a technique rooted in using the human voice as a percussive instrument in the absence of a boombox or a drum kit — is a highly specialised skill within hip-hop culture, and one that has proven almost impossible to cross over into the mainstream. Yet through a freakish ability to accurately mimic musical instruments and layer intricate compositions, allowing him to replicate the vibe of a smoky jazz dive or Michael Jackson’s signature hits – among many other unlikely and impressive feats – the 28-year-old has connected with a mass audience.

    The standing ovation was enough to prompt a celebratory heel-click, but the best was yet to come: in the hours that followed, his vocal talents contributed to an impromptu jam session with guitar virtuosos John Butler and Jeff Lang, and he was approached by Audi Australia representatives to star in an online advertising campaign that saw Thum mimicking the vehicle’s complex array of sound effects. Footage of the performance clocked one million YouTube views within two days of being uploaded in July. By the end of September, Beatbox Brilliance – so dubbed by conference organisers – had surpassed six million hits and become the most-watched TEDx video of all time. The boy from Brisbane christened Tom Theodore Wardell Horn had gone viral.

    ++

    While the empty building bakes in the heat of an early spring day, the artist reclines in a well-worn office chair in a recording studio at Elements Collective, a hip-hop dance studio in inner-north Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. He tweaks the vocal mix on a local MC’s debut album at high volume while hunched over a Macbook. Navy curtains block out the sunlight; a bold, colourful graffiti mural dominates the back wall. Wearing long pants, a baggy black shirt and silver sneakers, the jetlagged artist is enjoying his second full day back in the Queensland humidity.

    Some of Tom Thum’s appeal can be ascribed to his gregarious on-stage nature. In the video, he comes across as a personable extrovert who revels in the ability to share his talent with the middle-aged audience, many of whom have probably never seen or heard anything like it. It helps, too, that the tanned, blue-eyed young man is easy on the eye; plenty of YouTube and Facebook comments mention his appealing appearance. It’ll disappoint those adoring female fans, then, to learn that he’s been in a relationship for three and a half years. “I think she likes my work,” he says thoughtfully. “But she doesn’t like the things my work makes me do.”

    By this he refers to the fact that most of his year is spent on the road. The past several months have been devoted to touring throughout the United Kingdom, Europe and United States, performing both solo and as a duo, alongside Melbourne-based singer and guitarist Jamie Macdowell.

    While Horn’s dance card has been packed of late – he’s spending a little over a week at home before jetting off once again, this time to work on a hush-hush project with a well-known American animation studio – it’s been a hard slog to get to this point in his career. Born at South Brisbane’s Mater Hospital on April 2, 1985, Horn attended Yeronga State School and, later, Anglican Church Grammar School in East Brisbane. “People always ask me if my real name is Tom Thum,” he says. “My parents aren’t that sadistic! Tom Horn would’ve been a good stage name; either that, or a porn star name.”

    Horn is a true student of hip-hop, having embraced the art form in its four distinct elements – aural, physical, visual and oral – and excelled at each of them. His entrée into Brisbane’s underground hip-hop community began with taking an interest in graffiti writing in 1999. He started learning how to breakdance in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2001 that Horn heard beatboxing for the first time. “It was a couple of years after that until I realised it was something I could pursue,” he says. “I just really liked it, and worked at it. I never thought about it competitively; I did it because I was a hyperactive kid with too much time on his hands.” He was never diagnosed with attention-deficit or any associated disorders. “I just picked up a microphone,” he shrugs. “That was the medication.”

    After graduating from Churchie and exploring the fringes of Brisbane’s independent music scene, Horn started a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) at southside Griffith University in 2003. He sat in a crime and justice lecture and wondered, “What am I doing here? I’m a hyperactive little graffiti writer in a room full of aspiring cops! The second that I understood that no-one was going to force me to go to uni, I was like peace, baby!

    Horn gave up breakdancing earlier this year as a result of constant injuries and between 2007 and 2012 toured the world with Tom Tom Crew, a theatre troupe that featured five acrobats backed by three musicians who blasted loud drum’n’bass, dub and hip-hop. Horn has also released three albums as a rapper under the MC name Tommy Illfigga, an EP as Tom Thum in 2012, as well as a 2010 LP of beats as Crate Creeps, a partnership with fellow Brisbane musician DJ Butcher. Beatboxing is Horn’s forte, though: his versatile voicebox won him first place at the World Beatbox Battles alongside compatriot Joel Turner in 2005; and in 2010, he was awarded “best noise and sound effects” at the World Beatbox Convention in Berlin.

    ++

    Brisbane beatbox musician Tom Thum performing at TEDxSydney in May 2013One Saturday morning last November, Horn woke with a start in his rented Berlin apartment. His musical offsider, Jamie Macdowell, was about to leave to get a second key cut. The pair had performed together the previous night and come home, completely sober; a strangely quiet Friday for two young men in a foreign country. Suddenly, Horn broke the silence by yelling for his friend. “I went into his bedroom and Tom was reeling,” says Macdowell, 27. “He said it felt like there was a ten cent piece on his sternum, and an elephant was sitting on the coin. As soon as he sat up, he just lost his mind. The pain got so intense that he couldn’t talk or move. He fell back down onto the bed and was shaking. It looked like he couldn’t breathe.”

    An ambulance took him to hospital, where he was admitted to a cardiac ward. His roommates were two elderly Germans. The pair listened to the doctor describe what had happened to Horn in complicated medical terms. “We couldn’t understand; we were nodding quizzically,” says Macdowell. “Tom got it before I did. He said to her, ‘is this the kind of thing that you would explain to someone who’d just had a heart attack?’ She looked straight at him, full of intent, and said ‘yes’.” The next day, Horn underwent an operation to put a stent in his heart; “a rollcage that stops your artery from collapsing,” in his words.

    That near-death experience provided fertile ground for planting the seeds of artistic inspiration. “It was fucking boring in the hospital,” Horn says. Naturally, his creative mind wandered. While he couldn’t understand what the doctors or his roommates were saying, he was intrigued by the beeps, hums and whirs of the medical machinery that kept him alive. A key moment in Horn’s solo show is a layered reimagining of the sounds of the hospital, which gradually evolves into an evocative cover of Hearts A Mess, a 2006 single by chart-topping Melbourne musician Gotye, aka Wally De Backer.

    To his frustration, the assumption that many strangers make upon hearing this story is that Horn’s heartrate must have been artificially boosted. This couldn’t be further from the truth. “Everyone assumes that, because I’m a musician and I had a heart attack, [I should] lay off the cocaine a bit,” he sighs. “No-one can tell me what [the attack] was from. I’d been deemed perfectly healthy by doctors. It’s not what you expect at age 27. Now I have to live on these medications – but at least I get to live on them. It gave me a great piece for my show … Everyone seems to think that heart attacks only happen to people over 60.”

    Macdowell adds: “Tom’s the most sober person I’ve ever met. He’s changed a lot since the heart attack. His consumption of alcohol has almost completely ended. He eats really well, and tries to exercise. It’s really changed him for the better.”

    Ever the perfectionist, Horn says he’s got four full albums of original material that haven’t yet seen the light of day due to his “inability to let go of things, and to call something ‘complete’. I’ve got a vault of music that hasn’t been opened yet.” He adopts the voice of a Hollywood mad scientist: “Soon I shall relinquish my pretties!

    With a few more dollars in his pocket of late, he’s keen to outsource some of the do-it-yourself ethic that has always surrounded the production of his own music. “I’ll still have 100 per cent creative input and control,” he says, “but I can be like, ‘okay, press record now! Drop the bass out of this, filter out that sample, boost this’. Because now I know what I’m talking about, I can still drive the ship without having my hands on the wheel.”

    ++

    For those few months each year that he calls Brisbane home, Horn stays with his parents in inner-south Annerley. His 60-year-old mother, Sue, admits that the cloud of noise that surrounds her eldest son can be irritating.

    “Especially if you’re watching something really good on TV, one has to be very patient,” she says. “I think if he lived at home all the time, it could be quite difficult. [This living situation] probably works well for us all.” The former nurse and her husband Murray, a forensic scientist, occasionally fret about his chosen career in the performing arts. “I’m not really happy about it, because I think it’s not a terribly stable industry. But he’s his own person. We have no influence,” she laughs. “We frequently have these discussions.” Are they playful discussions, or serious? “Playfully serious,” she replies. “Tom doesn’t appreciate them at all! He went to uni for a year and said that was the greatest waste of time. But I think he does have a lot of talent.”

    Macdowell agrees. “Tom is a prodigious noisemaker. He has no attention span for anything except beatboxing and creating sound effects. His practice is relentless. The guy just doesn’t stop making noise. It infuriates me when we’re on tour; I was okay with the European tour ending, just to get some silence,” he laughs. “But every time I think about saying something, or coming close to telling him to shut up, I remind myself that that’s why he’s so brilliant – he doesn’t stop.”

    While Qweekend’s photographer and his subject explore the colourful canvases at Elements Collective, 25-year-old Alex Steffan slips into the studio, slides on a pair of headphones and listens to the latest vocal mix that Horn has spent the morning working on. He nods his head in approval. “He was always the most talented one of our group of friends; he always had freakish abilities with his beatboxing, breakdancing and graffiti,” says Steffan, whose stagename is DJ Butcher. “We’ve all been waiting for him to blow up. All of a sudden, the TEDx talk has let the world know what we’ve known for ten years.”

    Throughout the photo shoot, Horn’s voicebox produces soulful trumpet tones, intricate beatbox phrases, and even a note-perfect take on Fly Me To The Moon. He’s preoccupied with perfecting his saxophone – “reed instruments are hard; I’ll get there one day” – and says that the hardest thing about making sounds with his mouth is in finding the instruments’ accents; their defining characteristics. The pluck in a blues guitar, or the woozy feel of its tremolo arm. The way the pitch slightly wavers in a trumpet when the player stops blowing so hard. The breathy tone of a flute. These are the sounds that Tom Horn studies and rehearses in a constant feedback loop that fills nearly every waking hour.

    “People often ask me if I’m making a living out of beatboxing,” he says. “I reply, well, I’m making a ‘not dying’. I’m not hungry. I’m definitely not making a living in terms of the traditional sense of saving up for a house, a home loan, a wife and kids; an Audi …” he smiles. “I’m not rich monetarily, but I’m definitely rich in experience, and that’s my priority at the moment. I’m not earning mad cheddar, but I’m 100 per cent happy with my life.”

  • The Vine live review: Soundwave Festival Brisbane, February 2013

    A festival review for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    Soundwave Festival 2013
    RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane
    Saturday 23 February 2013

    This is the paragraph for the requisite context-setting that precedes every festival review ever. Soundwave is now easily bigger than the Big Day Out. They’ve long since sold out all five shows on this tour. This is where the real money is spent and earned each year as far as the Australian rock festival circuit is concerned. Each year Soundwave drops a line-up that’s more bloated with international talent than the last. Twenty-thirteen is no exception.

    James Hetfield of Metallica at Soundwave Festival Brisbane 2013, reviewed for TheVine.com.au by Andrew McMillen. Photo credit: Justin Edwards

    THE LOSERS VS INDIFFERENT VS WINNERS SCORE CARD:

    The Losers 

    Playing their first Australian show in nine years, A Perfect Circle had a fantastic opportunity to crowd-please in a late afternoon slot. They dropped the ball. We got a languid 50 minute set that drew heavily on material from eMOTIVe, their so-so covers album from 2004. Only one track from their 2000 debut, Mer de Noms (‘The Hollow’) – a disorienting remix of ‘3 Libras’ notwithstanding – and two from Thirteenth Step (a great take on ‘Weak and Powerless’, and ‘The Outsider’, wherein the guitars were barely audible).

    They did play a new song, ‘By And Down’, right near the end, but by this point the crowd’s energy had sapped considerably and most people inside the D barrier just stood there, staring, confused as to why they were choosing these songs. Far too earnest for their own good, this was by far the most disappointing set I witnessed all day. I had way more fun at Puscifer the night before – the other other band of APC/Tool singer Maynard James Keenan – despite that group having far fewer great songs than A Perfect Circle. I get it: Maynard doesn’t give a fuck about conventions or expectations. He’s his own man! Isn’t he rebellious? What a guy! But this set sucked, plain and simple.

    Kyuss Lives! were mixed so poorly that I fled after three songs. John Garcia’s vocals twice as loud as any of the instruments on stage? No thanks. These guys were good when they toured last year (review), so I’m not sure what went wrong today. When they first arrived on stage, Garcia’s mic was inaudible; someone at the sound desk massively overcompensated for their fuck-up. Also, no Nick Oliveri?

    Stone Sour are surely the least offensive band on the bill. Despite the grandstanding of Corey Taylor, who is an excellent frontman with one of the best voices in rock, there’s really not much to like about this band. I heard the majority of their set while waiting for Slayer and I couldn’t recall a single hook or melody. Beige.

    Myself, for losing my sunglasses. I can’t blame this on drink, drug, or mosh-pits, either. Just carelessness. Idiot.

    The Indifferent

    Local band The Schoenberg Automaton open main-stage proceedings as gates open on the stroke of eleven. To my ears their sound like generic hardcore with some highly technical guitar and drumwork tacked on. This formula is generally a win at this festival, though. They sound huge through the PA. These are my observations from the shade of a grandstand as the temperature climbs into the low thirties and we all begin losing litres of fluid hourly.

    I don’t find Anthrax to be especially engaging but it feels like I’m in the minority. They unveil flags bearing the visages of Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell, which is a nice touch. ‘Caught In A Mosh’, ‘Indians’, ‘I Am The Law’…they cover ‘TNT’ by AC/DC, one of the few heavy bands to not have graced these festival stages (next year?), and it doesn’t scan as a forced attempt at getting us onside — the entire arena already was. “Please remember to always worship music,” says Scott Ian at set’s end. OK.

    Dragonforce play all of the notes there are to play during their opening song, which goes for 10 minutes and contains as many guitar solos. Trying to listen to their newest album yesterday in preparation (while keeping a straight face) was hard work, and so is standing in the scorching sun while they shred. I can only stick it out for a couple of songs. I do like Herman Li’s whammy bar trick though: he holds the guitar aloft while it feeds back, then drops it onto his upper thigh with a flourish and continues playing. Dexterity.

    Shirt slogans spotted throughout the day:

    Tell your boobs to stop staring at me – worn by suss-looking, chubby 20 year old.

    Guns don’t kill people, Ray Lewis kills people.

    We’re just old farts who love music – worn by three 50-plus year-old guys in uniform.

    Fat guy wears Mystic Wolf shirt – worn by same.

    Suck my Richard – worn by tall, pasty redhead.

    It’s all good when you’re the big dude – worn by fat dude struggling to climb stairs.

    A singlet that reads  I’m a Lars Ulrich guy – exact meaning unclear.

    My favourite: You’ve never been drunk till you’ve shit yourself – Fraser Island 2010. Graphic.

    For the full review and photo gallery, visit The Vine. Above photo credit: Justin Edwards.

  • Brisbane Times story: ‘From dreadlocks to shaved for World’s Greatest Shave’, March 2012

    A story for Brisbane Times which was also filmed and edited into a two-minute video. Click the below image to view the video, and read the article text underneath.

    From dreadlocks to shaved

    Andrew McMillen has his dreadlocks shaved off for the Leukaemia Foundation's World's Greatest Shave
    Click to play video

    According to Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, “a primary-coloured beard is a perfect arsehole-detector”. I’ve long felt the same way about my dreadlocks, which I’ve had in place since September 2004.

    Connolly referred to the tendency of dreary folk – or “beige people”, as he would call them – to reveal themselves in the presence of someone whose unusual appearance upsets them. So too with my hairstyle, which elicits a range of responses – verbal or otherwise – when I meet people for the first time.

    At music festivals, I’m frequently assumed to be holding pot or other treats by both punters and police. When shopping, staff tend to drop their manner a few notches and engage with me in terms of “dude” and “man” far more often than “sir”. At election time, LNP and ALP hawkers don’t bother pressing fliers into my hands – it’s assumed that the Greens are the political party for me. In the street, charity peddlers smile and see me as an easy mark; someone naturally sympathetic to whichever planet-saving scheme they’re pushing.

    It’s endlessly fascinating to me how much people can read into a hairstyle. I’ve gotten far more enjoyment from observing how people react to me than from the dreadlocks themselves, which I chose purely for vanity: I liked how they looked on some of my favourite musicians, most notably the singer from Gold Coast hard rock act Sunk Loto, so I decided to try it on for myself.

    I’ve never regretted the decision, though seven and a half years of growth – coupled with the gradual thinning and breaking of the locks on top of my head – meant that it was always going to be a finite style.

    For years, my plan had been to support the Leukaemia Foundation and their World’s Greatest Shave initiative by turning a fairly drastic measure into a public spectacle. Handily, one that would encourage those around me to donate money and support a worthy cause.

    Since 1998, the annual shave has been undertaken by over one million Australians, who’ve raised over $120 million for the Foundation. Donations support families when they need it most, by providing leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma patients – there are over 11,500 new cases across the country each year – with a free home-away-from-home near hospital during their treatment.

    The Foundation also funnels millions into blood cancer research. Although survival rates are improving, blood cancers remain the second biggest cause of cancer death in Australia.

    In light of these life-and-death scenarios that occur with troubling frequency – today, 31 Australians will be given the devastating news that they have one of the above three blood disorders – shaving my head to raise awareness and money for the cause always seemed a very pedestrian decision.

    I’m cancer-free and perfectly healthy – touch wood, I’ll remain that way forevermore – yet the concept of losing my ridiculous hair suddenly became an asset for leukaemia sufferers and their families to benefit from. Most of the people in my life at the moment have only ever known me with dreadlocks: I moved to Brisbane to study in 2006, after graduating from Bundaberg State High School the year before.

    I knew that going from full-head-of-hair to bare would spur the people around me to donate. I set my fundraising goal at $1,000. This seemed a reasonable amount. Thanks to the generosity of my friends and family, I reached this goal three weeks after starting the campaign. At the time of writing, the total climbs toward $1,500, which is astonishing to me.

    The shave itself took place earlier this week at a Price Attack salon in Indooroopilly. Leukaemia Foundation’s Beverley Mirolo was there to make the first cut, followed by a few of my friends. My girlfriend was particularly happy to shave off my sideburns, which had grown unruly after months of neglect. I watched in the mirror as a new me emerged. Suddenly, I looked vastly younger than my 24 years. Vastly different, too, though not as alien-like as I’d expected.

    I love how hair can become a social object; a topic of conversation, a reason to interact with another human. Those with dreadlocks know this better than most. It’d surprise you just how many people are curious enough to stop us in the street and ask to touch our hair. (Just as common: “is that your real hair?”)

    This is what I’ll miss most about my dreadlocks: looking slightly different from other folks, and watching them adjust their interactions to suit their idea of what my hairstyle represents. But for now, I’m embracing the baldness: tomorrow, I’m taking it a few millimetres further and getting my first ever ‘open blade’ shave, which will reduce my head hair down to nothingness. Wish me luck.

    Andrew McMillen is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @NiteShok. You can donate to his World’s Greatest Shave fundraising here.

    Above photos taken by Scott Beveridge. More photos from the shave can be found by viewing the story on Brisbane Times here.

    My friend Mark Lobo took some before-and-after photos, too.

  • The Vine festival review: ‘Future Music Festival Brisbane’, March 2012

    A festival review for The Vine, co-reviewed with my editor Marcus Teague. Excerpt below.

    Future Music Festival
    Doomben Racecourse, Brisbane
    Saturday 3 March 2012

    By Marcus Teague and Andrew McMillen

    MT: Being based in Melbourne, I hadn’t been to a festival in Brisbane before today. I have sat outside Ric’s Cafe in the human drain Valley at 5am many times however, marvelling at the annihilated car-wash-of-the-mind humans of all stripes can put themselves through. “A dance festival in Brisbane’s different mate,” said a friend. “You’ll see.”

    I did. The first hint comes when I’m in a cab on the way to the grounds at 12:30pm, and witness a couple of clearly munted guys hanging off each other while stumbling down the footpath; one of whom is covered in grass as if having earlier fallen over in the light drizzle. “Must be coming home from the night before,” I thought. Twenty metres on there’s a girl passed out in the gutter, head on her hands, pool of vomit between her feet. A friend is pushing a water bottle to her lips while a flock of five stand nearby on their phones. The scene continues, as if I’m being towed past some complex diorama of dilapidated 21st Century Youth Culture: masses of screeching girls with (what seemsurely like) fake boobs; everyone with tatts akimbo; all swinging empty bottles of booze and energy drinks. The deeply oxymoronic scene of hugely-buff, chest-waxed angry bros—wearing nothing but tiny shorts—yelling out “FAGGOT” at kids running past is mind-bending. Closer to the gate, a range of people pose outside stretch hummers. It’s completely awesome — “awe” having once been common shorthand for “an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful.” 

    AM: What does the name of this festival mean? The other major Australian festivals are easy enough to grasp: Big Day Out is true-to-name, Laneway originally took place in a series of side-alleys, Splendour In The Grass is named after a film and er, largely takes place on grass (?). Soundwave, admittedly, is a strange one. But this? If the line-up comprised entirely of acts from the future, people wouldn’t be paying $170 at the gate for the pleasure of witnessing acts they’d never heard before. ($210 each for VIP.) Considering one of the headliners is a band formed in 1980, an argument could be made for Past Music Festival. Anyway, nitpicking. A disclaimer worth noting at the outset: this review was written by two sober guys. So why am I here? To see a handful of live performances and otherwise amuse myself among the teeming hordes.

    The first thing I notice upon arriving is that complete lack of sniffer dogs. I accidentally walk past the VIP entry down toward the general admission gates and don’t see any there, either. Perhaps they’re just inside the festival: if so, smart call. But considering that this has the reputation of being the druggiest festival on the annual calendar, I expected a strong presence from our canine friends. This is the first time I’ve been to Future. As I walk inside, I’m reminded that every other day of the year this ground hosts horses and gamblers, not tens of thousands of dance fans and half a dozen stages wielding enormous speaker stacks. Organisers have constructed bridges across the horse-racing track so that the turf remains unabused by human feet. Nice touch.

    MT: I arrive just inside the festival grounds as rain begins sweeping across the land in great bursts. It’s not cold: I’m in a tee shirt and—unlike 99% of punters—jeans; a dress code that’s akin to walking around as Santa Claus in a nudist colony. But it’s still wet enough to stay seated in the great grandstand, comfortably undercover. From there I watch the lower concourse, seeing five muscly guys rip each other’s singlets off, people dancing in the rain while others run for ponchos, and a girl trying to artfully paste her wet hair across the sides of her exposed boobs. A sign in the distance reads “brisbane – australia’s new world city” — the lack of capitals as deeply unnerving as its implication. The EARSTORM stage is quiet. A bird flies past and it’s momentarily stirring to think of nature.

    AM: Future has an interesting stage configuration, in that the four main stages are arranged almost in staggered rows—like consecutive aeroplane seats, say—spread across a couple of hundred metres. None of the stages face each other, though, so there is no sound bleed (but for one memorable occurrence late in the day). Dubbed the Flamingo and Las Venus, both main stages have adjacent VIP areas, meaning I’m up in the bleachers for Gym Class Heroes, who exist somewhere between hip-hop and pop — they boast a capable MC in Travie McCoy and a load of pop-hook choruses. Their on-stage banner shows four guys, yet there’s six here today, including one guy with blue hair who sometimes does back-up vocals but mostly waves a GCH flag, shakes a tambourine, and jumps into the crowd. McCoy pauses for a moment to encourage the huge crowd to hug the stranger to their right, then to their left. Not something you’d see at most hip-hop shows. The crowd particularly enjoys ‘Cupid’s Chokehold’ and ‘Billionaire’. A strange band, but thanks to their confident genre-hopping, easy to see their appeal. They end the set by encouraging the crowd to hold ‘love hearts’ in the air. Most do.

    Immediately afterwards, there’s a mass exodus toward the Las Venus stage. I had planned to stick around here for The Naked & Famous but since they’re running 10 minutes late—allowing for a 15 minute changeover between bands was never, ever going to work—I abandon the unmoving crowd stuck before DJ Ruby Rose and head to Las Venus for Skrillex.

    For the full review and many more photos, visit The Vine. Above photo credits: Justin Edwards.

  • The Vine festival review: ‘Soundwave Festival Brisbane’, March 2012

    A festival review for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    Soundwave Festival
    RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane
    Saturday 25 February 2012

    After taking in last year’s festival, I wrote “The only question for Soundwave is: where to from here? Where do you go once you’ve booked [headliner] Iron Maiden? Metallica? AC/DC?”

    Their answer was evidently ‘none of the above’. But the headliner is many hours away as we file into the Showgrounds just before the clocks strike 11am. The days preceding have seen heavy rain pelt Brisbane for extended periods, so it’s admirable that organisers have managed to greet us upon arrival with what appears to be a smoothly running festival. Ground staff are relying heavily on plastic matting to cover up the muddiest spots, and for the time being, the entire venue is easy to navigate with regular footwear while staying dry.

    The sun shines overhead as I take up position before the metal stages, 4a and 4b, in anticipation of Finnish metal act Turisas. It seems they’re late; stagehands continue soundchecking, until twenty past, when they instead hoist the next band’s banner, The Black Dahlia Murder. Hundreds of disappointed people file out; nothing has been communicated to the audience as far as I can tell. (I later learn from a friend that they were moved to a midday slot at another stage.) A rare organisational hiccup, and not a good start to the day.

    The sky breaks for the first time at 11.48am. I’m standing under a tree watching Chimaira, who sound OK. A little keyboard-heavy, which is odd for a metal band. Lots of blast beats and breakdown. There’s a heart-warming singalong to ‘Pure Hatred’ – namely, the chorus of “I hate everyone!” – while I apply my poncho for the first of many times today. The tent before stage 3 sees a sharp increase in visitors seeking shelter. Zebrahead are playing. Eh, pop-punk. The merch tent between the stages features the most impressive wall of shirts I’ve ever seen.

    Out in the main arena, Stage 1 bears a banner that reads Pinkerton. Underneath, a band is playing Weezer’s ‘El Scorcho’. Turns out it’s Saves The Day halfway through playing that album in full. It’s weird, but their version is competent enough and I guess it’s much cheaper than booking Weezer. At stage 6a, CKY draw a couple thousand people before the rain returns at 12.50pm, scattering the casual observers and encouraging the dedicated throng up front to thrash harder. From a distance, it looks and sounds like they’ve got a different singer – his voice seems way off Deron Miller’s on-record delivery – but research afterwards suggests that Miller’s still in place. Just having a bad day, then. Their set is enjoyable enough, but most (all?) of these songs are 10+ years old. I referred to them as “a band seemingly near the end of their tether” in a review of their August 2010 tour, and I feel the same way today. Telling that the quartet don’t even bother with more recent or unreleased material; just the hits, thanks.

    “So many good bands today, oh my god. Cannot believe that!” says the singer of French metal band Gojira from stage 4b. He’s right. It helps that his band kick arse. They’re one of the heaviest acts on the line-up, and one of the most anticipated by the metalheads: this is their first-ever Australian show, and they’ve drawn a big crowd to take in their seriously impressive and brutal sound. Sample song intro: “This song is about whales that fly… into outer space!” *crowd roars, horns raised* Apparently they only play for 20 minutes – four songs’ worth – which is disappointing, but in that short time they stand out as one of the day’s best acts. Friends have been recommending them to me for years, but today is my first exposure to Gojira. I’ll definitely be returning.

    For the full review and many more photos, visit The Vine. Slipknot photo credit above: Justin Edwards. iPhone photo credit: Andrew McMillen.

  • The Vine story: The Flaming Lips ‘Zaireeka’ iPhone experiment at 4ZZZ Brisbane, November 2011

    A live review-of-sorts for The Vine. Excerpt below.

    The Flaming Lips – Zaireeka iPhone Experiment
    4ZZZ Studios, Brisbane
    Sunday November 20 2011

    “There’s a lot of things where, when you think about them, you think they could work. But it’s different when you do them.” Wayne Coyne, singer and songwriter of The Flaming Lips, is sitting before a microphone at Brisbane community radio station 4ZZZ. It’s 12.50am. Four hours earlier, Coyne and his band headlined the Windmill Stage at Harvest Festival. Now, at Triple Zed, he’s here to lead something that’s never been done before: an attempt to simultaneously play all four albums of the Lips’ 1997 album, Zaireeka, live on the radio, in sync, via 160 iPhones split into four groups of 40 fans.

    “It’s tough to get this many people together, and to be doing it live on the air, and not knowing whether it’s going to work,” Coyne says. “But you seem to be open to the idea of experimentation, and I think your audience will be forgiving enough if it’s not perfect. Everybody out here is having a good time, so that seems to count for something.” He’s right. The station’s three floors and car park are buzzing with the excitement of iPhone-wielding fans, harried-looking Zed staff, and plenty of hangers-on who’ve snuck in via the back entrance just to be a part of it all. Judging by the sunburns, most spent their day at Harvest. Many are in altered states.

    The singer is being interviewed on air by Zed presenter Brad Armstrong, who began petitioning his ‘Bring The Lips to Zed’ campaign in late August. Armstrong eventually got through to Coyne’s camp, and the two have been in touch for weeks leading up to his arrival tonight. “In the end, you and me were texting back and forth,” Coyne says to the 23 year-old presenter. “There was a couple of times you were calling, and we were just getting ready to walk on stage. I was like, ‘Hey Brad, I can’t talk to you…’” The pair laugh. Armstrong is nervous; his mind repeatedly blanks during the interview. “But persistence is a good quality, for sure,” the singer smiles. “You seemed like you were interesting to work with. Now I’m at the mercy of your organisational skills.”

    Though Armstrong is clearly enjoying himself in the booth, he’s shot himself in the foot somewhat. He’s the default mastermind of this whole operation. While he eats up airtime, a handful of Zed staff flit between the groups, trying to make sense of it all. Guest ‘conductors’ include Richard Pike from PVT, a dude from The Holidays, and local punk duo DZ Deathrays. None of them have any idea what they’re doing. Someone forgot the seemingly obvious step of supplying radios for the four groups; these are eventually put in place, while Armstrong attempts to lead a test run. In the preceding week, the 160 iPhone holders were instructed to download the Atomic Clock app and transfer one of Zaireeka’s four discs to their phone, plus a test track. Eventually Armstrong communicates that everyone should set the test track as an alarm for 1.32am, and then hold up their phones so that microphones can pick up the sound. Zed staff then run throughout the building, yelling out the same message. Watching all of this unfold is exhausting.

    For the full story, visit The Vine, where you’ll also find a gallery of photos taken by Justin Edwards, including the image used above.

  • Rolling Stone story: ‘Jebediah Return From Hiatus’, February 2011

    A news story for the March 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. Click the below scanned image for a closer look, or read the article text underneath.

    Jebediah Returns From Hiatus

    Much-loved Perth rockers prepare for fully-fledged comeback with fifth LP
    By Andrew McMillen

    Instruments in hand, four Perth musicians glance nervously at the ceiling as debris falls around them. Overhead, a Godzilla-like monster trades blows with Comet Girl, a costumed vigilante who’s fighting a losing battle. All looks lost until another superhero arrives: Jebediah! The two heroes join forces to vanquish their foe.

    Embedded deep in the realms of fantasy – a warehouse in Sydney’s inner suburbs – the real Jebediah, Perth’s celebrated alt-rock outfit, are shooting their first video in more than six years. “She’s Like A Comet” is the second single from the band’s fifth album, Koscuiszko, due in April. Between takes, drummer Brett Mitchell laughs about the “contrived” nature of music videos. Earlier, he was attempting to drum along to the song at a precise speed of 145 per cent in order to capture some slow-motion footage. A few hours into the shoot, as frontman Kevin Mitchell sings into a microphone placed just inches away from a camera, one of the crew expresses his surprise that the singer is so willing to be filmed: he’d heard of Mitchell was camera-shy. “They must have been being sarcastic!” bassist Vanessa Thornton laughs.

    Amid a worldwide climate of once-popular acts reforming for cash, Jebediah – completed by lead guitarist Chris Daymond – are different: they never broke up. Though their last release was 2004’s Braxton Hicks, they’ve played a handful of shows per year, and 2010 was no different: the day after their video shoot, they played to a packed Annandale Hotel, before doing the same at The Zoo in Brisbane. With a seven-year gap between albums, the band is relishing the new material.

    “This one’s easily the most fun I’ve had making a Jebs record since the very first one [1997’s Slightly Odway], and I also think it’s the most playful we’ve been in the studio,” says Kevin Mitchell. “It’s the closest thing to the first album, where we made a record without considering anyone except ourselves.”

    For more Jebediah, visit their website. The music video for ‘She’s Like A Comet‘ is embedded below.