August 11, 2009

Interview with The Stabs drummer, Matt Gleeson

I went over to The Stabs palace with a few long necks and had a chat with Matt under their lemon tree, this is the best of it...

Z- Why does there seem to be so many injuries in The Stabs camp?

M- Maybe we're accident prone. I think obviously the fast that drinking is a large part of music culture, although not so much nowadays. When we started out there was a hell of a lot more abuse of our bodies in that dept. but lately we've become more refined and the injuries as a result have gone down. I hurt my knee this week though. This is something I’ll contest to you Zach that I wouldn't just tell anyone, something exclusive for you and your readers. My knee went really bad the other week, I’ve got as you know kind of bad legs. I was born with bad legs, a condition that makes my legs wonky and unstable and about 2 weeks ago my right knee which is the kick drum knee ballooned up twice the size - I’ve got this mortal fear of hospitals and I went down to the emergency section coz I just couldn't straighten my leg out, I was hobbling around like it was worse than ever. They rushed me straight into day surgery and took a lot of fluid out of it. And I’m looking down at my legs and feet which don't look like a normal human beings legs and feet, thinking how much longer am I going to be able to play drums- this is pretty serious I can't even walk let alone jump on a kick drum. Now we've got this national tour with Deaf Wish coming up and then possibly some overseas action later in the year as well and I got really fearful the injury would do me in as a drummer. But it's something I care enough about to just persist with it regardless.

Z- And what about damaging each other on stage? Like at Summertones where Mark threw his bass at you?

M- Mark threw a bass at me in the head and knocked me out. I don't think he meant to do it- Well I know he didn't mean to do it. Sometimes he's thrown the bass at me at the end of the set and I’ve miracuriously caught it and I think he was going for a repeat performance of that particular stunt where he throws the bass at me and I catch it and continue to play drums and bass at the same time. But at Summertones I didn't see it coming and it got me square in the head and I went straight down.

Z- Yeah I think it scared a few people near the front.

M- Mark felt terrible afterwards- he bought me dinner the next night and was very apologetic- it healed quick though! the thing that actually really bugged me about that worse than the injury was after the bass incident a couple of people did a really good job looking after me in particular the stage manager at Summertones, Natalie whose also responsible for making the Tote documentary brought me and ice pack and was looking after me, keeping an eye on me and some of my friends had had too much to drink and were very surly with her telling her to butt out and mind her own business. So I was more concerned with the way some people reacted to that injury. People in their overzealous concern actually fighting amongst themselves what needed to be done about it and I found it pretty ugly.

Z- So where do you think you get your drumming style from?

M- I think the main influence I’ve had is Brett Ford of Lubricated Goat. I saw them a few times when I was younger and Brett was a tiny guy and he was short with a small build but he played so busy and so hard with such conviction that impressed me. I felt as a result of that the drummer is an enormous asset to the band because Lubricated Goat would go on stage with bands that had a higher profile, sold more records and brought more people along and I thought they wiped them off the stage every night not because they had better songs, not because they had a flashier showman but because the drummer was hard hitting and produced energy coming from a small guy and because I’m kind of frail myself I thought, well I won’t let that stop me from just playing as hard as I can. I would also say Keith Moon because he was also a very flamboyant drummer, he played along with the vocal melody rather than the bass guitar and he rarely did the same thing twice in a bar. When sections of a song were repeated he didn't necessarily repeat the drums first time through. He also sped up and slowed down a lot, and he drank a lot. I feel a bit stupid saying Keith Moon because there's no way on earth that I’d be in the same ball park. None the less he was pretty inspirational.

Z- There’s a split 7” with The Stabs and Lubricated Goat I hear.

M- When we were in New York, we talked to Stu Spasm about this and he was very keen to do a split and we recorded a track for it, we also recorded a Lubricated Goat cover but nothing has happened to those tracks yet. We’re just waiting to hear back from Stu, he sent us demos of about 8 tracks that he
D been working on and they were all fantastic. In particular there was one song that we thought would be great for a 7”and there question remains, will Stu want to use that demo recording, which is largely just him doing all the instruments with a drum machine. I suspect his plan is to get a band together and rehearse the tracks up. So our part of it is done. We hope stu gets his end of the deal soughted out soon.

Z- So what other bands are you guys in at the moment?

M- That’s an interesting question. Brendan plays solo as Brendan Black and sometimes he plays in a band called Archaic Forms. That’s a project of our friend Dimitra who is one of Melbourne’s best musicians. She does a fine line in noise, experimentation and also in Sonic Youth inspired Rock n Roll. The real disappointment is that she’s never released anything. Anyone who’s been to see Dimitra will share my disappointment because she really is a fine talent. Mark playing in the sensational Alex Jarvis Band, Parading and he also has his own solo project called Miniature Submarines. I play in the Assassination Collective, BadCopBadCop, the Gruntled and I guess Bowl Of Dick. But I haven’t done that for about 18 months.

Z- Do you plan on doing Bowl Of Dick again?

M- I’ve broken all the equipment; like Bowl Of Dick was more of an idea than a band it involved 2 massive bass amps. I’ve blown both of them up and it also involved a seemingly endless string of effects pedals and over half of them are broken. So that’s what’s stopping me from doing it. I love to play some shows again though.

Z- So what bands are worth checking out for the uninitiated in Melbourne right now?

M- I’m enjoying the grunge revival; I like Valentine and Mother And Father. I like the kind of return to more traditional pre rock n roll music such as the Graveyard Train. The garage thing I’ve noticed is very close to your heart and I support it support it fully. But I’m yet to discover the killer track amongst the local scene. It’s still too easy for me to compare those bands back to the 13th Floor Elevators, The Seeds and SKY SAXON. I’m still waiting for the Hey Jude of that scene to arrive I guess.

Z- So now that the stabs are getting more popular, how does it feel?

M- It doesn’t feel different; in fact it’s hard to believe the Stabs are that popular. I think we’ve been quite lucky and people have supported us. That’s an interesting question because to us it doesn’t really matter that much what people think of us. When we started the band is wasn’t to be popular. The bands we were taking our cues from were never popular and we realised very early on that there is no real market or general mainstream interest in the style of music that we’re making. If we’re becoming popular I think it might have more to do with the fact that people are finally opening their ears to a style of music that was not given a proper chance the first time around and hopefully we do a good job of carrying the banner.

Z- Do you think it’s maybe also a fact that you’re playing whole sets rather than a few songs with incidents?

M- Yeah I guess, but my main concern is- do the other guys like it? And I’d even say- do we like it as a band? Like we’re friends and it’s a big part of the dynamic and we invest a lot of our emotions a lot of kind of psychological makeup into the band. We’re more interested in playing so that we ourselves feel proud of what we’ve done, that we’re excited by our own music so if other people like it it’s a bonus. But I’m more interested in that what we’re doing excites us but the fact of finishing sets obviously makes a huge difference. We’ve been doing this for a few years now, to start with we were not so much nervous but we were lacking maybe music self esteem and personal esteem and sometimes that affects how we’d perform our music and we were never proud of ourselves when we only got 2-3 songs into a set or when we smashed our gear up or got into a fight onstage. That was always embarrassing. We’re all very relieved now the talk is more about the music than the antics, funny thing though was that as that shift happened a lot of our older fans would get frustrated and try to egg us on to do damage to ourselves onstage and complain that we finished a set rather than disintegrate two or three songs out. As if that was what they like about us all along!

Z- As if the songs didn’t matter...

M- Sometimes it felt like that, and another thing is that like if we smashed the gear up for example it would usually be at the end however long that was of the set. Mainly because we were hating it and because we weren’t hitting our stride as musicians. It was very frustrating to us so we’d smash the gear up so no one could ask us to play anymore and the prospect of an encore would be rendered impossible. We were never happy with that although it was as if to say “There’s no saving this set, let’s go home”. The fact that we stopped doing that is testimony that we actually feel more confident with what we’re doing.