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INTERVIEW SEVERED HEADS (AU)(English)
We spoke with masterbrain Tom Ellard
01/11/2005
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One of the most anticipated bands on our 4th BIMFEST is of course Severed Heads, which is hosting us with their first European gig in 20 years. Few have seen them play live so don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Severed Heads is without doubt a must see.
Naturally an interview with Tom Ellard, the mastermind behind Severed Heads, is always something to remember by.
So here it is, straight from down under......

Finally, Severed Heads will perform again in Europe for this exclusive concert after all those years. Didn't you perform anymore and why has it taken so long?

Tom Ellard: We perform often in Australia - mostly odd and perverse 'art' shows. But to travel from Australia to the north is a long way, costs money and can lead to disaster. We turn down many offers that aren't well planned (Most aren't!). Also, live performance seems pointless after the 200th time. Perhaps there are new ideas that are more exciting. This show is curious because it's expected that we play music from 20 years ago. I thought that was funny - and a challenge.

I think it's correct to state that you were pioneers in electronic music and influenced a lot of bands later on. Australia had that time also a very distinct electronic industrial scene, I think of bands like SPK, Hiroshima Chair,...
How was that?


T.E.: Being at such a distance from the events in the northern hemisphere, we had our own scene and our own sounds. Not to say that Australia was not influenced by Europe and America. But that was filtered through records and magazines and so we had to make our own culture. Eventually all of us had to try our luck outside Australia, taking with us that culture. To the outside world it must have seemed like a distorted mirror.
Everybody influences everybody else - it is a flow that starts nowhere and belongs to no one. Some people claim to have created a sound but they have simply forgotten what they have heard. We don't claim too much.

Severed heads has evolved a lot during the years...

T.E.: Well no, this is a fiction. Severed Heads always made pop music, in fact we declared our position to be 'cheesecake' as early as 1982 - and I have tried to point that out with a new release Millennium Cheesecake. We have made records and others have reviewed them and declared them to be this or that. In every case it's been whatever kind of party music we needed at that time. We record for our own needs.
Of course it's tempting to play with audience expectations. In fact the band name was simply a joke that went too far. Other times we've told people that we were 'Chinese fungal disco', 'home knitted industrial' and 'glitch baroque'. Really, it's a game. Why be too serious?

Also the line-up has changed during the years. What does it look like now?

T.E.: The line up is a constant flow. Right now we include a film director, a programmer and a historian. They will be members until they forget. My problem is I can't forget. Once a bunch of Americans decided to throw me out of the band and be the members, but then they got bored and gave it back. For this show I will be working with Alison Cole but she has her own music career. Maybe we will add a few members at a local drinking spot.

Nowadays SH has its private label: Sevcom, where apart from the new releases (like the OP series) also the back catalogue was re-released. It’s more a DIY approach as Sevcom has no serious distribution globally (apart from the internet). Why did you choose for this approach?

T.E.: Because it was the way I did it before all the mainstream labels and I enjoyed it more back then. So when the labels decided to dump electronic music and try sell female folk yodelling I thought maybe there was some fun elsewhere. From time to time a label will ask if they can sell our records and we go with them if they are interesting. For example, LTM is interesting, they sell cool shit. So we go with them. And I am happy to have music on some funny American labels. But most of them are just accountants and if it is a job then I want a wage!


The latest re-release (at last) was the Clean LP. In my opinion one of
The best SH releases but due to the fact that it has been sold out and a collector’s item for decades it has taken a long time to re-release it. Did you get that many inquiries about this particular album?


T.E.: No, a few people kept moaning about it so I made it available. A big chunk of it is missing and it’s crap. But now I can say all of the music is available and so no need to steal it.

One of your latest releases was the soundtrack of 'The Illustrated Family Doctor', a beautiful journey into electronic space and yet a new side of SH… How did this come about and is it a taste for more?

T.E.: I was very lucky to get the soundtrack work, the director Kriv Stenders wanted a kind of forlorn electronic music that I was already recording at the time. So we had much artistic direction in common for this project. But there are few movies that would risk this kind of sound and I don't see that I will be that lucky in future. Someone like Graeme Revell has worked very hard to enter the film industry - he has ambition and drive that I don't seem to share. But now I can't tell his film music from another musician.
Of course we make our own videos...


How did it feel to get an ARIA award (the Australian Grammy) for this soundtrack?

T.E.: That was very strange. I had completely left the Australian recording industry ... and then I get an Australian Recording Industry award. It was almost a challenge - it says no matter how far you may stray from us - we will keep judging you. And no matter how at odds you are with the mainstream, the mainstream is still the centre of gravity. It is actually a very very odd thing to happen, it's shocking. I think that there are some people in the industry of my age that are getting some power :-)


Tom Ellard has already done so much with electronic music...What's next?

T.E.: It's not right to do the same thing forever, and I refuse to keep laying albums like an old hen. It is time for me to teach others - I am teaching music wherever I can find work. Some students might even listen to me!

At this moment musically it's back to the eighties with a lot of gigs of groups like...

T.E.: Likewise The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, The Gang of Four... it is tempting to say that music is a matter of nostalgia. It is tied into your teenage years and so you will always treasure it as a memory. But we have always dumped the past (as early as 'Clifford Darling Please Don't Live In The Past') because it will deceive you - a false memory that will stop you from enjoying what is here and now. Like Charles Dickens' character Miss Havisham, still agonising over a missed wedding. Some of the people I like to listen to are young and they despise old farts like me :-) I like really old people too. Frank Sinatra is still cool.

Bimfest wants to do this also with at least one legendary act from the
past, apart from that it's focussing on Belgian groups.
Do you know some other bands from the Bimfest line-up or maybe some which you are eager to see?


T.E.: The whole festival will be quite an experience. I look forward to the whole atmosphere. I am vaguely familiar with the names of the acts - but of course I know them perhaps as well as you would know the names of Australian acts
:-)
Even the air will be interesting.


The rumour is spreading in Europe and already a lot people will come to
Belgium to see Severed Heads. What can they expect on December 17th.?


T.E.: Well, we are trying very hard to make the old songs. Sometimes it's working and other times it's not possible. But we are putting much care into this - into the sounds and video and all the little melodies. So you will see we are striving to make a good time for everybody. And we'll slip a few new things in there just to show that the new stuff is fun too.
Just don't expect much jumping around. I'm trying to play the piano.

We can hardly wait!
MB

http://www.sevcom.com

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