by Bret Miller
Sydney, Australia’s All Sparks Burn Out released their beautifully noisy new album Ceremonies For The Lost on Bandcamp Friday August 10, 2018.
All Sparks Burn Out create ethereal, visceral rock’n’roll and also delves into ambient electronic worlds. In the decades past more traditional bands would send off their music to elelctronic and dance music producers for them to remix into something new and often quite different from the original form. Global Communication retranslated Chapterhouse’s Blood Music into Pentamerous Metamorphosis, Aphex Twin, Meat Beat Manifesto’s Jack Dangers and many more have taken songs made with guitars, bass and drums into the digital world, blurring the lines of genre and creating a whole new world of possibilites for music creation and production. Kevin Shields famously spent months tweaking the songs that became Loveless into more than their original parts.
All Sparks Burn out’s main output fits well into the noise/shoegaze/dream pop/post punk sounds and with their new release Ceremonies For The Lost they prove that you can use digital technology and your own imagination to take the basic idea of a band and make it less recognizable yet still thrilling and thought-provoking. The first half is more straightforward Sheogaze with the second half of the release more experimental and ambient soundscapes.
I spoke to Garry “Gaz” Stephenson about what goes into the making of Ceremonies For The Lost and this is what he had to say.
How did ASBO begin?
Like most bands, the humble beginnings of the garage/shed. I was in a SydneyShoegaze band apianLOW (formerly Glare) and we were going to try to do some recording with Anthony The as we really loved his work with Sounds Like Sunsets’ 2005 Invisible album. Unfortunately, it nevereventuated as the boys had been doing it for ten plus years and were after a break.
I kept writing and demoing at home and then sent a bunch to Anthony to see if he would be keen to record them. He was cool with it so I then chased down Simon Cox who drummed forDied Pretty who were one of my faves. I particularly liked Simon’s tribal drumming on their 1998 album Using My Gills as a Roadmap. He liked the demos and then we recorded the first EP in 2009. After we finished, Anthony was keen to join on guitar so that was that.
What bands were you in before?
Anthony was in a cool shoegaze band Ides of Space with his brother David (who also does guitar in our band). They knocked out two excellent albums There Are No New Clouds and Sleeping Fractures. Pat Haid who is the main singer also sings on one of our tracks from our upcoming album. Anthony drums in his current band Skullsquadron and David is the guitarist. Simon has drummed for a number of bands like Died Pretty, Tumbleweed, The Boot and Juice.
I started out with my mate Darren in a local Canberra band Lekker Ding where we did a mix of covers and originals from about 1999-2003. I then joined Sydney band apianLOW from 2005-2007 then started All Sparks Burn Out in 2008.
What is your musical training?
None really. A lot of trial and error! I’ve had a few lessons here and there for bass and drums but mostly learnt from bandmates and stuffing around. It probably shows, Ha! It helped my early learning playing cover songs we really liked (New Order, Elastica, James, Dandy Warhols) as opposed to learning from music books that had riffs by Led Zep and Deep Purple which I wasn’t in to. There was always plenty of music playing in our house/car growing up so that probably has some subconscious effect.
What bands or artists inspired you to make the music that you do?
So many really. For me listening to 70’s RnB & Disco, 80s and 90s pop had an underlying influence (bands like Depeche Mode, Icehouse, Midnight Oil, Hoodoo Gurus, INXS, The KLF and Crowded House) but things really clicked with alternative bands breaking through. All these sub/indie labels popping up and getting bands exposure that normally would have remained hidden to most but a few. Bands from US, UK and Australia and different styles of music.
From about 87/88 had alternative radio stations being available in Canberra. We had a station that started out as a Pirate Radio so you’d be getting stuff from more underground Australia, UK and US bands. Then Triple J was broadcast and started to get an even bigger range of alt music out there. Obviously, Nirvana’s Nevermind had a huge impact on alternative music being played on more mainstream stations and plenty of bands followed. It was exciting in the early 90s. One minute it’d be FNM, Nirvana, The Breeders, King Missile, Ween, Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Clouds, Hummingbirds, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Tool, James then Public Enemy, Severed Heads, The Orb etc. Having that mix of bands seamlessly play along each other had a big influence.
Going to heaps of gigs helped too. You’d be seeing bands you hadn’t heard before but getting that unique connection through sound as well as seeing how some of your faves went about it including the gear they used.
Then up till 1995 started hearing bands like Ammonia, Glide, Big Heavy Stuff, Regurgitator, Leftfield, Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Beck, Whipping Boy and Therapy.
Originally I missed the Shoegaze scene. So discovering bands like My Bloody Valentine, Curve, Swirlies, Swervedriver, Ride and Catherine Wheel to name a few in the late 90’s, it was another mind blower.
The music video was also pretty big for me as most lovers of music would agree. You obviously had the more pop orientated shows but in Australia a late night/early morning program ‘Rage’ was a massive influence where you’d see the latest music from any genre and then they’d also get guests from bands all over the world to program. Trent Reznor and Billy Corgan have done really good ones. Also Recovery was a show where bands played live in the studio which was great, something we need back on our local screens again.
The last 10 years has been delving back into more underground bands dabbling in noise/shoegaze like Ringo Deathstarr, No Joy, Panda Riot, DEAFCULT, Terra Pines, Lowtide, Blush Response, Nothing, Pinkshinyultrablast, Cheatahs, sleepmakeswaves, SPC ECO, Power Pyramid….
Also have been influenced a fair bit by bands like The Go! Team (particularly The Scene Between album), Mew, New Pornographers and Alvvays. Catchy and interesting as hell.
Probably gone close to naming every band that ever lived but essentially most of us love bands like My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, Catherine Wheel, Underground Lovers, Curve, The Cure, Swirlies, Screamfeeder, Nirvana, New Order, Smashing Pumpkins, Amusement Parks On Fire. Mashing of noises like Nine Inch Nails, Jesus Jones and PWEI are great too.
You do the remixes on the singles. What gear is used to create these soundscapes and beats?
Ableton has been so handy for the writing of the album. A lot of the writing happens with it and then we record drums and over dub guitars with Anthony’s Pro Tools set-up. Only a few tracks came from a live room set-up. Then the same with the mixes on the Mac. Love cutting up beats and sounds and looping through various plug-ins (Echo/Reverb) and filters. Great software for doing remix/beats stuff. Still a learning curve but really enjoyable. Find the iZotope, Soundtoys and Audio Thing plugins great to work with.
What does the band music and the dance/electronic side say about your personality?
Product of what I and the boys have been listening to over the last 25 years. I think if I was in a band when I was really young it would have been completely different. I was sometimes like, ok it’s got to sound like this and with real instruments. Now it’s like, whatever sounds good and it doesn’t matter how we get there.
Along with the bands mentioned previously there are always new or current bands tapping into that interest. Like Deadmou5, Felix da Housecat, Presets, Cut Copy, Rex The Dog, the various metal and electronic genres, there is so much out there. Just glad there are platforms that can get music heard that otherwise might never of been.
Will you be releasing original electronic music under a different name?
Quite possibly. Interesting if anyone who listens to our album particularly the second side feels it fits with the main shoegaze part of the band or too different. So for songs/elements that maybe a bridge too far for ASBO might come under a different name. Will keep you posted! Maybe follow what Jacknife Lee did, from rock band Compulsion to Electronic.beats…
Tell us about ASBO’s members: What do they each bring to the band’s sound and how are they to create with, to tour with? What are their quirky, funny, thoughtful attributes? What are their other talents besides music?
They are all amazing musos.
Anthony brings a great set of ears and absolute calmness, never gets fazed. An excellent sound engineer so have learnt a lot from him and he has great ideas and techniques. Guitar, Drums, Keyboard, Bass etc. Likes cooking.
Dave much the same, pretty chilled and whips up some pretty cool guitar sounds on the spot and has a pedalboard to die for (possibly bigger than my car). Love his bass work in some of his old bands as well. Both brothers have music deep in them. They ran their own Rehearsal Studio and have so much gear. Dave also makes a mean watermelon cake and a versatile handyman with the tools.
Simon’s a fantastic drummer who loves a chat and beer. His drumming is a big part of the band, either laying down full tracks or drum parts for loops, has an excellent variety. Also has a big social conscious, loves being across the issues.
What band’s song would you cover and why? How would you put your own stamp on it?
I think there is quite a few we’d love to play live and just flay away but recording we’d maybe do;
He War – Cat Power
You Are Invited – Dismemberment Plan
Blasphemous Rumours – Depeche Mode
The DM track would be our first pick, that’d be cool to cover, try add a bit more wall of sound/layers and beats. We couldn’t beat the original but it’d be fun. I thought Failure did a great version of ‘Enjoy the Silence’.
You’ve been releasing music with ASBO since 2009. What lessons have you learned about yourself, the band and making music?
If you’re independent try and keep the costs down as much as possible. I think at the start you can get a bit over-excited about that whole process. You read about the way your favourite bands do things such as studios and producers and think lets do it. Which is cool, but keep prepping and writing better songs and those opportunities are more likely to work out. Been lucky that we were able to do mini-sessions mostly at Anthony and Dave’s rehearsal studio over our time. It’d be weird if we ever had an outside producer as such as we’ve just gone about it our own way.
Prep is good before the studio, takes the pressure off a bit, then being more relaxed can also bring about some cool unplanned music. Realize what you can fit in during a session too, try not to rush say 7 half good recordings when you could have 4 awesome ones. Some days are better than others. If it’s not working for a track, put it aside and come back later. Go with what you like unless you’re trying to tap into the next zeitgeist.
When will the new album be ready? How will it sound the same or different from previous albums?
Just the final touches of mastering. Hopefully out by August 10. We’ve gone a double album using a variety of different vocalists. We were really lucky to be able to work with the talent we did. Rachel Staggs (Experimental Aircraft/All In The Golden Afternoon), Pat Haid (Ides of Space/ Key Out), Kelly Hanlon (Terra Pines/Deafcult), Jasmine Yee (Halogen), Chris Dubrow (Insurge) and Kate Halcrow. For us recording something that long would have been a stretch for anyone to listen to if it was just myself as I’m not a great singer. The first side is more song oriented and the second is more noise/loops/beats/experimental. The recording has been done over different sessions in different places over 5 years which causes its own variety.
Do you tour? Where has been your best shows, audiences, experiences?
We haven’t yet, see how the album goes and if we get an opportunity, that would be cool. We’re always going to be part time as we’re scattered around the place and have jobs. If/When we do, it’ll be interesting to see how we can get a few of the album tracks working live, we’d expand the line-up to cater for that.
You’re going on a long trip, taking a vacation, have a lot of work to do. What songs would be your soundtrack to hours of activity? Give us five songs or albums that get you moving.
Gaz: I’m cheating and putting in 6;
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
Jesus Jones – Perverse
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
Sounds Like Sunset – Invisible
Failure – Fantastic Planet
Doughboys – Crush
Pixies – Doolittle
Swervedriver – Raise
Ride – Going Blank Again
Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque
The Cure – Disintegration
Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless
The Smiths – The World Won’t Listen
The Cure – Disintegration
Swervedriver – Raise
All Sparks Burn Out:
Anthony The – Guitar
David The – Guitar
Simon Cox – Drums
Garry Stephenson – Bass