Byron Guitar Festival
Byron Brewery | 12–13 October | $50 daily or $90 for two days
Frenzal Rhomb are an Aussie punk band that formed back in 1992. They’ve had three albums in the top 20 on the ARIA Albums Chart, they’re guitar legends, and they’re bringing the loud vibrating twang to The Byron Guitar Festival. The Echo spoke with Lindsay McDougall, aka The Doctor, from the Triple J days.
You guys formed in the early 90s – 1992 in Sydney. Must have been good times. I bet that seems like a million years ago now, what was the Sydney Live Music scene like in those days?
It was a glorious utopia, where everyone was bathing in cash from all the CD and record sales, and audiences watched the band onstage instead of on their phones. Actually that’s not true. We still had no money, I used to buy a large hot chips and share them with our drummer for lunch and dinner. And people may not have been looking at their phones, but they would pick up magazines, street press (remember those?), beer labels, anything, so they didn’t have to look at us.
Where / what venues were you guys playing and what other bands were part of the scene back then?
Around Byron we used to play the Northern, which was Great back then, and the Epicentre. Remember that? At Belongil. I think it used to be a whale meat processing place before it became a venue. It definitely smelled like that, although it was the 90s, so it could have been us. We also used to play Splendour In The Grass, back before they got scared of distortion pedals.
In your early days you were banned from some venues? What triggered that?
Violence, usually. Although not on our part. We got run out of Margaret River in WA once, after the security guards at the Settlers Tavern started bashing our audience, and when we tried to stop them, they called their mates the cops. Next time we tried to play there they said we ‘didn’t represent the family values important to the club’, which I guess was cops and their bouncer brothers beating people up.
You guys have toured with some big names, The Offspring, Bad Religion, NOFX and Blink-182, what was that like? Was it the dream-come-true that everyone thinks it is, or more of a hidden nightmare that only touring bands can relate to?
It was all amazing and everyone involved in the music industry is lovely and kind and definitely not leery alcoholics or creepy businessmen at all.
You also toured quite a lot overseas, in the US, UK, Canada, Japan, South Africa, and other countries. How was that? What were some of the highlights of touring internationally?
We once went on an ‘international hotspots tour’, playing shows in Israel, South Africa and a Taiwanese Freedom festival. In Taiwan the promoter tried to wipe his bum with the Chinese flag just before we went on stage, and now we’re on a Chinese government list of banned artists. But we got off lucky, at least our bodies weren’t harvested in secret underground hospitals, for instance. Also, Jason, our singer won 40,000 Australian dollars in South Africa playing blackjack, and our drummer hid laxatives in my burrito. So, swings and roundabouts.
The 90s music scene must be a distant dream now and there is a lot of media about the issues for artists with the music streaming platforms taking over. What are your thoughts, do you think there is some way for artists to regain some control / influence over their music?
Just keep playing gigs. People have always nicked music and wanted stuff for free, it’s just easier these days. But as long as you keep playing gigs, you’ll always find people who are actually into music and supporting musicians. And you’ll have a better chance of sneaking laxatives into your guitarist’s burrito.
You’re heading up to The Byron Guitar Festival 12–13 October – what can your fans up here expect from your appearance?
Riffs, licks and shreds. We’re very humbled that someone has finally realised the guitar wizardry of Frenzal Rhomb’s music, or just had the email address of our manager and was out of ideas. But we’re very excited to play long extended solos in the middle of our 90-second songs, and hopefully get actual good guitarists, like Nathan Cavaleri and Murray from The Soul Movers up, to cover up my bad playing.
What else is on the cards for Frenzl Rhomb in 2019 and 2020, any big plans you want to tell the people here in Byron about?
We are currently writing new songs, with even more extreme guitar histrionics, and we are gonna keep playing shows, and releasing albums, until I finally get invited to be part of G3 with Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.
Frenzal Rhomb – still funny as fuck. They headline the Byron Guitar Festival 12–13 October at the Byron Brewery. Tix $50 per day, or $90 for both, at byronbayguitarfestival.com