Melbourne’s Anto Macaroni has distinguished himself via some very strange musical projects for a very long time. It seems he starts off in a new musical direction every six months or so. It’s difficult to keep up. He has however been a longstanding advocate for one man bands, even whilst performing with others. You may or may not recall Made For Chickens By Robots, his one man band that sounded like early blues being stretched and distended before being thrown off a cliff and hitting every rock on the way down. Or perhaps the infamous Puta Madre Brothers, the Mexi-Motown beast that was a trio of one man bands, each with a bass drum and guitar. They put out two incredible albums Queso Y Cojones and It’s a Long Way to MexiMotown, that both sounded like they were were recorded in a seedy run down shed in Tijuana from three blocks away through giant distorting amplifiers onto someone’ answering machine. More recently he’s formed a four piece splatter spy jazz project The Impossible No Goods and Pork Chop Party, a two piece one man band of mournful outsider country warbling. In fact Pork Chop Party have just released their debut album, Illuminations for Jumpers, Pokers, and Chokers, 10 tracks of shuddering grace and depressive regret that will make your heart bleed and your blood sob. As longtime fans of Anto’s wayward journey, and in particular his unique ability to infuse both humour and a rough hewn soul into his sounds, we asked him to shed some light on the music that has inspired him.
Mosquito – Time Was (Augogo Records)
I don’ remember how I sourced this record but I did buy it from Augogo Records in Little Bourke street. It’s the second album put out by the collaboration of Jad Fair, Steve Shelley, and Tim Foljahn. As a late teenager I bought most my CDs just going on the cover artwork and this was one of them. I’m not an avid amateur music historian beyond blues and jazz so the name Jad Fair meant nothing to me, and it has meant nothing to me until a few years ago when a friend in Germany demanded I listen to Half Japanese and watch the documentary about the band, which is incredible. But this album creeped me out. I was a stoner teenager, I’d just bought a Takamine resonator guitar from the Swop Shop and this album seemed the perfect thing to drop acid to and bend my mind and my way of wrestling the slide guitar and dementing blues music. This record is the reason my longest running band, Wayfaring Strangers, began, so it is a pivotal album for me. It’s one of the few CDs I still have from the 90s, and it still plays perfectly. The album is a fantastically deranged and hypnotic stumble through eerie dreamy lost blues music with fragmented moments of hyperactive schizophrenia. Steve and Tim play mostly restraint guitar and drums dripped in reverb while Jad makes the most bizarre vocal sounds above, over, and under the sparse music. Jad’ vocals on this album are a much more organic and loose counterpart to Mike Pattons practised and precise vocal gymnastics, for a vague point of reference.
Three – The Cold Eyed Pop Gun Slinger (Way Over There Records)
Three was a two piece band originally from Canberra who later relocated to Melbourne. Ben Green (later to be part of High Pass Filter and Civil Civic) on bass and vocals and Ajax Mckerral on the drums. From around 1992-1998 I wrote a music fanzine called Rodent and Rich from Way Over There was one of a handful of indie record label honchos who would generously post me all their releases for review. It was an exciting time to rent a Post Office box. One time Thurston Moore wrote me a letter on a yellow piece of paper and I stained my pants with excitement. Anyway. THREE. I was 17 years old and this album was just so weird. I was listening to all the indie American stuff coming out so was headbanging to Primus already. This was in a similar vein but more stripped back and more mental, more honest, raw, and just much more mental. BJ’ bass sounds like an obese family of wasps having an inbred orgy inside a jam jar, and Ajax’ rhythms were such a headfuck I could only react by tearing curtains and smashing my room to pieces. I probably listened to this album more than 2000 times that year. I had a bass guitar and of course started my own strum-bass band, Critter. There were other similar bands around – Hexfarm, Breatherhole were similar in ways, but THREE was just this wasted mental two-piece band playing rubbery clown music from the heart yet with no interest in taking themselves seriously. Years later I would see BJ in the street in a ghastly tracksuit stacking his skateboard around Fitzroy. I was fortunate enough to interview these guys for my fanzine. They taught me how to play instruments the wrong way and I’ll be forever grateful to them for that. One notable line from a song: â€œSo I might just take out my penis and piss on my shoesâ€
Tom Waits – Franks Wild Years (Island Records)
It feels like a clichÃ©, or an obvious choice, to include a Tom Waits album in this kind of list, but all of his albums are incredible and nearly every second musician on earth has been affected in some special way by a Tom Waits song or album. I was still a teenager, maybe 15 or 16 and my mother briefly had this giant boyfriend, with a grey beard and steel-framed square glasses. He used to laugh a lot and he’d bring records over to our house to party along to. This was one of those albums. After the romance had gone and he stopped visiting, this record was still in the house. I’m not sure what intrigued me to put it on the record player but I did. Another weird experience. It had a big scratch on it and now every time I hear the song Way Down In The Hole I expect this certain moment to jump and loop forever. It was his voice, the instrumentation, the black-ness of his shtick that got me. I remember thinking he was the blackest white man on earth. It was many years later when I re-listened to Tom Waits and quickly became one of those obsessive fans (I still am). He is a sexy bastard and an incredible songwriter. This album doesn’ contain my favourite Waits tracks, but it was my first introduction to him and a special moment. I learnt how to scream.
Professor Longhair – New Orleans Piano (Atlantic records)
My mother always loved music and worked in the industry through some of the 90s. She has a great sad story about when she was a teenager and her mother collected all of her â€œblackâ€ and â€œrock and rollâ€ records and threw them out. So some time in the mid-1980s my mother went out to Readings and got this album. It may have been the same day I sat waiting in the backseat of her car watching a man bludgeon his girlfriend to the ground outside the butcher shop on Lygon street. I was a kid, maybe 10 or 11, when I was introduced to this sexy old pervert from New Orleans. I didn’ understand music at that age, I just knew this made me want to dance and funk around the living room, run up and down the long slippery hallway which spread through the house, dress as an Italian grandmother and boogie in the kitchen. It gave me this ridiculous energy and thrill. Years later the album disappeared and I remember my mother telling me she assumed my brother had stolen it, sold it, bought some weed. Anyway, the music stuck with me. His spaghetti piano playing, the bongo drums, the saxophone sleazing around his salacious words. This is the album I usually put on if I want to feel happy and horny. I guess the influence it’s had on me is that music can be fun, a celebration, a laugh, light-hearted and full of soul and steam. And music should be like that sometimes.
Albert Ayler – Live In Greenwich Village (Impulse)
Around the age of 21 I became obsessed with the free-jazz movement of the 50′ and 60′. I’d bought a double bass and formed a â€œjazzâ€ group who were never accepted into the Melbourne Jazz/Jizz scene. I was living in a one bedroom flat with my girlfriend in Northcote, just as they were turning the tip into the nature reserve. An opera singer lived above us and a peeping tom lived next door and one night we caught him masturbating at our bedroom window. I found this Albert Ayler double album one wet day at Preston JBHIFI. I’d never heard of him, but again, the cover caught my attention, then the liner notes, so I bought it. I remember after the first listen to it I said to my girlfriend something along the lines of â€œthis music is so hardcore it makes me want to commit suicideâ€. This is extreme jazz, extreme church music, mayhem at the altar. The way he plays the saxophone is as if he’ never touched the instrument before and is just trying to sing gospel hymns through it, but he can’ sing in tune, and it sounds like he has parkinsons, and his energy corrupts the rest of the band (Don Ayler, George Steel, Joel Freedman, Michel Samson, Henry Grimes, Lewis Worrel, Beaver harris, Sunny Murray) into behaving like complete musical jerks suffering heart attacks and spiritual awakenings simultaneously. It changed me. It made me scared and made me realise music can be scary and sometimes it should be, that sometimes music should push you into extremely uncomfortable spaces and somehow it’s good for you. I still have this CD but rarely listen to it, it is simply too much to handle most of the time. I will put it on about once every two years, late at night, when I’m obliterated by alcohol and want to take myself on a spiritual acid trip.
Clusone Trio – Love Henry (Rykodisc)
While I was still pretending to be a jazz musician (Ned Collette and I would confide in each other during those days, both being outcasts in the scene) I would hang out at that specialist record store Discurio and sometimes buy an album. This simply stood out on the shelf because it had the same green plastic jewel case as the Morphine albums, put out by Rykodisc. Cello, drums, and saxophone. Ernst Reijseger spends half the time playing the cello like Django Reinhart, on his lap, strumming chords at light-speed, and the other half of the time bowing it- beautifully one moment then choking it to near-death the next. Michael Moore does a similar thing on the sax. He has a gentle beautiful tone and an incredible grasp on the instrument technically, then he will blurt out and burp into it, or sing, scream, or make it sound like a tractor fucking a duck. Han Bennink is the drummer. Some people in the Jazz world don’ like him because he throws cymbals at the audience and sometimes plays a drumkit made from cheese wheels. He uses golf balls as drumsticks and wears a headband like Keith Richards, though Bennink is bald. This album opened my eyes and felt like some kind of link between the Free-Jazz Movement and contemporary jazz, it’s fun and demanding, it’s broken and abstract. The incredible thing about this band is they can spend ten minutes playing out of time with each other, totally falling apart and each lost in their own little junkyard of noise, then suddenly they’ll reunite and tip-toe through some old jazz standard like a bunch of kids pretending they weren’ doing anything wrong when the parents walk into the room. Intuition. It taught me the vital role intuition and conviction plays in being part of a band.
Doo Rag – What We Do (Bloat Records)
I bought this at Polyester records in 1997 because the carboard box it came in looked like an advertisement for a barber shop. Then it kicked me in the guts because it was around the same time i’d bought my resonator guitar. I got home and put it on and I thought â€œhow is this music legal???â€. Dirty and lo-fi and almost unlistenable yet disco as shit and funky as hell. Ever since I’ve always wished it was the only album late night party DJs were allowed to play. This was Bob Log 111′ two-piece junk-blues band before the drummer left and he had to become a one man band. There is a famous story about their only Australian tour where Thermos Malling, the drummer, was arrested when he was going through the dumpster behind the Corner hotel looking for â€œdrumsâ€ to play. Bob sang through some kind of vacuum cleaner microphone thing and Thermos played cardboard boxes and hubcaps. I never saw them live. The album is a long chaotic pornographic trash blues masterpiece which has influenced hundreds of â€œtrashâ€ musicians around the globe. It’s a cult album amongst a small international group of musicians. It’s incredibly hard to find (as Bob once told me most of the copies were stolen from their tour van one night in New York) but it is incredibly fucking fun and demented! It continues to influence my music today and about 6 years ago I put together a band which was pretty much a DooRag cover band. We played a show with Bob Log one night in Daylesford and afterwards he said to me â€œYeah, that was great, I wrote all those songs!â€
Morphine – Cure For Pain (Rykodisc)
This band, and album, kind of embodies much of the influence from other albums listed here – the sex of Tom Waits, the sleaze of Longhair, the jazz of Ayler, and the bass heavy sound of Three. I like to spread this theory/rumour of mine that Mark Sandman was the reincarnation of Elvis, then when he died on stage, the spirit was passed on to Jon Spencer. I was fortunate enough to see Morphine when they played the Prince Of Wales in the late 90s and it was the sexiest show i’ve ever seen, and still to this day the best concert I’ve ever been to. The songwriting by this group is full of ghosts and horror and sex and love and honesty. It’s rock and roll with only two strings, some drums and a saxophone. I remember this album giving me an energetic and powerful feeling of destructive masculine strength and riotous cool. It’s testosterone music yet it exposes the fragility of the masculine mind, the tenderness hiding behind the leather jacket, the broken heart and worried soul of a lost man. It taught me that copulation and masturbation is music. It’s probably the only record I can listen to which has a mandolin on it.
Willie Nelson – The Ghost Part One (Masked Weasel)
I never liked country music until I heard this album even though I’d played in a country(ish) band for many years. I bought this album impulsively one hungover morning at Dixons on Brunswick Street Fitzroy. It has slowed me down. It’s taught me to not race and run and do everything fast, that it’s ok, perhaps even better, to do everything slower. This is a rare Willie album of very early recordings, some of them sound like demos. There’ one great moment on the track You Wouldn’ Cross The Street To Say Goodbye where the master tape must’ve been damaged and all of a sudden everything bends out of tune/time for a moment. A lot of the album is a bit out of tune, the guitar or the piano, which appeals to me. It’s a raw album by a renegade early in his career which I put away on the shelf for many years and only played again last summer, when the weather was dirty hot, it seemed like the right thing to do, to slow down. It’s one of the few albums where I listen to the lyrics before the music, and it made me want to try to write country music, to write lyrics, bare and honest words. So this album has heavily informed my side of the two-piece band Pork Chop Party which I play in.
Beck – Stereopathetic Soulmanure (Flipside Records)
This wasn’ the first Beck album I bought but I picked this up at the Virgin megastore in Bourke street 300 years ago or whenever that was there. Something strange happened to this guy when he joined that cult, to my ears, it changed his voice, he found god I guess, so his voice became more angelic and boring. I remember listening to this at the shop on one of the â€œlistening stationsâ€ and I was convinced the player was busted. It starts off with this fantastic dirty blues-punk thing and quickly explodes into a wacked out spastic childrens collage. This album is covered in Clag. I thought â€œhow can somebody put out an album of such random chaos interspersed with hi-fidelity country bluegrass then punctured by fuzzy noisy scratchy parodies of their contemporaries??â€. It’s all a joke, with some incredibly good song writing and some wickedly hilarious editing. It’s a very schizophrenic album and inspired me to pull out my tascam 4-track and spew on the tape heads. It was better than Ween because Ween was too polished and refined for me (excluding their God Satan album). But he just does whatever the fuck he wants and some poor record label guy released it (and now probably lives in Florida). It’s a mess which resonates with me. It’s absurd and frantic and impulsive, it’s thrown down and spewed out without the overly-conscious production concerns which ruin far too many records. I’m a big fan of recording a song with whatever equipment you have immediately available, laying it down as quick as possible, while the spirit is alive in it, and throwing it out into the atmosphere to be consumed or lost forever. There’ too much music in the world, it’s all relevant in one way or another, but it doesn’ really matter if it sinks or swims.
More information about Anto’s exploits can be found at the Whitebread Mexican Productions Facebook Page.