It’s been just over 25 years since subversive electro collective SNOG first surfaced in Australian live venues and in the time since then, founder member / head SNOG brainstrust David Thrussell basically hasn’t slowed down. In the intervening years alongside SNOG, he’s released a hefty backcatalogue of music under other aliases including Black Lung, Soma, Eden and The Enemy whilst also working with the late, great TISM and scoring the soundtrack to 2002’s acclaimed Australian crime movie ‘The Hard Word’. And that’s not even taking into account running his label The Omni Recording Corporation, which has brought us everything from lost country-noir through to Bruce Haack’s early electronic experiments.
All of the above activities make it particularly impressive that SNOG’s latest album ‘Compliance™‘ offers up the band’s twelveth album to date, a number that many of SNOG’s original contemporaries from the early industrial dance days would envy. On the basis of the twelve tracks collected on ‘Compliance™’, SNOG certainly aren’t planning on slowing down any time soon, and with the forces of corporate dominance and conservatism clenching tighter than ever, they’ve certainly got plenty of targets to aim at. Chris Downton caught up with David Thrussell to find out more about ‘Compliance™.’
CD: Compared to the last couple of SNOG albums, ‘Compliance’ seems to jump around a lot more stylistically. Was this something that you were deliberately trying to do when making this latest album?
DT: You think so? Oh, I was really trying to make it fairly homogenous! What do I know? I do think that all the songs inhabit the same universe – a late-night variety show on an illegal pirate broadcast TV channel (like the pirate channel featured in the film ‘They Live’) that filters through the jamming and mainstream propaganda barrage with a ‘subversive’ but ‘entertaining’ undertone. Or maybe a little like The Howard Beale Show (from ‘Network’), with soothsayers, barkers and electro-carnies (playing different voices/characters).
CD: You’ve said in the past that you don’t want to get into the trap of doing the same album twice. Were there any things that you particularly wanted to do differently or explore when making ‘Compliance’?
DT: In the back of my mind while we recorded Compliance™ was the concept of the ‘Cabaret’, I wanted the album to be something like the soundtrack to a night out at an electronic, slyly subversive, cynical (glib even) cabaret or variety show (with a ‘twist’!). Of course, I love the idea of music that presents itself as ‘Entertainment’ but has a cheeky relevance and commentary. I can even picture songs like ‘The Middle-Class Worms’ being being acted out on a pantomime stage with a bunch of performers (or even kids) all wearing long brown gloves and outfits moving/dancing as worms around the stage: wriggling back and forth as the middle-class types leverage their properties and busy themselves with their politically-correct babble and causes. Good clean fun – in the satirical tradition of Tom Lehrer or Friedrich Hollaender, and many late night coffeehouse/cabaret artistes.
Aside from that, I think the music just sounds like us really – the flaccid scream of an exhausted, distracted humanity channelled through a bunch of broken pedals and unkempt analogue synths.
Richard Grant thinks Compliance™ sounds a little like Ash Wednesday meets Bruce Haack (both artists on The Omni Recording Corporation label). I guess what he is hearing is the slightly more DIY sound of Compliance™. We wanted to do something a little more ‘primitive’ or ‘visceral’ than the last few SNOG albums (which have been quite ‘big’ productions with guest musicians and recordings in big studios etc, etc).
CD: Are there any tracks that you’re particularly happy with / proud of on ‘Compliance’?
DT: I really like songs like ‘Oh. You’re An Atheist?’ and ‘The Middle-Class Worms’. I have no idea if anybody else would though… But to me they are kind of unique right now, I don’t know of anybody else doing anything remotely like that. Kind of ‘jaded musical theatre’ with a beatbox.
I could be wrong of course! I am a bit of a caveman and not at all ‘tuned in’. I also really like ‘Rich Kuntz’ (the theme song for a bunch of football hooligans home-invading the sea-side landed gentry in their beach villa) – in an alternate universe it could have been a Alvin Stardust hit in 1974! And ‘Cheerful Hypocrisy’ has a jovial swing and a blinder of a film clip.
CD: I’m particularly curious to find out more about ‘Oh, So You’re An Atheist?” Is the song about the philosophical viewpoint often being used to justify pillaging natural resources and rapacious capitalism?
DT: I thought it was about just what it says on the tin – atheists. I’m sick of them – unimaginative fundamentalists gathered in a masturbatory materialist cult denying the mysteries of the universe and creation. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t follow a particular creed – but the sheer arrogance of assuming that the universe shares our cold dead hand of materialism really gets on my goat. And of course the cult of blind, religious materialism can only promote rape, plunder and infomercials.
CD: ‘The Vampires of Real Estate’ deals with something that’s just as relevant whether you live in Australia, Europe, the UK or the US. Do you think that this sort of universality is one of the reasons why SNOG’s fanbase in these overseas countries has always been as big as it is here (sometimes bigger)?
DT: It strikes me that our entire economy is a massive pyramid scheme. And one of the most insidious aspects of that pyramid scheme is how the old feed on the young. It is particularly striking in the area of housing – it becomes more and more expensive, unaffordable and usurious all the time – a ravenous beast sucking blood from those that can least afford it, into the hands of ‘cotton tops’ (generally) who do (and generate) nothing, yet sit back and collect the spoils. It is evil really. And it has generated so much stress for so many people. While SNOG lyrics most often start from an Australian perspective (no, really), most of humanity’s concerns seem fairly universal, don’t they? And the Orwellian quicksand we seem to be drowning in appears to have spread evenly across much of the planet.
CD: Speaking of which, are there any countries that particularly dig SNOG? I’m pretty sure I have at least one Russian bootleg CD here at home.
DT: We get mail/messages from all over the place. We recently played at the Wave Gotik Treffen in Germany, which was a lot of fun. The U.S is also a happy-hunting ground. And yes, there are at least a dozen Russian bootleg releases that I’ve been told about.
CD: Compared to your other musical activities, I always thought that SNOG was easily your most song-based band, and I always had the feeling that SNOG songs started with you writing the lyrics and the tune first and building the various electronics / instrumentation around them afterwards. Is this correct – and is this the way that SNOG has always worked?
DT: You’ve pretty much nailed it there. Though 10-20% of the time SNOG songs might start out with the music first. But yes, generally, it is ‘Cousin It’ mumbling some curmudgeonly rant that forms the SNOG song skeleton. And then a flock of talented minions massage the excreta into something vaguely listenable. You can tell, can’t you? Sorry about that…
CD: Is there much crossover between your various different projects, in the sense of, for example, something that starts off as a Black Lung track ending up being used for SNOG? Or do you completely separate them off as entities?
DT: I have three 5-pin din plug sockets just below the hairline at the back of my neck. The one on the left outputs Snog, the one on the right Black Lung. And the plug in the centre is labelled ‘Other’. I generally use the middle plug for conversational or menial verbal tasks.
CD: Do you have any plans at this stage to tour or play live shows for ‘Compliance’?
DT: There’s talk of a large U.S tour April/May 2016. Brace yourselves.
SNOG’s new album Compliance™ is out now on Metropolis Records