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Angelspit must have been the only group in the world brave enough to have played in Manchester the night its streets erupted into rioting. While a scared nation watched the struggle between police and thieves from the safety of their living, this Australian Industrial/Goth/Punk band roared through a set of discordant classics down in the depths of Club Alter Ego. Originally a duo comprising of ZooG Von Rock (Karl Learmont) on synthesizer and Destroyx (Amelia Tan) on keyboards and vocals, for this tour the band’s music has been beefed up with the addition of guitar maniac Valerie Gentile and Drummer Matt James, and Angelspit have never looked and sounded better.

It’s hard to deny that it feels incredibly strange to be watching the all-out madness that’s called an Angelspit show while not five-hundred yards away, a very real insanity is rapidly is manifesting itself as smashed glass and mindless violence. For the duration of the show we’re actually locked inside the venue which makes it feel like we’re safe in a bunker while all hell rages on the other side of the door. However we interviewed the positive and determined main man ZooG Von Rock before the show to see what’s happening on planet Angelspit   

PHIL: How’s the tour going?

ZOOG: It’s fucking awesome. We’re really happy with what’s going on because it’s the first chance we’ve actually had the chance to play as a four-piece to European audiences. We’ve thrown it at America and they loved it, they lapped it up. We’ve found that the response in Europe, especially England and Ireland, is nuts. The English LOVE to rock! Even when it was two of us beating up synthesizers and computers they really get in to it, though we’ve found that our two gigs so far in Sheffield and London his time have been wild. We’re trying to get back to the ethos where punk really hit electro and the child was called industrial and we’re have old school established punk bands from the eighties and nineties coming up to us and saying “That was awesome!” It’s not about blowing smoke up our arse of anything; it’s about trying to hit that nerve. You remember when you first heard Skinny Puppy or Nine Inch Nails for the first time and you went “I need to destroy some furniture right now!” That’s how we want to make people feel. It might not be appropriate me saying that at this precise time in English politics (laughs), but that’s what we really want to do. We want to tap into that wild freedom that punk is all about and electro was supposed to be. Fucking Industrial needs to re-find it’s… There are no boundaries, there is no genre, this genre’s all about, fuck you, and there it is.

PHIL: Did Angelspit evolve in Australia in isolation or was there an Industrial scene?

ZOOG: There is an Industrial scene in Australia but our main area was… I was listening to Marilyn Manson and Sonic Youth, Prodigy and Skinny Puppy. Amelia was listening to Sonic Youth, Placebo and Smashing Pumpkins. Plus we both listened to whole bunch of other stuff from Led Zeppelin to Van Halen to whatever, so from the beginning Angelspit was about rocking; it was about rock n roll. One of my heroes, Henry Rollins, once said that no one can rock like Australians. So that’s my heritage, that’s where we’re from.

PHIL: Do any of the different scenes in Australia – punk, Industrial etc – tend to bleed into each other?   

ZOOG: Yes! And that’s something that happens a lot in countries that have a small population. Whereas if you’ve got a big population, you can have specifically you’re punk area, specifically your whatever. But when you’ve got a smaller country, all the weird stuff and heavy stuff get gets lumped in together so there’s a lot of bleed through, so the music is richer and I think that’s what music has to be about. That’s one of the really cool things about Australia which I’ve also found in places like Hungry and Poland. Smaller countries have a broader liking of music, although England is a lot larger, if you rock and you’re passionate about it, they say yeah bring it on. It’s something I love about America as well is that they love to rock.

PHIL: Angelspit are an unusual band in that they polarise opinion; people either love you or they hate you…

ZOOG: Yeah I love that.

PHIL: The first group I thought of who stirred the same kind of emotions was Suicide. How do you feel about being in that position?

ZOOG: I love it! There’s an Italian magazine who voted Angelspit the most popular band and the most unpopular band of 2007. We were the first band to ever get the polar opposites and I think that’s the beautiful thing about Angelspit; either you get it or you don’t. We have people who HATE us and even though we’ve taken on a guitarist and drummer and we’re a lot more heavier now, they still hate us. And now they hate the guitarist and drummer (laughs). When I was briefing Matt (James, drums) and Valerie (Gentile, guitar) I said this is what’s going to happen, people will either love you or hate you. But I want people to either love us or hate us when they see us and we’ve succeeded if they feel alive. If I get a review I want the review to go this is fucking awesome or this is fucking shit, I don’t want them to say this is apt or it’s mediocre.

PHIL: What was it that got you hooked on music?

ZOOG: I built go-karts. I was brought up in a small country town and my granddad had a business growing peanuts. He had this factory where they used to design and make things for the business. The factory got passed on to his apprentices and they looked after me like I was their son and I was allowed to go in the factory when I was a young teenager to make go-karts. I think when I was about eight years old I was at my grandma’s place pulling apart a washing machine. It had a huge drum and I rested my ear on it and I dropped a hammer on it, not hard but it hit it, and it was the loudest fucking sound. It went dooooonnng, and because my head was pressed up against it, I think I went deaf for a couple of days. And that’s the moment when I went WOW! Metal sounds cool! Also when I used to build go-karts I used to arc weld and grind while they’d be building these massive machines, and every now and then of these machines would fall over and make this fucking awful cacophony of noise of metal hitting the ground and it would resonate. When I was a kid I worked in my dad’s shop and busted my balls to save up enough money to buy a synthesiser, and when I bought it, all I tried to do was emulate these harsh metal sounds. Y’know back in those days there wasn’t the internet, there was only the radio, and the only band that came close to what I was trying to do was ZZ Top. Then one of my friends stuck a band called Severed Heads in front of my face, along with Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre. And then when I was about nineteen I heard Skinny Puppy and that’s when it all made sense. That’s when I said, “Okay I get it, I get it now. I’m a priest in the dark church of rock”

PHIL: Then you met Amelia?

ZOOG: I was in a whole bunch of bands and I was taking a break, I was actually working managing bands and I wanted to do a zine. Amelia was running a zine distro and I learned all about zines from her. Many of Angelspit’s lyrics are really like beat poetry stuff like Sonic Youth, and the zines were full on beat poetry and stuff like that so we just started putting music under it. And that was Angelspit.

PHIL: You’ve released nine LPs so far, though included in that are four sets of remixes. What appeals to you about remixing your work?               

ZOOG: Remixing in electronics is the closest you can come to working with another artist where you can say “Here’s the basic ideas of a song, what do you think?” And when we send out remixes to artists we’re kind of specific. The latest remix album we’ve done is called ‘Carbon Beauty’ we specifically picked people like 16Volt and Baal and Dope Stars Inc., guys who grew up in the nineties when Industrial had no rules and it wasn’t easy to make Industrial music. You had to spend time sampling, then editing your samples then putting it all together on a crappy Atari. I contacted these guys and I told them okay we’re doing a remix album but I need it to be Industrial rock or I will return it back immediately to you. I need you to go back to nineteen ninety-six where we lost the plot, where ecstasy came into the scene, it’s a fact, and everybody just wanted to dance and everything got all homogenised and crap. So I want you to go back to that point just before it went crap and I want you to drag out your old ESQ-1, your BFX, your E-mu Emax, your S2000 samplers and all your old gear and I want you to go back to that point when you were twenty something. I want you to rediscover the fire and make something new. Or make it old but use what you know now to make it new.” And I said if it viciously tells me to fuck off then yes that’s the anger, that’s the power. It’s about punks making electronic music; that’s industrial. The same with the previous album, there’s a whole bunch of music like drums and bass and dubstep and glitch, and I went after the glitch artists and I said right, I want you to experiment with electronics and technology as much as you can and that was the LP ‘Larva Pupa Tank Coffin’ and that was us experimenting with electronics. In ‘Carbon Beauty’ there are three new tracks trying to push the rock as hard as we can.

Another reason I did that was because back in the nineties if you bought a remix CD, there were new tracks on it that was exclusive B sides and stuff. That culture is lost. Nowadays remix CDs are two songs remixed eight times and they all sound the fucking same. I’m not interested in writing music for DJs, if a DJ is doing his job properly they will mix their material live. I’m more interested in writing songs and remixing songs for kids who are listening, for adults who’re listening on their iPods going to the job that they hate. This is the pinnacle thing about Angelspit, our music is for a generation that’s become corporate slaves, and we fucking are. I’m living in New York City right now and if you have an accident and you ain’t insured, you’re fucked. You’re fucked! If you are drunk at the time of your accident and you are insured, you’re insurance won’t be honoured. If you want to scare someone these days you don’t say “I worship Satan. Fuck Jesus” You say “I’m going to sue you and your insurance won’t get paid out” And I think that is a real statement on our society that the shift has really moved to, what we are calling, the cult of the corporation, which our new album’s all about. It’s called ‘Hello My Name Is’ and I just answered about ten questions...

PHIL: Even though Angelspit embrace technology, on your website you advise people not to spend time on the internet because it causes ‘artistic procrastination’…

ZOOG: Absolutely! That comes from taking five minutes to check your Facebook and it ends up taking two hours. On an average day people check their emails, I believe it’s between a hundred and two hundred times, usually when you’re at work or trying to be creative. The fact is that act of going on line is going to take you half an hour, or two hours, that is e-procrastination or i-procrastinate. What we’re really getting at is, or what I am preaching is, spend a night a week where you have six hours to focus on your art. Turn off your phone, turn off the Wi-Fi, grab your old tape deck and fill a mix tape with whatever music you were listening to at that period of your life when creation had a drive like sex. Find all the magazines from the era when you were so thirsty about your art, for me it was keyboard magazines from the eighties, flip through those magazines and the fire inside you will begin to ignite again. Then spend one night a week for six hours, if it’s your painting or your music or your photography or whatever it is, do it. In a year you will be amazed at the amount of what you can do. You’ve got to remember the trick to moving a mountain is to move one rock at a time, so if you do it every day, at the end of your life you’ll have moved a mountain. 

PHIL: In your lyrics there are quite a few religious references. Do Angelspit believe in God?

ZOOG: I’ll say that I believe that belief in God in important because it teaches you respect about your community and that you are part of something larger. It teaches you that sometimes you are not the most important thing but your community and family are the most important things. Religion is good if it’s done right because it teaches you respect. I’ve got a thing for really bizarre religions; I’ve done the Christianity thing hard core and I’ve dabbled in a whole bunch of other things, everything from, well, darker arts through to belief in alien architecture. I’m here to experience ways to be human and crazy whacky religions are what it’s all about. I have no religion or spirituality set right now but I could have a conversation with someone and say hey I really like that and I’ll take some of that with you. I think Amelia and I have both had a lot of religious experiences between us and you’ve just got to figure it all out for yourself.

Interview by Phil King 09/08/11
Photos by Shay Rowan

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