This interview was originally published in Slime ‘zine (in French), so here’s a chance for all of you English readers to get intoduced to Damo’s world: Long Gone Loser ‘zine/podcast, his band MUSCLE CAR, his record collection/addiction, etc. Damo has got a lot to say and we won’t complain about it!
So, how did you first get in touch with rock music?
I was kind of lucky, I guess, both my mum and dad were into rock music so it was always around me as I grew up. My mum loves the Beatles, my dad loves The Rolling Stones. So as I grew up, I heard all those songs over and over, along with the likes of AC/DC, Bob Seger, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen, etc. and I just grew an appreciation for it and at the time, I didn’t know of any alternatives until I got a little older and discovered things like hard rock, punk and metal.
You’ve run Long Gone Loser, one of the only rock’n’roll ‘zine in Australia. When did you start it? How did that happen? How come there’s not more of them in Australia?
I started Long Gone Loser in 1998. Me and my girlfriend at the time did a zine for a few years called Purple Monkey Dishwasher. It was a “controversial” zine that seemed to be super popular. I dunno why or how but we started the zine as a joke and then it got so popular that the joke kind of got old and we got bored with it. She started writing more erotic stuff and started her own erotic zine and I started my own rock zine cos I was sad that zines I loved, like Moshable, were coming to an end. That zine inspired me completely to start LGL.
I have always loved the whole zine deal. The fact you can write something and someone out there will pay you money to read it, that rules so much. Like people don’t understand the excitement of people buying your art until it’s happening to them. You see, when we started Purple Monkey Dishwasher, we were giving them away cos we had access to a free photocopier. And then one day the owner of this bookstore told me we should start selling them because he thought our writing had value and people should pay to read our stuff. I didn’t know what to say to that so we just agreed and we still managed to shift hundreds of copies. So when I started LGL, I immediately started with 200 copies and sold ‘em for $1 a piece. I was blown away when people were buying them. As time has gone on, the zine has gotten much better looking and a lot bigger and sadly, more and more unpopular due to the fact that zines don’t sell like they used to in Australia which is probably why there aren’t so many zines here. It’s sad to see. I love zines. But if no one’s buying them, you are only wasting money by producing them.
What are the positive and negative things in running a ‘zine? Do you think that people really stopped reading them?
People definitely stopped reading zines. The whole culture has changed. And this is probably not everyone’s view but this is the way I see it: When we were growing up, things were different. And I don’t mean to sound like some whining old guy but there is truth to this. We did grow up in different times. For example, when I started reading zines, there was no internet that I knew of. We did Purple Monkey Dishwasher on an electric typewriter and my zine before Purple Monkey, my mum would print it up at her work photocopier sneakily on her dinner breaks. True story.
Things are different now. The whole culture that kids grow up with now is they don’t even have to go to a record store to buy music anymore… and where did you usually find zines? On the floors, in the record stores (that rhymed… fancy that?). So I do think the majority of people stopped reading them. Maybe it will come full circle and people will get into them again and say FUCK THE KINDLE! I hope so. I am a little scared of what is becoming of the things I grew up with. Technology is good because it allows me to meet people like yourself but it’s also really dangerous and scary too. Sometimes I still think about the way things were and get really broken down about it because I am still a punk at heart and remember how life was for me growing up. Now, everything is convenient and too easy. Why read a zine when you can read someone’s Myspace bulletin or Facebook notes? Why read a zine when you can read your favourite forum or website? Granted, I am guilty of those things but I am still an active believer in the zine and still buy them because I love independent thought. I wish more people did.
I also think people don’t realise the sense of community that is missed out on by NOT being a part of the zine community. For example, the amount of people I have met through doing LGL has been incredible. I have been lucky enough to have travelled the world through the connections made from my magazine. Sitting up for hours in people’s houses hearing their stories about things, all because they bought my zine, liked it and felt inclined to write to me. And that’s another thing, I always loved it when people who had the energy to put pen to paper wrote to me about the zine. I feel that whole community spirit is missing from today. Now, most people who email me about LGL are usually just writing negative shit or slagging me off or saying the zine is pornographic, or whatever. It doesn’t cost anything to be anonymous and negative via email but it costs the price of a stamp and your time to write someone and say something so I was always thrilled by letters from readers.
You met a lot of musicians through the ‘zine. Tell us who are the ones who left a big impression on you. Any disappointment? Some say “we should never meet our idols”…
Well, I have had the chance to meet a lot of “famous” people who I flat out refused to talk to purely because I don’t want to come across like a fanboy. If I have something to talk to them about that may be of interest to them, I would make an effort otherwise I don’t care. For example, I met Perry Farrell by accident and had nothing to say to him except hello. But I met Zach from Rage Against The Machine and we had an awesome chat about straight-edge hardcore cos I am a huge fan of his pre-Rage band, Insideout. I got him to sign the CD and he was stoked cos he had never signed one of those before. He took the time out to chat to me because he could tell I was a genuine dude (even though I’m not a RATM fan).
I also met Jack and Meg White. Both of them were lovely to me. But the thing that made this meeting special was I was backstage at the Big Day Out festival here in Australia and I had some zines with me. I spoke to Meg a little about Detroit rock n roll cos we have a mutual friend. She was stoked that I knew a fair bit about Detroit music and so was happy to talk to me. I didn’t meet Jack until the next morning when I went to the Hilton Hotel to give my mate his Access All Areas pass and Meg pointed me out to Jack and said “that’s the guy who wrote the zine”. Jack then called me over. He then offered his thoughts on LGL and he really liked it. I was happy that he read it. He didn’t have to say anything but he chose to and that meant a lot.
There’s been a lot of people who “GET” what LGL is about. Kim Shattuck from The Muffs gave me an awesome interview as did Eric from the New Bomb Turks. Scott from Fu Manchu, Izzy Stradlin, The Hellacopters, The Datsuns, Manda & The Marbles, Airbourne, Magic Dirt, Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr), Lunachicks, Eric Adams from Manowar, etc. all of those people gave great interviews. Henry Rollins was super nice, Chris from Dashboard Confessional was cool, The Dead Kings were super informative, and even the pornstars like Mary Carey and Asia Carrera. Both were super sweet and co-operative. I’d probably put my best experience to my dinner with Mark Arm from Mudhoney. We ate pasta at this place in Adelaide when he was touring with the MC5 / DTK tour. I just put the tape recorder on the table and we started talking about anything and everything. It was really professional. He’s a great guy; very down to earth and genuine.
It would be unprofessional of me to say who was a terrible interview so I’ll make sure I say that the bassist from The Get-Up Kids. He had no sense of humour and the interview sucked so bad I didn’t even run it. The Von Bondies also gave a shit interview and ignored the question about the fight between the singer and Jack White so I ran a huge reproduction of that photo of the dude’s face all punched and bruised up after Jack White pummeled him.
Long Gone Loser is also a podcast now. Can you tell us a bit about it?
I started the Podcast in 2007. I was living in Adelaide, bored, and the magazine was taking forever. I was having trouble scoring interviews and I was battling a severe bout of depression. I hated my job, my girlfriend was cheating on me, things were just shit and I was looking for things to do to take my mind off it all. So a couple people started suggesting that I should do it because of all the stuff I get sent to review. I had never thought about it and had no idea what I was gonna talk about or do but for some reason, it’s worked for me as I can get the music to people a lot quicker rather than they wait several months for a zine. Plus, it’s global which means some kid in Bangladesh can hear music that he probably has no access too. A lot of stuff I play is Australian and as we all know, Aussie music has been ignored for a long time by so many people. There is music outside of AC/DC, Radio Birdman, The Saints and Airbourne… but it seems so many people don’t know this. Or have conveniently forgotten.
If you tune in to the Long Gone Loser Rock Show, you’ll hear me rant on about whatever is happening in music I like or about crap in my life, thoughts n stuff and all mixed in with some of the best music you will ever hear. Cos, like, I only play good shit. I also feature interviews I do which is cool. So if you wanna actually hear these interviews and listen to artists talk about their stuff, you can hear it on the podcast instead of reading something. Podcasts are a great way to discover new music. I have bought so many albums by bands I have heard on podcasts. So good! Oh, and you can listen to them on the train while travelling to work.
Can you introduce your band Muscle Car and tell us what you’ve released so far?
Muscle Car was started in December 1998. It has been a huge rollercoaster of good times and disasters. I have had a good run with this band and have experienced a lot of great things from being in this band. Over the time, the band has released 3 CDs, a 7” vinyl and thankfully, have a few new releases coming out soon. Thank god! It’s taken forever to get back into the swing of things as we had been on a hiatus for a couple years due to not being able to find a drummer that wants to tour overseas. Like I said, a rollercoaster. Sometimes I just want to throw the lot away but then we have a rehearsal and I hear those guitars and everything falls into place and I get all excited again and I forget whatever thought I had that was thinking negatively. I’m the only original member in this band so I can feel negative if I want too cos if something shit has happened in this band, it usually happened to me. HA! All the info and more can be found at http://www.musclecar.net.au
You were on the road with Simon Chainsaw in Europe. How was this experience? Any anecdote to share with us?
That was one of the greatest times in my life. Really. I met so many wonderful people on that tour, including you. The whole tour was a huge experience for me. It was great to see the cities, do things DIY style, hang with the locals and talk music, books, movies, etc. with them. Apart from being robbed in Paris and losing my bag of belongings (which included a rare Hard-Ons t-shirt and my Sonic’s Rendezvous Band shirt that I got from Gary Rasmussen) and being Deported, the whole thing was incredible. Simon’s band were on fire and I got to watch them get better and better as each show went on which I thought was really cool. I got to experience both the good and bad things of that tour and it was all worth it. You learn from these kinds of experiences. You learn how to deal with differing personalities, sleeping on floors, crazy temperatures, etc. and it’s all awesome.
Do you think it’s illegal to want to go to the UK in order to see the Stooges when you’re an Australian citizen?
Ha! That whole being deported thing was fucked up. Here’s what went down: I flew from Switzerland to London. The customs dude took one look at me and I had a bad feeling. I got to the counter and he asked me a million questions. I answered them all but he wasn’t happy with my answers. I told him the absolute truth about everything. The next thing I know, I’m detained. It took them 10 hours (while I stayed in a holding room watching TV and writing song lyrics) to decide they were sending me home. When they eventually told me, I told them “that’s fine, I’ve missed the gig anyway and that’s the reason I came here”. I just asked them to get me home ASAP. Which they did, on their dime. Nice! When I landed back in Oz, I got a free ticket to see THE CULT perform the Love album in concert. So I guess they wanted to punish me but I still won. If this had happened at any other time in that holiday, I would have been upset but the fact it was right at the end of the trip and the last thing I was going to do before going home, I didn’t mind so much. I was just pissed that I couldn’t see The Stooges and catch up with all my English friends. Oh well, shit happens.
How is living in Australia like? Best things? Worst ones? How is the situation for rock musicians there?
Not to sound like a pretentious asshole but Australia is the fuckin’ coollest place outside of New York City or Tokyo. I love it here and after all the travelling I have done, I still realise how lucky we are here and I am always glad to be home. The weather here is a good mix (except I live in Melbourne and the Winters are damn cold which I hate but it’s nothing like you guys get). We have a huge multicultural population which I am happy with. The rock scene here in Melbourne is awesome with so many bands here. Everyone’s a musician or their brother / sister is. Melbourne is a very artistic city. I love it. The downer to living here is that international tours are a pain and people don’t like touring here cos it’s so far away. For example, to see a band like Overkill in the USA, tickets are under $20. They played here just last week and the tickets were $65. We pay a lot to see international bands and many people I speak to from overseas tell me that Australia is expensive to see international bands. Metallica is $160 a ticket. Local bands are cheap though so that’s cool. You can still see The Hard-Ons live for under $20 which is great for a band that is almost 30 years old and probably deserves to charge more.
How many records do you own? How do you classify them? Why is vinyl so cool? How come buying records can be such an addiction?
Um, how many? All up including LPs, 7”ers and 10”ers, I have around 3000. They’re all classified in alphabetical order cos I am not skilled enough in the realms of High Fidelity to sort them autobiographical (yet). For me, I have always been into records. When I grew up and started buying music, there were no CDs. It was records or tapes and tapes chewed. Plus, I love art so I bought LPs anyway. And when CDs were introduced, they were super expensive so I stuck with records anyway. That’s how it’s always been. It’s not only a habit though; I love everything about vinyl especially the connection between myself and the record. Like the whole physical aspect that I need to change sides of the record and put the needle on it and stuff like that. Instead of throwing iTunes onto shuffle and then letting it go. For me, I think the addiction is the sense of investment. I have invested in a product, a band and my love of music. We all have out crutches.
Some people use drugs, others like alcohol, others collect football cards, others buy comics or action figures, but for me, I buy records. I get so much enjoyment from listening to records. It’s just a great feeling. And you can look at your collection and each record tells a story; there’s a reason you bought each record. Where you bought it, why you bought it, what the songs mean to you, etc. It’s all a part of the experience that I can’t find in downloading digital music. I like to have a physical product and if you stand by your product, you’ll always win in the end. AC/DC have avoided the digital downloads and they still sell records. Proof that people still want something they can look at, hold, play, read the booklets / lyrics, etc.
5 favourite Australian rock albums?
Picking just 5 favourites is a hard task so I just picked 5 that I like a lot cos I have about 50 favourite Aussie rock records.
1. THE HARD-ONS – “Love Is A Battlefield of Broken Hearts”
2. RADIO BIRDMAN – “Radio’s Appear”
3. AC/DC – “Back In Black”
4. POWDER MONKEYS – “Smashed On A Knee”
5. BORED! – “Negative Waves”
What movies have you enjoyed lately? Did you like the Runaways?
I loved The Machine Girl. Japanese crazy gore with hot girls and kung fu violence. Awesome! I don’t see as many films as I’d like to these days which is a shame cos I love movies but I just don’t get the time as I am so busy writing songs or seeing gigs, buying records, blah blah. I am looking forward to seeing Machete.
The Runaways was fun. I like Joan and Cherie but I really wish they let Lita have a say in the making of it as I think Lita was a key figure in that band and should have been a bigger part of it. Still, it was great to see the band paid respect and the music brought to life on the big screen.
Your next projects?
Currently I am working on new Muscle Car material, I am writing a documentary movie on Australian music and am busy writing a book on the life of Long Gone Loser, kinda like an anthology of all the issues collected together for everyone to have and love and it will feature stuff never printed in the magazine and newer stuff since the last issue. So yeah, busy busy busy! Which is good cos being busy rocks.