Gravel Samwidge interview with Mark Spinks, Alex “Sleepy” Morrison and Ash Jenkins

March 12, 2014

Gravel Samwidge interview with Mark Spinks, Alex “Sleepy” Morrison and Ash Jenkins

Gravel Samwidge has been around since 1989 in one form or
another, morphing out of one band and becoming a force of nature that would
withstand the test of time, weather twenty-five years and come out standing
stronger than ever before!  The last five
years have seen a flurry of digital releases, cassette tapes, CDs and vinyl,
the band finally opening their vaults up and releasing some of the massive
amount of material that they’ve amassed over the years.  The story of Gravel Samwidge isn’t a short
one, but thankfully founding member Mark Spinks has been along for the entire
journey and was more than willing to sit down and share the tale, along with
bassist Ash Jenkins and drummer Alex “Sleepy” Morrison.  The Gravel Samwidge I know is a somewhat
unhinged post-punk, apocalypse that reminds me a lot of a ramped up version of
The Stooges left to brood in their own insanity in the middle of the
outback.  More than capable of crafting
harsh and abrasive lo-fi masterpieces of dystopian nihilism, they’re just as skilled
at a diabolically heavy stews of psychedelic noise that thrash and melt into
themselves, before scattering bomb shrapnel to the wind like wounded animals
lost in the forest.  These songs are
looking for a place to die though, they’re looking for a place where they can
be kings, masters of their respective realms. 
Every song seems to have a life of its own, influences and genres
seamlessly blending and weaving from edgy, lo-fi, noise on an epic level, to
manically well-made downbeat psych-soul blasts; what more do you want?  Waves of fuzz and distortion are consumed by
the tape hiss and rumbling bass, but this band isn’t what you think.  Coming from the massive Australian scene
where so many bands are one trick punk-ponies, Gravel Samwidge is more than
capable of a wide gambit of genres, sounds and even sounds for that matter as
I’ve mentioned before, but they seem firmly planted in the ideals of
experimental, lo-fi, psychedelic rock. 
Whatever you call it, however you label it, whatever.  I love it. 
2013 saw the release of Medicinal Requirements a 12” EP on the, quickly
becoming legendary, Swashbuckling Hobo Records and 2014 is looking like it’s
going to offer up some more great stuff from the ever intriguing group, so dig
in and get a bite of some Gravel Samwidge – just remember, we ain’t paying the
dental bills folks

while your read: http://gravelsamwidge.bandcamp.com/

What’s the band’s
current lineup?  I know that there as at
least one track that was released as far back as 2002, has there been any
changes to the band since that time?
Mark:  Yes.  The current line up for the band is
Mark Spinks – Guitar / Vocals
Ash Jenkins – Bass
Alex Morrison (Sleepy) – Drums
Matt Kennedy – Guitar
The rhythm section solidified in 2008 with the addition of
Ash on bass and Sleepy on drums.  It
happened accidentally, but we got into a situation where we would have guests
that would play with us for however long they wanted to.  Usually it would be a second guitarist, such
as Shan Corrigan from Sewers and Melanie Jade Simpson from Shooga, but
sometimes we include people on other instruments like percussion, violin,
saxophone and various electronics (we even had a Theremin player one night) as
well as other vocalists.  It’s only in
the last year or so that Matt has taken on a more permanent role in the band,
gigging consistently with us and playing on the last two releases.
Sleepy:  I used to
jump off the drums and play synth and effects for the song “Get Something From
the Scene”.  Which is a lot noisier live
than it is on the record!
Mark:  Oh yeah, I
forgot about that…  And we’ve had Glan
from Per Purpose and Sarah from Sky Needle play for a gig or two as well.
Are any of you
currently in any other active bands at this point?  Have you released any music with anyone else
in the past?  If so, can you tell us
about that?  I do love playing musical
connect the dots but I have to admit I like cheating at it even better ha-ha!
Mark:  I play bass in
another band called Scrabbled.  Scrabbled
includes Bek Moore from avant-pop punk group Clag.
Sleepy:  I have my
side project called Mutanteer.  It’s
experimental, improvised, noise, sometimes featuring Australian noise legends
Matt Earle of XNOBBQX, Love Chants etcetera and Adam Sussman from Xwave, Sun of
the Seventh Sister, etcetera.
Where are you
originally from?
Mark:  We’re
originally from Sydney.  Then we moved to
Townsville, Queensland.  Then
Melbourne.  Now Brisbane.
How would you
describe the local music scene where you grew up?  Did you go to a lot of shows when you were
younger?  Do you feel like the local
music scene played an important role in the forming your musical tastes or on
the way that you play currently?
Mark:  The Sydney
black-eye scene in the 80’s was fiercely independent, outrageous and
original.  I was young and it made a
major impression on me.  I later found
out it had a big impression on Seattle bands in the 90’s as well.  We recently just supported Mudhoney, whose
bassist Guy Maddison is from the Sydney scene and played in the seminal
Australian band Lubricated Goat.  I saw The
Scientists play in 1987 and Tony Thewlis, the guitarist, pulled the lead out
and stood on it.  The chaotic sound it
made inspired me because I realized that music had no boundaries.  Searching for that boundary of musical
creation influences Gravel Samwidge to this day.

Was your home very
musical when you were growing up?  Were
either you parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely involved or
interested in music?
Mark:  No, my parents
weren’t.  My sister and I used to watch
Countdown, a nightly Australian music program, a bit like MTV but before MTV
and with more local content.
Ash:  My next door neighbour was a few years older than me. 
He used to record heaps of heavy metal and punk cassettes for me…  Not that I’m that influenced by either of
those genres, but I appreciated the influence of underground music.
Sleepy:  Not
really.  My dad was in a bag pipe band
when he was younger.  I used to write
music on the computer before I could play anything.  My friends in high school were all learning
guitar and needed a drummer to make a band, so I obliged and became the only
one who stuck with it.
What was your
first real exposure to music?
Mark:  The first band
I obsessed over was KISS…  But then my
first real exposure to music would be have been seeing The Scientists on their
Human Jukebox tour in 1987.
Ash:  As a young
teenager, I used to sneak into the local pub to watch bands who were playing
psychedelic music and breathing fire on stage, causing waves of fire to roll
across the ceiling of the bar.  I was
speechless as I had never been exposed to anything so strange in my life.  I just loved it!
Sleepy:  The first
band I obsessed on was Pink Floyd.  I
loved their early bootlegs with all the improvised sections.
If you had to pick
one defining moment of music from your lifetime, a moment that changed things,
opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities of music and altered your
perception of the world around you, what would it be?
Mark:  Hearing The
Birthday Party album Junk Yard.  It took
me a few weeks to wrap my head around it, but then nothing has been the same
Ash:  At the beginning
of high school, my teacher played “Tupelo” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.  The class hated it.  I thought it was incredible for reasons I
can’t describe.
Sleepy:  When I was
seven, my mum bought a Jimi Hendrix cassette. 
“Voodoo Child” changed my life.  I
was gonna say Paul Kidney Experience when I was twenty…  But really, that was where I got my second
wind, getting into the noise scene more after that.
When did you
decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music?  What brought that decision about?
Mark:  I was in a
Townsville punk band called The Nappy Hackers in the 80’s.  I had some songs written, but they didn’t
really fit in with that band because they were a bit more primal sounding.  So I started my own project Gravel Samwidge,
with the Nappy Hackers drummer, Paul Curran. 
Paul was very enthusiastic about the songs, so we started Gravel
Samwidge together.  Paul was the second
guitarist though.
When and how did
you all originally meet?
Ash:  Mark was living
with my sister.  He was rehearsing with
his band, using saturated distortion and a slow tempo and I was taken at first
Sleepy:  I was playing
in another band called The Purgatories. 
After the show I was approached by Ash and Mark to play in Samwidge.
What led to the
formation of Gravel Samwidge and when exactly was that?
Mark:  Gravel Samwidge
really started because Paul and I were growing dissatisfied with the direction
The Nappy Hackers were going.  We were
both interested in a dirtier, more primal sound.  So, in 1989 we started Gravel Samwidge with
those songs I had written.  Songs like
“Sallyanne”, “Leatherface”, “Couch Potato” and “Captain Meatpie”.  We recorded a bunch of demos, including all of
those songs, in ’89-’90 in Sydney and Melbourne.  The only song that saw the light of day at
the time was “Leatherface” which was featured on Plucked From the Bowels of
, a tape that came with Blunt Fanzine written by Bob Blunt who
subsequently went on to write the seminal book, A Biased history of Australian
However, the complete
compilation of demo recordings finally, only twenty years late, had a limited
release on Ern Malley records and is now available on our Bandcamp page.
I really like your
name, it just puts a smile on my face when I say it for one reason or
another!  What does the name Gravel
Samwidge mean or refer to?  Who came up
with it and how did you go about choosing it?
Mark:  John McManus
came up with the name.  He was the
drummer for the band for many years before he moved to Taiwan in 2002.  We were trying to come up with a band name
that described something that was ‘hard to digest’.  There wasn’t really any choice involved.  He came up with it straight away and we all
liked it.  In recent years, I’ve thought
about changing the name but realized that it’s a name no one will forget in a
Is there any
shared creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?
Mark:  No.  Over the years, there was a general sense of
apathy and nonchalance, hence the Turkeyneck release title of 2009.  These days, with the current line-up, we at
least try to see things through.
Where is Gravel
Samwidge located at these days?
Mark:  Brisbane,
Queensland, Australia.
How would you
describe the local music scene where you’re at now?
Sleepy:  Commercial
venues suck.  The underground music scene
is much better, and seems to linger in disused public spaces; under bridges,
warehouses, car parks and other abandoned public spaces etcetera.
Ash:  Yeah, those are
the best shows.  They’re free, you bring
your own booze…  A lot of it’s
organized on the net and by word of mouth/sms.
Mark:  The Brisbane
music scene, despite venues coming and going and the ridiculous notion of
venues charging bands to play, is still somehow thriving.  Brisbane still suffers from ‘small town
syndrome’ which seems to create great music, perhaps due to a significant counter-culture
Are you very
involved in the local scene?  Do you book
or attend a lot of local shows?  Do you
help to record and or release any local music at all?
Mark:  Yes, heavily
involved.  I attend a lot of shows and we
often book shows, especially if we’re bringing bands up from Melbourne, and to
a lesser extent Sydney.
Sleepy:  Yeah, I play
occasional shows as Mutanteer and I help with recording local bands
sometimes.  At the moment I’m
engineering/producing the local band Gerald Keaney & The Gerald Keaneys.
Do you feel like
the local scene has played a very large role in the history of Gravel Samwidge
or the way that you all sound or do you think you could be doing what you’re
doing and sound like you do regardless of your location or surroundings?
Ash:  Yes and no.  We’ve retained our own sound/musical
integrity while definitely picking up local influences in recording production
as well as performance style.
Mark:  It’s only
recently, the last two years?  That we
became involved in the thriving underground scene of Brisbane.  It’s definitely influenced the band…  Bands like Sewers, Per Purpose, Kitchen’s
Floor, Gerald Keaney & The Gerald Keaneys…  But also noise acts such as GIRLSGIRLSGIRLS,
Wardenburger and Stasis Duo.
I love discovering
new music and I really love sharing it with people but I am awful at describing
music to people.  I come up with these
really weird analogies for how the music makes me feel, or these little
diatribes of images that the music conjures in my mind but I always end up
confusing people more than I end up informing them.  Rather than me taking some awkward stab at
talking about Gravel Samwidge, how would you describe the band in your own
words to our readers who might not have heard you before?
Mark:  Good friends of
ours from the Paul Kidney Experience often describe their own music through
colour.  While their music may be
improvised, I still think I can apply the same system to a Gravel Samwidge
set…  Or we’ll try anyway.  I would describe Gravel Samwidge as being
purple with smudges of green.
Sleepy:  A dark,
strong urine colour washed over a black and white, coarse slab of concrete.
Actually…  Gravel Samwidge are
noisy, outsider-rock.  Sometimes simple
is the best.
Sleepy:  I like to
think that the songs are catchy, but I wouldn’t call us a pop band by any
While we’re
talking so much about the history and composition of the band I’m really
curious who you would cite as some of your major musical influences?  What about influences on the band as a whole
rather than individually?  You all have a
really intricate sound and it seems like the more that I dig the more that I
take away from you music and the more I can hear creeping around beneath the
Mark:  For me
personally The Scientists were a major influence, as well as Lubricated
Goat.  As a band, all the members have
different tastes but it seems to be working. 
I’ve heard people say that we sound like The Fall and even Rage Against
the Machine, but I think that’s purely to do with my vocal style.  We were before Rage Against the Machine
Sleepy:  Since I’ve
joined the band it’s definitely gotten more chaotic and noisy…  I’d say this is due to us mingling in
different local scenes in Brisbane and Melbourne.  I think there’s even some influence from
Black Sabbath.  When I first joined, Mark
told me to use Bill Ward’s drumming style as a reference point on how I should
play drums for the band initially.  A lot
has changed since then, though.
Can you tell us a
little bit abut he songwriting process with Gravel Samwidge?  Is there a lot of jamming and free exchange
of ideas between band members that gets worked into a song or is it more of a
situation where one person will bring a riff or more finished product to the
rest of the band to finalize and finish up with the rest of the band?
Mark:  In the past it
was purely me that wrote the majority of the songs.  Nowadays, Sleepy and I live together so we
end up song-writing and jamming together a fair bit.  Although, I’m really not much of a
jammer…  More recently, I’ll often
present a riff or unfinished song to Sleepy and we’ll work on it together.
Sleepy:  Every now and
then, when we bother to get together and practice as a band, we might come up
with a riff or an idea for a song with all of us together.  We’ll try to record it, so Mark and I can
listen to it again later to work on it further in our song-writing sessions…  Not that we really need to have song-writing
sessions, since we live together anyway.
Do you all enjoy
recording?  I know that the end result,
holding that album in your hands know that it’s your and you made it, is
completely amazing.  Getting to that
point though, getting stuff recorded and mixed, especially when it comes to
having to do that as a band, can be very trying to say the least.  How is it recording for you all?
Mark:  I do enjoy
recording and don’t mind the process once we’ve started.  We’re all more or less on the same page and
know what kind of sound we’re going for. 
That wasn’t always the case in the past…  For instance, the Nonchalance recording was
never actually finished.  Ash provided
the impetus to put the damn thing out.
Sleepy:  I did all the
recordings and mixing for both Trough and Home Brand, which we did at home and
relatively quickly.  I also mixed Gas
Girls Funeral
, which was recorded at my university when I was studying music
technology.  Recording is the one area
where we don’t procrastinate once we’ve started.  I was surprised how well the Home Brand
recordings came out for something done in the lounge room.
Do you all record
in studios or is it more of a guerilla DIY, on your own time and turf kind of
Sleepy:  It’s a fairly
even mix.  It really depends what opportunities
arise when we plan recording sessions.  I
like recording at home because there’s no time limit and I feel more in control
of the process.  Having said that, half
of the Old Tape was done in a studio and Nonchalance too.  Medicinal Requirements was done at a friend’s
home studio, but he’s got a hell of a setup with all vintage, analogue gear and
it sounds amazing.  Whenever I hang out
there, I feel like a little kid in a candy shop.
Does gravel
Samwidge do a lot of preparatory work before you record getting arrangements
and compositions all worked out and the songs sounding just so-so?  Or is there some breathing room where things
have room to change and evolve a little bit during the recording process?
Sleepy:  It’s always
pretty loose.  We definitely try to keep
things open for serendipity.  We’ll try
to work out basic things like drum beats, bass lines and guitar riffs, but when
it comes to lead breaks, if you could call them that, sound effects and often
even lyrics, we generally leave that to the day of recording.  I think deadlines are very important.
Mark:  Yeah, we can
pretty much write shit on the spot.  We
sometimes come up with new bits for songs while we’re recording.  For example, Home Brand we recording in a
weekend.  Even though I had the initial
core of the songs done, we got Matt Kennedy and Bek Moore to add their own
parts how they wanted.
Let’s take some
time and talk a little bit about your back catalog.  The first release that I know of from you all
is 2002’s 4-way split on Area 52 Records, Area 52 Split Release #001 with
Trumans Water, Penthouse and I’m Being Good which was a good seven years before
your next release Nonchalance.  What
brought about the long break between releases? 
Do you consider that early single a real part of your discography or did
things change a lot between the release of this split and the Nonchalance
album?  You contributed the track “What
You Need”, where and when was that song recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?
Mark:  The majority of
Nonchalance was actually recorded back in 2000. 
It didn’t get released at the time, because we couldn’t afford to put it
out and then two of the members moved overseas. 
It took me years to get around to finally releasing it.  It was really Ash who pushed for the release
of Nonchalance, even though I didn’t think some songs were fully finished.  For that reason I do consider the 4-way split
as part of our discography, because that recording of “What You Need” came from
the Nonchalance session.  Nonchalance was
recorded at Zero Interference Studios in Brisbane by Bryce Moorhead.  Back then, he was still operating from home
but the gear was digital and pretty new at the time.  I don’t really remember the exact equipment
used though, I guess that’s no real surprise as I can be a bit of a Luddite in
the band anyway.

Seven years later
you followed up the Area 52 split with the Nonchalance album for Turkeyneck
Records in 2009.  Can you share some of
your memories of recording that first album? 
Was the recording of that material very diffident than the session for
“What You Need”?  When and where was the
material for Nonchalance recorded?  Who
recorded it?  What kind of equipment was
Mark: See above.  In
relation to the memories of it…  I just
remember being happy to get those songs documented.  While they were never truly finished, there’s
lots of people who look back fondly on those tracks.
While 2010 not
have seen any physical music from Gravel Samwidge, you all digitally
self-released Gasgirls Funeral.  I
normally don’t pester people about it but I really like the name of the album,
it conjures these really cool images of ephemeral, smoky ghosts from times long
forgotten or something.  What does the
name mean to you all as a band?  Was the
recording of the material for Gasgirls Funeral a fun, pleasurable experience
for you all?  Who recorded that material
and where was that at?  When was it
recorded?  What kind of equipment was
Sleepy:  I think
recording Gasgirls Funeral was a fun, positive experience.  I was in my second year studying at the
Griffith Conservatorium of Music.  My
colleague Jack Gilespie and I borrowed some recording equipment from the
university and recorded the band playing live at his house in a day.  We tracked it all using Pro Tools and
overdubbed vocals later in a small recording booth at the Conservatorium.  Jack engineered and produced it, while I did
the mixing for it all later.  It was
great, because we both got to use the project as one of our assessment
pieces!  We had to document it all and do
an extensive write up about it, so it felt like a great learning experience for
me as well.

Mark:  For me
personally, the name actually came from a one off gig Samwidge played in
Newtown, Sydney under the title Gasgirls Funeral.  Mark Guthrie from Nunbait was playing in the
band at the time and he bauked at the idea of using the name Gravel Samwidge,
it was our first gig back after a year or two. 
The name actually came from a Sydney Morning Herald newspaper headline
about the death of a female gas meter reader who died under bizarre
circumstances.  I found Gasgirls Funeral
enjoyable to record, but I personally wasn’t overly happy with the sound.  It came out too clean and didn’t really
capture the live sound, which has a more chaotic and noisy edge.  It’s still a good recording with some strong
tracks on it, though.  Here’s a link to aYouTube film clip for the song “Tell Mum” which is from Gasgirls Funeral.
Sleepy:  The recording
was done with the band playing the songs live though, so I think it kind of
reflected our live sound at the time. 
We’ve developed our sound quite a bit in just the last couple of years,
but it seems like longer.
Two years later in
2012 you followed up Gasgirls Funeral with a really cool, well I wouldn’t
really call it a “concept album” or anything but a really cool album with an
interesting concept, behind its release at least!  You released one song a week to make up for
third full-length The Old Tape.  I really
like the idea behind the release, it’s something cool that I don’t think I’ve
ever seen anyone else try before.  Who
came up with the idea to release the tracks like that?  Were those tracks all recorded together with
the intention of assembling them to make an album or was The Old Tape kind of a
grab-bag of recordings?  Can you tell us
a little bit about the recording of the material for The Old Tape?
Sleepy:  The idea
actually came from a friend of mind Thomas Oliver who has a website called
Something From the Scene, documenting the Brisbane music scene; funnily enough
he got the name for his site from the Gravel Samwidge song.  Here’s a link.  Mark, Tom and I were discussing the best times
to release recordings online to max the impact out, and then the idea of releasing
it one track at a time for sustained interest could help.  People are generally in the habit of
listening to the first few seconds a track or two on a release now and deciding
if they like it or not.  Releasing it one
track at a time made it more likely that people would check out every track
even if they didn’t listen all the way through.

Mark:  Six of the
tracks off The Old Tape were originally recorded in Townsville in 1989 on a
16-track desk, using reel-to-reel tape. 
The rest of the recordings were done on an 8-track Tascam, in Melbourne
at the house I was living in the next year during 1990.  The name The Old Tape came from the fact that
I had them all together on a cassette tape that I had been keeping in the
cupboard for years.

2013 was an
extremely busy year for Gravel Samwidge, up to that point you guys had sparsely
released material and you put out four releases last year, the first of which
was the Home Brand digital release.  I
know those tracks were recorded at “home in 2013” but that’s about it.  Can you share a little bit about the
recording of the material for Home Brand?
Sleepy:  It was
recorded at the house where Mark and I live. 
We decided it’d just be easier and cheaper if we did it ourselves at
home.  We were also running on a deadline
and had to have it done in four days!  I
used my laptop with an mBox2, a couple of borrowed microphones and
Audacity.  We re-amped some of the vocal
tracks through a battery powered mini-Marshall amp and only used small 10watt
amps for the guitars.  Mark has this
small 10watt Epiphone practice amp, but I noticed it has a real spring reverb
which I used when re-amping some other vocals through it.  We also got some guest performers in for it
too.  I even played a guitar track on the
song “Sunday”.  Bek, from Clag, came in
and did vocals on “Waiting” and “Sunday”. 
She picked Matt Kennedy from Kitchen’s Floor, up on the way over to our
house for recording.  I decided not to
use real drums on the recording, mostly because I didn’t want to deal with
noise complaints at our house.  I played
the drums live on my midi-controller keyboard for all the songs instead.  Doing it that way allowed me more control
over the drum sound in some ways.  The
album really wasn’t mixed, I just set levels and let the performances dictate
the dynamics.

Mark:  From my
perspective, Home Brand was a really pleasant surprise.  Even though we had a time constraint, it
seemed to work in our favor.  I believe
the songs on Home Brand are the strongest set of songs we’ve ever written.  A couple of labels have shown interest in
releasing a hard copy, I think it’d be great on vinyl.  Here’s a link to “Sunday” from Home Brandfeaturing Bek and Matt.
There was also the
Self-Titled Gravel Samwidge CD-R that was available exclusively at your
Melbourne shows on March 29th and 31st of 2013. 
How many copies was that album limited to?  Can you talk about the recording of the
material for Gravel Samwidge?  Where and
when was that material recorded?  Was it
done as part of continuous sessions or were those tracks around for a while and
found a home on this release?  Who
recorded that material and where was that at? 
When was it recorded and what kind of equipment was used?
Mark:  There were 50
copies done up originally.  In saying that,
there’s no real number limit on it.  It
was from a set we performed in early 2013; April I think.  There should still be copies available
through the Breakdance the Dawn label. 
Breakdance the Dawn is a DIY noise/experimental label run by Australian
noise music legend Matt Earle from XNOBBQX, Love Chants, Muura, XWAVE, Club
Sound Witches, Craft Bandits and heaps more. 
Matt runs a venue which doubles as his residence, called Real Bad Music.  There’s a permanent recording setup so he can
record bands performances.
Sleepy:  Real Bad
Music has to be the coolest underground, DIY venue probably in Australia.  It’s the kind of place where international
acts playing at The Institute of Modern Art, will do a second set at Real Bad
the following night for free.  Its
reputation certainly precedes it.  Here’s
a link to Breakdance the Dawn’s website.
Mark:  Breakdance the
Dawn mostly release live recordings from performances at Real Bad Music.  They’re generally left unedited, but Samwidge
was a rare exception.  In this case he
had a couple of performances where he really liked certain parts, so he edited
them together to get all the best bits.
You put out your
sophomore album Trough on cassette last year through Long Gone Records as
well.  Was the recording of the material
for Trough very different than the session(s) for Nonchalance?  Did you try anything radically new or
different with the recording of the material for Trough?  Was that release limited?  Is that still in print?
Sleepy:  Ha-ha!  We had to google what the fuck sophomore
meant for a start!  Although I wasn’t
there for Nonchalance they were a lot different, I think.  I guess there might be some similarities in
that Nonchalance has music from two different sessions and Trough was pieced
together from multiple sessions as well. 
The first three tracks on Trough were mostly done using my rough old
4-track, a Yamaha MT-100 II.  I played
keyboard drums again, but because we had more inputs we actually tracked the
guitar, bass and drums live.  We
overdubbed vocals later using that mini-Marshall, re-amping technique used on
Home Brand.  “Get Something From the
Scene” has programmed drums though and I played the synth for it instead.  We recorded that with the mbox though and
overdubbed guitar, bass, vocals.  Whereas
the other electronic track, “What You Need”, is a kind of electro reworking of
a song from Nonchalance.  I recorded all
music for that on keyboard and only overdubbed Mark’s vocals.
On the B-side for the tape, we took a couple of tracks from
the Gasgirls session and added some guitar overdubs.

Mark:  Nonchalance was
done all live and on a 16-track I think, with a few overdubs…  Not sure from memory.  While Trough was completed relatively quickly
at home.  As Sleepy explained before, we
used a 4-track for the first three songs and deliberately went for a more
dirty, lo-fi sound.  Unfortunately this
only applies to the first three songs, as the other tracks were cobbled
together from various sessions.  Here’s a
link to a film clip for the song “Ferris Wheel” which is on Trough
You all finished
off the year with the awesome Medicinal Requirements EP on Swashbuckling Hobo
Records.  What was the recording of that
EP like?  Do you feel like you all’ve
learned a lot since the recording of Nonchalance?  Where and when was this material
recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?
Mark:  Medicinal
was a pleasure to record. 
Sean Tracey and Liam Cusack from the Swashbuckling Hobo crew were a real
delight to work with.  All the analogue
gear was really exciting to work with. 
I’ve always been an analogue lover. 
I’d like to think that I’ve learned something from the initial early
recordings.  I’ve always felt that Gravel
Samwidge has suffered in the recording studio, where it can be hard to convey
that same powerful live feeling and rawness that comes with a live gig.  I think Medicinal Requirements is the first
record to accurately capture the intensity I’ve always been aiming for.

Does Gravel
Samwidge have any music that we haven’t talked about yet, maybe a song on a
compilation or a single that I might have missed?
Mark:  We’ve just
recently recorded a new track that’s going on a compilation for WFMU radio in
New Jersey.  The song’s called “Long
Distance Drive” and it’s probably the most intense song we’ve ever done.
There’s the very
first Triple J Unearthed series, which went around Australia in 1995.  Our song “Drinking With a Dead Man” features
on the first Triple J Unearthed Compilation. 
The other two tracks we recorded with Triple J were “The Indian Song”
and “The Train Song”.  All three of those
recordings are on Nonchalance.
With the release
of Medicinal Requirements and Trough not too long ago last year (2013) are
there any other releases in the works or on the horizon at this point?  You all have several digital only and out of
print releases at this point, are there any plans to compile and release any of
those out-of-print releases or put any of the digital material out physically?
Mark:  We definitely
want to put more vinyl out.  With the
release of Medicinal Requirements there seems to be much more interest in our
output, especially in the United States. 
There’s interest in Home Brand being re-released on vinyl, but we’d
rather re-record the tracks if possible. 
We’ve had feedback from people saying it’s a shame with the strength of
the songs on Home Brand, that there hasn’t been a physical release for it yet.
Sleepy:  We have no
plans for a Best of Samwidge compilation as of yet, ha-ha!
With the
completely batty international postage rate increases this last year I try to
provide our readers with as many options as I possibly can for picking up
imported releases, not being able to afford the shipping on an album I can
afford drives me crazy!  Where’s the best
place for our US readers to pick up copies of your music?
Mark:  Bruce Saltmarsh
(Easter Bilby Distro) is the man to talk to about Gravel Samwidge records in
the US.  Easter Bilby DistroEaster Bilby Records.
(Editor’s note: Easter Bilby only does wholesale, they’re
products are usually distributed by Revolver, Midheaven and GONER Records)
What about our
international and overseas readers?
Mark:  Most of our
music you can get through our Bandcamp page
No Magic Man Records in England has Medicinal Requirements, EternalSoundcheck has Trough and Medicinal Requirements, Long Gone Records also has
Trough, Neumusak has Home Brand and Swashbuckling Hobo has Medicinal
And where’s
the best place for fans to keep up on the latest from Gravel Samwidge like
upcoming shows and album releases at?
Mark:  The best thing
is to just look at our facebook page, and like us too.  We just supported Mudhoney and Feedtime in
Brisbane which was fantastic for us!  You
can see some photos from the night on our Facebook page.
Are there any
major goals that Gravel Samwidge is looking to accomplish in 2014?
Mark:  We’ve got an
Australian East coast tour to launch Medicinal Requirements coming up very
soon.  We’d love to have some more vinyl
output by the end of the year.  It’d be
great to get some international interest in releasing something, so we could
possibly tour internationally.
What was the first
song that Gravel Samwidge ever played live? 
Where and when was that?
Mark:  The first time
ever was The Journos Club in Sydney on a Wednesday night in early 1989…  Unless it was late ’88…  But I’m gonna put ’89.  We were supporting legendary sludge rockers,
Kingsnake Roost who were members of Grong Grong and Lubricated Goat.  There were about ten people there… Ha-ha.
Do you all spend a
lot of time touring?  Do you like life on
the road?  What’s it like touring with
Gravel Samwidge?
Mark:  We love
touring, so as much as we can!  Of
course, it’s not logistically possible all the time.  I actually love road trips and because we’ve
all known each other a long time, it doesn’t become strained in any way.
You all have
played with some seriously sweet bands! 
Who are some of your personal favorites that you’ve had a chance to
share a bill with?
Mark:  Some of Tex
Perkins’ early bands, such as The Butcher Shop and Thug.  Kim Salmon and The Surrealists, The
Scientists, Venom P Stinger, Lubricated Goat, Monroe’s Fur.  More recently Sewers, Encounter Group
(Satantic Rockers), Per Purpose and XWAVE.
Sleepy:  The Paul
Kidney Experience, Mad Nanna, Extra Foxx, Scrabbled, Kitchen’s Floor and Sky
Ash:  Mudhoney,
Feedtime. Gerald Keaney & the Gerald Keaneys, Mutanteer, Faspeedelay and
In your dreams,
who are you on tour with?
Mark:  Oh baby, myself
of course.  I wanna take a whole tour of my
body with Celine Dion and Michael Bolton. 
In those surround stadiums only. 
Seriously though, I would have loved to have toured with The Damned
during their early period.  It’s cliché
for an Australian band, but I really would have loved to have played with The
Birthday Party…  Oh, and Current 93.
Ash:  Yeah, and Roland
S Howard.
Sleepy:  Ooh, how
about Serge Gainsbourg, John Cage, The Berzerker and Little Richard all on the
bill with Gravel Samwidge?  No but
really, I would have loved to play with Grey Daturas and Supersilent.
Do you have any
funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to
share here with our readers?
Mark:  One of first
gigs in Brisbane, a bunch of skinheads turned up.  For some unknown reason they took a liking to
us.  I can look back on it and laugh, but
at the time it was quite scary.  They
were an excitable bunch, half of them yelling for Screwdriver songs and the
other half of them wanting to kill us. 
One skinhead in particular grabbed the microphone stand and smashed it
against my mouth while I was singing.  It
felt like he had knocked my two front teeth out, but I didn’t wanna show any
weakness so I soldiered on for the rest of the set despite feeling like I’d had
major dental surgery without anesthetic. 
It wasn’t till I got off stage that I realized I had blood all down the
front of my shirt.  They doesn’t really
sound like a funny story, but looking it back now, it was.  I think it must have been the blood that won
them over in the end.

Do you all put a
lot of thought into the art that represents the band like flyers, posters or
cover art?  Do you have a go-to artist
for that kind of thing?  If so how did
you get hooked up with them originally?
Mark:  We don’t really
have a go-to artist.  We ask people
around in the scene locally sometimes.
Ash:  I do up some of
the art work.  We also do a lot of it
Sleepy:  I’ve done up
dozens of posters for Mark using MS Paint. 
We try to put some thought into it, but I don’t consider it a
focus.  Amongst the people we play with,
a lot of people still make handmade posters. We’re pretty lazy though nowadays
and often do them up in Paint.  Glan
Schenau from Per Purpose, has done up handmade posters for us.
With all of the
various mediums of release available to musicians today I’m always curious why
they choose and prefer the various methods that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for
your own music?  What about when you’re
listening to and or purchasing music?  If
so, why?
Mark:  Vinyl is always
a favorite.  I’ve definitely noticed over
the past five years there has been a resurgence and they’ve become collector’s
items.  There’s also the obvious
difference in sound quality.
Sleepy:  Digital is
fine.  I think it’s cool when bands
release all of their music online because you can access it really easily.  Of course I love vinyl too, it sounds nice
and warm…  But it’s expensive and
Ash:  I love
vinyl.  I love the sound, it’s much
richer.  You also get better artwork.
Do you have a
music collection at all?  If so can you
tell us a little bit about that?
Mark:  Yeah, it ranges
from all different types of genres.  I’m
definitely interested in music that has a certain edge to it.  I like crazy guitar stuff, but also ambient
electronic music.  Early on. I was quite
patriotic to Australian underground music. 
My collection was mostly bands from the 80’s on vinyl.  Stuff like Scientists, The Moffs, Thuga nd
Beasts of Bourbon to name a few…  But
there’s plenty more where that comes from. 
I always had an interest in American music with bands like Butthole
Surfers, Sonic Youth and Swans.  Other
European bands too, like Throbbing Gristle, Current 93 and Coil.  I’m a big fan of the kraut-rock era of the
70’s.  It really made a big impact on
me…  Bands like Sand, which David Tibet
Current 93’s maestro, re-issued as a double album because the original was so rare,
Amon Duul (I and II), Kraftwerk, Can, Neu, Klaus Schulze and Cluster.
Sleepy:  I from a
different era from Mark.  I don’t really
collect music because I can just get it from the internet whenever I want;
legally of course.  American bands
Caustic Resin, Built to Spill and Drunk Horse. 
Recent Australian bands Grey Daturas, The Gruntled, Dead Ants Rainbow
and it’s different incarnations like Dead Ants Process and Dead Ants Orchestra,
Paul Kidney Experience.  My first gig
with Gravel Samwidge in Melbourne was playing with Paul Kidney Experience
(PKE).  I was only nineteen and it
changed my life.
I grew up around a
pretty large collection of music and I was encouraged from a pretty young age
to listen to whatever I wanted to.  I
would just wander up to the shelves, which seemed endless to me as a kid, pick
something completely at random up, stick it into the player, kick back, read
the liner notes, stare at the artwork and let the music transport me to another
place.  As a result I developed a pretty
deep appreciation for physically released music from a fairly young age and I
doubt that I’ll ever fully shake my obsession with music.  Do you have any such connection with
physically released music?
Mark:  Yes, I identify
a lot with this question.  I used to do
the same thing, although I’d have to find my own music since my parents didn’t
have a large vinyl collection.  Of course
physical releases are the best for the overall listening experience, and if we
could have released all of our music on vinyl that would be the most
satisfying, but as I’m sure you’re well aware, on our level it’s quite
difficult due to the cost.
Sleepy:  I agree also,
there’s something special about sitting down and listening to a physical
release.  I didn’t have a working record
player growing up but I started collecting some vinyl from second hand stores
around where I lived anyway and I eventually convinced my dad to go buy a new
stylus so I could listen to the records I had bought.  Some people like songs, other people like bands.  I find I’m an album person.
As much as I love
my music collection there’s always been one major issue for me, portability;
and I don’t mean having to take it with me when I move!  Ha-ha! 
I was never able to take enough music with me on the go to keep me happy
when I was out on road trips and stuff even after the advent of CDs and
cassettes but digital music has all but eliminated that problem overnight.  And when you team digital music with the
internet, that’s when you start seeing the real magic happen.  Its exposed people to an entire world of
music that they otherwise would never have had access to, it’s provided artists
who are willing to promote and harbor an online presence a voice and maybe even
levelled the playing field somewhat for independent artists trying to get
noticed today.  On the other hand illegal
downloading is running rampant and decades of infrastructure inside of the
music industry is collapsing and the face of the music industry as I know it is
likely to be no more in a few years.  As
an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital
music and distribution?
Sleepy:  One must
remember the difference between the music industry and the record
industry.  While the record industry may
be collapsing, the music industry isn’t dying at all.  It’s thriving.  It’s harder to make money off record sales
now, but musicians have rarely ever made money off record sales anyway.
The record industry
has always been crying out about “the death of the music industry” every time
technology improves and makes it easier for people to copy music
illegally.  The flip side of the playing
field being leveled, is that there’s an incredible glut of music that we’ll
never get round to listening to.  A lot
of it sucks too because there’s no filtering process, like talent scouts and so
on to stop anyone from just getting some free music software out of a Corn
Flakes box, clicking a few presets, pasting some loops together and posting it
online for world-wide consumption.  It
definitely is a double-edged sword.  I
guess one’s stance would depend on whether you’re trying to make money or
not.  The power is being handed back to
the artist, but artists generally aren’t good businessmen.
Mark:  But talent
scouts are half the problem, Sleepy. 
They’re the people responsible for the commercial trash we have to put
up with on most radio stations.  Of
course that’s dependent on their agenda (marketing to teenagers and so on) but
that is invariably making as much money as possible.  One problem that Gravel Samwidge has always
had, is that we always have trouble promoting ourselves.  I’ve always found it difficult to promote the
band and we do need someone more business minded to make things happen.  I totally understand people downloading music
illegally, because if you don’t have a lot of money you would never get a
chance to hear some great artists.  That
includes our music too of course.  The
sooner the major record labels collapse the better.  If it wasn’t for the internet and digital
music you probably never would have heard of Gravel Samwidge and we wouldn’t be
doing this interview now…  So it’s a
bit of a catch 22.  Viva la revolution,
whatever that is…
I try to keep up
with as much good music as I possibly can. 
Its 2:27 A.M. as I write this now and I have to be up for work at 8:30
but I’m sitting here on the couch working on this interview and listening to
some band a buddy has recommended me, who needs sleep anyhow!?!  With the advent of the internet and the ease
of recording there is so much music out there that I couldn’t even hope to keep
up with one-percent of it on my own, and I rely on tips from folks such as
yourselves as a result.  Is there anyone
from your local scene or area that I should be listening to that I might not
have heard of yet?
Mark:  Yeah. Some of
the bands that I’ve already mentioned come to mind.  Keep in mind that all our tastes vary
somewhat.  In Brisbane, we recommend
bands such as Wonderfuls, Kitchen’s Floor (Matt Kennedy our guitarist’s band),
Scrabbled who I play bass for, Mutanteer (Sleepy’s project), Gerald Keaney and
the Gerald Keaneys, Sewers, Per Purpose, The Wrong Man and Dreamtime.
What about
nationally and internationally?
Mark:  In Melbourne,
Go Genre Everything, Encounter Group, Satanic Rockers although they don’t
really play anymore, Mad Nanna, Map Ends. 
To be honest, I haven’t actually been following any international acts
recently…  But, bands that come to mind
are Swans, Einstürzende Neubauten and The Dead Sea.
Sleepy:  Melbourne
bands Paul Kidney Experience, The Gruntled, War Pigs and Dead Ants Rainbow.
Thanks so much for
finishing this monster, I know it had to have taken you a while and I really
appreciate you taking the time to talk with me about the band.  I hope it’s at least been somewhat fun to
look back on the history of the band, what you’ve accomplished and where you’ve
been through the crazy journey music has taken you on.  Before we sign off and call it a day though,
is there anything that I might have possibly missed, that you’d like to discuss
with me about or you’d simply like to take this opportunity to talk to you
readers about?
Mark:  I’m pretty
impressed with the comprehensiveness of this interview. I can’t think of
anything you missed.  There possibly
could be, but I think you would find it before I did…  Oh, if anyone digs this music, get in touch
with us!  If someone internationally is
interested in putting our next record out, they should definitely contact us on
Facebook!  Ha-ha
Sleepy:  Yeah, we have
a whole bunch of new songs that haven’t even been recorded yet and have only
played live a couple of times.  Thanks to
everyone for all the support.  Maybe we
can come to the states someday soon!

(2002)  Gravel
Samwidge/Trumans Water/I’m Being Good/Penthouse – Area 52 Split Release #001 –
digital, 7” – Area 52 Records (Limited to 500 copies, contributes the track
“What You Need”)
(2009)  Gravel
Samwidge – Nonchalance – digital, CD – Turkeyneck Records
(2010)  Gravel
Samwidge – Gasgirls Funeral – digital – Self-Released
(2012)  Gravel
Samwidge – The Old Tape – digital – Self-Released (1 track a week released
(2013)  Gravel
Samwidge – Home Brand – digital – Neumusak
(2013)  Gravel
Samwidge – Gravel Samwidge – CD-R – Breakdance The Dawn (Limited to 50
copies.  Only available at their
Melbourne gigs 29th and 31st March 2013)
(2013)  Gravel
Samwidge – Trough – digital, Cassette Tape – Long Gone Records (Limited to ?
(2013)  Gravel Samwidge
– Medicinal Requirements EP – 12” – Swashbuckling Hobo Records (Limited to 300

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
© Copyright http://psychedelicbaby.blogspot.com/2014
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