Constant Mongrel interview with Tom

March 1, 2014

Constant Mongrel interview with Tom

Australia has been
killing it recently.  After decades of
neglect from here in the states people are not only taking the Aussie scene
seriously again, they’re literally frothing at the mouth for the next best
thing to explode out of the jaw-dropping scene. 
Constant Mongrel are one of those completely simplistic bands, caveman
drumming, minimal guitar and frantic bass, which are completely necessary for
the continued existence of rock ‘n’ roll. 
We need people out there that are willing to just go for it, to not over
think things and not release every belch and whistle that they record, people
with more integrity than fidelity; for all these reasons and more, the world
needs Constant Mongrel.  Other than some
YouTube videos and a couple of streaming songs on Bandcamp there really isn’t
much music to share with you but rest assure when I tell you, you need to check
this out.  There’s some serious dark-wave
influence from the 80’s, teamed with a dash or distorted garage rock and all
rolled into one furious punk rock package that’s proven more than ready to
pounce.  Last year’s Heavy Breathing was
a serious follow-up to the amazing Everything Goes Wrong from 2012, but Heavy
Breathing seems to be a far more coherent album and shows some real growth in
the band.  I decided it was time to talk
with Constant Mongrel and managed to get guitarist Tom to fill me in on the
details.  So kick back with a brew and
take in some sweet tunes and imbue yourself with some constant knowledge about
these mongrels…
What’s the lineup of the band currently?  Is this your original lineup or have you gone
through some changes?

Constant Mongrel is Hugh, Amy, Andrew and
Tom.  The Original lineup is Tom and Hugh
on guitar and drums.  Amy (bass) came
into the band after two years and Andrew joined on second guitar about a year
ago.  No changes, just special additions!
Are any of you in any other bands at this
point?  Have you released any music with
anyone else?  If so can you tell us a
little bit about it?
I’m in Woollen Kits, we released some
singles, tapes and two LP’s on RIP Society, Trouble in Mind and Fan Death
Records, Amy is in School Of Radiant Living who’ve self-released a single and
an up-coming LP, Andrew is in Taco Leg which released some singles, a few tapes
and an LP on Richie and Fan Death Records, and Hugh is in NUN who have a single
and up-coming LP on Nhilistic Orbs and No Patience Records as well as Velvet
Whip who have a tape on Cool Death Records).
Where are you originally from?
Tom and Hugh are Melbourne born and bred, Amy
is from Auckland, New Zealand and has lived in Melbourne for a long time now
and Andrew moved to Melbourne a year and a bit ago from Perth, Western
Australia.  So really, Melbourne,
Victoria, Australia, 3000. 
Were your households musical growing up?  Were either of your parents or any of your
relatives musicians or extremely interested/involved in music?
I can only answer for myself really.  I grew up as a Presbyterian Minister’s son,
so Church music (Hynms and Worship songs) were a big part of my childhood.  Dad loved Credence and Cream as well and Mum
always played Bob Dylan and sixty’s pop music. 
I was trained to play classical cello when I was young and my parents
persistence to make me continue with it, when I really didn’t want to, probably
helped form the way I think and feel about music now.
What was your first real exposure to music?
I would say listening to music in the car
when traveling to my Grandparents house in Northern New South Wales.
When did you decide that you wanted to start
writing and performing your own music?
The end of High School I decided I wanted to
make original rock music.  I started a
few bands, nothing ever special.
How and when did you all meet?
Hugh and I met through a mutual friend Chris,
just through going out to shows etcetera. 
Amy was in a band we liked, School Of Radiant Living, and we just saw
her at shows all the time and we met Andrew through interest and involvement
with Taco Leg.
What led to the formation of Constant Mongrel
and when was that?
I had an old laundry space in my house in Fitzroy at the time, Hugh was
always coming over, we were both listening to some punk/no wave music at the
time and one day we thought we’d try it ourselves!  Boom, we had ten songs before you knew
it.  It was very dumb, cocky and
What does the name Constant Mongrel mean or
refer too?
Constant Mongrel is in reference to a Mongrel
which is a half erect penis.  Constant is
having one all the time.  It also may
refer to a person always being annoying. 
It’s a smutty name really.
Where’s the band currently located at?
We are all living in Melbourne right
now.  Hugh lives in Fitzroy, Andrew in
Thorbury, Amy in East-Brunswick and I live in Kensington; all inner North/West
suburbs of Melbourne where all the hip cats live.
How would you describe the local music scene
I suppose there are a lot of bands, there are a lot of people to tell
these bands they are good with the aim of hoping that they will in turn tell
them that their band is good too.  That
is until they don’t care anymore and either give up or make really good music
that isn’t unhinged by their perception of what other people think of their
style.  The scene is supported by a few
very dedicated non-musicians I think bookers, festival people, record labels,
distributors, etcetera.
Are you very involved in the local scene?
Yes we are personally, although as a band not
so much.  We just all have some other
boxes in life to tick before we seek validation from other musicians.  Like what? 
Being cool and making sure other people know that by dressing well and
staying reasonably distant socially. 
Painful modesty also keeps us cool.
Has it played a large role in the sound,
history or evolution of Constant Mongrel?
Yes it has, because at first we wanted to
follow trends, then we wanted to hate on those who did, then we wanted to write
good songs, then we wanted to make them sound interesting and finally we hope
we did.  This all came from looking at
others and seeing what was amazing/good/average/horrible about them but maybe
that’s just the life of any artist.  Some
do it better than others and some bluff their way up.
There are some extremely interesting sounds
kicking around inside of your music!  Can
you tell our readers about who some of your major musical influences are?  What about the band as a whole rather than
As a band we all listen to different
music.  I know for sure that Amy and I
love country music to the core and listen to a lot of that.  Andrew loves early K and Riot Grrl along with
some old and contemporary Hardcore stuff. 
Hugh loves his Hardcore and punk too, as well as listening to a lot of
jazz, synth punk and new wave stuff. 
Bands I think that influence us on the whole are The Fall, Townes Van
Zandt, Sun Ra, Ornette Colman, Eno, Cluster, Scott Walker, Emmylou Harris,
Swell Maps, The Ramones, Blitz, Urban Waste, Vom, Velvet Underground, Void,
Crazy Spirit, Puffy Areolas, Porter Wagoner, Springsteen, Beat Happening, Black
Flag, Tom Petty, The Screamers and Homostupids.
I’m awful at labeling and describing music
and I just don’t espouse the notion that it fits into these convenient
pre-defined little boxes.  Can you
describe your sound to our readers who might not have heard Constant Mongrel
Punk songs with an effort to sound a bit
different, is that post punk?  That
already happened though…  I find when
bands don’t want to label their music it tends to make them sound stupid.  So yeah, post-punk I suppose. 
Can you tell us a little bit about Constant
Mongrel’s songwriting process?  Is there
someone who comes to the rest of the band with a riff or somewhat finished
product to work out with the rest of the band or is there a lot of jamming and
throwing ideas around in the practice space amongst the band?
On the whole, guitar parts are made first
usually by myself, although Hugh’s been making some recently, and then we just
play with them and work a vocal part, either Hugh or me and once or twice
Andrew, in somehow.  Lyrics are often
written after the song.  I think that’s
letting the music speak first?
Do you all enjoy recording?  Being a musician myself I think that we all
really love the end product, there’s not a lot that beats holding a record in
your hands knowing it’s your music and you made it.  Getting into the studio though, it can be a
little rough on a band to say the least. 
A lot of people breakout into a cold sweat or hives at the mere mention
ha-ha!  How is it in the studio for you
I usually hate recording but for this record,
and even the other, it was pain free!  We
went to Hugh’s family beach house, set up with our mate Tom H. and played live,
recorded VOX and drums and mixed over the next month.  We had a great time over there, the weather
was nice and we went to the beach on our breaks.  Taking time out to record really makes you
feel like you’re a real band, not just some weekenders.  That might affect the way we play and the
effort that goes into everything.
Do you do a lot of preparatory work before
you enter the studio or is it more of an organic evolving dynamic where things
change and morph where they might need to?
Nothing hardcore just working it all out so
we can play them well first go, instead of dicking around when recording. We
want to make sure the band sounds good and tight, but on the whole that’s a
practice or two before. 
Let’s take a moment and talk about Constant
Mongrel’s back catalog a little bit. 
Your first release was the self-titled Constant Mongrel tape on
Hidiotic.  What are you memories of
recording that first album was it a positive experience for you all?
That tape was just me and Hugh.  We set up with Tom. H and played into four
microphones with live vocals and the lot; really quick and easy that one!  Hidiotic is some of the dudes from the UV
Race.  They put some money in and dubbed
the tapes for us.  It was a pleasure
working with Georgia.  
When was the material for that self-titled
cassette recorded?  Who recorded it and
where was it recorded?  What kind of
equipment was used in the recoding?
Same as above.
I know that the Constant Mongrel cassette was
limited right?  How many copies was it
limited to?
Don’t know actually!  Maybe eighty? 
I don’t even have a proper copy of the thing!  If anyone that reads this has some lying
around please contact me because I want one!
After the self-titled cassette there was the
split on Wuss Tapes with Taco Leg.  How
did that collaboration come about? 
Hugh and I loved the Taco Leg stuff we had
heard.  We literally messaged Andrew on
Myspace and asked him.  He said yes.  Done!
Did you record the untitled song for that
album or was it something that you had previously recorded and had lying
around?  Can you tell us about the
recording of that song?  When and where
was it recorded?  Who recorded it?  What kind of equipment was used?
Not sure about that song, it was a long time
ago!  We recorded that on a boom box in
Hugh’s lounge room one afternoon with some mates.
There were two pressings of the cassette both
with different covers and both limited but I couldn’t find out how many copies
the pressings were limited to.  Do you
know how many copies that split was limited to?
I think about sixty of each pressing was done
on that one.  Hugh did the first cover
and then Andrew from Taco Leg and Constant Mongrel, adapted that cover with
help from his girlfriend Clare.
Then in 2012 you released the Everything Goes
Wrong 12” via R.I.P. Society and 80/81 Records. 
Was the recording of that album very different than the session(s) for your
previous releases?  Where and when was
that material recorded?  Who recorded it
and what kind of equipment was used?

Recording that record was the first proper
band effort for Constant Mongrel and the first with Amy on bass as well.  We did Everything Goes Wrong toward the end
of 2011 with Alex McFarlane at Bakehouse rehearsal rooms in Melbourne.  We used a 12-track interface straight into a
computer.  We recorded the instruments
live and then completed the rest over a month or so.  You know thinking about what Constant Mongrel
was before that record, we probably could have changed our name and it would
have made sense, it was a new band basically.

Was Everything Goes Wrong a limited
release?  As far as I can tell it’s out
of print as of earlier this year.
Yep, from memory five hundred were
pressed.  It was a split release with a
record label from California called 80/81 and the Sydney based label RIP
Society.  Two hundred and fifty were sent
to Australia and two hundred and fifty were left with Matt from 80/81.  As far as we know the USA part has sold out
but there may still be a few left around in Australia.
You recently released the Heavy Breathing
album 12” on Siltbreeze and the CD version on R.I.P. Society earlier this year
(2013).  Did you try anything radically
when it came to writing or recording this new album?  What can listeners expect from the new album?
The new album is interesting.  We recorded it easily and quickly from songs
we had been playing live for months before, except for one or two we made up on
the day.  So we had a good idea of the
content but less maybe of the way we wanted it to sound.  In the recording we set out to make sure we
had a really strong backbone in terms of the guitars and drums.  The songs I think are a little more developed
than previous releases and hopefully heading toward a more individual sound
though what that is I’m not sure, maybe darker, maybe more depth with the
second guitar.
Where was Heavy Breathing recorded?  Who recorded it and when was that material
recorded?  What kind of equipment was
used in the recording process?
Heavy Breathing was recorded at the end of
2012 in Hugh’s beach House on the west coast of Victoria.  Tom Hardisty recorded it with an 8-track
interface into a Mac desktop, that was hard to lug.
Does Constant Mongrel have any music that we
haven’t talked about?  If so can you tell
us a about it?
Not really, one demo was made after the first
three or four practice sessions.  We gave
some CD’s for free at the first few shows. 
A rare tidbit now!
Are there any plans for any other releases
coming up on the horizon or in the works, maybe a single or an EP to follow up
the recent full-length?
Hopefully something will happen in the next
year or so…  We have about three or four
new songs.  If we keep up at this rate
the next chance we get to record again we might have a full-length record
Where’s the best place for our U.S. readers
to buy copies of your music?
Well I know Permanent Records in Chicago and
LA stock it.  Umm, I’m pretty sure
Revolver distributes the record through Siltbreeze so I’m hoping most decent
record stores will have it floating around!
With the completely mad international postage
rate increases where’s the best place for our international and overseas
readers to buy your music?
Try online, if that’s an issue go to your
local independent record store and demand they do a Revolver order and get some
other Aussie or Siltbreeze stuff too! 
Tell ‘em they’ll save on postage and that the stuff is actually good.
Are there any plans to make any of the
earlier out of print material available via digital distributors in a reissue
at this point?
Actually not right now, we don’t have any
interest in getting stuff up right now. 
Gotta let sleeping dogs lie.  That
being said I think 80/81 put Everything Goes wrong up on Bandcamp to download
for five dollars.
Does Constant Mongrel have any goals or
anything you’re trying to accomplish in 2013?
We will be playing local shows for now,
possibly trip to Sydney or Brisbane toward the end of the year, maybe some
recording and just saving money for some bigger things in 2014; USA maybe?

Where’s the best place for our readers to
keep up with the latest news like upcoming album releases and shows at?
Well we just made a Facebook account under
the name Constance Mongral.  It is a
personal Facebook page so you have to add as a friend to follow.  Follow RIP Society and Siltblog to get some
stuff if you are anti-Facebook!
What do you have planned as far as touring
goes for the rest of the year?
Like I said local shows, maybe Sydney and
Brisbane but that’s all for Australia, maybe a U.S. tour?  Just have to wait and see in terms of money
You’ve played with some really cool bands,
who are some of your personal favorite that you’ve had a chance to share a bill
UV RACE, Bed Wetting Bad Boys, Home Blitz, Blues Control, Raw Prawn,
Destiny 3000, Miss Destiny, Mad Nana and Dribble.
Who are you on tour with… in your dreams?
Blues Control.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories
from live shows or performances that you’d like to share with our readers?
One time Hugh was playing drums and a drunk
dude he used to be friends with, but who owed Hugh money, came on stage during
the set.  He started yelling that Hugh’s
cymbals were his and they kinda were, but they were given in grace of the money
owed.  He started to try to take the
cymbals off while we were playing, Amy got really pissed and kicked this dude
in the back of the legs and he crumbled. 
Bad.  The song finished and Amy
was yelling, “Give Hugh his money or get the fuck outta here”.  That’s the thing, Amy’s the hardest person in
the band by far, and Andrew swears he did something but I didn’t see, I had to
sing so I couldn’t touch the poor guy. 
Anyway, he got some poo change and threw it on the stage at Hugh.  So Amy pointed to her boyfriend Alistair, he
came up and pushed the guy off of the stage and escorted him to the door as Amy
started playing the riff to “Under Collar”. 
Pretty funny for all of us really. 
Don’t think he’s paid Hugh back yet…? 
Shit, you know I kinda like him.
With all the various methods of release
available to artists today I’m always curious why they choose they ones that
they do.  Do you have a preferred medium
of release for your music?  What about
when you are buy or listening to music?
We all like to buy our music but format isn’t
the most important thing. I prefer records and CD’s because I like the whole
package and the artwork, etcetera. 
Everything Constant Mongrel has done has been available on tape,
download, CD or vinyl, keeping the punters happy.  The reality is that we aren’t in any zone to
make cash off selling our music, it’s more at the stage that if someone wants
to front their own money to release what we do and make something for
themselves we’re happy.
Do you have a music collection at all?  If so can you tell us about it?
I’ve got a small record collection.  It used to be bigger but I culled a whole lot
recently with the question of “will I listen to this in ten years?”  I mainly collect country, 70’s to 80’s punk,
early synth/noise/ambient, post punk and hardcore but there’s some contemporary
stuff too.
I’m a pretty avid music collector, I don’t
have the amount of money that I’d like to pick up the amount of stuff I would
but I’m passionate about it despite a modest collection.  There’s just something magical about holding
an album in your hands.  Having artwork
to look at, liner notes to read, it allows a brief glimpse into the mind of the
artists that made it and makes for a more complete listening experience; at
least for me.  Do you have any such
connection with physical releases?  I
love my music collection and I love being able to hold my music but I can’t
deny that I love the ease of digital music and the fact that it allows me to
take so much more stuff on the go and listen to so much more music.  Digital music has exposed me, via the
internet, to a whole world of music that I otherwise wouldn’t have ever been
privy to.  On the other hand it’s
undermining decades of infrastructure inside of the music industry and may
prove to be the nail in the coffin for major labels if they don’t learn to role
with the punches soon.  As an artist
during the reign of the digital ear what’s your opinion on digital music and
Ok, to be honest with you I feel like this
debate is pretty much over with.  The
music industry has fully embraced the digital format.  Bands pop their music up on Bandcamp, YouTube
or Soundcloud and then the old stuff is on iTunes or Spotify.  As long as the prices are reasonable and the
artist is supported in whatever way I think it’s a really positive thing.  That being said, from my experience I think
that underground or small indie record labels are doing hard copy with success
at this point.  I don’t know why 12” and
7” records have made such a resurgence in this underground world as opposed to
CD because size, cost and postage are the negative factors to vinyl.  Sound quality does come into play with this
stuff although it really is a minor difference anyway due to fact that most
people play their records on poor quality turntables and sound systems.  Why I still like LP’s I don’t know.  I think as an artist maybe the idea of having
a solid and large size version of your music gives you a tactile sensation that
a CD can’t give?  Also the fact that it costs
more money to press gives us a good feeling too.  So that’s that, I think that maybe its
artists and their ego’s running the vinyl revolution right now.  It’s a way of saying, “Hey I’m special, or at
least others think I am, enough to have a 12” piece of plastic that plays my
music to hold onto, what have you done today?” 
Maybe I’m full of shit?
I try to keep up on as much good music as is
literally humanly possible ha-ha!  Is
there anyone from your local scene or area that I might not have heard of that
I should be listening to?
All the bands I listed before!  The Gutter Gods album is going to rule and I
think the Ruined Fortune Record should be great as well.  I saw a band called Flat Fix recently and
really got into that.  I hope to hear
more recordings soon!  Mob from Sydney
are really great.
What about nationally and internationally?
Folded Shirt and Andrew Chalk.
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this
interview I know it took some serious time to get through this behemoth!  Is there anything that I missed or that you’d
just like to talk about?
Thanks I’m spent.
(2010)  Constant Mongrel – Constant Mongrel –
Cassette Tape – Hidiotic (Limited Edition)
(2010)  Constant Mongrel/Taco Leg – Constant
Mongrel/Taco Leg split – Cassette Tape – Wuss Tapes (2 Limited Editions exist
each with a different cover)
(2012)  Constant Mongrel – Everything Goes Wrong –
12” – R.I.P. Society / 80/81 Records
(2013)  Constant Mongrel – Heavy Breathing – 12”, CD
– Siltbreeze (12”)/RIP Society (CD)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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