Interviews

Published on March 15th, 2015 | by The Beige Baron

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Interview: Paddy from TTTDC

Acronym copy

New 12-inch vinyl album “Acronym” out on WeEmptyRooms in May

It’s been 60 years since Chuck Berry brought rock ‘n’ roll kicking and screaming into the world, and it’s easy to imagine that every stylistic innovation that could be dreamt up has been done, and done to death in the time since. But there are still corners of the world, nooks and crannies, where underground musicians are taking the seeds of rock and conjuring them into strange and exotic fruit.

Melbourne is one such nook, and TTTDC is one such band. Fatty, Nick, and Paddy are three veterans of the Australian rock scene who care less about what anyone thinks—or what music is currently in vogue—and more about making original music and having a good time.

There is something joyful and liberating in the band’s new album Acronym; a restlessness and childlike eagerness to rock out with slabs of mammoth riffage while at the same time cramming every idea they can into the space of 44 minutes, and to hell with anyone’s sensibilities.

Rather than being a chaotic self-indulgent mess as you might expect, the result is an album that grips your attention. The righteous vocal stylings burst with energy and soul, tempos and rhythms and time signatures leap around like a circus clown on crack with a happy gas mask glued to its face, and best of all, there are some truly neck-dislocating riffs to be savoured.

There are also moments on this record where the collaborative approach to songwriting hits paydirt. Give opener Reiterate a couple of listens and I guarantee Gerasimos’s vocals will be floating unbidden into your head as you push the Hoover around the living room or a trolley down the supermarket aisle.

Recorded (almost unbelievably for such a full-sounding record) in one straight take, Acronym comes dangerously close to capturing the band at their gut-busting live-house best, so much so that you can almost smell the sour yet comforting redolence of The Tote’s beer-soaked carpet.

Drummer extraordinaire and Kelly Slater lookalike Paddy took some time to fill us on the main objectives of TTTDC, how the new album was written and recorded, why Fatty lost his beard, and what he would do with spare afternoon in Melbourne.

011TTDC Lo Res - Daniel Oh Photography

Paddy from TTTDC (Courtesy Daniel Oh Photography)

BNU: In almost all of the bands you guys have been associated with over the years, one thing that stands out lyrically—and also with things like bios, and your on-stage antics—is that you all enjoy a laugh. How important is having a sense of humour in music? And is it a fine line to tread between not taking the whole thing too seriously, and not being taken seriously by listeners?

I reckon having a sense of humour in life is important; it might even be the most important thing in my book. You’ve got to be able to take the piss out of yourself, and you’ve got to be able to take a joke. I generally find that people who are unable to do this are kind of stressful to be around, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing music with folk like that.

SOTIS have taken it to the next level, they actually do a thing called “shit band”

So the humour of TTTDC and all the other bands we’re associated with is just a reflection of how we are in our ordinary lives. We probably spend 50 per cent of our rehearsal time working on the music, and the rest cracking gags, including instrumental gags. So you know, at rehearsal I’ll start playing a shitty disco beat out of nowhere, and then Nick or Fatty starts pouting and playing some shit ska riff, and someone adds some super-serious Joy Division-style lyrics, and we’re away! I love that stuff, it cracks me up, it makes rocking up to rehearsal heaps of fun cause everyone’s having a laugh.

SOTIS have taken it to the next level, they actually do a thing called “shit band”, where at the start of a gig, and I’ve seen them do it in packed rooms, they all just play complete rubbish, all out of time, no proper notes, and it sounds completely fucked. I’ve seen people turn to their mates and go, “What the fuck is this shit?” and then two minutes later when they’re playing actual songs, the same dudes are going, “This is fucking sick!” It’s absolutely hilarious. I love that band.

So yeah, we don’t take ourselves, or the fact that we’re in a band, very seriously at all. However, we are serious about the music we make, the actual output of the band, and the live performance aspect. We take that very seriously. Fatty and I always warm up before gigs and get pretty nervous. I think people that see us play live and listen to our albums get that we are pretty serious about the music we make.

Fatty is no longer fat. By selfishly dieting and exercising, he has made his own nickname obsolete. What are we supposed to call him now?

It’s true isn’t it? When I first met him over 10 years ago, he had a nicely developed gut and looked pretty content with himself—sort of like a Greek Garfield. Then I don’t know, in the space of about six months, the bloke just started running his arse off and going hardcore at the fitness. He also completely lost his beard for a while there and almost looked like a completely different person, which was weird. But yeah, good on him I reckon, he’s got two young kids and I’ve just had my first. It can’t be easy bending over all day long with a hairy gut between you and the floor.

I wouldn’t be interested in turning up to take orders from some guitarist who had a whole album written and just wanted me to play along. Fuck that!

Interestingly, I’m pretty sure the nickname “Fatty” came from Gerasimos’s youth when he was really skinny and whippet-like. So a once sarcastic reference became literal, and is now sarcastic again. I reckon keep calling him “Fatty”.

front bar residency

Front bar residency

How do you feel when you see keen young bands setting out so earnestly to become big stars? And in terms of the health of Australian music and the Melbourne scene in particular, do you think it’s getting harder or easier to play gigs and sell records? Do you think the Internet makes it easier for bands like TTTDC to attract fans when your power is truly unleashed in the live setting? It’s difficult to get that across when recording on a budget.

If you’re talking about keen young independent bands that are playing good original music and trying also to market themselves and get some fame and attention along the way, then I say good on ’em! Bands that work really hard at what they do deserve all the success they get.

On the other hand, if you’re talking about bands that make music which is completely derivative, boring and a blatant rip off of some other person or band’s ideas because they know it will sell etc., then I’m not very impressed.

In terms of the Melbourne scene, it’s gotten easier for TTTDC and our other bands to play gigs and sell records because we’ve been doing this for over 10 years now – and Fatty’s been doing it for over 20 years. So we know lots of other cool bands and venue bookers who we can collaborate with to put gigs on.

A lot of our songs sort of breathe in and out of different parts and timings, so it’s much easier to pull that off if we’re all in the same room

Also, I reckon the Internet is great for bands like TTTDC. It makes it way easier for people to find and purchase our music. For example, quite a few Germans bought the first TTTDC album. There’s no way they would have ever known we existed without the Internet and bandcamp. That’s a really cool thing.

In relation to recording budget, with both TTTDC albums almost everything you’re hearing is recorded live in one take, no separation. Both albums were made for very little money, and we’re really happy with the sound. It’s got a rawness to it that I really like, which you don’t get if everyone is in their own little isolation booth playing along through the headphones.

Also, a lot of our songs sort of breathe in and out of different parts and timings, so it’s much easier to pull that off if we’re all in the same room hearing each other’s instruments. We don’t nail it 100 per cent of the time, but we’re not perfectionists like that either, it’s more about the feel of each performance. The advantage is that what you hear on the record is pretty much what you’ll hear live.

005TTDC Lo Res - Daniel Oh Photography

Fatty and Nick letting it all hang out

Your first album Greatest Hits definitely seemed to be drawing a more direct line back to your ’70s rock influences, but the new record seems a little more adventurous and, dare I say it, even a bit proggy. By that I mean in a sans-waistcoat, King Crimson-style kind of way. Did Gerasimos and Nick do most of the writing on the new one, and did you approach writing and recording any differently this time around? I heard that you guys were under the care of Naomune Anzai while in the studio?

Prog is not a dirty word in TTTDC. To us, good prog is actually being able to play your instruments well and not buying into the whole three-chord, verse-chorus-verse-chorus scene and instead trying to push yourselves as musos and display a bit of fucking flare!

So in TTTDC, the writing process is very collaborative. Nick and Gerasimos are the guitarists and come up with most of the basic riff ideas. I also play guitar and contribute a riff or two here and there. But our real strength is the way we collaborate and bounce off each other’s ideas, and also push each other when writing music. That’s a completely equal and democratic process.

No-one in TTTDC is very precious with their original ideas about structure or the broader song, we bring riffs and sounds and ideas to the table, sometimes very basic, and then we try to use our collective imagination to make it cool and interesting and listenable and groovy.

I struggle to find words to express how deep my respect for Nao is.

I’ve never been in a band that worked any other way, I wouldn’t be interested in turning up to take orders from some guitarist who had a whole album written and just wanted me to play along. Fuck that! So boring. Also, by every person contributing to the song writing process, there’s a lot more personal investment and no one ever ends up having to play a song that they secretly think is lame.

And yes, we worked with Nao Anzai right throughout the Acronym album – that is to say, we recorded it with him, we mixed it with him, and he mastered it for us.

I struggle to find words to express how deep my respect for Nao is. He’s basically the most humble yet clue-y sound engineer I’ve ever worked with. He’s a Japanese dude and doesn’t talk much, but the whole time he’s thinking about everything and making tiny little adjustments, and they’re always correct and what we want. We never have to explain anything to him twice, and he basically pulls the sickest fucking heavy rock tones around – guitar and drums.

We’re extremely happy with the sound he has achieved for the Acronym album and will definitely work with him again in the future.

008TTDC Lo Res - Daniel Oh Photography

Courtesy Daniel Oh Photography

There seems to be a kind of Mediterranean, or could it be perhaps a slight waft of North Africa, flavouring the latest album? These are not typical ’70s fuzz-rock riffs. Some of the songs like Inipsum and Smoke and Mirrors seem to have that exotic vibe. Was that an intentional thing, and if TTTDC were a cuisine or a restaurant serving a particular kind of food, what would it be?

There’s definitely a Mediterranean vibe to TTTDC. I don’t know if it’s intentional, we don’t set out to sound that way, it’s more a result of the way both Nick and Gerasimos play the guitar. They’re both very unique guitarists, very much from a blues background, but their Greek influence and upbringing really comes out in their playing too.

Also, they don’t think in a 4/4 way about writing guitar parts and riffs, or even in time signatures at all sometimes. It can be really challenging as a drummer, and I’ve had to learn to be very open-minded to figure out drum parts to a lot of what they do, but that’s what makes you a better drummer in the end, so I’m all for it.

Also, I think in TTTDC we are all in agreement that eastern-style riffs sound heavier and more menacing than straight-up blues-based ones. Arabic/Greek/Mediterranean, whatever you want to call it, I reckon the scales and intonation that the music of these ancient cultures is based on is far more bleak and sorrowful than blues scales. Nowadays heavy fuzzy blues music doesn’t really sound that “heavy” to me, more just satisfying – which is sometimes what you want, and TTTDC have plenty of songs like this. But the really moving and doomy stuff, for my money, has more of an eastern tinge.

We had a few people, usually dudes with goatees and bad breath, start crapping on about how much heavier we would be if we had a bass player

The intro to Inipsum with the singing is an example of this. Personally I’d like to push this further and further and do a TTTDC album that’s all just bleak-as-fuck eastern-influenced doom, but we’ll see how we go.

And what restaurant cuisine would we be? Greek. We all love Greek food in TTTDC.

What is it exactly that you have against bass players? I know they are less intelligent than guitarists and have generally worse hygiene, but you know, first it’s the bass player, then it’s the drummer. You’re probably next in line for the chop. Care to comment?

My job as the drummer is safe because I’m one of only three people on planet earth who knows what “TTTDC” stands for. If those pricks ever tried to fire me, I’d go public with that info and… well… nothing would happen. But yeah, I really like playing in this band, please don’t fire me guys?

TTTDC All good

Weddings, parties, anything

But seriously, the no-bass-player thing wasn’t really a conscious decision, it just evolved that way. There were a few bass players early on that we thought of trying to jam with, but it just adds extra weight to the band (in a logistical sense) that we felt like we didn’t need a bass player in the end.

The three of us were so psyched on what we were doing and it sounded good and the enthusiasm levels were really high so we just kept pushing on. Early on we had a few people come up to us at gigs, usually dudes with goatees and brand new black Sabbath shirts and bad breath, who started crapping on about how much heavier we would be if we had a bass player. But we don’t seem to get that anymore.

Also, not having bass in the band makes the drums way more audible, especially the toms. You’ll notice this on the new album, the kit sounds massive. It’s just a different kind of sound, we’re not trying to be Kyuss or Sleep, were trying to do our own thing.

You handle some of the vocal duties in TTTDC, is that correct? The vocals are almost my favourite part of the new record; there is some great harmonizing going on. How big of an influence was Phil Collins on your playing style, and do you think Genesis were good or shit?

We all sing in TTTDC, but I can safely say that Phil Collins has had zero influence on me in any aspect of my life whatsoever, and that I have never heard a Genesis album.

The weirder the better, it’s good to try really weird things—too weird, sometimes, so it sounds jarring

Despite that, I’ve always loved vocal harmonies, the first rock music I ever listened to when I was a kid was from The Who, The Beach Boys, and Cream, and I used to listen to those albums non-stop. I don’t profess to be any sort of musical know-it-all, but it seems to me that there’s a real lack of vocal harmony usage in heavy rock music. Every member of TTTDC is a huge Queen fan, I think those fellas were some of the first to tastefully marry vocal harmonies with heavy riffs.

I also love Big Business, and their most recent album Battlefields really stands out as an example of using vocal harmonies alongside heavy riffage – as well as some of the more recent Melvins stuff.

So yeah, vocal harmonies are something we all like and we try to incorporate them into our music where it suits. Not in a forced way, but if we think it might sound good then we go for it. It’s all about trying new things, there’s no rulebook that we follow when coming up with songs or trying out ideas, that stifles creativity. The weirder the better, it’s good to try really weird things—too weird, sometimes, so it sounds jarring. But then you pull them back just a bit and find a groove, and you’re left with something really special and unique.

I look at going to rehearsal as an exotic holiday

What techniques do you guys use to stop from being mobbed by adoring fans at gigs? Do you ever get tired of beautiful women throwing themselves at you, and blokes always trying to buy you beers and bask in your reflected glory? It can be a bit of grind, gigging, doing promotion, and trying to keep it all going… How do you stay motivated? 

Usually I get our helicopter pilot to lower me into the back of the venue with a harness that I can quickly unstrap and jump into the stool for the gig. Once I’m done, he winches me back up to the chopper to safety and whisks me off to the after-party in South Yarra where I finally get to hang out with other really famous and beautiful people like myself. That’s where I can finally unwind and, between lines of Columbian coke, laugh at all the commoners who come to TTTDC shows and buy our merch and offer to buy us free shots.

Seriously, shots? Sooo fucking passé, man.

But seriously, it’s not a grind at all! I wish I had more time to do music; I’d do it seven days a week if someone would pay me to. Playing a good gig and hanging out with friendly punters and dudes/dudettes from bands I like is one of life’s little pleasures. Particularly since having a kid a few months ago and now not having much time for leisure activities, I look at going to rehearsal as an exotic holiday. No crying, no nappies, no soothing, no settling, just gags, pizza and riffs. It’s the best!

My motivation is the awesome music we make and the fact that my hearing is already completely fucked so I may as well keep at it so I can jump on the DSP at some point in the future.

Self-promotion is awkward at first, but once you realise no one else is going to do it for you, it becomes pretty straightforward – if you don’t do it, the band will never progress.

In this respect, TTTDC is exactly like the only other band I’ve been in, Wicked City. Both awesome fun. If it was boring or a chore I would’ve fucked it off years ago and moved to Indonesia where the surf is better.

What’s your favourite Australian venue to play and why? What are you planning for the new album’s release?

Fatty's rig at headgap

Fatty’s rig at Headgap

My favourite venue as a muso is the Corner Hotel in Richmond. I’ve only played there twice, but each time the sound on stage has been amazing. The band has its own special little mixer bloke off to the side who gets it sounding incredible on stage. From there, you can’t really fail. I’d love to play there with TTTDC soon.

Other than that, I always love playing The Tote just because it has an unbeatable vibe. When it’s packed and everyone is loose and drinking and the bands are good, it’s pretty much the biz. The Tote is definitely my favourite venue as a punter.

Our new album Acronym is being released via our good friend Jem’s record label, WeEmptyRooms. Jem is a top bloke that we’ve known for years, and his label is 100% dedicated to putting out music that he likes and thinks people need to hear. We’re really excited to be working with him and are hoping a lot more people will get to hear our stuff this time around. Our first album was released independently, which is fine, but it just means not as many people get to hear it which is a shame.

The album launch itself is happening at The Tote in the very near future – we’re pulling together a sick lineup, really diverse. We’re also going to try play some interstate shows once the album’s out too. TTTDC aren’t the hardest-touring band because we’ve got little kids and stuff, but we really want to get out of Melbourne and riff for the broader public ASAP. There’ll be some more details about this soon.

For some reason, your work is cancelled, your loved ones are out of town, and you have an afternoon and an evening free in Melbourne and you’ve a modestly full pocket of money. How do you spend that afternoon?

I get in the car and bust a move down the coast to look for waves. Surfing and drumming are the only forms of exercise I bother with, so if there are waves and I’m not doing anything, I usually try to get out there and have a crack. I’m not particularly good, but I’m not totally shit either, I’ve been hacking away at it for over 10 years and usually manage to have a good time.

I’d go to the Anglesea bakery for the old pie/donut/Big-M combo

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Straight Outta Northcote

The natural high from having a good surf is similar to the one I get from playing a good gig. I find I’m in a really good mood for about 24 hours and nothing much can faze me. It’s a great way to be, but obviously not every surf is like that, just like not every gig is like that.

Also, one of the best things about surfing is that it gives you an almighty appetite afterwards. So then I’d go to the Anglesea bakery for the old pie/donut/Big-M combo.

That right there is a pretty complete afternoon and I would only add to it if there were a particularly good gig on, in which case I’d go along to that and spend all remaining money on booze, kebabs, and taxis.

Has your drumming style changed much since you first started playing? I admire the way you hit, you definitely have good feel. Who would be your top five drummers of all time?

They tried to make me play with brushes – I of course refused this idiotic request

Thanks. When I first started playing drums I had no style at all, I was just trying to play along to Offspring or Living End or whatever kind of shit I was into when I was 13 years old. I’m pretty sure I’ve always been a loud drummer, because I used to play drums in my dad’s covers band when I was 15, and they tried to make me play with brushes – I of course refused this idiotic request.

But I assume it’s the same for most drummers who don’t receive any formal training, you keep playing and going out and watching other drummers and listening to different music, and it all starts to enter your own repertoire eventually and you end up being this sort of mongrel drummer with shocking technique who has somehow developed a range of weird systems to pull it off.

Top 5 drummers of all time in no particular order: Joel Ellis (Nunchukka Superfly), Sebastian Thompson (Trans Am), Bill Ward (Black Sabbath), Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra), and Jem Moloney (DEAD/Firewitch).

I don’t really care how technically good a drummer is if their music is shit. I can certainly appreciate watching a good drummer live, but I’m not really into drumming the same way I’m into music.

TTTDC abbot

Still from the “Reiterate” video.

The film-clip for Reiterate is a classic, and of exceptionally high quality. How the idea of doing a parody came about? What’s been the reaction to it so far? What proportion of an average crowd at a TTTDC gig would be Liberal Party supporters?

Thanks mate, glad you like the clip because we had an awesome time making it. Like most TTTDC “brainwaves”, I’m pretty sure we were all just sitting around talking shit when the political parody idea came about. We knew reiterate was our shortest song and the most likely candidate for a clip.

While the lyrics probably weren’t originally intended to have a political purpose, they certainly seemed to take on that meaning after Australia voted in Tony Abbott and his dickhead band of merry dweebs, and we kept getting the same bullshit messages again and again day-in and day-out. We’re still getting them! When we realised the lyrics to reiterate matched our reaction to Abbott and Co., the idea was too perfect to pass up.

There are a lot of smart people in Australia, and it really shits me that our leader is one of the stupidest

We had a lot of help from Josh [bass player from SOTIS], and basically Fatty cut the entire thing himself – he’s really good with video and making clips. All I did was organise the masks and the car, the Grammenos boys did the filming and had most of the artistic vision. They’re pretty handy behind the lens.

It was also very cathartic dressing up like those goons and acting the fool. Even when we were shooting it, a lot of people were stopping and staring at us, trying to figure out what we were up to, and quite a few of them were pissing themselves too. The reaction to the clip has been great, everyone who sees it that I’ve spoken to seems to have a good laugh.

I wouldn’t think you’d find many Liberal voters at a TTTDC show, and I’m certainly not averse to offending anyone stupid enough to think Tony Abbott or any of his henchmen are good for this country. People are free to think and vote however they choose, but Paul Keating said it best: Tony Abbott is “an intellectual nobody”. There are a lot of smart people in Australia, and it really shits me that our leader is one of the stupidest.

TTTDC’s second full-length album Acronym will be released in mid-2015 through WeEmptyRooms on beautiful 12″ vinyl. Keep an eye on the WeEmptyRooms’ bandcamp page to grab a copy once it’s out.

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