Download Festival has been a staple for UK rock & metal fans for fifteen years. In 2016, it expanded to France, and in 2017 to Spain. This year, it stretches out further than ever, staking a claim in Australia, with its inaugural event kicking off this Saturday 24 March. The lineup features a list of international favourites, as well as a sample of home grown talents, including Melbourne grindcore five-piece, King Parrot. I caught up with bassist, Wayne ‘Slatts’ Slattery to chat about it.
Download is trialling its Australian leg with a one-day concert in Melbourne and I asked Slatts why he felt they chose his hometown. “Well, it is the lifeblood of music in Australia if you ask me. I think there’s great music everywhere in Australia, sometimes better than the rest of the world, but over the years I’ve met people who’ve moved from Sydney, moved from Perth, moved from Tassie, moved from f*ckin’ Birregurra to be in Melbourne because that’s where the music is.”
Sharing the stage with some of the biggest names in local and worldwide heavy music, I was keen to see if he was looking forward to anyone in particular. “Can’t wait to see Pagan. Can’t wait to see High Tension. Can’t wait to see Psycroptic. Can’t wait to see all my mates from Australia.”
In recent years, the alternative music community in Australia lost its two flagship festivals, with Big Day Out calling it quits in 2014 and Soundwave following suit in 2015. The addition of Download to the Australian festival landscape is an optimistic light in the darkness.
“It can only be good, can’t it? Soundwave, when that first started, was amazing. Before that, being the old c*nt that I am, having been to Big Day Out plenty of times, it was probably actually even better than that. The focus was on the heavier side of things. That was great,” he recalled of his time as a punter at the festivals, “But then some decisions were made that didn’t match up with what the people wanted in terms of running over two days and that sort of thing, and then we lost that.”
“Download coming here I think is fantastic because it connects us a bit better to the rest of the world too. I think most people, whether they’re into heavy music or not, have an awareness of Download Festival and its sheer size in the UK. The opportunity that exists then for bands that do play in Australia is that potential line into that festival overseas as well.”
“That’s a tough thing. I mean, it’s not like we do a census every four years on who f*ckin’ likes what in terms of music, which we probably should,” he suggested, comparing the hopeful success of Download as an Australian festival to the short-lived Australian leg of the Warped Tour, “I talk to a lot of people and it goes either way. Some people might say ‘that lineup’s sick, it touches on my nostalgia, it’s got this band that’s modern, it’s up to date’ and then you’ll have some say ‘why the f*ck would I go see a nu-metal band’ or whatever. The challenge, year in year out, is to properly gauge what’s gonna touch the funny bone of a music lover, what’s gonna shake your sh*t machine.”
After their stint at Download, the band is hitting the road for the mammoth 19-date Regional Rampage tour, and Slatts weighed in on the sheer size of the tour. “I am really, really excited about that. There are a couple of other bands who’ve done it, not being genre-specific. There’s bands like The Smith Street Band who are heading out and doing some crazy amount of dates like that. If I can throw back to the 80s and early 90s, where bands… that’s what you did. You just played everywhere. These days, I know it’s challenging and this is the first time we’ve done a tour of this size in Australia, but it seems like everyone has sort of given up,” he observed, “Of course it’s challenging no matter what you do, but obviously you see that Perth misses out quite often, Tassie’s sort of… those two are the first to go. Then you’ll see Adelaide get axed as well. So then you end up with an international band or a local band that does a tour and they’re Australian tours that’re announced as Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and then maybe f*ckin’ Geelong and Newcastle or some sh*t.”
“We’ve always been pretty focused on actually getting out to the regional areas. Like, a lot of these places we’ve been to before, like Townsville and Albury-f*ckin’-Wodonga and we’ve played to a small crowd and it hasn’t mattered. They’re hugely appreciative, they want to talk you and you get the opportunity to do that. And, the next time around, if we don’t make it there, then they’re the ones who’re gonna make that three hour f*ckin’ trek to their nearest capital city to see us.”
“We’ve done a few tours,” he laughed, “and when you go overseas, you realise pretty quickly that’s what happens. We set up shop, we ply our wares and then we f*ckin’ go to the next spot. And that’s the best way to do it. We’ll go to the States and do umpteen shows. I know we’ve probably done 27 dates in 30 days. That’s when you really decide whether you want to do this as a job too.”
The tour is the second time around the country on the back of their most recent release, ‘Ugly Produce’, and I was keen to see how the fans have felt about the record so far. “I’ve heard pretty good. It came out in September and we did our tour in December, so I’m gonna base it on that sort of reception. F*ck, I don’t know the words. Never have. To see people, they’re either goldfish or they actually know the words, but either way, at least they’re having a go. And you see that more and more, and it’s cool. There’s certainly lots of good feedback, people talking to you and saying that they really enjoy it. In terms of sales, it’s been great.”
“I think it’s a f*ckin’ cool recording. I’ve described that one as being a mix of ‘Deadset’ and ‘Bite Your Head Off’, which are both great in their own right. I personally favour ‘Bite Your Head Off’ myself. That’s just the next step forward, and part of this tour we’ve already tied in a couple of days with a bit of studio writing time on those days off, which is gonna be good. We never stop, mate! I guess that tour that we did was how I said people do ‘em – we just did the capital cities, and this time we’ll go a little further. It’s had more time to be on people’s computers and record players and whatever the f*ck else they listen to that sh*t on.”
The lads are being joined on the road by Michigan hardcore noise rockers, Child Bite, who have never seen Australia. “To be honest, I don’t know,” Slatts stated when I asked how King Parrot first came across Child Bite. “I’m guessing it was originally a connection via the fact that we’re on the same record label in the States – Housecore Records – and we’ve done maybe five tours with them in the States now. I think that they’re f*ckin’ amazing as musicians and their music – I’ve always found myself saying they’re kinda like a cross between a heavy version of Jesus Lizard having sex with Dead Kennedys or something. It’s different, y’know, and they’re road dogs. They recognise that whole element that we’re carnies and work hard, and they do it because they’re passionate about it, not thinking they’re gonna be the next big thing or whatever.”
“We’ve probably known them now for at least four years and we’re just f*ckin’ excited that they’re coming to Australia finally. I’ve told them so much about drop bears and sh*t like that. It’s gonna be great, and it’s not like they’re gonna come to Australia and see four capital cities – which are f*ckin’ beautiful, but they’re still f*ckin’ cities – they’re going to see Australia.”
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