High Tension. Start Your Own Revolution.
High Tension are one of the most important bands emerging out of Melbourne. “A weird mongrel of metal, punk and bad jokes,” their unique blistering live shows trigger a full bodied urge to get the fuck out and start your own musical revolution. FrankenSounds had the pleasure of talking to basshead and acclaimed Film Director, Matt Weston about the greatest live show they’ve ever played, the origins of Rottweiner and an exclusive gander at the new material.
“It was really good to hang out with the The Bronx dudes, they watched SixFTHick with us at about 1.30am, I believe I left at around 3am…”
A celebration of all things dark through large-scale public art, food, music, light and noise, Dark Mofo takes place in the freezing winter climate of Tasmania. The sprawling festival setting Hobart alight in more ways than one, “Dark Mofo was the first time we’ve done anything with Mona and I would probably argue it was the best show we’ve ever played.” Essentially a Bronx support, High Tension were treated with the upmost regard, “Even from the perspective of being looked after, they paid well, they organised flights, they picked you up from the airport, stuff that we’re really not used to.”
The live photos look amazing, can you tell us about the setup? “Normally the first band gets half the PA and a lighting guy hasn’t been paid so they'll just put one look up, which is fine y’know.” In astonishment to this day, Weston is in awe of the welcoming they received. Laughing he explains, “We had the full setup, there were lasers going off, there were strobes - it was great!” From a crowd perspective, “It was really fun to play, there weren't just Bronx fans there, a lot of people in town were just checking stuff out - we played to a packed house.”
The party didn't stop there, “It was really good to hang out with the The Bronx dudes, they watched SixFTHick with us at about 1.30am, I believe I left at around 3am…”
Active since 2012, has High Tension's direction stayed true to there original ideas? “The person with the strongest vision of how the band should sound is Karina (Utomo, Vox) which was a bit of reaction to her time in Young & Restless, her and Ash’s last band, that got pushed into more of a dance scene.”
Explaining the make up of how they sound today Weston continues, “Karina was always encouraged not to scream as much, which worked pretty well for Young & Restless but I think she always wanted that band to be more of a punk screaming metal thing which is what she’s listens to.” Coming full circle, the prodigal drummer returns, “The drummer we wrote the original material with [Damien Coward] was on tour with his other band Heirs and picked up a touring opportunity in Europe, he stayed over there and didn't come home - unfortunately for us but a great opportunity for him.” Since then, The Nation Blue’s Dan McKay has joined and left, leaving the spot open, “12 months later working on album number 2 and Damien’s back and Dan’s left so it’s like we’re getting back together for the first time so it’s all about having fun and How heavy can you get?"
Director of many music videos and the acclaimed documentary Cosmic Psychos are there times he feels split between playing live and wanting to capture the moment? “For me it's easy to separate those 2 things.” Being too close to a project making it trickier, “It’s harder to work on your own projects, how to represent those visually, it’s different if I am not in the band, it’s far easier for me to work that way.”
Can you tell us about the music videos for High Tension? “They’ve pretty much been performance videos, I mean I can do them with my eyes closed when it’s about introducing a new band that is all about a pretty intense live show.” 3 videos in, it’s time to get more creative, “We’ve done 3 videos and I’m kinda scratching my head going oh shit I’m going to have to be creative on this one, we can’t just be 4 people in a warehouse again.”
New video ideas are coming thick and fast for the new track, “For the new song Sports, which will be an anthem for gyms and cross-fit gyms across Australia, Karina is already pitching ideas about her doing slow motion weight lifting in a gym type situation so that’ll be a great fit.”
“Theres a song called Burrito, that’s from a jam where we had burritos, there’s a song called Vomit Bag, I don’t know what that means…”
East Coast Camaraderie
The sold out Violent Soho tour has been smashing it’s way around the country, wrapping up in Brisbane last Saturday night. The Access All Areas photos taken in Melbourne by Triple J displaying close friendships, “I definitely think that there is that camaraderie.” Explaining how it works, he takes us back to when his band The Nation Blue started out, “We were taken under the wing of Magic Dirt when we were young and Violent Soho fell under that, we as bands had a lot of support from Dean Turner before he passed away.”
“You all fall in the same circles.” Laughing Weston continues, “Especially if you are on that stupid hobby of losing all your money and spending 23 hours of your day preparing to play to 50 people for 1 hour of the day... but it’s still the best fun you could every have.”
Unity providing shelter and support, "If an interstate comes down they’ll stay on my couch, there is that brother and sisterhood, especially with the Violent Soho dudes, I’ve known Luke and James for years through Nation Blue stuff and working with Tym’s Guitars, the greatest guitar store in the world.”
The New Record
Thanks to a trip to SXSW with their label Cooking Vinyl, the 4 piece are now signed to New Damage in Canada, home of The Flatliners and Misery Signals, “New Damage and Cooking Vinyl are really supportive... SXSW was great, it gave us an opportunity to play to all the people we had been dealing with on email a lot.”
Now in the writing phase, the band have “7 or 8 rippers,” Laughs Weston as he puts some ideas forward to try and support their hobby, “I’ve actually just been on group chat on Facebook, like true kids of the future, trying to find out how to pay for an album when a band is already in debt." Crowd funding being one possibility, "Hopefully we’ll do some crowd funding, I did that for Cosmic Psychos film which was awesome.”
Before asking for pledges, High Tension wanted to develop more of a catalogue for the fans, “We were going to crowd fund the 1st album but we wanted to give people a base, to hear the music recorded, before we started asking for money.” Now with 2 years of material backed up, now is the time.
Once everything is set, recording will take place just before Christmas and the release will take place sometime around March next year. Right now, the band are spending their time in their rehearsal space, just North of Melbourne, “Conveniently, Damien has a permanent rehearsal room that he shares with other band mates in Coburg, to have somewhere in Collingwood would be too expensive.” Most of the music madness created around the same area, “All the rehearsal rooms are out in the North, it’s about a half hour drive for all of us.”
Known for in-jokes and beautifully executed bad comedy, High Tension's lyrical content keep the band in high spirits, “Generally the song titles and names are based on whatever in-joke is happening at the time, and it’s in the ballpark of whatever Karina comes up with straight away for lyrical content.” Opening his iTunes there and then he reveals the latest, “Theres a song called Burrito, that’s from a jam where we had burritos, there’s a song called Vomit Bag, I don’t know what that means…” He delves deeper, “The new song from the other night is called Zowie because I was telling a Christopher Walken story of how he kept saying Zowie [cracks up], it could be anything!”
Living in the same vicinity is the reason the band started, “Karina and I live a block apart in Collingwood, the main reason the band started was Karina vicariously wanted dogs, she didn't have room or the time enough for a dog but she knew if we hung out more she could hang out with my Rottweilers” Motivated by their animal friends, “Karina originally wanted the band to be called Rottweiner which I thought was the worst name I’ve ever heard.”
Dark Mofo Photos Phil Kitt Photography