Operation Rolling Thunder

Operation Rolling Thunder

Thursday 28th October, 2010 6:19PM

While family feuds are seldom the origin of creative collaborations, Operation Rolling Thunder have been navigating these, Battle of the Band competitions and The Dunedin Sound, for, well, all their lives now. They have just released their debut album III, recorded by the seminal Dale Cotton and UTR caught up with Adam to discuss, amongst other things, why bands should play music, not industry politics.

Hey there, how are ya doing?

Very good thanks, warm.

Usually we’d ask how you got together, but that one answers itself – so when did you start playing together, how did Operation Rolling Thunder come about?

We have pretty much grown up playing together. As soon as I got my first amp, when I was about 14. We mucked around, wrote little bits and pieces. When Rob came up to Dunedin to study I was still living here and we just started playing together again, mucking around like we had been doing forever. We started working up a few ideas and started to feel that it sounded pretty good. We entered an OUSA Battle of the Bands in like 2000 or something, strangely made it through to the finals and even more strangely got third equal and off we went… we also met Thom Bell that night who agreed to record us as part of the prize package. We have done a lot of stuff with Thom since, good man.

How does being brothers and knowing each other so well play a part in the music you make?

It’s a good thing. We pretty much shared a record collection growing up, so a lot of the time we hear the same thing straight away when we’re playing, if that makes sense. We tend to give each other the needed space when we play as well. For me it is really important playing with Rob, I’m not a natural player so it’s great knowing Rob’s playing really well, it is pretty stress free.

Does it have its downfalls?

We can fight like any siblings.

Ever thought of bringing in an outsider or is it a strictly family affair?

Not really. We toyed for a while about asking other people to join, a keyboard or something like that, but it is just easier with two. One phone call. We played a show with Rob’s flatmate, Emma Millburn (Palace at 4am) a few years back, did Point that Thing (The Clean), it was fun. We have enough gear for like four people, so we don’t need more bodies. We’ll need a trailer.

Have either of you been involved in other bands/projects?

I played in bands at school. A punk band called Drunk Uncle in Dunedin for a little bit.

How much of your sound would you attribute to growing up in the south/Dunedin; do you think other surroundings would give off the same results?

Haven’t really thought of it like that to be honest. I discovered Bailterspace as a young man working in a record store. I think I would have travelled the same musical journey wherever I lived. Having said that, seeing HDU live and being surrounded by a lot of Dunedin bands when you are out seeing lots of live music has an impact. It makes that throbbing, beautiful music more acceptable and the norm, it makes you not afraid to explore that avenue, so that was an influence.

What are you listening to at the moment?

Hiss Explosion , Gillian Welch, Otis Redding, talk back radio, the ringing in my ears.

What is your writing/recording process?

Our writing process takes a bit of time. We used to write/play/practice at least twice a week, a lot less now due to a number of reasons. But yeah, the good ideas take a while to fine tune. We come out with a lot of stuff but reject/throw away/forget a lot. We are both fairly conscious of becoming lazy with writing, so if it sounds familiar or too instant we tend to reject it. I’m really scared of doing the start quiet get loud thing as a default setting… So sometimes it might be a basic idea I have, a few lines or something, or just a sound. Sometimes a sample from Rob, then we tinker with it.

Recording we prefer to play live in a room. The record was done in a big room at the Lodge with us blasting it out. It was really beautifully loud in parts, like standing in the eye of a storm, magic. A little bit of post tinkering but not much on this one. Other unreleased records have a fair bit of over dubbing and stuff.

You recorded your debut album, III, some time ago – tell us more about that. Have you been tweaking it for the past few years or are there other reasons for the delayed release?

We recorded it with Dale Cotton at the Masonic Lodge in Port Chalmers. Fairly straight forward and easy/stress free. Apparently we could be heard for a fair distance… then life sort of got in the way. I had a child, Rob was playing in tons of other bands and we spent all our money on recording it. We both don’t enjoy the whole promotion thing as well, and didn’t really know what to do with it or how to get it out. We did release our EP ourselves and I hated doing all that stuff. So yeah, we recorded it, talked to a few people, did nothing about it and sort of just hung it up. Hatched a few plans that never took off… then along came Dave with a dream and a vision, thanks Monkey Killer Records!

Is the title of the record a play at Led Zeppelin?

Yep, we were both keen on calling the album ‘Led Zeppelin III by Operation Rolling Thunder’, but people told us that may have been a problem. Led Zeppelin rock!

Are you planning to tour in support of the album?

Yep, shows in the North Island in the new year all going to plan. Chch before year’s end.

What would be your Dream Collaboration?

Otis Redding with Gillian Welch hosting talkback radio.

What do you enjoy most about music?

I really enjoy the writing process, the mucking around in the practice room, which we don’t get to do as much. Those magic moments when a song falls into place from out of nowhere is pretty cool, a real buzz, quite intoxicating. I like playing live but it does cause a degree of anxiety and distress.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt musically in the last year?

That my fender amp still goes.

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

HDU in dunners just after they had released Higher, + another HDU show where they played two sets at Arc, and Fugazi, Nelson 1996? And Snapper at Sammy’s early 2000s – stunning.

Best or most memorable gig you have played?

We had a really good show on the Low Hum tour in Wellington, things went really well for us. Limited string breakage and we had a good sting in our stride.

Did you choose the name of the band because you thought the history of it was appropriate to your sound, or did you just think it was badass?

Bit of both. Does sound badass, I also have always wanted my guitar to sound like a jet plane taking off. And it is a long name and there are only two of us.

If you could share the stage with anyone (band or person) who would it be?

I would like to have David Yow (Jesus Lizard) sing for us.

What does the future hold for Operation Rolling Thunder?

Play some more shows throughout New Zealand. Hopefully do some more recording.

The state of music in NZ is….

Good. Some really good bands. Dunedin’s backyard is pretty healthy. The whole thing seems to be more industry orientated, if that makes any sense. Bands worried about grants and all that stuff. Just play, don’t become a state funded band.


Operation Rolling Thunder's debut album III is out now and on glorious 12" vinyl which you can get from the UTR record store - click here for more info.