Proton Beast

Proton Beast

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Friday 10th February, 2012 9:56AM

Proton Beast are set to release their brief but epic 'disco doom' EP - 2000 and Blood - on Monday (13th Feb) via new Auckland based label Hell Is Now Love. With a nationwide tour to back up the release starting next week we got in touch with the duo for a bit of background and guitarist Wes Holdsworth kindly filled us in on all things Proton Beast...

I heard that you two met on a match-making website... can you tell me a bit about that??

True Story… kind of. There’s this site called Gumtree, it’s the English version of Trademe and there’s a New Zealand version too only nobody uses it.

Stu had just returned to NZ after a couple of years in the UK and I had just moved here after 27 years in the UK. I didn’t really know anyone that wanted to be in a band with me, and neither did he at the time. He’d put up an ad and only got replies from ‘bedroom guitarists wanting to get their punk/funk/Radiohead/Red Hot Chili Peppers project out gigging’.

So he changed the ad and mentioned some bands he was into like Sunn O))) and Liars and I was the only person that ever replied. We went out for a beer at the Kingslander in Kingsland, which is a terrible bar and hit it off so to speak and now we’re here.

I still don’t know why the hell we went there, I don’t think we knew any better at that point in time. Don’t judge us.

Turns out we were at a bunch of shows together in the UK before we knew each other. Small world.

Where did the name Proton Beast come from?

I wanted the name to be meaningful and the more I thought about it the more awful the names sounded. I was trying to force some depth into it all for some reason. I was working in Real Groovy at the time and the name Proton Beast just jumped into my head, I was laughing aloud on my own in the middle of a record store for a good 30 seconds, I’m sure people would’ve thought I’d lost the plot. I just figured it was too good not to use. I mean it’s pretty damn catchy and it looks awesome on a t-shirt. Boom.

What is 'Disco Doom'?

The idea of Proton Beast was try and make people dance to heavy music, turns out that’s really hard to do.

As we’ve played more gigs and written new songs the band has kind of gone in its own direction, a very danceless direction.

Disco Doom was a way of describing what we were trying to do and also just to let people know that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we’re not a joke band by any means, I think all heavy bands should have at least part of their tongue in their cheek. Standing in front of strangers and shouting at them is pretty funny.

How did you get involved with the Hell is now Love label?

After we recorded the first demo I sent it to a bunch of promoters and labels asking for shows. Benji at Muzai liked it, passed it around and gave us a gig. That was when we met Martin, we all share similar ideas about music and go to the same shows so we've become friends.

When Martin started Hell Is Now Love he offered to help put the record out. At least I think that's how it started?

It's great to be a part of something that you genuinely think is cool and also reflects the bands outlook on music and what it means to be in a band. Deep.

It’s also important to us to not ‘belong’ to a certain group of bands. We like playing with different people and in different places and Hell Is Now Love gives us the freedom to do what ever the Hell Is Now Love we want.

You recorded your new EP ‘2000 and Blood’ at the old TVNZ building on Shortland Street, what was that like?

We recorded our first two demo tracks there in a huge production room, basically a massive hall. It sounds great for what we do.

Our friend Alex Bennett offered to do the next recording for us. He works at the Uni and it's their building now plus we're poor.

We’d already decided we’d like to try reel to reel and that’s Alex’s specialty. It all kind of fell into place really. He’s built lots of cool contraptions like a big plate reverb in a separate room and has a bunch of sweet mics for us to play with and different amps. It was real relaxed because it’s just three friends making a record together. No real constraints of time or anything, just a lot of fun.

What was the appeal of recording on reel to reel?

Well we don’t benefit from the usual pro’s of reel to reel - people primarily use it for capturing a more natural analog sound, they’ll tell you it’s ‘warmer’ or more ‘organic’ and you’ll be thinking ‘man you sound like a twat.’

It’s just like the difference between a CD and a vinyl record really. We obviously aren’t a nice sounding band so that part of the process is lost on us but what reel to reel does offer is a way to capture the live aspect of what we do, the way it sounds when you actually come to a show.

It was also just a really fun and exciting way to record, we’re interested in recording techniques and equipment, we’re not dicks about it but doing something different with gear you’ve never used before is a good way to keep learning and just keep things fresh.

Next time we’ll probably try and find the most futuristic studio possible and spend two weeks editing and over dubbing one riff.

What kind of challenges did recording in such an old-fashioned format present?

Not being able to cover up the constant mistakes and terrible guitar playing would be the main one. You can’t really edit what you do, all the mics are set up and everything is recorded in one take. Most of the mixing is done first so it just takes some time and effort to get it all sorted before you even start to record.

Alex basically lives in the 50s so he knows all this stuff like the back of his hand. For such a cumbersome method it was actually pretty painless and we’re stoked with the results.

And you’re releasing the EP on cassette tape…

Yeah. CDs are useless format, it's just a vessel for a digital version of an album. You may as well download an album instead of buying a CD to just store under your bed until you die.

Tapes have a collectible value much like vinyl and they're cheaper to manufacture, plus with an added download code thrown in they're just as good at carrying digital files as CDs. All the cool kids dig tapes these days and we’re super cool.

You are taking '2000 and Blood' on tour around the country, what does a Proton Beast live show entail?

I basically jump around and don’t play the songs properly, I’m a huge At The Drive –In fan, I think subconsciously that side of me has rears it’s head when we play. I’d always envisioned us being a tidy live band but that idea fell apart pretty quickly.

I also spend a lot of time figuring out how to get three random amps to sound how I want them to sound. Such a hassle.

Stu really carries the band when we play. I guess we’re kind of like a backwards mullet, He’s the business up front and I’m the party out back. Only I’m out front. Good analogy... I’d be a terrible salesman.

Will there be tee shirts available with the radical artwork?? Who does that?

There will be shirts and they look incredible. Our friend Mookie does all our artwork as Stu and I are both ‘artistically challenged.’

I used to watch her draw cartoons and the odd poster at Real Groovy, they were always awesome.

Apart from the cartoons of me, she can’t draw my hair. So I asked if she’d draw us a poster, then a logo, then a t-shirt, then a 7” (which we haven’t even done yet) I think she probably wishes I’d never asked. She basically annoys me every time I see her so this is my way of getting her back. Constant drawing.

Sucks that it's a total faux pa to wear your own band t-shirt.

One of your songs ('The Verse') was inspired by Joss Whedon's sci-fi show 'Firefly'... how disappointed were you when it was cancelled?

Yes and no, It does suck that it was cut short but I am a fan of things ending at their peak, before they get a chance to stagnate.

Going back to the At The Drive-In thing earlier, they just reformed to play Coachella and everyone is going nuts about it, I’m devastated. I wish they would just stay split up, same goes for Death From Above 1979 they were both so relevant when they came out, total game changers, now it all just seems a little contrived.

I don’t understand why people enjoy living in cultural time capsule, new things are happening all the time. Get the net. If there was a remake of Firefly now it would be in fucking 3D and Ryan Gosling would be in it.

Any thoughts on covering 'The Ballad of Serenity' (Firefly theme song)?

This is a great idea. We had talked about doing War Of The Worlds. Of course we do run into the problem of ruining something awesome.

We were thinking of covering Bruce Springsteen at some point and then realised that we’d actually just be pissing all over something we both love. Covering The Ballad Of Serenity is in the same boat really. It’s out of our league.

I think the next Proton Beast record will almost certainly be a Sci-Fi themed concept album though. Concept albums rule. Fact.

What else inspires your music??

Technology inspires a lot of my ideas but unfortunately I can’t afford to realise them just yet.

Buying lots of equipment is a slow process when you’re starting from scratch as I did. I sold all my old gear apart from my guitar before I emigrated. It just would’ve been too expensive to ship it all.

So just trying to reach that goal is inspiring in itself. Being able to immerse yourself in a new musical community is also inspiring.

When you are not making music you like to....

Think about making music. In fact I think about making it more than actually making it and that’s a bad thing.

Going to sweet gigs is important too, New Zealand has some awesome bands most of which get no press coverage or anything so the only time you’ll see or hear them is by getting off the Internet and actually going out.

The Lucha Lounge in Newmarket is my favourite place in Auckland by far. I’ve seen so many bands play there that I otherwise wouldn’t know about and not just bands from all over NZ but overseas bands too.

I notice a lot of the same Auckland bands playing together all the time to the same people in the same venue and that shit makes want to cut my own hands off. Great, your best friend and your girlfriend love you but everybody else is bored senseless.

Wow, that quickly descended into a rant. I should start a blog. I’ll call it shit-gigs.

Any post-tour plans as yet??

After this tour I think we are going to take some time out to write an album and I’ll start compiling the set up that I always wanted Proton Beast to have.

One of the reasons the band has taken its own direction is because I don’t have what I need to make it what I want it to be. If that makes any sense?

I’m not a tone freak, I don’t want to sound like Jimmy Hendrix or David Gilmour I want Proton Beast to sound like nothing but itself and that takes time, effort and unfortunately money.


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