Since going from playing to 200 people to 2,000 after the release of ‘Hungry Ghost’, Violent Soho have been one of the most talked about rock bands within our fine country. If the success of their upcoming album, ‘WACO’, follows its predecessor, then the four-piece are on track for world domination, just minus all the war and mess. Before their new album greets listeners, we had a chat with guitarist (and, prime beard resident), James Tidswell.
So James, my man, what have you been up to lately?
Not a lot. Got a mate’s wedding this afternoon, and I went to Caulfield with my wife and daughter. Obviously, we’ve been quite busy coming off the back of Laneway Festival. We did a music video in between and it’s a quick little break [for us] before the album comes out and we tour.
Sounds like you will have your hands full in the coming months. It’s been about three years since ‘Hungry Ghost’, and even though you had a bit of a name out beforehand, that album really broke you guys out to the world…
Oh, definitely dude. It’s so nice of you to say that we had a bit of a name, but [it was] nothing like it is now. We had the opposite of expectations; we put everything into ‘Hungry Ghost’, just as we did with the self-titled album. But it was different in how it was received, as we didn’t have control over that sort of thing. The only thing we can control is the music, and [then] all of a sudden we’re playing shows like Splendor. When I would look up from the guitar, I would lose my breath [as] there were that many people.
Yeah, you guys have been working hard at it for years so it was cool to see it pay off. In fact, the first song I heard from Violent Soho was ‘Son Of Sam’, which was on a Rock Sound compilation CD back in like 2010.
That’s so cool, man. We got support from the crowds here, but these are small shows, like the Pony in Melbourne. I remember when we met with Rock Sound, which we thought was weird. When we met with those guys they just wanted to talk about Break Even. They were like, ‘Do you know them?’ It [was] like, ‘no dude, they live on the other side of the country’ [laughs]. Things since then have changed so much. People are getting into us more and more.
They really are. The video for ‘Like Soda’ already has a couple of hundred thousand views. I think this will be another big progression for you guys.
That’s the only way we’re trying to approach it; let it happen naturally and just do what we do.
Now, does ‘WACO’ stand for something in particular, or is it meant to reference the FBI siege of that crazy religious cult compound in Waco back in ’93?
Yeah, that’s exactly what it’s about, that siege.
Cool! So is it about the actions of the FBI, the cult itself, or the aftermath of it? Or perhaps is it what it represented?
I suppose it’s a mixture of all those things, [but] mainly what that represented. It’s definitely about the cult themselves and how they believed in this fabricated world they created. In terms of Jesus coming back and the Second Coming, to the point where they died under suspicious circumstances. Either they killed themselves or the FBI burned them in the compound because it was dragging on, but the point is that they died. We all find that we are living in this “cultural make believe” if you will, and we feel similar in terms of why do we believe in these things.
We’re not trying to push a Propaghandi, it’s basically a stoner conversation. We’re not trying to be deep or super intellectual, but we have to reference something and this fitted the album perfectly. We don’t have the answers but we’re just saying what we think.
I think that sums up you guys really well – you just say and do what you want. With the album tour coming up, I saw what you guys said about the ticket scalpers for the tour. Do you think that this would be avoided if Ticketmaster added a cap to the re-selling price and to how many tickets you can buy? Because that’s where I stand on the issue.
For sure, man. Obviously, we didn’t ever expect the band to be in this situation, but being on the other side, we were the first to call these people out. I 100% agree with you in buying only so many tickets, but that mainly happens for Soundwave and other big gigs because, for those organisers, it is worth their time and their money to cap it. But for the smaller shows and tours, you’re only making so much per ticket. Like, the tickets for our shows are $50, and we struggled with doing that because we’ve never charged that before in our lives and it seems like a lot. Now the booking fees are about $8 – almost a quarter of the ticket itself and we have nothing to do with that. We figured $15-17 per band was a good deal, too. So to have all these people messaging us showing us that there are five tickets being re-sold for $200 each. Like, they just went on sale at this point.
So, I personally went onto Gumtree and eBay to find those scalped tickets, reported them and I used a cut and paste message to these people. I know that nothing would be done about it, but it was just to let them know – ‘Fuck you’. When we found out there were so many more, we made the post. It’s so unfair and it’s taking advantage of the fans.
I remember back in 2000, I would line up to buy tickets from a record store in Brisbane for Big Day Out. I would personally love to go back to that, but we won’t. I don’t know what the answer is, but I would love to see some proper legislation put in place. Of course, if someone owns something they can sell it for whatever they want, but it’s basically insider trading when you have a group of people who buy a substantial amount of tickets and then hike the price way up. People do it because they’re allowed to, and it’s a good idea to make money, but what we have between us and our fans is such a good thing and to have someone come between that sucks because they are ripping people off.
Well said, man. It is very annoying when that happens. It goes both ways too, my brother bought a ticket for Sam Smith’s show last year for $30. The original price was about $100. Plus, the scalpers, they never had any intention of going to the show, which is the worst part.
It’s super annoying to be in our position as there’s not a lot we can really do. That may sound like a cop-out, but believe me; I’ve been through it all. This did kick up the debate too.
It really got a dialogue opened that’s for sure. Now on the topic of touring and money, have you heard about the recent crowd funding campaign undertaken by Melbourne’s Ne Obliviscaris?
No, I haven’t actually.
Well these guys did a similar campaign back in 2014 to help fund their world tour, and they racked up a lot of cash, about $80K, in order to tour. But with all the costs since then, they’re using Patreon to help keep the band on the road, out of any debt, and basically to help the overall longevity of the band. There’s perks for supporters of course and there is a big debate going on about it, so I was wondering if you had an opinion at all?
Well, I couldn’t care less if they do it. Like, good on them if that’s how they want to handle it. But I prefer the original approach, which is technically still crowd funded, just not in advance [laughs]. I think it’s pretty fucking cheeky though. Like, is there a guarantee? For instance, how long will the band go on for? How many times will they tour, and where and how many times will they come through my city? And to what level will the released music be? To me, that takes out any aspect of drive.
I’ve been in the same band in 13 years, I’ve had three jobs to be able to do it and I quit jobs because I needed to tour. I didn’t need a guarantee from anyone, because playing to anyone and anywhere was the greatest night of my life. Now I’m not saying I’m against crowd-funding, but that’s taking it to the extreme. I know people who have sold their houses to go on tour.
But hey, if my band doesn’t have the money to do something, then fuck it, maybe we should ask everyone to help out [laughs].
Yeah, you need really good fans and have a lot of trust to put the future of the band in their hands.
Oh yeah, a LOT of trust. I’d love to see the terms of conditions of this. But to keep them on the road, just crowd fund yourself a holiday why don’t you? But I don’t mean to speak too ill of them.
[Laughs] It’s a tricky topic. Well with that, we are out of time so thanks for this James. It was a great chat.
Yeah, no worries Alex. You’re a legend dude, thank you so much.
‘WACO’ is due out March 18th.