4Dead may not be Canberra’s most prolific band in terms of releases but the quality of what little they have put out definitely stands out as some of Australia’s best hardcore music in the last 10 years. With Anchors set for release in the coming months the bar will be raised once again. The thing that drove me to have this talk with Jon was the fact that I am now in my 5th year of going to shows and I have never once read an interview with the band. I found that there was so much that I (as a fan) wanted to know. Probably the most surprising thing that I discovered about Jon, was that contrary to popular belief he is actually quiet a well spoken and polite man.
So, your name for the readers, your role within 4Dead and what that role requires of you? (Lyrics, managing, being a pissed cunt etc)
My name is Jon Christopher. I am indeed a member of a group that call themselves 4 Dead which requires me to have artistic input into… I guess it’s a sonic representation of who we collectively are as people. You could call it a band with a “hardcore punk ethic” behind it, many would disagree. We feel it’s music, my mother disagrees. I feel it’s an outlet and a chance for both myself, as well as the other individuals and the people involved as the sum of it’s parts, to do something completely free and on it’s own merits. That is to say we do what we want to do, when and how we want to, within the constraints of reality.
We are 4 or 5 guys at any given time, making music that is attached to an aesthetic, and that deal with the reality that is being backed by only ourselves, the money from our day jobs and the friends we have made by traveling, talking crap and occasionally playing music.
My primary role over the years has been quite dynamic and evolves constantly, however I guess the main contributing part is vocals, lyrics and taking care of artistic direction / the themes that inspire the artwork, the prose and represent the band etc (I contact people to do the art and give them a some direction).
I’ve never had a drink in my life.
Whoooops that’s only one questions away. More to come wait up…
So you just got back from the States, how was that? Did you happen to see any amazing bands that the rest of Australia may never get the chance to see?
Yes I just got back from a two and a half month stint working on myself as a human being. I spent a lot of time finding some direction as I seem to have lost a little of that more recently. It was a lot of fun and I think I’ve come back a better version of myself (with a few extra kilos added on) and with a greater understanding of the world.
I spent the majority of my time in Chicago, which is an awesome city when it comes to music. I saw several bands that I was really keen to check out, most notably Earth, Young Widows, Tombs, Bonnie Prince Billy and Nachtmystium. I also got to see My Disco kill it as they were touring with Young Widows, so many beers were had and there was bucket loads of dribbled pissed shit coming out of our mouths by the end of the night. Ben from My Disco and I often seem to end up talking shit in car parks with cheap cans of beer in our hands at some unholy hour when we cross paths, so it was really cool to do that in another country.
As soon as you got back it was straight into writing for a new split with Brisbane’s Marathon. How is all that traveling so far?
Yeah, the guys have been working on it while I was away and one of the songs is done, with the other still being jammed and refined. You get sick of reading shit about bands new stuff being “the best stuff they’ve ever written” so I’ll just say that I’m pretty happy with it and can’t wait to lock it down and add it to the live set.
The Marathon guys are a real laugh, so I’m looking forward to it coming to fruition.
Now I am assuming you knew this question was coming at some point so I will get it out of the way early, what is happening with Anchors? Pre Orders were said to be going up around the time of your tour with Robotosaurus but nothing ended up happening.
The album has been completely done, artwork and everything, for close to 18 months. I can only speak about what I know from our end. We work with Nigel from Trial & Error and he has all the stuff to go ahead with it. Trial & Error, moreover Nigel himself, got completely stiffed financially by the whole distribution thing, so that delayed things a while. We aren’t exactly the kind of band that sells records, in fact Nigel does it off his own bat and I’m pretty sure he loses his money by putting our stuff out (… he gets a free T-shirt every couple of years). So being that we are what we are, a liability, it would be incredibly rude for us to attempt to force anyone’s hand on this release… or any of our releases. The people we work with do things in the same manor as we do. They are in it for the love of it, not the money, cause simply put, and as is the case with most art, there is no money (we all still seem to have possession of our souls though?!?). In short, we fund what we do when we can. There is no safety harness. Nigel will put it out when he can and when we are playing consistently.
… there was some phone calls today and it’s looking like an August / September release and we have been pencilling in some dates at venues along the East Coast for September. Don’t hold your breath though. It’s us after all.
Speaking of Anchors, having had the chance to have a listen to some of it, it seems to have moved away from Blood And Piss a little. I would say that it is a little neater, or polished even. Is this something you guys went after when you sat down to record it?
Blood & Piss was written largely from 2003-2006. To give you some idea, when we wrote Blackened Hearts Club, I was 23. The first show we played that song, we played with The Stockholm Syndrome at a place called Vic On The Park in Sydney and we absolutely butchered it. So much changes over as you get older. I can still be an angry fuck, but I guess we were in a frame of mind which created the whole aesthetic of that album, uncomfortable, jerky, sharp and jagged. I was going through some really humbling circumstances and so it was a chance to level the score without being openly rude and aggressive to people. A chance to channel all the emotions that are deemed socially inappropriate perhaps? It’s pure assault on your ears, which is the way we were and the way we always wanted it.
The difference with Anchors is probably a little more musical maturity and a calmer nature in the writing process. We didn’t hurry the writing at all, we were patient and worked a lot more consciously on song structure.
This is an intriguing question cause I don’t know if we consciously decided too much other than we knew who we wanted to work with in regards to the recording process and we had written the songs, but that was about it. I think it’s more a comment on us, particularly Shane & myself, as individuals.
I recall wanting to run my voice far dirtier, more in line with the e.p. I can’t remember why exactly, but when we were recording Blood & Piss I wanted to have slightly cleaner vocals. I think the vocals related better to the music that way on several of the songs and that Anchors definitely required a heavier, and probably a far more diverse sound from my end.
The songs themselves seem to have progressed quite a bit as well. I guess one reason for a slight change in sound may be line up changes. With Morgan on bass now and 3 drummers in as many years. Do you think these new members have helped in shaping this new sound that we’re hearing.
Probably not in regards to the writing as the majority of the music predates Morgan and Julian’s time as members of 4 Dead.
In a live capacity, musicians will all have their style and their sound. Chris was a very different personality to Morgan and I think Morgan is pretty in tune with the 4 Dead ideologies and sound required of a bass in our particular style. He has a far dirtier sound than Chris. Von Blast definitely had his style and flavour with the drumming, which is why we played certain songs with him live, but not others, as did Aaron and Dos before him. I really here Aaron’s style on the record. Julian is probably the tightest drummer we have played with to date, so it’s meant that the rest of us have had to lift our game a little.
As for line up changes. Why so many? Guitar, bass, drums. Yourself and Shane have been the only stable members over the past 10 years.
I’ll be direct about this, Shane and I are old, jaded horrible cunts that have played on bills with pretty much everyone who we want to. Most cases it comes down to logistics and for some people we’ve played together with, it’s just not been logical. I will say that when you’ve shared as much time as Shane and I have, pretty much everyone else is an outsider and will struggle to see the point of view on things we have. We are kinda dinosaurs. We predate the internet and cut our teeth on a steady diet of Sydney Underground bands, shows and a culture that has long since died out. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t such a sceptic about music, but then I realise that whatever is making me feel that way is actually shit and the people that play in that band are uninspired, talentless hacks and most likely surfing a wave of actual sugar coated human puke and piss.
We are difficult to work with, strongly opinionated and self loathing music elitists.
Also 10 years is quite an achievement. Being able to keep a band going for so long is definitely something to be proud of but were there any moments within those 10 years where you just felt like that was enough?
It’s kind of never meant as much as it does right now. I occasionally go to a show and think people are lost. This makes me want to do one of two things.
Quit doing music in a live forum and become the hermit I often wish to be.
Keep doing 4 Dead because there is a need for something that is real, honest, heartfelt and genuine within the parameters of heavy live music.
I’m pretty sure that 4 Dead won’t ever admit to calling it a day.
4Dead are quite well known for their live show but in recent times you seem to have dialed it back a bit. Is this just because the body is getting old or because you guys were more or less banned from everywhere.
Ah yes, the inevitable question. I think it is somewhat due to a number of factors. Whilst I have possibly mellowed with age, the new lineup is in it’s infancy and so we are learning to trust each other when we play to an audience. I think the recent tour with Roboto did a great deal to help instill that in the group. I also feel that the people who come to see us plays a role a little too. Admittedly they are unfamiliar with the Anchors material, but there is an expectation that we are “crazy” and that we’re gonna “go off” etc, but we can never properly meet these expectations. People stand and they stare and they wait for someone to… well I don’t know, cut an arm off and start chewing it or some shit? We have always played devil’s advocate. So lately it’s been a bit of a case of you guys all wanting to see that and other bands mimicking it a bit, so I’m not gonna dole it out. It needs to be real, so if the vibe isn’t there, we aren’t gonna fake it. I think Sydney got a real 4 Dead show on the Roboto tour, but we haven’t played Sydney in a VERY long time.
I personally started to feel very insecure when we started playing live again. At first, I really wasn’t sure if I was up to it as it is an incredibly emotional experience for me which drags me from the depths of my own personal muck and mire right up to sheer white heat and and intensity of triumph (?), I guess. It’s tough at times to have all eyes on you when you’re basically about to completely let go, throw a tantrum and purge about some really personal content.
There is a term for public indifference when people only react to crimes, for instance, if someone else does initially. I have forgotten the name for it, but it appears to happen a lot at our shows. I just hope people are enjoying themselves and that our performances are thought provoking or stimulating to people in some way. I always wanted the band as an entity to challenge people.
I think that’s more or less it mate, anything you wanna mention before we wrap this up?
Get involved. Constantly search for where music comes from. Start something. Buy a book, read up, but most importantly…. Play some fuckin’ Stooges!
I sat down and thought to myself not long ago about some of the Australian records that are set to be released this year. I guess the biggest ones are Iron Mind’s Hell Split Wide Open and I Exist’s The Broken Passage. I cant help but feel though that having heard what’s to come from 4Dead’s Anchors that people are truly over looking one of the better bands that Australian hardcore has. It’s a shame that circumstances the band can’t control are holding back this record because it definitely feels like they have been flying under the radar the past few years. However when this record finally does see the light of day it will easily be one of the most pissed off records to come from an Australian band in a very long time.
Interview by Ben Robertson