Here is a recent interview I did with Rohan, EXTORTION vocalist. If you haven't heard them before, EXTORTION play straight forward hardcore thrash, not unlike a modern version of early DRI with strong hints of NO COMMENT. Solid, powerful stuff. They've been going for quite a few years now and I strongly urge you to pick up their records on Deep Six Records.
Q. 1. What was the hardcore scene like in your area before the band started, and were you all from the same place? What about the Australian scene on a national level at the time?
R: We live in Perth which is pretty isolated from the rest of the country (which is a country that is isolated from the rest of the world (that makes isolated squared)), the scene here had/has a lot of bands, probably because until recently very few bands would tour here, so we’d have to make our own music. That said most of the bands suck, shitty metalcore and melodic hardcore bands, none of the bands we started really fit in and I’m surprised this band has gotten the response it did. We just make music we like. Some bands rule, most bands suck shit in any genre really. I guess such is the case here also. We do our best not to suck.
Q. 2. How did the band form, and what was the basic blueprint for your early sound? What covers did you do when first started playing together?
R: When we started it was like putting some early Boston hardcore bands with Negative Approach and a little Infest and No Comment in a blender and drinking it down like some sort of meaty offal milkshake. I think that’s audible on the first demo (the musical influence, not the offal quaffing), but we definitely veered off into more power-violence influenced territory pretty soon after that.
We covered DYS - Insurance Risk, Black Flag -Fix Me, Impact Unit -Nightstalker and Dwarves - Detention Girl (though we fucked this one up live on every attempt). We practiced No God by Germs, but its got too many lyrics and I was almost passing out due to lack of oxygen by the end of the song, so we ditched it.
Q. 3. What 3 bands do you think collectively influence Extortion the most, and why?
R: Collectively? Hahah I’m pretty much the evil totalitarian of the band, our new guitarist is more into technical death metal, the bassist first love is doom and sludge and the drummer loves stock standard rock, but they play what I tell them to so it works out fine.
No Comment, Infest and Negative approach are probably the main three but we try to pull influence from many places so we don’t sound like a clone of just one band (but we sound derivative of many hah).
Q. 4. What do you think of the term power violence, and do you get annoyed if people label Extortion as a PV band?
R: I don’t get annoyed because we definitely take influence from power-violence bands, but yeah, I’d say we’re a hardcore band with a heavy power-violence influence. Like Mind Eraser, heaps of their riffage is obviously lifted out of Crossed Out/Infest/Neanderthal etc, but the song structures and speeds are definitely not “pure” power-violence. But we’re really nit-picking here and there is no definition of power-violence written in any brutal dictionary or raging encyclopaedia anywhere, so it can mean whatever you want.
Q. 5. How did you first get into hardcore: can you remember the first record you heard and the first show you attended?
R. The first albums were probably the usual shit like Minor Threat and Discharge. I liked (and still do) whatever was punk but faster and angrier. I was a big FYP fan. A friend made me a mix tape with lots of early Boston bands and that’s when I probably got focused more on hardcore in general.
There wasn’t much in the way of local hardcore bands back then and no one bothered to tour here from elsewhere due to Perth being in the middle of nowhere. The first hardcore band I ever saw was probably a local band called Negative Reply.
Q. 6. List the total Extortion discography so far...
R: Demo tape
We’ve also finshed material for splits with Completed Exposition, Rupture, Jed Whitey and Agents Of Abhorrence on various labels, we’re just waiting for them to be released.
Q. 7. What other bands had Extortion members been involved in previously?
R: Jaws, The Collapse, Burn For Me, Bete Noire, Sensory Amusia, Heist, Rupture, Nailed Down, Excretion, PC Thug, Dead Hand, Squandered, Los Goblanos, Cobra Clutch, All In Deep Shit, Hailstones Kill 200, Halo of Knives, Australia, The Bankrupt, The Jury, Hospital beds, Defeat, Drowning Horse, Frightener, Eagle Boys, Penetrating Stairs, Chris Mainwaring Is Dead, Meatlocker, XmerchX, Clever Species.
Q. 8. Incidently, how good is the HEIST 7"?
Pretty fucking good. So good we pilfered the drummer. Well, the drummer from the first two 7”s at least. They also released a 22 song cd later on that (bar about 4 songs) sucked sloppy shit. A bunch of shitty joke stoner rock songs. It was reportedly recorded by Stumblefuck from Rupture on his 4track, which he has done brilliant recordings on in the past (check out the Rupture -Righteous Fuck 7”) but it seems he downed a little too much bourbon the day this one was recorded.
Q. 9. What's been your favourite show so far (and why), and what's been the worst? Any funny stories?
R: When we last played in Sydney some cunt in a wheelchair was lifted onto the stage. now the stage wasn’t terribly large so I think I had to kick him out of the way and he ended up waiting for about the length of a song before “stagediving” off the front, a good 4 foot drop face first into the floor. Entertaining to say the least. The guy said he loved the set but thought the crowd were arseholes for not catching him hahah.
Q. 10. Explain what you love about the NO COMMENT: Downsided 7"...
R: It sounds like what you’d get if asked a man you locked in a 1m x 1m cage, which itself is in a dimly lit concrete cell, for five years and then fed them nothing but porridge and plain bread for the duration to write a record upon release. Pure desperation, you can see it in the points where the english language, as it is, isn’t enough and words are put together in an attempt to describe something that has no name. Downsided, mind-tied. Etc.
A dance on pins and needles. You may know the theory, the rules of how to dance, but without the feeling in your feet how can you be expected to do so in any sort of natural way? I suppose the same can be said for social interaction.
Q. 11. Since you've released 2 LPs so far, what are your 5 favourite hardcore LPS EVER and why? Do you think it's hard to translate the hardcore formula to a full length?
R: I think writing a full length album for a hardcore band (and ESPECIALLY a fast hardcore band) is difficult to do. Too many bands just end up writing the same song a whole bunch of times, which make for a boring record. Adhering too much to formula I guess. And here’s a piece of advice for the world- DON’T PUT BREAKDOWNS IN EVERY SONG.
The other problem is that fast bands always put too many songs on a record. When the track list gets to 20 songs or over, its pretty hard to keep interested. Here’s a ridiculous analogy- say you’ve got a photo with 5 babes in it. You can look at and appreciated each one (as nothing more than a sex object) separately and take in what each one different and/or awesome. Then look at a photo with 30 babes in it, you’ll find you end up appreciating a few, but ignoring a lot of em, for no other reason than its too much to take in.
Q. 12. In what other countries have Extortion played? How do you think the scene differs from region to region or country to country, from what you've seen?
R: Apart from a few short trips to Sydney and Melbourne, we’ve not played out of Perth due to our drummer having a job that doesn’t really allowing him to take much time off.
Q. 13. Tell us a bit about who does your artwork. There's a noticable Pettibon influence. Who's idea was the t-shirt design of the coathanger abortion!
R: That’d be me. And the idea was mine. ME ME ME. Yeah I like Pettibon and the way he deals with his subjects. Its very aggressive but without being too blatant. I gotta say though he does a better job of it than I do, I end up getting carried away and drawing chainsaws and axes into everything.
I must be screwed in the head because I still don’t get what the big deal is with the coathanger shirt. I mean yeah its offensive, but so is a lot of other shit I’ve drawn and its not as if there is actually any explicit imagery in it, its all implied. Its just some legs a stomach and a dude with a coathanger. Some girl in Sydney returned it because she said it re-enforced notions of male violence against women. If she thinks that I endorse coathanger abortions in real waking life (and how the fuck does she know the woman in the image is not complicit in the ordeal?) she is lacking in any sort of intelligence. Fucking cretins.
The above-mentioned coathanger abortion t shirt.
Q. 14. Who is your favourite hardcore frontman of all time, and why? Similarly, favourite guitar-player?
R: Sakevi. I don’t think I need to bother explaining why. Riff wise, I guess who-ever wrote the riffage for negative approach? Seriously, how good is nothing. and I was theorising that the stop-start-riff-with-fast—beat-over-it of friend or foe was probably inspired by AC/DC, though obviously AC/DC did it over rock beats, to less aggressive tunes.
Q. 15. What good current Aussie bands would you recommend checking out? How about internationally?
R: Around here I’m liking what I hear from Suffer, Wasted Til Death, Battletruk, White Male Dumbinance, The Kill, A.V.O, Mindsnare, Agents of Abhorrence, Straightjacket Nation, Deathcage, Snake Run, Crux and probably more but my memory sucks.
Realistically though, (and to answer the second part of the question) I’ve pretty much only been listening to Beirut, Grizzly Bear, Midlake and the Radio Dept recently. Not very hard or core.
Q. 16. How did you end up releasing on the classic label DEEP SIX? Do you know why they haven't released the LOW THREAT PROFILE 7" yet?
R: I sent our recording to Bob at Deep Six and he liked it. Pretty simple. I’ve asked about the Low Threat Profile 7” but never got a reply (how bullshit are those comp tracks? Fucking amazing!) but I heard a rumour it had something to do with one of the members taking off with the recording when he left the band? It was just a rumour, so its probably just a load of shit.
Q. 17. Being from Australia, did you only listen to 28 DAYS and MEN AT WORK growing up? How about watching Neighbours? (a show seemingly only known to the unfortunate Australian and the British it seems)
R: I don’t watch television, and didn’t watch much as a kid, but my sister loves all that TV soap bullshit. Neighbours and Home and Away and all that stuff. I don’t have the patience, it never fucking ends!
Also never got into 28 Days, but I was a big Frenzal Rhomb fan as a kid (and was chuffed to find out the drummer is a big Extortion fan). I am familiar with Men At Work’s one hit wonder, whatever it’s called...
Q. 18. How important do you think a DIY attitude is to playing in a hardcore band? Do you think some newer bands start, thinking they can easily 'make it big'?
R: Until recently everything we did was via the DIY scene, the style of music we play is not one that attracts the masses. though it must be said over the last year or so we've been offered some gigs in sydney and brisbane that paid quite well, enough to cover the costs of flights for all five of us, and so we've played them. DIY is great, but we're not about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Playing hardcore and expecting to make money out of it is downright ridiculous. We're doing well, and we just cover our own costs (recording, travelling, etc) The percentage of bands that actually make money and "make it big" out of playing would be tiny.
Q. 19. Speaking of Negative Approach before, did they play Australia on their recent reunion tour? If so did you get to see them? What do you think of reunions in general?
R: No, there was talk of it being organise (a friend of mine was in contact) but it fell through. reunions generally don't go well probably because the bands were never as good as the stupid level of hype and worship given to the band post-humous, coupled with the fact that hardcore is a pretty energetic style of music and you've got to be pretty fit to play it, something that getting old and fat doesn't agree with (Pig Champion is exempt from this statement (or was until he kicked the bucket). That said I hear the Negative Approach reunions were pretty good.
Q. 20. What will Extortion eventually turn into... a hair metal band like late SSD, or a progressive/emotive band like Fugazi?
R: Given my listening taste, probably "progressive" emotive bullshit, though if I want to play a different style I usually just start anoter band. I play in a sludge band and a Wipers-esque band on the side at the moment. so if I ever get the urge to play some wanky bucket of piss, hopefully i'll do it with another band rather than shit all over our good name hahah.
Q. 21. Negative FX or Siege? Perhaps not comparable, but answer anyway...
R: Probably Siege. The good songs by Negative FX are shitloads better than the best stuff Siege did, but there is a lot of filler on that album. A lot of short boring songs with boring riffs. All Siege songs rule, but if you think anything they did is as memorable as something like Protestor then you are insane and I would thank you to stop talking to me.
Q. 22. DYS or SSD...Why?
DYS! SSD had some killer slower anthemic songs, but their faster songs (what should be bread and butter for a hardcore band) were boring as fossilised turds. Too much verse-chorus-verse-choruse-verse-chorus-etc into infinity. Screw and Boiling Point are alright though. DYS slow songs (the hardcore ones, not the rock stuff) AND fast songs were both good.