When I ask if it’s Psycroptic vocalist Jason Peppiatt on the phone, I get a hearty “Sure is, mate.” from a bloke with an accent as thick as Vegemite. I wanted to stay away from all the Australiana clichés and references but when you’re talking with Jason, it’s like talking to some bloke down the pub and you can't help but punctuate your conversation with ‘Fuckin’ Oath’ and other Aussie linguistic delights.
So you’re currently in Hobart, Tasmania? Why the hell aren’t you in Slovakia, where the rest of Psycroptic will be playing as part of their European tour? “Me and Cameron (Grant) had to sit this tour out because it was booked at the last minute and we didn’t have any luck getting the time off work.” Another bunch of metal musicians who have to do the daily grind to support their art? Now there’s a surprise. He adds “...and we’re coming up to the album release so we thought the best idea was to send the band – well, half the band – out with a couple of session members.”
They’ve managed to draft in Zdenek Simecak, singer with Godless Truth (who stepped in as Psycroptic vocalist during the 2010 North America tour while Jason was waiting on the birth of his son) and Joe Payne (ex-Nile) on bass duties filling in for Cameron Grant. Jason works as a commercial painter and Cameron is an electrician. As Jason points out: “I’ve got a fair bit of responsibility so sometimes I can’t always go [on tour] at the drop of a hat. Cameron’s also in the building industry so he’s in the same boat – he’s got a lot of responsibility so sometimes it can make things a little bit difficult but we all work in and do what we can.”
So to the new album The Inherited Repression, guitarist Joe Haley has said that it’s “...quite different from anything we have done...it has a lot of groove...”, and we know it’s a change for the band musically but what about for you as vocalist? “With this album I had a big emphasis on wanting it to be really understandable; with your typical death metal if you wanna know what the lyrics are saying, you have to sit there with the song book and say ‘Fuck! Is he really saying that?!’ I wanted people to be able to listen to it and pick every word out – I’ve actually cut out all the stereotypical death metal growling which I was doing on the previous few albums, so that’s all gone and it’s pretty much the ‘angry man’ style of yelling. Obviously everything’s a lot more cleaned up.”
I was reading an old interview with Dave Haley (drums) and he mentioned how he loves touring, but given you’ve got two kids, are you still mad for it? His response is most definitely positive. “I’m still right into my touring but obviously at times it can make things a little more complicated but the boys are always willing to work around the kids’ birthdays and stuff like that. The other guys are happy to work in, every now and then if a tour’s not going to work then they’re all good for it; I’m just lucky I’m in a band with three of my best mates.” Given the brutal nature of Psycroptic’s music, it’s kind of weird (but slightly heart-warming) to hear how Jason and the rest of the band work around such things as kids birthdays and the mundane task of earning a crust. But as Jason points out “With extreme metal especially, there’s not a great deal of money in it...if I was out for the millions of dollars, I definitely wouldn’t be in metal.” He’s laughing hard at this point. Another metal band doing it for the love? “Exactly, mate, exactly...”
So what are the overseas crowds’ reaction to Psycroptic? “Really good. Obviously when we started out touring Europe, seven or eight years ago, you could tell a lot of people were like ‘Who are this bunch of kids?! Where the fuck’s Tasmania? Never heard of it’ and never gave a fuck, but as we’ve kept hitting it and have been constantly going round and round, I think we’ve really started to build up a strong, solid fan base over there. The response these days is really quite good. We did a headlining tour in Europe about 18 months ago with Cephalic Carnage and some British lads called Discarnate so it was a really good line up and a really successful tour. Numbers were good, the crowd response was good, merchandise sales were good...we were a little bit nervous about it; a little band from Tassie trying to be a headlining band in Europe but we thought we had to take the plunge and see if it was gonna work rather than sitting back saying ‘Ahhh fuck! Is it gonna work or isn’t it?’ so we just thought ‘Fuck it! Let’s just get out there and have a crack at it’ and it paid off.”
So were you all living together in a tiny, smelly van? Surprising the answer is no; “We had a big tour bus...[does some rough calculating] I think there was about 24 people on the bus; it was good though – there wasn’t always a seat for everybody – it was one of those double-decker tour buses with the bunks upstairs and the boozing area downstairs , so it was a bunch of metal heads crammed into a bus with a truck load of beer so it was fun times all round.”
So come now, Jason, everybody wants to know; when is the Australian tour? “I think at this stage we’re talking about August/September but nothing is booked or set in stone yet. Things have been a bit hectic over the last few months trying to get the album ready], and then the European tour came up so we were trying to pull session members together and pull the money together to make that happen so we haven’t had a great deal of time to get anything planned, so at this stage we’ll be looking at August/September but things could change...it could be earlier.”
He mentions that they may be in talks with British death metal band Discarnate, who he describes as “...a great bunch of lads and we had a lot of fun with them so it’s just a matter of working all the logistics out and seeing if it’ll all happen. With any luck...maybe...don’t hold me to that!”
Speaking about Australian and overseas fans, he observes that “There’s not a great deal of difference - obviously they’re screaming their obscenities in a different language – but it’s pretty much the same but it depends; Germany and places like that, a lot of the time, because of the flooded market, the crowd can be a bit more ‘stand and watch’ instead of getting mosh pits going but generally, all over the world, you get a metal head in front of a live band and they’re gonna go crazy.”
Both Dave & Joe have other projects on the go – their work with Ruins, and previously The Amenta but Jason prefers to focus his energy on Psycroptic, he talks about a band he started with some mates but it never really got off the ground. Like a small amount of that famous spread, he doesn’t want to spread himself too thin...
Whenever I’m interviewing bands with sibling members, I have to ask if there is an additional threat of violence, but according to Jason, both Joe & Dave get on very well, he says “They have their little brotherly arguments but it’s nothing too extreme – they’re both pretty laid back people so it never really causes any problems within the band so no action packed stories to report on.” Damn. Was hoping for some saucy gossip to sell to the tabloid metal press...
Speaking of tours, are you one to go ‘balls out’ mental constantly or do you pace yourself? “When we first started out we were flat out on the piss every moment we got a chance but these days we try to keep to every second day...but sometimes things happen when you’ve got 20 odd blokes [alright, settle down, he's talking about in a tour bus]; it only takes one to instigate a party. When we started touring Europe, I think I was only 22 so I was at the peak of my drinking career but now - I’m not that old, I’m still only 29 - as you get a bit older you can’t keep it up. You start getting these wretched fucking things called hangovers...but you’ve got to take the good with the bad, don’t ya?”
I ask what he misses most when he’s overseas and without hesitation he answers: “My kids.” Adding swiftly “...and meat pies.” What?! Not Vegemite? But he then proceeds to tell a black-spread-based tale; “We found some Vegemite over in the U.K – we didn’t realise you could actually buy it in the shops over there; we were at a venue and all the Yanks that we were on tour with were like ‘What’s all this stuff about fucking Vegemite; that black shit you put on toast?’ and we were backstage and we opened the fridge and there was a huge unopened jar of Vegemite and straight away me and Cam were like ‘We’re fucking taking this with us!’ We got all the Americans on it; a couple of ‘em were into it but a few of them, I thought they were gonna vomit!”
He dismisses the English equivalent, Marmite as “inferior”.
We get into a discussion about the Hobart metal scene which, given its relatively small size , is according to Jason“...surprisingly, really good.” But given the small size, don’t you get weirdos knocking on your door? I can’t imagine there’d be too many Peppiatts in the phone book? “No. I’m in a more remote area – I suppose anywhere in Tasmania’s remote really – but I’m about 40 minutes south of Hobart in a little country town so I don’t have too many dramas down here.”
Do your neighbours realise you’re a world famous metaller? “The old fella next door...I think he’s got a fair idea...he’s a good bloke though; comes over for a beer with me, but I don’t think they realise the extent of the stuff we do. I usually try and keep the two sides of my life separate, and having the kids keeps me grounded while I’m at home and I like to save ‘getting loose’ for when I’m out on the road.”
And as a final question; this change in musical direction, will Psycroptic pursue it further? “We like to mix it up a bit with every album; we don’t want to be one of those bands that keeps releasing the same album time after time. I think we’ll stick to this direction for a bit but hopefully with the next album we’ll diversify a bit more...”
Maybe throw in some jazz? “I don’t know about that.” He’s laughing again.
What about some scat? “I like the name better than I like the style!”
Mr Peppiatt, thanks for your time. “No worries, mate, come up and have a brew at the Brisbane gig!”
A fair dinkum, Aussie legend. ‘Kin Oath.