Friday, November 23, 2007

STUMPY zine: The Onyas years

STUMPY vs THE ONYAS: a three-round slugathon

[Introduction written for Kicking Against The Pricks #1, along with a reissue of the Onyas interview from STUMPY #2]

STUMPY fanzine was my first project, musical or otherwise, as a fresh-faced scenester straight out of uni, frustrated and bored fuckless working at my soul-crushing public service prison sentence. Slapped together on a Centrelink photocopier during teabreaks, with interviews taped on a Tandy micro-cassette recorder and transcribed onto a rickety manual typewriter with an off-centre “e”, it pretty much dominated my existence from late ’91 to early ’94, gave me my unfortunate moniker (“Andrew Stumpy” was truncated even further to just Stumpy, El Stumpo, The Stump Wizard, and very occasionally Rumpled Stumpskin), was directly responsible for my first three bands Mr Bastard, Invisible Empire and Queer, and forged many lasting friendships. Looking back, it’s weird to see my first ever conversation with Lance Sinclair is in Issue One, and long-time partner in crime Cal Crilly was interviewed TWICE in number Two.

From the very first Idiotorial, STUMPY set out as a personal crusade against the prevailing cultural dogma: a sardonic, irreverent and cheerfully profane championing of the musical and filmic one-percenters. My interviews with Fred Negro, Killdozer, Venom P. Stinger, The Splatterheads, and local assholes Big Bongin’ Baby, Alien Virus, Invisible Empire, Noose, were characterized by in-jokes and endless, rambling conversations with people no-one had heard of let alone be willing to spend half an hour of their lives wading through. Plus there’s me trying to be witty, which I’m clearly not, while aiming at dumb AND profound in the same sentence, which only truly gifted writers can pull off, leaving the rest of floundering for air in a sea of pithy one-liners and piss-poor segues. Such as this.

Early on, Stumpy cemented my reputation as a troublemaker. A Hardons review for ‘Dateless Dudes Club” (two sentences: “One band that seriously needs a bullet. Some of us remember when they were GOOD”) got issue 4 banned from Sydney’s Waterfront Records store and, according to James Straker, saw a foaming Ray Ahn on the warpath wanting to “karate kick Stumpy’s ass”. My all-time favourite review of Stumpy was from Melbourne zine “Salty And Delicious”, whose primary scribe Richard Salty took severe effrontery to my A-Z of Euro-Sleaze and several of Gregor from Mr Bastard’s cartoons: “This zine makes me sad. It’s well written and the layout is superb - it’s obviously the product of an intelligent mind, but it’s a disturbing one... A celebration of sexploitation and stupid violence with an ever-present overtone of misogyny. Maybe I just don’t have a sense of humour?”

The zine’s biggest shitstirrers, however, were the Onyas, with their cocky, arrogant, self-confident swagger belying their musical ineptitude, and their “Every Band In Brisbane Sux Including Yours” tag. They put the “id” into idiosyncratic, quickly becoming Brisbane punk’s hyper-critical (not to mention hypocritical) shadow. Before long, no sacred cows were safe from their barbecue tongs.

The first interview was conducted after an Onyas gig in the back stairwell of the old Treasury Hotel, an early version of Rollo’s Club Splurt and literally the ONLY place in the city to get rat-sacked on a weekend. Richard Stanley was still doing the Punk Rock Show on ZZZ, whose interviews fattened up his one issue of Detox from early ’92. Stanners had one more zine in him (a single issue of “Thirsty And Miserable” from around late ‘93) before succumbing to rock and roll whoredom, Dropkick labelry, and a barrage of seemingly self-mocking press-releases, all done in the inimitable Stanners style.

Johnya was and still is a true enigma. He was at uni and teaching swimming part-time, on the surface a pisshead, bumpkin and disinterested and detached observer of the passing scenester carnival, dismissing all human endeavour as a “complete fiasco” while quietly going about completing his law degree. Nothing about John’s public persona has changed over the years; his speedos may have gone up a few sizes but he remains a man of few words, albeit chosen carefully.

Stanners’ brother Jordan aka Jaws was MIA from the interview, even though the gig wasn’t on a school night, but the fourth Onya, Anton (now Dr Anton) was present. He quit the second guitar stool soon after the Onyas began their frequent trips down South, but while he was in the band his barbed comments were actually the sharpest, as he and Stanners would fire insult after insult at each other. Looking back at Issue Two’s interview, their beer-and-bile soaked comments about the Brisbane punk rock scene are as timeless and incisive as ever, and gave the fanzine a philosophical viewpoint at fundamental odds with the fawning, self-congratulatory gag-rag that was BUMS (which I also contributed to – hell, back then I was whoring my services more frequently but with as much fervour as I do now).

Issue Three (“a penetrating view of 1992”) featured Richard and Anton mercilessly yet hilariously ragging, band by band and track by track, on Tim Screamfeeder’s cassette compilation “Bruise 2” which, in the local press at least, appeared to be beyond criticism. The Onyas/Big Bongin’ Baby ‘94 Tour Diary graced the pages of the fifth and final Stumpy, written mainly by Gutterball Pete after an afternoon of hat wearing and largie abuse. Naturally I heeded the call to drum for the Bongers for the next five years, and even though gigs were six months apart and the nights usually began with Gutterball face down and comatose on his coffee table, life got even busier and my brief but intense fanzine career drew to a close.

Meanwhile the mid-90s was a period of exponential growth for the Onyas and because I was around, and did work for free entry to gigs (which I promptly videotaped and bootlegged!), I had become their unofficial stylist. I crafted a handful of record covers, tour posters, did press photos and a t-shirt for Au-Go-Go – my hand-drawn Superman-esque Onyas logo was even “appropriated” by Frank Kozic for their Man’s Ruin seven incher. Which is only fair, since I’d been ripping off HIS work for years. Then in 1996 the Onyas returned from their first European tour filling the Cosmic Psychos support slot and played their first Brisbane gig at the newly opened Trash Video Mark One under the Zoo on Ann Street. You could tell they had changed: battle-scarred and world weary, and already on a musical level that most of us Bris-bound schlubs could only imagine. It was weird, like viewing first-hand the end of innocence, or watching your high school buddies bust their collective cherry. Within the year all three Onyas had slid down the slippery slope to Melbourne, and the rest you rubes all know, or at least should know, for fuck’s sake. (Andrew “El-Stumpo” Leavold, 04/04/06)

ROUND 1: Crucifying Brisbane Scene-Gods with THE ONYAS!

[Originally published in Stumpy II, mid-1992]


Richard: One of the great illusions is there is a Brisbane scene. You read these interviews in Time Off and they say "This is really good for our career" and shit, and you think "WHAT fuckin' career?" Everything in Brisbane doesn't amount to a hill of beans outside Brisbane.

John: They say "Come on, fuckin' get up there, support your scene, there's all these bands", but no-one ever turns up, it's just the other bands in the crowd and a couple of girlfriends and stuff, that's the point isn't it? If the bands were any fuckin' good there'd BE a crowd. Seriously, if you play for three or five years and you can't pull a crowd, I mean what the fuck are you doing?

Richard: People think you shouldn’t go around slagging the ‘scene’, but if anyone had any fuckin’ ounce of faith in what they're doing, they wouldn’t give a shit if they got slagged to hell. All the people whinging about "there's too much bitching in the Brisbane scene", well I reckon fuckin' bring it all out in the open!

Anton: I walked up to the Mall and came back, and there must've been thirty people, all dressed up in their 'alternative' gear, all got somewhere i.e. Volcanic Bass. I've got nothing against people going to VB, but they totally ignore the scene that's going on around them.

Richard: Those Stella 7 guys, God, they look like art-rock wankers! Just get up on stage with their fuckin' guitars up their arseholes. Go back to art college you sucks! And I think I said it before, if Stella 7 wanna fight, it's fists, the gloves are OFF!

Anton: It’s like inbreeding, see... living out in the country and you have a look at your sister and you say, “Hey, she’s not a bad piece of ass”, so you fuck her and eventually she becomes pregnant, right? (laughter) And born of the two is this child, and the cycle continues with these children inbreeding and breeding until they get three eyes and knees that point out in the wrong direction, that sort of shit, right? And this is what’s happening in Brisbane. Occasionally in these little country towns someone will come from the outside and everyone will say, “Wow, wasn’t he/she a good fuck”, then there’ll be some new element, and this is what I think happened here in Brisbane. There were lots of little bands interbreeding, and then in came Mudhoney and everyone said, “Wasn’t Mudhoney a good fuck”, and down through the genes came a little bit of Mudhoney. Out there’s still all this genetic quagmire, sludge through the Brisbane scene, and THAT, the lovechild of this union is BUDD, among other bands like Krud, Squelch...

Everybody says what nice guys Budd are. I’m not arguing that, I don’t want to know whether they're nice guys or not, what I object to is that they're such a degenerate little fuckin’ crap band that are put up as being the scene leaders. There's Jeremy from Budd, then there's Tim Screamfeeder, and they're the 'geniuses' of the Brisbane scene. It just leaves a lot to be desired - I mean the whole point of hating Budd is 'cause it's not a personal thing, it's a group thing.

Richard: We could make it personal!

Anton: Yeah, if they want to make it personal, we'll go ten rounds with them... we hate them as a GROUP. They sound fucked and they ARE fucked.

Richard: They’re the worst fuckin’ band I've ever seen! They suck, and we’re willing to go ten rounds with them, basically like any band.

Anton: We probably know more about organized violence than they do.

Richard: It's always the really good bands go unnoticed, and the bands that fuckin' HOWL on us get really popular. That's why Budd are so popular, they're the kings of the scene. They're just like a prepackaged product everyone can relate to.

Anton: I'd just like to quote Kellie Lloyd in saying that "Brisbane is the new SEATTLE!”

Richard: Stone Groove is just like Subpop on a smaller level, and all these bands who look like Mudhoney and Nirvana but on a smaller level. Pity for them all these people don't realize how small a level it is.

Anton: BUMS (Brisbane Underground Music Scene, early 90s fanzine) is the placenta of the unborn child, the miscarried child of the inbred Brisbane scene. BUMS is probably the midwife...

Richard: Everyone who writes for that magazine, and I mean EVERYONE, is a completely cluless wonder. They don't know what the fuck they're talking about.

John: Not that I pay much attention to it, but there’s people who are in a band and they’ll write about their OWN BAND in the actual magazine. This happens a number of times it seems.

Anton: e.g. Lance Sinclair!

Richard: We wanna fuckin’ cut yer balls off Lance! (to Andrew) You’re NOT going to edit that out! If you read the Party Fears’ BUMS review it was just fuckin’ spot on, they’re so gutless. They need advertising revenue, as they’re so gutless to slag everything. Every band, it’s like “Oh no, they’re from Brisbane, let’s go suck their dicks”, that’s it, that’s the whole magazine. Sure enough you gotta have some kind of scene report, but not fuckin’ BRISBANE!

John: Being serious, it’s gotta be constructive. You just can’t keep saying “Oh mate, this band - if you like this sound, they’re great...” ‘cause there’s a lot of bands that are FUCKED. I mean, look at tonight (points towards the Treasury bar), it’s Friday night and there’s flat out being fifty people out there. That’s not a scene, that’s a bloody fiasco!

Richard: A couple of words of genius from 'Chick Magnet’!

Jordan: My brother got me nvolved because he wanted to start a band with John called ‘The Onyas' ...

Richard: Now the REAL story.

Anton: We got Jordan hooked on crack, and the only way he could get his fix was by playing in the band - look, he's shaking, he's shaking... we kept pushing him and that's why he's the great drummer he is today, the creative genius, 'cause once he had to buy the drugs he could talk about pain, he could talk about struggle ... that's where the driving force comes from, COLD TURKEY!

Richard: The Onyas isn’t a reflection of any sort of culture, it's about Jordan’s personal life.

Anton: Jordan’s inspiration is spoken through the talent of the other three members.

Andrew: Who are your favourite cock-rock guitar heroes?

John: I dunno ... the first person that I liked was, like, Hendrix, then I liked Townsend ... then Dirty from the Cosmic Psychos, 'cause I've never heard any thing like it in my life, it was so BAD! I'm saying that in a good way.

Richard: Cock Rock isn't about ideology or social change or anything, it's about getting up on stage and playing your guitar behind your head!

Andrew: How long did it take to perfect the ...

John: ...behind the head? I always look at myself in the mirror, always - no shit.

Richard: He gets off in front of the bathroom mirror and plays the guitar totally naked ... this is before he's had any beers, you should see him when he gets three beers in him!

Anton: The thing is, he's playing guitar in front of the mirror, thinking he's playing air guitar, but he's really wanking!

Andrew: Do you think you'll be taking your clothes off as a regular thing?

John: If you're asked to play, you have to take your shirt off, simple as that - you like to flex, this is a natural male characteristic.

Anton: I think it shows how tight we are as a band.

Andrew: How come Chick Magnet didn’t?

Richard: Then all the girls would come up on stage!

Anton: When we play the stage is ours - anyone who gets up is looking for trouble.

Richard: We belong on the stage ‘cause we’re stars and the audience must know that... but that's not the point.

Andrew: Do you get terrified when you get people applauding at the end of your songs? Do you feel like you’re being ACCEPTED?

Anton: They clap anyone, they’re just stupid. Budd played at Uni and they clapped them. The ‘hub of intellectual excellence’ and they were clapping BUDD!

Andrew: Jordan isn’t serious when he writes those songs, is he?

Anton: We have him put in those obvious macho Australian...

John: "Anyone wanna pie?" Anyone with a beer in their hand ... (says something about meat pies)

Andrew: I got really defensive when you sang “Beer Gut”.

Anton: Sorry! it was just the common slouch - I started writing out some words about fat

people but I only got two lines, then I got obsessed with lines about Jews... (someone starts quoting Slayer lyrics)

Richard: We were teenage metalheads once.

Andrew: If you were stranded on a desert isle, what would be the five records you’d take with you?

Richard: The Onyas tape.

Anton: Motley Crue,. . .

Richard: Bon Jovi, Guns & Roses - real rock’n’roll!


John: I reckon that if people hate us in Brisbane, then we've gotta be doing something right!


[Originally published in STUMPY III, late 1992]

Once again, Richard & Anton take on the mighty STONE GROOVE, with Andrew as referee. It's Round 2 and the gloves are still OFF.


Anton: Sounds like REM with stacks of Steve Kilbey from the Church.

Richard: I missed ‘em the other night (tape launch), and by the sounds of things I didn't miss that much!

Anton: They're going nowhere, put it that way.


Anton: Well, it was a fuckin’ SHORT song, wasn’t it? (laughs at his own joke)

Andrew: What would you class it as?

Richard: Just your regular Brisbane post-punk dribble.

Andrew: I wouldn't even put the word "punk" in it, I’d call it “post-post".

Anton: Post-interesting for a start.

SPIRAL I “Undecided”

Anton: Spiral I? I’d like to give them a black eye!

Richard: It was a bit better than the last one, at least it was a bit more upbeat.

Andrew: But was it "cool"? That's the question .

Richard: It was very “cool", but whether it is "good” is a different question. There's a huge gulf between "cool" and "good”.

Anton: There's a huge gulf between being cool in Brisbane and being cool anywhere else in the world!

Richard: They'd fuckin' rock Seattle ... I think if I was the drummer in that band I'd rather be in the Hummingbirds too. Enough said.

BUDD “Hooked”

Richard: Budd glorious Budd, where do we start?

Anton: We wanna fight 'em, they give too much cheek.

Richard: We're looking forward to playing gigs with Budd - God, we' gonna fuckin' rock them off the stage so badly! It's a bit heavier than the others, but there's more in life than be "heavy". They've got the big sound, but where's the pop hook? Where are the hits? They've got the riffs, they've got the sound, they just need the songs. And they need to have their heads beaten in by us.

MILCH “Don’t Wake Up”

Anton: The song says it all. "Don't Wake Up" and we didn’t.

Richard: Budd put us to sleep, and Milch weren't about to wake us up! As it is, they're gonna end up on the scrapheap like Budd, on the receiving end of our guitars.

KRUD “Deranged”

Richard: All I can say is that I saw them the other night, it was their last gig, and that is the only positive thing I can say about that band, is that they've broken up

Anton: KRUD is mud.

Richard: KRUD is crud. Name says it all.


Anton: Ruins an otherwise pathetic tape.

Richard: We were going along pretty swimmingly there, just one bad song after the other, then Chopper had to come in and ruin it with a good song.

STELLA 7 “Yes I’ve Crawled”

Richard: Looks like we're getting to the good section of the tape. NOT.

Anton: Two words: “Art”, “Wankers".

Richard: You listen to them and you think they've got good songs and they sound really fuckin' great, but you don’t wanna look at them 'cause they look like Art Wankers. They've just come out of their little art school and they've come down to the thing to strut around with their Rickenbackers..,

Anton: Two words: "Ricken", "Backers".

PITCHFORK “Would You Believe”

Richard: Any band that has a bassist who slaps deserves to hand cut off and his guitar anally inserted.

Anton: Two words: “Funk”, “Metal”. Back to PitchDORK...

Richard: If you want to be like the Bad Brains - you're white! Give it up! That's it.

NOOSE “Slum Church”

Anton: "In my morbid stench I rot in carcass flesh!! ... The PUNGENT SENCH of NOOSE permeates the foul air!" (Drops the death growl)

Richard: Cheer up! Be happy! The world is a nice happy place full of fun people! You could go to the waterslide or ... rollerdiscos! There's more to life than Italian cannibal films!

Anton: A lot of people might misconscrue the Onyas as a violent band, but for us, violence is not something we cherish. We've spent a lot of time meditating, going to self-control classes, so that we can control this anger within us, this violence, and focus our aggression into MEANINGLESS ACIS OF SENSELESS VIOLENCE!!!

Richard: That's what Onyas music is about. It's about getting people to channel all this idle aggression into random acts of senseless violence. And what better way to start than by killing all the members of NOOSE.

Anton: Slowly, so then they'll know what their lyrics mean.

Richard: Furthermore, any bands that aren't on this tape and wanna fight, write to us or call us, come and see us at our gigs, we'll be happy to accomodate you!

ROUND 3: THE ONYAS TMT interview

[Originally published in TMT zine #17, Perth May 1996]

The Onyas are currently basking in the glory of their double A sided debut 7”, "Beer Gut/ Run Amok" out on Augogo records (with glorious cover art by Mr El Stumpo) with their first album "Men" due out early in 1996. This conversation was between Thunderarse bass Richard and El Stumpo on 1/9/95. The remaining members John - Subpop crushing guitars and lead yob vox, and Jaws on skins - were awol. Here it is....

Stump: The Onyas pride themselves as champion drinkers, but you were first on the carpet last night. How do you explain this?

Richard: We never prided ourselves as being champion drinkers, just champion drunks. Naturally I was first on fhe floor.

Do you still uphold the fine Onyas tradition of bagging Brisbane acts ?


Latest targets?

Gets to a point where you can't pick your favourite fucked local bands anymore- the competition's pretty hot these days, with the fallout after PANGAEA broke up. Sad to see our familiar comedy relief move interstate too. Particular attention should be paid to your pseud-philosophical metal funksters ZARATHUSTRA for genuinely believing that second year uni students actually have infellectual superiority over anyone, and that high speed hand-eye coordination counts for shit outside of a video arcade.

A year ago you were losers going nowhere fast. Now you're signed to Augogo you're suddenly losers with an expense account to burn. Will this change the band?

Yes. We keep most songs we write now.

How does Adelaide treat you?

The folks there are especially friendly to us and lay ounces of killer buds on us at every turn. The guys in BLOW (ex-IRON SHEIKS) are everything you can ask for as hosts. They know how to make their band as much like an action movie as they can. Stuntman rock, with shootouts, car chases and bodacious ta-tas.

You find a punter unconscious outside a nightclub- Do you:

A: Rifle through his pockets to double your drinking budget?

B: Piss on him when no ones watching?

C: Ring the police, pretend he's been murdered, then watch the proceeding chaos?

D: All of the above?

D: All of the above, then buy Hot Chicken Heroes for everyone in sight.

Describe your new album 'MEN' in terms of black action heroics?

It most resembles Isaac Hayes' Truck Turner aka Black Bullet - muscley, bald headed and operating on the underside of the law, with elements of the bungling slapstick of Antonio Fargas and the wide-bottomed, chest-beating pulchritude of Rudy Ray Moore.

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