It’s been 20 years since Pop Will Eat Itself shook up Australian shores. But the UK band, who mashed up genres of rock, pop and hip hop, will be shaking it up again with a one-off show in Brisbane this week.
Founding member Graham Crabb is the man who has pulled together the new line-up, including co-vocalist Mary Byker, Killing Joke drummer Jason Bowld and Gary Numan guitarist Tim Muddiman. Crabb has been valiantly trying to make Pop Will Eat Itself happen since 2005. Then, the band performed a couple of reformation gigs in their home country, but unfortunately lead vocalist Clint Mansell couldn’t commit to further Poppies action because of his soundtrack work. Mansell, the ratty-haired frontman of the group, is now an award-winning composer, whose lengthy CV includes films such as Requiem for a Dream, Pi and Black Swan. But Crabb was undeterred.
“It’s something I wanted to do for ages really,” he says. “I tried to put the band back together but it wasn’t happening so I realised the only way I was going to get it all together was to get a new line-up.”
And it’s that PWEI Mark II that will be coming to Australia this week. But Crabb is quick to assert they are no nostalgia act. The group, whose hits include Can U Dig It? Ich Bin Ein Auslander and Def Con One, are working on a new record due in October.
“We keep banging our heads together and saying we’ve got to nail the title,” Crabb says. “We’ve got a lot of words we want to incorporate. We feel we’re close. The guys who are doing the artwork – the Designers Republic – have always done the Pop Will Eat Itself artwork. They’re wanting to know because they’ve got to do a design. So we should have it in the next day or so.”
As well as PWEI, Crabb is a member of newly formed industrial supergroup Primitive Race, which includes members of KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, The Mission and Fear Factory. Their heavy edged music combines electronic and machine-age technology to create an arresting soundscape. So, why do humans like the sound of music made by machines?
“That’s a good question,” Crabb laughs. “Why do we? I suppose it can only mirror real life. Noises are everywhere and who knows when you hear a noise what goes on inside your head, what connection does it make? A machine banging away, what does that represent? But it’s obviously something in your head trying to make sense of things you’ve heard in the past. It does somehow relate to an emotion as well.”
With the musical landscape changing rapidly, it’s difficult to know what trend will strike next. But Crabb has a theory about that.
“I think what new things do is they hone in on the detail in something. Dubstep zoomed in on that dirty synth sound. Drum ‘n’ bass zoomed in on a drum beat and the big bass sounds. Anything new in itself is taking something small and blowing it up bigger. The future is probably there already but you don’t realise.”
Futuristic Urban Cult was the name of seminal Brisbane industrial band Dogmachine’s one and only album. Known for their epic live shows in the 1990s, the band went underground in the early 2000s.
When Pop Will Eat Itself were looking for a support act for their Brisbane show, someone threw out the name Dogmachine. It was a name that hadn’t been bounced around in years. Singer Kraig Wilson gave it some thought. Then he gave it a lot of thought, and now the band are reforming to play with PWEI for the special one-off support show at their Brisbane gig.
Playing with the likes of White Zombie and Atari Teenage Riot in their heyday, Dogmachine had a reputation for their manic live shows – which included such diverse percussion as car bonnets and angle grinders.
“We put everything into it,” says Wilson.“We weren’t the kind of band that just gazes at their shoes. It was more of a performance.”
“When you’ve got a grinder that is one of the instruments that sets the scene,” adds guitarist Roger Menso.
Says Wilson: “We used to use a lot of metal percussion, a steel drum or a car bonnet with a pipe, that sort of thing. The grinder always got people going because it’s such an intense visual thing. If you’re in the front row and you get hit by the sparks it reminds you that you’re alive.”
Like Pop Will Eat Itself, Dogmachine were interested in the musical intersection of man and machine.
“I’ve always been interested in the fusion between the human playing and the electronics,” says Wilson. “I think they play off each other quite well. One of the things that appeals to certain people is the fact that with the technology it means you can write a whole album on your own. So it’s good for loners like me.”
While electronic music continues to evolve, something you hear less of in music these days is the sampling of quotes from films, which was big in the industrial scene’s heyday. Dogmachine sampled quotes from Robocop, Hellraiser and even Black Adder. Their 1997 album Futuristic Urban Cult is now available on iTunes and the band’s Facebook page is an archive of memorabilia and photos. Plenty of fans are now coming out of the woodwork keen to attend their show. So could this mean a future with more Dogmachine gigs?
“Initially it was just going to be a one-off,” says Wilson. “But I’ve been surprised at how much interest it’s generated. How many people have gotten excited about us playing again.
There’s a few things possibly on the horizon. It’s a possibility.” Futuristic Urban Cult is available on iTunes. Pop Will Eat Itself and Dogmachine perform with Monster Zoku Onsomb at the Zoo, Brisbane, on September 5.