Once upon a time I went to the (now defunct) Ding Dong lounge for the launch of Fuck the Fitzroy Doom Scene's album Facing the Ruin. And what a bloody good gig that was. Now, supporting them was a band I'd never heard of - but that was about to change. They were as big and as bold as their name suggests: El Colosso. A few years have gone by since then, and they finally dropped their debut album Pathways ... but hell, it's been worth the wait! EatNoise catches up with lead vocalist Koops, as they get prepared to tour the album through Europe...
El Colosso has been doing some serious gigging around Melbourne for a few years now. Tell us a bit about your band, your history and the musical history of the members...
The band was started with Craig and Pete, and Adam Winzer, from Peeping Tom. Craig contacted me after I’m not sure how long they’d been jamming and invited me to check out their stuff. I’d been doing nothing for a while, after my previous band had split, just doing some writing and noodling at home, and nothing else musically. I liked what I heard – a real 70’s classic metal/rock kind of vibe. So, we started jamming together, and after about 6 months or so we played our first show – a real loose and average show, I seem to recall (certainly for me).
Adam left the band after a bit. Benny James was suggested to me by a mutual friend. I’d never heard any of his work before, but this mutual friend basically said, “You want this guy’. I remember the first jam we had with Benny, I was thinking, “Yes, we do fucking want this guy!”
We’ve played a bunch of shows. Small, biggish, and everything in between. When we started out there was a push to jam us in with stoner rock and doom-type bands. It kind of puts us in an awkward position because we are not that, despite having elements of those styles. We love stoner and doom, but that’s not what this band is about. Everyone likes to think that they are doing their own thing, hitting up their own sound, and so on, but this band is genuinely doing that. We’ve got such a ridiculous range of influences, and each of us is into very much their own thing, but when it comes to playing everything really intersects and turns into something unique, happily.
I used to play in a band called Bring On The Junta. Benny played in Dirty York. Craig has a Dive Into Ruin and Mushroom Giant pedigree. Pete played in Hybenators and Free To Run.
You released your debut album “Pathways” digitally mid-2017 and on vinyl a few months later. What has the response been like?
Critically the response was very flattering. We’ve had some incredibly complimentary, rave reviews. From around the world. From a variety of critical voices. The limiting factor for us is the fact that we are completely independent – we have no label behind us to market, promote and distribute our product. So, we are utterly DIY. This both empowers and restricts us. But such is the way of the business these days. We have the advantage of being able to connect directly with our fan base via social media outlets, we can circumvent the ‘soft tyranny’ of label direction, or third-party guidance, with sites like Bandcamp. It’s a lot of work, but obviously it’s necessary in order to maintain the presence and life of this entity.
Who was involved with the production of the album?
The album was recorded at Head Gap Studios, in Preston, by Finn Keane. That studio was fantastic. The tracking was recorded ‘live’, which was the best fun for us. Finn was great to work with – always very relaxed and professional. We did extensive preproduction before going to Head Gap. Basically about 8 weeks of recording the songs live onto Logic, reviewing, rearranging, replaying, trying overdubs, reviewing again, and so on. The time we spent in the studio was just for recording. We all knew – for the most part – exactly how the song was meant to be played, what we were aiming for in terms of performance. As a result, most songs were recorded within only a couple of takes. I think with one track – perhaps it was Pathways – it was finished after about six takes. At the time it seemed waaaaay too many takes! The vocal for Moving Mountains was a one-take guide (done at the Head Gap sessions) that ended up staying. Most of the other main vocals were recorded at Hothouse Audio with Jez Giddings. A lot of backup vocals, and all of Limbo were recorded at my home, just using Logic and a little AKG 214.
Mixing was all done at Hothouse Audio, by Jez Giddings. Craig Harnath (the owner of Hothouse) was around for every session. We nicknamed him Yoda. He would sit on his chair next to the console, looking at shit on the net, and every once in a while would bark out a ‘No!’ when he heard something that was off, or a ‘Fuck yeah!’ when something really came together. That was enough for him to earn a mixing credit!
You named the album after the fifth track “pathways”. What is the significance of this song for you to do that?
For me it was about the lyrics. There’s a message in those words that are important to me. I thought the value of that song was consistent with the ideals of the band, and I guess everyone agreed. I don’t discuss the meaning of my lyrics, not even with the other guys in the band. I get asked all the time by folks what this line means, or what that song is about, but my answer is always, ‘What do YOU think it means?’ Lyrics are an opportunity for someone to personalise a song, make it their own soundtrack. The music does that too, on its own, but the lyrics are MY response to how the music makes ME feel. I mean, fuck it, I’m the one that’s singing this shit, right?
The whole band is credited with the songwriting and lyrics. So what is the process El Colosso go through when writing new material?
It varies. Most of Pathways was written in the rehearsal room. Most of the ideas for the second album have been written at home, and then jammed out. We consider the band to be a family. A family of brothers. Now if you know what brothers can be like, you’ll know that brothers don’t always get along. Same with us. But we share the same ideals, and we have the song uppermost in our thoughts the whole time. We share the song writing credits because it’s important for the band to be democratised and made up of equals. If there is a shift away from that ideal, then suddnely the band is made up of musicans who are run by a band leader, and that’s just not how this thing works. I get that other bands may do that, and that’s cool, but El Colosso runs in a different direction.
What influences and informs your band as a whole, and individually as musicians?
EVERYTHING! Our influences are too varied to list! I guess the thing is this: we’ve got our idols, bands we grew up listening to as kids and always wanted to emulate, but I suppose that because we are a little bit older, we’re much more concerned about being ourselves. Yes, we’re products of a certain time, but the last thing we would try and do is simply revisit the ‘good old days’. We want music that speaks to us now. That’s what we’re trying to make.
So El Colosso is touring Europe later in the year? Tell us more about that, and are there any plans to head to the US?
We go to Europe in June, and are there for 5 weeks. We’ve got a killer tour agency over there representing us – Teenage Head Music. At the moment we are booked for 21 dates out of 33, with a couple more dates to be added in the coming weeks. We are playing in Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belgium, France and Spain. It’s a crazy schedule, during the Northern summer, and the World Cup is on!
We’d love to go the US and tour. It’s all about access. We’re a DIY band, so without immediate and prominent connections, making a US tour work would be impossible at the moment. If things change, and we get representation for that market, we’d be there in a flash.
You're tasked with creating your own “various artists” mix-tape. What songs do you select?
For a long drive, I’d go for:
1. Rock Me ABBA
2. Damn That River ALICE IN CHAINS
3. Happiness Is A Warm Gun THE BEATLES
4. Syriana Style BRAINTAX
5. Stickshifts and Safety Belts CAKE
6. Swerve City DEFTONES
7. Planet Smasher DEVIN TOWNSEND
8. The Man Who Told Everything DOVES
9. King For A Day FAITH NO MORE
10. Chim Chim’s Badass Revenge FISHBONE
1. Silvera GOJIRA
2. Ruin LAMB OF GOD
3. Los Laureles LINDA RONSTADT
4. Fight The Fight LIVING COLOUR
5. Jaguar God MASTODON
6. Oblivion MASTODON
7. Pure Pleasue Seeker MOLOKO
8. Retro Vertigo MR BUNGLE
9. Well Alright ROOTS MANUVA
10. Been Away Too Long SOUNDGARDEN
If you could put yourself on the bill for your own curated music festival together your own music festival, what local, Australian and International Artists would be on the bill? Who would headline?
Mastodon would have to headline, Avalanches, Gojira, Fishbone, Alice In Chains, Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, Basement Jaxx, Fuck The Fitzroy Doom Scene, Beck, YLVA, Roots
Manuva, Hobo Magic, Ween, Freq Nasty, Corrosion of Conformity, Spoon, Opeth, Katalyst… And of course…;-)
What would be your rider?
The whole bar!
If you had to play a completely different genre of music to what you do now, what would it be?
Definitley out-and-out pop. But not how it’s being done today. Pop music has always generally been a lowest-common-denominator thing, but it just seems so much worse these days. So little of it is the least bit interesting, and the fact that we’ve had RnB pretty much dominate the style has done nothing but stagnate and destroy it. I’ve heard only a little bit of some of the more popular – and critically acclaimed – stuff that’s around, and it’s completely fucking UNLISTENABLE. But pop music I think is very challenging when done well. Think about what Ween can do. Beck, Jason Falkner, Doves, Eskimo Joe – what the fuck happened to Eskimo Joe? THEY were fantastic!
If your music was to be used as a soundtrack for a film, who would you want directing and starring in it?
Directing? Alex Garland is an incredible artist. Starring? Ha! Whoever is foolish enough!
What food/drink serving suggestions do you have for this album?
It’s an album fuelled by alcohol and certain other miscellaneous indulgences. I recommend user caution for all of these. But the music has got to be LOUD.
Find out more about El Colosso
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