Australian grindcore hooligans King Parrot return to Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre this evening in support of Canada’s veteran avant-metal act, Voivod. We spoke with vocalist Matt Young about the band’s chaotically provocative live show, focus, and the challenges faced along the way.
“It was hard to gauge how far you would actually take it,” Young says of the band’s early experiments with provocation, which were born out of frustration with audience complacency. “I would knock people’s drinks out of their hands or if they were on their phones I would steal their phones,” but he notes that these experiments weren’t without consequences. “We found a few more subtle ways to engage them as opposed to punching them in the face…We tried to refine it over the years so that we wouldn’t end up in fights.”
The band’s humour and satire offer a civil yet edgy alternative to brawling: a reader’s question about Young’s penchant for mooning the audience and whether or not he shaves his posterior aspect “because it always looks so smooth,” is countered with a challenge: “I encourage the person who asked that question to get a closer look; if they’re at the show, point them out to me and I’ll make sure they do.”
Young admits the in-your-face strategy has occasionally backfired. “We’ve done some stupid things. At Soundwave Festival in Australia, I stood right in the middle of a Wall of Death and hundreds of people came in and crushed me, I thought I was going to die – but it looks good on video.”
He says that the philosophy that works best for the band, both in performance and business, is a policy of calculated risk: whether reaching out to new audiences on diverse tour lineups or touring untested regions, there is more to be gained than lost from these endeavours. “When we’re at home we play anywhere, we play bigger shows, smaller shows, we play out in regional places; we try to do it all and get out to as many people as we possibly can.”
For an extreme outfit with a chaotic stage presence there is remarkable underlying focus. Young notes that, for his own part, five years of sobriety have provided a positive framework to establish and maintain the band, a process inspired by a previous European tour several years ago spent filling in as bassist for an independent Australian band. “It really opened my eyes to what is possible…They booked their own tour…they didn’t have proper label representation or a booking agent or anything like that; I saw what they did and I was just astounded, I thought, ‘Oh my god, these guys are just getting out there and doing it.’”
The experience was clearly an object lesson for Young, who has also served as the band’s tour manager. International travel, he says, has been its own reward, “touring around the world and getting by in that way,” despite the challenge of extended absence from home and family or the more shocking situations one encounters. Of Vancouver’s East Hastings he says, “I have never seen homelessness on that scale. It exists on a smaller scale in Australia and I’ve seen other situations throughout the U.S. and Canada, but…I didn’t realize the Rickshaw was on East Hastings and on the last tour I went to get something to eat and I thought, my god, this is insane! It’s mindblowing.” In reference to the video for the song, “Home is Where the Gutter Is”, he notes that, particularly in cases of mental illness, “some people prefer to be homeless,” rather than endure the conditions of institutionalized living.
Similar to heavy music videos by bands such as Red Fang or Lord Dying, both of which have acknowledged social issues such as poverty and gentrification, King Parrot create a compelling platform to present extreme music to viewers through humour. “We just had this idea, when we did the Shit on the Liver video – which helped project us into a lot of places we wouldn’t have otherwise gone as an extreme music band – the realization when we did this with our friend Dan Farmer (director of several KP videos, including “Home is Where the Gutter Is”) – he’s a really creative guy and he has a great understanding of how the band operates, our sense of humour and the approach – it’s another outlet for us to be creative and another way to express ourselves in a way that’s not music.” Asked if this visual expression could ever evolve into a feature-length film, Young says a King Parrot movie would be considered if the circumstances were right, but “we love touring and we love playing live, so that’s our main thing that we want to do but any serious opportunity or proposition that comes our way, we consider them all.”
King Parrot (along with Child Bite, The Hallowed Catharsis, and Expain) support Voivod at Vancouver’s Rickshaw Theatre tonight (13 June 2016).