Despite the fact it’s been almost three and a half years since Mansfield’s finest, Violent Soho, released their ARIA Award winning album WACO, the rock-lovin’ four-piece are an undeniably unforgettable force in the modern Australian music scene. So much so, lead guitarist James Tidswell’s throwaway comment unwittingly sparked panic around the nation back in 2017 when it was wrongly reported they were breaking up.
“I got in trouble for that!” laughs the laid-back muso who spent the Sunday before our chat manning the BBQ at his local Bunnings. “It was fun to get out there and get involved doing the BBQ-ing. I’ve eaten a lot of Bunnings’ sausages in my time, and it was my chance to be behind the grill.
As it happens the occasional burnt sausage and litres of tomato sauce consumed on the day were for a very worthy cause. “It was a great turn out and we did a lot of fundraising for my daughter’s kindy. It’s a little community run kindy, it’s not government funded, as such,” he adds, sounding like the proud dad he is.
It’s clear that fatherhood suits him, as it does his band mates that have become parents in the almost two decades Violent Soho have been together, and the fact that people may have turned up to the daddy- daughter fundraiser just to get a photo with one of the country’s most-loved musicians seems lost on Tidswell.
“I often forget I’m in Violent Soho. I’ll be doing the food shopping with my daughter negotiating over a Chupa Chup or whatever and someone will come over to ask for a photo and it kind of takes me back because I don’t understand why. After a second or so, then I’m like ‘Of course, no worries!’ We take so much time away from the music world that we don’t feel like a part of it in a way,” he explains. “We’re in Violent Soho, but we’re not Violent Soho, does that make sense?”
Violent Soho formed in the early 2000’s and have been touted as almost single-handedly reintroducing the sound of the fuzzed-out rock bands of the ‘90’s to younger audiences. Their line-up features guitarists/vocalists Luke Boerdam and Tidswell, bassist Luke Henery and drummer Michael Richards, and their commercial success over the last decade includes taking home two ARIA awards for Best Rock Album and Best Group at the 2016 ARIA awards from their five nominations. And I have it on good authority that they have no plans of breaking up any time soon.
“This is one of the only interviews we’ve done in a couple of years or at least over a year. I wonder what I can’t say. What I can tell you is that we have made a new record and we’re doing everything we can to get something out this year,” he says. “Obviously we’re not releasing the whole record this year - but the album is definitely finished and we are really stoked with it. It’s good to be coming back after nearly four years.
Recorded at the picturesque Grove Studios on the NSW Central Coast, the experience was a memorable one. “We all feel - and I know that all bands say this because why would you make a record if you didn’t feel this way - but we feel the most proud of this than anything we’ve ever done as a band.” And to achieve this feat Tidswell says they went back to their roots.
“I’ve noticed that bands often become detached from where they came from - and I’m not talking about anyone necessarily - but they keep pushing further and further from who they were just naturally, whereas we wanted the opposite. We wanted to slip as far back into who we are and what we do as possible, and Greg Wales coming in as producer was an integral part of it.”
“We know him from way back,” Tidswell says. “He actually produced a band from our high school back in the late ‘90s, actually ‘98 it would have been. We didn’t have many bands from our school and I really looked up to him as a kid.
“He’s done other stuff that you would know. He did the first ever Frenzal Rhomb EP which was called Dick Sandwich, way back in ‘94, and a whole bunch of stuff. He’s one of the last guys that knows how to do things how we wanted them done as well. He has a very old school approach,” Tidswell says. “For us it was just really cool to get Greg because he is an incredible engineer. He’s one of the best in our opinion and he used to organise a lot of gigs back in those days. We used to go to all the shows our school and church would put on. From the first time I saw a band live not even for a single second did I think about doing something else. From the age of fifteen all I planned on was playing music.”
These days Violent Soho play to sold-out venues and are a major draw card among international acts at this year’s Good Things Festival in December. “The fact that Bad Religion are on the tour was one of the reasons why we wanted to do it and our friends Skegss are playing so that makes us super comfortable, but I think the biggest one is Mark Hoppus playing with Simple Creatures. I grew up the biggest Blink 182 fan in the world I went to every single show since the Dude Ranch tour,” Tidswell says.
“Parkway Drive is one of the most important bands in Australian history,” he continues. “There’s pop stars, there’s hardcore, there’s punk rock, there’s rock, and Reel Big Fish, I grew up seeing them live when I was a teenager, actually one of our first shows was on a bill with them as well. Oh and Poppy - I didn’t even know she made music. I used to follow her on Instagram years ago because her videos were so weird and creepy - I thought she was awesome. I’m going to be in Poppy’s presence, that’s crazy! The line up is kind of like a party playlist, that was why it was really exciting for us to get involved”
And yes, Tidswell says they do have plans to play some of the new songs, but they’re hoping you keep your mobile phones in your pockets. “We’re busting to play, but you can’t play too much because everyone busts out their phones and next minute it’s up on YouTube. I hope everyone can hear how confident, relaxed and OK we are with everything. That’s literally the whole message of the record.”
Violent Soho will return to the live circuit for Good Things this December. Head to the festival website for all the dates and details.