Alchemist - Space metal from Down Under
This summer the Australian band Alchemist finally played the big festivals in Europe on slots they deserved after a long career of playing metal. The last show for them on this tour was the Wâldrock festival of which the headliner was Slayer. I took this opportunity to talk to this one-of-a-kind metal band from down under. Shame on me for taking so long to get it online! Anyways, here’s the result mate!
So, how are you guys?
‘Awesome! The festivals have been great, most of the club shows have been really good. Some have been a little small but every one of them has been full of our fans, so absolutely no complaints from Alchemist. Wâldrock is a fantastic way to end our tour.’
Which band are you looking forward to seeing here at Wâldrock?
‘Just saw them; Death Angel. They’re amazing. They’re coming to Australia in March and I hope to get the band playing with them. They were absolutely fucking fantastic. Can’t say it enough, I think I thrashed there more than at my own show!’
It has taken you guys a long time to get there, but how is it to finally play at the European festivals?
‘We’re not like a hugely popular band, we’re really different than most bands on the bill. That works against us, so it’s been good to finally do these shows. Prospects for next year look good as well. We’ll definitely be coming over again. But now we’re flying home to play with Meshuggah, which is quite a big deal, and then we’ll start writing songs.’
Will they be in the style of the latest record Tripsis again?
‘Every album is different for us. Definitely gonna be heavier than Tripsis. As we grow older we like to go a bit heavier. It will also probably be a bit more electronic than last time because we got some new toys. It’s definitely not gonna be the same album as Tripsis. We want every album to stand on its own. We’ve really enjoyed playing the Tripsis songs live though!’
What do you think are the main differences between your European and Australian crowds?
‘The European crowds pay more attention. Alchemist crowds in Europe wanna watch and listen. Which is great, I appreciate it. In Australia they tend to push each other over and go fucking spastic because they know the songs so well. And the Australians haha, well they’re a bit mental. So that’s the main difference between our European and Australian crowds. But obviously we get a big kick out of the European crowds otherwise we wouldn’t keep coming back!’
Do you see differences in European and Australian crowds in general as well?
‘Well we’ve mostly played in Holland, we sort of see it as our second Australia. The crowds wanna come to speak to you, there are a lot of similarities between the Dutch and Australian crowds. They wanna come and mingle and tell you what they thought, they wanna criticize or tell you if they liked it. There’s not that much difference between them. It’s just that the Australian crowds go a bit more crazy.’
The Dutch crowd is a more listening than partying crowd you might say.
‘Well yes, and I respect that, it’s fine with me. What we ask is that they stand there for the whole gig and not walk away. When nobody walks away you know you’ve done good. I mean everybody has to go get a drink or has to pee, and not everybody likes metal or our music, we’ve noticed. But generally, we’re really really grateful.’
That’s what I like about you guys, you’ve been making music for such a long time but you’re still grateful for everything that you get. There are a lot of bands that would’ve thrown in the towel a long time ago.
‘Well that’s right. We know we can’t live of our music, so we got used to working day jobs. Fortunately we all have good jobs, so we’re able to have good equipment, good holidays and be able to play metal every week.’
What more do you want?
‘Man I don’t want much more out of life.’
If you could live of Alchemist, that would be awesome.
‘Yes it would be, but you let go of that as time passes. You just wanna survive as a band and keep putting out records, and have someone paying for them you know. And getting responses from people about it. That’s good enough for us. So no complaints here. We’re here playing at Wâldrock, meeting up with some Dutch fans. We try hard to have fun. You know fun doesn’t just land in your lap. You gotta work for it, but we love it.’
Next question, why did it take longer to put out the latest record Tripsis than it took with the others?
‘Difficult times. Rod was never really happy with living in Canberra, so he went to live in Brisbane 2000 kilometres away. And that’s his right. But it was the process for us of learning new technology and new techniques to write that slowed things down incredibly. We would send him over some music, he’d do something with it and send it back, and on and on and on. We could have given up, but I’m glad we didn’t because it resulted in a really cohesive album. And as we get older, we tend to get more critical towards ourselves. So we feel like we need to put out the best shit we can come up with, because we know we don’t have many fans and we want to give those who appreciate us the best we have.’
All right, enough serious shit. Time for some bullshit questions. Number one: has any of you guys ever met Steve Irwin?
‘Me and my girlfriend actually visited his park recently, but he was dead already. Oh no he wasn’t, but none of us never met him, but we all liked him. Contrary to his fucking daughter. Mindy, Bindy, or what is it? She gives me the shits.’
He must be the most famous person from Australia right?
‘Well yeah I guess. He did a lot for wildlife and the conservation of it. But you know in Australia there is a lot of wildlife, it’s hard to explain such a thing to people from Europe. We have actual predators in our country, all you’ve got here is like a bird or a fox. No, but Australia is such a beautiful place, I do recommend for everyone to come and visit for holidays some time. The only problem is that you can’t travel between cities, because they’re all so fucking far away. You’ll have to fly.’
For some reason my recording of this conversation stops at this point, but I can assure you that we continued chatting about bullshit and getting wasted on beer, weed and hash for quite some time. I’d like to thank the guys from Alchemist for being such kind blokes, I hope to see you all soon again! Special thanks goes out to their booker Bidi and his lovely Michelle.