by RS Frost
Formed from the ashes of OPEN WOUND and ARSERIPPER, it would only take a few years for FUCK I’M DEAD to become legendary in the underground grind scene in Melbourne.
Arguably one of the most brutal bands to come out of Australia, and one of the most hilarious, depending on your sensibilities, Fuck I’m Dead incorporate toilet humour, guttural vocals, inhuman blast beats and a no-holds-barred attitude towards everything they do. Combine these elements with savage riffery, often times giving way to catchy melodic segments, and a handful of men wearing blood-soaked butcher’s aprons, and you begin to get an idea of what this band is all about.
After almost 15 years, two albums, a handful of splits and demos, and a considerable amount of touring, Fuck I’m Dead decided to call it quits following their 2012 album release, ‘Another Gory Mess’.
I ran into vocalist Jay Allen at a recent show in Melbourne and suggested that a retrospective exploration of the band might be in order. He agreed, and the first in a series of conversations was begun.
I thought it prudent to start with Jay’s own induction into the world of music.
- My brother is 15 years older than me and used to babysit me a lot when I was a kid. I remember sitting on his bedroom floor listening to music, this would’ve been the late ‘70s. He was and still is into early metal and punk so he showed me bands like AC/DC, RAMONES, MOTÖRHEAD, JUDAS PRIEST etc. I started listening to heavy music probably around the age of six or seven.
The first band I played in was when I was 15 in 1987, we were called DEATH PENALTY. I was on bass and vocals and we were trying to play crossover thrash like DRI but we couldn’t play and I never played bass again after that. I fell into playing drums because of a friend who told me I should play drums in his band because I was the biggest kid he knew, I was 16 when I started drumming. That band was called PROVIDENCE and was the first proper gigging band I was in. It was hard to describe the music; I suppose it was punk but had a bit of everything in it. The first band I sung in was called OPEN WOUND; we were a grindcore band, played loads of shows, went interstate a lot and brought out a few releases.
You were in a lot of bands over the following decade. Would you be so kind as to run through them all?
- ONE INCH PUNCH/MYC (punk - drummer), HEADS KICKED OFF (hardcore/crust/grind – drummer), IDENTITY THEFT (hardcore/metal – drummer & vocals), SHALLOW GRAVE (metal – drummer), SHITWRECK (grindcore – vocals) AFTER BURNER, and DOUCHE CREW (SOD covers with Danny Lilker – vocals).
Then, in 2000, you were part of the formation of two bands that would keep you busy for the next 15 years, Fuck I’m Dead, as vocalist, and as the drummer for THE KILL.
First things first – Is it “Fuck…I’m Dead” or “Fuck I’m Dead”?
- It was actually both. Early on we used the “...” logo, but as the band went along we just had it as “Fuck I’m Dead”.
What can you tell me about the formation of these two bands?
- Dave (Hill– guitars) and Tom (Raetz– bass) formed Fuck I’m Dead and asked me to join. The Kill started from the ashes of Open Wound, Roby the guitarist and I actually decided to start The Kill the same day that Open Wound split.
At this stage, I was already playing in Identity Theft and a few of my earlier bands had already finished up. The metal scene was really easy going and had a cool vibe happening at shows and there was a lot going on. I just saw myself as a regular punter coming out to regular shows and getting up on the stage regularly. The metal and grind scenes were flourishing at The Arthouse (RIP).
Later that year the band put out their first demo, a seven-track cassette that was limited to 100 copies. This was the first of many releases adorned with brutal and gory cover art, and featured track titles such as ‘Pablo's Anal Maggot Colony’ and ‘Inject Me With AIDS’, which would go on to be frequently requested, or simply shouted out at volume, at shows.
How was this first demo tape put together?
- It was recorded in Dave’s lounge room on a four-track analog recorder by our friend Adam Simpson. I can’t remember where we got the tapes pressed but it was a very simple job.
Dave found that picture online; the only thing behind using that picture was to be as brutal as possible. I came up with the song titles and because the music was brutal and we thought the song titles should be brutal, it was all for the gore.
Did you feel you had to make a statement with this first release? Set the playing field for what the band was all about and what people should expect moving forward?
- To be honest, we just wanted to do a brutal band with a drum machine that could play live. We weren’t even thinking we would do as much as we did at the time; it was just to have a laugh, play some brutal grind and hang with our mates. It was definitely a good starting point to get more brutal.
In 2001 came a split release with German grindcore outfit SANITYS DAWN, and then came the big one.
On November 15th 2001, Fuck I’m Dead released their debut album, ‘Bring On The Dead’. 23 tracks with a run-time of a little over an hour, this album was one of the most extreme, brutal, fast, and heavy releases to come out of Australia at the time. With track titles including the likes of ‘Colon Commando’, ‘Barefoot and Shit Faced’, and ‘Toilet Tantalizers’, the band had set their tone and sentiment in cement.
I cannot stress the impact this album had on the grind community at large. It was crass, unrelenting, unapologetic, and opened up a space for other bands to follow suit, resulting in what would become Australian goregrind, a term I personally had not heard prior to the release of ‘Bring On The Dead’.
How was the reaction to this album for you guys?
- There was an instant impact, especially in the US as it was released by a US label; RAZORBACK RECORDS. It also opened doors for us here to tour more and get on better shows. It definitely had a great reaction upon its release.
Looking back, do you think that this album had a long-lasting effect on extreme metal in Melbourne, or Australia as a whole?
- Yeah, I think so. There were a few bands that came out after this was released that definitely took influence from this album. I’m not sure how many of the younger crowd around now know about it, but I think our fans from back then probably revisit it now and then for a head bang.
With a debut album out, the band began hitting the live circuit, finding themselves on the bill for the multitude of mini fests around the country, that were very popular in the early-mid ‘00s, and playing at the highly lauded and dearly missed Metal for the Brain festival.
- We definitely played regular local shows, and toured with CRYPTOPSY on the Aus tour, that was sick. We also went interstate pretty regularly for the release.
What do you recall from the Metal for the Brain era? You played there quite a few times, right?
- Yeah, we played two in Canberra and one in Perth. The thing I remember most is we always had a crazy show. People always went crazy when we played and I really miss that fest, so many cool bands and heaps of mates would come so it was just one huge party.
Given Australia’s ever-growing habit of closing down venues to make space for housing, in Melbourne and Sydney in particular, I’m curious if you have any fond memories from stages that have been lost to us?
- Arthouse. Definitely my favourite place to play; our shows there were always crazy. The Green Room was another fun venue. Punters Club was a cool joint but the best of all was playing Metal for the Brain fest in Canberra. Man, we played that twice and it was nuts, especially the first time because we didn’t quite expect how crazy it was gonna be. We also played Metal for the Brain in Perth when it toured, that was also bloody crazy. There’s probably loads more venues that have closed that I have missed but these were the highlights.
In 2002 Fuck I’m Dead released a split with American band ENGORGED, featuring eight new songs.
Given the quick succession of releases, I’m curious if these songs were from the album sessions, having been cut from that release, or whether you guys were just on a creative roll?
- Nah, just a creative roll. Dave would get some riff ideas and we would just put a song around it and program the drum machine.
My first time seeing Fuck I’m Dead live was in 2004, at a festival in Melbourne headlined by DEEDS OF FLESH. The lineup for this event was a who’s who of Australian death metal at the time, including a very young PSYCROPTIC.
I must also point out that Fuck I’m Dead had always used a drum machine, so when they took the stage I was surprised to see a drum kit set up behind the trio. Alas, it was a mere prop, which encouraged members of the audience to request a drum solo, repeatedly, at volume, throughout the band’s entire set.
I quickly learned that these guys were serious musicians; watching Dave play these songs was like watching an assault, with fingers flailing and whole limbs contorting to accommodate these ridiculous riffs. I also got my first glimpse of, what I would go on to accept as standard, the savage heckling that was part of a Fuck I’m Dead show, from the crowd and from the stage.
- Yeah, I used to have some fun heckling with Damon Bloodstorm when he was growling for KUTABARE. He used to rev me up before the show and ask me, in his words, “make sure you give me heaps of shit tonight”, so of course, I would give him his request. I think most of the crazy heckling came from me. I think people love being a part of the show so it’s not just us up on stage and crowd down below… let’s do this together and have a laugh. Most of the heckling I got was in good fun, never in anger. People used to buy me a beer thanking me for heckling them. Funny stuff.
On Jay’s birthday in 2005, the band played a gig at The Arthouse in Melbourne. This show was properly insane and one of the wildest gigs I have ever been to. As it turned out, the show was being filmed and would go on to be released as a full-length DVD and live album, 2006’s ‘Gore Grind Thrash Attack Live’.
- What a great night. I was so drunk when we recorded that and it was definitely one of the craziest shows we ever did. People came from all over for it, even overseas I believe.
During this DVD, you can see a young man being head-butted in the temple by a flying skull and immediately go to ground, only to arise a few seconds later, bleeding, and launch himself straight back into the fray.
- *laughs* yeah he was keen though, straight back into the pit the mad bugger. I believe he got cleaned up eventually by some of the bar staff.
I’m happy to report that that young man was yours truly.
- *laughs* now after being reminded the young man that got head-butted was you in the pit… well, we were just welcoming you to the show! *laughs* I hope there was no long-lasting damage inflicted on you mate, it was one crazy fucking show that’s for sure and thankfully you survived.
In 2007 Fuck I’m Dead announced that they had found someone capable of playing their songs on a drum kit; a real-life person was going to be playing these songs. People were sceptical. But not for long, as drummer Darren Condy proved to be well and truly up to the task.
- We had always toyed with the idea of getting a real drummer but Darren actually asked us if he could give it a go as he was a long-time fan of the band and knew all the songs well. He was in from the first try out we gave him - sick drummer. He is a top bloke and would practice lots by himself along with the songs and drum machine, so it was a very smooth process.
With the addition of Darren on drums, the band went into the studio to record their second full-length album, the first time the band had ever recorded as a four-piece. The result was 2012’s ‘Another Gory Mess’.
How did you guys find recording with a real drummer?
- It’s obviously more work because instead of just playing the drum machine through once and recording it straight away, you had to track all the songs multiple times and set up time and everything. But it was fine; I’m a drummer so I know the process and Darren nailed it so it was all good.
Were you happy with how the album came out?
- Yes very happy, it’s a brutal release and a great finale.
Not long after the album was released, Fuck I’m Dead decided to call it a day.
- Yeah, it was after we toured the country for the Bastardfest shows. I just think we were overdoing it a bit by that stage and we all wanted to do different things.
Given your long tenure within the most extreme corners of the Australian metal underground, I’m curious as to what parts stand out and what keeps you wanting to stay involved?
- I love touring and meeting people. Meeting people from all over the world motivates me and keeps me going. I don’t really get much out of the industry itself but getting out there and playing shows in front of 30 people or 2000 people is the best. I can shut off everything else and just be in that moment and feed off the energy of the room. Music means everything. I use it to relax, I use it to fire up, I use it for all emotional states.
I have a very encouraging wife and she is very happy for me to keep playing and doing what I do, even though she isn’t a super fan of all of my bands *laughs*.
Have you been privy to any ebbs and flows within the grind scene over the years, for better or for worse?
- Yes, mainly where shows used to be more mixed; you could have more mixed styled bands play together, it still happens but not as much. Also, I think it’s not quite as loose as it used to be. I remember many shows in the early 2000s at the Arthouse where it just used to be crazy, but crazy in a funny way. Shows where it’d be hard to start the next song from laughing at the antics in the crowd. Good times.
What have been some of your most memorable experiences along the way?
- I have loads of memorable experiences. Playing with The Kill and Fuck I’m Dead at the Maryland Deathfest and touring the US was an awesome experience, and The Kill playing Obscene Extreme was definitely my best festival experience. I got to play with MYC at Big Day Out, that was also super cool. But if you had told 15 year-old me I would do a show with Danny Lilker and play SOD’s ‘Speak English or Die’ from start to finish, at an over-packed Tote hotel, I would never have believed that. That was an almost unbelievable experience for me.
I’ve been pretty lucky and not had any really bad experiences; only shit security people or broken down vans overseas and the odd venue that had ripped us off, both here and overseas, but overall I think I’ve been very lucky with bad shit.
Do you have any specific musicians you look up to, any artists that have impacted you as a musician and performer?
- Pete Sandoval. I fucking love his drumming in TERRORIZER. Mick Harris from NAPALM DEATH; I stole loads of his chops. John Bonham, Ian Paice, Nicko McBrain, Dave Lombardo. Vocalists who inspired me are both Lee Dorian and Barney Greenway of Napalm Death and Tony from BLOOD DUSTER. I used to go to their early shows and growl along while I was smashed! *laughs*
Since the cessation of Fuck I’m Dead, you have stayed active with The Kill, but now you’ve found yourself in multiple bands again with the additions of SANCTIONED and REMAINS.
- Sanctioned was started by Pauly (guitars) and Benny (drums) and they asked me to join. Remains properly started not long after, but some of these songs myself and Dave were jamming on in 2011.
I do vocals for Sanctioned and lyrically it’s nothing like Fuck I’m Dead. My lyrics are about things that piss me off and about people; subjects like mental illness, false imprisonment, the effects of television... it’s pretty left-wing. We play old school grindcore.
In Remains I am the drummer and do back-up vocals. This is also a grindcore band but is the brainchild of Dave from Fuck I’m Dead, so it’s obviously influenced by the aforementioned band. It also has Tony from Blood Duster on vocals and Rohan from CAPTAIN CLEANOFF on bass, so it’s an all-star outfit.
What have you got in store for the immediate future?
- Hopefully, we’ll get releases out from Sanctioned and Remains as soon as possible, then tour. I’d love to get back overseas soon and play some shows and festivals again. I’d love that. I’ll keep doing this thing until I can’t do it anymore because this is what I do and I love it. This old bloke’s got a lot of metal left in him yet.
If you loved Fuck I’m Dead, or grindcore in general, come and check both of these bands out. I’m sure we won’t disappoint.