by RS Frost
Todd ‘Crikey’ Hansen is one of the most candid and prolific musicians to come out of the Australian extreme metal scene. Having cemented his position behind the drum kit for almost 20 years now, Todd takes us on a journey through the many faces of extremity and offers insight into his life on the throne and the endless stretches of road that comes with extensive touring.
Having traversed the globe many a time over and played drums for some of Australia’s most notable acts, I queried Todd as to where this all started and when his musical roots took hold.
- I’m originally from Brisbane, QLD. I grew up in a suburb called The Gap, and attended school nearby at The Gap State Primary School and The Gap High. Both schools had fantastic music programs of which I was a part of for most of my school years. I’m not sure that the area had much of an impact on my music so much as my family did.
My older brother, Brett, was learning piano at Yamaha Music School in Toowong. As my parents have told me, I always wanted to do what he was doing, so learning piano from a young age was a thing. My parents would often play records at home. Mum loved Elvis and Dad had a diverse taste in classic rock as well as blues. They never were allowed to learn an instrument as kids, so they encouraged my brothers and me to do it if we wanted to.
Once I hit grade five, I was eligible to learn an instrument within the school program, and this is where I started to play drums, so I was learning both piano and drums at the same time. I was a part of the school orchestra in grades six and seven. There were aspects I enjoyed, but also several I didn’t. I had to give up several weekends in order to perform for school competitions. I didn’t mind some of the time, but missing out on activities like sports or camp made me dislike the school orchestra. So, I never joined it once I got to high school and ultimately had to give up drums in the school as a result.
I’d have to say I was in preschool when I started to learn the piano. So that would be 1986, the year I turned five. Yamaha offered programs for young students right through to adult classes. As I said earlier, my older brother was learning piano there, and I wanted to do the same. So, I was enrolled as early as I possibly could be. My younger brother, Dale, also learned piano at the same place from the same age.
My first band was a grunge band in high school where I was playing guitar and singing, but we never left my parents garage. I worshipped NIRVANA and anything Seattle, as well as bands like SILVERCHAIR and BUSH. I dabbled with metal back then, but didn’t really get right into it until later.
I didn’t play in a band after this one for a few years, as it was always so hard to find a good drummer, as all the good ones were in several projects already. I was still into my punk and grunge, but metal was becoming more my thing. Once I heard SLIPKNOT, I wanted to be in a band again. I had a drum kit and I had some friends with a metal band whose drummer had moved overseas. That’s how we started my first real band, HEADKASE.
You have gone on to be involved in a formidable amount of bands throughout your career.
- So many! Headkase, FROM THESE WOUNDS and BEIJING TANK were my first serious bands from Brissy. We did some national touring and releases. But my real kickstart into international touring was when I joined THE BERZERKER in 2007. I was already friendly with Luke Kenny, and one day I got the call to see if I wanted to play drums for him. I said I’d have a go, but I doubt I could play that fast. Anyway, after a lot of practice I could, and I joined, playing my first shows in December 2007.
I’ve done a lot of live and studio session stuff with the likes of VISIONS OF THE NIGHT (Canada), AMPLITUSION (Canada), DEVOLOVED (‘Technologies’ ten-year reunion tour), WISH FOR WINGS, MAN MUST DIE (Scotland), CAETERA, PLAGUE OF MAN, and MINUS LIFE to name a few.
Some other cool projects I’ve done are ROME, which was with ex- Devolved members, and KCAVEMEN which was with Adelaide-based gore rapper KIDCRUSHER. I also have a band with my best mate called F.U.C.! We’re a two-piece thrash band. We have an EP and an album and have toured through Australia and parts of Asia.
I’m currently in Melbourne’s KING PARROT and have been for five years now! I’ve co-written and played on two albums; ‘Dead Set’ and ‘Ugly Produce’, and toured the world with them. It’s a lot of fun and right up my alley as far as style goes.
I recall, and have previously discussed, being exposed to The Berzerker as a teenager and the impact that came with it. Years after, I was fortunate enough to find myself playing on the above mentioned Devolved tour and can attest to the seemingly inexhaustible dexterity Todd plays with.
Where does the motivation that enables you to keep so active for so many years stem from, and do you turn to any particular artists for influence?
- I love the travel and the touring, especially the lengthy ones where you play a new city every day. Weekend mini tours are cool, but I really dig getting in a van or bus and just going for it! I also enjoy creating. I still write riffs and songs as well as drum parts. Motivations change over time, I guess it just comes in waves for me. Current events or life experiences.
Music is my life. It’s the one constant thing aside from family that I have in my life. I’ve focused my entire adult life on making music. There’s been a lot of ups and so SOOO many downs. But it’s all worth it to be where I am today. I’d say the artists who’ve had the biggest impact on me would be Michael Jackson, QUEEN, Nirvana, Slipknot, Devolved, SLAYER and LADY GAGA.
You are known to have quite the penchant for pop music which is something we don’t see a lot of in the extreme metal community - or perhaps people simply keep their cards close to their chests?
- I am a music lover, and if I feel any kind of emotion, especially a positive emotion, from listening to a well-written song, then why fight it? Pop music is catchy. It has a formula. I don’t like all modern pop, but I am a big fan of Lady Gaga and KESHA, as well as a select few songs from other artists like KATY PERRY and MILEY CYRUS. I also dig boy bands like EAST 17 and 5IVE. On the other hand, I cannot stand BEYONCE *laughs*. I’m also a big fan of rap/hip hop/trap. A bunch of the old school like NWA, SNOOP DOGG, DR. DRE, 2PAC and BIGGIE SMALLS, as well as EMINEM and RICK ROSS on the more modern front. IGGY AZALEA is a good rap/pop crossover as is Kesha’s older stuff.
If I’m not mistaken, you have a particular tattoo that is dedicated to a certain pop-star?
- I was actually a member of the Kesha fan club for a year and attended five concerts of hers that year, both in Australia and Canada. At the last of the five shows, I scored a meet and greet ticket where I got to get a photo and an autograph. She signed my arm, and my buddy Link at Lighthouse Tattoo in Toronto tattooed it on me the next morning!
Speaking of life experiences, I’m going to assume you’ve had your fair share of standout events. Do any significant positives come to mind?
- Playing the final Soundwave tour in 2015, playing the first Download in Australia in 2018, playing Soundwave 2014 as an additional percussionist with ILL NIÑO, recording an album produced by Phil Anselmo in his Nodferatu’s Lair studios, receiving two ARIA nominations for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Album for both ‘Dead Set’ (2015) and ‘Ugly Produce’ (2018). My first East Coast Aussie tour with From These Wounds, first international tour of NZ in 2008 with The Berzerker, first USA tour with The Berzerker in 2009, being asked to play drums with Devolved (who were a huge influence for me) for their Technologies ten-year reunion.
I’m guessing you’ve had to endure some not-so-great times as well, as is typically the case with touring bands?
- In 2017 the starter motor in our van died in New Orleans. We played a Halloween show with CROWBAR and EYEHATEGOD, then had to drive to Tampa to return the van and get on a flight to the UK. We were on a time limit and basically took shifts driving straight there through the night without turning the engine off. We fuelled up several times, had quick food stops, dropped off our mates’ trailer and showered at his mum’s place, all with the van running. It was tense, but such a relief when we made it to the hire place and switched the key off!
Phil Anselmo has been vocal in his support for King Parrot for some time now; I’m curious as to how you guys came to record an album with him and what that experience was like?
- Phil is a massive fan of music and loves his heavy metal. He’s always on the lookout for new stuff as a fan. Just before I joined KP, a few things happened which put us on his radar. King Parrot supported Eyehategod when they were in Australia back in 2013 and those guys were blown away by the show. Jimmy Bower is one of Phil’s oldest friends and a long-time music collaborator with him. Mike IX was also living in the apartment above Phil’s Nosferatu’s Lair studio on his property. So when those guys came back from Aus, they encouraged him to check out KP.
Months earlier, when ‘Bite Your Head Off’ was released, Youngy (King Parrot vocalist) went and sent out copies and press kits to several labels and agents around the world to expand the band’s reach. HOUSECORE RECORDS was one of those labels. Now, because Housecore receive several submissions from bands every week, that initial contact from Youngy was put in the pile and would maybe be listened to someday, or maybe not. Anyway, on the advice of the EHG guys, Phil and Kate had a listen and loved it! Youngy remembered getting an email from Phil saying how much he was digging KP, and he thought it was a joke! Soon after, KP played the 2014 Melbourne leg of Soundwave which also had DOWN on the bill. Phil invited KP up for the stage invasion part of the show to do ‘Bury Me In Smoke’.
In April that year, KP toured the USA for the first time and played in Baton Rouge. Phil and Kate came to the show, and the guys stayed at their place that night. In May 2014, I was informed that Skitz (the King Parrot drummer at the time) was leaving and that they would like me to audition. I had been friends with the guys for a couple of years and was a fan of the band, so I learned the songs and the rest is history! Youngy called me before I was due to audition and basically said, “We all think you can do this, so I’m gonna book an Aussie tour before we head to the USA again”, so I would have some shows under my belt. We started working on new material pretty well straight away.
At the end of that US tour (with ORIGIN and BEYOND CREATION), we played at the Housecore Horror Fest in Austin, Texas. That was where I first met Phil. He was crouched down behind the bass cab, watching me play. I was quite nervous, but he flashed the horns and gave me an approving nod! After that, the wheels were in motion to sign with Housecore Records, and record our second album (my first with the band) ‘Dead Set’ in January 2015 at Nodforatu’s Lair with Phil producing. We spent a month in our friend Graham’s parents’ (Steph and Marshall) barn in the mountains of Vermont, working hard on new music. We then went to our friend Brian Westbrooks (LICH KING) studio in Massachusetts and demoed the album.
In December of 2014, we toured with Down through the USA and Canada on the “Punk Rock But Kinda Not” tour, and had several meetings with Phil and Kate about the songs we had written and demoed. It was quite the experience. Phil has such a great knowledge of heavy metal, songwriting, instruments and vocals. So we worked with him during that tour and took notes. Then we rehearsed and reworked the songs at Bobby Landgraf’s (Down) rehearsal space in Austin over Christmas, and in late December we headed out to Phil’s for some final pre-production, and then recorded the real deal in January that year!
Working with Phil and his team was fantastic. None of us had ever been in a position where we were staying on a property with a studio and able to work all hours on a record with people who really dug what we were doing. We’d work all day and go and listen to what we had done each night. Over the years, Phil and Kate and the Housecore team have been great to us. We’ve toured with Down, SUPERJOINT RITUAL and THE ILLEGALS. We’ve been welcomed into their home and studio anytime we’re in the US. We’ve rehearsed there, demoed stuff there, stored gear there. It’s something myself and my KP brothers are truly grateful for.
Considering that you have spent a large portion of your life within extreme music circles, have you been aware of any major changes to the industry at large?
- Massive changes. The internet would be the biggest. Once music became free for everyone the game changed. People stopped buying music and people didn’t need to go out to see what a band was doing live. Bands had to really be doing something special to “make it” whereas in the early 2000s, when I was starting out, the internet was still kind of new. Posters and flyers were still a thing and people were actually social, rather than just relying on social media.
The internet has made bands and the industry a lot more accessible though, so a lot more bands from the underground had a chance to actually shine and bediscovered on an independent level rather than only bands on major labels. Metal and hardcore morphed into metalcore and the scenes merged. Music got faster and more extreme and people really continued to up the ante and push the boundaries!
What is it that drives you to continue to push these boundaries?
- My tunnel vision has really played a huge part. Since I was a kid I wanted to play in bands and see the world from a stage. My work ethic meant I would stop at nothing to get to wherever it was I felt I needed to be. I’ve always held a “real” job, as I realised early on that pursuing heavy metal was never going to pay the bills. I’ve taken on as much as I possibly could and sacrificed a lot to do this. Better jobs, relationships, none of that meant as much to me as doing what I love. I moved overseas, auditioned for several bands and just missed out, scored a few great gigs which fizzled. But I never gave up. Right now, with King Parrot and my current job, I have a great work/life balance.
What do you have planned for the foreseeable future?
- Another album with King Parrot. Another EP with F.U.C. I’ve made a bunch of funky hip hop songs that I need to rap over, but it’s been a struggle to write lyrics that I like. I’m also working on my own grind/thrash/dbeat project. Not sure if the last two will ever see the light of day, but we’ll see. Personally, I’d like to continue to be fit, active and healthy. Maybe someday own my own house, so I can set up a little music space.
Thank you for your time and insight into your work. I now invite you to offer any closing sentiments you may have.
- I’d really just like to say thanks for thinking of me as a person to interview! And thanks for being super flexible around my schedule. Also, a huge thanks to anyone who has ever listened to any of my music, seen a show or supported me and my endeavours in any way shape or form. Music is my life and I feel very privileged to have been able to pursue what I love and experience this life.