Latest release: Nuclear Summer (Monolith)
Band site: nclrsmmr.bandcamp.com
Lochlan Watt has been a busy player within the Australian heavy music scene for several years now. Having spent time in various metal bands as a vocalist/ drummer/synth player for Western Decay, The Surrogate and Ironhide, he currently fronts eclectic Brisbane crew Nuclear Summer. He’s booked and promoted clubs around Brisbane and started his own label Monolith, which releases Australian music of the heavy variety. He was also recently named as the new host of Triple-J’s long-running The Racket radio program. Watt spoke to Loud about the latest in the Nuclear Summer camp, running a label, his Racket predecessor Andrew Haug and more.
Q: Nuclear Summer has given its music the tongue-in-cheek title of “sunshine metal”. Who came up with this idea and have you encountered many people who don’t get the joke?
A: One of our friends, a girl named Jade, said that to our guitarist Jackson (Oberle) after hearing our demo. As we were debating or even unsure of what genre we fell into exactly at the time, and liked the sound of it, we kind of ended up running with it as a bit of a joke, but it stuck. There’s a few people who have said a few things here and there about us not being metal at all – a review in Blunt magazine had a little go at it. That said I do feel it has some relevance to our sound, and my vocals in particular have been largely influenced by metal. Playing in metal bands is how I found my feet within the local scene and as a vocalist.
Q: The band released its self-titled debut album late last year. What has the response been like thus far?
A: Very positive. We haven’t received any “below 75 per cent” reviews yet. A lot of people were quite surprised with how much we stepped it up from the demo, particularly with the production. I feel like we’re still flying under the radar for a lot of people but that the word is still spreading and new people are still checking out the album and getting into us every day.
Q: Good to hear. One of the avenues the band used to sell the album was via Bandcamp. There has been a lot of debate online about this service – have you found it to be a useful tool and would you recommend other bands also utilise it?
A: It has been great for us. The album has been downloaded through it more than 800 times and nearly 100 of those people opted to donate some coin when they did. Bandcamp receives a 15 per cent revenue share or something, and then the rest of the cash goes straight to us. You get to see exact statistics on how many times your music is played or downloaded. I think it’s better than having Apple take most of the money from your sales as well. We have no desire for our music to be on iTunes and would definitely recommend Bandcamp to self-promoting, independent bands and labels who are seeking an alternative online outlet.
Q: Have you begun writing material for your next record yet?
A: We are about three songs deep. We hadn’t really been writing much at all since the album came out, until Jackson had returned from overseas and started playing with us again a few weeks ago. That’s when it really took off again and we’ve been banging out our best tunes yet at a really satisfyingly swift pace. At this stage two of those songs are going to go on a split with a band from Melbourne called Stockades, just so we can get something new out sooner rather than later to keep things moving.
Tentatively, the plan right now is to be recording album number two by January 2013. We’ll see how we go. So far the music is just following on from what we’ve already established. We want to reinforce our existing sound and become heavier and more intricate without forcing anything. My synth playing will definitely be a lot more complex and involved in most of the songs, rather than just being put over them once they are already finished. I’m trying a couple of different things with my voice. I have a concept in mind for the album – the proposal of one’s own death as a positive tool with which to view life – taking the fact that you’re going to die eventually, maybe even tomorrow, as a means to make the most of each day and every shitty situation. Not anything super specific, but so far that idea has played into each batch of new lyrics I’ve written anyway. I’m really excited about it. We’re considering recording the whole thing with Mike Deslandes of Coerce this time rather than just having him mix it, or perhaps even going overseas to work with our dream producer. I feel like we’re going to blow the first release out of the water.
Q: Nuclear Summer aside, do you have any other musical projects currently in the works?
A: I have been talking to a few other musicians about starting up something brutal again, hopefully something pretty grind, just because I really miss being as heavy as I can with my voice. There’s not too many sections in Nuclear Summer where the death metal lows fit in. Nothing has come of it yet, but in time I’m sure I’ll have some studio/side projects pop up. I feel like we’re on a good run with Nuclear Summer though and plan to keep it as my only serious band in terms of touring.
Q: As well as playing in bands you also run your own record label, Monolith. Do you have a particular philosophy with regard to what releases you issue?
A: Monolith is not a hardcore label, it’s not a metal label, it’s not a punk label, it’s not a screamo label… It’s just a label for quality, challenging, heavy music no matter what sub-genre it falls under. I haven’t said no to the idea of releasing good non-heavy music in the future, but that doesn’t seem to be the way it’s going. We’ve only released the music of our own bands and our friend’s bands, and I think that is the way it will continue. There is no desire to try and sign the next big thing or to get the popular band just to sell some records. Any money we make is put straight back into more pressings, advertising and stuff like that, so it’s definitely a labour of love. We like to focus on the bands we enjoy and the bands that can’t be instantly classified as sounding exactly like something else. Moving forward, we want to release music exclusively on vinyl and digitally – I feel like CDs don’t have much value to many people anymore.
Q: What has been the most successful release for Monolith thus far?
A: In Trenches’ Sol Obscura has by far sold the most. Roughly 200 of the 300 10”s have been sold already and they haven’t even landed in Australia yet. I wish we had pressed 400, but I guess we didn’t anticipate it being as popular as it was.
Q: What upcoming releases do you have on the way?
A: We’re about to release a new 7” from Adelaide’s Night Hag, a rad black metal/hardcore kind of crossover band that are really good friends of ours. We’re re-releasing the Lo! album on 12” soon as a bit of a split release with Pelagic Records, their German label which is run by Robin Staps from The Ocean. The IDYLLS album will be coming out in a couple of months on 12”, and after that the Nuclear Summer/Stockades split 7”. There’s a new Waiting Room 7” that should be happening soon as well. We’ve got ourselves in a little deep with how much we’re now committed to but it’s exciting at the same time.
Q: What advice would you offer to anyone reading this who is considering starting a record label?
A: I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way; so here’s some things I wish I could have known before starting a label. Do not use Zenith Records for any pressings, ever. Don’t go live with pre-orders until you have a correct test pressing confirmed so you can know when they will be ready to send out and won’t disappoint people. Work out the exact financial arrangements with bands before you dive into doing something. Don’t start a label it if your main goal is to try and make some cash. Be prepared for hours of often thankless, repetitive and volunteer labour.
Q: Changing topics, you’re also the new host of Triple-J’s The Racket radio program. How has the experience been thus far?
A: Getting that phone call telling me I had the job was a real crazy moment. I’ve never put so much effort into a job application before. It has been very exciting and surreal. The initial weeks were a bit of a whirlwind, being flown up and down to Sydney for training and induction and things like that. Only in the last couple of weeks has it all truly sunk in. Doing the Soundwave weekend just days before my first show was definitely a trial by fire. I’m really enjoying it and it feels like it’s exactly where I need to be.
Q: Your predecessor Andrew Haug was very popular with the show’s listeners during his ten-year tenure. What different qualities do you feel you can bring to the table?
A: To be frank, I tuned out to Andrew Haug years ago so to speak. I feel that in recent years he did not adequately represent the spectrum of heavy music that Australia and the world has to offer. That is why a change needed to happen. On the occasions that I did listen to his show in the past few years, it was pretty rare for me to hear something new that got me excited – which is odd considering the wide range of genres I appreciate. I feel like the show was sometimes catered a little too much to his tastes, or “traditional metalheads” specifically.
Most people already know about the classic heavy metal bands… You don’t need to listen to the radio to learn about Iron Maiden, Metallica, Pantera or Megadeth, you know? Not that there’s anything wrong with playing classics here and there, but I think it was a bit overboard, and that a government funded radio station that is marketed towards young people should be focused on supporting new music.
I tried to get my old bands and bands I was touring played on The Racket many times and never received any attention from Andrew no matter how many emails or CDs I sent in. I’ve heard similar stories from lots of other people involved in the scene. You can’t fit everything that’s happening in one week onto a single show, but personally I feel if a band is touring or recording at least a semi-professional level, and have decent enough tunes, then they deserve some airplay no matter what sub-genre they fit into. While of course I’ll always find time for the bands I enjoy, I’m not looking to do three hours of Lochlan Watt’s favourite bands every week. I feel like people have reacted well to my take on the show so far. I seem to have silenced most of the original critics who cried foul when my job was announced, even if some of them can’t get their head around the fact that my band is Nuclear Summer and that I listen to non-metal music as well. I think The Racket has a very diverse future ahead supporting heavy bands from all walks of life.
Q: What are some of your goals that you hope to achieve while hosting the show?
A: Put a spotlight on a lot of the different sides of heavy music that didn’t receive much or any attention on The Racket over the last ten years. Expose heaps and heaps of Australian music to the listeners. Educate listeners from time to time with special features on classic Australian releases. Make it to at least ten years myself before the torch is passed down again to the next generation.
Q: As someone actively involved in the Brisbane heavy music scene, who are some great up-and-coming bands our readers should check out?
A: I’m biased, but IDYLLS seriously rule – chaotic, grind/metalcore done with originality and without pretension. Not exactly up-and-coming, but not exactly wildly popular – Asecretdeath are reforming and writing for a new release, which I would also love to put out if you’re reading this, guys. I’d recommend that band to any fans of Cult of Luna, Converge, Isis and Curl Up and Die. The Schoenberg Automaton are going to be releasing an amazing album later this year – tech metal as fuck. Defamer rule if you like your old school death metal.
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Follow your own dreams, and disregard what anyone else thinks you should be doing with your life if it doesn’t fit your vision.