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Gareth Liddiard “The Radicalisation Of D” (Influenza)

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Gareth Liddiard Strange Tourist Interview

While the band has only had scattered success in the States, the Drones have quietly become one of the most highly regarded Australian bands of the past decade. As explained by Pitchfork‘s Joe Colly, “The band has released consistently strong albums since its 2000 inception and garnered high praise from their countrymen up against Aussie faves Wolfmother and the Go-Betweens, they won the inaugural Australian Music Prize for their 2005 record Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By—but still are mostly unknown to European and American listeners.” Last January the band won the award for “Best Live Act” at the inaugural Australian Rolling Stone Awards, both Tiny Mix Tapes and The Guardian gave the band’s last studio album (Havilah) a near-perfect score, yet little momentum has still built for the group internationally. Taking a step back from the group for the time being, frontman Gareth Liddiard will be releasing his solo debut later this month entitled Strange Tourist. Recorded in the deep country outside of Yass, New South Wales, the album presents itself as a balance between personal reflection and the storytelling which the songwriter has thoroughly refined throughout the years. One such track, “The Radicalisation of D,” is explained by ATP Recordings as “one of his richest and most controversial songs,” and comes initially inspired by the Australian David Hicks‘ incarceration in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in 2001. In this edition of Influenza, Liddiard draws largely upon personal memories as well as Australian cultural hallmarks to craft the story which develops throughout the 16 minute epic. Painstakingly offering a description to each lyric in the track, Liddiard weaves an uncomfortable story that touches on many of the often unseen conflicts within the Australian society. Strange Tourist will be released January 17 (UK) & January 25 (US) via ATP Recordings.

I’m going to explain this tune to people from northern America because that’s where this website is from. I’m just gonna point out some cultural things they might not be aware of.

D is an allusion to Australian Guantanamo bay inmate David Hicks. Though this isn’t actually about him. It’s about anyone who gets radicalized and how they do it before they set foot in any training camp or cult compound or what have you. and how, although we see them as a bit nutty, they kinda have a point too.

There are a million perspectives out there and there is nothing you can do except try to understand them. That’s (almost) a crime these days.

“A young boy busts his dad’s Hills Hoist, using it as a swing”

A hills hoist is an Australian built washing line. These hoists seem to resonate with a lot of Australians because they were usually the only thing in a suburban back yard. And you could use them as a merry go round. Unfortunately, if you had no friends or siblings to counterbalance your weight they broke.

“Kills a magpie in the backyard with a homemade ging”

A ging is an Australian sling shot made with a Y shaped bit of wood or metal and jelly rubber. You know what I mean.

“Steals chlorine from the neighbor’s swimming pool/Puts it in a coffee jar and pours brake fluid in”

You can make a stinky kinda napalm like this. It’s the same sort of thing as napalm but more explosive, especially in well sealed containers. But you need to be fast cause once you mix it you have about 20 seconds before you lose a hand and half your face. Good, old fashioned fun.

“Makes a pipe bomb using match heads, and it fizzles when he runs/Tries again using the powder from the shells of his old man’s shotgun/It hisses like a feral cat he’s seen, slithers like the snake he killed/Leaves a scorch mark on the pavement/And he’s badly beaten for it

Finds a Playboy on the way to school/Tries remembering his Mum/Throws rocks at a girl he likes, and he’s sent home before lunch/Finds a King Kong doll beneath a bush/Probably some rich kid’s/But it roars ants when he shakes it/So he drops it in a bin”

That happened to me once. The ants came out of it’s mouth and I couldn’t comprehend it, I was so young.

“Later on dinner time comes/He puts tinned beans on white Tip Top”

Tip Top was a white bread popular with the kiddies.

“Halves it with his fingers,/Shares it with the dog/Jumps a cyclone fence to the sound”

Cyclone fencing is chain link fencing. Popular in Australia because of cyclones. A cyclone is a hurricane with huge, angry balls.

“Of his old man fucking through the evening/Finds a severed kangaroo hind leg just laying in a clearing/There’s a tendon or a tapeworm that retracts after a kick/Finds a new stink nearly makes him puke when he pokes it with a stick”

This happened to me except it was a kangaroos front leg or arm. I still remember the smell. And I remember a bubble bursting somewhere in my head. We secretly kept it in a garbage bag like someone would hide part of a crashed UFO in their shed.

“Meets a friend near there/They go to see his house just down the road/The sister lets them in then goes back upstairs in a bathrobe/He sees a Phillishave full of hair clippings in a bathroom near a bra/They find some car keys, go outside and search a V8 car/And there’s a Beta tape in a paper bag hid under a seat/Hit play on the VCR machine and start to hear flute music/Now there’s two girls on a farm somewhere, playing with a labrador which rolls onto its back like it has been through this before/And it’s the last time D hears flute music/The last time he thinks about girls/He sneaks home about 10 o’clock/Gets inside using the dog door”

A friend of mine had a sick older brother who showed us animal porn while we were all 14 and stoned. “Animal Farm” I think it was called. Left wing animal porn then. The music was all flute and when me and the son of a bikie took refuge in the kitchen (stoned) the music followed us in and put us off our munchies.

“Channel 7 gets the scoop again/There’s a man gone crazy/He stole an APC from the army base and closed down half the city/D’s been expelled from school and he’s quite happy/Staying in bed, he keeps track of all the updates/Surfing networks instead/This tank arrives at police HQ about 8am/It makes pancakes out of 5 or 6 patrol cars and then runs out of diesel near a Castrol service station/And there’s a standoff, then he’s teargassed and not heard of again”

This happened in Perth in the early 1990s. As angry as this guy was he still used signals when he turned corners. That’s what they say anyway. [Video] You’ll see someone in the comments section points out that an APC is not a tank. No shit, fuckface.

“D’s father dies of cancer the next Christmas day/He’s so hopped up on the morphine that he can’t get straight/He says “be proud of me my boy, well I am finally off the fags since they caught me upstairs smoking on the helipad”/They cut the tumor off his liver but he died without it/Seems like no one gets to choose what they can’t live without/It don’t matter about money when there ain’t no way around/You are living in a nightmare and you can’t bribe your way out”

I met an ex-convict in a hospital I was working in. He would have been in his fifties. He had terminal cancer and he’d bum smokes off me. Eventually he gave up simply because sneaking up onto the roof near the helipad was too great an effort once his condition began to deteriorate. He thought it was hilarious how after all he’d been through in his life he’d only now become an opiate addict. He wasn’t adverse to the idea of dying and in the end, as rough as he was, he did it with grace.

“D finds a one room flat that overlooks an underpass/He works part time as a laborer and it’s OK, though it’s hard/Then some black kid steals his concession card”

A concession card gets you discounts on shit while your on welfare.

“And beats him ’round the head/Next time D sees an army surplus store he steals a bayonet/Then one day the bus to work, knocks down the kid that held him up/He dies laying in the street,/The driver don’t make too much fuss/He smokes a ciggie with the cops/The ambulance is running late and something inside, D finds all this very, very strange”

Where I grew up, a black guy, young or old, who wasn’t doing well could have fallen down an open drain and no one would have ever wondered “What happened to so and so?” That always blew my mind and I never felt like anyone else thought quite the same. That’s one of the reasons I left.

“Soon after that the work dries up and D starts drinking hard/Starts drinking cheap cask wine with old black fellas living in the park/One has a tattoo of a swastika made with a candle/Soap and spoons”

When I was 18/19 I’d do my laundry in the city in Perth. These hilarious old black dudes got used to me being around and soon realized I was the perfect way to buy booze. No one would sell alcohol to them. The first time this happened I was dispatched with $5 to buy a box of “goon.” That’s wine in a plastic bladder in a four liter box. On my return I was offered a drink. I said yes please. One of the old boys said “grab a cup” pointing to a trash can. They were nice enough to let me wash it out using some of their precious white wine. The same old guy actually did have a swastika tattoo on his forearm. It was pretty crude but I was very impressed. He’d passed out drunk at a party where they had a tattoo gun and he’d been vandalized by his mates. The stuff above and below about the ink, missions, petrol, teeth and knuckles is all true. I got drunk with him a number of times. He was excellent value.

“Says he’s half caste and that full bloods prefer”

Half caste isn’t a nice term. Here’s what Wikipedia says: “In Australia the term is thoroughly offensive, and was used in the past to describe Indigenous people of mixed racial parentage. The term ‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Indigenous’ in the Australian context no longer requires that a person described by such a term has a minimum proportion of Indigenous heritage. Terms such as ‘half-caste’ or ‘part-Aboriginal’ are no longer used.”

“Petrol over goon”

Young aboriginals living rough often turn to sniffing petrol (gas or whatever you call it). They don’t get old.

“Says he was brought up on a mission”

It was policy for black kids to be taken from their parents for about 100 years in Australia. The practice petered out in the 1970s I think. in Australia this is a big deal. It’s a big deal for the indigenous people for obvious reasons and a big deal for the whites too. European Australians have a hard time liking being Australian for a bunch of different reasons, but I think a big one is the fact that if you want to accept and feel good about what you actually are (a white Australian, like me) your going to have to own this kind of shit. People would rather not think about it and pretend they’re English or American. White Australia would never admit this but it hates itself.

“Then became a Viet Vet/Ain’t got a single tooth to chew/So D gives him his bayonet/He has white scars between his knuckles, or what’s left of them and says/”See I’m white too, I just cannot drink inside the way you like to”/”Five years later D meets Werner at a rifle range/Werner’s granddad was SS, so now he goes by the nickname Werner the Jew Burner and young D become so tight”

My step brother was a hydraulics engineer for the RAAF at Richmond Air Base in New South Wales when I was about 19-22. He lived with a guy called Werner Jew Burner whose grandfather was actually SS. He wasn’t a neo nazi but he wasn’t Ghandi either. Someone stole his car (a Holden commodore, naturally… it’s a low rent Ferrari) and dumped it a while later. The cops dusted for prints thinking it was actually used in some sort of criminal activity. Being cops, they just left this beautiful new car covered in their dust, finger prints at all.

Werner thought he knew who’d nicked his car and one night at a bar frequented by air-force types(engineers, not pilots… this joint was rough) he bumped into him. Werner rendered him unconscious, dragged him into the carpark, then checked his prints against those on the vehicle. He had the wrong guy. Whenever I went out with these guys there was violence. Never a dull moment.

The Werner in this tune has nothing in common with the real Werner except in name and lineage.

“They start going bush in his Landcruiser”

A Landcruiser is a Toyota 4WD that you can’t get in the States. 70′s series Landcruisers shit all over anything a North American would consider a 4WD. Sorry.

They make them so they don’t break down cause if they do, in the outback or the Sahara, THE CUSTOMER DIES. And that’s not good business. If the classic US 4WD is an elephant, the Landcruiser is a camel. I say that because it’s true and because I own and love one. And because elephants are more full of shit.

“Living on roos they shoot spotlighting/They get a years lease on a duplex”

My dad lived in a duplex when I was young. Bill Callahan from Smog mentioned duplexes in a song and I thought that was really cool. so I ripped him off.

“Werner finds D some work as an unlicensed forklift driver in a fish market for cash/He’s got pictures of Adolf Hitler, antique copies of Mein Kampf, but D thinks Hitler’s obsolete/And Werner’s practice too relaxed/But Werner finished high school and then studied engineering/D never did finish school and Werner breaks the news that evening/The RAAF say they accept his application to be trained to work on Hercules’ 2000 miles away”

A Hercules is a big military supply plane. I don’t know what you use in the States. Hercules are known to those who ride in them as a “chunder-bus” because they don’t have the auto-pilot thing that smooths out the flight. Military personnel and nurses and teachers don’t get paid enough.

“He leaves tomorrow for NSW and throws a party/Late that night they get to drinking and they’re talking/Then they argue then they fight/D comes to bleeding in his bedroom begging Werner not to go/But Werner’s full weight’s on his back now and he’s face down in a pillow/D wakes up late next afternoon, but Werner is long gone/D goes to find his .22 but there ain’t no shells at all/He finds 5 Valiums in a Winfield pack”

Winfields are cigarettes.

“In a duffel bag in the hall/Then sits in front of the TV screen, washes it all down with a bottle”

D is watching TV now. It’s late at night in Australia on the 11th Sept. 2001. About 7am EDT.

“Cliff has a beautiful wife”

Cliff Huxtable… why is it called the Cosby Show when they were the Huxtables?

“He’s insured for his life/It is autumn here in Brooklyn, in obstetrics, labour pain/And though his roots here are in slavery Cliff is dressed himself by slaves”

The cornerstones of western civilization aren’t so civilized when you think about it. sweatshops, abattoirs, indentured slavery, government sanctioned mass murder, etc. The third world seems to need to exist in a nightmare state to support our removal from it. It’s a Newtonian thing. “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.” And for better or for worse there is only one way out of slavery.

“Credits rise like you’re collapsing, so bewilderingly fast/Seems the Cosbys of the world all go to bed 11 sharp/The rest of you have a choice of late night news/And more commercials/Yeah Just Do It, have a break, yes life is good/Because you’re worthless/Maybe she was born with it, and maybe you were too/Seems that one way or the other, there is nothing you can do”

All the advertising slogans we know and love, except when they exclude us.

“‘Cause you can only go as far as denying/You haven’t come anywhere/Forget Charles Darwin’s namesake is surrounded with black hair”

Australians certainly do. Australia’s southern half is very white. It has problems being anything else. Charles Darwin’s namesake is the city of Darwin in the far north. Being closer to the rest of the world has made it more relaxed about different people.

“You are depressed now but need only take this pill/To ban despair/If East Timor can’t be middle class it can’t really be there”

Australians patted themselves on the back when they sent peace keeping troops into East Timor in 1999 to assist them with their move into independence from Indonesia. a move to independence that was already happening anyway. This is after ignoring the Indonesian invasion for 20 something years prior. We treat our neighbors the same way as the UK treats us: as a lower class. Except it’s magnified.

“You are driving the Jeep Cherokee/Burning Arabs for fuel but you are driving the New Cherokee/And that’s good enough for you”

Try not to think about it.

“You are living among Taxpayers”

A lot of people in Australia think that because they pay taxes they know everything and should be in charge. It’s probably the same in the US.

“Who welcome brown folks with a moat/Conducting policy with the one free hand while the other’s round their throats”

Ooooh yeah. We get refugees coming from places like Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka in these crappy little boats. And fair enough. If my family was gonna get killed I’d fucking do the same, who wouldn’t? But the Australian government has managed to make everyone believe they are a menace: 5 billion sand nigger terrorists coming to blow up your BBQ,, when in reality a supermodel could board one of these vessels and single handedly punch out all souls present without breaking a sweat.

The things we do here to refugees, to people who come here desperate for our help, would appall you. Put it this way: we stop short of the hessian bag on the head thing.

“You are living in a land besieged by what the world might think or know/But with its head so deep in Turkish sand/This can’t really be so”

Australians are always thinking that the world is thinking something about them. It’s a weird guilt thing and a pathological need to appear like we’re cool too. Also, Australians aren’t big on history. “Neither are we,” I hear you say! You have no idea. The average American is a fucking Great Historian compared to the average Australian. Anyway, the Howard government rectified this by teaching a generation of meatheads about a messy little campaign in WW1 now known as Gallipoli. Gallipoli was on the beach in Turkey. To cut a long story short: Australians have an inferiority complex (most colonies do, yours excepted cause you booted the UK out). Because of that we need to be liked and be in competition with the UK and the US. That means taking a bullet for the cause, whatever that cause happens to be this week. Gallipoli was that bullet… lots of them. So now we can get drunk and exchange war stories and compare scars with our big mates (UK, US) in the boy’s club. Only with Gallipoli will we feel worthy. Sad and weird.

“You are living in a nightmare/Let them Balkanize the East/No one says a word these days, they turn the other cheek”

Except Julian Assange. Musicians are turning some serious cheek these days. Pretty pathetic for a bunch of people who see themselves as outside of the norm. And pretty weird considering musicians have been talking, in a very direct fashion, about what’s going on for about 10,000 years, at least. But this is indicative of a wider trend in the western world. I’m no expert on sociology or politics but I know that when people start thinking of themselves and their interests only, the people in power take advantage of that. And the results, as shown so often in the past and so recently, usually include someone turning some stranger in a strange land’s children into mince meat for no good reason. I wish someone would explain how that is good in a simple fashion.

“You are living in a nightmare/You can’t trust a ceasefire bid/And any wall they build around Gaza will be begging for a lid”

You wait… the lid is next.

“You are living in a nightmare/You can’t bribe a want of doubt/You are living in a nightmare/You can’t bribe your way out of/But now we interrupt this broadcast to bring you breaking news, there is a building in Manhattan, and it’s burning”