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Jackson Koke

Jackson Koke release the opening single, ‘Cesspool City’, from their upcoming long player, Hellevator Music, at The Boston on 1 December.  Around The Sound caught up with their front man, Karlifornia (don’t call me Karl) Infirri in his kitchen.

“We’re stadium rockers, it’s just that we’re playing on small pub stages at the moment.  It really annoys me.  We should have more room to do our thing.”

That’s Karliafornia Infirri, front man with Jackson Koke telling it like it is – from his perspective, at least.  And don’t call him Karl, that’s not his name any more.

“My Dad wanted to call me Rocky, after Rocky Marciano, but I ended up getting called Karl.  I hate that name, it’s just so bland, so I changed it to Karlifornia.  It would have been cool to be called Rocky, though, although I probably would have been a bit of a wanker, too, with a name like that.”

I look across the table at him (we’re sitting in the kitchen at casa del Infirri, having a cup of tea) and he looks back at me, all shoulders and biceps, and it’s clear that Rocky is a name he would have worn well.  Pity his parents went the safe route, really, but at least he’s been able to put that to rights now.

So, who the fuck does Karlifornia Infirri think he is?  Stadium rockers indeed!

Right now, Jackson Koke could be anything.  After years of delays, missteps and disappointment, they’re just about to release the first single, ‘Cesspool City’, from their forthcoming album, Hellevator Music.

“Yeah, the album was meant to be out last year.  That’s what we promised our fans, but it kept getting held up.  We’re still working on it now.  I don’t want to talk about it really, it makes me so frustrated.  But, next year, it’s coming out.”

Again with the frustration.  There’s definitely something of the prize fighter about Infirri.  Even when he’s sitting down it’s like he’s pacing, looking for something to punch.  It’s kinda cool.

While he’s putting on this display of frustrated machismo, I’m looking over his shoulder at the books on his shelves.  There’s the obligatory rock bios, Guns N’ Roses feature prominently.  But there are also a few surprises.  Madonna. Gwen Stefani. A few others.  I break off to ask him.

“Oh yeah, I love Gwen.  She’s fucking great.  I am the male version of Gwen Stefani, now I’ve got my shit together.”

I am the male version of Gwen Stefani

Here’s the thing about front men from just about every band that ever made it to stadiums playing the sort of hairy-balled, blues-infused rock that Jackson Koke aspire to.  A lot of them of them have modelled their moves and attitude on female performers.  Androgyny is a big part of what they do.  Check out Led Zeppelin at the height of their powers; they wore women’s clothes.  Same for Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler.  And Mick Jagger stole his best moves from Tina Turner.

Looks like Infirri’s instincts are bang on.  There could be something in his aspiration to be a stadium rocker after all.

What about the music?

“We love the LA Sunset Strip sound and all that sort of stuff, and I think that’s a good starting point.  Every good band that’s out there evolves over time.  In time we will broaden and it will be interesting to see where we go.  It’s not just all songs about girls and parties.  Like, ‘Lust For The Devil’, the newest song we’re playing, I think the song writing is showing some maturity and I think that will just keep going and we’ll keep getting better and better.”

“’Cesspool City’ is a song I wrote a long time ago after getting beaten up at a train station.  It’s about Perth and how I felt about it at the time.  I thought it was a pretty shitty place so I wrote the song about an imaginary city, but it’s really about how I was feeling about the time after that thing on the train.  I don’t feel that way any more, but it’s still a great song.”

It’s not just all songs about girls and parties

‘Cesspool City’ is framed around a unison chorus bookended by the riffery of Jackson Koke’s twin-attack guitars and leaving a lot of room for Infirri to do what he does best.  Wail.  There’s power in that voice.

It goes around all right, and having heard the demos of the album tracks, I can say that the single is part of a slab of music that’s going to raise some eyebrows, should Hellevator Music ever come to light.

‘Cesspool City’ is part of a slab of music that’s going to raise some eyebrows

Jackson Koke have a lot of wiggle in the way they go about their stuff.  They’re blues derivatives, but there’s more to them than just their roots.  They’ve got grungy street smarts and a front man and lyricist who can carry it all off live on stage.  If you want to know more, check out Infirri’s dry wit on his social media feed.  His interactions with his cat, Brian (Molko) will clarify for you.

Yeah, they’re still playing in pubs, often the standard Perth fare of a four-band line up in a place where the proprietors mostly care about getting people through the door to drink their beer and the bands are all dreaming of bigger things.  What sets Jackson Koke apart is that they’re most often the band on the line up that gets the biggest response.

“I feel it.  I play gigs with other bands, bands that have been around longer, and I think those bands are probably technically better at playing their instruments and the vocalists are probably better than me, but I’m a front man.  There’s not many bands in Perth that have a front man who’s outlandish and has an element of danger.  A lot of people who are fronting bands have a guitar in their hands, so they’re doing what they do best, but I’ve got something that they don’t have, which is the freedom to be that loud, outrageous front man.”

I’ve got something that they don’t have, which is the freedom to be that loud, outrageous front man

Sure, there might be other bands more technically proficient, but Jackson Koke have the heart that draws people to them.  As a consequence, they have fans.  Most other bands at their stage of development are still relying on family and friends to turn out in sufficient numbers and drink enough beer so that they’ll get booked again.

The other thing that sets Jackson Koke apart is, they have ambition.  That’s rare in an industry where self-effacement is the standard currency.  They want to play stadiums and they’re not afraid of letting the world know about their desire, even while they’re elbowing each other for space on the smallest stages in one of the world’s most isolated cities.

Who are any of us to say they can’t do it?  Fucking rock on!

Event details
Jackson Koke launch ‘Cesspool City’ at The Boston on 1 December with support from The Midnight Revolver, Band of Missfits, and Nylon Stroke.

Event details here:

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