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FILTH WIZARD’S SLUDGE FEST

Filth Wizard

Every now and then, you hear a song that makes you want to pick up a guitar and play along, maybe even start your own band.  That’s always the mark of a great song for me, and so it is with Filth Wizard’s debut single, ‘Snowflake’.  The moment they hit the first chorus 46 seconds in I just had to pick up my guitar!

Filth Wizard — get on their magic carpet and take a ride.

Every time I do that, I learn the same thing: playing rock and roll isn’t as easy as it sounds sometimes.  That’s the mark of all the greatest bands over the years, they make great music sound so simple and effortless.  By that measure, Filth Wizard are a great band.

‘Snowflake’, like pretty much all of the Filth Wizard canon to date, heavily references 90s grunge, with an almost eerie echoing of the guitars, angst and vocal style of bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden.  That’s not to say that Filth Wizard are facsimiles, they’re their own true selves, it’s just that they came together over a love of the genre, so why not start there?  If this first single is anything to go by, Filth Wizard’s entrée into the Perth music scene will lead to a renewed interest in grunge, hopefully worldwide.  As is the case with these things, by the time the laggards have caught on and started playing copycat catchup, Filth Wizard will be nowhere in sight, charting their own sonic arc across rock’s firmament of greatness.

With ‘Sonwflake’, Filth Wizard make grunge sound fresh and vital again and there’s just enough in the track to make you prick up your ears and ask yourself, “What was that they just did?”  What I’m trying to say is, this a kick ass track from a kick ass band who have a lot of life and creative drive in them.  Given where they’ve started, it will be more than interesting to see where they head next.

When Around The Sound first spoke to two of the members of Filth Wizard, Clayton Brown (guitar) and Jess June (drums) it was in the den of iniquity that passes for a beer garden at Mojos.  They fronted late, blaming their dealer, and proceeded to charm their way through what was one of their first meetings with the gutter press.  Later that night they went on to play a blinding set, hard grunge with some nice nods to The Beatles.  That was the early days and it was obvious they had potential from the get-go.

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Having caught them playing a number of times in the year or so since, what strikes me most about this band is how quickly they’ve gelled and progressed musically.  They’re an uber-tight unit on stage these days, having quickly found overdrive and the capacity to ride the rev counter just over the red line without blowing a head. 

Frontman, Ben Burdette, is all brooding charisma and biceps, monstering his guitar and centre stage while Jenna Hardie (bass) and June keep things honest as well as interesting.  Meanwhile, Brown stands off to the left of stage effortlessly conjuring the licks from his guitar that are just one of the things that separate Filth Wizard from the pack.

On the release of ‘Snowflake’, Around The Sound spoke to each of the four members of Filth Wizard to take the temperature of the band and see what’s what.

Speaking about the lyrical content — something about death and genocide, perfect for right now — Burdette told us, “’Snowflake’ was written from a chord structure that the band had played around with couple of years back. I was revisiting it one day while I was feeling quite fed up with someone I know who seems to complain all the time but does nothing to fix any problems. I then imagined a whole swarm of these people and how they might be at the end of the world, kind of like zombies, and that’s the image I think of while singing through ‘Snowflake’. It’s kind of like a video clip in my head with our band on the edge of a cliff in a lightning storm and the horde of zombie complainers keep getting closer, but they’re being held back by the music knocking them all down.”

Now, that’s fucking cool and confirms a lot about the taciturn Burdette, who usually just lets his singing and guitar strangling speak for him.  It’s always the quiet types you’ve got to watch out for, especially those who can put on a scream like Burdette and have that touch of madness in their eyes.  In another life, straight to jail for mass murder.  Luckily, he seems reasonably well contained in the Filth Wizard force field.

You see, this is a band whose members are tight.  I had a lengthy conversation with Hardie and June, plying them with alcohol as I probed for the fissures between members.  They must be there, every band rides at least some creative tension.

When I suggested there must be someone in the band she’d leave behind if they got evacuated in a hurry, Hardie did pause to think for a while, and then said, “Very funny! I’m not answering that.  We are all passionate musicians and we all care a lot about music and the band so mostly any creative conflict comes from that place.”

Yawn!  Boring!  But probably true, so fair enough.

When we asked June the same question she came straight back with, “I can’t answer that. It’s like asking me if I want to leave my Mum or my dog.”  We know how much June loves her dog and we’re assuming she feels the same way about her Mum, so nothing to see there.

The rhythm section agree on the music, too, they’re both in love with ‘Snowflake’ and the possibilities of what comes next.  June called it their “sludge fest,” and that sums it up quite nicely.  There’s been plenty of grand music found at the sludgy end of the scale and Filth Wizard have just added to it.

So, what does Brown, the impossibly handsome, floppy-haired proto guitar god think of his band’s progress so far?

“I thought you’d never ask,” he said and then, “It’s sounding big, it’s sounding heavy.”

On the recording process, Brown told us, “We went and did two tracks in two days.  Two slightly different tracks as well, I think, this one being the heavier of the two.  We thought we’d start with a bang.

“We tested out lots of different guitar sounds and, as you can hear in the track, there’s extra layering of the vocals and the harmonies.  You just try to add as much stuff as you can, throw it all at the wall and see what sticks.  A couple of things got cut at the end, but we’re pretty happy with the outcome.”

When probed about the band’s sound and their mainlining of 90s grunge, Brown said, “We’re not just trying to replicate something.  There’s obviously things that we like, but it’s going to become more and more that we find out what we sound like as we go, because it’s still really early.”

That’s a pretty good assessment of where Filth Wizard are at and, given the class of the musos that make up its four members, their potential.  Which led us to the creative process.

“It’s a bit of that push and pull thing,” said Brown.  “On the one side, everyone wants to add something interesting and complex, but in another way, you’re trying to keep it fun, otherwise people won’t be able to get into it when you’re playing it.  So, adding little nuances where you can to try to drive home what’s already there and solidify the rhythm or the melody that’s already underlying the track, rather than just playing all these extra licks and solos and drum fills just for the sake of it.  We all kind of want to do that, but you try to keep it simple but still interesting.”

See, keep it simple and interesting, that’s what Filth Wizard do, but along the way they manage to pack in a whole lot of complexity.  That’s the scientific formula for rock and roll, one that this band has learned well.

As to the future, take it away Jess June, out of whose fevered mind the idea for Filth Wizard first crawled.

“For me this whole thing (the band) was just a fun idea in my brain so long ago,” said June.  “To have actually found such a passionate group of friends and musicians is like a miracle for me. I feel so proud and so happy of what we’ve achieved so far. Can’t wait to start writing again and finish the album.”

Filth Wizard — get on their magic carpet and take a ride.

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