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When you look at heavy music in Byron Bay over the last ten years or so, there are few people that have stayed as active as Mark Boulton. As well as fronting Shackles, Mark has booked shows, run his own warehouse venue and DIY label. One of the most interesting aspects of Mark’s personality is the contrast between the ferocity and angst that is Shackles and the gentle natured, warm and welcoming character that Mark is off stage. This interview was conducted in January 2014 by Allan Reid. Photos by Mitch Manz and Ryan Willmott.

To me you've always been a pretty positive and upbeat person, but you sing in one of the more aggressive bands in Australia. Where does all of that aggression come from? Is it something that you bottle up and release? Is it a performance? There seems to be a contrast between on stage and off stage…

…it's bottled up, because I think I have communication issues with people and I'm sometimes not good at confrontation so I think it does come from anger being bottled up for the most part. I guess it's a way of dealing with things that I can't say at work and in real life, because there are those feelings that you can't put into words or express at all. That's why it is what it is. For the most part though, there are not a lot of people that I'd wish bad things on around me, but it doesn't mean that I don't get angry and that's where it all comes out; through the band.

What are the sort of things that do or would make you angry? What are the triggers?

I'm angry at myself for a lot of things. There a lot of things that I've squandered or pissed up the wall. Being from Byron… it's the sort of town where everyone has what they need, you know what I mean? It's a good place to be from. Around me everyday there are people who are always complaining about things. Everyone has what they want, so they can do what they want. They can bounce overseas, they can do anything, but they're never really happy with what's in front of them, ever. That for me is a big source of anger, because people, even good people, are really greedy and I think everything about human life is unsustainable. All of these things. I don't really talk about these things a lot unless I'm triggered. I don't… sorry… it takes a while to collect my thoughts…

Sorry, I've maybe put you on the spot by not asking firstly how the band started and who the members are?

(laughter) No, it's fine, it's fine. Do you want me to answer? The band started in 2010 but it was under a different moniker though. It wasn't until 2011that we got a new drummer. The first drummer wasn't into it at all and he sort of drifted and eventually left the band. We started in 2011 and that was when we got Eddie in and he's been a big part of the band ever since. He started drumming and DJ came in on bass. I actually bought bass gear for DJ to be in the band. Matt joined after Nathan left so we basically had all new members and that was when we restarted the band. Shackles from Sydney contacted us and we changed the name and got a new logo, that's where it all originally started.

The other thing that I found interesting about you, is that when I first met you, you were lumped in with the Byron Bay Hardcore scene, the "BBHC" scene. Being a little out of the loop, it seemed like Shackles popped up with members that I almost expected to be playing heavy straight forward hardcore. When did that transition take place? When did you transition out of the hardcore scene and start to get into power violence and the "crustier" side of hardcore punk, for lack of a better word?

There wasn't a lot of what you'd typically recognise as hardcore and punk culture embedded in Byron. Byron sort of invented it's own thing. It was good because everyone focused on local bands, but at the same time, no one ever showed me older bands. It was a culture that heavily revolved around metal core bands and mosh bands. It was very social and it was all about who was from Byron, who was who, all that stuff, and I never really liked it that much. I came in late and there were people that were pretty cruel, but I just wanted to go to shows and that was what kept me going, and if it meant I had to be friends with these people or be civil with these people, I was. There were some people that I was good friends with, but then there were some people that, still to this day, are the worst people I've ever met. I always liked metal, and Byron Bay was metal core. I always liked different styles within it all, so I dug deeper into metal, I dug deeper into punk and hardcore. Then I found power violence bands and grind core, D beat bands and stuff like that, but I always liked a bit of everything and I always wanted to know about the history rather than just being content with all of those metal core bands, and thinking that those bands were mainstay bands when they're not. They were just hybrids. That was why I got into it. It was a bite back to it all. Shackles was a bite back to a lot of that stuff. We didn't want to be a "Byron band" - we wanted to do our own thing and we wanted to take no notice of what came before us and just do our thing.

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Do you think that was a part of the push to get the band out of Byron Bay? Shackles have become a fairly prolific band in terms of travelling for shows and releasing records. Was there a push to get out of Byron Bay?

It was definitely the push because people didn't like us. People influence you either way, and they didn't like us. I know people scoffed at the idea of me doing a band in the first place. I was always called "Crazy Mark". That drove me to do whatever I wanted and, as a band, do things on our own terms and not do things their way, to respect people who weren't known in the Byron scene and seek out new friends and new contacts that people never even knew about in Byron. We wanted to carve our own path that had nothing to do with older people in Byron. We just wanted to do everything off our own backs. I will say that the first shows we played were in Byron and we were lucky to have those shows but it wasn't long before we realised that we didn't have a lot of support and a lot people still don't take a whole lot of notice of us, which is fine, but it was definitely a part of the push to get out of Byron.

Would that be indicative of where Shackles fit into the Byron Bay scene now?

Yeah, I don't think they keep up with us. I think that a lot of people are still stuck in a time where bands like Word Up were around. I was actually talking to a kid today who said "I wish there were still bands like that" but when I thought about it, there still are bands like that but the reason people were interested in those bands is because they were friends with the band members. It was a social thing and a community thing, more than loving the music, I think. There are bands like that around now, but it's more to do with the fact that they (older bands) were all very community based in Byron where we just wanted to make the music that we want to make. We want to connect with people who feel the same way as us, but it's not a matter of being a band that's just for our friends to get into. We want to attract like minded people rather than please all of our friends. I'm not saying that all Byron bands do that, but there is a heavy friendship thing going on. That always sounds like a good thing, to be community based, but in Byron it wasn't always a good thing. There were a lot of people being ostracised and it wasn't so much about hardcore, it was about a particular friendship group...

…almost like a clique?

…yeah it was a clique. I've still got friends who are involved in it. I balance it all up and look at the pro's and con's of it all. Other people in the band hate it and don't want a bar of it. The good thing about it was going to shows and learning to respect something that you felt lucky to be a part of. It's different now. People come and go. Shows are at a bit of a low at the moment. I'm encouraging as many people to come to shows as possible, but it seems like more people come just as more go and it's a lot more disposable now. I felt like I was lucky to be a part of it.

The lifespan of a hardcore/punk kid has shortened…

…I think it has.

Your most recent release with Shackles is the LP which is being released through Resist Records. I guess that's something that a lot of people wouldn't have expected to see. How did that all come about?

We're just freelance really. If someone asks us to do a record for them, we'll do it, and some people said to me that they thought we'd always stick to DIY labels but no one came knocking asking us to release an LP. Greg from Arrest was happy to release whatever we wanted to put out for a while, and then Adam from Urban Rage came along and said he wanted to release our next 7 inch. When Resist started talking to us at first, I thought the most logical thing to do would be to release an LP but I was a bit weird on the idea when they asked. I was wondering how the other guys would feel. In the end they were the ones that asked so we thought "why not do it?" We are going to do an LP eventually so why not do it now? Why not do it through Resist? That's how the LP came about. That's not to say that next time we won't release a record on a totally different, smaller label from who knows where. I just see it as a logo on a record in the end…

Have you had any sort of feedback from people regarding Shackles working with Resist considering that a lot of people in the underground hardcore and punk scene would possibly considering it "selling out" or going to a bigger label for some sort of financial benefit? Have people discussed it with you?

The band itself were the main people thinking it might be weird. None of us had really dealt with it (bigger labels) before. My main concern had nothing to do with Resist itself, it was more to do with the way that some people only pay attention to bands on Resist because of the label's size and ignore smaller bands and labels. Labels that aren't as big as Resist. That was my main concern with it so I told a lot of people who I thought would react that way just to gauge their opinions and a lot of people just said "why wouldn't you do it?" I haven't had anything said to my face anyway. My compass was Extortion, because Extortion did it and they're a band that I like. I like everything that they've done. The fact that they released tonnes of stuff and have released records on Resist made me think that if Extortion have done it than we may as well do it. It's only one release. Most of our releases have been through Arrest, my own label and Urban Rage. It's just one record. A lot of people seem to be quite positive about Resist. It's just that a lot of people don't pay attention to things that aren't on Resist, almost like it's not worth paying attention to unless it's in that realm.

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Shackles have a tour coming up with Rort and Crisis Alert. In regards to Australian bands at the moment, what bands are you into? What bands are you looking forward to playing with or seeing?

We're sort of like the hardcore band on a punk show, or the jocks on a punk show, but we're the dodgy punk dudes on a hardcore show and I like the idea that we can play with bands from both worlds. I like that we can play with bands like Kromosom but still play with bands from the hardcore side of things. I like playing with some jock hardcore bands and I also like playing with bands who don't slot into either category like Crisis Alert. I'm kind of excited about just continuing that. Taking that to as many extremes as we can. We're playing Obscene Extreme in Melbourne which is more of a metal fest, almost a specialty grindcore festival. Overseas it would be anyway but in a Australia the line up has to be a little mixed because there aren't enough pure grindcore bands. We can play in that world. We can play with those sorts of bands. I look forward to different elements of every show. Crisis Alert and Rort are 2 bands that I feel completely comfortable with because we are kind of like the middle ground between those two bands and together those bands can bring out a vast array of people, which I find exciting. I find that more exciting than playing to a niche audience. I mean, I'm keen to play with bands like Mood Swing as well because they're all nice guys. I'll deal with anyone and play with anyone who is interested in playing with us. Sometimes it's the attitudes of fans that get annoying rather than the bands themselves…

…in saying that, where do you think you fit as an individual? Are you more of a hardcore kid or prefer to be at a crust show?

It just depends what mood I'm in because I listen to everything from Floorpunch to Grave. I like everything. I like Japanese hardcore. The whole spectrum of heavy music is pretty much up my alley. It really depends how I feel. There are times when I am around drinking so much that I just want to listen to Floorpunch and just get away from that shit for a while, get away from drinking and all of my friends getting hammered, but then there are other times when I want to listen to something ugly, nihilistic and violent and that's usually how work makes me feel. I think that there's good in all of it so it's hard to say where I fit because I'm interested in all of it. It's easier for me to say what I'm not interested in because I'm an open book with most things. There's good and bad elements in everything, that's the best way to put it I think. That's what makes me happy. We didn't choose to be a band that can fit in everywhere, it just happens to be that way and we're lucky that we can fit on most bills. It's mostly a good thing because it means that we can stink up the bills we play because we're either too punk and scallywag for a hardcore show or we're too jock and down tuned for a punk show. We're an odd band like that. It can go either way.

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You mentioned being around drinking being a frustration on occasion. Are you straight edge? Do you associate yourself with straight edge and label yourself straight edge? There's been a lot of negative attention drawn to straight edge as a lifestyle over the years, is it something that you still relate to?

It's something that I'm totally happy to wear as a label and be identified as straight edge. I've had friends who have had dilemmas with whether or not they want to be labelled anymore because of other people but I'm at the point where I don't want to have to intellectually justify it anymore and I don't care if someone finds it stupid or childish that I still like the label. I don't care, I'm happy to say "fuck it, it's my choice and I'm happy about it". I don't feel like I have to justify it and it's something that I'm still proud of now. It's been nearly 9 years and I'm not around it all of the time. I love straight edge as a movement when it's people making their own choice but when it comes to a gang of guys who are just trying to fit in and all have to be in it I become against it, but for me it's never really been about that. It was always about not drinking, smoking and taking drugs. That was always the idea for me. Most of my friends drink and do whatever they can get their hands on. The edge guys that I get along with are just free thinking people who do their own thing and that's what I love about it. That's why I still like it and I'm proud of the label and don't have to intellectually justify it to people who think it's immature.

In the last 9 years or so, have the reasons changed as to why you don't drink, smoke or party?

Yeah. When I found it (straight edge) I just really liked the idea of it. I was a bit lost when I was younger and it was something that I sort of bonded with in high school before I really knew what straight edge was. I'd tried drinking a few times but didn't enjoy it and then when I stumbled into hardcore I found that there was this avenue for thinking like that. Like I said before, there were older guys who were straight edge and I was able to ask questions about it and one of my older friends took me under his wing, so I discovered straight edge that way and developed my own views on it. Back then I used to be pretty judgemental. I didn't really like being around drinking and I used to be more critical of it all. These days I don't mind being around drinking. It's just a personal thing and I'm constantly reminded why I don't do it myself, but I'm not as judgemental and I'm more easy being around it. There are times when I get fed up being around it too much, but in small doses I enjoy being around friends that are drinking which wasn't the case when I was younger, at all. I get fed up when I see it being pushed to the limit, but it's much more of a personal thing now and I understand myself better.

As well as playing in Shackles, you also ran a warehouse venue in Byron, how did that come about? Was it a necessity or just a fun idea? What was the intention behind it?

It sort of came up as an idea. My mum wanted me out of home and I thought that I should find a space that wasn't a house, but a space that we could use for other things. That was why we got a warehouse. The annoying thing was that we couldn't actually jam there, we could only have shows, because there were always people around during the day who didn't want lots of noise. We wanted to have shows to bring bands through Byron that we wanted to see and the YAC hardly had shows. The YAC was hardly having shows because it was too expensive…

…which is strange because the YAC was really active ten years ago in terms of hardcore shows…

Yeah it was. These days you need a really big band to play to wake everyone up in Byron to come out to the show. It needs to be a social event to bring people. We just wanted to do our own thing. We saw that in Brisbane people were doing whatever they wanted and there were venues like Sun Distortion which were warehouse venues. There was no special treatment for people like "oh I'm on the door" - it was just put on by us for whoever wanted to come and we were able to give people a bit more freedom so if they wanted to put on a free show they could. It's hard when you set up a DIY venue because a lot of people want to play it but they don't realise that Byron is a hard place to get people out and it's not what it used to be. Just because there are bands coming from here doesn't mean that it's a healthy scene.

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Do you think that a lot of people gauge Byron based on it's reputation from ten years ago?

I think too many people do but it's a different world now because a lot of the older people have moved on; the people who made it what it was ten years ago. I don't know where most of them are. I'd almost say that there's a new scene here now, and there's not many people involved but it's a new thing that's happening. All of the people who were very involved in the older scene are either still trapped in that world or they've lost interest. Ideally we would've liked to have had more shows at the shed but we had a lot of incidents, we got shut down, we broke things. Yeah, it was interesting.

What led to the end of the venue?

The lease ended. I wanted to keep it going. We wanted to stay there for the most part but the lease had ended and it was in our best interests to move out. It sucked because we finally got a sound proof room set up in the end but we had to move out. We could've jammed there but there were always annoying neighbours who were always going to be a thorn in our side.

Outside of Byron, what is your favourite part of Australia to play?

Brisbane. I would almost say that Brisbane is our home city as a band.

Why Brisbane? I think a lot of bands from further south have a skewed view of Brisbane in the sense that they don't really come here too often. They seem deterred.

I like Brisbane's attitude. I love Melbourne but it has so much going on that they're almost spoilt. In Brisbane, not every show is good, but Brisbane has a laid back feel about it. There's no pretentiousness and it comes through in shows there and the people who make shows what they are. The best shows there are when it is all about the music and behaving however you want, and it's not about…I'm trying to put it into words…what it is that makes a Brisbane show a good show? It just has wild shows and people who don't care. There's no concern about whether or not there are better places to be. Other cities, depending on the show, that can happen. When there's a good show in Brisbane, that's the place where everyone wants to be and no one really cares. It just is what it is. It's laid back and simple. Good working class people. Melbourne…uh…could we start that one again?

Sure, I don't mind either way...

Can you shoot the question and I'll answer it again? I'm thinking about it as I go...

What is your favourite region outside of Byron to play and why?

Brisbane is, because of our friends there and the people who helped really push the band early on are there. When there's a good show in Brisbane, you really feel like everyone wants to be there more than wanting to be anywhere else and it feels like everyone is doing what they want to be doing more than anything else. I feel like some of the other cities are spoilt and it feels like there's too much going on and it suffocates the excitement. When there's a good show in Brisbane…I can't think of anything better. We've had good shows everywhere, and I've enjoyed every city but I feel that when there's a good Brisbane show, there's not much that's better.

Do you think there's a chance that Shackles will be heading overseas anytime in the near future considering that you've covered a lot of ground in Australia so far? Do you think that's the next step for the band?

We'd really like to if the right opportunity came up. It's been talked about and there are ways that we could do it. If we did it we'd be funding it ourselves. There's been talk of putting something out through a German label and the next logical step would be to head over there. Josh who drums in the band, he works over there sometimes, and it would be easy doing it with him and whoever wanted to come. I don't know if we would do it as a 4 piece or a 5 piece. It's been something that's been on our minds, but it's not something that we're putting all of our eggs in the basket, in regards to it happening, but it's something that we're all open to and would like to do. I mean, doing it with the band would be my main avenue for going overseas because if I do it alone I'll probably spend all of my money but doing it with the band would make it more worthwhile. There are no concrete plans to do it, it's just a pipe dream at the moment. It's not something that we're all betting on.

At the moment you have a rotating line up, is that right? In terms of band members?

Yeah, that's true, but it is a solid line up. The guys that you see in the band now ARE the band. The interesting thing is that we have 2 drummers that we bounce between. The reason was that when Eddie originally left the band after our first 2 EP's, we didn't know who was going to drum and we wanted someone who was going to be a step up from Eddie. We didn't want to go backwards. We wanted things to get better. There was Ben who played in Ghost Town. People told us that Ben would be great. He lived close by, at Tweed. People also told us about this guy Josh who played in Extortion and they said "he's from Perth and saw you guys, and he'd love to fill in for a show here and there." When I asked Ben, he said he could only commit to so much, but he ended up taking on heaps of shows, jamming with us every week or so and we played a show every week for 5 or 6 weeks and he played them all. It was funny, he pretty much ended up committing to full time when he said that he couldn't. He's one of the nicest people I've ever met and he really goes out of his way. He's one of the most talented people I know as well. He could play anything but he still chooses to play with us. Meanwhile, I'd been talking to Ben but was also talking to Josh, which they both knew about, because Josh was interested and Ben had said that he couldn't commit 100%. We talked about going over to Perth for the first time, with Josh driving the idea, and we worked on doing a weekender with him and play some shows and maybe record something because he liked the band, he'd met all of the guys and we all got along. He came over here on a trip and we jammed with him once or twice and we wrote a song or two. He learnt the songs because I'd sent them to him earlier. We went over there for a week and wrote two more songs and recorded a few songs for a split with an American band called Worn Out and we played 2 shows with him, and we didn't know that he was still interested in doing stuff with us. Funnily enough, Ben went over to the States with some friends later in the year, Josh came over and we recorded more songs with him, and after that it ended up becoming a shared job. Both of them were solid members of the band and it wasn't like anyone was less valuable than anyone else, they were both still a big part of the band. It just meant that there were 2 versions of Shackles that would play different shows. Josh ended up leaving his job in Perth in 2013 and came over to live which was confusing, because Ben had a lot of projects going on so I always felt like Ben was doing us a massive favour by playing with us, because he is such a nice dude, and I always wanted what Ben wanted to do to come first. So, when Josh moved over, I thought we should write the LP with him and Ben can play whenever he can. That's how the double drummers shows came about. We figured we could test ourselves and have fun with things. That was what we did. In future, Josh is planning an overseas trip so we'll probably be doing more shows with Ben. Josh likes touring and he can work from other cities when we tour so it makes touring with him easy where Ben is a little more locked into a normal job. It's confusing but it seems to work. It's idiosyncratic.

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Does the 2 drummers situation ever cause any organisational issues when it comes to recording and touring?

No, the LP has tracks with double drums on it. There were songs that Ben wrote and played drums for on the LP but we made it all mesh together so it would work. Because Josh lives here, we write a lot more with him. If we have a show where 2 drummers will work we ask Ben, or if Josh can't play a show we ask Ben. There are other shows where Eddie or Matt will play bass if DJ is unavailable. There have been periods where everyone switches. Eddie went away for a long time but came back on guitar. It's always a revolving line up but it has become a solid 6 band members whether we play as a 4 piece, 5 piece or 6 piece. That's the band. That's us. We're just lucky to have auxiliary members I guess.

Something that I have noticed is a rise in interest amongst local kids in power violence in terms of playing in bands and also supporting bands. I think Shackles have played a part in that being a local band who play that style well and do it with a lot of integrity. Is that something that you've ever thought about or been conscious of? The influence that you have and the way you carry yourself as a performer, for lack of a better word?

There were bands like Suffer, Extortion and of course White Male Dumbinance who came through Brisbane a lot before we were playing and those bands were big influences on us, even Taipan to a degree who weren't exactly a power violence band but still played fast metallic hardcore who blended things a bit like we do. I think a lot of kids in Brisbane were interested in it before we were playing, but when we started getting good, those kids helped us out a lot and I think that it was just there chosen style of hardcore. A lot of them are into tons of different stuff now. It's cool seeing new bands like Manhunt who play a similar style to us but do it in their own way. We're a part of a scene that's competitive but it's good to know that, and I acknowledge that. I don't think that we started it or made it what it is. It was already there and we were lucky to come into it and be taken seriously. We had good friends who were into what we were doing and we made new friends. We maybe pushed it a bit but I can't say that we made it what it is.

I guess what I'm getting at is, Shackles were a part of the rise, if that's a better way to put it?

I'd like to think so. After Extortion , Suffer, White Male Dumbinance and Taipan…those more current bands we took a lot from, I'd like to think that we were sort of torch bearers. All of Shackles have our distinctive ways of doing things and different influences that aren't all 80's or 90's power violence, and we do a far more bastardised version of it than those bands and add influences from elsewhere, but it's cool to think that people got into more obscure types of music because of us, if there are kids out there that are like that. Maybe we're their first heavy band that isn't just a mosh band or whatever. I'm fine with that if that's what's happening.

Do you ever think about what you're pushing, or how you might steer things by taking a certain approach? Are there ever moments where you think about how you want to influence situations?

I'd like to think that we offer an outlet for people, and that's mostly it. I am conscious of that, and I worry sometimes that some people have taken me out of context in terms of what the band are into. The whole band is made up of completely different people when it comes to choices we make, and none of us are really violent people. None of us really endorse stupid behaviour. There is always stupid behaviour when we play but I'd like to think that it's the music driving that, and it's due to the face value of what we do, I'd say. I'd hope that people would talk to me if they had a question about a song. I'd like to think that kids would talk to me rather than assuming. At the same time, it's a band that's ambiguous and people can take it how they want to. There are no rules or guidelines about what I'm for or against. It's actually one of those things, as a band, that I really want to do - leave rules out of it. There are political messages in there and there are many elements of my world view in there but there are no rules saying that you can't be this way, or you can't be that way. It eludes to a lot of things but I'd like to think that people can use their own individual interpretation and take what ever they want from it more than anything else. My political views are in there, my views on the world are in there, but it's not me telling anyone what to do. It's more…uh…I don't know...

…a release of ideas?

Yeah. I just want kids to take individualism from it more than anything else. I'd like people to take that from it. That's my consciousness with it all. If a kid did come to a show at Sun Distortion where everyone is drinking and spilling beer everywhere, you know it isn't ME doing that, but that's what people do, I wouldn't want people to think that that's what it's all about. I wouldn't want people to think that it's just about smashing glass and being rowdy. I'd like to think that people understand that it's about more than that, but if that's what people want to take from it than that's fine. There are no rules.

So lastly, we live in an age where people can portray themselves as whatever they like and everything is open to perception, with social media and other forums. How would you like to be remembered in 20 years if people were to look back on you now as an individual?

If anyone is talking about me in 20 years, which is unlikely, I'd like them to think that I was nice to people who deserved it. I was nice and I wasn't a dick. Even if it is people that come into the supermarket where I work and remember me as I nice guy. That's the sort of thing I think about. I'm just happy with the simple things in life. Like you asked in the first question, you want to talk about the things that anger me in life? I'm pretty happy with the simple things in life and the things that anger me are when people take stances on things for the wrong reasons. People in everyday life can make you angry and annoyed. I'd like to be remembered as someone who is nice to people who talk to me. As far as the band goes, I just want people to take whatever they take from it. I'd like the band to be something thats separate to myself, not really something my character is judged by or whatever. I'd like the band to be immortalised as what it is, if it's immortalised at all. I'd like it to stand alone and be it's own thing and seen for what it is; an outlet. That's basically it.

 

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