Vicious Cicrcle are a band who really need no introduction. Having formed in the early 80s, they were a leading force in the Melbourne Reactor Records hardcore scene. Contstantly releasing new music and continuing to play, the band has clocked up over 30+ years. Recently their back catalog has seen the light of day again through reissues on both Europea and American labels. We caught up with Vicious Circle frontman Paul Lindsay for a chat on the past, present and future of the band.
How did the recent involvement with German label Power It Up all come together?
Thomas who runs the label just got in contact with me via email about 18 months ago and at first l wasn’t quite sure what he wanted as the initial contact was in broken English, then l realized he was serious about doing all our 80’s material on vinyl (coloured vinyl) with full coloured booklets, liner notes, lyrics and artwork. Which was a surprise because his label deals more with Grind, Death metal, Power violence, however as someone pointed out to me there have been vinyl comps years back VC have been on that featured bands like Napalm Death, Terrorizer, Mortician, Discharge, Cryptic Slaughter (History of grind core a double album). On overseas tours we have also played with grind, death metal, thrash bands so a connection is there, the Power It Up label was aware of the band and it’s history on a few levels.
The label is also planning on releases for Adelaide’s Perdition and Melbourne’s Arm The Insane. How does a label in Germany get so interested in the history of Australian hardcore, particularly the Reactor Records era?
I think it comes down to the label’s taste and wanting people, youth or anyone for that matter to hear music that was being made, but wasn’t necessarily as well-known as say places like New York, L.A, London or Berlin, that’s my take on it. Back in the 80’s, isolation (being from Australia } made things different, everything was done through mail or landline phone calls in regards to organization, the flow of information is easy to access now, back then you had to look for stuff, write letters etc. A lot of bands ended up with a distinctive sound, sure they had influences however the material from that era has a diversity and uniqueness all of its own. That’s not just Reactor it is Australian wide, labels like Waterfront, Aberrant, Mr. Spaceman, Greasy Pop, Red Eye. However Phil Mac [Reactor] was focused on Hardcore/Punk and released a lot of records that wouldn’t have seen the light of day if it wasn’t for him or the label, the musical landscape and attitude towards hardcore was mainly negative back then, the stigma and ignorance towards bands, individuals [Hardcore/ Punkers] was ridiculous. So I’m not at all surprised that all these years later they are interested in rereleasing some of that music.
The first Power It Up release was a double LP of your two Reactor Records albums “Price of Progress” and “Reflections”. How did the pressing of these come together? Do you still have the master tapes?
Both the albums have been totally remastered in particular the “Reflections” album had more bottom end and tone added to bring the sound up to par and “Price of Progress” was also tweaked just so they both sound as good as they possibly can on vinyl which is the format they were created for, the masters are under lock and key. The mastering was done by Jason Fuller at Goatsound studios with the aim of improving the overall sound, l think he did an amazing job and has worked on all the VC material that will be released in these series of vinyl reissues by Power It Up. The pressings have all been done in Germany by Zum Holzfelde, I have a clear vinyl test pressing 1 of 15 that pretty much all got snapped up before the official release that blew me away (the overall sound), and they did an excellent job with the vinyl cut. For me as l can’t stand the song, “Reflections” it was great to hear the album sound how I originally envisioned it without that song. So dreams do come true.
The label is about to release the second instalment of the “Rhyme With Reason” LP originally on Manic Ear together with the “Into The Void” LP released on Waterfront. What extras or insights have you added to these versions?
So both albums have been remastered once again improving the overall sound and fidelity of the original albums, it’s on purple vinyl and comes with a 16 page full color booklet with liner notes, art, posters, flyers and photos that a lot of people would never have seen before. It also has a bonus track that never made it onto vinyl. Got to give it too Bernd (Graphic art studio in Germany) who is doing the design work on the albums, he has a great eye for detail and enthusiasm for the project, he’s also into the band and that helps it comes through/shows when someone cares about what they do. Tom also who is head honcho at Power It Up wants the albums to sound and look as good as they possibly can, so with the booklets, vinyl’s etc, no short cuts are being taken.
Coincidentally you must have been pretty bummed to have to find new record labels to release your music once Reactor Records called it a day? Can you recall why Phil McDougall made that decision and the impact it had on the local scene?
No not at all, the decision to go to Waterfront was made whilst Phil was still running Reactor, I know because I told him, the truth of the matter is with the early 80’s VC stuff, if Phil wouldn’t have put it out, we would have just done it ourselves. A lot of our stuff was also released in America and Europe on labels such as Children of the Revolution, Manic Ears, Flipside, and Boner plus all the other labels that did compilation stuff all over the world that had VC .With Phil and Reactor l think it was just a case of him moving on, he did as much as he could do, financially it was a one man operation that’s not easy to sustain. l still see Phil and he has kept doing his radio show, “Sunglasses After Dark”, for over 30 years on PBS [he mainly plays punk, garage, hardcore ,independent bands]. We actually met for lunch not long ago and he told me he wished he’d released “Into the Void” so he had the first three releases by VC on his label, as he really likes that album. By the end of the 80’s and into the 90’s you had new labels, bands, distros, so l don’t think it had a great impact. By the 90’s you had the mainstream emergence of punk, or the homogenization of it considering where you stand. Similar thing happened in the 70’s with punk when it exploded and major labels signed up a lot of bands.
How hard was it for a Melbourne band to join a predominantly Sydney label in 1988?
People at the time might have thought it was strange, however Waterfront dug the album they got behind it. VC did a lot of touring to support the album. l suppose if you are Melbourne centric you might of thought fuck VC, I never bought into that rivalry bullshit between states l have friends all over. Ben Brown did some great flyer, poster and tee shirt designs for that release, he’d done art for the band earlier on in the 80’s but his work for us was stellar in my opinion. We did close to a 30 date tour in Oz, good times.
Is there more Vicious Circle re-releases planned through Power It Up?
The third volume on VC, “Search for the solution and more” is a collection of rare material which includes the 7inch, “Search for the solution”, 12 inch, “Hope and wait”, our side of the Split album we did with Youth Brigade. Also a live album recorded in 1985 at The Prince Of Wales (ln St Kilda Melbourne), some demos and unreleased stuff. On clear vinyl with the booklet and all the other details the previous volumes had in regards to the way they are executed.
I have just found out that Thomas tracked down a rare VC recording even earlier then the “Circle of the doomed” demo called “Foolish Ideas”. l don’t have a copy but thanks to tape traders and completists who collect material in such a way that’s no longer an issue. Even stranger was hearing a demo I’d forgotten about and not heard for over 30 years.
This will end up being a Split Album with Maniacs a hardcore band from Germany from around the same era, [and will be the third split album we have done with other bands, also the third country of release for a split], it also has two live tracks and two additional studio tracks which will bring our side of the album to 13 tracks. All up there will be seven albums featuring VC reissued from that 80’s period, pretty nuts in a way. It takes a lot of work to undergo and complete such a body of work that’s over 100 songs re-mastered along with all the graphic work/art and layout design.
The “Circle Of The Doomed” demo tape was also recently pressed as a 7inch by USA label Not Like You Records. How did that all transpire?
Mike who runs Not Like You got in touch with me and made it very clear what he wanted to do and l think he did an amazing job with the 7 inch, again there is no substitute for integrity or someone who loves what they do, Mike has ample of both. For the cover, our hand logo was redesigned by Evan at Versus, layout work was handled by Chris Alpino who did a top job, my liner notes and cut on red vinyl. Jason at Goatsound handling the mastering it all came out so well. l dig the feel and sound of the 7inch, its raw and something l never thought I’d see. As it was one of our first demos and l didn’t consider it in terms of a release like this, it’s probably my favorite single by the band for all the above reasons.
When you released the demo in 1984, did you send copies to the USA? How did Not Like You come to know of Vicious Circle?
We would trade tapes, vinyls, so it was something else to send or trade to other bands, individuals, so copies did end up in America but also Europe, Japan and in Australia and people would copy it or trade it for something else. l think Mike’s initial hearing of VC comes from the “PEACE” Compilation that had bands from all over the world that was released 84/85 on R Radical records in the States it had Gism, Dead Kennedys, Butthole Surfers, MDC, DRI, Dicks, Offenders, Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, so many killer bands. l also guess the split album with Youth Brigade and earlier albums like “Price of Progress” and “Reflections”. We also got featured in mags like Flipside and did heaps of interviews in fanzines. Our first tour of America was in 86, all that stuff helps from a historical perspective.
Is it strange having labels from all around the world suddenly interested in the legacy and discography of Vicious Circle some 30 years on?
l think it’s a culmination of certain things, the popularity of vinyl that has risen over the last few years and the interest in 80’s hardcore and punk bands that emerged during that period, plus the availability of the old vinyl. VC released plenty of stuff but it’s not easy to find, this gives new and older crew the opportunity to hear those records again or for the first time. The other element is that people who knew of the band decades ago and collected records are now running their own labels and want to release VC records. As for our legacy, l will let other people contemplate that.
You’ve released albums through Australia’s 3 most influential labels, Reactor Records, Waterfront Records and Resist Records at different stages of Australian hardcore history. Were there any local labels you wished you got to work with or got turned down by perhaps?
l hadn’t even thought of this fact, but it’s true in regards to Reactor, Waterfront and Resist, that’s what happens when you kick around for decades in a band. Let me think, l wanted to do a 7inch in the 90’s with Spiral Objective, Greg had other stuff he wanted to work on which was fine, he had other priorities, they did some great stuff on that label. Plenty of stuff I didn’t do with other labels, mainly due to people’s attitudes. Spent, Shock and Def all put out albums and eps by VC in Australia.
What’s the most positive and negative thing about the Australian hardcore scene you’ve witnessed over the past 30 odd years?
POSITIVE is the youth, new bands that come with every generation the networks and bonds that get made between people, which can last a lifetime. Bands getting out and touring the world also individuals who write, film, photograph, do zines, make documentaries, book/organize shows/benefits, put out records, do podcasts, radio shows, draw, create, individuals who want a better world and strive for it within themselves and for others.
NEGATIVE this is more an individual thing, but exclusion or the clique element or mentality. Fuck that! Along with racism, homophobia, sexism or anything that diminishes the rights of others [animals included]. As l said its more [individual] down to who you are as a person. Don’t be overcome by the negative.
Can you recall what first attracted you to the Melbourne hardcore scene and how you first got involved?
My shithole of a life as a kid and the sounds that created a new world for me. l was lucky enough to see The Saints and Coloured Balls when l was a kid in the 70’s. My brothers and friends [a lot of my mates were several years older than me] got me into shows at an early age, so l just immersed myself into the music, punk/hardcore scene. When I was growing up l would go to punk nights at the Seaview Ballroom [St Kilda] or Exford Hotel [in the City] or Oxford Venue, bands like Z-Cars, Fish, Marching Girls, The Zorros, Corporate Bodie, Odious Comparison. This was more the 70’s style punk at that time. Early 80’s bands like Sick Things, End Result, Civil Dissident, Depression, Bodies, Mad Flowers brought a whole new feel, aggression to the format in those times and l found my place, this was my tribe. l love a lot of the 70’s punk from the UK and U.S.A and collected the vinyls, so when hardcore was taking hold in the early 80’s it seemed like evolution to me and I’d buy albums by TSOL ,Black Flag, Bad Brains, DK’s, Discharge, Slime, Icons of Filth, Rattus, Heart Attack, Cro-Mags. Demo or Oz stuff mainly demos [of bands mentioned above] tons of stuff and l was writing letters and trading tapes and vinyls with people 81/82 all over the place, the next natural step was to try and find bands with a similar aesthetic live or get into one and that’s what happened with VC.
How does one keep motivated and passionate about playing in a hardcore band for over 30 years?
Live a decent life, be creative also be good to yourself so you are more balanced and positive in life and with others. ln my life l find living with a plant based diet, caring for the environment and trying not to be wasteful, working in the social justice area gives me a strong sense of purpose, these are all things l have done for decades, this is who l am as a human being. l want a better world for my children’s children, that starts with me living by example and doing right by myself and others. l am not motivated purely by money or the cultivation of other’s egos. Hardcore has never been a career to me, it’s a way of life. I’m passionate about voicing my opinion and speaking out against situations, wrongs l see going on around me, but l can also laugh at myself and with others, that’s important, keep learning, keep moving forward.
Looking back on the history of Vicious Circle do you have a favorite show you’ve played?
80’s I will give you a few, playing with MDC, Attitude Adjustment at the Farm in San Fran in 86, also a show we did on the same tour with Final Conflict and Crucifix at Fenders Ballroom in LA or the shows we played with Life Sentence, Agnostic Front and GBH on tour [when AF was touring the Victim in Pain album] in America.
90’s the QLD leg of the Australian tour we did with Dayglo Abortions that was so damn good and crazy at the same time, people had a great time and went nuts.
Also shows we did with Madball and Agent Orange,Toe to Toe, Dream Killers, lots of fun, also a gig we did for one of our album launches with Fallout, Mindsnare and Beanflipper on the line up that was at the Evelyn Hotel [Melbourne], that night destroyed.
2000 onwards Subhumans [UK] was a real head turner Defects [Eire], l was so stoked to play with them. A show with Beaver, Perdition and Throwdown in Adelaide was a killer night. Festivals in Europe, but club shows are the best. If I think about it VC, has played and toured with some killer bands l look forward to what lays ahead.
What about a story you often tell about the band?
This is not a story l tell often, but once on a flight to Europe we stopped off at Saudi Arabia [it was on the way to do shows in Europe and the plane had been diverted]. Anyways, l needed to go to the toilet and was sitting in the cubicle [this is in the airport] when a cop /military guy kicks in the door and shoves an M16 or something of that ilk right in my face yelling in Arabic. l just put my hands up and was like, “What the fuck!!” l thought the individual in question was going to kill me, talk about being scared shitless, l yelled at him, “l don’t speak Arabic’’ he just looked at me turned around and calmly walked off. [ l couldn’t wait to board the plane and get out of there] Then a little later waiting for the plane a few of us were together and this fella comes up saying ‘’Photo, Photo’’, we were like, “okay” he jumps in, gets the picture taken with us and straight after goes “WWF”, he thought we were fucking wrestlers so weird, but also pretty funny.
You’ve got a new album in the works at the moment. Fill us in on that? How did it come together and when will it see the light of day?
Yeti [Guitarist] and l started working on tunes in my kitchen about 10 months ago, just putting the skeleton of the album together. For me, the material harkens back to the roots of VC, it’s definitely more hardcore in feel with an emphasis on choruses and riffing. Ash [Drummer] had to work on drum patterns that had a certain level of intensity and flow. Jason Fuller Goatsound [Blood Duster/ Birdcage] got involved and took it on as a producer he has also written a few songs on the album, [which is called] BORN TO DESTROY. And his overall help and vision for the album has been invaluable, we demoed the album and let the songs evolve by rehearsing them like a set and finally layed the album down in December. The mixing will be done through January 2017 and mastering in the U.S.A afterwards. Youngy, King Parrot and Mikey HOODS have both done vocals on the album, as well as some other surprise guests and Ben Brown is illustrating/drawing the cover of the album. It’s being released this year both in Australia and Overseas. l am pretty proud of the material and sound we have created for this long player, for me it embodies what sparked my love for hardcore, we also have done a film clip for the title track “Born to Destroy”, it’s just straight down the line, no bullshit, also shot in black and white.
What else is on the horizon for Vicious Circle? Are there plans to tour locally or in Europe anytime soon?
Definitely play/tour the new album at home and get overseas this year. Europe or America would be great. As for the new album I’m so keen for people to hear it and also to play the songs live. Vicious Circle has a bunch of stuff on the horizon but I can’t really talk about it until it’s all locked in.
Head to the Vicious Circle bandcamp page at https://viciouscircleoz83.bandcamp.com/ where you can stream most of the band's discography and even download some of it for free.
Visit Power It Up's Australian Hardcore History page at http://www.australian-punk-hc-history.de/
Follow Vicious Circle on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/VICIOUSCIRCLE.EST83/