I talked to King Parrot’s vocalist Matt “Youngy” Young (MY) and drummer Todd Hansen (TH) (with a cameo by their sound guy Richie (R)) in Aarhus, Denmark on the 4th of March, during the band’s tour in support of Soulfly. We had a lengthy but lighthearted discussion in which we covered crowd reactions in Europe, touring as an Australian band, and inter-city rivalries.
First question – since I couldn’t find out enough to be 100% sure – is this the highest you’ve been on a bill on a European tour?
TH: Well… this is our second European tour, on the last one we were main support to Weedeater. So, no [laughs].
MY: Yeah, we were main support for Weedeater on a tour last year but it was only a two-week tour and we didn’t come up to Scandinavia or anything like that
TH: Yes, [this is the] first time we’ve played in Scandinavia.
MY: It’s the most extensive European tour we’ve done and obviously doing with Soulfly has been good.
Great. You’ve said previously that you’re not as well-established in Europe as you are in North America or Australia. That means that a lot of people will be seeing you for the first time. Have you noticed any difference in the initial reactions of people here versus the initial reactions of people in, for example, North America?
MY: I think it’s actually the same because with what King Parrot does – it’s a bit of a spectacle. I think it’s kind of weird for people to see the way we try to perform sometimes. We get in the audience’s face and we like to have a lot of fun too, so…
TH: A lot of energy.
MY: Yeah, there’s a lot of energy and humor but it’s intense as well. The first times that we played when we first started the band, even in Australia everyone was kind of standing there like this [crosses arms] like they do when you see a band for the first time. It took a while for us to build up that sort of rapport with the audience and now in Australia when we do it, it’s crazy from the first minute. It’s starting to get a bit like that in North America. We’ve had some good responses here too, I think.
TH: There’s definitely been nights where everyone sort of just stands there with their arms crossed watching what’s going on and we’ll walk off the stage going, “ugh, don’t think they liked it.” And then at the end of the night, people will go, “That was a great show! I’ve never seen anything like it before!” So that’s always cool. Audiences are always a bit standoffish the first time they see us. Just like Youngy said, in Australia it’s always mental, in America it’s pretty mental nowadays, but over here not so much.
MY: But there have certainly been places like… some of the places in the UK.
TH: Yeah, UK get it.
MY: They clicked straight away and we’ve had some good coverage over there. In Poland as well, they could really feed off the energy.
TH: The night before, where was that?
MY: Belgium. [Interviewer’s Note: Gent was the city they played there]
TH: Yeah, Belgium, they seemed to really love it.
MY: It’s a good opportunity for us to play in front of a big audience. It’s probably more of a mainstream metal crowd as opposed to what we do, but still, it’s great to do it, man. It’s really cool.
TH: Big shows every night with Soulfly. It’s rare that the room’s not full. I think half the shows have been sold out on this tour. It’s been awesome for us.
Continuing the thread from the previous question, I think it would be fair to say that, as a band, you’ve had a relatively quick rise to… familiarity, at least. How much of that would you attribute to your brash or in-your-face style?
MY: Probably all of it [laughs]. It’s been a sort of theme from the first day when we started playing. We said we were gonna be an intense and in-your-face but also kind of lighthearted and fun band. It’s a real Australian approach, I reckon.
TH: The constant work the band’s done for the last however many years has also helped with the rise.
MY: We certainly tour a lot more than most Australian bands. Even when we started, we toured heaps in Australia, and we went to every little place and made sure even people in those smaller towns knew about us. That impression that we’re touring all the time makes people pay attention. And once we got into America, we kept getting offers and we kept going back and hopefully we can do the same here in Europe because it’s great, touring here, we love it.
TH: This has probably been the longest tour we’ve done as far as dates and weeks and…
38 shows, right?
MY: We’re not doing Russia, [Soulfly] are doing two shows in Russia, we’ve only got 36.
TH: It’s been one of the longer ones. A lot of the US ones are like a month.
In a previous interview I read that you, Matt, said that you spat in an audience member’s mouth in Michigan at a show. Has anything that crazy happened on this tour?
MY: Well, he was spitting on me! It was like, [mimics spitting] and I’m like, “what the fuck are you doing?” So I went up and I grabbed him by the head and he opened his mouth and I went [hacks] and spat in his mouth. It was fucking disgusting, but we became friends after that. Actually, check this out [lifting shirt to reveal a decent-sized yellowish-purplish bruise on his side]. Can you see that?
I, wow, I see that [IN: it was gnarly].
MY: a fucking woman bit me the other night. We we’re playing, and she came up and bit me. I’m singing and she goes [biting sound]. I’m like, “what the fuck was that?”
TH: I didn’t know that. That’s awesome.
MY: It didn’t actually hurt at the time but now it really fucking hurts.
I can imagine. Maybe she took some inspiration from your first album’s title, Bite Your Head Off.
TH: Yeah, bite your chest off [both chuckle].
As you mentioned before, you tour seemingly constantly. What keeps you going – besides the stereotypical answer “the fans,” because anybody can say that – what’s the King Parrot secret?
TH: I think we just like it.
MY: We like to tour, we all like to travel, and we all like performing – that’s the thing for me, anyway. It’s therapy, you know? I love getting in front of an audience and going fucking crazy.
TH: I just like playing drums every day in a different city. I don’t really do it for the fans, I do it for myself, and for me mates. The fans are part of it, but… I’ve played music my whole life and I’ve always done it ‘cause I like it. It’s awesome that other people like what you do, but ultimately, if you want a real answer, every band could say the same thing: you do it for yourself.
MY: With King Parrot, we’re all a little bit older. We’re a new band, we’ve only done a couple of albums but all the guys have been around in bands in Australia. It’s kind of hard to find the right combination of people where can just get up and go overseas and tour all the time. We’ve [had] a few lineup changes, but it was always important that if we were going to bring someone new in, they were gonna want to tour and do all that shit and not go, [whinily] “unh, I don’t wanna go.” I’m tired, being away from home, sometimes, but if you want to try and make a go at things as a musician you’ve got to be prepared to tour these days. There’s no other real way to do it now, unless you’re fucking playing R‘n’B or something, which we’re kind of not [both laugh]. You’ve got to get on the road and play your ass off and put 100% in every night. That’s what we try to do.
These next questions are on Australian topics. You’ve probably heard that CJ McMahon from Thy Art Is Murder left the band because, basically, touring wasn’t worth it anymore [for him]. Did you have any thoughts when you heard about that?
TH: The whole “money in music” thing is a real issue these days. You can’t really rely on it anymore if you play heavy metal, I don’t reckon. We don’t make much. We make enough to survive and get to the next show, but when we go home we all go to work, even if we’re home for like two weeks – I think the last time we had about two months and all of us were working so that we had money to survive while we’re over here. He’s looking at getting married and having kids and whatever – he probably wants a more stable income, and you’re not going to get that unless you’re bloody… Metallica.
MY: Unless you’re one of the top handful of bands, you know what I mean? Some bands are certainly doing it, but it’s not fucking easy. You’ve got to be in the game for a long time.
TH: Especially as Aussies. Before we even put our pants on in the morning to go to the airport, we’ve already spent 20,000 dollars. I think that’s every Aussie band, because there are flights, visas, vehicle hire, getting your merch printed, all that kind of stuff all adds up and you’ve got to pay the bills before you pay the people in the band. The bigger your band gets, the more people you’re employing and paying.
MY: I think as an Australian band you’re certainly a little behind the 8-ball in terms of getting to America or getting to Europe – It’s a very expensive venture. We try to manage the way we tour and everything carefully. We have a great booking agent in Australia who understands what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to build it up. You’ve got to have a strategy behind it, otherwise you’re going to shoot yourself in foot.
In regards to CJ, I think he just wanted a different lifestyle. It is what it is – extreme metal is extreme metal. You’re probably not gonna make a huge [amount of money]. The number one reason you do it is because you fucking love it. Maybe he just doesn’t love it anymore, and that’s fine – everyone’s different, everyone’s situation changes. And more power to him, because he was such a focal point of the band as well.
TH: They’ve had a vocalist before CJ.
MY: It’s a tough thing to lose someone like that, but they’re all resilient guys and they’re kicking so much ass at the moment and that’s good for them.
So you, the band, are from Melbourne.
MY: I and the rest of the band are from Melbourne, Todd is from Brisbane. He’ll want that known, make sure to print it in the article [laughs].
TH: Best city in the world, that one.
I was wondering if there’s any sort of rivalry between Australian bands from different cities.
MY: Maybe a little bit here and there.
TH: I don’t know if there’s really any rivalry… Melbourne’s got the biggest scene in the country. Melbourne’s a very art-y sort of place. A lot of people move down there to pursue art or music careers and then they fall into the Melbourne lifestyle and don’t do anything with their life except work as a barista and pay expensive rent for a shithouse apartment.
That’s people from Brisbane that move down there, at least. But no, there’s definitely a lot more going on in Melbourne in terms of music. Brisbane shut down their venues and turned them into pokie halls [IN: ie, a kind of casino, from what I can gather].
MY: Sydney’s the same.
TH: Sydney’s got nothing anymore.
MY: It’s a real shame what’s happened in Sydney at the moment. A lot of venues are having restrictions put on them and they have to close by midnight or whatever.
TH: They’re doing that in Brisbane too.
MY: All that sort of shit. Melbourne’s got a lot of venues, heaps of bands – not just metal bands, all sorts of music. It’s become sort of the place to go for people in Australia if they want to get things going, musically.
Would you say there’s a reason for the difference between what’s happening in Sydney and Melbourne?
MY: Sydney’s always been more of a business-orientated sort of place whereas Melbourne’s a more culture-orientated place.
R: There’s also more public radio in Melbourne, which has been supportive.
MY: Yeah. This is Richie, our sound guy, by the way.
TH: He plays in a rival band of ours called Swidgen.
MY: Right [laughs]. We’ll meet in dark alleyways on Saturday nights…
R: Fight it out.
TH: I wouldn’t say there’s too much rivalry.
R: Not really, it’s all friendly.
TH: Yeah, if there is, it’s friendly.
MY: Because everything’s so spread apart in Australia, everyone sort of works together.
What are your plans for the future?
TH: Play as many shows as possible. [chuckles]
MY: When we get home we’ve got nine or ten shows, we’re doing a couple of small festivals, one in the desert in Alice Springs, which is going to be really cool, one over in Perth, then we play a couple of shows supporting Five Finger Death Punch which is going to be fucking hilarious. Then we’re heading to North America in May and June supporting Voivod.
We’re sort of halfway through writing our new album, so we’re gonna try and spend a little bit of time on that. After that, we’ll hopefully get back to Europe later in the year. We’re probably still a bit new to get onto the festivals, but maybe a couple more solid tours over here and a new record and we might be able to get onto some festivals. That would be a great thing for us. We’d like to spend more time touring Europe, that would be great.
TH: It seems to be a popular thing here –people in Europe have said, “you should be playing all the festivals.” Well, yeah, we’d love to, put us on if you can, and they usually can’t, so… [both laugh]
So we’re not on them, but they say we should, so if any festival promoters are reading this – and make sure to keep this in your interview – we are ready to play. We’ve done Soundwave in Australia, we’ve done a couple of festivals in America, Asian festivals…
MY: Yeah, we also did Obscene Extreme when it toured in Australia and Indonesia…
MY: Yeah, we’ve done quite a few. We’ll keep working at it. We fucking love playing – we’ll play for 10 or 20 people or 10 or 20 thousand.
And the last question, and this might be rhetorical: hypothetically, if you, King Parrot the band, were touring and encountered difficulties crossing a border and somebody helped you cross it through less-than-legal ways, would that person technically be a budgie smuggler?
TH: That’s a clever question.
MY: Actually, we got stopped at the border today, coming into Denmark. They came on the bus to have their little interview and everyone had to wake up hungover and shit, but they got us in. The police of Denmark were very friendly to us.
TH: I don’t know how much more you want an answer to that question, it’s kind of a funny one, isn’t it? We’ve all got clean records.
TH: And a lot of people seem to like Australians. It’ll go, “get out of the van,” “oh, g’day mate,” “where are you from?” “Australia.” And then they want to talk more about Australia more than they want to harass us. Which I think works in their favor because Australians are just a bunch of good blokes having a go, you know? So why give us any hass? [chuckles]
TH: Hass is short for hassle, by the way.
R: [laughing] He’s just made up his own slang.
TH: Oh, mate, that’s been going around for years in Brisbane.
R: Must be Brisbane-speak, I don’t understand it.
Great, well, that’s all I have. And I have to say, geez, I’ve had a good interview.
MY: Thanks for your support man, we appreciate it a lot.
TH: Cheers brother.
King Parrot are currently finishing up their tour in support of Soulfly, after which – as they mentioned – they’ll be doing a short Australian tour.