Few New Zealand punk bands have stood the test of time as STICKY FILTH have. 2011 marks the band’s 26th year of the band’s existence! It’s been a long and windy road but this legendary Taranaki band has reached another milestone with the release of their new album ‘Fourth Domain’. Frontman Craig Radford (vocals / bass) discusses new album, witches and 26 years of punk rock ‘n’ roll history…
NZRock: The last year or so has been pretty full on for STICKY FILTH with both you and Chris being seriously injured in separate accidents. How’d you manage to get the album out with all that going on?
Craig: Well we were lucky enough that the music was recorded. I think since Chris’ accident he’s gone back and done the remaster on it with Evan Short but the music was all done so it was only a matter of doing the artwork and a lot of that was taken care of by Alastair Tattersall. We’d tried a few things on our own, had a few ideas and they just didn’t work. So I went and saw Al and he jumped on board. We’re really grateful because he’s done a lot of work for us and you can see it in the end result. Dean from ElevenFiftySeven Records has been a big help as well because he’s made CDs before. But all the artwork on the album is from Alastair. He did the type-setting on ‘Weep Woman Weep’ too so he was the obvious choice. He roadied and did lights for us for years anyway so he’s part of the whole STICKY FILTH family. It’s worked out good and we’re all very pleased with the end result and we’re grateful that he’s given us all that artwork.
NZRock: How important was it for you guys to get this album out?
Craig: It was important to get it out because a lot of people have done a lot of work on this album. It’s not just the three guys in the band. That’s why it’s important to get it out because otherwise all the work has been for nothing. It’s just about like we’ve given ‘Fourth Domain’ back as a present to us and everyone else who’s been involved in it. We all put a few ingredients to make a cake and it finally got chucked in the oven and there it was, the album came out. Anyone that’s had anything to do with the making of this album knows what they’ve done and we all know as well.
NZRock: What was it like working with Zorran Mendonsa and Evan Short?
Craig: Zorran and Evan worked really well together. They’re a great team. Everyone goes on about needing these big studios and that. It’s not about the studio. Zorran recorded a lot of that in his bedroom – all the vocals and stuff. Of course we needed the studio to record the drums and bass live. That’s a live recorded album, no click track. We don’t use click tracks and we never will. I’ve got enough noises going on in my head without another once clicking away in there haha! Evan was involved in the mastering of ‘Stainless’. He was also in CONCORD DAWN and remixed two of those songs off that album. Now he’s in COBRA KHAN and I’ve done the singing for them… so everyone is interconnected. It’s a small group of people really. But they’re a great team. Zorran is pretty sought after and I think we were quite lucky to get in there when we did. He’s just got a gift of being an engineer you know. But hey, all we wanted was the sound that comes out of our amps to go on the recording and I think they did that. There are not a lot of people who can do that. It’s important for the mixer and the masterer to work well together and they did a great job.
NZRock: How much of the STICKY FILTH song vault did you clear out recording ‘Fourth Domain’? You’ve got a mixture of old and new songs on there right?
There’s one song that I remember called ‘Tidal Wave’ that we haven’t done. That was a song that we could’ve probably recorded but we can do that next time. We’re pretty much all recorded now. But yeah there are some songs that have soldiered around for a while and there are some brand new ones you know. ‘Leave In The Morning’ was written at rehearsal. The final lyrics for ‘Crimson, Red and Indigo’ were written on the floor in the recording studio before I sung them haha! I remember staying at Boot’s house because I was up in Auckland to do the recordings. I thought I’ll go to sleep and I’ll wake up in the morning and I will have had those words come to me in the night but they didn’t. Then they came to me, I had an idea and then it all happened and they were born. They sort of get born in front of your eyes really. Some of those songs we’ve been playing for a long time but they were never really finished properly, and some are new. We’ve also got the acoustic ‘Hate Remains’ on there that Gee recorded which is a fitting song for the end of the album. Any STICKY FILTH fans will know that’s an acoustic version of a song from ‘Stainless’.
NZRock: It’s amazing how that song works both acoustically and as a punk rock song.
Craig: Yeah it’s an out of it one because on ‘Stainless’ it’s recorded in an E but when I play it on acoustic guitar I play it in D. That song was recorded in one take. I went to Gee to record some of my acoustic stuff and when he was setting up I said hey, just record this. That’s exactly how it was and I think he caught it. I probably couldn’t do that again and that’s the beauty of recording live. I really liked it and I liked the way that the song had changed but remained the same. And it was the most unlikely song that you’d ever think would be an acoustic song, the barrage that it is. Because it’s a hard song to even play and then acoustically it’s got it’s own sort of thing. When you listen to ‘Fourth Domain’ you’ve got this barrage and then you’ve got that song which probably has the harshest lyrics on the album but it’s on acoustic haha! So yeah, I’m glad it’s on there.
NZRock: What is the song ‘Crimson, Red and Indigo’ about?
Craig: I don’t really have any formula for my lyrics. They are what they are. I look at them sometimes later on and go fuck, that song is about that! I don’t actually write much about anything but they sort of come to me out of the sky. I don’t force them and they seem to happen. But indigo is to do with the Indigo people. They’re the sort of next generation of leaders that are coming through now and crimson red is blood. The past is history and all that. That song is such an ironic song… it’s like I wrote it after all of this happened. You know. “In this fourth domain, the management of change, broken hearts and broken bones…” fuck! I must write a song called ‘I Just Won Big Wednesday’ haha! After Chris’ accident I looked at the lyrics and then I had mine and I look at them and go Jesus, there’s a whole different meaning to a lot of the things on there. But everyone’s always got different meanings. Sometimes a song can have a different meaning to you later on in your life or whatever.
NZRock: You’ve worked on the rigs in Taranaki in the past and listening to ‘The Witch That Got Away’ I can imagine you writing those lyrics while looking back at land…
Craig: Yeah a lot of those lyrics I wrote when I was working offshore on an oil rig. On a clear day you can see the land and you could see the lights at night on certain clear nights. And you get windburn. There are a lot of references in this album to working. Basically we’re a working class band and I really noticed that when the White Heart shut down. I looked around there and it’s a working class pub you know. A lot of lyrics come to me when I’m working. There are a lot of references in there that you’ll only know about if you have worked on an oil rig. ‘Said The Labourer’, see that song is for every labourer. Then you’ve got ‘One Flew Over’ which is a made up story about some aliens landing in a paddock outside my house and me and my mates jumping on a space ship. And then you’ve got ‘Beady Beady’ well what’s that about? I don’t know, you tell me. I don’t really analyse the lyrics but I do read them every now and then and go what the fuck was that about? haha! It’s just a bunch of stuff joined up and like I say, they’re made up true stories.
NZRock: Witches have appeared on all of the [past STICKY FILTH releases but I think you’ve said before that it wasn’t intentional. Were you surprised when it happened again on ‘Fourth Domain?
Craig: I was actually. It’s funny that you say that because I was looking at it going hey, there’s another witch haha! There’s a witch in all of them. There’s been witches being burnt and ‘600 Witches’ on the first thing that we ever did – the ‘What Is The Place’ compilation. Then you’ve got ‘The Witch Of Fitzroy’, ‘The Burning’, then ‘Witch Hazel’, ‘Witch That Got Away’ and ‘Nadia’. Gotta have a witch in there somewhere haha! And this one got away. But yeah, that’s all by accident. It wasn’t like hey man, we need a witch song.
NZRock: STICKY FILTH is known as a Punk band but when you take your entire career into account it’s hard to pin a genre on the band. What genre do you consider it to be?
Craig: Most of the songs I write have got three chords in them. I play a lot of blues and I think that’s reflected. And punk rock has got three chords as its basic structure. Rock ‘n’ roll.. it’s sort of how I tend to play, pretty simple stuff and it is what it is you know. There’s blues in there man. That’s what I’ve come to realise. When I’ve started to stand back and listen to everything it’s like hey, this is the blues. It’s punk rock blues you know, whatever you want to call it. We get to play at the heavy metal festivals and the punk rock festivals and we’re the most un-metal band at the metal festivals and the most un-punk band at the punk festivals but we sort of fit in the middle somewhere. Music has just turned into this massive melting pot of every sort of music. I appreciate all types of music and it doesn’t have to fit into a genre. Other people want to give it a label and good luck. I can hear metal in there, punk rock and blues. I call it “soul music” because it’s from us and it always has been.
NZRock: When you listen back to the songs on ‘Fourth Domain’ do they remind you of different eras of the band’s history?
Craig: There’s no song there that’s reminded me of that. I just hear it as the piece it is now. Of course I’ve got memories of lots of different things. Right now I’ve got that CD and I’m listening to it in my car and I just listen to it as it is. I’m not reminiscing on anything. I’m still hearing things in amongst that stuff and you go from having your favourites. I think it’s an album. There is a start and a finish. It is a story… it is a chapter that album. When I look back on the other albums they all are too. I didn’t know that but ‘Weep Woman Weep’ is, ‘Nektar Der Götter’ is, ‘Stainless’ is… that’s a huge chapter, massive chapter. And now this one. I don’t know how many chapters there are but you know, it’s taken 26 years to get four.
NZRock: Brian Wafer from Ima Hitt has always really backed STICKY FILTH. How did he help the band?
Craig: There’s no way we would’ve got those albums out without Brian. I know that for a fact. There was no way we would’ve got ‘Weep Woman Weep’ out like we did. We may have fumbled and stumbled through there and got something done like it but we wouldn’t have been able to do that and be free to just write and play music because someone would’ve had to take on the organising role and none of us wanted to do that. We were left to write songs and play gigs and basically Brian managed us and got us to do thing and steered us in the right direction. I think there was something he really liked about us. We worked well together there and we got results.
NZRock: STICKY FILTH has really lasted the test of time. You must be pretty much one of the last remaining New Plymouth bands from that time and one of the longest running punk bands in New Zealand. How come you guys have survived this long? What made you keep going?
Craig: I don’t know how that works. It’s pretty easy to stay together if you like each other you know. I think that’s half of it… I think that’s all of it really. The band has always been a bunch of friends playing together. We’ve had some drummers come and go but you know, there’s three mates in a band and I think there’s no reason not to play. There’s never been a reason for us to stop except getting killed… which nearly happened. You just think it’s going to be there forever not that you take it for granted but then you realise fuck it could be taken away. I always say to people that any gig could be last gig. You never know. You’re not going to live forever. Things change and rearrange and they all end up back the same really. Like here we are, New Plymouth has got a record shop and we’re doing a signing there and they’re selling records in old Ima Hitt. It’s where Ima Hitt originally was when I first went there. I’d love to put this album out on vinyl, 26 years later back at the record shop. How’s that for going around in a circle! The circle of life or whatever. The world turns around and here we are back at the record shop. Who would’ve thought?
NZRock: I’ve noticed that wearing a STICKY FILTH t-shirt in any New Zealand town almost always leads to random people coming up and telling a story about how they know the band. I have friends over in Australia who’ve had the same thing. Have you heard the same thing from other people?
Craig: There’s something about that. T-shirts have been something that we’ve always made and we’ve made good quality shirts, that’s been important. They seem to last the test of time and you can spot one a mile away. When you’ve had one you’ll spot someone in a STICKY FILTH t-shirt down the end of the street and you automatically seem to have have got some sort of kinship. Because to wear it really means that you know something about it, so you’ve got something to talk about. But those words, for some reason they jump out. It’s funny the words STICKY FILTH, to me now it’s just like being called John of Dean or whatever, it’s the name of our band. But it’s a name you don’t forget so maybe it’s worked to our advantage. I tell you what, don’t have STICKY FILTH written on your guitar cases when you go through customs though… “Sticky Filth? Come over here!”. So we were like lets not work together through the airport, keep separate. Learned that the hard way haha!
NZRock: I’ve heard some tales of New Plymouth’s rock scene being fairly rough back around the time STICKY FILTH was starting out. What memories do you have from then?
Craig: Well there’s a lot of folklore and stories but when you’re in amongst it, it doesn’t seem like that to you. Looking back on it yeah, it was tough, it was rough, it was hard, and there were riots and violence, but when you’re in amongst it you’re just living it. But there definitely was a time when things were different. Whether they were tougher or easier than they are now I don’t know. But other people will come and say fuck it was rough then. Hey you know, as time goes on sometimes the fish gets bigger in the stories haha! But 26 years was a long time ago and when you start playing in a band, you don’t know you’re going to keep playing that long so you’re just living for the next weekend. We played everywhere and to everyone and it was a good time to be in a band back then because there were less noise control rules. But back then they had a riot squad and they were pretty serious when they showed up. So whether it’s tougher now or tougher back then it is what it is. You’ve got to make the most of what you’ve got at the time and when you’re in the middle of the best party that you’ve ever been in you might not realise because at the time its just a party and you’ve got lots more to have. I can only speak for myself but everyone’s got their own idea. The band has become a 26 year timeline for people’s lives including my own. Once upon a time the Daily News wouldn’t advertise STICKY FILTH would be playing at a pub and now they ring me up and want to do an interview haha! But different times, different things happen. That’s a true story you know, when we were playing out in Bell Block the newspaper refused to put the words “sticky filth” in. We had to change the name of the band to SHADY FRONT haha!
NZRock: ‘Fourth Domain’ gets released on 14 November and you’re talking about gigs in the New Year. What else are you up to between now and then?
Craig: I’m taking my COPPERPLATE and acoustic stuff down to Gee in Wellington, I’m getting it mastered and I want to get it out. We had 28 songs with COPPERPLATE and we had done a recording of six songs. I had this near death experience with this accident, not that I nearly died but it let me know that I’m not immortal and now I’ve got all these half finished projects floating around everywhere that I listen to. It’s only me stopping them from being sorted so I’m working on that at the moment. The STICKY FILTH thing has been a big undertaking in the condition that we’ve been in. We’re just very lucky we had all the recording done. So we’ll see how we go.