Saturday, October 24, 2009

Interview: THE RED PAINTINGS - Scarlet Fever

Trash McSweeney. He's not like other people. A man as phenomenally driven as he is talented, Trash is the singer/songwriter/guitarist/manager/set designer/promoter and underfed chef for The Red Paintings. He is also the mastermind of their forthcoming Animal Rebellion tour which sees giant papermache animals boarding a UFO ark in a tour of the nation's shopping malls. Confused? I'll let Trash explain:

"What the Animal Rebellion tour is about is saying: Humans are selfish. We rent this world, we don't own anything that we live on. I thought 'what is getting neglected the most here?' Humans are always thinking about them them them, they don't think about the animals - we neglect them in so many ways. Scientists are engineering animals these days; even KFC is getting three or four wings out of a chicken, so The Red Paintings are genetically engineering animals like a preying mantis with a rabbit and we're marching them into Noah's Ark which is a UFO. This time we can't return after the flood, it's too late - we're burning and scorching the world, the only way for the animals to exist is to get on a UFO and go to another planet. I think it's important to be talking about things like this because it really is serious. Maybe there is a time when we can't go back, maybe we're at that time already."

This kind of drive and individualism is a rare thing to behold, and in Trash's case, so pronounced as to contribute to a collapse and seizure three weeks ago. "I collapsed in the airport, I started turning blue and my manager freaked out and broke my jaw trying to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I woke up in hospital, went home and started playing this piano that was in my room that I'd never played before and wrote We Belong In The Sea which is on the CD."

These sort of extreme experiences seem to fuel The Red Paintings - "You've got to utilise what you've got. Everything is recycled - plastic, thoughts, feelings. There is so much wasted energy." The making of their new CD is another example: "When we got back from the Dresden Dolls tour we were $50-60 000 in debt; we got our gear stolen in Chicago and Adelaide. We came back and began dealing with labels and getting contracts from big management companies and I was like: 'I'm not gonna go this way, I can't do what you're asking me to do'. So I put a call out to fans around the world and all of a sudden we had enough money to finance the EP." The resulting EP Feed The Wolf, produced by New York IDM artist Tidy Kid, is already seeing their articulate art rock getting fawning reviews. Their music is characterised by relentless intensity, serrated guitars and lyrics.

The gloriously arranged strings are a product of another dramatic episode whereby a collapse in a supermarket several years ago saw Trash regain consciousness with synethesia (the involuntary triggering of colours when hearing sound) which has since influenced all the music he makes and hears. So what can punters expect to see and hear at their forthcoming Melbourne show? "We're going to build a forest in that venue, there will be moons over the stage and everything. The music, the public happenings and the art; it's a unit, like the Dada movement. That's what the radio doesn't understand, they think we're all about gimmicks - we're an installation band, we're not just a fucking rock band. I feel so blessed with all the negatives - I wouldn't have come up with Animal Rebellion if all the circumstances that happened in the last year of my life hadn't happened. Blessed." Trash McSweeney. Not like other people.

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