Dennis – Dark Horse has been a band now for more than 10 years. We’ve all been active in the Sydney scene for years and played in many different bands. Our first show took place in May 2011 after rehearsing and writing songs as a full band for less than 5 months. We all loved d-beat with a real fast and aggressive approach and took influences from bands like Disfear, Bolt Thrower, From Ashes Rise and lots of hardcore stuff, and felt the local scene was lacking a band like that at the time. By the end of 2011 we recorded a 10-track demo which opened up a few doors for us. The following couple of years we kept ourselves busy with playing every show we could, we put out a Live record and a split 7inch and eventually recorded our first album (Sick of the Living/High on Death) which was released just in time for our first European tour in 2014. Since then, we put out another LP, a handful more 7inches on several different labels, and toured as much in Australia and overseas as our lives would allow.
So the time has come, and your 3d album is finally ready. Let`s talk about it. How many songs did you prepare? Will, we hear something unusual or new on it?
Dennis – The new album is called “Trauma-Taught Self-Destruct“ and we recorded it earlier this year at Goatsound Studios in Melbourne, the same studio where we did our last LP “Bomb Thrower“ (2017). Due to the lockdown and Covid restrictions we had to postpone the studio time a couple of times which was annoying but also gave us time to write lots of songs. We ended up recording a total of 16 songs of which 12 will appear on the new album. The left-overs will hopefully appear on future releases. It’s nice when you have a couple of songs in the bank for a Split release or something like that. Stylistically speaking we didn’t stray too far from the path on the previous records. The songs are short, the speed is usually high, and the vocals are brutal. Listeners can expect the usual amount of straightforward dbeat coupled with a few real heavy bangers here and there, although we did manage to smuggle in a couple of nasty metal leads this time. Overall I would say the record fits pretty nicely in our catalogue. Some of these songs are close to 2 years old now so it really is high fucking time to unleash this beast to the world.
The album will be released at Grindhead rec, like your previous LP. So I guess you`re totally satisfied with this label, right? Tell us about the details, promo company and contract if you can, please…
Dennis – We’ve always been a band who likes to keep things DIY. From booking our first Euro tour to putting out records, we always felt that having total control over our output as a band is really important to us. Bubsy (owner of Grindhead Records) is a good friend of ours and operates very similar with his label. He’s been doing the label for a long time and has always helped and supported local bands, not in order to make a profit but for the love and passion of extreme music. Grindhead is as much part of the Aussie scene here as we are and deserve respect for their work.
Grindhead has supported our band pretty much from the beginning. Bubsy released our first 7inch (split w/ Black Jesus, 2013) as well as our first LP (Sick of the Living/High on Death, 2014). He took a gamble back then when he decided to put out our records because we weren’t a big band that sells lots of records (and still aren’t), but Bubsy believed in us and knew we were in it for the long haul. Plus by now I think he has bounced back from the financial losses . Anyway, when we asked Bubsy if he would be interested in putting out the new record he immediately said yes. Grindhead will take care of the CD and Cassette release, while the vinyl release will be handled by Grindhead in conjunction with our very own DHHC Records. There is no contract or obligations or anything like that. We trust each other, that’s got to be enough.
Kieren – Yeah, it has been up and down. Earlier this year we could play anywhere on the east coast and I managed to get a solo tour in then. But then it all closed down again when Delta hit and it’s just opening up again now. There have been some seated gigs, or gigs with pretty tight restrictions on numbers and behaviour etc. Right now (Nov 2021) we are starting to book shows for next year that we anticipate will be pretty much back to normal.
Kieren – Not really. There are a number of different scenes from different directions and not heaps of crossover. That said – Darkhorse are a point that a few people cross over on as we do something that works with HC, Metal, Punk, Grind whatever. Personally I will go and watch and support anything I can.
Kieren – I guess it feeds off itself. There have been grind bands doing cool shit here for a long time and it has even reached out past the small enclaves of punks and metalheads. Like Blood Duster playing Big Day Out (alternative festival) to thousands of kids and getting played on Rage (national music video program), hell – I played a free community festival in the mid 90s playing messy fucked up grind to a couple thousand local people, and then there have been those bands like The Kill, Cleanoff, who have kind of shown what amazing things can be done with grind. So a lot of people get exposed to it and go out and make their own.
Dennis – First I’d make some coffee. Then I would get out the bucket bong, we smoke some weed and I make the aliens watch the European Song Contest and tell them “That is not what hardcore and crust is about”. Then I put on Drop Dead…
Kieren – For me, because I have always bought records and cassettes, I like releasing them and getting them to people. It feels like you are sharing more than just a song, it’s getting the whole idea of our music across. That said – not everyone has the money to buy physical product or the place to store it, so digital certainly has its place. Releases are much smaller than they used to be cos very few people buy records anymore but I like to have it available for those who do.
Dennis – I’m happy to say that Dark Horse is free of brutal and/or psycho maniacs for a long time! We’re all pretty settled and relaxed, that is, until we hit the stage. Our shows are known to be intense and unrelenting, and sometimes it can actually get pretty wild. As a performer you seek the connection with the audience, so I’m happy to go pretty hard on stage to make sure my own energy can somehow ignite the energy of the room. That doesn’t always happen but it is great when it does. Off the stage we don’t shy away from a drink or a dance or a joke, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and go to bed early.
Dennis – Playing gigs all over Japan was great because even in small venues there is always great equipment and capable people who know how to mix their sound board, which is nice. But my favourite venues are in Europe where there’s a steady tradition of DIY and where people run their venues autonomously, network and offer an opportunity for others to get involved and become active, politically or otherwise. It’s great to play in a venue that stands for more than just entertainment and party, and where people defend anti-fascist and anti-racist values and offer an alternative to the grey and boring mainstream. To me these places feel like home, and the great thing is you can find them all over Europe.
Thanks heaps for the interview. So excited to get this record out and get playing again after this downtime. We hope to see you all soon!