When musician, actor, artist and political activist Ezekiel Ox announced the reformation of Mammal – the punk rock four-piece that garnered a cult-like following throughout the mid-2000s – fans of the band sang a collective “Hell yeah.”
But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing, reveals the proud father and frontman. “I cut my finger up quite badly at work yesterday and I actually had to cancel a gig. It was an acoustic show I was booked to do,” he says.
“To be honest I’m extraordinarily miffed that the injury stopped me from playing my guitar, which I’ve been doing for 25 years now, and something I get a lot of joy out of. But that’s OK, I’ll be back.”
A few little stitches were never going to stop the determined musician from getting the job done. Onstage his commanding presence forces you to stand and listen, while behind the scenes he is quick-witted and incredibly down-to-earth. “Mammal has always been an incredibly challenging project. Blending a hell of a lot of energy and four diverse personalities together to create something great, that’s what we try to do. It’s like a science experiment.”
Mammal exploded onto the scene in 2006 before calling it a day in 2009, citing a myriad of differences – both political and personal. “It was tough,” Ox says. “Seven years of not talking to each other and not being friendly at all is a long time. I’m sure that all of the guys would agree that it has been incredibly challenging and at times frustrating, but being back together, to be honest, has been one big fucking joy.
“Playing the (one-off reunion) gig at Max Watt’s in Melbourne was wonderful,” he says. “It feels good because we know that we’re in a strong place artistically, and because separate from being artists, we’re also people and it’s fun hanging out with your old mates again.
“But now we’re in that challenging phase that anyone who has tried to do anything in a group would understand, which is ‘How do we write together? What’s changed in seven years? What do we want to change?’ The hardest part is pleasing four people. It can be a real prick of a job being in a band, people think it’s easy and it’s all free beer, but it’s actually like being a counsellor.”
Don’t miss the rare chance to catch this beast of a band when they play one night only at the Corner Hotel later this month. They’ll be joined by Ox’s Superheist alumni Richard Norton’s latest project, Rifleman, and Adelaide rockers Figures. “Rifleman have released a wonderful new album and Figures have just released new material. Also, both bands have women in them at the moment, which in this 2017 post-Harvey Weinstein era is something we’re very interested in,” Ox says.
“And while they’re our friends there’s no point just putting your mates on, they have to be relevant. But it also just happens that all of our mates are extraordinarily beautiful and talented people – we’re very lucky.”
So as Mammal prepare to hit the road together for the first time in almost a decade, the question on everybody’s lips is: will we hear new music at these shows? “All I can say is that we’re working our arses off on it. We have plans to release new music, and when Mammal makes a plan we stick to it.
“It’s exciting,” Ox says. “These shows are going to be really funky and energised. When you’re seeing Mammal live you’re seeing something that has no contrast and a fuck-ton of punk rock attitude. We talk politics, like the Clash and Rage Against the Machine – we’re a band that isn’t afraid to stand up for what we believe in. It’s going to be all about unity, crushing racism, sexism, and homophobia, which is what we’re always on about.”