Napalm was already playing and recording, taking whatever limited opportunities arose in his native Germany. In the early ’90s, when industry and popular eyes seemed transfixed by the so-called Seattle sound, Napalm was looking to the southern hemisphere. “Everyone else was into Seattle, but I was into the Beasts Of Bourbon, and discovered from there The Scientists and Lubricated Goat, so that was my grunge experience. I spent years trying to assemble something similar in Germany, and trying to get people into it,” Napalm says. “With that music, you can be a rock band, you can be a garage rock band, you can assimilate country and blues influences, but still have a punk appeal to it, which to my mind is almost impossible here, in the oh-so serious Europe.”
Napalm was already transposing his affection for the Beasts, the Scientists and the Birthday Party into a local setting, notwithstanding the indifference of local audiences and the dearth of suitable venues. “We always shocked people,” Napalm says. “We were noisy and trashy, and if you are playing country, people assume that you’re a comedy act, or you had to be ironic about it, which we weren’t.” When he began listening to Napalm’s music, Dero was immediately impressed. “Tex’s music can be classy, violent, groovy, dark, still he will have a kind of relaxed attitude that actually makes his songs sound quite completed and efficient,” Dero says.
Dero and Napalm’s first recorded collaboration was the Sticky Singers album on French label Beasts Records. Despite the pair’s recorded music, Dero claims he and Napalm are still not technically writing songs together – it’s all improvised in the studio. “We haven’t started to write together yet – we’ve only improvised since we’ve met!” Dero laughs. “We improvise and press the record button – that’s it. Then comes the time for arrangements and Tex writes the lyrics when they’re not totally satisfying during the improvisations.” Napalm agrees that the pair’s collaborative process isn’t particularly scientific. “We are always totally unprepared,” Napalm says. “I will force Dimi to start on the drums, some pattern that he has in his mind, and we just go from there. I’ll assemble some harmonies. We’ll play it once, and decide if it’s good enough, or if there is something there, and then we record it, and that’s it.”
Napalm and Dero’s latest record, Partly Animals continues the pair’s dark, brooding, almost cinematic style. “I like to have different layers to the music so that you can discover different stuff every time you listen to it – I like atmospheric music,” Napalm says. “It would be totally okay to strip it right down to the pure rock roots, just the guitar and drums and vocals, but the more interesting way is to mix it up, because on stage we have to strip it right down.”
This week Napalm arrives in Australia for his first visit (Dero has toured here on three previous occasions, both with his own band, Dimi Dero Inc, and as part of Penny Ikinger’s backing band), playing a series of gigs over a three week period. Dero had already arranged a holiday in Australia when the opportunity to play some shows with Napalm arose. “The initial plan was to come as a tourist for once, as the three previous times I went to Australia, I was always busy touring with Dimi Dero Inc and Penny Ikinger. And as it was going to be my birthday, I thought, ‘Okay, let’s go there just to party for once’,” Dero says. “And then Tex said that this time he was coming along – which I was expecting for a long time,” Dero laughs. Serendipitously, Loki Lockwood agreed to release Partly Animals on Spooky Records, and Napalm and Dero were invited perform at the tribute shows in honour of Rowland S Howard to be held in St Kilda on February 28 and March 2. “It’s just insane! So long tourism,” Dero laughs.
For their Australian shows, Napalm and Dero will be joined by Beast Of Bourbon bass player (and former Surrealist) Brian Hooper. While Napalm is familiar with Hooper’s music, both as a member of the Beasts Of Bourbon and the Surrealists, and his solo albums, Napalm hasn’t previously met him. “Dimi was in touch with him, and Brian was staying with him in Paris. It’s an honour to have him on bass. We’re looking forward to seeing his interpretation of the songs on the record,” Napalm says.
BY PATRICK EMERY