M+N’s Article: Gala Mill by The Drones


Dog Eared:

I’m Here Now:

Words From The Executioner To Alexander Pearce:

I Don’t Ever Want To Change:

Work For Me:

I Looked Down The Line And I Wondered:

Are You Leaving For The Country:

Sixteen Straws:

“I’m recording, shut up” – so begins Gala Mill, The Drones’ third and latest album of existential ballads and beer-soaked barnstormers. It’s an abrupt start. Half of the first syllable is lost in the moments between hitting ‘record’ and the machine’s reaction.

This laconic phrase stands alone – it’s the only obvious human presence for the first twenty seconds of the album. Dogs bark in the distance. Crickets sing beneath the grass. Then an electric guitar comes crashing through the door with the menace of a wronged man. Its ugly and distorted form portends violence, uncertainty and hostility.

When the band lumbers in behind it, like a rough-and-ready posse, Gareth Liddiard gives the menace a human voice as he delivers the proper opening lines.

Strontium 90 / Removed from milk

This is ‘Jezebel’, a song as malignant as its title is seemingly benign – a song ridden with cancerous thoughts, shocking visions and depictions of hatred. It’s a song about madness and horror. About feeling hysterical and helpless. And a radioactive cow named Jezebel – a glowing reminder of Australia’s history of nuclear testing. It’s a gloriously suffocating way to start a record that ruminates on 2000 years of terror, love, fragility and joy and spits them out with rude disregard.

Cancer’s airborne now / Do you hear the sound? / I was hanging out the washing, man / As the rain come falling down / Now the grass like snakes / Has crowns of iodine and fire / On Jezebel’s luminescence / I swear to you my heart’s desire

Sipping on beer and slowly burning through cigarettes in his Northcote lounge-room, Liddiard – songwriter, guitarist and lyricist with The Drones – offers up an explanation or two about what inspired this harrowing song. “Jezebel’s the cow that ate nuclear fallout in Northern Queensland, near where I was born,” he starts, talking with the same gnarled voice he sings with, all squashed vowels and lazy diction. Fiona Kitschin, bass player with The Drones and Liddiard’s partner, prepares dinner in the kitchen as the interview carries on in the lounge-room. An acoustic guitar leans against the red couch over Liddiard’s shoulder. An unplugged electric guitar sits in his lap, his fingers intermittently wandering the fretboard – it’s the shiny new baby of Dan Kelly, Liddiard’s former housemate and bandmate (he was in Kelly’s backing band, The Alpha Males), who is over for a meal and a few beers.

“They did heaps of nuclear tests in Australia – in South Australia and off the North West Shelf in the ocean,” Liddiard continues, fingers wandering. “All up in the Southern Hemisphere in one year, I think 1962 or 1963, they let off sixty atomic and hydrogen bombs. Then the wind blew across the northwest to the northeast. It rained and the cows ate this grass that’d been polluted with all this fallout. Yet at about the same time they were pushing kids to drink more milk to help the dairy industry. So kids were drinking all this shit and the CSIRO were using bones from autopsies of kids who died of unnatural causes. They were grinding them up and testing for levels of strontium 90 and iodine.”

And that’s just the topic in the first verse. ‘Jezebel’ is an ambitious and, by Gareth’s own admission, heavy song. “It was going to have a different name that was more hysterical – but I figured, fuck it, name it after a cow,” he says with blunt irony. “It was going to be called ‘Death and Only Death’ or something equally as horrible as the song.”

Musically, ‘Jezebel’ stutters, clambers and then explodes, equally holding back and yielding to nihilism with disgust. The band follows Liddiard’s lines to their darkest places, embellishing and emphasising in the verses, then finding a bittersweet hope and light in the chorus.

“The song’s a catalogue of nasty shit you see on TV,” he says, distilling seven gruesome minutes into a central idea, “like Daniel Pearl, the first journalist [in the Middle East] getting his head chopped off on video.”

Yeah, Dan Pearl / They cut your head off on TV / But I am not a camera / A man is not an effigy / But still, all of this horror / Has made a trench out of my soul / I’m gonna have to fall in love / With a blind girl / So that she will not see / The shame that I know

As Liddiard laconically rattles off what makes up the song’s tattered catalogue, the weight of the modern world seems to be bearing down on this one track. “It’s got everything in it. I can’t remember writing it. We hadn’t played it before we recorded it, so I was excited about it. It goes from the Beslan [Russian hostage] thing to the Middle Eastern shit to the never-ending war they’ve got planned for us now,” he says, brow furrowed.

All this evident thought comes with a payoff: The Drones prove with Gala Mill they’re a band whose work is of an intensity without par in Australian music right now. But the three albums they have released so far are directed toward radically different ends. Here Come the Lies, the 2002 album that was the band’s first widely available release, celebrated their ear-drum-shattering power and visceral presence as a live band. It was put to tape with a kind of abandon, and it plays like it at home – a thing as close as a studio recording comes to capturing the heady catharsis of over-cranked guitars and Friday night sweat. Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By from 2005 was more ambitious, an attempt to bring together the band’s ballads and rockers with a dash of experimentation: field recordings crackle, songs veer off to white-outs of piano notes and washed-up feedback. And Gala Mill was recorded in more relaxed circumstances – it was largely recorded sitting down, Liddiard says – but its commitment to an uncompromising idea bears a different kind of intensity to that wrought by volume. The space in these songs allows Liddiard’s lyrics to present themselves as never before. Here, then, it’s an intensity of lyrical focus and vision. This is most apparent in the album’s stunning bookends – ‘Jezebel’ and ‘Sixteen Straws’, the latter a stark song with its genesis in a traditional Australian convict song (‘Moreton Bay’) and Liddiard’s fertile imagination.

Taken together, Liddiard’s work with The Drones regularly describes a kind of existential horror. He etches a place of mental horrors; where outside breaks in and dirties up the pure heart: the child becomes criminal, the cow becomes radioactive, the man becomes puppet in a fifty-year war. But as we talk on a cold Melbourne night, it’s ‘Jezebel’ that elicits the strongest response from Liddiard. Its subjects seem the most concrete and topical of all The Drones’ material so far, a collection of interlinked thoughts on the contemporary global situation. After the cow’s opening stanza, the lyrics shift their action and era by deploying that old literary favourite – epistolary. “But you wrote me a letter,” Liddiard sings at the start of the second verse, “and this is how it went.”

It said ‘we’re backing up the supply lines / The first division’s crossing the Nile / Through the rushes and up the side / And into the machine gun fire / Tell me that this is not a dream / I’ve become a steel spring / Uranium tips night vision cruise missiles / Gonna cut the belly out of the sky / I rode an Abrams / We stopped in Bethlehem / They made the answers here / But there weren’t so many questions then …’

For the remaining five minutes, the song tours other lands, conflicts and moments of hysteria. “The whole thing is based in North Africa,” Liddiard says of its middle and ending sections. “There is a lot Muslim folks in the North of Africa – I’m sure this [war] will wind up there with them. It always does. It did in World War I and World War II – why is that going to change? If we’re going to wage war against Muslims – which is what we’re doing – why should it be any different to the last 1600 years of Muslim and Christian struggle for dominance?” Liddiard asks. “When they say [this war’s] not about religion, it is – it’s the most radical parts, but that’s what it is,” he adds, refuting the counterarguments.

Such lines of thought are his way. He talks in a rambling meter that shoots off on tangents and follows them to the point of exhaustion, holding them up, turning them, and letting the light in a few different ways. Clear logic and direct links often remain hidden, as if they were too obvious to mention. The evident thought and wit of his lyrics conveys this too – the poetic compression leaves more unsaid than said. ‘Jezebel’ is a stunning example of this; a song that only betrays its lyrical and topical ambitions when its verses are flayed in front of you. Even then, the effect is dulled. If, as has been said, ninety percent of musicianship is in the phrasing, you need to hear the thing to capture its full power. Liddiard’s delivery, too, is an idiosyncratic part of the band’s draw – sometimes bordering on inscrutable, the urgency of his vocals expresses something beyond the words.

Bomb proof the embassy / Give infanticide a cemetery / You look so good on the late night news / With your curtain and your deed / I love you like a violin / I hunt you like an amputee

It takes a certain madness or genius to glue together such disparate eras and ideas in one place. But the one true moment of inspiration for this monumental song is the start of the second Iraq war. Travelling in the United States at the launch of that conflict, Liddiard was struck by the blind faith and wide-ranging idiocy of the American people, particularly in their military adventures. “Everyone’s saying how these soldiers are saints and it’s not their war. And, yeah, it’s true, the majority of them are in a bad position and they shouldn’t be there. But there’s an element of guys who are loving it and they like killing people and they like killing ‘sand niggers’. So don’t fucking canonise them. That’s the whole thing with ‘hunt you like an amputee’ – it’s this desperate, horrible and patriotic love that Americans can have, which is just so sickening. So the song’s anti-everything. If we’re going to be xenophobic, then let’s do it like this and write everybody off,” he says.

Oh new scar / You have raised the bar / Goliath rides an oil drum raft / Through a cyclone in my ear drums / You don’t want a tyrant / We’re sure / You’d prefer a civil war / And I am gonna lose my skin

“Unfortunately, it’s same old story – now you and I can’t go to Iraq and places like that,” Liddiard says. “They’ve fucked it, all these paranoid arseholes – whether it’s the goodies or the baddies doing it. It’s fucked, in a selfish way, that they’ve wrecked the world for us. John Howard’s said we’re going to be doing this for fifty years. I’ll be eighty years old – and hopefully I’ll make it to eighty. Obviously those 100,000 people in Iraq killed for doing nothing, they’re not going to get to that age. It’s horrific.”

I ain’t gonna see you again / Again

Convicts. Colonies. Cannibals. All three take their place at the heart of Gala Mill. Indeed, The Drones have done something intentionally uncool with the new record – they went and put together a set of songs that draws heavily from, and challenges, the history and mythology of white Australia. Recording in a convict-era mill in Tasmania meant the band was in the perfect place to conjure up these ghosts from the pages of history.

Considering this eighteen months later, Liddiard appears to have relished the challenge. “It’s so daggy to sing about Australia,” he says. “Part of [Gala Mill] was writing some colonial songs because people hate that shit. Well, they don’t hate it, they get the cringe. So to me it’s just like, ‘Cool, it makes you cringe,’ I’m going to play it.”

This provocative streak seems deeply ingrained. “I wasn’t fond of cool people in high school. I always had a grudge. I’m instantly attracted to something that someone doesn’t think is cool,” he says. “Taste and coolness – I hate that shit. It’s just another set of rules. I like Leonard Cohen and I like Abba. If it’s got a smattering of interesting stuff in it, then I couldn’t give a fuck.”

This seems like a guiding philosophy for The Drones – a kind of resignation combined with an unwillingness to compromise. It’s the force of their own convictions and the strength of their vision that makes them such a revered band. They’re cloaked by the kind of mythology NME-style rags would lap up – the years of low-paying slog, the harsh months in caravan parks, the blistering live show, the legal trouble, the label wrangling – but the band never consciously trades on it. Liddiard, for one, makes several sly references to hating ‘haircut’ rock and the NME – both symbols of alternative rock’s current obsession with status. (He uses both as shorthand for everything he considers important music not to be – dismissively referring to a group once in the interview as “just a bunch of hairdos”.)

So for Gala Mill, the model was less Jet-style poseur rock than it was seminal 1970s and 1980s Australian punks X. Liddiard uses Aspirations, X’s freewheeling debut studio record, as an example of the approach he wanted to bring to this round of recording. Aspirations “is awesome,” he says. “It’s completely Australian. Total Aussie. This yobbo accent – there’s not a hint of trying to be American or anything like that. The sense of humour is really Australian. It’s hard rockin’ and songs are about fucked things that happened, but told in a funny way. It was made in a really carefree way, too.”

To Liddiard this reckless Australian spirit is what makes X more appealing than someone like The Saints (who he fingers for putting on a Yank singing accent). X went in with the intention of recording a single, as Liddiard tells it, and after the first track failed to get the thumbs up from the engineer, the subsequent tracks only suffered the same response. X had recorded fifteen songs and none them was a single. This process inadvertently saw them cut one of the best albums to emerge from Australia’s early punk scene.

Whether truth or myth, it was this insouciant approach The Drones wanted to mirror in their efforts recording Gala Mill. New drummer Mike Noga had just joined the band, Liddiard recounts. “He was from Tassie so it was his idea to go there. We wanted to go record for the fuck of it and not in a studio, because that’d be boring.” A series of phone calls to Noga’s friends and relatives followed. Five days later the band was on its way to a huge old mill with recording equipment and knob-twiddler/mic-placer Aaron Cupples (guitarist with Dan Kelly and The Alpha Males) in tow. The intention wasn’t to craft an amazing album, but to do some recording and play around with some half-finished songs. “This record was just something to do,” he says, nonchalantly. At the time, the band’s second record, Wait Long by the River…, was delayed under reams of lawyer’s documents, so they retreated to Tasmania when the chance arose.

“We smoked a lot of pot, drank heaps of booze, went for swims in the river and went for walks in the country. It was fucking cool,” Liddiard says. The band would sit around at night playing songs, filling in the gaps and getting them ready to record the next day. “Then we’d sit down the next day and bang it out in two takes each – one [test] run through, then just go and see what happened,” he says. “We were down there for a week. It felt like a holiday. By the time we got out of there and we’d finished the album, we were like ‘wow’. There was no effort at all, really.”

Although they probably won’t return to the mill for the next record, the sessions were preferable to the usual studio deal. “Generally, the studio can be such a headfuck – because of the pressure and the money – it’s almost like a lab,” Liddiard says.

“It’s fun [in the studio] but it’s a different headspace to being in the country in a convict-built mill, doodling,” he says. The relaxed approach was integral to their methods while there: “If it doesn’t work, don’t bother fixing it, just chuck it in the bin,” he says of their philosophy.

Consequently, Liddiard doesn’t think people should consider Gala Mill a defining document in the progression of The Drones. “By no means is it a statement of where we’re going – mellowing out or whatever. Not that I’d care if we were mellowing out, but people might think we’ve lost our edge – you know, doing a Nick Cave or something – but I’m not 45 yet,” he says.

This flash of concern seems momentarily uncharacteristic, the earlier admonishment of coolness still ringing out. But then he admits to thoughts about a particularly important and symbolic segment of their audience. “I get a bit paranoid. Our old crowd down at the Tote – the alcoholic set, the ones that were there at the start – they probably think we’ve gone soft.”

However the band may already be light beer in the old fans’ mouths by now – their last record garnered a big response from Triple J and rattled the critical gatekeepers enough to see it receive the Australian Music Prize (AMP). These clutches of fame and recognition are the type of thing to turn away any seasoned elitist.

Nevertheless, the AMP awarded landed $25,000 in the band’s bank account. No small sum when you’re living, as Liddiard notes, “hand to mouth”. The award also momentarily saw them thrust into the spotlight. Few moments were stranger this year than seeing The Drones, heroes of a hundred ragged late nights, appear bright-and-early on Channel Nine’s Today show – crackling in the morning light but unruffled by the slick interview moves of non-icon Richard Wilkins.

As this TV appearance suggests, their last record exposed them to previously unseen regions of the music industry. The music industry is a horrible thing filled with well-meaning people, claims Liddiard, commenting on what he saw during those months. “I couldn’t finger anyone and say ‘this guy’s fucked’. It is like everyone took a wrong turn one day and we ended up in a shit place. The more you get to know it, the worse it is,” he says.

It’s easy to grasp, then, that there’s no ‘market strategy’ behind The Drones’ music. To Liddiard, it’s a straightforward thing. “We’re not trying to impress some UK market or American market,” he says. “It’s about electric guitars. You plug ‘em in and you turn ‘em up really loud. It’s completely fucking juvenile. As you get older, you mature and it matures with you, but it shouldn’t pretend to be anything but juvenile. It’s that simple. We’ve had legal trouble in the past and you just go, ‘Fuck, all I want to do is get something like this’,” he says, thrusting a guitar in the air, “put it in an amp really loud with my mates and just go ‘right-o, let’s count it in and see what happens’.”

The irony, of course, is that ‘what happened’ in Tasmania over that week of recording should see the band gain even more European and American exposure. The record, like their last one, has been picked up by London-based ATP Records, the label run by the folks who put together the vaunted All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals in the US and UK. The Drones were signed after the label heads saw a “shit show – the worst show we’d played in ages – at the Prince of Wales [in Melbourne],” according to Liddiard. But with the contract ink now dry and album ready, the band’s heading to Europe for a tour straight after the run of Australian album launch shows ends.

The Drones will no doubt hope the tour runs a little better than moments of their most recent – and second – tour to the region. After wandering around the Continent like ragged Antipodean gypsies, they eventually based themselves in Berlin. When pressed Liddiard stresses this was for the centrality and affordability the city offered, not because of the Nick Cave connection.

“After four months of touring, the record company just looked at us and went ‘ergh’,” he recounts. “We were suffering from full-on exhaustion – we’d been living in a van basically. We all had our little nervous breakdowns there [in Berlin]. I wound up in hospital. I got gastro from stress. I went out one night and had a couple of absinthes. Before I knew it I was laying in a puddle of vomit and diarrhoea. I couldn’t stop vomiting. I was shitting and vomiting blood. We called an ambulance and off I went. I stayed there over night and they did all these tests. They couldn’t understand what I was saying. I think they suspected I was a helpless alcoholic because I must’ve stunk of booze.”

The overseas reception of Wait Long… was uniformly positive – all the tastemakers awarded it glowing reviews. It seemed reviewers couldn’t get hold of enough violent-sounding verbs and adjectives, relishing the chance to litter their prose with the glass shards of second-hand aggression. They descended on the Drones’ music – whether live or on record – like crime reporters to a murder scene writing urgent lines about the pools of blood, the smell of gunpowder and the hint of unease. They found, there, in the jagged strings and unhinged abandon of these Australian upstarts, the authentic rock & roll thing from Down Under.

It should be interesting, then, to see how Gala Mill plays around the world. Its ‘Australianness’ should be understood differently outside local borders, transcending the cringe and becoming almost exotic.

Gala Mill undeniably charts some familiar lines in the Australian unconscious, if not Liddiard’s unconscious. Be it the ragged blues lineage of The Scientists and Beasts of Bourbon or the down-and-out literature of Marcus Clarke and Henry Lawson. “Like certain events in your life, certain things you read connect with you more than others,” Liddiard says. “By no means am I a scholar. I’ve done too much damage to my memory to be that.”

But nonetheless there’s a poetic memory at work in his writing. He offers up the thirty-verse album-closer ‘Sixteen Straws’ as an instance where a story connected upon the first encounter. “I was reading a book and it had the first verse of a song (‘Moreton Bay’) as an example of something they were talking about. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a cool-sounding song, I wonder how the rest went?’ So I thought, ‘Fuck it, I’ll make it up,’ then I sat down and banged it out. I finished it while we were there [in Tasmania] – it was a good place to finish it.”

Such a marrying of traditions and new angles is something that carries across all three of band’s albums quite strongly. ‘Downbound Train’, ‘Motherless Children’ and ‘Dekalb Blues’ from Here Come the Lies are traditional songs given treatments that would make traditional bluesmen flinch. And Gala Mill has the band interpreting Karen Dalton’s ‘Move to the Country’ and cribbing from Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s ‘I Looked Down the Line and I Wondered’. While Gala’s ‘Sixteen Straws’ forges this violent re-imagination of ‘Moreton Bay’, a traditional song recorded by everyone from John Denver to Weddings Parties Anything.

One Sunday morning / While I was out walking / By the Brisbane’s waters / I chanced to stray / There I found a prisoner / Laid half in the water / He’d seen me coming / And he began to say

The straws of the title refer to an arcane method of assuaging Catholic guilt. In convict settlements, groups of despondent Catholics would draw straws. Those who drew the long and the short were fated: the long draw would be killed and the short would be killer. As suicide is a Catholic sin, all of those involved who lived could repent before God and magistrate, then be summarily killed by colonial authorities.

“It was an excuse to tell a ripping yarn,” Liddiard says of the song. “There was a Jew who was nice enough to let a bunch of Catholics top him so they could go to heaven without having to deal with hell. I thought that was a nice gesture from a guy who couldn’t give a fuck about Catholics. Maybe he didn’t go there of his own will, but from all accounts that’s what happened.”

Liddiard says that “freaky little things” like the true story behind ‘Sixteen Straws’ are the types of tales that appeal to him. But the ‘things’ don’t appear to be entirely random. What also carries across all three Drones records are the songs of outcasts, loners and whatever else you want to call marginal figures. Gareth Liddiard’s interest in the tales untold in modern Australian music is part reaction and part fascination. Stories of prisoners and convicts, in particular, appeal to him for personal reasons.

“I guess I’ve known a lot of people who’ve been to prison – although I’ve never really talked to them about it. That’s what piqued my interest when I was young, then I read a lot about it. I’m probably never going to go there, so there’s a fascination in that,” he says.

“And then there’s the thing,” Liddiard says, paraphrasing Dostoyevsky, “that you can totally rate a civilisation by their prison system. Like, Americans reckon they’re cool when they condemn Iraq, China and Russia, then they go and put people in an electric chair,” he says, adding a shocked emphasis to this barbaric means of execution. “At least the Russians have the decency to not put you on death row; they just take you out the back and shoot you in the back of the head. So if we’re going to talk brutality, who is more atavistic and horrible?

“Regardless, if you’re brutalising people, nine times out of ten it’s only because you’ve been brutalised yourself. So why, then, is a suitable punishment to brutalise you more? If you’re poor and you go and commit a crime, they just make you poorer. There really is no logic. So I can’t help but wonder and take interest in an answer,” he says.

Elsewhere on the album, this emerges as a concern too. With ‘Words from the Executioner to Alexander Pearce’, Liddiard again addresses the matter of human immorality and barbarity. Centred on a simple guitar and drum instrumentation, the spare arrangement emphasises the starkness of the narrative: Alexander Pearce, famed cannibal and prison-yard hero, meets his death at the hands of a man despised by the inmates.

Pearce’s story is the basis of a hundred long tales, but its essence seems relatively uncontroversial. Escaping from the Sarah Island Macquarie Harbour settlement with a band of seven men in 1822, Pearce and his group fought through the thick foliage and difficult terrain of western Tasmania for over 100 days. Their plight grew more desperate until members of the crew became physically and mentally weak. As food became scarce, the group began choosing targets among their number and, one by one, knocked them off with an axe blow to the head. Pearce was captured alone and pleaded to the magistrate that he had cannibalised the other men. This confession was disbelieved and he was sent back to prison, a hero in chains. Following his next escape with fellow prisoner Thomas Cox, Pearce was caught with bits of Cox in his pockets. He was promptly taken to Hobart and hanged.

“In Tasmania they love [Pearce],” Liddiard says. “Everyone loves a freak.” Pearce is their one-up tale on Victoria’s Ned Kelly, he suggests. But it’s been a scandal from the start – The Hobart Town Gazette’s description of Pearce on the dock suitably overdosed on literary melodrama: he was “laden with the weight of human blood, and believed to have banqueted on human flesh.” Liddiard was exposed to Pearce’s tale while travelling in Tasmania and something about this story snagged at his memory. Something to do, it seems, with Pearce’s dogged, animalistic persistence and drive for freedom.

“He was a survivor and he was hard as fucking nails. He’d overcome unimaginable things. You can’t imagine walking across mountains—and I’ve been to where he was and what he had to do get through. The vegetation’s like that,” he says, holding a hand up against his nose. “It’s inconceivable to do what they did. No wonder they ate each other – by the time they got to eating each other, I’m not sure it was that big a deal.

“He was an evil bastard by the end. But he’d done what God or Charles Darwin or whoever it is had intended, which was just to go on and survive. Then one day they hung him. It seemed like such a shame. He’d done everything he could in a lawless land to survive,” Liddiard says, “even though he went away from humanity and was an animal by the end of it. He survived with what he had, which was just a world of brutality and horror. So, yeah, I thought, poor guy.”

Liddiard outlines Pearce’s tale from the viewpoint of the executioner for good reason. “He was a cunt, too,” Liddiard quickly declares of the executioner, “I doubt he would have felt any connection with Pearce. But if he did, he wouldn’t have been too far off sympathy – they both kill people, they’re both predators, whether or not either of them realised that.”

In the end, Pearce’s execution seems futile, the almost comical act of an authority without authority. “There was no fix for Pearce – he was so far from normal, you know; he was a kid once and he was such a long way from that; there was no going back from there. So the executioner’s dealing the final blow, but in a sense this is Pearce going back – this is you in the womb as much as it is you in the grave. So it’s as much as a full circle as you’re going to get.”

Well your chaplain loves you / Death row boys / More than he loves me / He abandons you to prayer / Turns so he won’t see / You standing alone / As you were all long / To descend fear first / Abscond from the earth / Alone

We were meant to meet / Your exile is reached / You’re home.

“Some priest has written a really great book about Pearce’s travails,” Liddiard says, talking of sources. “And it, like good art – not necessarily art art– but a good biography, good autobiography or even a good song, knows you just don’t condemn anyone. If you just stay away from condemning someone you might learn something. Even like that Downfall film – the Hitler one – they didn’t condemn him, so then you get a bit of insight into him.”

But not everyone can handle such a treatment, as the controversy around that film suggests. “Some people think they’ll be tainted with knowledge of things that aren’t nice,” Liddiard says, adopting a dainty accent. “But you’re going to think the same thing, you’re just going to know more about what you think. You’ll be more solid in your convictions. Or you might change your opinion. In the end, you’ll basically learn to like people more, which will stop people like Alexander Pearce and Hitler happening.”

Of course, one other mark of good art is commitment to convictions in the face of a hundred options to depart from them. Gala Mill stands, then, as a true piece of art – committed, thoughtful and aware of its place. And The Drones, led onward by the charismatic Liddiard, stand on the cusp of something both great and well deserved.

I’m staring up into / A perfect night / Everything is so wrong / But the time is right / And for the first time now / I’m looking right at you / I am here now

Front album cover which the image was thanks to the late Spencer P. Jones.
The back of the album with tracklisting and photos where the recording taken place.
Close-up of band members at Gala Mill: Rui Pereira, Gareth Liddiard, Fiona Kitschin, engineer Aaron Cupples in window above and Mike Noga (Left-right).

First published on Sunday, September 24 2006 by Ben Gook under the title The Drones: Great Degradations

Today is as you can see/read is a re-post: a very old article written for the now long dead website Mess+Noise about an album recorded in March 2005 but then pushed back to 2006 release date: Gala Mill by The Drones. It’s such a great bit of writing and interview with Gaz about such a great album I hope, it’s OK? By all the party’s, they don’t mind me re-posting up here on my little music blog? I’ve embedded all the songs just above the full length article. BTW I did re-post a whole pile of my fave old M+N articles last year the tag is linked here. They’re all very hard to find online now because the way the website shut-down. Please do buy the music, if you enjoy it? I will add: a new vinyl repressing might be great too, right about now!

Cheers 🙂


  1. This line perfectly sums up America right now: “Travelling in the United States at the launch of that conflict, Liddiard was struck by the blind faith and wide-ranging idiocy of the American people, particularly in their military adventures.” Though we like to envision ourselves as a peaceful nation of do-gooders, America’s always been a warlike country. Makes me sick.

    Liked by 1 person

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