An outstanding Interview with Paul from Vicious Circle By Mark Jenkins on the eve of their album launch for Split This Open.

An outstanding Interview with Paul from Vicious Circle By Mark Jenkins on the eve of their album launch for Split This Open. 

Vicious Circle are one of the most legendary Australian hardcore bands to exist and a band that for many (along with Depression and Arm the Insane) was the gateway to punk/hardcore. For this writer, their 1985 outstanding album The Price of Progress changed my life as much as hearing international street-punk, anarcho-punk and New York hardcore bands. Multiple albums and tours have passed, but this band is still as important and as necessary as ever, the energy level of the music and its message remain strong. And the last few albums, particularly the latest album Split This Open is some of their best material ever. This is also an ingenious band that is sensational live and is future-focused, not a pastiche of past glories. So on the eve of the album launch, I had a comprehensive chat with their singer, Paul and it was lively, informative, insightful and genuine as expected. 

Vicious Circle Interview with Paul.

Split This Open dropped last month and is unbelievably your 16th album, it is an awesome record and definitely the energy and spite are so far from easing; walk us through how this album came about, the overall concept, the messages inside, be it the album title or the lyrical content?

Also, how was the production side of it at Goatsound and how well does this band blend together, I mean this line-up sounds like one of your fiercest and the tightest sounding?

I guess after the Born To Destroy album it was time to do something different, it was a natural progression and evolution, that may sound weird after so many recordings however that’s its element, blending other styles of punk, hardcore, Street music, and metal. We just had a bunch of songs and if a tune wasn’t working in some area, musically or lyrically we just scrapped it. There must have been around 20 jams written and we just took what worked. From my perspective l write lyrics and process them later, I’d find it impossible to do it any other way. It is like words are flowing so you just document them.

No real concept at first that worked, once l saw Jason Vassallo(singer of Christbait/now professional photographer) had taken a photo, an image that l found so striking that l thought it would work for the album. 
l was stoked he let VC use it, so it would become the cover, l just thought SPLIT THIS OPEN was a fitting title. I really like his photography its depth, character and scope. As for laying down the tunes and tracking we cut it at Goatsound with Jason Fuller at the helm, he knows the band and is great at capturing the right feel, energy, also he’s got no problem in telling me or the other band members,” nope do it again” which is fine with me. Also very relaxed and calm which helps, sounds kind of counterintuitive for heavy music, with its aggression and energy however very true.

I think the guys nailed it with a balance of aggressive playing and feel, I’m stoked with Yeti, Craig and Karl's execution of the songs.

This album sounds like a big change musically from your last two albums before it. Why did that feel like the right creative choice? Can you talk about what changed with the process on this album? Or was it just Fuller playing God on this one?

-Style-wise the first half of the album is very much a top-class standard VC album and the second half seems more modern style, with more metallic influence, was that the intention and also, I have to say the album flows perfectly from start to end, thoughts? Plus, it has so much variety like very fast tempo tracks like Mind Pollution, Anger Betrays, Nothing to Gain and Anti Human etc, punk classics like No Guts No Glory, the crazy groove of Cast Aside and my fave track the mighty New Age Zombie which sounds like Cro Mags on meth with some wild Mindsnare style riffage also. Thoughts?

-What would you say is the most personal song on this album, and what does it mean to you? and what are your fave tracks at this point in time? (yes, I realise I ask fucking long questions!!)

With the tunes Jason basically caught them how they’re intended, as a producer he has intuitive ideas and the drive to be creative without being harsh, both with music and phrasing. He is one of the best studio producers I’ve ever worked with. There is a balance and he achieves it, he cares about his work that can only motivate you. As individuals we all listen to a wide array of music, outside of punk and hardcore, that’s a given. With the punk stuff we recorded l like that it’s not over complicated and has that feel, l love stuff like Ruts, Cock Sparrer,Cockney Rejects, Blitz, Coloured Balls, Slaughter and the Dogs. Not that it dictates the sound .l dig the way the choruses are anthemic, and catchy but unlike pop music they convey something. With the more hardcore, heavy tunes that’s the flipside being ferocious, cutting it up and driving the tunes hard, l like that we have songs that continue to build as the album goes along like a crescendo. You write stuff as a band and at that time you have no real idea what people will think of it, once it’s out in the world it takes on a life of its own. I get it, when you hear certain sounds that remind you of other bands, to me that’s an energy thing, making comparisons, without the blues, we’d have none of it though. Lyrically l don’t have a favourite or one l feel is the most or more personal. l do however think the overall message in the words is a positive one, life-affirming. I would have to say BLOODSHED is fun, tongue in cheek, l like the rhythm, the way the drums and bass lock-in and the guitar chunk, if anything it’s a nod to Motorhead and Entombed. Craig (drums)had an idea about the running order of songs and it was what ended up being the album's flow.

You have always excelled at intelligent and reflective lyrics, in some of the writing around the band’s last few records there appears to be a lot of introspection and self-actualization you can really clearly hear in your lyricism; can you talk some more about that experience?

-Also why are lyrics so important to you and why is the message still as important as when you formed in 1983?

-Because your writing style is so candid, take me back as far as you want to go in the process of developing your voice? I mean vocally through VC, Rue Morgue and your other various projects you have been involved in; the evolution of your vocals is quite incredible, to be honest and how would you define your voice as an artist?

It's just being a human, trying to make sense of the chaos, like I’ve mentioned it’s more of an internal process and letting the words flow, l can’t really explain why, it is innate if you do or acquire a skill over decades it becomes natural, l know l just have to do it though. I also think age gives you something, you change, cultivate different experiences and see life in another perspective, less can mean more .l think the way you live affects your voice, and lyrics,in 1983 l had no idea what l was doing, that was the gift of it and the truth is I’m still learning. I really don’t see myself as a lyricist or vocalist in the traditional sense, have been lucky to play with some talented people. You have to be able to laugh, don’t take yourself so seriously. You will always find trends come and go, but passion remains because it’s part of you. I've actually had people tell me that the words have helped them through hard times, given them solace and that’s something l never thought about until told, if anything l do affects an individual in a positive way that’s a great compliment, way too much negativity in this world

As well as dropping this new killer album, you also signed to one of the finest current hardcore labels in Australia 1054 Records, how did it come about and how has the experience been so far?

-Is there a benefit from being on a label with large connections across Europe and the USA? What’s important when looking for a label to release your music?

-Does this mean the VC juggernaut will hit overseas again?

Peter from 1054 Records is straight down the line, he’s great to work with and motivated. With the label getting new ears to hear your tunes is always a good thing, lm happy that crew in Europe and the States will get to hear our music via his label. The importance of honesty and someone helping can’t be underestimated, basically

I sent him the album and he dug it. If he doesn’t like something it’s not coming out on 1054Records. Touring in 2024 would be great VC needs to get overseas again. Also thanks to you brother for putting VC on Pete's radar in relation to the new album so we could get this opportunity.

What do you think you can achieve creatively in live spaces that you can’t in your recordings and vice versa?

-Your live performances are energetic and fun. How have you cultivated your physical presence during performances over time? And what do you feel like you embody as a performer when you’re on stage?

- How would you say things have changed musically and socially over the last few years?

- How would you describe the music community/scene in your part of the world today?

-What venues seem to fit your type/form of music? Any challenges to getting gigs etc?

First up when you play live you want an environment that people can come to and enjoy themselves. That’s why you play live it’s an exchange, communication.

When you are younger it’s like bouncing off a wall, and in some ways it still is, l just do what l do, as with all of us on stage connecting, not thinking about it letting it just happen, have fun and release energy for the time on stage, lock into that moment.

The whole music thing is constantly changing especially after the period of Covid and with changes in social media platforms, in some ways, it's great in other ways it is fucking terrible, the actual things individuals say about people when they are removed from the reality of the situation behind a keyboard, words they’d never say to someone’s face.

I don’t get involved or want malicious, hateful people in my life.

The music in Melbourne has become so diverse with many bands, l don’t find any negatives in that. The thing is every generation, every year you have people discovering punk, hardcore, heavy music and they bring as individuals new ideas different circumstances, perspectives, remembering l was once in that position so being judgemental is pointless. Luckily there are many venues in Melbourne so in many ways bands are lucky to a certain extent, however l understand why bands book other spaces, especially if they are doing all-age stuff or connecting with other audiences, people find a way to make situations work.

What is most important to your creativity? What are the biggest challenges? What has being a musician taught you?

-What do you consider to be the most valuable resource for the work you do in VC?

- Do you seem to be getting more extreme or tangential with your musical tastes as you age? I mean Vicious Circle seems to actually get heavier with each release.

-Musically what are some of your early influences, what are you listening to these days? What was the last album you bought or loved? Any new bands or records you can recommend?

One is to be patient and really get a feel for what you are doing and never go down the path of doing something simply for money or other bullshit, it just never works if you compromise your integrity or vision. Changing something for someone who has not invested their creativity in the process is madness in my opinion.

Time is a resource that you need to use wisely, seems inconsequential when you are younger but age has a way of fixing that.

Haven’t really considered how heavy our material has been getting but it may have been the best way to express what was fundamental to the songs we’ve been writing, the best way to achieve what we wanted. Everyone hears things differently so you’ll get varying opinions which l see as part of the collective effort.

For me l initially dug 70s punk so much as a kid, l really invested time in collecting vinyl searching it out and discovering new music, that’s why in the early 80s when hardcore came into its own l was just totally on board with that transition.

I also think it was a global situation, just like punk had been, with bands playing faster adapting and mutating, and it keeps on happening. What’s considered on the outer or extreme becomes more palatable.

I listen to a lot of music. Everything from electronic, Dub, Death metal, ambient, garage, hip hop, hardcore, and jazz, recently I watched a documentary on Miles Davis which l found enthralling, just his total commitment to his craft also his failings as a human. The last albums l bought were by Wire, Canine, Napalm Death, Whitehorse, Raw Power, and lggy Pop, catching up on some stuff. As for bands and new music both live and released l enjoy Geld, No Class, Reaper, Knife, The Clinch, Choof, Enzyme, Jacker, Outright, Frame, Canine, Threat, Eight Count, Fever Shack, Whitehorse and Backhand, that’s more local.

What’s your opinion on making videos, art as in album inserts etc, i.e., making art vs simply providing a product, how do art and music intersect for you? Is social media the platform for underground music these days as opposed to us old punkers tape trading and listening to 3PBS radio shows all those years ago?

-How would you describe the band’s sound? walk us through some of your most important releases, what’s the main difference between your first and most current releases?

-Why did you pick Hardcore as your chosen musical genre?

-Who are or were your role models or guideposts for this impressive style of music etc, be it musicians or lyrical inspiration seem to excel at both.

Videos are a necessary evil,l think they can be really worthwhile however I’m more of a listener, l get that people sit on YouTube and the Internet and watch them I’m more interested in hearing an album, absorbing it that way via vinyl or headphones for deep listening. With artwork, lyrics and music they all interact and combine assisting each other in a final process. It all works on different levels, music art, really it's such an individual thing that hopefully translates, communicating what your idea or focus was. It can get to people on all sorts of levels say primal or cerebral, you hear something can’t understand a word, dig deeper read the lyrics and it strikes you as relevant or moves you.

Or the art on a cover draws you in without hearing a single song because on some level you relate to it.

The reason l like music is just the same as when l was a kid, you hear something a vocal line, riff, drum pattern whatever it is and it pulls you in as you look deeper into the lyrics and artwork

Definitely, social media platforms have become networks for music and getting what you do out there. VC had a tape reissued on Innercity Uprising this year a recording we did back in 1985 Live at the Prince Of Wales, it’s actually the third time it’s been on tape and was released a few years back on vinyl, tape collecting is still something people do. I still listen to the Radio, however Podcasts have some incredible material available, so much stuff out there to discover.

We have our own sound it borrows from punk, hardcore, and metal but has a distinctive feel, we kinda mash it up and add our own flavour.

Everyone has varying tastes in music genres, that’s a positive thing. Say The first album Price Of Progress, which basically got finished over a weekend and just worked, it all fell into place that was surprisingly quick and painless, although we did rehearse intensely and played regularly, like most weekends and during the week. With Split This Open we worked on getting the right flow and groove, it’s a similar process and each person plays their part.

Say 80s 90s 2000s and onwards you have highs and lows if you're setting a certain standard and different influences come from members it's going to change the way recordings sound, you get albums with a more punk hardcore feel say on Reflections, Internal Headstrength or Perfect World Disaster as opposed to Born Yesterday and Only The Brave which has a Metalpunk dirge.

When you keep pushing forward it’s inevitable that sounds will change, you aren’t going to please everyone, that’s part of it. I didn’t pick punk or hardcore l fell into it.

I liked the music and made friends in that scene as a kid, eventually picking up a microphone, didn’t have a clue what l was doing but enjoyed it. At heart, I’m a shy person, so it's just learning along the way.

I have massive respect for Malcolm Owen(RIP) from the Ruts as a vocalist, although he only made one studio album The Crack it’s been a real influence on me, the band is also so talented, and brilliant songwriters.

Charlie Harper of UK SUBS their first five albums set my teenage brain on fire and Stiv Bators from the Dead Boys, Lords Of The New Church, The Wanderers, another individual who walked his own path and penned some insightful lyrics.

As a little kid Jerry Vale who was a total crooner, Los Vegas style always made me happy. Bob Marley, J Cash, Chuck D, HR, Wendy O, Tom Waits, Nina Samone, Nick Cave, Little Richard, Lemmy, Keith Morris, Howling Wolf, J Lee Hooker,l can go on, it’s not necessarily just singing thing, charter, struggle, crazy worlds they functioned in.

Also, anyone who has survived child or adult trauma and redefined themselves or overcome drug or alcohol abuse, people’s journeys are seldom or ever a simple path, we all have stories.

What’s next for the band?

-and why is VC still a relevant band after being a solid foundation for hardcore/punk since its early inception in Australia?

-any final message or words of wisdom for the multitudes of fans worldwide?

In the immediate future get the release shows for the album done and get to catch up with some people and bands. With the band's relevancy or longevity that’s for other people to ponder. lf l was worried about

Others attitudes or beliefs on the band l would have given up decades ago, do what makes you happy, it's simple. As long as l am motivated to do it and happy with the process I’ll continue, be well and look after yourself

Now if this doesn't inspire you to catch the band for the album launch and two NSW gigs, you don't have a fucking pulse, so check these shows out(see details below).

Album out now:


Vinyl and Merch at the gigs, bring cash so bands get the direct support!!!.
Watch this:

Get Antisocial:

Check these gigs out-amazing lineups every show:
Tickets Melbourne: