INTERVIEW: Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould (Better Call Saul Season 4)

Published on, Sept 2018

The Real Tragedy Of ‘Better Call Saul’, According To Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould

Better Call Saul is a quiet achiever, at least when compared to its blockbuster predecessor Breaking Bad.

The journey of Jimmy McGill, delivered through Bob Odenkirk, doesn’t demand your attention, nor is it in your face, instead, those who give it time are taken on a carefully-paced, captivating ride that places more emphasis on ebbs and flows and character development. As it enters its fourth season and McGill becomes more like the Saul Goodman we know and love, the prequel is quickly approaching the same number of episodes as Breaking Bad.

“I used to have some brown hair, but now it’s all grey,” co-creator Peter Gould begins down the line, eliciting laughter from his partner in crime, Vince Gilligan.

“Peter’s doing a great job running this show and I’m walking down to the mailbox in my bathrobe, looking for cheques from Sony,” Gilligan adds.

Speaking of hard work, it didn’t take long for fans to crack a six-part puzzle the duo put out on social media recently, with those involved quickly figuring out it pointed to the superlab from Breaking Bad. “I can’t believe how fast the fans got the puzzle!” Gould tells.

Although they didn’t write the puzzle, Gilligan wanted it to be “as difficult as humanly possible”.

“The theories are all wonderful,” Gilligan says of fan speculation over the years. “At the end of Breaking Bad, Peter and I heard a lot of people saying Walter White wasn’t really dead or the whole thing was a dream.”

One of the key elements of Better Call Saul is its aforementioned calculated pace, with each episode delivering numerous surprises that even the most switched on fans would struggle to predict. Fan favourite Mike Ehrmantraut, played brilliantly by Jonathan Banks, quite often spends an entire episode doing things that have viewers on the edge of their seats, scratching their heads.

“They really are totally different shows,” Gilligan says. “Peter and I were both worried in the beginning, a) should we even be doing a spin-off from Breaking Bad? And, b) how can we differentiate it from Breaking Bad? Will it be different enough, or will it be kind of an extension of the first show? Which, maybe in itself, wouldn’t have been a terrible thing, but I really wanted to do something different.

“I remember worrying a lot in the early days about differentiating the two shows, and turns out a lot of my fears were unfounded because [the cast and crew] really have created an entire universe of their own and a show that stands on its own two feet and is its own entity, it’s its own thing.

“I’m delighted by the number of times every week that I hear someone say, ‘I never really watched Breaking Bad that much, it was too violent for me, but I’ve been watching Better Call Saul and I love that show.’”

The show’s fourth season is now airing, continuing the “tragic devolution” of Jimmy McGill. Given it’s a prequel, he’s inexorably becoming the lovable character we know from Breaking Bad. “If you watched Breaking Bad you think, ‘Oh, it’s not so bad – Saul Goodman was fun,’” Gilligan tells. “He was always getting some kind of massage to completion in his office or had a bottle of vodka; he loves his life, he’s having a good time and doesn’t have any quails, he sleeps well at night even though he’s breaking the law every chance he gets.

“Season four is another inexorable step toward being this guy that nobody wants him to be, least of all he himself, and that’s the real tragedy of this show.”

The continual devolution to-date has been heartbreaking and sheds a lot of light on the character, with the season three finale marking a tragic death for his brother, Chuck. And although his relationship with loving girlfriend Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is seemingly going well, she’s not around in Breaking Bad, signalling another major turning point for the lead is just around the corner.

“The Jimmy McGill of season four does things that I think would have repelled the Jimmy McGill we met at the beginning of season one,” Gould tells. “That’s sad, but, as Vince said, I always feel that this guy has a soul and maybe there’s a shot at redemption.

“I love what you say about Jimmy and Kim, and this season, boy, these two characters… They have such a wonderful, adult, real love story. I go back and forth between being happy that they’re together and feeling so good when things are going well for them, but also knowing in the pit of my stomach maybe this isn’t going to last.”

Outside of cryptic social media posts, the two aren’t really able to reveal too much as far as season four specifics go, especially when it comes to the superlab, which they certainly don’t want to spoil. “It’s ingrained in both of us to try not to ruin anything,” Gilligan mentions, before Gould quickly interjects: “I’ll say this, I’ve always been a big fan of the early James Bond films and you would see things like the secret base inside the volcano in You Only Live Twice by brilliant production designer Ken Adam.

“I’m always fascinated by these secret locations and hidden places. I also wondered, ‘How did that come to be?’ And so, we’ll see, we might learn some more about that this season.”

With more and more Breaking Bad references popping up each episode, an increasing amount of the show’s cast making an appearance – including Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser) and more, and Jimmy’s rapid devolution, it seems we’re fast approaching the end of Better Call Saul.

“That’s kind of tough,” Gilligan says on an end date. “It was the same with Breaking Bad – how many episodes do you have? How many hours left in this story? Sometimes when you’re in the writers’ room, you can’t really see the forest from the trees, is that safe to say, Peter?”

“Absolutely,” Gould responds. “We haven’t really figured out how much more story there is; I think we’re getting closer to the end than the beginning, I’d say that much.

“It’s an interesting thing because this show doesn’t have the same kind of endpoint that Breaking Bad did. From the very first episode, we felt that Breaking Bad was going to be a story about not just the life of Walter White, but also the death of Walter White.

“This show does something a little different in that we keep seeing glimpses of life after Saul Goodman, so maybe there’s a chance for this story to end in a different way from the others, but we really don’t know all the answers just yet.”

Better Call Saul season four is now streaming via Stan.


INTERVIEW: BIGSOUND 2018 Might Make You Question Your Place In The Music Industry

Published in The Music (NSW & VIC) on, Aug 2018

Attending BIGSOUND 2018 might change the way you not only view the music industry but your place within it, as QMusic CEO Joel Edmondson and Executive Programmer Maggie Collins tell Daniel Cribb.

It’s not a stretch to call Brisbane-based music conference BIGSOUND more of a community than an event. Now in its 17th year, it’s become the go-to on Australia’s music calendar, largely due to the fact that organisers are on point with both the conference and live music programming.

In 2018, the conference welcomes more changes that will see it push the boundaries and stay ahead of the game.

Instead of analysing the symptoms of certain issues within the industry, BIGSOUND will increasingly address the causes, with a focus placed on cultural issues, gender diversity, mental health discussions and more.

“Philosophical-based discussions is something that I’m more personally interested in,” Executive Programmer Maggie Collins tells. “That and professional development workshops and ways of working smarter and increasing the personal and work health of everyone in our industry. That’s the kind of stuff I think that separates BIGSOUND apart from other discussion events.”

As QMusic CEO Joel Edmondson says, there are sometimes people in the audience with more expertise than those on the stage, which is why they feel it’s important to open up the discussion more. “We’re trying to evolve the conference into something that’s much more about the sharing of skills and reminding everyone that the expertise is within the group,” he tells.

“If people buy a pass to [BIGSOUND], we want them to leave feeling like their skills and mindset have been enhanced in some way by coming to the event.”

To help facilitate that, BIGSOUND have four different forums as the “centrepiece” of this year’s program that they’ve labelled “must-attend” events. One of the forums will blow apart the myths and rules of the industry and look at new and innovative ways certain individuals are working, while others focus on Indigenous cultural terms of reference, the psychology of change and trying to get people to look outwards.

In looking at the big picture, BIGSOUND is focusing on longterm goals for a vibrant industry, moving further away from the basics of how to get a label or agent – although that information will still be on offer via workshops. “It’s almost like internal reflection; a lot of those questions in the past have been about ‘how’, and now we’re moving more towards ‘why’,” Collins explains. “‘Why do you want to be in the industry?’ ‘Why do you want to be doing what you’re doing?’

“Because once you get a really confident idea of who you are, what you do [in the] industry and what your identity is, then it doesn’t really matter how things happen for you, because you’re going to find a way.”

The questions posed by BIGSOUND continue to change as the industry rapidly evolves, and the scene is almost unrecognisable from the one the conference was first established in. “I first started going to BIGSOUND because there wasn’t much information readily available online to teach myself, so it was really imperative,” Collins explains.

“Now its role within our industry – considering there’s so much out there to consume anyway – is really to be a place where we share ideas and make connections with each other and try and inspire each other to do better.”

One of the aforementioned forums will touch on how many within the industry use the internet to try and initiate change, sometimes in an unproductive way. “It concerns me at the moment that a lot of that change plays out in a fairly combative way on social media,” Edmondson says. “I think we’re all often inclined to just become outraged about things and think that’s actually going to change something but it’s a lot more complicated than that.”

With so much noise on the internet, it’s refreshing to have one time of year when the industry comes together and interacts face to face. It’s also surprising how much of an impact word of mouth has on the ground, with certain bands developing a cult-like industry following if one of their first showcases goes well.

Every year, without fail, BIGSOUND produces a music line-up with a handful of buzz bands on the cusp of great things, and a lot of them end up signing deals, travelling the world and more from their showcases. In recent years, Stella Donnelly, Middle Kids, Flume and more all left lasting impressions and went on to epic things.

“Sometimes there’s just magic that happens,” Collins laughs. “It sounds kind of corny but you can’t really describe it any other way.

“Perhaps there’s no other platform other than BIGSOUND for word of mouth to spread so quickly.

“It’s Fortitude Valley, it’s a physical place and maybe it’s the last remnants of an old time that can still exist, whereby people are physically seeing each other, talking to each other in person and talking about what acts they love, rather than everything being online. BIGSOUND is that physical space where the old school word of mouth can still get around.”

Those types of interactions are how BIGSOUND plans on separating itself from others. “With the saturation of music industry conferences in Australia now, we’re wanting to position this opportunity for people as an experience they can share with others,” Edmondson explains.

“It’s really about trying to find the things we all need to learn about together, rather than breaking us up into groups. That’s important in the culture that we’re in, because we’re kind of in a climate where everyone is increasingly breaking themselves into tribes and BIGSOUND is about bringing people together.” EXCLUSIVE: Backstage At Australia’s First-ever ‘Walking Dead’ Convention

Published in The Music on, Feb 2018

day one

A horde of cosplayers lingered around the gates of Alexandria (once known as The Dome), anxiously awaiting the doors to open for Australia’s first ever Walking Dead convention, Walker Stalker.

Fans had flown and driven from all around the country, including myself, and with a gripping mid-season finale airing only weeks earlier, the event couldn’t have come at a better time.

As is the chaotic film and TV industry, big-name acts Norman Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan were forced to withdraw last-minute, but with a new season of Ride in the works and a little baby Negan on the way, dedicated fans were understanding.

The recent season eight cliffhanger involved Carl Grimes revealing he’d been bitten by a walker, so Chandler Riggs was a fitting headline act in Sydney.

As an avid fan myself, receiving a phone call from Walker Stalker asking if I’d be interested in moderating panels across the weekend was met with overwhelming excitement and waves of horror – meeting some of your favourite actors is one thing; doing it on stage with more than 1000 people watching is a completely different thing.

As I enter the green room, I’m greeted by an affable Nick Floyd backstage, the nicest guy ever and a touring Walker Stalker crewmember. He usually moderates, among a million other things, but is still recovering from the convention’s annual cruise. One of his first pieces of advice was to talk about things outside of the show as the fans will have plenty of questions about it. Well, there goes all my prep.

But the cast of The Walking Dead are prolific, and with skating, one-man shows, music and more on the menu, rejigging the line of questioning is an easy task.

My first glimpse at the inclusive and welcoming nature of TWD family comes from Khary Payton, aka King Ezekiel, who’s just as friendly on the screen as off it.

The green room is quiet and we strike up a conversation that leads to a game of table tennis.

We talk the convention and how the show differs from his extensive voice acting work as Cyborg and more across games, film and TV.

He’s a legend, but it wasn’t until he scored the larger-than-life role on the AMC hit that things really took off. We didn’t keep score, but with Shiva out of the picture (too soon, I know), I won’t hesitate in saying it was a close game.

Warmed up and slightly out of breath, I was more than ready for the first panel of the day.

the heart of the walking dead

If you were scanning through the line-up trying to pick the ideal opening panel, you’d struggle to pick someone as perfect as the show’s executive producer, director and special effects creator Greg Nicotero. The icon helped shape the industry as we know it today and gave us some of the show’s most gory highlights.

My first ever gig as a moderator and I was sitting on stage with Greg Nicotero.

He’s so casual and down to earth, it’s hard to imagine he’s worked on more 800 films and is now a driving force behind one of television’s biggest shows and its spin-off, Fear The Walking Dead.

It’s like chatting with an old friend and everyone in attendance is made to feel welcome as he fires through fan questions and recalls hilarious anecdotes on his work with Spielberg and secrets from behind the scenes of TDW. We reach the panel’s end and although we’re running slightly over time (and he has a busy signing and photo schedule throughout the day), he takes the time to answer one last fan question.


There was an early indication that the Alexandrians panel was going to be full of inside jokes as Ross Marquand (Aaron), Alanna Masterson (Tara) and Tyler James Williams (Noah) congregated backstage and chatted like best pals.

“You guys are just too good friends,” I said as they took their places on stage. “There’s three of us,” Masterson responded with a dry wit. Well played.

Despite the crowd’s best efforts, we were unable to pry a Daryl Dixon impression from Marquand, who is amazing at such, but we are treated to a Russell Crowe impression among others before Masterson talks about her childhood soap opera career and Williams recalls the time a fan bit him.

A curious character with a hat covering his face approaches the mic during the fan Q&A section and it quickly becomes apparent that it’s a former Alexandrian and the man behind one of the show’s most polarizing characters, Michael Traynor.

He’s quick to throw his character, Nicholas, praise while the three on stage dish out a series of snarky and fun remarks. He then disappears into the crowd after a whirlwind of confusing and charming humour. Traynor had literally just landed after being invited last minute in the wake of Pollyanna McIntosh cancelling due to filming commitments.

sitting in a tree

The Walking Dead cast are a talented bunch, with a few also dabbling in musical endeavours. After carefully tuning her ukulele backstage for a pre-panel performance, Katelyn Nacon, aka Enid, arrived on stage to a rockstar reception.

As soon as her voice began to bounce around the Dome, it was evident she had some serious talent and it wouldn’t be surprising if she’s one day just as well known for that side of her skillset.

Her mini-set included a captivating rendition of Radiohead’s Creep and new song among others. Here’s to hoping we see a follow-up to her 2015 EP, Live In May, soon.

The room was packed by the time her performance had ended and there was an epic roar as Riggs emerged from behind the curtain. With Rick Jr set to make his exit from the show when the show returns later this month, Riggs had already cut his hair and looked completely different.

He breathed a sigh of relief when quizzed about not having to wear the Carl Grimes eye-patch anymore, admitting it made filming hard at times and he’d often drop things and miss the mark with impaired depth perception.

So, given Riggs is now looking to further explore his career in EDM, is there a chance we might see a collaboration between him and Nacon? They’re quick to shut the idea down, given their different styles, but fans remain hopeful they’ll see some form of Carl and Enid reunion down the line.

In scouring the internet prior to the event, I discovered that Nacon had starred in Adult Swim viral video Too Many Cooksback in 2014, so I was sure to include a question about such a bizarre addition to her IMDB; a credit she’s wildly proud of and received a mighty cheer for as well as a follow-up fan question.

Before the panel is through, we get a breakdown of what else is in store for Riggs post-TWD and discover his favourite shows are currently Mr Robot and The Flash.

After we wrap Sitting In A Tree, fans are gifted a video message from one and only Jeffrey Dean Morgan, explaining his absence and apologising. It was surreal standing next to Carl and Enid while watching Negan pour his heart out.

trouble makers

The video message was a fitting bridge between the show’s good and bad guys. Behind the stage, Steven Ogg chowed down on BBQ Shapes and enlisted the help of Austin Amelio for pre-game stretches. I doubt we’ll see such comradery when and if their onscreen personas, Simon and Dwight, face off.

I invite Traynor on stage before the next panel, and quiz him about the last minute arrangements and his willingness to wear a wig and take on a European accent in place of McIntosh. He’s all in.

The two other aforementioned troublemakers burst onto the stage in a blaze of glory and begin what has to be described as one of the most sincere, awkward and hilarious man-hugs of all time.

The chaos continues, and a question about Amelio’s skating career sees Ogg embark on a long-winded anecdote poking fun of the way he acts on the streets with his deck, to the point where he jumps off the stage and begins miming. “I’m sorry, do you have any questions over there?” Ogg asks me.

A lot of fans aren’t too fond of the character of Nicholas – one of his only saving graces being he inadvertently saved Glenn in season six – but after his Walker Stalker appearance, everyone was a die-hard fan of Michael Traynor.

Before we know it, 45 minutes is up and as we leave the stage I finally get the chance to talk to Ogg about his appearance as a seedy locksmith in Broad City, to which he laughs.

day two

While there weren’t as many guests scheduled for panels on day two, the talent that was set to appear on the stage was some of the show’s most beloved; and not just because most of them had met gory deaths in past seasons (partly in thanks to Nicotero).

The green room was buzzing as day two kicked off, with guests getting to meet snakes, lizards and more.

I was making some final notes for the day’s first panel when IronE Singleton, aka T-Dog, approaches me and starts chatting. He was one of the most upbeat people I had come across all weekend. Wearing an Akubra, he talked about the shortage of Tim Tams the previous day and his plans to stash some for later.

He had also just met some local reptiles, but there surprisingly wasn’t any drop bears there. One of the Walker Stalker crew brings up an image search and his reaction is one of pure horror, that is until we finally tell him they’re not actually real.

the king & jesus

After a larger than life introduction the previous day, I knew this panel was going to be a highlight of the convention, and from the moment Khary Payton and Tom Payne ran on stage there was no stopping them.

Payton was wearing ridiculous novelty sunglasses with a small crown attached and immediately schooled the fans on the anatomically incorrect Shiva that sat on stage. For starters, female tigers don’t have balls.

We’re all still hurting from the loss of the Kings’ faithful companion – including Payton’s father – but a surprise onstage visit from a koala (Shiva 2.0?) lightened the mood and made for some adorable photo ops.

The King and Jesus are the show’s moral compasses in a lot of ways, and thus the fan questions directed at both rendered interesting results; including one about who would win in a fight, of which it was widely agreed upon that Jesus would surface victorious in such a circumstance, given there’s no tiger on the scene. Another fan question that had the crowd wooing was whether or not Carol and King Ezekiel would ever get together. As Payton pointed out, if the fans want something to happen in The Walking Dead and the showrunners find out about it, they’ll play with emotions as long as they can. Ultimately, he didn’t think we’d see such a plot point emerge.

Pic by Walker Stalker

abraham: michael cudlitz

Abraham may have suffered a brutal fate at the hands of Negan, but the man behind the catchphrase king is alive and well, and the crowd went absolutely insane when Michael Cudlitz strolled on stage. It was the only panel of the weekend where a guest was left to their own devices on stage (“That’s the way I like it,” Cudlitz told me prior), but given how adored he is and the long lines of fans who had questions, there was no need for a moderator. In person, he looks quite different to the redheaded warrior he portrays on-screen.

He didn’t hold back when it came to his answers – whom would he kill off if he had the choice? “Baby Judith,” he joked, pretending to throw a baby in the air. There was also a decent mix of questions about his other works, Band Of Brothers, Southland, and more. And, of course, he bestowed some iconic Abraham catchphrases on the crowd, including crowd favourite “Bitch Nuts”.

og crew

We haven’t seen Hershel Greene or T-Dog for a few seasons and that’s perhaps why so many fans were keen to cram into the OG Crew panel. Both IronE Singleton and Scott Wilson left the show in brutal way, but given they’re still able to travel the world with their former co-stars, it’s not surprising they were both smiling ear-to-ear.

There’s a bit of time to kill backstage before I jump up for my final moderating gig of the day and in chatting with Wilson’s wife, Heavenly, I discover she’s spent a lot of time living in Perth, where I’m from. Singleton tunes in when I tell the story of how I ended up moderating panels at a Walking Dead convention on the other side of the country. I’m getting married in June and my best man, Jacko, as a ridiculous wedding gift, decided to fly my fiancée, Sarah, and I across the country to attend. It was because of that I got offered the role and got to spend the weekend hanging out with the crew from one of my favourite shows.

Singleton’s larger than life personality is immediately on display when the pair hit the stage, and is nicely balanced out by Wilson’s more calm and collected nature. Their panel is funny, inspirational and sees Singleton open up about his troubled childhood, offering hope and words of wisdom to those in the audience who might also be struggling, while Wilson, who is now 75, talked about what it’s like to be thrown into TWD fandom so far into his career. He’s done countless other projects across his career, but now he’s known as Hershel.

Singleton pointed Heavenly out in the crowd and then jumped off the stage for impromptu musical number; he laid down the beat and she rapped over the top.

Singleton would remember fans names as they approached the mic and had a witty answer for everything, even, “How did it feel to get beat up by Merle?” That attention to details and memory caught me by surprise at the panel’s end. “Is there anything else you’d like to add before we wrap things up?” I asked. Singleton stood up, put his arm around me and asked Sarah and Jacko to stand up, before telling the audience the story I had told him backstage and wishing us the best of luck. He is the nicest guy ever, and made my final panel one to remember.

Walker Stalker hits Exhibition Pavilion at Melbourne Showgrounds this weekend. Head to the event’s website for all the details.

INTERVIEW: Rahul Kohli (iZombie)

Published in The Music (NSW) on, Feb 2018

iZombie Has Only Scratched The Surface

“In episode one, you’re nude.” The fourth season of iZombie gets weird, as actor Rahul Kohli tells Daniel Cribb.

When and if a zombie apocalypse begins, there’s one man you might not want to partner up with on your quest for survival. “I like a warm shower and I like to take a poo in a nice toilet – I’m not doing it in the forest; I’m not about that life, man,” begins iZombie star Rahul Kohli.

The affable British actor is all about creature comforts and after setting up a sweet home theatre system earlier that day, he’s just returned from dinner with co-star Malcolm Goodwin (Clive Babineaux), who would be “the best” under Walking Dead conditions. “It looks like a PR stunt when we go, ‘Oh, we’re on this show and we’re best friends off screen,’ but with iZombie it’s true. I think everyone is close.”

iZombie and The Walking Dead are miles apart, but Kohli’s quick to draw some comparisons as the Rob Thomas hit series enters its fourth season. “One of the reasons you connect with The Walking Dead is you don’t follow the story of the zombies, you follow the story of the humans because that’s what you immediately align yourself with,” he tells.

While the show follows zombie Liv Moore, a lot of fans have connected to Kohli’s adorable and “unfiltered” character, Dr Ravi Chakrabarti, because he’s a human. “He represents the audience – he always has,” Kohli says. “Liv’s a zombie and to a certain degree, despite the fact that you follow her journey and see the world through her eyes, the fact that she starts the show as a zombie, there’s already a disconnect with the audience.

“Ravi’s the first human who discovers her secret and you kind of realise the extent of her zombiism through his eyes. I think the audience immediately connects with that.”

Season three ended with Liv scratching Ravi as part of his ongoing efforts to find a cure. “With the cliffhanger, I’m still protecting that for viewers for when they finally get to see the premiere. There’s a scenario that a lot of people hadn’t thought could happen and it’s the road we take and I was very happy with the decision that Rob and everyone made.

“I was protective of [Ravi’s] human status because of that relationship with the audience,” he says. “Clive and Ravi, in my opinion, should always remain human, because you need that.”

The other big developed in season three was the zombie virus being made public, which Kohli says will make for a refreshing change of pace moving forward.

“A lot of shows, when they reach that middle ground or middle period, in an effort to keep things moving need to change things to point where it’s no longer recognisable as the show you fell in love with in the first place,” he tells.

iZombie still keeps its DNA. If you look at the [season four] trailer, it looks like nothing’s really changed, but it really has; the world has changed, the rules have changed.”

The rules have definitely changed for Ravi, with the aforementioned trailer teasing a nude scene for Kohli. “That put a damper on things,” he laughs. “When we got picked up for season four, I was partying in LA and having a good time and spending my season money.

“I got a phone call from my producer going, ‘Yo, in episode one, you’re nude. And not just topless, the full Monty.’ And they told me that in June, which ruined my summer. I think I was eating a burger when I got the phone call and I remember sliding it away half eaten.”


Published on, Jan 2017

Ben Folds Shares What We Can All Learn From ‘Trapped In The Closet’ By R Kelly

Classical music can learn a lot from R Kelly’s Trapped In The Closet, an affable Ben Folds tells Daniel Cribb.

Most fans of pop and rock would admit to rarely listening to classical music, let alone going out to experience it live – except for the rare occasion when a band enlists an orchestra to perform alongside them, which, as Ben Folds comments, is “not that good most the time”.

Few acts that embark on such an endeavour have enough time to workshop the dynamic in a way that truly complements the insane talents of the classically trained musicians backing them.

Flashback to 2016 when Folds last visited Australia with acclaimed New York ensemble yMusic and we put forward that there were times when audience members almost forgot the headline act was even there. “I totally understood that and that’s kind of what I wanted, so you’re on it,” Folds tells.

His latest album, So There, was a collaborative effort with yMusic, and while he was preparing for certain sectors of the classical community to turn their nose up at the idea of a pop musician releasing such a record (he’s been performing with orchestras for years), it was met with wide acclaim all ’round, even going to #1 on the US Classical Music chart. “There was a formula that proved, after the fact, to be very effective, which is sort of specific to that album,” he says.

“If you listen to the record, it’s mostly a pop record and it’s in the voice of a guy who’s been selling records in the pop world. Now, selling shit in the pop world is still topping the charts in the classical so, when they called it classical and my crowd bought it – then suddenly I’ve got the number one Billboard Classical record for a long time, but it’s not really an indication of my going in and taking over the classical world.”

Although Folds is now firmly planted in that world – currently National Symphony Orchestra’s artistic adviser – he’s not looking to repeat the So There formula again. “I definitely lose a lot of opportunities by jumping off something when it starts to work,” he admits, a statement that is backed by his eclectic back catalogue and countless projects. For Folds, it’s more about doing what enjoys as opposed to cashing in. “It’s like, ‘Okay, the iron’s hot – time to strike.’ And I go, ‘Oh, I think I’ll do something else’.”

Frequently jumping between genres over the past few years, he’s noticed correlations and interesting (and bizarre) influences between pop, folk and classical music. “R&B and hip hop have encouraged us to look at the beat differently, and what plays the beat, and I think that actually opens up a lot of opportunities for classical music,” he says.

“Remember that ridiculous Trapped In The Closet by R Kelly? It’s good shit, right? It’s 45 minutes of the same song and he’s telling this crazy-ass story, but it’s actually kind of brilliant. The beat is a water faucet drip – that’s all it is.

“It’s not a drum, it’s not anything that we’re used to – this kind of reimagining of groove textures is really exciting because they can be done by all kinds of crazy shit in the orchestra and the rock bands are stuck with their drums.”

Folds’ Paper Aeroplane Request tour hits Australia in February, with the US muso going back to his roots and performing in solo mode. The show will see punters writing song requests on pieces of paper, turning them into paper planes and then hurling them onto the stage, which should make for an extremely memorable evening given his comedic wit and improv skills.

With touring duties and his artistic-adviser role, Folds has had little time to think about his next studio album, but he’s still found time to add credits to his IMDb page, proving even further he has worthy comedic value by playing himself on US comedy You’re The Worst at the end of last year. “I really enjoyed it,” he laughs. “I have so much fun with that stuff.”

INTERVIEW: Gyroscope

Published on, Jan 2017

Why Gyroscope Chose Self-preservation Over Releasing Another Album

If Gyroscope didn’t take a break, they might have imploded, as frontman Dan Sanders tells Daniel Cribb.

“We took the tool belt off for a while and were living life for what it was; gaining different knowledge and experiences,” begins Gyroscope frontman Dan Sanders on the band’s time away from the spotlight.

Besides the occasional hometown gig, it has been pretty quiet in camp Gyroscope since the touring cycle of their acclaimed fourth LP, 2010’s Cohesion, died down, but they have in no way lost their spark, channelling their renowned live energy into two blistering new songs for double A-side release Crooked Thought/DABS.

It’s the first new music we’ve been gifted in seven years, and by all accounts, it has been worth the wait, with the release showcasing a revitalised act.

It took that time away from the band – focusing on family and individual projects and careers – to figure out how to juggle everything and put Gyroscope in perspective. “We’ve always said from the start that it was family first, but we’ve realised you can do this and do that and still make it work and enjoy it and write some cool tunes along the way,” he explains.

Given their relentless release and touring schedule from conception until Cohesion, it’s easy to see how they might have imploded had they not taken a step back. “When you start to get in a cycle where you write, you record, you tour, you write, you record, you tour, the monotony gets in the way of some sort of real life, because you become a machine where you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – you get stuck in that and it starts to get you down.”

The band was touring so frequently that they had to designate certain times to write, almost like clocking into a day job, which, as Sanders says, doesn’t always work.

The two new songs aren’t as polished as previous hits – a Spotify shuffle from Baby, I’m Getting Better to Crooked Thought might have one thinking they’re listening to two different bands – but that raw, gritty nature is what makes them so charming, and is the result of a more “organic” method of songwriting. It’s how one of their biggest hits and best live songs to date came to fruition.

“It’s us, four dudes, getting into a room and jamming like we did with Doctor Doctor,” he tells. “45 minutes later you’re out for a smoko and you’ve done it; you’ve got this belter of an idea. [Doctor Doctor] literally started with me busting out a riff, Zok [Trivic] starts on the guitar, Brad [Campbell] comes in on the bass and Rob [Nassif] on the drums and we all just joined in and jammed and that was far and few between back in the day because we were just so under the pump.

“We know now this organised side is where we create our best music.”

That’s how the new double A-side was born – the band getting into a room together and throwing ideas around to see what stuck. And it seems a lot did, with Sanders revealing they picked the two singles from 30 demos. “There’s songs in the back pocket that we will use,” he tells.

Whether or not a selection of those appear on another A-side or a new album — Sanders is unsure — but it’s clear they’ve figured out the key to longevity and will keep chugging along after their upcoming Australian tour. “We’re a bit bull-headed and being in Perth we’re away from all the hoo-ha, so I think if we can just keep doing what we do and including family as inspiration, it’s a pretty powerful force and we’re digging it.

“Gyroscope’s got a new sense of purpose… It’s exciting, man; we’re getting back to basics.”

INTERVIEW: Tonight Alive

Published on, Jan 2017

Fighting Demons With Music

Tonight Alive vocalist Jenna McDougall tells Daniel Cribb the path to Underworld was a “scary” experience.

Embracing the calm before the inevitable album release storm, Tonight Alive vocalist Jenna McDougall has been spending some time in Melbourne following the band’s recent run of Australian shows. “I’ve just been trying to get into a good headspace before the end of the year,” McDougall begins.

The singer has been spending a fair amount of time at 24Hundred – the merch store attached to their label, UNFD – and even played an acoustic set there alongside some old friends; the perfect format to preview the intimate new subject matter of the band’s new LP, Underworld. “I feel so excited and very much at peace with everything I said and did on the record,” she says. “I look forward to doing it on stage, because I think it brings a fifth dimension into it and I really love the full body experience of a song.”

That’s conveyed perfectly via the music video for lead single Temple, which features McDougall thrashing about the screen and giving it everything she’s got. “I feel like that video’s the first time I’ve ever got show my stage self in a video.”

“Demons come out through me when I perform, and I like twitching and I like feeling energy leave my body and I’ll do really bizarre moves to make sure that it does.”

It’s a stage presence in tune with what’s being sung about throughout the album; its production and live execution are both therapeutic for McDougall. “I feel a very deep and honest connection with those lyrics, so naturally my body reflects that,” she tells.

“In the first line of the song I say ‘I’m intoxicated by my depression,’ and for the first time I was actually like ‘I am depressed, I am so deeply unhappy and I feel so completely trapped in my life right now.’ And just admitting that was one layer off the entrapment for me.”

“I was really sick when I wrote that song,” she reveals. “I’ve been dealing with a bit of an eating disorder the past couple of years, because I have allergies to everything, so every food I was eating would give me an allergic reaction. I developed this fear that I couldn’t eat anything without my eczema going nuts and it was already in a chronic state and I couldn’t do anything about it.

“That’s part of what I’m talking about in [Temple], which is totally scary to talk about. When we wrote that song, I’d only told one person that I was struggling with that, and that was Whack, because we write all out songs together. It was pretty far out to put it in a song and put it in front of the band, our team and the world; it’s an amazing feeling to work with honesty on that level.”

2017 was a big year for Tonight Alive, with a lot of exciting developments, including signing with UNFD, who will release Underworld the same day the band play Unify, alongside Parkway Drive, The Amity Affliction and more. But there was also some bittersweet news that dropped back in October, as guitarist Whakaio Taahi announced he’d be stepping down from the band to focus on other projects. “I guess [Underworld] is kind of like his last labour of love, and I’m not really sure how it’s going to be moving forward and I’m not really prepared to start thinking about what that’s going to be like, in terms of songwriting and things like that.”

There’s a sense of dark urgency around the music on Underworld produced by the duo, but McDougall stresses it’s not a negative record; a statement backed up by the lyrics throughout. “Every time we write a song, I’m very mindful that I’m not saying there’s no hope or that we’re doomed; I really don’t appreciate that type of music or message.

“If people truly believe that and they put it out there then that’s one thing, but I’m coming from a self-help standpoint and have been for a long time and I really care about personal development and evolution of the mind and spirit and that’s part of why I always have a silver lining in our songs.”