The prolific and versatile Melbourne-based musician Jake Robertson is always busy doing something, whether it's recording music with the countless bands he plays with or writing and composing music for his bedroom recording project and alter-ego Alien Nosejob. Robertson shares with us how he balances his numerous musical projects and takes us through the hardcore punk-etches of his new EP on Iron Lung Records.
Jake Robertson released three records under his solo moniker Alien Nosejob last year, including the excellent Once Again the Present Becomes The Past and the bristling debut album from his new energetic and madcap sax-fueled punk band Smarts, alongside Billy Gardner of Anti Fade Records. Robertson has been juggling a great deal since busting onto the scene in the aughts, performing in numerous bands from the new wave collective Hierophants, the '60s Nuggets-inspired the Frowning Clouds and the shambolic garage pop of School Damage. He's also worked with more bands including: the Ausmuteants, the Snoozefests, Swab, Stingers, Leather Towel and No Limit. In short, Robertson has been consistent with spewing up some of the best music to come out of the modern Australian underground and not even a global pandemic can stop him from making music.
Robertson recently released his new EP HC45-2, the raucous and stomping sequel to last year's HC45 EP. The EP is defined by its burst of pure hardcore punk energy, accompanied with its frenetic guitar riffs and rapid-fire rhythms that pounds and pummels the listener until their nose bleeds.
We caught up with Robertson, who tells us about his madman tendencies with the numerous musical projects he plays in and how he composed the hardcore punk-etches of his most recent release.
What's your earliest musical memory?
Jake Robertson: I have a few memories of being a toddler and listening to late night radio in bed with my parents. I remember this weird song about General Custer and Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!," which both scared the shit out of me. I have memories of my big brother making me a "Best of AC/DC" mixtape and my dad making me Easybeats and CCR tapes too.
Robertson: Honestly the whole Devocore and egg punk thing of the last few years has kind of drained the Devo life out of me, which is a shame because they're an amazing band. I got those compilations on CD when I was in high school and listened to them to death, so all of those sounds are ingrained in me somewhere. As for current influences, it's pretty varied. I work with a bunch of people who have pretty interesting and varied taste, so I always hear new sounds that I wouldn't necessarily listen to at home. Embarrassingly enough, I listen to lots of hits like "Takin' Care of Business" and "Kids in America" just as much as I listen to like The F.U.'s or Gauze.
You might get flattered by this, but I think of you as the John Dwyer of Melbourne—very prolific, distinctly unique and you're always busy with some musical project. How do you balance these numerous projects you're part of?
Robertson: Thanks! I've only met him a few times, but I get the impression we're very different people. He has this smoldering intensity and energy overload, like I feel like he needs to tour, write and record to in order to exhaust himself to maybe sleep one night a week. I am kind of the opposite. I don't have much energy to begin with and I use writing and recording songs as an excuse to not move my lower body. Band practice and gigs are great excuses to see friends, I otherwise find myself neglecting all social responsibilities and locking myself in my room, which inevitably leads to weakening my lower body strength. All the bands I have on the go at the moment are quite up and down with being active and usually practice fortnightly and play bi-monthly.
Does the approach to your songwriting and creativity change across the various projects you're part of or do you just let it happen?
Robertson: I don't know if it changes between projects or releases, but it definitely changes per song. I don't have any rules about starting with guitar chords or vocal melody or lyrics… or writing on a synth or notation first. It just depends on what I have in my hand—and if I'm not holding anything, then I'll start with a whistle or banging on a washing machine or something. I usually play the song to death before finishing it and quite often will show Billy [Gardner] to see if it sucks.
With your moniker Alien Nosejob, you balance frenetic hardcore punk with DIY sonic adventures along with a sprawl of noise. What's it like navigating a style that's genre-defying and full of twists?
Robertson: It's fun! It's amusing when people who like one release dislike the next—lots of comments like "Stick to punk" or whatever. More often than not, the indie pop and electronic people have no qualms about the punk and hardcore stuff, but some punk and hardcore people are too snobbish to accept other genres of music exist. I'm not trying to change the world or people's thoughts, I just like writing and recording silly things at home. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
You just released your new EP HC45-2, the follow-up to last year's HC45 EP and the thrilling Once Again The Present Becomes The Past, one of my favorite releases of 2020. What was the recording process like for this new one? Was it recorded more recently or from the same sessions of the first HC45 EP?
Robertson: I think it was recorded a few weeks before the Once Again... LP, but I can't really remember. It was definitely recorded on my broken Tascam 244, which is why its so wobbly sounding. Also, everybody thinks HC45 stands for hardcore 45 RPM, but it's actually some medicine that I was taking for psoriatic arthritis. Maybe methotrexate can be my future powerviolence album.
The opening track "The Scene Expands" is a blast. Did any songs on this EP stand out to you during its recording?
Robertson: I wrote all of them at the same time, so I actually kind of get them all confused. "Nothing Ever Goes Your Way" was real fun to play.
What made you choose scenes from The Andromeda Strain for the music video for "Beyond The Pale"?
Robertson: I didn’t even know that was happening. My buddy sent me a text saying "dig the new clip'" and I had no idea what he was talking about. I’m assuming that Jensen from Iron Lung had a few moments spare—good movie though and looks cool!
How was your recent performance at Jerkfest 6.5? And with live music back to a certain degree in Australia, what's the environment like at shows?
Robertson: It was a lot of fun—best day of the year, see ya later Christmas. We surprised Billy from Anti-Fade by bringing him up on stage for a cover of BTO's "Taking Care of Business"—I guess a small nod to The F.U.'s cover of "We're An American Band." The atmosphere was honestly like the pandemic didn't happen. There was a reduced capacity at the venue, but there was still a huge crowd and everybody was dancing and having fun. I felt a bit bad knowing that so many of my friends overseas are still in lockdown, but I guess it brings some hope that this stuff can safely happen everywhere soon.
As a one-man band, what it's like executing Alien Nosejob's material live with a backing band?
Robertson: It's cool. Although I sometimes feel anxious that I'll sound like a dictator or something when showing them how to play songs. I'm into the idea of it sounding different live compared to how it was recorded. I don’t force the others to play it exactly the same way or anything. We're all friends that hangout outside of the band and they play in other bands I've played shows with so it's a pretty natural progression.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of the pandemic and the lockdown for you? Any albums, movies, TV shows or books you leaned heavily on?
Robertson: For some reason I decided to watch the film Threads right at the start of the pandemic—that was a bad idea. I don't think I've ever been as affected by a moving picture. I've also been reading a bunch of books and catching up on classics that I should've read ten years ago like—1984, The Bell Jar, In Cold Blood, Scar Tissue and the NOFX autobiography.
What more material can we expect from you this year? Or would you rather surprise us?
Robertson: I've recorded an LP with my buddy Mikey who recorded a lot of the Ausmuteants and Hierophants stuff. Stylistically it's more of the same kind of thing, I guess closer to Suddenly Everything is Twice as Loud. It was recorded last year, but I've spent quite some time mixing it. Hopefully it should be finished in a month or two and released around September or something. Apart from the Nosejob stuff, if we get our shit together, there should be a Swab album, maybe a new Smarts album and a Drug Sweat album.
HC45-2 is out now through Iron Lung Records.