Test Icicles have recently burst into the spotlight with their debut album “For Screening Purposes Only” and one hell of a mental live set.
Their hybrid of hardcore punk, metal and screamo seems to either annoy people or turn them into followers…they are either loved or hated, it is that black and white.
On a cold December afternoon in 2005, all 3 band members dropped in to see Zac at Crossfire HQ to get this interview down. The band were burnt out somewhat and were genuinely knackered from the amount of promo stuff they are asked to do due to the demand but with a couple of hours of hanging here, they left with smiles on their faces which made this more worthwhile than usual.
So, Test Icicles…..the most spazzed out punk band out there at the moment, nice to see you guys, let’s talk a bit about how you all put your shit together in the first place, where are you all from?
Rory: We are from all over the place I guess, essentially me and Dev were brought up in London. I was brought up twenty miles out of London, kinda in Barking.
Sam: I’m from Milwaukee via Perth, Western Australia
Ah so you’re well travelled Monsieur. When you say Barking, is that where the Hounds Of Hell are actually from?
Dev: It is originally where Hounds Of Hell are from. I’d put that down as an official statement, they’re from there.
That’s the highlight of the Barking, Essex area then!
Dev: Yeah! And also a guy from some…thing…to do with… drummer….(*runs out of steam and realises it’s really not relevant!*)
What?! Even the dog’s laughing here!
Dev: Type that exactly how I said it!
Don’t worry I will! We’re here to confuse our readers not give them any info!
Dev: Who cares anyway right?
So what year did this band start rolling then?
Dev: Last year (2004)
Dev: Yeah it was actually August of last year!
So it’s all come about pretty quickly then?
Dev: Yeah, you could say that. We obviously had nothing better to do with our time.
So come on then, give us the spiel, how did it all happen? Was there a bun fight with the A&R men? Cream buns all everywhere all over the venue? Or was it in through the back door to dominance?
Dev: There was a bum fight
A bum fight! Tramps etc?!
Dev: We got some tramps off the street. Basically, we got a load of A&R men into a room and set a load of tramps on them and saw who was standing at the end. Lawrence is a big guy, he took it and Domino were triumphant!
What other labels were interested in taking on your punk rock?
Dev: Interscope, Sony, Def Jam, Earache, Epitaph, Drive Thru….etc
Dev: Motown! They’re not doing too well.
Rory: A label from the future called Death Shock 4000 records…..Clear Channel wanted to start a label! They just wanted us, no-one else.
Sam: It’s gonna be more than music, it was gonna be more than entertainment. It was this new thing that Clear Channel were brewing up.
Is this true? Or is this…
Dev: It’s all true
Sam: It’s gonna… fuck the kids up, I dunno.
Rory: They’ve got the banners, the advertising, the venues, they’ve got everything now so they just wanted to co-ordinate us with all of that.
Sam: It’s this new concept y’know? It’s not even music or art or performing, it’s the next thing, they looked at us and were like ““yeaaaah”
Rory: It’s called “Guff“
Rory: It’s not music or art…it’s GUFF.
Dev: We’re like the Terminator 2 of the music industry
Sam: But then they signed Kaiser Chiefs
Dev: They’re doing pretty good though
So you had to step down a level?
Sam: So then we signed to Domino haha!
So that’s the long and the short of it. Lawrence signed ya! Domino Records, they’ve been around for a while and they’ve put out some fucking great records. Did you know the artist roster before you signed? With Sebadoh and Pavement and loads of other artists on there.
Rory: Yeah, yeah.
This is a question aimed at you a million times now, but the Arctic Monkeys have suddenly just blown up, do you play shows with those guys? How does a label mate thing work with all them?
Rory: They basically keep us away from all the other acts I think!
Dev: We never meet any of them!
Rory: We met The Kills by accident the other day, they were very nice.
Dev: Sons And Daughters, we met them at a photoshoot.
Rory: But Arctic Monkeys support like, Franz Ferdinand and we don’t get asked to support our label mates, they’re worried something bad might happen.
Dev: Franz Ferdinand, I was asking for their stuff, like demos whilst they were recording the album, and I got a burnt CD… after it had been out in America! That’s what I got from our label.
Rory: Nah, but they’re good haha.
And the internet… do you think the support from that helped you get a record deal?
Rory: Not really a record deal, that had more to do with our friends.
Dev: More afterwards really.
Rory: It helped more afterwards yeah, because we didn’t really have that many friends beforehand we got signed.
What, as in friends friends or myspace friends?
Rory: Internet friends yeah… and real life as well!
Well of course, everyone has gotta have someone.
Rory: That’s why we joined a band, because no-one liked us. That’s why we don’t have a drummer or a bass player.
They’re a pain in the arse to have around…
Rory: Well, when no-one likes you its hard to get fellow band mates!
Dev: What do you call a guy that hangs around with musicians?
Dev: A drummer!
Did you get that out of a Christmas cracker by any chance?
Dev: I read it…yesterday…in a comic.
Rory: That’s the number one drummer joke innit?
Did you ever have a drummer at any point?
Rory: Nah, nah never.
You can play the drums though right Sam?
Sam: Yeah I play on three songs.
Three songs on the album have you drumming?
Sam: New single, out now on Clear Channel!
What is this with Clear Channel? Because a few people in the punk scene that I’ve come across really don’t like them?
Dev: I’m all for it! I think they’re doing great things haha. I don’t see why everyone is against them.
Rory: Because they’ve limited all the choices
Dev: It’s all the best though.
Rory: It could be a good thing in that it destroys everything and proper independent music has to rise up again. It goes in waves doesn’t it, the bigger the aggressor, the bigger the fightback. It’s like Star Wars!
Darth Vader is at the top then, have you got the force?
Rory: I don’t think we have! Haha hopefully someone else will.
Sam: The Monkeys!
Rory: The Monkeys have got the force.
Dev: The Arctic Monkeys are kinda like… I can’t remember his name… Luke Skywalker!
Rory: They’re like Che Guevara! Or Trotsky!
Let’s talk about your album that’s just come out. Tell us about the recording of it, if you haven’t got a drummer, how does the recording process work. Who did you hook up to record this record?
Rory: Same guy that produced everything we’ve ever done except for our 4 track stuff. We originally did stuff on 4 track. But yeah, its this guy called James Ford. We recorded all our demos in tiny little recording studios and they sounded good so then we spent all our money re-recording them all in a big studio, which was fun and cool. But that’s the week of my life.
Was it difficult?
Dev: It was 2 weeks though…
What happened to the other week then? Did you just not turn up?
Rory: I just didn’t wanna be there…
Is that because it’s like… work?
Dev: We were on some farm in the south of France
[voice from back]: North
Dev: Was it North? Haha I had no idea!
Sam: We only had to be there for 2 days!
Two days? Is that all?!
Dev: Yeah but its so boring when you’re in between, there’s nothing to do. I don’t like travelling either.
Rory: That’s officially the worst 2 days or week of my life.
Dev: The worst day of my life was the video shoot
What happened there? Where did all the fans come from?
Rory: Haha Myspace! There were only like 5 people haha! But no, there were quite a few, it just got made to look like there were 50,000 people turning up!
I was gonna say, they did a great job of superimposing the whole of Camden into the video!
Rory: They filmed it like, filming all of it from the left, then filming all of it from the centre and then filming it all from the right, so if you look carefully you can probably see the line. And probably see all the same people!
Dev: Our new video has got insane CGI action!
Dev: Yeah man, like Terminator 3 of the video world.
Rory: I’d say it was more like Jurassic Park, 2 or 3 thousand strong fans as well.
And it’s proper?
Dev: It’s proper and we spent about £200,000 on this video! It’s like a tie-in for the King Kong film.
Rory: Oh yeah and Bon Jovi is in it.
Bon Jovi is in it?
Sam: No, no, it’s like a Bon Jovi video!
Ah right, so plenty of chicks?
Dev: Yeah fire man.
Sam: Amazonian women.
Oh man, that’s an amazing movie. Amazonian Women is a mad 70s movie. So we are sat here and just saw your new video for What’s Your Damage for the first time ever.
Dev: Haha oh no! I don’t know who’s going to vote for that to go on TV! But no its quite cool, I like it.
Zac: So how comes you’re not playing in it?
Dev: Well we decided we weren’t going to release that song so we didn’t perform in it. We just went to a park and went to play basketball, BMX’ing, and there was skateboarding but we didn’t get any shots of that.
But the band isn’t playing in the video! Haha. Did that idea come from someone else?
Dev: Kinda of like… The Pixies, when they’re walking over the rocks. You think something is going to happen but its literally one take of them just walking over the rocks. I love that punk rock feel to it and that’s what we did. A day of basketball, there’s moments when you think something is going to happen but then, no. Nothing does.
Where was it shot?
Dev: Finsbury Park but we did an MTV making the video thing and I told them we were in Venice Beach… So I will just say Venice Beach, North London.
So how much did you have to spend on the stand in pigeons and ducks?
Dev: Ah that was all within the recording budget, they stuck around. I was proud of them they stuck around the whole day.
Did they have high demands?
Dev: Yeah they wanted wireless and tea and bread and stuff.
What kind of bread were they after?
Dev: The kind of Warburton’s thing y’know, with a bit of powder. I didn’t even demand that!
You should’ve shot one of the buggers and put it in a sandwich! So, anyway, who writes your shit? In general how does it go in the rehearsal studio?
Sam: Oh no, we don’t rehearse, we just play.
Really? Tell me more. We used to have to rehearse all the time!
Dev: Well, we suck so we just play man.
Rory: Well, we write the songs, lately actually its been done individually rather than on an 8 track, tape player. And quite a lot of the time its us writing by ourselves. A drum machine, put down a guitar riff, write a whole song from scratch and then just go down and record it as a band together. It’s kinda difficult without a drummer but it used to be like we’d make a drum track and we’d all stick stuff on it and muck around but its got a bit more methodical as we’ve gone on.
What inspires you to write the mood swings in the songs? Because when I put the record on, it was kinda like taking parts of Brainiac, Suicidal Tendancies and The Stupids out.
Rory: A couple of people have mentioned Brainiac…i haven’t heard them..
Brainiac were amazing, you should get their records man you’d love them. It’s fucked up twisted shit but its got this kinda weird keyboardy kind of vibe, mental beats. Just chaos really. I get a lot of that when I hear you though. When I first heard it I was like “woah“, its coming from all sorts of different angles. Is that because three of you are writing the shit and you’ve all got different influences?
Sam: Not really, because all the songs were written individually, like ten of the twelve songs were written like, solely by one of us.
But it all works, it’s all got the same thread. It’s weird that you all write separate stuff but you can tell that it’s Test Icicles.
Rory: We had an idea of this net that we could write into.
Dev: Yeah after a while we had an idea of what could make a song.
Rory: We have similar sort of influences we all had when we were writing our stuff so…
So what are your top 3 bands each?
Dev: Mine probably don’t influence the record at all.
What about personally then?
Dev: Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, probably Nirvana, Descendents
Rory: Sonic Youth, Lutten Bachers, I should probably have something old, maybe The Melvins
Melvins rock. We just dedicated the Christmas heavy shit show to them. Have you heard that Jello Biafra shit they did?
Rory: I haven’t even bought it yet. I downloaded a track the other day and it sounded good.
It’s the heaviest shit ever. It’s raging metal. I DJ it out whenever I get the chance, fucking tears the floor apart. So what about you Sam, your favourite records?
Sam: I can’t answer that.
Sam: It’s weird, nothing that I truly love influenced my writing.
I know it just comes out but you have to get something from somewhere.
Rory: I think the music that I like comes out more on the album more than what the others like. Its not because I write more than the others, it’s just that that was the vein we started in and it continued in that way. But it’s all stuff we all like. Its like a channelled down like, neater version of the West Coast American Spazzy Punk bands stuff. Just a little bit easier on the ear. I guess its just kinda produced better, I dunno.
What about the genre? You mentioned the word Spazz and I’ve read a few things online where all sorts of stuff comes up. So, where do you categorise your music? I put it down as punk rock, but its not just punk rock. Its fucking loud noise! If you were in a record shop, where would you go?
Dev: Punk. Or a section on the left in Virgin on Tottenham Court Road.
Rory: I dunno, I guess you could say Alternative. But it’s not ultra Alternative, because there’s some proper fucked shit out there. But I just think it’s a bit different to the average stuff you get to hear in this country or on the radio or in the NME.
It’s interesting you mention radio. I mean, where are you picking your radio play up from? Is it difficult for the record label?
Dev: I have no idea actually!
Rory: I think Zane Lowe really likes it, Lamacq, so it’s getting a lot of Radio 1 late evening play and the same with XFM, John Kennedy stuff. We don’t really get daytime.
Dev: I don’t think the new single will get any radio play.
Rory: Nah, I think it will. It’s different though, I think it could do quite well. It’s either going to do really badly or quite well.
Does that bother you in any way, shape or form?
Rory: No its more interesting really, because we didn’t choose this single so it’ll be interesting to see how it’ll do.
So what would you have chosen for a single off the album for January 16th?
Rory: We were gonna do “Your Biggest Mistake“, the first one. We had an edit though, because it was quite long and we had this big breakdown in the middle and it would’ve lost people on the radio so we cut it up and tried to make it a more of a 3 minute, straight down the line thing but with all the good bits still in, some extra vocals. But they weren’t really down for that, I think it was just still a bit extreme. It’s funny though, because some bits on the record don’t seem that extreme to us but to some people they really do.
Well yeah because you’re in control of it, you’ve got the jugganought in your hands.
Rory: I guess if you haven’t seen it being made or haven’t stuff like that before then it probably seems a little more… crazy.
Have you ever thought about it like “fuck that, we’re not editing anything, this is what we do“? Like Radiohead do?
Rory: Well, I guess if you’re like that then they shouldn’t bother with singles.
Dev: We couldn’t play it, we couldn’t play that bit live haha.
Rory: Well, we haven’t practised it anyway.
And what about live? Obviously your live shows are absolutely explosive. We came to see you Upstairs at the Garage, knowing it would be pretty full on, so we knew what to expect. There’s nothing like going into a venue going “yeah I wanna fucking kill everyone” and that’s what I felt like then, wanting to kill everyone. But how do you get away with a tour without killing yourself? Don’t you lose your voiceS?
Dev: I think I’m dead right now, Zombie. Or close to it anyway!
Rory: Luckily we don’t play that long. Haha. I don’t know how we do it, every day is different. Either it’s the end of the world or it’s ok. Every gig is a combination of angsts or wanting to die. And then something you’ll get a bit more lighthearted and be all over the place during the gig. And some people were just stood there not knowing what to make of us and we don’t really even know what to make of ourselves. So you get this big bag of conflicting…things.
What about people at the shows? Obviously they’re growing in numbers, I mean I hear the ULU show in January is close to selling out?
It”s on the grapevine, people better get their tickets up front and soon. But at the end of the day you’re picking up a lot of people on the internet. How much does myspace.com play a part in all of this.
Rory: I dunno, myspace is a funny place. We’ve got 20,000 friends or something but then again there’s people who just want friends for the sake of having friends and I think probably one out of 10 who probably give a shit. It’s getting out of control though because we get so many messages a day that we can’t even be bothered to read them anymore.
Well you have a job to do anyway.
Rory: Well yeah I’m only on the internet like once a month anyway so I can’t reply to sort of 4 weeks or messages, like 1,500 emails. So I don’t even read them anymore because I feel bad reading them and not replying!
Well at least people know now why you’re not replying.
Rory: I mean, I talk to people at gigs and talk to them when we’re out but I can’t just sit there all day and talk to them.
Dev: And I mean, we are busy, like people think we just do nothing at all, like they think we do one show in Leeds, where they see us at.
So what’s the average day for you lot? Do you all live together?
Dev: They live together and I sleep on my girlfriend’s floor.
Rory: Most of the time we’re going to places, or playing.
Dev: We’re not ever really in London, maybe like 4 days in a month.
Must be difficult holding a bird down. I mean not physically holding down, although you have bandmates to help if a fat one gets rowdy!
Dev: An actual bird? Big bird!
But is it difficult? You must meet girls on the road?
Dev: We reckon this was made up by the record industry to make bands tour because I think I wanna go on tour but…
Rory: There’s not really the kind of girls I wanna meet!
What kind of girls do you wanna meet?
Rory: Someone who is older and better than me who I can look up to, who I can look at and think “fucking hell that person’s amazing” and they think that about me but I don’t know why. I need some milf in my life. No more 18 year old girls in my life.
You don’t wanna say that man!
Rory: Seriously, head fuck.
So what happens then? You’re touring, do the label put you up in hotels or are you in a van being real punks?
Rory: Nah its alright we’re in these Travel Lodge things.
That’s quite nice, most punk bands don’t even get a nice van! I’ve done enough floors in my time. So what’s next? You just gonna play it by ear or are there plans? I mean, like are you guys gonna to America?
Rory: Yeah, yeah, we’re planning on America in March 2006.
Do you know who you’re playing with?
Dev: I think its just us pretty much.
Rory: We were trying to do something with Eat Your Own Pet because we get on well with them, they’re really nice guys. Our tours are kinda depressing though because there’s not much excitement. Not many parties and the ones there are, are shit.
Do you have Butthole Surfers as a ring tone?! I want one of them!
Rory: But yeah, we wanted to have fun and do stuff with Eat Your Own Pet because they’re young and funny and last time we were together we were dancing around like fuck heads on a random floor. They’re just funny and we’d love to go on tour with them in America. We’re supposed to… were supposed to.
Will any of you be packing a skateboard for your travels?
Dev: I’m sorting out my deck straight after this.
Well thankfully, you’re gonna have ltd edition Crossfire – Test Icicles decks to take away.
Dev: Yeah, they look pretty cool.
Dev: I probably wouldn’t use it, but I’d love to have one on my wall! Only 75 of them made…it’s a great idea.
We only found out like, 2 hours ago.
So are you both skaters from old?
Rory: I can’t skate. I’d like to learn, but I think I’m too old now, I’m 25. I’d get out on a skate park and there’d be all the people looking at me and pointing!
Dev: I was just remembering when I walked past here… is it still called Playstation?
It’s Bay Sixty 6 now….
Dev: Yeah, I remember the first time I skated here and just how intimidated I was, it was a Saturday morning
How old were you then and what set up did you have?
Dev: Er… 14 I think. Toy Machine deck, I think it was just indys. I had another set up which was the worst set up in the world, which had horribly loose trucks which I never tightened. Good times man. Meet up at Liverpool Street and come up here and then after the session up here we’d go down to St Paul’s like, every weekend. I used to get scared there.
I haven’t skated that place in ages!
Dev: Radlands, it’s all about Radlands. We used to arrange day trips to go there or we used to go to Rom.
Zac: It’s still there man, just had loads of extensions and stuff on it. You used to
go on day trips up there?
Dev: Yeah, that place is insane man!
Were there any pro skaters that we favourites of yours?
Dev: I always like Geoff Rowley but I really used to obsess over Tony Alva and Stacy Peralta and what they used to do. I used to love that mainly because I could only do street stuff and sucked, so I used to love what the old school dudes.
What was your favourite trick?
Dev: Er… Oh ! I used to be able to 360 Flip but that used to be all I would do. I just wouldn’t do anything else. I just did it every now and again in front of people to look good.
Sam, you have a skateboard right? Do you still skate now?
Sam: Yeah, in the summer I did and I really enjoyed it, but the weather kinda gets me down too much to skate in England, but yeah I used to skate a lot.
What was your favourite set up?
Sam: I never really had a proper set up, it was all Australian brands probably. I had a really good Time deck… do you know them? No… Um…Chocolate? Yeah I had a really good Chocolate deck
Did you use skate parks or street or both?
Sam: Yeah a bit of everything really, smoked a lot of weed, it was cool..
We did acid and just skated downhill like “Aaaarrrgh have it, fucking have it!”. Scabs man, I’m telling you, the scabs. Primrose Hill in the summer, I used to love going there, taking the dogs up, having a barbeque. So there you go, I’m impressed with you guys, most bands are pretty disorganised. Look out for those decks coming soon!
Rory: I’m pretty good at swimming! I can float and everything.
So are you sponsored by Speedo?
Rory: Yeah I have some on right now. Tight ones.
Do you like them to go right up the crack?
Rory: Yeah, right up the crack!
And on that note we’ll leave your Icicles in the water. Do you wanna say thanks or fuck you to anyone?
Dev: Thank you to anyone who bought the record and thanks for having us at Crossfire, very cool.
Rory: Yeah and fuck you to that blind guy that called me a freak the other day!
Sam: Fuck you Dad, Mum and all my teachers.
Dev: And the Pope!
The Pope still gets shit, what’s the story there?
Dev: It’s a long story which I don’t wanna go into. We just promote Clear Channel!
So you won’t be seeing Test Icicles at Download or on Capital Radio in 2006
Dev: Or on anything!
Rory: All Tomorrow’s Parties were trying to put a show on in New York and there was only one venue in the whole city not owned by Clear Channel!
Sam: Fuck Clear Channel!
You can hear more from Test Icicles on the None More Punk Show on this very site mid January and also win 5 signed copies of their album on this very site over Xmas.