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Pinched Nerve

21 November 2013 | 2:34 pm | Monique Cowper

"The omnipresent evil waging war against us can galvanise people."

"The omnipresent evil waging war against us can galvanise people,” declares Ezekiel Ox just seconds into our interview. “There is joy in making people face up to the fact they can change the world living in an Abbott Australia. Amongst the revolutionary circles there will be a solid fight back.”

It can, however, prove difficult to stage a rebellion when you haven't even met your comrades. This was the challenge for Ox, drummer Lucius Borich from Cog, Prazsky Vyber's guitarist Glenn Proudfoot and former Pre-Shrunk bassist Davarj Thomas. Based between Prague, Melbourne and Sydney they recorded Audiodacity on Skype and met for the first time on the eve of their debut gig. “We are standing around waiting before our first gig,'' Ox says. “We had finished the album but we had never stood in the same space together. When we listened back to the tapes it showed a band that had a real alchemy.”

It may sound crazy but as Ox, quite rightly, points out the “musicianship on display is not questionable”.  “We wanted it to be a really pure expression of metal, really fierce rock. We knew we wanted to go toward something that was pure intellect and aggression. Musically, for me, I knew the level of songwriting was absolutely exciting. We weren't housed by technical restrictions, which is very exciting for the future.”

It is an incredibly cohesive album and Ox laughs when asked if taking the egos out of the mix by working online had contributed to this. “There is no ego in the music business,” he cackles before turning serious. “I expect, and I get, 95 per cent respect and thoughtfulness from the people I work with. We have the work ethic that backs this up. We aren't a bunch of people who expect this to be handed to us. Perhaps the band, The Nerve, is the ego. It is the thing that has the swagger.”

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Ox, whether he likes it or not, has become somewhat famous for forming a band which gains a hardcore following and then often dissipates. The list includes Full Scale, Mammal, Smash Nova, Over-Reactor, and The Ox & The Fury some of which are still “in a state of flux” to use his words. “I've got a restless heart,'' he claims. “I won't do something purely because it's fun for others. I have a life and with Full Scale and Mammal the thrill was gone. It must be a strange thing for people to see this tight, committed act onstage but they aren't in the van or in the rehearsal space when we are struggling. Once it becomes a struggle, I'm out.” Ox is quick to reject suggestions that maybe he is difficult to work with. “I think that's an unfair perspective,” he says. “The songs are there, the work is done, I write, I work on the road, I'm passionate about my fan base, I have a plethora of wonderfully talented people who I'm able to work with.”

He is, however, the first to admit that his politics may cause frustration for former bandmates. Ox brands himself a radical and he walks the talk behind his music. He will stop a gig to confront fans he believes are being too physically aggressive, passionately argues against those who criticise him for flying the Aboriginal flag at gigs and swaps standard onstage banter for speeches on topics from homophobia to feminism. “When you're radical people see might see you, day-to-day, challenging racism, sexism and homophobia. That can be difficult in Australia when you tack on male, straight, white privilege. I have all of that privilege but I challenge it every day.”

When it was put to Ox that some of the most creative ideas arise from conservative times, Ox is hesitant to put any positive spin on what he believes are negative forces. “I can't say anything good can come from the current scum running the planet. I hope to see refugees, single mums, [and] gay people afforded justice and I don't see that enough.”

As for whether Ox sees The Nerve outlasting any of his previous projects, the singer claims he is more focused than ever but interestingly puts the onus back on the fans. “It has already been a struggle, a real effort, to get to this point. Hopefully we're producing music you can nod your head to while plotting revolution. The best way to keep us together is to come to a show. Even if someone has an inkling of curiosity, that's what excites us.”