Everything Is Fucked

4 December 2013 | 9:16 am | Brendan Telford

"When we were around in the ‘70s no one understood us, it all just sounded like horrible noise."

A lot of bands throughout history get unnecessarily buoyed by the title 'ahead of their time', yet few actually leave a legacy that rings true. Melbourne noise punks Primitive Calculators barely left any artefacts of their short time on this mortal coil – calling it a day in 1980 after only a few years on the scene – yet their reunion since 2009 has underscored their importance to 21st century music. Taking the road more confrontational when the punk community were finding their inner David Bowie, the band took their instruments, introduced electronica as it stood at the time, and crafted a performance that was designed to inflict pain.

“When we were around in the '70s no one understood us, it all just sounded like horrible noise,” Grant explains. “There were a few bands around the world that were interested in making noise as a musical medium, like Half Japanese and Chrome, but we weren't in a scene like that, so people would hear this noise that attacked them and just walk out. We were all part of the punk uprising, but there came this fork in the road where people chased a power-pop edge, and that's where The Boys Next Door and The Models went. For us, we were still angry. We wanted to capture that sheer raw savagery that that first year of punk brought to us, and in order to do that we got more repetitive, more primitive and more savage. We always knew that eventually what we were doing would find an audience; we never doubted that.”

Thirty years in the making, Primitive Calculators have released their debut record, The World Is Fucked. With a maelstrom of white noise assaults and nihilistic bile thinly veiled as lyrics, the album picks up where the band from 1980 left off, creating a tome of pain and the gnashing of teeth that back then turned the punters away in droves. But since those heady days there have been so many musical, cultural and technological touchstones that have filled in the gaps so Grant feels they are understood now – well, as understood as a band espousing the end of the world can be…

“It's the album we would have made if we knew how 30 years ago,” Grant admits. “We heard it in our heads, but there were no technological means of making it. And if you look at the reviews, people are getting it, they know what we've done; we've created a piece of art. There have been enough stepping stones along the way that what we're doing is starting to make sense to people. Throughout the '90s you had things like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry, and this idea of industrial music became an accepted norm. It wasn't unusual for bands to stand with their guitars making excessive feedback.”

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Yet it's another musical milestone from the 1980s that Grant feels validates what Primitive Calculators were attempting to do. “Around 1989 when techno landed, I thought 'Jesus, we nearly invented that!' When we were making beats, we thought to be punk you had to fuck with it. Then when techno came out and it was that thumping insistent beat, a light went on in our heads. That relentless doof doof doof – it breaks you down.”

The World Is Fucked is a testament to Primitive Calculators' worldview – it's there in the title – and it's one that Grant maintains is prevalent today.

“When we were 18, we thought we could change people's lives by assaulting them with horrible noise. We thought we could cure people, purify them and take them to a higher existence where they'd realise their lives were meaningless. When we first heard the Ramones in 1976 and there was this punk uprising, it was the sheer sonic attack that we experienced as this rush, like a cleansing. It told our story – hippy music and country rock had come and gone, and here came our voice. But you appropriate what you know. We grew up in the suburbs listening to pub boogie bands like Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, then the explosion of disco with Donna Summer – it all fuelled the beast. It's the same today – we're still trying to show people the light of futility.”

Therefore it's easy to see how a Primitive Calculators performance is something of a purge or an exorcism, an exercise in overwhelming the senses until everything is seen for what it truly is – redundant. “I love performing, it's who I am, but it is so exhausting! I just want to die on stage,” Grant deadpans. “In the middle of Dead too – just after I say “And soon I will be dead”, I could drop to the floor a happy man.”