"Your possums are huge. It's bigger than a dog and just running around and then there’s the bats and all this fun. It's very, it's fun to be in Australia.”
Los Angeles-based noise-rock and industrial metal trio HEALTH are finally returning to Australia this week for their first run of shows down under since 2016.
Hitting Sydney, Brisbane and Hobart’s twisted festival of music, theatre, arts and food, Dark Mofo, the man behind the bass, pedals and electronics, John Famiglietti, can’t wait to be back.
“I love Australia. I love the seafood in Tasmania, the oysters are so fucking huge,” Famiglietti laughs, sharing that HEALTH actually performed at the first-ever Dark Mofo festival ten years ago. “That [MONA] is the coolest museum I've ever been to in my life. I'm really excited to see it again.
“I also want to see what's changed – I just like being in town. We've done all the tourist stuff in Sydney, but we do like being there. I mean, everything is also so exotic for us, like, just going to the park at night... Your possums are huge. It's bigger than a dog and just running around and then there’s the bats and all this fun. It's very, it's fun to be in Australia.”
The first-ever Dark Mofo festival, according to Famiglietti, was an experience in which HEALTH had no idea what to expect.
“We played two days in a row at the same time on this outdoor stage, and we got the chateau,” he says over Zoom. “We were actually on an Australian tour with the legendary post-punk band Wire.
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"That was the last show. We got to stay for several days and we just had an awesome time. We had oysters and white wine all day, every day and it was amazing. [The MONA] museum was really idyllic for me; it was over ten years ago, so I'm just pumped to be back.”
Australian fans can expect a “loud, very exciting” show at Dark Mofo and the headline shows – “they’re very high energy shows; we don’t stop too much,” Famiglietti adds. “It’s a good show – very kinetic; we encourage a lot of dancing and a lot of movement. We don't talk to the crowd too much… it starts brooding, but you can dance.”
Following 2015’s excellent Death Magic, the noise rockers entered a spectacular run of heavy music, releasing Vol. 4: Slaves Of Fear in 2019, Disco4: Part I in 2020, and last year’s Disco4: Part II, which included the band’s most brutal, visceral collaborations, including tracks with Lamb Of God and Nine Inch Nails. In late April, they unveiled their track HATEFUL from the video game Ultrakill.
In a review of Disco4: Part II, Kill Your Stereo summarised, “Over 12 tracks, there's a mood shift from the melodic, sultry industrial throb of Isn't Everyone featuring the unmistakeable vocals and ghostly instrumental arrangements of Trent Reznor through the relentless, tidal smash of Cold Blood featuring Lamb Of God.
“In their promiscuous treatment of genre, HEALTH’s follow-up to Disco4: Part I reflects the reality of their listeners, as much as the band themselves. Listeners in 2022 are playlist junkies, remix-seeking, podcast-hunting, music media-savvy connoisseurs and curators. We listen to hip hop, rave, Afrobeat and thrash metal in the same week, if not the same day.
“Why shouldn't we embrace all these elements within the one band, as long as they can find a way to interpret the elements with integrity so that it is cohesive and authentic?”
Famiglietti is impressed by the end result of Disco4: Part II and feels a tad incredulous at the enormous guest roster. “I can't believe it either,” he admits with a laugh. “I feel flattered and really lucky that all these people said yes.
“Because I was like, ‘Huh?’ For most of the whole process, some people would suggest someone, so that's been very cool. And now I feel that we've got it, we've got this proof that we could probably hit up more people and that wouldn't even be strange, you know?”
Other heavy acts on the album include The Body and Ada Rook, the former of whom the bassist is a huge fan of. “I've always wanted to work with them [The Body]; they’re actually a very underground band that has no social media,” he explains.
“It was really hard for me to get a hold of them – they’re very esoteric, but they actually do these collab records all day,” Famiglietti continues.
Then, the band were working on MURDER DEATH KILL with Ada Rook and PlayThatBoizay at the last minute, “and I was so into the BackxWash album [I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses, released in June 2021] and Ada Rook was a feature on it doing this crazy screaming. And then Lamb Of God was also a random one.”
Disco4: Part II achieves what vocalist/guitarist Jake Duzsik, Famiglietti and drummer Benjamin Miller set out to do: it weaves a web of integrated metal-dance-synth textures while retaining their creative integrity.
This June, HEALTH get to do what they love most for their devoted Australian fans: perform live shows. “It [playing shows] doesn’t get old like other art forms,” Famiglietti says, “and it's also that feedback loop where if people are really crazy and getting into the show, then you're gonna give a lot more.
“I definitely get why people get over it by a certain point and just say, ‘I can't do this shit anymore.’ But it hasn't gotten old for me.”
In a July 2015 interview with TheMusic, Duzsik detailed the most significant battle he faced at the time as a musician. "The biggest struggle for musical artists today, to remain relevant and stay visible, is that battle against that constant background noise,” he said.
"When everyone's Instagram feed or Twitter feed or Facebook timeline or whatever is this constant raging sea of content, being in a band is more than just making music. You need to constantly be generating content for your fans, or else they just stop paying attention."
Famiglietti says the band combats that very real struggle by curating their own social media feed, or in my words, enjoying “shitposting” on a regular basis.
Shitposting alongside Joe, who works behind the scenes for HEALTH, the pair have honed their skills in the marketing and visual departments for the band.
To escape the pressure of needing to post photos from the studio or become constant content machines, HEALTH turned to their fans on Discord and began sharing their fans’ memes and videos on social media, no matter how distasteful. Famiglietti assures that their fans’ interests don’t reflect the band members' own, but they’re merely sharing what they laugh at.
“All the memes come from the HEALTH Discord, so it's really the HEALTH fanbase,” he notes. “It becomes this feedback loop for people – people on Discord love memes. Oh my god, it's funny. So, I put it up, and then it creates this positive feedback loop. So, it's very organic. It's what the fanbase likes, and it's me curating what I like from that.”
And that’s how HEALTH can exist away from the background noise. “What we like about the shitposting is we can participate and post content all day without having to be really reluctant guys for the camera, do something you don't want to do or lip sync to the song or just being really out of place,” Famiglietti admits.
“That's the way we can play along and be part of the content stream. Just finding a way that works for us – I think if we had to dance to our own song on TikTok, it wouldn't work very well [laughs]. Do we still feel that pressure though? I don't know."
Rather than contribute to “fucking TikTok” by filming “a skit of myself listening to a song,” HEALTH actively decide to focus on music and not get so far removed from anything they associate with their songs. “We don't care what we do; we'll just find a way to do it in our own way.”