Endorphin Bath & Todd E. Jones presents...
 INDIE MUSIC Reviews & Interviews
by Todd E. Jones
aka The New Jeru Poet

severed headsInterview: SEVERED HEADS
“Tom Ellard Keeps His Severed Heads Under Gail Succubus”

(Dec 2006)

An Interview With SEVERED HEADS (Tom Ellard)

Interview by Todd E. Jones

        Is Severed Heads “Industrial” music? Severed Heads creates When people think of ‘Industrial’ music, they think of angry middle-aged men with spikes on their backs in the middle of a mosh pit (doing that stomp-dance where they pound the air). Severed Heads creates somewhat unclassifiable music that can still be categorized to certain genres. The harsh name of the band does have an “industrial” ring. The Australian group mainly creates electronic based music. Since they were originally signed to Nettwerk Records in the United States (Volition in Australia), Severed Heads were labeled as Industrial. In contrast to the term, Tom Ellard’s voice is very melodic and somewhat soft. Their electronic melodies do not have the aggressive or sinister style of typical Industrial music. At the core, Severed Heads are rooted in electronic pop music. When they do not adhere to their pop song structure, they travel to bizarre musical territory. Although Severed Heads may not be industrial music, the band is industrially productive! Tom Ellard is the one remaining member of the group. Even though musicians came and went throughout the decades, Tom Ellard has been the band’s driving creative force. Rooted in electronic music and innovators of the video synthesizer, Severed Heads has a hugely diverse catalogue. In reality, they create bizarre electronic pop music. One of their most respected songs, “Dead Eyes Opened” does not have sung vocals. Instead, the group uses vocal samples of Edgar Lustgarten, reading from “Death on the Crumbles” on a BBC Radio Show. Their most well-known album, “Rotund For Success” featured the tracks “Big Car”, “Greater Reward”, and “All Saints Day”. Their bountiful discography also includes albums such as “Come Visit The Big Bigot”, “Bad Mood Guy”, and “Gigapus”. With the help of Stephen R. Jones, their use of videos became a staple during their live performances. To fully experience Severed Heads, both eyes and ears were open.

    Sevcom Communications used www.sevcom.com to give fans a taste of the music before their purchase. Ellard was one of the innovators in utilizing the Internet for his independent record label. The albums, “Gigapus” and “Haul Ass” (both by Severed Heads) were self-released without neglecting quality. Ellard also released three albums with a side project collaboration named, Co Kla Coma. After a hiatus of several years, Ellard returned to electronic pop music with the 2002 album, “Op”. Originally titled, “Lap Top Pop”, the unique “Op” album underwent a plethora of upgrades. Each upgraded version included new songs and brand new instrumental tracks.

    Tom Ellard is proud of his new 2006 Severed Heads release titled, “Under Gail Succubus”. Originally released in a metal DVD case, the packaging for “Under Gail Succubus” presented multiple problems. Eventually, the plastic cases became the acceptable and accessible format. As an album, “Under Gail Succubus” consists of electronic pop songs mixed with the modern vibe created in the classic Severed Heads style. The opening track, “Snuck” includes a bouncy rhythm and a guitar-sounding melody. Ellard’s signature vocal style also remains. Other standout cuts include “Three Doors Down”, “Inside The Girl”, and “Psychic Squirt”. A second disc, “Over Barbara Island” consists of 8 instrumental tracks recorded live on June 21st 2006.

    Tom Ellard and Severed Heads is the epitome of independent music. He is the record label. As a label, Sevcom sells the music directly manufactured by the musicians without the typical middle management of record labels. Not only does Ellard have creative control, he has complete control of Severed Heads. Every single song is in the hands of Ellard. If Industrial Music consists of avant-garde music that is electronic in nature, the music of Severed Heads may sometimes be classified using that term. As a group, Severed Heads transcends just one genre. As a word, “Industrial” means something relating to the output of industry. In the music industry, Tom Ellard and Severed Heads have complete control of their musical output. Since Ellard has complete control, Severed Heads can be anything… beyond one genre. Industrially, Tom Ellard is essential to the independent music industry.
TODD E. JONES: "What goes on?"
TOM ELLARD: “Just finished another year of teaching. I worked at 3 universities, teaching music and video. Also, casual at a science museum, where I conduct a variety of seminar teaching for high schools and further education. Once you get past a certain age, you want to pass on the knowledge. Been a crazy year for releases too. 2 albums and 2 small books, with more coming.”

TODD E. JONES: “The new Severed Heads album, ‘Under Gail Succubus’ was just released. Tell us about the LP.”

TOM ELLARD: “The title is very old, from an 80’s booklet I created. That and the cover art should tip people off that it hearkens back to an older musical period. I feel that I’ve used enough different styles now that I’m not trapped in a genre. ‘Gail’ can re-visit some of the old Severed Heads motifs, without too much cloying nostalgia.”

TODD E. JONES: “Included in the ‘Under Gail Succubus’ package, is a 2nd disc titled, ‘Over Barbara Island’. Tell us about this.”

TOM ELLARD: “That was a live show which was supposed to take place outside, in a kind of demented tiki lounge atmosphere. It was a benefit for The National Art School. As it turned out, the rain forced the whole show inside a bleak white gallery space, where it sounded quite horrible. It’s my idea of cocktail music, which I don’t really comprehend. So, it came out kind of mangled. As it uses some sampled sounds, I made it a free disc. Free in, free out.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is the meaning behind the titles, ‘Under Gail Succubus’ and ‘Over Barbara Island’?”

TOM ELLARD: “As always, the titles are really open to interpretation. A succubus is a female demon that seduces men. I guess this one wears a badge, like they do at McDonalds. ‘Hi! I’m Gail. How would you like your soul eaten today? Fries with that?’ The other one, ‘Over Barbara Island’ is the yang to the yin. As well as being, ‘Over Barbara Island’ is a different girl. The island had to do with the visuals for the live show, which were lurid 3-D island landscapes.”

TODD E. JONES: “How is ‘Under Gail Succubus’ album different from your previous album, ‘Op’? Why?”

TOM ELLARD: “It’s completely different to ‘Op’. ‘Op’ is a cartoon book, funny papers. It’s a series of cheaply drawn, brightly coloured cartoon books. The idea with ‘Op’ was not to make albums, or make an album that somehow never got finished. So, it was informal. ‘Gail’ is a real album, formal and sensible. I think of ‘Gail’ as something that gets kept, whereas ‘Op’ would be used like a magazine or a newspaper.”

TODD E. JONES: “For the ‘Op’ album, you released upgrades or different versions. Will you do the same for ‘Under Gail Succubus’?”

TOM ELLARD: “‘Gail’ is ‘Gail’, finished. ‘Op’ could suddenly start up again at any moment, sometimes free and sometimes pay. I would like to make an ‘Op’ that gets handed out like pamphlets. If a track on ‘Op 1’ were done again later on ‘Op 3’, no one would complain.”

TODD E. JONES: “Favorite song on the ‘Under Gail Succubus’?”

TOM ELLARD: “Not favorite, but the first one from which others grew was ‘Lo Real’. Unlike ‘Op’, this album took years. Some things took 4 years. Not every day, but a bit every month. ‘Lo Real’ was one that just kept on needing a bit more work, a bit more. There are all kinds of things that happen in the background and you might not even notice them.”

TODD E. JONES: “Which song took you the longest to do from conception to completion on ‘Under Gail Succubus’? Why?”

TOM ELLARD: “‘Taking Out The Surfing Bird’ took the longest. It was first released in 2004 as a different track on a limited edition CD. Then, 2 more movements grew onto that over the years. Some tracks have holes in them that have interesting shapes. It can take time to find the right piece.”

TODD E. JONES: “How would you describe the music of Severed Heads? How would you say the sound of Severed Heads has evolved?”

TOM ELLARD: “There’s the same mind set as back in 1978 when we first started making sounds. I’m always amused by those who would say, ‘Oh yes they used to be Industrial, but now it’s just pop rubbish.’ They fail to see that we have a proud tradition of pop rubbish going back to the very start. One thing that is evolving is the technology. I refuse to use tape recorders any more because the nostalgia exceeds the results. I don’t give a damn about analogue anything. We used it when it was appropriate. Now it’s nostalgia, which I loathe.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is the story of ‘Lap Top Pop’? What happened?”

TOM ELLARD: “Well, ‘Op’ did start as ‘Lap Top Pop’, until all my laptops got stolen. I was writing the album on United Airlines flights. You can usually get quite a lot done on a Sydney to San Francisco haul, although sporadically. But the machines were taken by the usual junkie through the window, and the album with it. So I thought, ‘All permanence is illusionary’, and settled down to do what the fates were directing me to do, which was do an album that was never finished. The first edition of ‘Op’ was such a disaster that I knew I was onto something good.”

TODD E. JONES: “Where did you meet Stephen R. Jones? How did you eventually form the group?”

TOM ELLARD: “Stephen R. Jones showed up at our first gig in 1980. Later in 83, he built a video synthesizer, which used control voltages. As the band, at that stage, used the same voltages, he asked that we play live and send him some signal to drive the machine. That was the ‘Live At Metro’ gig that has been on a few DVDs and now on YouTube. A few years later, he joined in. It was five piece band for a while there.”

TODD E. JONES: “Why did you two go your separate ways?”

TOM ELLARD: “Well, he wanted to get on with ‘grown up’ stuff. You get to a certain age and you think, ‘being in a band is retarded. I want to do something a bit more sophisticated’. It was hard at first because I had to take over the video production, but he had taught me well enough that I knew that I sucked and eventually got better at it. Like most of the ex band people, we see each other a lot. Except the dead ones, I only see them every so often.”

TODD E. JONES: “What inspired the song, ‘Snuck’? Tell us about that track.”

TOM ELLARD: “‘Snuck’ is not a real word. It’s ‘sneaked’. The song is a list of words that don’t fit together. Some are things my girlfriend says when she is asleep. The chorus about Target just entered my head one day. Some passing spirit just flies down and puts whole lyrics in there. My bad lyrics are those that I can’t quite remember what the spirit said. As for the music, it was part of a jam I was enjoying with friends, re-mangled.”

TODD E. JONES: “On the track, ‘Psychic Squirt’, you use lyrics from an older song. What was this all about?”

TOM ELLARD: “It’s a bit of ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose’ by Burt Bacharach. Listen to the original by The Carpenters and then, look at the city now. See how it changed, like a mutant growth. The track sings about mutant growths. Everything around the world now seems to be a mutation that has grown too big like the props from ‘Lost In Space’. The world is over ripe.”

TODD E. JONES: “The packaging for ‘Under Gail Succubus’ is unique. Tell us about it.”

TOM ELLARD: “Bloody metal boxes! It was my stupid idea to sell it in metal boxes. They weigh so much that the postage eats up the income from the bloody album. And then, they get bent in the mail. So, eventually I hope everybody will start buying the transparent plastic version. But, it’s part of trying to make people dissatisfied with vaporous mp3 downloads. The most interesting thing is actually the serial number that is embedded in the album. Upload it to a torrent and I have your name and address instantly.”

TODD E. JONES: “On the different parts of tracks for ‘Bruise Vienna’, you use acoustic guitars and drums. Although Severed Heads mainly creates electronic music, will you use more acoustic instruments in future recordings?”

TOM ELLARD: “I really have no idea. I’m working on a vinyl box set at the moment of our ancient stuff. It’s funny listening to the old guitar tracks. Endearing, cute. It is almost tempting to take up the hurdy gurdy.”

TODD E. JONES: “I love the ‘Op’ album. I especially love the songs, ‘Symptom Symphony’, ‘Out On The Mental Ranges’, and ‘Hippie Bonfire’. Will the first version of ‘Op’ be available again?”

TOM ELLARD: “Well it always is. If you have ‘Op 2’ you have the cards. The cards unlock the old album for download. But really, it went hideously wrong. Something to do with mixing tracks on United Airlines flights made it brittle.”

TODD E. JONES: “Tell us about the purpose of ‘Op 1.2’. These are completely different tracks, all instrumental. Why was this done?”

TOM ELLARD: “Well, ‘Op 1’ went crazy. The mix was all wrong, and about 100 copies didn’t even play in people’s CD players, due to the video track. So, I had to do it again. But in the meantime, I put out a stop gap. You got to download it for free, if you had ‘Op 1’. It was a concession.”

TODD E. JONES: “You stated that ‘Op 1.2’ was much more enjoyable to create. Why?”

TOM ELLARD: “Because it wrote itself. I just went to bed and the next morning, it was sitting there all done. The spirits did it.”

TODD E. JONES: “Which pop music album do you like more, ‘Op’ or ‘Op2’?

TOM ELLARD: “‘Op1.2’ for sure. Some albums are effortless. ‘Co Klo Pop’ was effortless. Actually, all the Co Kla Coma albums were lots of fun. ‘Op 2.5’ was less so, but I still enjoyed it very much. Others had me in tears. ‘Haul Ass’ is a record of a very difficult, poverty stricken time. This forthcoming box set is being complete misery, trying to listen to stuff from 1977 with an open mind.”

TODD E. JONES: “Was it difficult to start Sevcom?”

TOM ELLARD: “Well, in 1988, Sevcom was just an idea. It acknowledged that labels were the new bands. But it grew slowly, based on printed booklets and then Otto Ruiter started up a BBS which I took over in 1992. We got a web page up in 1994, ‘Dead Eyes Opened’ was one of the first Internet tracks ever available for download. Then, Stephen M. Jones just walked in and made it all work. He already knew how to run the web thing with SDF, and helped me get the plumbing connected and the heater turned on.”

TODD E. JONES: “Severed Heads and Sevcom were one of the innovators of independent music on the Internet. Is Sevcom a success? What has been the key to the success?”

TOM ELLARD: “What we did back in the old days of the net doesn’t really matter anymore. Sure, we were first at most of it. But, that all gets forgotten in the rush for the next 15 minute wonder. All permanence is illusionary. Fame is a random process. Now, everybody has a Myspace. So, who cares if sevcom made the first MP2 album? Everybody has so many MP3s; they can’t bother even playing them.”

TODD E. JONES: “On the sleeve for ‘Under Gail Succubus’, you wrote, ‘Please share your own music, not mine.’ Still, you put a substantial amount of your music on the Sevcom website. How have you been hurt by the Internet?”

TOM ELLARD: “I only think it’s worth reminding that people make records. They are not spawned from the air by record labels. Somebody cared a lot about that track you’re uploading. Steal it, but just remember, it’s somebody, not some thing. I give a great deal, yet somehow, only that which is stolen is appreciated.”

TODD E. JONES: “Do you do many overdubs while recording?”

TOM ELLARD: “Back when I went from 4 track to 16 track tape recorders, the temptation was to go hog sh*t crazy. And I did on some of those Nettwerk LPs. Now, when you can have as many as you like, I try to use as few as possible. Like Brian Eno says, ‘Don’t overdub, use a treatment’.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is your opinion of Pro-Tools?”

TOM ELLARD: “Hated it until I started teaching it. That’s when I had to hone all the techniques. Now, I respect it, but there are so many dumb things in there, like real time bounce downs that don’t live in the 21st century. I love FL Studio. It’s a big ball of confusion. You can’t teach that. It just has to infect you. I use FL Studio a lot.”

TODD E. JONES: “Out of the myriad of albums you have released, which one are you most proud of? Why?”

TOM ELLARD: “I think there are a few good bits on all of them, and some utter crap. I really am sad that the Co Kla Coma albums didn’t get more attention. I have to say I got bored with the old ones over the years. Some kid will be raving about something I did in 1980 something and I’ll be wondering if the rest of my life was just a waste of their time.”

TODD E. JONES: “When writing and creating songs, what is the creative process like?”

TOM ELLARD: “Spirits. At least it is something that visits and leads you by the hand and shows you what to do. It’s sometimes odd that I’m teaching, as I think that creativity can’t be taught. But I hope I can lead the right ones to the muse and they will have that bright, vibrant, visitation. Composing is being able to see a jigsaw in all the pieces magically assembling themselves.”

TODD E. JONES: “How are the fans responding to this new album, ‘Under Gail Succubus’?”

TOM ELLARD: “They’re wondering why it’s taking so long to get their damn metal box in the mail.”

TODD E. JONES: “Where did you find the samples for the classic Severed Heads song, ‘Dead Eyes Opened’?”

TOM ELLARD: “Aha! It’s question #1. It’s Edgar Lustgarten and his TV show ‘Scales of Justice’. We have a whole area devoted to this question. Look at www.severed-heads.co.uk/faq.html.”

TODD E. JONES: “Many people have remixed your songs. Which ones did you enjoy the most?”

TOM ELLARD: “I heard that Orbital did ‘We Have Come To Bless The House’, but decided not to go with it. That would have been interesting. The Clifford’s come up with some pretty funny versions.”

TODD E. JONES: “Fans of Severed Heads are known as Cliffords. They made an album called, ‘I Can’t Believe It’s Not Lard’, comprised of Severed Heads covers. Which song do you like the most?”

TOM ELLARD: “If I said I liked one over the others, it would hurt some feelings. But, I guess the weirder, the better. Some people can mock me while adding some extra something. Just mocking is not so interesting.”

TODD E. JONES: “The Sevcom web page features exhibits where fellow Clifford’s can have their own little page. Tell us about the exhibits on Sevcom.”

TOM ELLARD: “Well that was more Stephen M Jones’ idea. He tends to be more egalitarian than me. I just wanted to have a few exhibits by selected artists. Stephen thought it better to have open access, which is part of the SDF ethos. So, anyone can have 50Mb. That may seem small in these days when Google gives you 1 GB. But, we don’t use you as an advertising billboard.”

TODD E. JONES: “What are the Sevcom Music Servers?”

TOM ELLARD: “The original idea was to supply 8 hours of uncomfortable muzak to fill a working day. I only managed 4 hours before it got snapped up by the film company. They were working on a similar mood and the match was good. Actually, it’s less muzak than the idea of ‘piped music’ that’s fascinating. I am slowly working towards a number 5.”

TODD E. JONES: “How did you get involved with the soundtrack for the film, ‘The Illustrated Family Doctor’?”

TOM ELLARD: “Well, Kriv, the director, was working on a script and needed a music worker that understood the bleak humour of the film. I was lucky that I’d been in the same headspace for a while. So, I could supply and expand existing material. We got along well and I have done a few TVC soundtracks for him since. Doing the soundtrack was relatively easy. It would have been hard if it was a heart warming tale of two young kids or something vile like that. Winning the ARIA award for the music was just plain weird.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is the meaning behind the name, Severed Heads?”

TOM ELLARD: “It was a joke. We were called Mr. & Mrs. No Smoking Sign, because that was really ugly. Then, we wanted to fool people that we were Industrial and it worked. Severed Heads was a really dumb name, so that’s what stuck. Forever. I hate it by the way.”

TODD E. JONES: “When creating a track, do you have a set theme or idea first or the music first?”

TOM ELLARD: “Usually, it’s a notion. On ‘Op 2.5’, there’s a track called, ‘We Choose Moon’. Although I used the Kennedy speech, in that, I actually went looking for it, knowing that the track was going to be about moons. Then, I wrote music about moons. Then, the video, about moons. It was a notion that stuck in my head and had then to be made real. Same with pilots. Moons and pilots are part of the uncanny, which energizes music.”

TODD E. JONES: “What was the recording process like for ‘Under Gail Succubus’? How was it different from other times?”

TOM ELLARD: “My entire life I wanted the one box that did music. I used to sketch the plans for one, back when I had tape recorders, mixers, keyboards, et cetera, eating up the living space. It focuses everything to the one point. Now, I have one machine, the computer, which disappears when you start using it. It’s perfect. Apart from that, creating music is mostly brain work, fitting puzzles together, following the flow. I hope to make it entirely mental one day.”

TODD E. JONES: “The song, ‘Kittens’ (from ‘Op’) talks about a father nailing a kid to the carpet. What is ‘Kittens’ about?”

TOM ELLARD: “He’s nailing a rent boy to the carpet. Daddy is a homosexual pervert murderer. ‘La la la’. I’m sorry, but these songs have meanings that don’t really connect up sensibly. It’s word music, not poetry.”

TODD E. JONES: “Musically, what else have you been working on?”

TOM ELLARD: “Well, the live album, ‘Viva! Heads!’ came out the UK and I am pretty happy with that, as it really does update our live recordings to the present day. That’s what Severed Heads sounds like live, not like the recordings that were about before. It’s a fun album too. And there’s at least one box set of vinyl underway.”

TODD E. JONES: “What are some of your favorite instruments?”

TOM ELLARD: “I like instruments that disappear, ones that become direct pipes from brain to sound. That means I really don’t like instruments at all, I guess. Perhaps, I should have played the guitar. Colin Newman once told me that was the least intrusive noise device. Synthesisers are less physical though, so you don’t have technique.”

TODD E. JONES: “Around what time in your career did you start financially surviving form music?”

TOM ELLARD: “In the late 80’s, pretty early on. Sometimes, I was even wealthy, which was a feature of those times. I have actually done really well out of music over the years, which puzzles me greatly. I think other people found me useful and steered me this way and that, like a tractor. And as they fed themselves, I got fed too. I never really sat down and thought about how to make money, like I do now. But musical careers are brighter than they are long.”

TODD E. JONES: “Do you think that success and credibility are mutually exclusive?”

TOM ELLARD: “When I won the best soundtrack ARIA award for the film music, I was deprived of that illusion. It’s too easy to say, ‘I’m too weird no one will even credit me.’ Then, suddenly you win a mainstream award and you have to ask yourself if perhaps, just perhaps, the people who win awards might earn them somehow. Not always, but that win questioned my presumptions about mainstream versus alternative music.”

TODD E. JONES: “What song are you most proud of?”

TOM ELLARD: “It depends how drunk I am. Honestly, it varies with the mood. I like those that please and annoy the most. ‘Gashing The Old Mae West’ is useful for teaching. It might be the one that lasts longest in music history.”

TODD E. JONES: “How has the Video Synthesizer affected your career?”

TOM ELLARD: “I have two slipped discs from carrying it up stairs. It broke the ice at parties. It gave journalists something to write about, when they sounded bored writing an article. You could use that to liven them up. Now, it gives me something to impress children. Look kids, analogue.”

TODD E. JONES: “One of my all time favorite Severed Heads tracks is ‘Sevs In Space’. What inspired this song?”

TOM ELLARD: “Let me try very hard to be helpful. After writing this track, I think it comes from Altman’s film ‘Brewster McCloud’, which I saw sometime and then stored in the mind pit. The lyrics are about Icarus, but they are again, not supposed to be a narrative. The music has a parrot in it. If you try to find sense, you’ll be disappointed.”

TODD E. JONES: “Who are some artists you would like to collaborate with in the future?”

TOM ELLARD: “I guess I am out of the loop these days. Thinking about what’s going on right now, I feel a foreigner. I did a lot of this rehashed style some while ago and can’t pretend to be still thrilled. Not that no one is doing my thing, but I am not doing theirs. These kinds of offers come at odd moments and I can’t presume to predict what is next. I am sure I’ll be puzzled.”

TODD E. JONES: “How did you get the deal with LTM Records to re-release ‘Rotund For Success’?”

TOM ELLARD: “James Nice wrote to me one day and said that I was a fat sh*t. He actually said, ‘So you hate record companies do you?’ I got all embarrassed and felt I should really be more cooperative with somebody who took the time to crack my shell. I think it’s simply part of his charter, as we were loosely associated with Factory Australia, back I the day. LTM does Factory’s mopping up, and so we are appropriate to include.”

TODD E. JONES: “Originally, you were on Nettwerk Records. How did this deal come into fruition? Why did it end?”

TOM ELLARD: “To get Skinny Puppy on Ink Records in the UK, Nettwerk had to take one of Ink’s bands. Actually, Ink wanted Moev, whether Nettwerk really wanted us is another matter. I guess we were okay until Nettwerk finally came out of the closet and admitted they were a frock rock label. I look bad in a frock. Nettwerk’s tastes are easily defined by money, and frock rock beats cookie monster any day.”

TODD E. JONES: “You were in a side project called Co Kla Coma. How did this start? Will there be any more albums?”

TOM ELLARD: “Co Kla Coma was simply a collaboration between me and two performance guys from Oklahoma. They pretty much just wanted a mention on the records, although I’d get samples mailed down, guitar riffs, Christian speeches, all kinds of odd bits. Co Kla Coma had a stage patter about sonic weaponry, a coma tone that induced sleep. We have a film half finished. Later on, one of them moved to Santa Cruz and we could collaborate a bit more. The other guy is now a full time nutter.”

TODD E. JONES: “Do you believe in God? Do you believe in a certain religion?”

TOM ELLARD: “Well, I allow metaphysical ideas. There are patterns in life that are not logical yet often described. I can believe in things, but more in line with Jung than the Pope. There’s a big difference between religion, which is social, and belief which is personal. As for God, if you define it, you limit it. Seeing as the definition is that it’s unlimited, God is a paradox.”

TODD E. JONES: “You also earn a living besides music. What else do you do?”

TOM ELLARD: “I say, ‘yes’ really fast and before you know it, I’m already raking the leaves and cleaning the gutters. I do a lot of part time jobs, at one point this year I had 7. I’m an arts & education workaholic. Books also earn more than music.”

TODD E. JONES: “What do you think of rave culture? Has rave culture embraced Severed Heads?”

TOM ELLARD: “No, we looked suspiciously at each other. I didn’t like their neo-hippy Mandelbrot bullsh*t. They didn’t like our lack of BPM. For a so called liberating movement, they sure had a lot of rules. Rave culture was too confining for Severed Heads.”

TODD E. JONES: “What are the three best things about living in Australia?”

TOM ELLARD: “When the bombing starts, we’ll die second last, before New Zealand. It’s still possible to occasionally find something here that wasn’t designed in America, although that’s getting rare. Sometimes, the most interesting people to meet are the ones who don’t want to live in the center.”

TODD E. JONES: “What are the three worst things about living in Australia?”

TOM ELLARD: “It’s an island with a small town mentality, a world suburb. The people with fire in their belly leave here. Then, come back when they run out of ideas. Many good things are too far away, too expensive and too hard to get.”

TODD E. JONES: “What LPs have you been listening to during the last couple of days?”

TOM ELLARD: “Magma’s ‘Mëkanïk Destruktïw Kommandöh’ because a friend said that I should hear some Magma. A lot of Residents stuff, old and new, trying to work out just where I started to dislike it. A recording of Kraftwerk, playing live as a guitar rock band in 1971, which reminds me a bit of Popol Vuh, which I like.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is your favorite part of your live show?”

TOM ELLARD: “When, it’s thankfully over and I did not make a complete fool of myself.”

TODD E. JONES: “How has your live show evolved?”

TOM ELLARD: “It all fits in tiny little boxes that are easy to carry. It can draw upon a lot of history. It’s more likely to be at a gallery than a hall. It’s now going back to one off shows, like the very early ones, than hits and memories rock gigs. The idea of a live show becomes perhaps a misnomer.”

TODD E. JONES: “Abortion. Pro-choice or pro-life?”

TOM ELLARD: “I think that moles and bunions have a right to life as do all sundry lumps of flesh and will picket the nearest shoe shop to stop this dreadful flesh trade.”

TODD E. JONES: “Euthanasia. For or against?”

TOM ELLARD: “I think we should keep people on endless palliative care even after they die. I mean, it’s selfish that corpses should not offer the opportunity for moral righteousness. I hope that soon we can dig up old bodies and give them the care they deserve. Of course, we should still kill felons. The State has to exercise power in both directions.”

TODD E. JONES: “Severed Heads does not have a MySpace page. What is your opinion on MySpace?”

TOM ELLARD: “There was a Severed Heads page, but after some trouble, I got it removed. Frankly, I don’t like crap, even if it’s popular. I don’t like information Nazis, like News Corporation pretending to be hip. Also, I don’t like having friends, which I have never met. And if that cuts my sales, well bite me.”

TODD E. JONES: “Word association. When I say a name, you say the first word that pops into your head. So, if I said, ‘The Beatles’, you may say ‘Revolution’ or ‘John Lennon’. Okay?”


TODD E. JONES: “Television Personalities.”

TOM ELLARD: “This Has Been A Reg Grundy Production.”

TODD E. JONES: “Boxcar.”

TOM ELLARD: “Zippy The Pinhead.”

TODD E. JONES: “Happy Mondays.”

TOM ELLARD: “Baggy Trousers.”

TODD E. JONES: “Kool Keith.”

TOM ELLARD: “L. Ron Hubbard.”

TODD E. JONES: “Felt.”

TOM ELLARD: “Fat and wolves.”

TODD E. JONES: “Momus.”

TOM ELLARD: “Ice cream.”

TODD E. JONES: “Eminem.”

TOM ELLARD: “Melts in your mouth, not your hand.”

TODD E. JONES: “Close Lobsters.”

TOM ELLARD: “Pickles don’t go with fish cakes, dear.”

TODD E. JONES: “The Beautiful South.”


TODD E. JONES: “Radiohead.”

TOM ELLARD: “Thomas Dolby.”

TODD E. JONES: “The Brian Jonestown Massacre.”

TOM ELLARD: “Body number 996.”

TODD E. JONES: “De La Soul.”

TOM ELLARD: “Rubbermaid.”

TODD E. JONES: “Jimi Hendrix.”


TODD E. JONES: “Spank Rock.”

TOM ELLARD: “Elvis.”

TODD E. JONES: “The Lovetones.”

TOM ELLARD: “The Deltones.”

TODD E. JONES: “New Order.”

TOM ELLARD: “Queensland.”

TODD E. JONES: “The Dandy Warhols.”

TOM ELLARD: “Advertising.”


TODD E. JONES: “The Fall.”

TOM ELLARD: “Teeth.”

TODD E. JONES: “Denim.”

TOM ELLARD: “Crimson King.”

TODD E. JONES: “My Bloody Valentine.”

TOM ELLARD: “Rosebud.”

TODD E. JONES: “Trisomie 21.”

TOM ELLARD: “Mongoloid.”

TODD E. JONES: “Gil-Scott Heron.”

TOM ELLARD: “Tablets.”

TODD E. JONES: “George Bush.”

TOM ELLARD: “Asphalt.”

TODD E. JONES: “Who are your biggest influences?”

TOM ELLARD: “Flatulence. Oh sorry, not playing words anymore. I would rather acknowledge influence from every single thing I have ever heard. There is no music that springs from nowhere and it’s a constant flow. I’d say Steve Reich, except I was already mucking around with tape ideas. Then, I found that he’d explored it beforehand. Severed Heads is not as an innovator, but a conduit from experimental music to pop music.”

TODD E. JONES: “What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?”

TOM ELLARD: “Everything you do will be forgotten one day, so don’t get all la-de-da.”

TODD E. JONES: “What are some of your favorite films?”

TOM ELLARD: “Right this moment, I’m antagonistic to feature films. It’s simply a ploy to clear my mind, to try and bring about clarity in what I would like to do myself. I agree with George Lucas, who recently stated that the blockbuster is dead. What will replace it?  I’d say that I appreciate the films in which Walter Murch did, the sound design. I learned a lot from him. I was a little disappointed by ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, but Gondry still rocks.”

TODD E. JONES: “These days, what is a typical day like for you?”

TOM ELLARD: “I wish I had a typical day. But, casual workers don’t get one. I guess, teaching is like doing a gig every day. I might spend as much as 9 hours lecturing in one day. Then, sit dazed at home, dribbling quietly in the corner.”

TODD E. JONES: “What are some major misconceptions do you think people have of you?”

TOM ELLARD: “That we’re ‘Industrial’. That we did everything in the 80’s then died. That ‘Dead Eyes Opened’ is a good song. That I am a zany wacky guy who hand builds cyclotrons. That I am arrogant, because I can’t smile at everybody 24-7.”

TODD E. JONES: “Are you in a romantic relationship these days? Are you a heterosexual? How have touring, recording, and the music lifestyle affected relationships?”

TOM ELLARD: “Yes and yes. It can lead to false expectations from shallow people. There’s nothing more repulsive than people who see you as ‘a musician’, like the ones they read about in Jackie Collins books. They look at you like a tradesman looks at a ladder.”

TODD E. JONES: “What do you look for in a lover?”

TOM ELLARD: “All their own teeth.”

TODD E. JONES: “Did you get along with your parents? What do they think about your music?”

TOM ELLARD: “They were okay once I was mentioned in the newspaper. Obviously, then I was good enough at what I did, which was all that mattered. If I was crap, then they would have worried. As for the music, well, I like their tastes more than they like mine.”

TODD E. JONES: “When you pass away, would you like to be buried or cremated?”

TOM ELLARD: “Flung from a trebuchet.”

TODD E. JONES: “What would you want on your epitaph (your gravestone)?”

TOM ELLARD: “All permanence is illusionary.”

TODD E. JONES: “Are there any collaborations fans should look out for?”

TOM ELLARD: “I hope that one day, there will be another Co Kla Coma recording. But, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting. Also, slowly working at another collaboration, with a very silly name, but again, it would be foolish to mention just yet. Don’t worry, it’ll come. Got some more film work too.”

TODD E. JONES: “Will you release more upgrade versions of your Severed Heads classic albums?”

TOM ELLARD: “I think we did them all when ‘Clean’ was re-made. Maybe LTM Records will have to rearrange things a little, just to keep from treading the same water. As when they took on ‘Rotund For Success’, it wasn’t different enough for most listeners. But right now, all the important, well relatively, stuff has been re-issued as digital media.”

TODD E. JONES: “Have you been approached by record labels to release your new Severed Heads work? Which ones? Why did this not happen?”

TOM ELLARD: “We have a variety of labels contact us, most often to reissue an old song on a compilation, some want to do what LTM does, which would be redundant. Some are interested in special projects, like Vinyl On Demand in Germany. But they don’t ask for new CD albums, which is not surprising, given that such albums are on the way out. AWAL have our stuff for download, which is the current model. If Sevcom stopped, the stuff would come out some other way.”

TODD E. JONES: “What’s next for Severed Heads?”

TOM ELLARD: “Tom Ellard has to do some academic work, which might involve audio recordings for a thesis. Severed Heads might just have to take a back seat for a while. Given the barrage of releases this year, that won’t hurt. Besides, the only good artist is a dead artist.”

TODD E. JONES: “Will there be other releases on Sevcom?”

TOM ELLARD: “That’s an interesting question. Maybe some annexes to existing titles, ‘Op 3’. But, no new projects for a while. Really, there is an awful lot already available and sometimes, I think that absence is the new media.”

TODD E. JONES: “Any final words?”

TOM ELLARD: “Gang of Four: ‘Nostalgia, it’s not enough. It is just a habit’.”

  Thank you SEVERED HEADS ! ! !

-interview written by Todd E. Jones aka The New Jeru Poet

This interview is property of Todd E. Jones and cannot be duplicated or posted without written permission. 
Other versions:
(MVRemix version) - Interview with SEVERED HEADS
/ Part 2 / Part 3  / Part 4  / Part 5 
(Musicremedy version) - Interview with SEVERED HEADS / Part 2
(Undersound version) - Interview with SEVERED HEADS

SEVCOM: http://www.sevcom.com

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