Talking the Amphetamine Strut, Jake Stone, Revolver, 31/07/02

TISM are insane. They are also quite intelligent, which makes the madness sound like mouth music.

The purpose of my interview with Ron Hitler Barassi was to talk about their new Greatest Hits release, bestoff, but instead Ron lurches into a monologue with the kind of fury that is normally reserved for lsat ditch hand to hand combat between battle-ragged soldiers in the depths of a wartorn jungle.

"Frank Sinatra used to eat breakfast off a hooker's tits. That is fantastic! What did he have? You know how you have those little breakfast trays when you are in bed and shit..."

Before I make a stable table/mastectomy hookers analogy, I wonder why TISM members are so much better at fucking around during interviews than they are at making music. Is it because they are actually artists who are just overly self-conscious?

"TISM have always been the debating team of rock. Grinspoon would be on the football team, some bands are the head boy at school, and some bands pull all the chicks, and TISM were always the debaters. Is there anything worse than the debaters? That is why TISM have been so abysmally received for 15 years."

Machiavelli did well, didn't it?

"If any rock band sold what Machiavelli sold, they would be disgusted. If we were in it for the money or the success or the critical approval or the fame, we know we would have given it the arse by now. We know we are not in it for the chicks. THere isn't one girl in the history of Australian rock music that is into TISM. Backstage at a TISM show, you may as well be backstage at rugby league, except for the seven skinny members of TISM."

We talk about yobs, which leads him to ponder his own audience and the nature of contrast. "Allon Jones and John Howard shouldn't be able to appropriate working class Australian culture to their own ends. Anyone who is appealing to the wider working class element these days seems to be associated with the rancid amorality that Jones and Howard represent. You should be allowed to slag off the left wing art set and not lumped in with those cunts. You'd better clean this up when it goes to copy, mate." I definitely will, don't worry. Have TISM had any revelations on their careers? Greatest hits albums can do that to a band.

"I think TISM has always sat very uncomfortably in the boxes that rock music creates. When I listen to music these days, I tend to like the shamelessly commercial music more. For example, Ronan Keating. Yet I am jealous of DJ Shadow's critical credentials. You wonder where you fit. I saw Tony Mundine fight Lester Ellis, and Lester's trainer got up and people were booing becuase the fight was stopped early and he said "all you fuckers can shut up, because it's not you taking the punches". I thought he'd just given voice to what every artist has thought while reading a review."

I reckon with the level of psychotic talking going on here we could pioneer a new genre of radio - ironic talkback. "I'm sure that when Stan Zemanek finishes his right wing, amoral, propagandistic shift at 3AW, I bet he goes down and has a latte and bruschetta with a couple of homosexual mates that he is very comfortable with. I can just imagine Stan down at some groovy rave, high on X (sic) and wondering whether he can tell his best mate that he is really into him at the moment."

What happens when we strip back the Ron persona, Ron?

"Well, what happens when you strip away the onion?"

Usually you just have a very small onion and a lot of tears.

"My world is 7.45 at a train station on a cold Wednesday morning. Underneath the mask, TISM are a very naked band. Our fans know that we are like them - similarly successful, similarly heartbroken, similarly mediocre."

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