Good Cleaning Fun, Eden Howard, Rave (Brisbane), 09/02


"It must be terribly difficult talking to all these bands with nothing much to say that hasn't been said before," Humphrey B. Flaubert deadpans. "I'm not going to really change that perception. I'm reading from a phrasebook and paraphrasing all my answers from the John Lennon Playboy interview, but that's all right."

TISM have just released a collection of their finest works. Best Off: Retrospective Works 86/02. Fortunatly they've packed it out with 18 more tracks (43 more if you get the double album), so you'll not be heading from your favourite record store with a blank disc in a pretty case. The problem lies in the fact that, as a generalisation,the best of collection often rings of contractual obligation and the end of a record deal... could this be the end for our heroes?

"You've opened the door into the screaming soul of TISM here. It's like any relationship. When the honeymoon period ends nobody is prepared to sleep in the wet patch any more, It's pretty much been like that for the last fifteen years now. Separate hotel rooms when we tour, separate monogrammed learjets. It is very difficult to communicate as each of us speaks a different language. You can sense that in our music. The Best Off is really out because Festival Mushroom asked us to do it, because we're the Festival Mushroom cash cow. Kylie has hit on hard times, so we're here to try and support her flagging tour coffers."

"We're really determined to sell out, but no one is interested in buying. We're not in it for the art. We're in it for the chicks. The promise of eating bacon and eggs off a hooker's tits is what it's all about. It hasn't happened for us. None of us have ever managed to have any kind of relationship with a female, but one day when our erection problems are sorted out there's hope for us. It's not a labour of love anymore, and I would like to go on record as saying Ron Hitler Barassi and I have not spoken for 13 years, and I personally have tried to kill him on several occasions. The only thing that has stopped me is the fact I'm a total coward."

It can't all be bad... after all, there are a lot of tracks on there. A prolific career, at least.

"There is a lot of tracks," he enthuses. "There you go. That's a positive thing. We're value for money, even if it's quantity, not quality. As far as this goes as a great contribution to art, we'll be up there as a band that's released a lot of songs on our albums. If you wanted to isolate our contribution to the rich tapestry of rock, we're probably the band that gave you the most songs. The band that tended to be polite in interviews. The band that always put their rubbish in the bin. These are the things we want to be remembered for. There's not much more you can ask for from your rock band."

No history of destroyed hotel rooms in TISM's wake?

"Well most of the touring rock bands in this country stay at the same hotels, that give them a cut rate on syringes and so forth. They love it when we turn up, because we tend to go around and clean up after the other bands. We like nothing better after a show than ringing up, let's say Magic Dirt, ringing them in their hotel room and asking if they've got any bottles to clean up, don't worry about doing the dishes... that to us is the height of artistic expression. It's a symbol for what we've done over the years in music terms. We've come along and cleaned up afterwards."

Australia's musical housekeepers?

"That's it. We don't smoke, we're punctual. Probably the most punctual band in rock. When they do have a rock punctuality hall of fame we'll be in the first round of inductees. I believe Jeff Buckley was going to be admitted, but he hasn't turned up. I'm sure there's some good reason, and I'd like to think most people in rock bands would like to do the right thing, but they're lead astray by the audience who seem to want them to be rebellious."

Do you feel the pressure to act up to these expectations?

"Absolutely. Girls come back stage, and they prostrate themselves in front of us. What we usually do in that situation is take the girl by the hand, return them to their clothed state, and talk to her very deeply and strongly about the options available to her at this juncture in her life. We like to lecture her about the role of woman in the patriarchal society, and give her a few numbers to help her look at the root cause of her problems. Basically what it comes back down to, at some point, is a member of the family shagging them up the arse..."


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