Who was that masked band? Paul Robinson, Ralph, September 1998

Extremist groups are on the rise everywhere. Paul Robinson interrogates the terrorists of TISM.

They bound through the door looking threadbare koalas that collect money for the Wilderness Society. Instead of marsupial masks, something resembling a couple of pairs of jocks hide the identities of Ron Hitler Barassi and Humphrey B Flaubert (pronounced 'Flaubear' as in the French author), the pulsating groin of TISM (This Is Serious, Mum).

According to legend, the Melbourne band was formed in 1985 from an agar culture developing at the bottom of Ron's garden.

Tired of creative obscurity, TISM are rowing their cultural boat into the mainstream in a blatant attempt to subvert family values with a new album, www.tism.wanker.com. Boasting song titles Yob and Been Caught Wankin', the album's overall tone is as offensive as ever, but TISM is concerned they might be seen as 'relevant'.

Ralph switched on the spotlight, removed all reliable witnesses from the room and delivered a no-marks-on-the-face questionnaire, in an attempt to uncover the truth.

Must get it out of the way. Why do you still wear those bloody masks?

Ron: Masks are a pain in the arse, really. We regretted it from day one. They're pathetic, but there's a certain reality behind TISM that is humiliating.

Humphrey: There's a certain sexual allure in looking like a fuckwit. There's nothing to hide under the masks, just a basic mediocrity - not ugly, not attractive, somewhere in the middle.

Ron: There's a mask in everything we do. We have no sense of being real, interactive people.

Does looking like terrorists attract your average right-wing nutcase?

Humphrey: Look, there's plenty of right wingers out there who need us. We're big supporters of One Nation, but they've got it round the wrong way: we should be expelling all white people.

What do you think about gun control?

Humphrey: I am for it, definitely. I think every Australian should have control of a gun.

Ron: They've got very large penises, these guys. I envy them, they're so secure in their masculinity and their sexuality. They just love guns as an art form, not because of any desire to fondle symbolic phalluses. I'm actually searching for the feminine gun - the kind that sucks the bullets back in, repairing the hurt.

Humphrey: The vagina gun.

Ron: You know, the Mavis's are into shooting, pigs mostly.

Humphrey: They're battlers.

Ron: Howard is doing it for battlers like the Mavis's.

Humphrey: Perhaps the ARL could pick up The Mavis's to do the working-class macho woman anthem for the league.

Ron: Get Barnesy involved and that could be very erotic.

What sort of groupies does a masked band attract?

Humphrey: We always demand that the many attractive girls that flock backstage wear masks themselves - because we're uncomfortable with their beauty. Beauty is to be feared. It's fucked up many a great career.

Ron: It certainly hampers Kylie Minogue... and Elle. Elle's beauty completely obscures her many other talents.

Humphrey: She's certainly achieved a great deal. She's put herself right up there with the likes of Orson Welles. But moving along, did you know we're considering a triple album on the theme of prostate cancer?

Ron: Yes, we're all hurtling towards a major, life-threatening illness. When you look at things in the long term, like we do, incontinence looms. That's what's good about life.

Humphrey: We're very aware of colostomy etiquette... not that we're a poo band or anything.

Ron: No, we're serious artists.

As artists, how do you feel about censorship?

Humphrey: There needs to be more of it. Target the non-use of expletives. Expletives included everywhere possible. And terrorism, more terrorism on children's TV. Like the Baader-Meinhof Gang.

Ron: Or the Ted Mulry Gang.

Humphrey: We know Sydney 2000 is a window to the world for Australia and we want to see terrorism taken up as an official sport. Show the world we have the best terrorism right here in Australia. Get the Baaders to kidnap the whole Aussie swimming team. Better still, get Ted Mulry to drive up, sing Jump In My Car and you've got instant abduction.

You had a bit of a row with Ken Done a while ago. Didn't he sue you for breaching copyright by using 'his' koala design? Have you buried the hatchet?

Ron: Oh yes. Not too many people know that Ken was once a member of TISM. He came up with the original TISM costume, a tea towel. It was musical differences that led to the split.

Humphrey: It was getting too commercial for Ken. He's an artist. He's not into exploitation. Ken acutally came over on the Endeavour with Cook. He was cryogenically frozen. The science was only in its infancy them. They tried to do Joseph Banks, but it didn't work.

Ron: And, of course, James Cook ended up playing for Carlton.

Is it true that TISM is in a direct line of succession from Skyhooks and the Uncanny X-Men? (No, they're in a direct line of succession from AC/DC and The Angels - Ms .45)

Ron: The X-Man were giants, metaphorically speaking. Brian Mannix was a bit brief. We find short people very threatening.

Humphrey: Like Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Ron: But the true rock stars never really die. Brian wrote a book, so he's obviously a very handy guy.

The Asian economic crisis threatens the Australian tourism industry. Got any ideas to make Australia more interesting?

Humphrey: I'd like to see the Milats doing something to help. Perhaps a Belanglo tourist centre.

Ron: A bush chase with backpackers. 'Outback with the Milats'.

Humphrey: It has a Leyland Brothers feel, doesn't it?

Ron: Ivan was the original Bush Tucker Man.

Humphrey: But I don't think that's extreme enough. There was this bloke called Gary David, who frequented a few Melbourne pentitentiaries and enjoyed a bit of self-mutilation. I think we could sell that.

Ron: But, in the end, he chopped his own knob off.

Does this have wider implications?

Ron: There are many young Australian males badly in need of a role model. We say, if you're having trouble expressing your emotions, if you just can't hug another man in a masculine way, then chop your dick off and die.

Humphrey: Yes, it's time to take a stand against the John Howards of this world. He's obviously got a big schlong, but he's not man enough to say "sorry". The one word which should immediately come after every Australian sexual encounter.

Ron: Or apologise in advance, like I always do. I've never had a root that I didn't have to say sorry for. I thought the rest of Australia had finally caught up with the national Sorry Day recently.

Humphrey: A day for all Australian men to truly atone.

Ron: But that John Howard, he's obviously too good in bed. He's the Tommy Lee of Australia. He's built and dangerous.

And the other Members?

Ron: It's hard to get past Peter Reith in Cabinet. He's done so much, recently, to get Australians back together. He's possibly the most universally despised man since Brian Mannix. Now Downer obviously wrote all the work of Soundgarden and he's coping with the heroin abuse superbly. Downer, of course, is just a nickname.

Does TISM recognise the female orgasm?

Ron: I haven't seen one, yet. Never experienced one, not even close. Our initial position, though, is "Who cares?"

Humphrey: I think that's very much universal. I was having sex with Bronwyn Bishop the other night, when the subject came up. She kept saying that something was getting in the way. My hair was moving around too much. I thought of ringing Greg Matthews for a bit of advice, but then I thought, "Fuck it... who cares?" So I didn't.

Ron: Just chop off your dick and die. That'll solve all your problems in that department.

Humphrey: That's pretty much our position on everything. Just chop off your dick and die.

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