Here's Humphrey, Bob Hart, Herald Sun, 21/02/02


If you are unaware of the existence of a band called TISM, it is probably for the best. Because familiarity with TISM (This Is Serious Mum), Melbourne's anonymous, art-punk veterans, could erode the value and beliefs that bring balance and serenity to your life.

Then again, you might enjoy their harsh, ruthless, mocking, often venomous lyrics, their improbable erudition and dastardly humour.

In which case the acquisition of their retrospective CD tism.bestoff and attendance at a forthcoming concert could change your life. But not necessarily for the better...

TISM's Humphrey B. Flaubert (other members are Ron "Hitler" Barassi, Jock Cheese, Token Black [sic] and Eugene De La Hot Croix Bun [sic on leaving out Les Miserables and Jon St Peenis - Ms .45] this week addressed these and other sensitive issues.

Q. The new album is lovely - a reminder of the warmth and charm of your early work.
A. We think so. It shows that we didn't set out to shock middle Australia - rather to get back at the good-looking, snotty boys in our classes at school.

Q. Was this the motivation for your anonymity?
A. What has motivated almost all of our actions is cowardice. It runs through all of our greatest moments. Had we ever had to face up to any of those gentlemen against whom we were hoping to take our revenge, we would have dissolved in bowel-loosening terror.

Q. Understandably. That said...
A. The anyonymity of TISM is the one thing about us that is boring; it is there because there is nothing interesting underneath.

Q. The new album reveals your influences. I mean, Death Death Death clearly owes much to Paul McCartney's song Mull of Kintyre.
A. Well spotted. Both the song, and the way in which Paul's mouth resembled a cat's bottom during his performance of it. Death Death Death was an early work, and we were also influenced, then, by the duos in popular entertainment; Simon and Garfunkle, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, Barlow and Chambers...

Q. Are you excited that Sir Paul plans to tour?
A. Very excited. Sir Paul has composed classical music, dabbled in tecnho and so much more; we would love him to write a song for TISM. In any case, we will continue to work his musical tendencies into TISM songs.

Q. He'll appreciate that. Now, Greg! The Stop Sign! clearly owes much to the Beach Boys.
A. Ah yes. Their close harmony work has always been fondly remembered by TISM.

Q. And the surfing lyrics?
A. Well-spotted again. All of our songs, essentially, are about surfing. Also, Mike Love was helped by eastern mysticism, and that has also helped TISM. But we don't like to align ourselves with any one religious group. Although we do contribute regularly to the Liberal Party.

Q. Which explains, I suppose, your generous tribute to Philip Ruddock through the melodic Philip Ruddock Blues.
A. Indeed. He seems to us to be the right man in the right place at the right time. There have been only a few of those over the years; Wilson Tuckey was another.

Q. Was it your Young Liberal backgrounds that led to your masks in the first place?
A. Of course. It hardly seems necessary now with the excellent direction the party is taking - especially in Victoria where it is working its way into a tremendous position for the future. When our work in TISM is done, we can simply remove our masks and return to the party offices.

Q. There are many literary references in your melody-making...
A. There are. We are particularly influenced by the characters who die in the first few pages of Shakespeare's plays. We intend to rewrite the works of Shakespeare to kill off most of the important characters, and to allow these peripheral characters to emerge. We think there is room for a sort of Shakespeare/Celebrity Big Brother crossover. With Christian overtones.

Q. Good idea. You also link James Joyce and James Hird in an interesting way.
A. Oh yes. Jumping Jimmy "The Ghost" Joyce was a great centre-half forward, and often got Richmond out of trouble.

Q. Craig Bradley and Charles Dickens - another parallel?
A. Yes. Particularly in Bradley's apparent inability to bring a story to a conclusion.

Q. Your decision to release a greatest hits album is crass and commercial, is it not?
A. Yes. And destructive. People associate songs with significant moments in their lives - one representing the moment when you met the person of your dreams, another memorialising the death of a loved one. So by reefing these songs out of context, putting them on a single CD and manipulating our fans in a way that makes them buy any crap we release, we are destroying childhood memories.

Q. Is there any suggestion, as with another of your influences, John Farnham, that this is the last time for TISM?
A. No. Unlike John, we have never made a cent out of this silly business. We will carry on until the prostates get us, in the vain hope that one of us might one day get some petrol money out of it. We are planning to produce at least another 15 albums about hip replacements, taking the red pills rather than the blue ones, and getting up not feeling very well in the morning.

Q. Should people attend TISM concerts?
A. They should be very careful about this. We promise humour, loud rock songs played in an entertaining manner, choruses you can remember and value for money - alien concepts in today's entertainment environment. If you are shocked by them, we would advise against attending.


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