The Hitler Diaries, Brett Buttfield, 05/06/96


"We've talked before I think," Ron Hitler-Barassi grunts cautiously down the phone line. We have indeed talked before, twice, and the trepidation exists on both sides. Hopefully Hitler-Barassi will enthrall me with some truly fatuous episode from TISM's ongoing debacle of a career. This proves to be the case.

"Have you heard about Flea mate? Flea has appeared on Triple J and also on Triple M. They asked him about Australian music, he said, 'The only thing about Australian music is that there's this group called TISM who sing a song about my mate River Phoenix and if I find 'em I'm gonna fucking kill them.' Isn't that great?! I really do hope that he beats my head in 'cause it'd be the closest I've ever been to a real rock star. We are pussies though, mate. We're the Jill Singer (Melbourne Today Tonight host who collapsed on air) of Australian rock'n'roll - when it gets too hairy we just pull out."

Rather than vanish back to teaching or accountancy or whatever it is they really do, they've rereleased their gold album 'Machiavelli and the Four Seasons' as a dodgy double disc package and hit the road for another national tour.

"TISM were always the band hankering like the drug-addled prostitutes of rock, touting for the music industry's business," gloats Hitler-Barassi. "I do think that the greatest satirical statement that we could have made on the Australian rock industry is to actually become moderately successful within it. Though we're not up there with the likes of Ted Mulry or Supernaut - they're the real icons of Oz rock."

Momentarily I'm stopped in my tracks, before regaining composure and blustering on about the inevitable restrictions which must come with popular infamy. A case in point being the bleeps which have begun to appear on some of TISM's recorded rants.

"That certainly isn't a case of artistic taste, but we have to watch out a little more for the old libel and defamation. When you're a grotty little snivelling half-assed alternative avant-garde act, who cares? But given we've got some national profile now you gotta watch out for it. We've grown to learn that there is this great myth of selling out one's artistic principles - no one wants to buy our artistic principles. I actually find that the more self-indulgent and less acceptable what we write is, the worse it is. I find that the more popular our stuff is, the better it is. I reckon we could all sit around and twiddle our oboes and pretend we're in the latest bloody grunge band."

If quality and listener satisfaction are an important part of the TISM approach, then how can they justify the bonus disc which accompanies the re-released 'Machiavelli and the Four Seasons', a compendium of recent b-sides and some shoddy spoken word pieces?

"I personally wouldn't spend the money myself," concedes Ron, "but I get the CD for free 'cause I'm in the band."

This almost brings us back to the purpose of this interview, pre-publicity for TISM's next Adelaide gig. Giving Ron Hitler-Barassi his chance to do a bit of spruiking, I light a cigarette and look the other way.

"It's gonna be the normal hard, pumping rock'n'roll. That's the band that's supporting us. We're gonna do our normal stuff."

What 'normal' amounts to for these degenerates defies understanding. As a punter at past TISM gigs I've participated in painting demonstrations, a debate on capital punishment, been pelted with paper plates and fairy-floss, witnessed bouncers rethinking their careers and something close to a live sex show at Adelaide Uni last year.

"If you're up front at a TISM show and you get a serious internal injury it's what you gotta expect. There's always the risk of injury with TISM. We've been sued. I remember hitting a roof tile when I was standing on a revolving pig carcass at The Club in Collingwood. The roof tile came down and hit this poor under-age girl and she got ten grand out of us." Yeah, right.

In closing, I point out to Ron that The Planet, the venue for their Adelaide performance, is owned and run by a cartel of ex and current footballers, including ex Crows skipper Chris McDermott.

"Chris is a very sexy guy. He has got that sort of Peter Andre-like blond, homoerotic charm. Send my love and kisses to the old boy and I'll see you in hospital mate. When I regain consciousness I'll go, 'that must be you, Brett'."

Being a TISM fan, I look forward to it.


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