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TISM cut new record, Courier Mail, 01/11/01

TAKING the mickey is TISM's stock in trade - indeed, it would be hard to imagine a band looking and sounding like them being taken seriously. Not with album titles like Great Truckin' Songs Of The Renaissance and Machiavelli And The Four Seasons.

The Victorian band's very name, an acronym for This Is Serious Mum, is testament to their satirical stance. They have remained anonymous since their early '80s inception -- their public personas (and their age) are hidden behind balaclavas and pseudonyms.

TISM member Ron Hitler Barassi (obviously not his real name) is quite content to spend the bulk of a 20-minute interview discussing inanities such as the royalties Hi-5 may receive, rather than plug his new album DeRigeurmortis.

And when prodded sufficiently to make even the smallest comment on the album, he attempts to provoke mirth rather than answer seriously.

"We feel that people will like especially the 3 1/2 minutes of silence, which is rather like the latest techno band playing unplugged," he jokes.

"If you listen to that 3 1/2 minutes of silence, you will realise that Regurgitator have actually sampled our silence and used it in between the songs on their latest record -- without any acknowledgement at all."

So what's behind the balaclavas and the pseudonyms? "Who hasn't got a public persona?" Barassi retorts. "Who isn't out there constructing an image? Who doesn't manipulate through a public facade what they want the audience to see?

"Us having balaclavas and pseudonyms -- I can't find that being any less intimate than anyone else in the music industry. Powderfinger have got a public face, Kylie Minogue has a public face, we've got a public face and it's as equally anonymous and equally constructed as all of those public faces."

He soon returns to form, however. "We're quite ugly and the only way we get chicks is to put the balas on."

TISM were regarded as tasteless by some people for their satirical 1995 single He'll Never Be An Ol' Man River, about ingesting the same drug cocktail that induced the death of River Phoenix, but the band seem to have followed suit with De Rigeurmortis.

The album features tracks such as If You'Re Not Famous At Fourteen, You'Re Finished, Xtreme Sports Can Kiss My Arse and Thou Shalt Not Britney Spear, about the virginal stance Miss Spears adopts. But Barassi is keen to push his band's lampooning cause.

"If you're a novelist you are able to write satire, movies are allowed to be satirical, even paintings can have elements of satire, but the one thing you can't have in the music industry is a satirical stance," he laments.

"I want anyone who thinks rock'n'roll is a subversive artform to spend half a day in any record company. It's full of blokes in white shirts, with bull necks, looking at spreadsheets."

When pressed to describe the band's sound, Barassi finally relents and for once is earnest. "We've got a basic adherence to your 3 1/2-minute pop song," he says. "I reckon it's harder to write a 3 1/2-minute pop song than it is for Radiohead to write a 21-minute whining anthem about alienation."

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