Interview with HBF, Andrew Tijs, Rave (Brisbane), 09/02


“I think you should start by saying, ‘TISM’s Humphrey B. Flaubert started this interview by giving me the usual pat, non sequitur replies. It reminded me of the conversation I was having with girlfriend that very morning’ then following a thousand word dissertation on when communication is running up against the wall of politeness and quiet resignation.

“I think that would be great reading in Beat Magazine, because, while we’re reading the latest article on the fuckin’ Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or whatever other cunts are in the country at the moment, at least here would be something about someone interesting, i.e. Andrew fucking Tijs and his girlfriend. Now THAT is interesting. It should be on the front cover, ‘Andrew Tijs’ relationship problems here.’”

My, my, TISM sure do know how to make you feel good about yourself. But, thankfully this self-depreciation goes both ways. Humphrey, one of innumerable members of novelty songsmiths (or it that post-modern artists) TISM, still, after all these years, can’t get a phone operator to pronounce Flaubert correctly. “If you try these fancy French names you run into this problem all the time,” he says. “For instance, Thom Yorke from Radiohead, his real name should be pronounced, ‘Utter Cunt’. A lot of people don’t realise that. He’s German.”

To celebrate their 16-year retrospective, TISM Best Off, they upped the intellectual ante by having their launch in a gallery. They had even organised a public debate with the Victorian Debater’s Society on whether TISM is capital ‘a’ Art. Humphrey contributed by translating Eugene De La Hot Croix Bun’s Mediterranean folk song argument. “I think his strongest argument is: It’s amazing when you’re in an art gallery is that you able to crap on about nothing and get away with it. The performance art piece, by its very existence, was acting as a parable to suggest that’s what TISM isn’t. We’ve spent our entire career crapping on about something and no one has let us get away with it. That’s the central reason why we aren’t art.” 

And Robert Hughes has never critiqued your albums. “No, but I believe there was a TISM cassette in his car at the time of the crash. I think it may have been the little known TISM track, Shove Your Organ Down My Windpipe. Or Warning: There’s a Wide Load in my Jockettes. Notice I refuse to lower myself to poo or genitalia jokes, unlike Thom Yorke who just comes out with them all the time. Radiohead. I mean, come on, what kind of Benny Hill gag is that?”

Even though I am blessed by such tidbits of information as, “Laurie Oakes knows where the shit is at” I’m still a little miffed that I’m not sitting in a graveyard talking to them on two baked bean cans and some string. Whatever happened to the interesting interviews? “The reason for that of course is that we aren’t in fact the members of TISM that started TISM. I am, in fact, the fifth Humphrey B. Flaubert. We can achieve the same snide TISM slag off with you and me sitting in comfortable chairs.”

This is their second release on new label Mushroom after their whole early catalogue is on Shock. Did TISM have to re-mortgage their souls? “Oh yeah. We’ve been trying to sell out for a long, long time but no one’s buying. There’s a whole chapter you could write about the corporatisation of TISM. We’re hoping to be the next Nickelback. I think there are a lot of similarities between us and Nickelback. Our music is full of angst-ridden constipation.”

Have you been franchising the TISM concept? “Yes, that’s how we keep going. We’re a supporter of small business. This is our way of channeling money back into the Australian economy. That’s the sort of thing people usually say when they’re putting their engorged penis between the buttocks of the average Australian.”

In the process they have made good on their promise to follow the most faddish musical style of the time. They segued through new wave pop rock to dancefloor techno without so much as a blink of a teenagers eye. But sadly they’ve never tackled a few populist styles, like rap. “The great thing about rap music, as with most music I guess, is that it starts out as a good idea, much like communism, and ends up with some guy from Airport West doing it. We’ve always aspired to writing music that sounds like an advertising jingle and we think that’s the highest form of art.

“The greatest singular achievement in pop music history is ‘Come down and see the Good, Good, Good Guys’ which was sadly ripped off by some chap called Brian Wilson from a band called The Beach Boys. That’s always been our inspiration.”

I mention that I’ve always had a problem with The Good Guys because if I was ever to engage in any legal action against them, the case would be Andrew Tijs VS The Good Guys and I’m going to lose. “Yes, a brilliant legal department they obviously have there. That’s why the legal branch of TISM is ‘The Good, Average, Honest Australians’ so that anyone who tries to sue us has an emotive barrier against them.”

After discussing our Prime Minister, (“John Howard is a very liberal person,”) I propose the band follow U2’s Bono, Sonny Bono and Bob Geldof and enter into the political sphere. “The song, The Phillip Ruddock Blues on the new record, was a outtake, a mistake that shouldn’t have got on the album, I think the catchphrase ‘Everybody Help Yourself’ could be a party platform. Although probably the strongest axiom used on a TISM record, that is philosophically at the heart of TISM, that has been the raison d’etre for TISM’s entire existence comes from the song Sid Viscous where the singer intones the following: ‘Fuckin’ chicks, mate, the fuckin’ chicks’. I think would be our political platform.”

 Besides, what do you do now that your career is over? “What kind of question is that. Do you think I’m actually going to tell you the answer to that? What makes you say our career is over?” I remind him that they have just released a Best Of  .“Well, absolutely, but just because you said that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to print it. We want people to think our career is still going.

“In fact, we’re on a comeback tour and we want to get that emotional dollar but I don’t want you to tell them. This comeback tour is going to last for twenty years and include another ten albums of original material but we don’t want the public to know that. Like when the person comes around with the big envelope and says, ‘Jim’s leaving, you want to kick in a couple of bucks?’ That emotion, that’s what this Best Off is all about. Nostalgia. Nostalgia for a time when everyone was as good as Nickelback.”


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