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Tourette Syndrome - lead singers are assholes!

The band name Tourette syndrome stands for a nervous disorder characterised by spasms of the facial muscles, shoulders and extremities, accompanied by grunts and other noises... AND for a very special quartet from Sydney which entered Germany two month ago and made probably everyone who crushed into them on on of the festivals they played this year. At this years Summer Breeze, we did a quite funny spontanious shooting with the Tourettes like you can see.

Michele Madden, the singer and Ashley Manning, the guitarist hung around the rock´n´roll hotel Kogge, where already the STALKER anniversary bands used to stay and were luckily in a talk active mood…

Let´s start with you Michele. I would like you to introduce Ash to us. Who is he, what is he doing in the band and what kind of guy is he?
Michele: It´s his band. He is the visionary and the guitar player. He´s alright but he eats too loud.
Ash: There you go!

Ash, could you tell us something about Michele?
Ash: Michele is our vocalist and our lyricist. I met her at a party about six years ago and we bonded at the party and we had an idea to create a band. I thought that Michele was like Henry Rollins in a female body and I thought that was really interesting. She had a lot of interesting things to say, so we went into my studio and created some demos which we then sent to Roadrunner in Australia, who were very interested and offered us a contract…
Michele: But no money!
Ash: …But no money. So we didn´t sign that contract, and we came to Germany because a friend of ours, Mick Cox from Rose Tattoo, gave our CD to Armageddon and… So here we are! And Armageddon seems to be a good label.

Okay, Michele. What about Ross?
Michele: (Long laughter) Why do you want to ask me about the guys in the band? See, this is why I shouldn´t be interviewed. Uh… Ross breaks my heart. There you go! There´s something about Ross for you. All the guys in the band are fucking amazing, and I probably worship them a lot more than I should, and it gets me in to all kinds of emotional trouble but they´re the best musicians I´ve ever seen and it´s an honour to play with them! And that goes for all three of them.

When did he join the band?
Michele: It kind of all came together really quick. It was like osmosis. Everyone just bumped in to each other in bars and then we were doing shit. It was just on. That´s how it seems. Quite weird! Like, Ash met Ross in a bar and then Ross bumped in to Mikey like a week later and asked him to come and audition and that was it!
Ash: Ross went to school with Mike and bumped in to him at a Chilli Peppers concert, and knew that he was a really good drummer, but he was into jazz. So it was the first time he played anything but jazz…
Michele: Just weddings and Bar Mitzvahs…
Ash: And he told us that he secretly harboured desires of being a rock or metal drummer and that this was an opportunity for him, so he took away a CD and in the auditions he was the best drummer by far so…
Michele: Yeah, and it´s cool because I didn´t know him. I was the asshole and, like I still am, the eternal teenager. And they´ve got all this amazing training and different backgrounds. Like, you can say, play some jazz, play some trip-hop… Whatever, and they can play everything! And I´ve got no skills at all! So, that´s why it´s so good. They´re incredible! They´re not these pretentious bullet belt wearing leather pant fucks. Because those cunt´s are… They just didn´t want any part of me, so I couldn´t get in a band.

You mentioned leather pants and stuff, and that´s usually what people think about when you say trash metal. To describe you´re music as trash metal is not really fitting, but now you gave me an explanation. I mean, if there´s so many influences that explains why your music doesn´t fit into any genre.
Ash: That´s right. We like lots of different styles of metal and music in general. But we like the attitude of metal, and because it´s the most progressive of popular forms. But Michele also likes real pop. She likes Elton John…
Michele: Yeah, and my favourite band of all time is Lynyrd Skynyrd, read ´em and weep! Love it! I love all southern rock music. Like hard core… That´s the thing that shits me about the metal community at large… I got into it because I thought it would be the place where Ozzy Osbourne gave you a gold key to being yourself, you know what I mean. That you´re accepted there! Because every metalhead is a misfit, Dungeons and Dragons playing, masturbating geek. I mean, fuck! Let´s not lie! Well, I just jack off but I don´t play Dungeons and Dragons, so one out of two ain´t too bad. But I thought it would be much more of an accepting place. I didn´t realize it was such sexist… Blaah! I just think metalhaeds in general shouldn´t lie. I meet so many good ones, but a couple of bad apples…

So have you really had some problems with sexism?
Michele: Like you wouldn´t believe! I got bigger balls than all of them and I´m in Germany and they´re not so fuck ´em!

I´ve heard that from some other female front members of bands, like Arch Enemy. I was talking to Angela and she also said it´s very hard to get accepted.
Michele: I don´t want to be accepted! I gave up on trying to impress people who didn´t impress me at the end of high school. I really don´t give a fuck about that. I don´t actually care how metalhaaeds treat me. I watch them how they treat their own women like dogs. It makes me sick! I don´t give a fuck about my own gender. I just watch in general at the way that people treat eachother. But I love it, because people think I´m a dude anyway, so I don´t care!

On that point, female singer in metal bands often try to be Tarja Turunen copies, with wannabe opera voices and shit, while the rest of the band plays metal. But you sound like a young Sabine Classen. When I heard you live, you have the clean parts in between and you can really sing. Did you have some vocal traning because usually women who scream can´t sing?
Michele: Because God likes me! No, I have no idea. I didn´t grow up listening to exclusively female singers, so I learned to sing by singing along to Pantera or Henry Rollins and other good shit. I don´t know? I just can.
Ash: Most of the good metal bands through history, like Black Sabbath, if you listen to it Ozzy sings the whole time. Almost like a woman.
Michele: Anyone can do those grind core, we call them cookie monster vocals in Austalia. You just turn up the PA as loud as it will go and then just make stupid noises in to a microphone. Anyone can do that! And I don´t want to do that. I want people to be able to understand what I´m saying. That´s why Phil Anselmo is a God!

Let´s talk about your style, because most people think you´re a guy. When I saw you the first time it was from behind and I thought so to, because of your hair and you´re so tall. But when you turn around you have a very pretty face. But your style is very masculine. Is there a reason for that or is it that you just don´t want to be too female?
Michele: Good question! I guess I was born like that actually. I hate shopping. I hate shaving. I hate all that crap that goes along apparently with being a woman. Why do I dress like this? Because I´ve dressed like this since I was 14.
Ash: You grew up around a lot of males.
Michele: A lot of males! Heavy male influence. Is it for the music? No. I mean, if you were interviewing Chris Cornell right now you wouldn´t ask him what he thought about men in music. Who are your favourite men in music? Who gives a fucking shit! I´m going to be one of the best front men of my generation, and it doesn´t matter what gender you are.
Ash: Musically, Michele has a very deep voice.
Michele: I´m 6ft. 3 inches (1,90 meter) so I´m not going to sound all cute and stuff. I knew what I wasn´t when I was very young so I decided to create what I could be, and that´s what I´m doing. Women are inherently being petrified if they´re not being liked so they put up this front. People are inherently petrified if they´re not being liked so they put up a front. They´re all the same. I don´t give a shit! I´ve got nothing left to loose. I got three guys who want to play music with me, and that´s cool. I don´t need anything else.
Ash: And we don´t want to be known as “that band whit the girl up front”. Michele should be known as an entertainer and a performer first, and secondly a woman. Just like most men would like to be known as entertainers first.

That´s true, just that it´s still such an exception to have a band with a female singer in that genre.
Michele: They´ll all be kissing my ass before long! I want to beat them at their own game. I shouldn´t actually talk about it in interviews! I shouldn´t actually let it annoy me as much as it does, but the more people talk about it it´s a hurdle that´s never going to be overcome. And the bottom line is, if you got a problem with it get on the bill with my band and I´ll wipe the fucking floor with you. Let´s see who´s got a problem then! It´s that simple.
Ash: We saw the band Hurst and the singer was the original Arch Enemy singer, and he´s quite feminine and does all these feminine stuff, so we thought it was really funny that they replaced him with a woman. I thought he was really cool because he wasn´t too macho! Because a lot of metal singers are just so macho. I mean, you´re a big man with a beard, so there´s no need for that.
Michele: Why don´t you cut the shit, man! I mean the 80´s! Mötley Crue, Poison, all that, even back to the New York Dolls in the 70´s, all these guys dressing up like women. And then I´m the novelty? I´m sorry, you´re the one who was dressed like a three dollar faggot hooker! It wasn´t me! And that was acceptable! I don´t think so!
Ash: Androgyny has always been part of the best front people in bands.
Michele: Androgyny, when it´s been towards the feminine.

That´s right! It´s alright for men to act like women, but for women to act like men just doesn´t seem acceptable. And she´s not acting like it. It´s just how Michelle is!
Michele: Seriously, do you honestly think I could be bothered keeping this up? Like, if it was a sting for some musical acceptance or for an angle? For Christ´s sake, I´ve been beaten up because of the way I look! I had four guys attack me on a train and tried to kill me because they thought I was a dude! Do you honestly think I would keep this shit up? Do you think this does me any favours? No it fucking doesn´t, but this is what I am! And I think that´s why people come to the band, because I´m not fronting anything. I´m not going to pretend I´m anything I´m not. If you like it, you like it. If you don´t, you don´t. It´s not my fucking problem! That´s it!

What was the story on the train?
Michele: They thought I was a dude. And then they found out I was a woman and they went out on me anyway. It´s a beef thing in Australia. I love the drinking culture in Germany because it´s very civilized. Very cool! In Australia shit gets violent very fast and then it´s always this “let´s get the big guy” kind of mentality. And because I don´t run around with my tits hanging out and in a mini-skirt or anything I´m often picked as “big guy”. You know, from a distance. And I was on a train one night and these dudes tried to get my wallet off me, and they thought I was a guy. Then they found out I was a woman but they still didn´t stop beating me. It just makes you think that it doesn´t really matter either way.
Ash: If you had 57000 people, like at Wacken, and mostly men, in Australia they wouldn´t allow it to happen because there would be so many fights. They would have the army out!

I didn´t know it was that bad over there. I know that in Scandinavia, if you go to Finland or Norway, there´s a lot of heavy drinking…
Michele: It´s not so much that the Australians are heavy drinkers, although it´s definitely part of the culture, but they just get violent. They´ve got this real pack mentality.
Ash: We´re a convict colony from the beginning. It´s a very corrupt system.

Do you think that´s why there are no big metal or rock festivals in Australia?
Ash: Definitely!
Michele: We have a couple of cool festivals but we don´t have the population to have what you guys have here. We just don´t have the people.
Ash: Our biggest metal festival, Metal For The Brain, is about 3500-4000 people. It´s been going for 15 years already.

Did you play there already?
Ash: Yes. We played it in 2003.
Michele: It´s in my old home town, and my mom was in the audience. It was the first time she´s ever seen what I´ve done. It was funny. I made everybody turn around and wave at here. “That´s my mom!” She´s like 5 ft. 1. Tiny little thing. She´s all happy and shit. It was funny! She had something to be proud of.

So I guess W.O.A. was the biggest thing you´ve ever played?
Ash: Absolutely!
Michele: And it probably will be until we headline Rock in Rio. Yes! I said that! We´re going to headline Rock in Rio! (Laughter) Yeah, that was astounding! Too overwhelming! “I´m not going out there. Too many people! Freaking out!” I mean, there were bands playing that were already gods in the 80´s!
Ash: Absolutely! Most of the bands we had never seen before, even though we knew them and heard them. That was the first time we saw Mötorhead, and there were kids there who had seen them 40 times! And they were like “oh, we´ve seen it…”. They get spoiled over here.

Yeah. Mötorhead are playing every festival every year so it´s always the same. Some journalists just ask if something was different from last year, and if not… OK! So that´s how they write about the band.
Ash: Repeat the interview. Right! Just change the date.

It´s hard to come up with new questions for Lemmy.
Michele: I´d ask him about all the urban legends, like, “is it true that you went to the doctor and he told you that if you stop taking speed you die?”.
Ash: He would probably find all those questions really interesting. Really personal ones.

You´re on Armageddon, which is owned by the people behind Wacken, so we´ll probably see you next year there too?
Ash: Yes, we hope so! They said they wanted us to play there so we have to see what happens. We´ve got a lot of things to do in between now and then. So we get some sort of fan base here.

Yeah, when I saw the festival line up, for instance at Summerbreeze, you play a little later and then later and later and the stages get bigger.
Ash: We only planned to do Wacken, and then we weren´t sure what was going to happen after that, but they quickly booked us for these festivals and it´s been good. At the moment everything is going really well. We just have to see how the next six months to a year goes.

So, by the way, the next album is coming out in October, right?
Ash: Yes, 13 of October.

Could you tell us something about the new album? How many songs and what direction is it going? Is it like you´re live shows or is different to them or what?
Ash: It is a bit different to the live shows. We cover quite a wide range of different sounds and rhythms.
Michele: This is our Hotel California. (Laughter)
Ash: Yeah! Easy listening! We recorded it in Canada over a period of six months and we sort of let the Canadian…
Michele: They smoke way too much weed and I had to wait and wait and wait until we recorded it.
Ash: And they´re into prog rock in there so we were…
Michele: I got the shits because… I don´t know, I like it. Just that there were people saying I was using pedals and stuff and I was a one chick pony and I couldn´t sing and all that stuff. So, I sort of sat out on this one, but the one after this just… (Growls) It´s going to be really heavy! Really cool!
Ash: So, we recorded it there and then we went to L.A. were we met a guy in a strip club toilet who told us to go talk to his friend who was the mixer. He mixes Cypress Hill and Korn and he said he really liked it so he ended up mixing it for us. And he´s going to do the next one for us which we nearly have ready to go, so we´re hoping to get a nother record out quite quickly. Maybe early next year.

That´s the one you´re recording right now here in Hamburg, right?
Ash: Yes. That´s right. We haven´t started recording it yet but we have written most of the material and we´re going to start putting those songs into our shows starting tomorrow in the Netherlands.

Will you do a tour in Germany as well before returning to Australia?
Ash: Oh, absolutely! We´re not sure how we´ll be touring after the album comes out, but we´re having another meeting with Armageddon next week. Hopefully they´ll put us on a good support tour which would cover a few different countries. Michele is going to go on a promo tour in Spain and Netherlands and UK…

Only Michele?
Ash: Well, yeah. She does most of our talking to the press.
Michele: Horrible!

Back to the album coming out in October. Could you pick out one and say something about the lyrics and the story behind the song?
Ash: The album is called Sick Sense.
Michele: Here´s the thing about music for me. I might write this shit but it doesn´t matter what it means to me. After it leaves me it´s going to mean something to you. It´s going to mean something to “deepshit” over there. It´s going to mean something “gothgirl” over there. Doesn´t matter what it means to me anymore. At 3 o´clock in the morning, or when you have to save your life sometimes, it´s music; right? So it´s not about what the person who wrote it was thinking. It´s about what it means to you. But they´re pretty self-explanatory. Every song is about me, and usually it´s like “I´m going to fuck you up! Sleep with one eye open. Why did you break my heart? Go fuck yourself!” That´s basically every song I´ve ever written. I could be very self-important and think that I´m bigger than I am. I´m not! I write shit, I have a really talented band I can work with. They make me look at this than I am. That´s the bottom line! All the songs I´ve ever written are about that! I´m emotionally retarded. I still think I´m 17. So I guess I just keep writing the same song over and over again.

What´s the best memory you have so far with the band?
Ash: Wacken. Just crazy camping, crazy Viking metal freaks and great people! It´s good! There´s so many memories we´ve had. Another one was Michele jumping of the stage in Melbourne and trying to beat some guy up and causing a mass brawl. And then getting back on stage before the brawl started singing while the brawl went on although she started it… Or, actually, a guy in the audience started it.
Michele: You´re making me sound so cool now. These mother fuckers didn´t talk to me for three days after that, fucking hippies! No, but a lot of good memories. Just getting here! One of my biggest ones was the first Big Day Out (fesival tour in Australia and New Zeeland). The scene, especialy in Sidney, is quite small and I´m not so much interested in other musicians, or anything else, but I have a lot of friends, from over the years, who used to work on different crews. Rigging and lighting and sound and stuff… And when we walk out to do our first Big Day Out, it´s like this big cathedral. A huge stadium and no-ones there. And I walked up the ramp and everyone stopped, all the riggers, all my mates who were on sound and lightning, and every one came over to give me a hug and say “you did what you said you would do!” And I went and I sat on the edge of the stage, which was truly emotional for me. Just sitting there like,”Yep, I´m finally on the other side of the barricade!”
Ash: And the surprise act after us was Fear Factory, and no-one knew they were going to be on and we saw them there.
Michele: Yeah, that was awsome! And then Burton came up to me and said “you sing really good! You were really good!” I nearly passed out! I´m such a fan boy!
Ash: And Michele was crying by the side of the stage during Metallica.
Michele: I was just balling. I have cried in every moshpit.
Ash: Mihele is the first girl to have cried at a Metallica consert!
Michele: No, the only person to have cried at every fucking Slayer consert! That´s where I really embaraced myself. They walk out with the “Ty-di-ty-di” (sings the intro) and I just “Byaaaah!” But, I think anyone whos dreams come true, really deserves it. It´s such a hard slope. People are always like “it´s easy for them”, and I´m seeing all my heroes up close now and I´m seeing what it´s cost them and I´m seeing who difficult it´s been. It´s astounding! Or these kids getting these “Sick Fuck” and “Tourettes” tattoos! The tribe… They´re not fans, they´re family!
Ash: They´ve even had scar tattoos done with knives…

Do you collect pictures of what they do?
Ash: Yeah, they send them to us so we put them on the website.
Michele: I just can´t call them fans. They´re the tribe! They´re family!
Ash: Michele was a fan hreself for so many years that she really relate to these kids, and that´s the beauty of it. If you look at any great band, the frontman connects with the people, and the musicians platform the frontman to look as good as possible.
Michele: I think, what bands forget, is that if these people didn´t show upyou wouldn´t have a job, so stop acting like a cockhead and get on with it! Henry Rollins once said that the crew should be paid what the musicians get paid and vice versa, and I say amen to that! I´ve never met a more useless bunch of cunts in my whole fucking life, myself included on most days. The other 23 hours of the day they fuck with you. Anyone can be a god for an hour! The sum of your carrier is stearing back up at you right now! You are owned by them. It´s their band, not your band at that point! All that other shit just fucks me right off.

They´re true fans, or as you say, tribe. Do you have to deal with groupies as well? Like, male groupies?
Michele: Dude, please! No.
Ash: More female groupies…
Michele: No, not even them. It´s weird. I´ve had a lot of little girls coming up to me saying they didn´t know they were lesbian, and I´d go “you´re not a lesbian, you´re just confused! Just go home and beat off!” I don´t think I´ve ever really got laid for being in a band. At least not on the level, I´m sure, other people get laid for being in a band.

What about you?
Ash: Every now and then… But, not very often, no. We, don´t do the normal band things.
Michele: I´m more the type that I´ll sit in the corner with 20 kids, yelling at them why they have to listen to Iron Maiden or I´ll never speak to them again. But, I don´t drink or anything so I don´t have those social resources to go and be a bitch. And a lot of the times if people ask me what I´m doing in the band I always say I´m Mikeys drum tech. Because I hate lead singers! They´re assholes!
Ash: (Laughing) There´s the headline: “Leadsinger is an asshole!”
Michele: It´s like an ashtray on a motorbike! I´m sorry! I can´t play guitar, I can´t program, I can´t do anything like these guys can! Singers are just so fucking self important. In the end, I just want to get really good at what I´m doing. I don´t think of singers as musicians. I just don´t. Either you got something good and you can work with it, or you don´t and you train. That´s ok too, but I just want to get really good at what I do. But leadsingers in general can all go and get fucked! Actually 9/10 of all humanity can go and get fucked… What am I talking about!

Are you making a video for the new album?
Michele: “Gear” is just coming out.
Ash: Yeah, we´ve actually got two videos from the new stuff. We did them in Australia ourselves, with friends, really cheap.
Michele: We were really fortunate. The guys have been working with different musical stuff for years, so they have some amazing resources in their friends. Like all the video directors and all the dudes who so all the editing and stuff.

What is the video about?
Michele: Gear? It´s just mental pirate stuff. I wore a dress! I hope everyones well impressed with that! That´s the cool thing about doing videos and photo shoots and stuff, because I love fucking with people. You know, getting all dressed up and shit and they´re like “oh, it couldn´t be!”
Ash: If you watch the videos you see Michele with her tits hanging out, her hair and everything, and everyone´s like “is that your singer?” And they don´t realize. It´s good to do every now and then.
Michele: I love that Tool never appear in their own video clips or that Metallica never did a video clip until “One”. I love what the Eurythmics did. I love that Annie Lennox changed her look every single clip. It´s a medium! I would never look like that in real life. Too much work… And I would have to shave under my arms and that sucks.
Ash: You got to see the videos to get everything. A lot of fathers, of the kids who are fans, really like the videos! (Laughter) Michele gets her tits out, you know?

Anything else you would like to ad?
We love Germany!
By the album, I need new pornography! I need money!
Ash & Michele:
Just, thanks for having us here!

Thank you!

Author: Samira Alinto, photos: Diana Nitschke, translation: Klaudia Weber
Date: 2006-09-29

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