Courtesy of Travis Barker’s cultural renaissance and the prominence of artists like Machine Gun Kelly …
Pushing the limits of their sound once again, Goatzilla has returned with Nightmare, a pub-rock anthem that pays tribute to the Aus scene of yesteryear.
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It also acts as a prelude to the AC/DC classic, Jailbreak. So if you ever wondered how Bon Scott’s mate got into so much trouble, now you know! With the anthemic number out in the world, we caught up with the whole crew for a chat.
Hysteria: Tell us how the band got started.
Ben Zilla (Bass/Vocals): It was back in 2015. My better half had bought me a bass guitar and I started playing it. I found it was a great way to write music, and it was fun too. So I jumped onto Gumtree and got in touch with a bunch of people. We started playing covers but then realised we enjoyed writing our own stuff too much. From there, we merged into Goatzilla.
Pete Jannsen or P2 (Guitar): Ben was the only one of us in the original lineup. The rest of us came along at a later date.
Ben: We’d started off with a few different guys, wrote a bunch of songs and recorded our album Muthafukasaurus. That was released in 2019, and around that time, we went through some changes. So some of the tracks had the old lineup, and some had the new.
How’s the reception to Nightmare been so far?
Mick Davies (Drums): I’ve had a pretty good response from my Facebook friends. Everyone seems to like it. Their little kids actually love it. They can’t get enough (laughs).
P2: We didn’t really consider that demographic when writing it.
Mick: Oh nah, I definitely knew seven-year-olds would love big drum fills (everyone laughs).
Pete Beardsley or P1 (Guitar): It’s catchy with a good hook to it!
We hear you ran into some trouble with the band name. What’s the story there?
Ben: We’d started advertising for our first gigs, and things went up on Facebook. A couple of weeks later, I started getting mail from a legal firm representing a company that has a movie monster. Apparently, that monster’s name is not dissimilar to Goatzilla. They said we were causing them damages, and we’d run into all kinds of bills from them unless we stopped. That started a back and forth letter writing situation. I let them know we mainly played for jugs of beer in punk pubs in Brisbane about five notes in. They seemed to lose interest after that.
The track’s got a pretty interesting story. Tell us about it.
P1: The song kicked off when Malcolm Young passed. I wanted to do something to contribute to his memory. I grew up listening to the likes of The Beatles with my parents. The first band I branched out and listened to on my own was AC/DC. We were initially going to call the song Malcolm. Ben’s changed it around, so it’s more of a tribute to the song Jailbreak.
Ben: P1 came up with the riffs, and when he was playing it, I thought it just had that really Aussie rock sound. I thought we needed some lyrics that suited that tone. The first song to get me into rock was Jailbreak. I loved it. It had this great rhythm, awesome riffs, and it told a story. So I thought it’d be worth digging into that. You can’t write too much about what happens after Jailbreak because the guy gets shot, so we decided to do a backstory and find out how Bon Scott’s mate got into so much trouble. Actually, you probably could do a post one. It said he had a bullet in his back, but it never said he actually died.
P1: Nightmare: Part Two.
The song kicked off when Malcolm Young passed. I wanted to do something to contribute to his memory.
[ P1 ]
Would all of you say AC/DC were a band that influenced you to become musicians?
P1: For me, yes.
Ben: Me too. But, I was also inspired by The Angels, Rose Tattoo and Motörhead.
P2: Mine was Guns N’ Roses. Growing up in the ’80s, I just thought they were amazing. So that got me on the track of playing the guitar and then being in bands.
Mick: My sister is eight years older than me; I was always influenced by what she was doing. It started with Silverchair. She had a crush on Daniel Johns. It quickly went to heavier bands like Tool, Lamb of God and Mudvayne. I’m also into technical bands like Dream Theater. I guess I bring that influence into Goatzilla. With Nightmare especially, I went back and researched what the AC/DC sound would be like. I tried to marry the drums with the rhythm guitars; I tend to do that a lot. It makes the drums stand out in the mix. In saying that, Ben and I still get along (laughs).
With all that in mind, who are some bands, past or present, that you’d love to tour with?
Ben: There are so many (laughs). Motörhead, The Angels, Rose Tattoo, Screaming Jets, AC/DC… That whole era of Aus rock. And then if we move to the overseas bands, you’ve got Iron Maiden, Slayer, Nashville Pussy and Gunners. So that’s just a small starting list for me.
P2: Gunners. I’d take anything though; we wouldn’t say no to playing with a major band. Foo Fighters would also be cool.
Ben: The Veronicas (laughs)
Mick: Oh yes (laughs).
Ben: I’ll tell you what. If Helmet ever came back out, I’d love to play with them. Fun fact: Pete Mengede played with Goatzilla for six months. It was great fun.
It sounds like it would’ve been! Tell us some stories from that time.
Ben: One of our previous members, Johnny, lived near Pete. He went to him for guitar lessons and showed up to rehearsal playing Helmet riffs. We needed a lead guitarist, so Johnny asked if he was interested. He hadn’t played live in a long time but jumped straight in and learnt the songs. We were a small, suburban band practising in a bedroom, but he came in, a guy who’s played stadiums, and he changed our approach. He changed how we listened to each other and how we thought about our songs. Having someone of his calibre in the band lifted us.
P1, P2 and Mick all came into the band with a professional background too. P1 was signed to Mushroom, P2 has toured overseas, and Mick has played with Diva Demolition and some big-name acts. That’s changed the way we write and lifted the band even more. I’m playing mad catchup to these three. It’s great getting new blood into the band and these new ways of thinking. P2 likes a lot of hardcore stuff, so he’ll bring that into the band. Mick likes metal and technical stuff, so throwing that into the mix changes what we do.
Nightmare is a real ‘meat-and-potatoes’ rock song, but some of the new stuff we’re working on is different again. It’s still got Goatzilla DNA in it, but that DNA’s being impacted by all these viruses from different bands and genres.
Tell us a fun fact about the recording process.
Ben: We recorded in the Gold Coast with Guy Cooper at Serotonin Studios. He’s got some pretty awesome gear.
P1: I got to use these amplifiers with a lot of history.
P2: One used to be owned by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, and the other was used by Kurt Cobain when they came to Australia.
P1: Now, it’s been used by Pete Beardsley of Goatzilla (laughs).
Ben: We got Kurt’s amp, drew a pentacle on the ground and sacrificed a goat to call on his undead spirit to bless the song.
P1: Don’t tell YouTube that. They’ll ban us again (laughs).
What else is in store for us this year?
Ben: We’re going to head back into the studio to do some more rocky stuff. We’ll continue to release singles for the time being. We’re under confidentiality with them, but we do also have some nice gigs coming up. So watch this space!