King Parrot: Friends With Benefits

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It takes a brave man to wake up in bed next to an angry Phil Anselmo. It takes a flat-out crazy one to wake up in bed next to an angry Phil Anselmo while wearing pink, crushed velvet ladies’ trousers and a pair of fairy wings. Luckily, Wayne Slattery – better known to his friends, bandmates and occasional celebrity conquests as Slatts – is brave and crazy.

“I’ll do anything for a laugh,” says Slatts, with the sort of unhinged cackle that suggests he’s not lying. “I’m not the sort of person who worries what the fuck other people think.”

The garrulous bassist with Australian thrash-grind hooligans King Parrot is a natural-born court jester. He also appears to be someone who enjoys dicing with death by playing the fairy-winged fool around legendary (and legendarily serious) singers who aren’t renowned for their sense of humour, or for a fondness for stocky, balding men, for that matter.

Luckily for everyone, his Anselmo-baiting was all done in the name of art, or at least comedy. It’s the hilarious opening to the video for Like A Rat, the shit-kicking grind’n’roll anthem that recently teed up King Parrot’s second album, Dead Set./o:p

The quintet have Phil fully in their corner – as well as dropping his guard for the Like A Rat video, the Down man produced their new album at his infamous home studio-cum-compound, Nödferatu’s Lair, and is releasing it in the US on his Housecore label (it’s out in the UK on Agonia). He’s their mentor and cheerleader. Their Yoda with a Southern drawl.

“You know, these guys have such a great sense of humour,” Phil tells Hammer. “There are more dudes in that band who are walking one-liners than I’ve seen in a long fucking time. It was a fucking riot making that video.”

For Slatts and his bandmates – singer Youngy, guitarists Mr White and Squiz, and drummer Toddy (there’s a nickname-only policy here, thank you very much) – it was more than just a riot.

“I remember first listening to Pantera, sitting on my couch at my parents’ house, going, ‘What the fuck is this?’” says Slatts. “Fast-forward 20 years, and we’re staying at his house. That was surreal.” And how was it, then, waking up next to Phil Anselmo? “I’ve still got the fucking erection, mate,” he laughs.

If you were to break down Slatts’ DNA, you’d probably find it would be half bear and half homunculus. This is a man who was once asked to take part in a police line-up in his native Melbourne because he looked like a Peeping Tom who was troubling the local neighbourhood. “That wasn’t a great compliment, no,” he admits.

His band emerged from Australia’s surprisingly fertile underground scene. The various members passed through such illustrious bands as The Berzerker and Blood Duster. Singer Youngy (real name: Matt Young) did time in vein-busting grind outfit Stiff Meat. Slatts himself was in Cockfight Shootout, easily one of the greatest names in the history of rock’n’roll.

“I took it from a headline in a newspaper,” he explains of that moniker. “There was a backyard cock fight, and there was disagreement over which cock won, and it resulted in a shoot-out. I saw it in the paper, and I thought, ‘That’s not a good band name, but it’ll be our band name.’”

King Parrot released their debut EP, The Stench Of Hardcore Pub Trash, in 2011, and debut album Bite Your Head Off the following year. Setting up what was to come, they had also made a video for the song Shit On The Liver, which found Slatts playing a camply perverse, corpsepainted musician/cult leader, with the rest of the band his sexual playthings – the big reveal of the mainly black-and-white video being that the corpsepaint was gold and green, Australia’s national colours. It was both funny and disturbing.

Youngy sent Phil a package containing the EP and album. Slatts suspects he took one look at the name and threw it in the bin – something Phil denies. “Someone sent me the link to Shit On The Liver,” he says. “It cracked me up.”

It’s not hard to see why the ex-Pantera man likes King Parrot. They take the 80s thrash and hardcore he listened to as a kid and give it an alternately furious and uproarious modern update. “The style of music is very familiar to me, growing up,” he says. “It was all about the just getting up there and kicking fucking ass. They’ve very much got the tongue in the cheek. But they’ve got the goddamn fantastic attitude that reminded me of the good old early Vulgar Display days. Anything and everything goes. That’s a big turn-on.”/o:p

The two parties met for the first time at Australia’s Soundwave Festival a couple of years ago. By some insane twist of fate, or possible administrative error, King Parrot were onstage right after Down.

“We arrived at the show and walked to the side of the stage to watch Down, and someone came up to us and said, ‘You’re getting on to play the last song,’” says Slatts. “We walked out onstage, going, ‘What the fuck do we do?’ Kate, Phil’s partner, was at the side of the stage going [bellows riff to Bury Me In Smoke] ‘Der-der-der-der, seven-seven-seven, five-three-seven.’ It was, like, ‘OK…’”

Were you shitting yourselves? He laughs. “There was definitely poo in the dacks, mate.”

The relationship stepped up a few levels last year. In October, Phil invited them to play his Housecore Horror Film Festival in Austin, Texas. By the end of 2014, King Parrot were on the road in America with Down and the similarly shy, retiring and abstemious Orange Goblin.

“It was a three-band extravaganza most nights,” says Phil. “During that tour, I was into hits from the 50s and 60s, and every night I would pop on these old tunes. The next thing you know, it would be this gigantic dance party featuring members of Down, Orange Goblin and King Parrot.”

Slatts describes the tour as “a 12 on the scale of craziness”. For the bassist, the highlight was rubbing shoulders with ex-Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra. “We were up onstage with Jello and Orange Goblin, playing these songs, trying to outdo each other’s dance movements.”

And what did the King Parrot van smell like at the end of the tour? “Oh god, like a mix of cheese and seagull shit.”

How was his liver afterwards? “You’ve heard the song Shit On The Liver? Well, it was shit on our liver.”

Is that how you feel most of the time? “To be honest, Shit On The Liver is an Australianism – ‘Don’t mess with him, he’s got shit on the liver today,’” says Slatts. “Youngy doesn’t drink, doesn’t do anything – he’s straight-ahead about being the best he can be. I guess we all are.” /o:p

And that, right there, is the thing about King Parrot. They might like to portray themselves as drunken, bone-headed party animals with a thing for fancy dress, but there’s another, more unexpected side to them. When Slatts isn’t on tour with the band, he works in IT recruitment (“I’m a head-hunter”); Youngy works with autistic children, and guitarist Mr White (Ari White to his parents) is a diesel mechanic whose job sometimes involves working on ships out at sea. The bassist talks about his home country’s “bullshit politics”. At one point, when describing what Phil Anselmo is like as a boss, he even deploys the phrases “not autocratic”, “participative” and “laissez-faire” in the same sentence. “Fucking listen to me, with the clever words,” he says.

Even recording their new album at Nödferatu’s Lair was a relatively serious affair. Phil had watched the band play a gig in nearby Baton Rouge earlier in 2014. “They fucking crushed,” he recalls. “It was a Monday night, and strangely enough in Baton Rouge, there was a pretty decent crowd on hand. They floored me. I thought it was so good. They needed a place to crash for three days, and I said, ‘Alright, y’all can stay here.’”

On the plus side, it meant that when Phil offered to produce Dead Set at Nödferatu’s Lair at the start of 2015, they already knew how to find their beds. “Phil has his massive love of horror films, so his house has all these crazy ghouls and statues and all shit like that,” says Slatts. “You go into one room and it’s endless gold records. There’s a cheque for a million dollars framed in the kitchen – the first cheque they got in Pantera. He’s an animal lover, too, so there’s this fucking menagerie – pigs and dogs and cats everywhere.”/o:p

Surprisingly, Slatts admits to some mild nerves before they went in. “There was a little bit of trepidation, working with such a massive name,” he says. “But as soon as we got there, it was, like, ‘This is it.’ Those guys are smart-arses, we’re smart-arses. We can give shit, we can take shit. It was full steam ahead.”

For Phil, the job in hand was to take the band up a level. “When I would see a King Parrot show, I would see a lot of energy, and all of that would be memorable,” he says. “But I would think, ‘Do I really hear a hook?’ And I guess aside from Shit On The Liver, it was kind of sparse. So I felt I could bring out more hooks and stuff like that. And I think the hooks are there now. The hooks are gigantic.”

Recording and mixing the album took a month. During this period, they also found time to make that video for Like A Rat. It’s a ringing success now, but there’s the question of whose fevered brain cooked it up.

“That’s a good question: who the fuck did come up with that idea?” Slatts laughs. “Youngy sent through a script for what he saw as happening, and we were, like, ‘Are you fucking serious? Are you gonna send this to Phil?’ And then we kind of went, ‘Fuck it, why not?’”

Luckily, Phil saw the funny side. “People who know me know I’m a fucking ridiculous person myself,” he says.

“They’re from Louisiana – they love dressing up… it’s a party every fucking day in New Orleans,” adds Slatts. “Kate goes, ‘I’ve got all these costumes…’ And I saw the pink pants and wings and went, ‘Fuck yeah, I’ll wear that!’”

Has he ever watched the video and thought, ‘What in the name of fuck do I look like?’ “Nah,” he fires back. “Have you seen our other videos? I’m the class clown, mate. Not real smart, can’t lift heavy things… may as fucking well make people laugh.”

A lot of people who say that are very shy on the inside… “Oh yeah, that’s me. Tortured fucking artist, mate.”

When we ask Phil if Slatts has an off-switch, he lets out a volcanic laugh. “No! He does not!” he says. “If the motherfucker isn’t sleeping, he’s a walking comedy act, man. They’re all fucking characters – and you know what, big thumbs up to them. You can’t take yourself so seriously all the time.” /o:p

But there’s a potential downside to all the clowning. There’s every possibility that their music could be overshadowed by the sight of a hairy man dressed like a fairy.

“Nah, that doesn’t worry me,” Slatts says bullishly, “because if people come see the show, they’ll know it’s visceral and in-your-face and brutal as fuck. But you’ve gotta approach it all with a sense of humour. The thing I like about metal is that it can go from being really serious and dressed up in corpsepaint to a bunch of dickheads running around onstage, beating the shit out of each other. It runs the gamut.” He pauses. “Did I just say ‘gamut’? There you go. That’s another clever word.”

Ask Phil about what advice he’s given King Parrot, and his answer is simple. “The ball is their court right now,” he says. “They just need to keep being themselves. Goddamn, these guys have got some personality.”

“The best piece of advice Phil gave us was to just keep doing what we do, and keep aiming high every time,” says Slatts.

That’s proof right there that being a member of King Parrot isn’t just shits, giggles and fauxmosexual prankery. Try as they might to hide it, they’re as serious as a bushfire. And on the off-chance you do find yourself waking up next to a hairy Australian wearing fairy wings, don’t be scared. He doesn’t bite.

KING PARROT’S NEW ALBUM, DEAD SET, IS OUT MAY 15 VIA AGONIA IN THE UK AND HOUSECORE IN NORTH AMERICA/o:p

Five other Housecore bands you need in your life right now…/o:p

CHILD BITE

THEY ARE: Detroit art-metallers with a great line in atonal noise.

PHIL SAYS: “They’re not heavy metal, they’re not classically hardcore. They remind me of The Jesus Lizard meets Dead Kennedys. They’re doing something different with your base rock’n’roll band instruments.”

LISTEN TO: The Strange Waste EP from 2014. They’re also recording a new album with Mr Anselmo right about now.

AUTHOR + PUNISHER

THEY ARE: One-man US noise terrorist Tristan Shone. Think Aphex Twin goes doom.

PHIL SAYS: “I saw a video showing how he builds his own instruments. I was blown away – I haven’t heard that type of clatter and low-end shakes since [early industrial Aussies] SPK.”

LISTEN TO: 2013’s Women & Children, plus his new album, out on Housecore shortly.

FULGORA

THEY ARE: Grind/death metal bruisers featuring members of Pig Destroyer.

PHIL SAYS: “I hear grindcore, I hear death, but I hear other elements in there. To say you don’t hear Voivod would be a lie. Just watching the drummer [Adam Jarvis] beat the living crap out of his drums is an amazing thing.”

LISTEN TO: New album Stratagem, which is out now.

GRISTNAM

THEY ARE: Ex-members of defunct Louisiana sludge monsters haarp.

PHIL SAYS: “Now that haarp is disbanded, Gristnam is the guys getting the itch to go back to the death metal and grindcore thing. Their music is awesome, but the only real problem for me is that they don’t tour.”

LISTEN TO: Even Less, a compilation of the two EPs they’ve made to date.

SYK

THEY ARE: Italian avant garde noisemongers fronted by pocket dynamo Dalila Kayros.

PHIL SAYS: “She’s an incredible singer. She’s like a petite, Italian Diamanda Galás. But SYK are a little different in style – a little bit more hardcore, but fucking insane.”

LISTEN TO: The Atoma album from 2014./o:p