Rot TV: meet the horror-obsessed Aussie rock'n'roll band named a fictional pirate television channel

The band Rot TV sitting on a sofa
(Image credit: Tee Pee Records)

You can’t miss Rot TV’s residence in Melbourne, Australia. It’s the house with the life-sized Grim Reaper looming by the front door. “He scares the shit out of visitors,” cackles singer Harriet Hudson-Clise of the Halloween decoration that became a permanent lodger. “He almost gave the guy who walks my dogs a heart attack!”

“I’m sure I get a lot of rage out in this band. It’s therapeutic, screaming.”

More than likely it’s also the house that’s being shaken to its foundations by some of the southern hemisphere’s best new rock music. Hudson-Clise, her guitarist husband Graham Clise, bassist Zac Holly and drummer Lee Parker became Rot TV back in 2018, after the singer realised that their gig playing Blue Öyster Cult covers had limited legs. “It was the covers band that nobody really asked for,” she reflects. “Not in Melbourne, anyway. So we played maybe three shows, then realised it probably wasn’t something we could do long-term.”

Rot TV was to be a very different animal. Naming the band after a fictional pirate television channel “that your parents wouldn’t let you watch”, they stirred in a dash of punk clatter on Ready To Die, a hint of Sabbath-meets-shoegaze on Oblivion, then sold it all with Hudson-Clise’s curled lip and low-register vocal. “I think I sound deranged when I listen back to my vocals,” she says of debut album Tales Of Torment. “What do you think?”

There’s an aftertaste of darkness, too, touched by the hand of Alice Cooper and schlocky, mid-90s straight-to-VHS slasher movies.

“We’re all easy-going people,” says the singer, “but all Graham and I do at home is watch horror movies and crime documentaries. Mother’s Chain and Oblivion are about horror movies. Slashin’ is about a horrified feeling that’s thrashing inside your psyche. Crying Shame comes from moments of low self-esteem or just feeling horrified. Meataxe is about a total psycho.”

Armed with these songs, the band are visceral on stage, and can be chaotic off it. “Graham’s nickname for me is Slash,” says Hudson-Clise. “He calls me that when I’m piled out in bed hungover. But I won’t stop drinking...”

Somehow Rot TV have managed to get all that charisma and firepower down on tape with Tales Of Torment, released back in February on New York’s untouchably cool Tee Pee Records. “This was not a sober studio,” the singer says of the loose, first-take feel. “There were a bunch of beers.”

Australia – and the wider world – is desperate for rock’n’roll’s bang-your-head escapism after lockdown. As for the singer herself, she’s never needed the primal scream therapy more. “Even though life is painful and the world is awful a lot of the time, people need to allow themselves a good time, not just reflect on the depressing times we live in,” she says. “I’m sure I get a lot of rage out in this band. It’s therapeutic, screaming, you know?"

Tales Of Torment is out now on Tee Pee Records (opens in new tab).

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.