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Remember the musical values of the early '70s, as they blossomed out into the beginnings of Hard Rock, Heavy Metal and, yes, Doom? Oz band Thermal Mass do, and this is where we talk to main man Fabrizio about how they still shape the scene today.

Interview with Thermal Mass.
"Paradoxically, one of the great strengths of Doom - its spread and variety - is also one of its greatest weaknesses, in that there is no technical definition you can give which covers the breadth of musical styles ranging between '70s/'80s Trad and contemporary Extreme genres. All you can sensibly do is take each band on its merits and atmosphere, and see where that gets you. In the case of Australian outfit Thermal Mass, that's way back into the roots of Heavy Rock and Metal, with clearly visible inspirations such as Sabbath, Led Zep, Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper. All bands dear to my long-past teenage heart, and utterly significant steps along my path into the realms of Doom and Gloom. Sounds like they were much the same for old-school Thermal Mass main man Fabrizio Gallinov, who is steering us through the debut release of 'I,...Gore Head' in this interview."

In the hot seat today: Thermal Mass co-founder Fabrizio Gallinov (guitar, vocals).

Greetings, and welcome to Doom-metal.com. Could I start with asking you to introduce yourself?

Greetings from Oz, to all the readers and fans of Doom-metal.com, thanks Mike for taking the time to put these questions together for the sole purpose of exposing the band of which I play guitar and sing for, who hail from Melbourne, Australia. The band, THERMAL MASS. My name is Fabz and this band has been putting out Heavy Guitar-Oriented Doom Rock for 7 years now.

How are things down in Australia at the moment? Have you been badly affected by the ongoing pandemic, or is it more or less business as usual?

Australia has certainly been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It started here in mid-March. Cases are very low compared to some parts of the world, currently at the 1700 mark, though occasionally spiking in numbers every few days.

It is not business as usual, for children there is home schooling, with most schools around the country closed still. A lot of industries and businesses have been gravely affected, with a very large number of casual and part-time workers all losing their jobs.

I am a Stonemason, and strangely enough construction has gone through unphased. I have many friends who have lost work and are currently on unemployment benefits.

There is an air of caution and a lot of conspiracy theories floating around. A lot of paranoia.

It's looking like things are on course for the worldwide economic fallout to be potentially more damaging than the virus itself? As a band which is, unusually for Doom, quite focused and critical in commenting on contemporary society, do you have any thoughts on that?

Isaac Asimov wrote a book many years ago called "The End Of Eternity", in that book Planet Earth had already seen roughly 25 millennia out, the 21st Century was deemed primitive. I kind of agree with that view. Although it is Science Fiction, there is a certain realistic truth in that view, which, as a skeptic, that truth is "gold".

I don't have a university degree, nor do I really have an interest in economics, however I do have a science background as an Orafacial Prosthetics Technician. There are more germs and bacteria in your oral cavity than there are in your faeces. With that said, the virus has not disappeared, and the economic impact has only just begun. I don't have a crystal ball, but there is plenty of "food for thought" on the horizon. More denial, more lies, more doom & gloom. What is the true cost of "Truth", is my question?

There from the start: Tristan Jacobson (lead guitar).

OK, so we're not here to talk about older history, but you had previous experience when Thermal Mass started up in around 2013. How did the band take shape originally - did you already know each other, or was it an entirely new project?

2010: Wurms finished, Gallinov and Jacobson remain. Write new material.

2012: Thermal Mass form, Fleming and Vodstrcil join from the band Bludgeoned, Antriasian from Sun Shepherd, Gallinov and Jacobson of Wurms and Sartori.

To answer your question, we did already know each other from gigging together with our different bands, house parties/shows, warehouse parties/shows and venue shows. It was, however, an entirely new project.

2012 - December: Recorded 1/2 volume demo, played a show, and broke up.

2013: "I,...Gore Head" line-up formed: Jacobson (guitar/lead), Wiffler (bass), Marrow (drums), Gallinov (vox/guitar).

2017: This line-up fractured again, Jacobson and Gallinov recruited Paulo Junior (drums) and Evan Harris to pursue songwriting. 2020: Currently mixing an EP, recorded in 2019. It is soon to be released, under the title "Anti-Pasto".

What was the ground-zero idea for the band? Did you have a vision for what sound and attitude you wanted to project?

The "sound" was established in 2012, really!! With 3 guitarists in the band it was quite dense, so the emphasis was really on simple song structures and less notes, so to speak.

Saint Vitus, a perfect example of simple and pure songwriting, without the Cookie Monster vocals, such an overexaggeration, wank.

Matt brought in his "dead" drum sound reminiscent of the early New York Hardcore scene, which we kept a close reference to when we recorded the full length two years later. The Demo, important: the attitude we were trying to achieve I guess came from a mix of early Alice Cooper Band "attack", with a bit of Sabbath and Crimson, my '70s influences, to the seminal EYEHATEGOD and pop sensibility of the gifted Electric Wizard.

The recipe is simple, heavy guitars in B standard with a lot of hooks and pop sensibility. Don't forget to add a little '70s Prog and Krautrock. You need the "sinister sauce".

Thermal mass, if I remember my ancient physics lessons correctly, is a measurement of how well an object absorbs or releases heat. Is there some significance to it as a choice of band name?

The Sun, what would the solar system, or planet Earth, do without it? Volcanos, also very important to the geological evolution of our planet. Energy stored and then released slowly or sometimes even violently.

Tristan came up with the name, he is a fan of architecture, and I just loved it when he mentioned it. It stuck. THERMAL MASS. Other Australian bands to check out are Mass Appeal and Mass Confusion, do yourselves a favour, it's just Mass hysteria!!!

If I can draw the analogy, "We absorb the pain, we release the pain". POW!!!

Dave Wiffler (bass).

Looks like you've had a few line-up changes along the way - is it the sort of 'collective' band where people drift in and out, or have you just had to recruit new members along the way?

In 2012 there was the original line-up, that group laid the foundations by recording the "1/2 Volume Demo". A year later the line-up which led to the recording of our debut lasted two years.

Our drummer Steven developed a serious health issue which meant he had to undergo brain surgery. Not even a few months after the recording he had surgery and struggled to get back. He moved to the country shortly after that to pursue a quieter lifestyle.

We eventually found a new drummer, who is originally from Brazil, his name is Paulo Junior. There is an open door policy in the fold, which I feel lets everybody express and be free to pursue any number of musical projects. We don't live in each others pockets. Nor do we limit existing opportunities for individuals in the fold. it just makes sense.

So you've just released your debut album, 'I,...Gore Head' as a digipack CDr. It's an interesting package, artwork-wise, combining volcanic destruction, cloudy skies, a church altar and...Marty Feldman? Is it as straightforward a message as 'laughing at the end of the world'?

You have pretty much nailed it. I am a Mona Lisa fanatic. I loved Feldman, Python, Gilliam, John Heartfield, Collage. Crass, I am not into nude chicks and skulls and all that Doom Rock imagery. It took quite a long time to put that cover together and many different processes.

We like irony and black humour, we can't take ourselves too seriously, it becomes too contrived. Spinal Tap rule!!!

Paulo Junior (drums).

It's taken a very old-school approach to recording - absolute minimum studio time, very much 'live' as far as possible, with minimal overdub or mixing. What are the good and bad points of working like that, as far as you're concerned?

Being involved in bands for 30 years now, we have all tried every recording scenario. There is only good that comes with live recording. It is natural, real, and if you all nail the vibe, then there is "no substitute". Vibe is everything, mistakes and all.

I am not a fan of sanitised Heavy Rock, tracking guitars 8 times a la "Ride The Lightning", Bob Rock methods, how fucking tedious and boring. Led Zeppelin I, Black Sabbath I, that is it right there. We tried to outdo those guys, and we did - we tracked the record in 9 hours total. Live in one day. Zep and Sabs're our inspiration. We were well rehearsed, we had our shit down and it worked. In my opinion that is the "best fun" of recording, the mixing can be quite tedious, fun at times, but still on the tedious side. You can't beat recording a whole band in real time, because not only have you gelled as a unit, you have come out the other side with way more time to focus on your mix.

Like we say here in Oz, "you can't polish a turd".

The album itself, excluding the bonus tracks, was recorded in 2015. What was the delay in getting it to the point of release, earlier this year?

Money!! And lack of it. Australian musicians don't have much money!! Besides, we are not signed, so what exactly is the big fuckin' rush?

We reviewed it - would you say that's a fair assessment? Is there anything you'd want to have added or corrected, 'on the record', as it were?

It is obvious you liked the record, I think you nailed the review. And it is quite nice to have someone with a broad knowledge of music "get it". It would have been better if you were writing for Metal Hammer or the old Kerrang, Aardshock and Rolling Stone!! No, seriously, any exposure is good exposure.

I remember the days when the Noise label described Celtic Frost's "Emperor's Return" release as "Worse than ever before" and that was on their mail order sleeve which was in the vinyl release. Bad press can be great as well. It worked for the "Frosty's". What a band! I love 'em. Hope a few more "'bangers" get into it.

Thermal Mass - 'Bad Eggs (Gargantua)' (2016):

I guess commercial considerations are far from the band's highest priority. But have you had other feedback from media or fans? What's been the general response so far?

All response has been grand, people are blown away, but the labels have yet to come to the party. The first pressing is gone, if we can sell 300 copies worldwide through mail order I would be very stoked. I think those days may be over though. We are mixing an EP at the moment, so at least we can keep it all rolling, there are no venues opened, so there goes live. Let's not live in the circle of doubt.

Quietly confident. But all people who know where we are coming from are very gratified by this release.

Will you be looking to try and get a label release for 'I,...Gore Head', if possible? Or is it the intention it serves more of an original 'demo' type role for a future release?

We will try to get it released. It isn't a demo, far from it. People with decent stereo systems will hear the quality. A good set of headphones at least.

It's quite unusual not to release albums via Bandcamp these days, but though you have a few tracks available on your page, the album itself is only available by mail order. How come? As an old music collector, I'm not really interested in non-physical copies myself - do you have an opinion on the digital/physical divide for music?

I have met "people"? over the last number of years, and also know people who claim to have over 3000 records on their "hard drives". They boast about it like it is a major "achievement". Then you ask these same people about these releases and they have absolutely no ideo "who" and "where" this music was made. The words "geeks" and "nerds" and "wannabes" come to mind. Music fans who buy "physical" are truly supporting the artist and chain of passionate music fans involved in the distribution of this music.

It means more to have something in your hand, it has more value. The "digital" realm is a great way to discover new and old music, however that is all it is for me personally, a tool for discovery. It's like having an original H.R. Giger painting, is it worth more than the digital print??? I rest my case.

Original pressing rules, those first 100 or 300! That is the "gold".

The new Thermal Mass album is on the NOHYPE label. My own. If you like it, buy it. It is real.

'I,...Gore Head' flyer.

Who writes the music and lyrics? Do you have a particular system for composing, or take more of an organic approach to letting things develop? And what fires you up, in terms of subject matter, that you want to write a song about it in the first place?

Since the beginning of Thermal Mass it has always been myself and Jacobson (Tristan) writing the riffs. Sometimes whole arrangements, rarely do ideas come out of jamming. We are not a "jam" band. Two guitarists, double the riffs, so more content to piece together.

I am the vocalist, therefore I write the lyrics, and generally the songs are about oppression, tyranny, corruption, fear, alienation, violence (both structural and random), denial and greed.

The new "Anti-Pasto" EP 2020 is all about structural violence and its many guises. You know, all that "fun" stuff. No love songs here, just poisonous barbs and hooks. Like Alice Cooper once said, it is all about "attack". But then again, he also said you should not mix "politics and rock'n'roll". That explains why he is a "born again" Christian now. Should have thrown some politics in, Alice. Still one of the greats, though. His sneer and delivery, genius.

Hey, we are all "conflicted" to some extent.

The well of "confliction", where most artists live. Haha.

For all the old-school nature of the approach, it's a really noticeably tight piece of work, especially given the studio limits. Is that the result of lots of rehearsal, or gigs, or both?

As a heavy rocker, through and through, it is mostly about cranking up really, really loud and fleshing out those meaty, juicy riffs. When you "rehearse loud", the dynamics hit you harder, and if you simplify the arrangements to let everyone's parts be heard, it is heaven on earth. We like our rehearsals loud. Over rehearsing kills songs.

That said, playing live can also kill your passion for the "songs". Especially if you lug your gear to shows only to be given a 20 minute set, with 10 - 15 other bands on the same bill. Paying to play, what a joke!! Everyone disappointed.

Rehearsal rooms are where the "magic" happens, with your own gear and no "scene oriented" distractions.

I would rather go and see three bands live than some fuckin' shitty musical festival line-up. Over-priced, and literally over before it begins. The answer is "ample and smart" rehearsals. LOUD, very LOUD.

What's the local live scene like? How often do you do shows, and what sort of bands do you share the stage with? Any plans to expand on that?

I tend to keep it low key, my bandmates go to a lot of shows, I used to go to a lot of shows in the late '80s through to the late '90s, however the last 20 years have been slim pickings. The quality of heavy bands is just not there any more, there are too many fad bands and very little direction in their style. Quite shallow really. I am probably out of touch though. I am not a fan of Cookie Monster vocals, it seems the norm now to have a singer that sounds like he is churning his guts out, the obsession with trying to sound "brutal" and "extreme". Blast beats??? What a joke. Not music to my ears. I get it, but I would rather listen to Cathedral than Napalm Death, if you know what I mean. Don't think I answered your question there, Mike. Sorry mate.

I think we would prefer to share stages with bands that weren't Extreme. There are a lot of great bands in Melbourne who aren't exactly Heavy/Rock/Doom bands. I recently heard a band here on radio called Cable Ties, they are an excellent example of what I am talking about. Great vocal attack, female singer, with an avant-garde slant on songwriting, and highly political.

Thermal Mass - 'Voice Of The Planet Seed' (2014):

There can be a pretty fine line, going back to the roots of Doom, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, between genres. Do you see much difference between them? What essential qualities would you say are either common or distinct, and important to your music?

I read an interview with Greg Anderson (Sunn O))), Goatsnake) some years ago, and he was asked to describe the Goatsnake sound, to which he replied "We are basically a Heavy Rock band".Sabs always thought of themselves as a Rock'n'roll band, Zep were never Heavy Metal. I tend to stay away from "fine tuning" genres from an analytical perspective, because I - like many other Heavy Rockers - enjoy all forms of heavy guitar-orientated Rock/Metal/Thrash. The common denominator is heavy guitars, everything else is pretty much "tempo"-based, gain stages, and modal leanings. Good songwriting is probably the most important thing to us.

I think our debut is extremely strong and unique because of where we come from, musically speaking. The focus is always on content, with sound already established it is very easy to move forward. We have Doomy elements of course, but the focus is "balance" and "weight".

Listen to Blue Oyster Cult's "Wings Wetted Down", off "Tyranny And Mutation", now that is a fine slice of Doom Rock. Apparently, they invented Heavy Metal. The endless debate!

So, have you got anything more planned in the shorter or longer term for Thermal Mass? What would you like to do next, if you had a free choice?

The new EP is finished, so, hopefully, when businesses open up again we can do a run of that, and sell some copies, get some radio play, keep the ball rolling on trying to get the album and EP into shops in Europe. Keep writing and rehearsing.

If I had a free choice, the opportunity to play a European tour would be pretty grand. I don't like our chances, though, at the moment! Hahaha, what is that saying - "Patience is the virtue of asses". I like that one.

Well, I hope that's covered the band in some depth and detail - have we missed anything important? Any last words you'd like to add?

Yes, thanx for the questions, Mike, and for your passionate interest in all things Doom and Gloom. Will send you the new EP soon

Hang Tuff, and Peace to all who dwell in the abyss.

Dont forget to get some "burning rays" of the sun. Need our Vitamin D, people. Peace, Thermals

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Visit the Thermal Mass bandpage.

Interviewed on 2020-08-30 by Mike Liassides.
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