El Colosso is a heavy rock band from Melbourne, Australia. And a bloody good one at that. El Colosso’s latest album ‘Forgotten Ancestors’ is available now, and the band have just released ‘Observadores’, a Spanish-language version of album track ‘Bystanders’. We spoke to El Colosso vocalist Koops to get the background on the band, as well as digging into his own personal music memories and why the latest Taylor Swift album is doing it for him. Connect with El Colosso and Koops right here…
What are the origins of El Colosso? How long have you been playing together?
The band began a while back, around 2013-14, with the original line-up being Adam Winzer on guitar, Craig Fryers on bass, Peter Hayden on drums, and myself singing. Adam left the band in 2015 and was replaced by Benny James; Craig left the band in 2018 and was replaced by Alex Hayes; Pedro left in late 2020 and has yet to be permanently replaced; so that leaves me as the only founding member, which is hilarious!!! We also now have Anthony Biancofiore playing guitar, too. The result is rather massive.
How did you feel performing your first gig as a band? And how was it?!
The first show we played was Melbourne’s famous Cherry Bar and it was terrible. Shit sound, couldn’t hear anything onstage, and (for me, anyway) felt awkward as hell. We were still trying to settle on a sound, a vibe, and we hadn’t really found it. There were quite a few people there, and I remember thinking, “This is a disaster – we’re playing at this cool, vibey venue, and nothing feels right…” Perhaps the other men might’ve felt different, but to me, it was a shocker.
‘Forgotten Ancestors’ is the new album, I believe that, although some of the songs are very timely, it was written before the world went to shit in early 2020? Opening track for example: “Always felt like strangers, Crowded in with other strangers…Tried to keep it peaceful, despite the weapons of words. Never fear the outcome – unless those voices come out of darkness…” – 2020 was the year that those voices did “come out of the darkness”!
It certainly was! Lyrically, the album is bordering on a concept album. It was written at a time pre-COVID, but, as far as material was concerned, there was a plethora of things to get angry about. Trumpism, the rise of the far-right in Western democracies, the threat of hostilities with Eastern powers, social inequities, Black Lives Matter, I mean, there’s A LOT of great material right there! Forgotten Ancestors has turned out to be a bit of a protest album, at least, for me as the lyricist. I guess, though, I’m trying to not be quite so preachy and a little more abstract – I think that way it is more effective for the listener to put their own interpretation on things. Often I am asked what a certain lyric might mean and my answer is always, “What do YOU think it means?” It’s better for the person to put themselves into the song, to provide their own context to what they hear and feel.
‘Bystanders’ packs a powerful punch – “We’re living the way of the future, of long-dead ancestors. We can’t even breathe the fucking air.” An evocative track for certain, with regards to the imagery of the “pig”, what does it signify?
Thank you! Bystanders DOES pack a powerful punch, but the best thing is it’s FUN! What does it signify? Ha! I refer to you my answer above! Hahahaha! Here’s a clue: I was inspired here by that magnificent Trump Baby balloon that was made by the brilliant UK artist Max Bonner. Every line has a very specific meaning to me, however. 😉
That’s the thing about El Colosso, though. Yes, we play heavy, riff-laden rock music, but we’re always trying to keep things fun. Live, our music better reflects this, perhaps. It’s kind of the Van Halen effect. Van Halen are a huge influence on us, and me especially wanting to be like David Lee Roth when I was a kid. We’re kind of like the Unchained/Running With the Devil/Light up the Sky/Loss of Control version of Van Halen.
You are releasing “Observadores”, a Spanish-language version of ‘Bystanders’ for the first Bandcamp Friday of the year, where did the idea for a new version come from? And how vital is Bandcamp Friday to grassroots musicians and artists especially now that revenue generated from touring is all but gone?
In 2018 we were lucky enough to tour Europe and during that tour, we had just the very best time in Spain. Don’t get me wrong, everywhere we went it was wonderful – we met the greatest people in the world in Germany, Slovakia, France, and Belgium. But the Spanish were just magic. We were treated so very well in every place. ‘Observadores’ is kind of our ‘thank you’ to Spain. I know that my Spanish is not perfect, but we are trying to be respectful with this. Thankfully I had a lot of help from a friend over there – Henri-Pierre Valdeolivas. He’s this American bloke who lives in Barcelona and saw us play over there. We had a great hang after the show and have been in contact ever since.
In regard to Bandcamp Friday? Yeah, it’s ok, I guess. I mean, it can be a cute initiative to advertise and all that, but it’s Bandcamp itself which is the main platform that we use to promote our music. It’s a hosting site. They take their cut just like everyone else. We’ve been told by various PR and industry people that now it’s SPOTIFY SPOTIFY SPOTIFY. Yay, fucking Spotify! Another major label-controlled ‘service’ that does fuck-all for independent bands. Does it get us access to more fans? Yeah, sure, I guess. But when there are ten million folks all saying, ‘look at me’, it’s easy to be lost in the noise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful for sites like Bandcamp, but, as artists, nothing is made any easier as far as effective promotion is concerned, with the sharing/streaming tech of this new age.
To this day, it still seems to be the way that to get anywhere near decent market reach you must have a third party behind you powering the machine. Prove me wrong.
Although the album does deal with important, heavy subject matters, there also seems to be hope: especially on a track like ‘As One’ – “So rewind to the beginning, Inside, where nothing matters…”…
Again, we’re not just another doom band! Not doom at all! No witches, no mountains, no smoke, no deserts, no weed! Hahahahaha! We are just a simple rock band trying to make our way in the galaxy! ‘As One’ is basically a pop song. It’s a ‘Soundgardeny’ pop song, and every section is a hook. We just love the music, love making it groovy. So many bands in the live scene at the moment are so intent on being so fucking doomy and almost atonal. Honestly, yes, I do like some of that stuff, but El Colosso is a party band. We could easily be playing someone’s backyard, just as easily as playing a huge venue. If the music doesn’t uplift in some way, I think we’ve failed as entertainers. That’s what important to us as players – to be entertainers, and to involve the audience in our fun!
Tell us a little bit about the seven-minute epic ‘Backchat’ which closes the album. How long did it take to bring this one to life? And, once live gigs resume, will this one grow wings and end up as a killer extended jam session?
‘Backchat’ was one of those songs that really evolved with the playing. You’re right – there is a real ‘jam’ kind of vibe with it, and during the writing process, there was a lot of free-form playing that we used to flesh it out. Prior to the pandemic, we were starting our set with that tune, which was actually pretty funny, sometimes. We played a show up in Sydney, started with that song, and when we finished there was a pause of silence. Just long enough for me to think, “Holy shit, these people hate us!” But then everyone just went nuts. From there we went into ‘As One’, by the way. That was a crazy show.
What goes through your head in the run-up to releasing new music? Are you excited? Nervous? – Both?!
Oh man, me personally, I get very nervous. I’m not good with that kind of thing. I’m prone to very bad anxiety and it can get really horrible. I will say, though, that I’m lucky with this group of men. They are the type of humans that anyone would want as their friend. Regarding releasing new material, I think, though, that we all just hope that people get it the way we hope. The music means a lot to us, and when it means a lot to someone else, its meaning is magnified.
In what ways has the band grown over the last few years?
The band has grown A LOT. There was a stage when there was quite a toxic environment within the group. Like any band (or marriage), there can be tough times, but evolution is a part of life, and we are lucky that what has evolved has become what we had always hoped to have in a band. The fun times are back, we enjoy being in each other’s company, we create an environment that fosters and celebrates creativity.
In terms of a similar audience: who would be the ideal act for El Colosso to support?
We are happy to play with anyone! Really! We’ve opened for Seether – a band I had never even heard of at the time. They were hilarious and lovely men! We’ve supported Voivod, which was a dream come true for me because along with Faith No More and Soundgarden, they were the other 80s/90s band that I was very in to as a kid. They, too, were incredibly lovely men. What an honour! Seriously, we don’t care. We can play and get along with anyone, in any room. Here’s my personal list, though: Seedy Jesus (a local Melbourne band, but we’ve never shared a stage – Jesus! Come ON men!!!), The Ugly Kings (another local band, same as above!), I love what Elephant Tree are doing, I’m a huge Opeth fan, but the metal crowd would never go for that (fuck it, we supported Voivod!), Mastodon FOR SURE!
What are your first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?
My first musical memories involve listening to mum and dad’s LPs. Dad was (is) into old-time jazz, swing, dixie, that New Orleans thing. Mum was into The Carpenters, Barry Manilow, Peter Allen, show tunes, The Beatles. When I was a kid, Kiss was the thing for me! Then I got into David Bowie, The Police, The Village People, Olivia Newton-John. Then the 80s happened and everything was about the rock!
Personally, who has been the biggest influence on you becoming a musician?
Kiss were the first BIG influence. Sting, David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, Mike Patton, Layne Stayley, Chris Cornell. I guess I’ve been influenced by a lot of what I’ve heard, over the years, not exclusively just this list! THE great singers and frontmen!
What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?
The last show I was at was ‘A Tribute to Lemmy’, at the Bendigo Hotel in Collingwoood in December. Organised by Anthony Moore from Desert Highways and featuring basically everyone from El Colosso except me!
What album do you have in your collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?
Linda Ronstadt – Canciones de mi Padre. Incredible album, and one of my absolute favourites. Come at me, bro.
No danger! Big Linda Ronstadt fans here! Although 2020 was a year to forget, there was some great music released; what would be your album of 2020?
Evermore, by Taylor Swift. No, seriously. My daughter has been a TS fan for a couple of years, and we recently had spent a few days away from Melbourne up in the country. She had been at me about playing the album in the car, and I had resisted. Then I thought, ‘Don’t be a wanker and keep an open mind.’ Honestly, I was very impressed. It’s a beautiful, honest album. Pared-back production, and Swift’s performance is perfect. And it’s not the squeaky, weak-arsed style that a lot of female performers go for these days. It’s sublime. I hate the song with the dude from The National singing, though, only because I know I could have done it much, much better! Hahahahahaha!
Who would you class as an underrated songwriter?
There are a couple of bands who I think are underrated, certainly. From our hometown of Melbourne, there are Planet of the 8s, Lamassu, and The Balls. All brilliant live, too. When I think ‘underrated’, though, the first bands who come to mind are Living Colour and Fishbone. I fucking LOVE those bands, and musically they are simply genius.
What are your plans for 2021 should COVID ever disappear?!
SIMPLE: To play as many shows as possible!
How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?