I’ve been a follower of J. Randall’s bandcamp label Grindcore Karaoke almost since the very beginning, when it was slightly less prolific and I had the time to listen to just about everything they put out. One of the first GK releases I totally fell in love with was Town Hall Classics by In Her Rotten Cheek. I many ways, I still think it’s the perfect kind of grind EP; it’s seven songs, less than five minutes long, and it sounds like it was recorded in somebody’s bedroom on whatever equipment was at hand. It was really one of the first albums that made me believe that I might be able to make the transition from being a fan of grindcore to actually starting a recording project of my own. Recently, In Her Rotten Cheek released its fourth EP, another fantastic bit of grind called Last Drinks, through Grindcore Karaoke, and I was fortunate enough to get Nicholas Betson, the man behind In Her Rotten Cheek, to agree to an email interview.
Iron Hops: So your bio on your bandcamp page is fantastic: “A bloke from Melbourne. In a flat. With a guitar, a drum machine, and some time.” Have you always done the one-man thing, or have you/do you play with other musicians? What made you decide to do this project as a solo thing?
Nicholas Betson: Well I do enjoy a minimal bio, leaves more to the imagination.
Pre-Rotten Cheek, I had been outside of the music world for a while. High school brought with it cover band work, which, while a little cringey, was great. We played country pubs and bars on the weekends to crowds of 5-8 old men and, more often than not, at least one dog. We also played a lot of government funded youth shows, which are common in Australia. Playing and attending these shows was great for small communities, and we got to see lots of capital city punk, h/c, and metal bands at all-ages shows. The all-ages gig culture differs from the USA greatly, mainly due to the fact that you are able to attend licensed venues at 18, not 21, so these shows were how people got exposed to playing and seeing awesome acts. Around this time I started tinkering with an 808 and 303 synth program on Windows called ReBirth. That was my first taste of electronic music production and I made a little CD run of 5 copies and handed them out to my friends (At the time a blank CD cost about 5 or 6 dollars and I had to convince a friend to burn them for me. Maybe one day I’ll put them online for shits and giggles)
When I was 18 I played in a pop-punk band that wasn’t a blip on anyone’s radar, but we had fun and it was my first taste of trying to write songs. We played a few bars and sold a few demos, but aside from that we let it go by the wayside and we all moved on to different projects. About this time I stopped playing any music outside my bedroom. It wasn’t until a year before the first Rotten Cheek release that I had the urge to write and produce something original again. It was bit of a drunken joke to start with, I had started getting back in to heavy music again and came across some grindcore, which had passed me by in my youth, and seeing as no one else I knew who liked the music could play an instrument I had to make do with what I had. A laptop and a guitar. I had a friend with a recording studio and he said he’d help me out with getting it down, and he’s recorded most of what is out there today.
IH: Let’s turn all gear nerdy here for a second, because I dabble a bit (very badly) in drum machine grind myself. What’s your recording setup like? What drum software do you use, what d you record on, etc?
NB: Well each EP has had a different recording setup up so the sound is a bit different on each of them. I’m a Linux user so the tools available to me are limited compared to those using Windows or OSX. The machine that I program my drums through is a free GPL licensed one called “Hydrogen” and it’s pretty full-functioned for something that doesn’t cost a dime. I used two of the downloadable kits, the Death Metal and Trash Kits, and mixed them up a bit to get the sound that I wanted. Because my laptop couldn’t really support real time multitracking, I exported these to my friend’s Korg D3200 32 track digital recorder, separating all the drum tracks to individual channels. This was a bitch! But this method proved to be integral to the way I wrote tracks, as I would create a song of nothing but drums then write the guitar to fit, as trying to change the drum parts would be too time consuming. The guitar for the first session was a nice Les Paul Custom my mate has. It’s much to nice for my liking.
The “Noted” EP was much the same except I recorded it on the same model machine which I purchased myself. This time the guitar I used was 30-40 year old Guyatone Electric guitar that was bought from someone’s shed for 20 bucks. It’s sounds terrible. I loved it, but the bastard kept detuning. I think this EP certainly sounds like it was recorded by a guy who had little idea of how to record. It remain my personal favorite. I had some left over tracks I used in comps.
“In The Beginning” was the first time I used Pro-Tools. My recording friend had upgraded and we decided to give it a run. Drum midis were taken from Hydrogen and imported. The result is definitely more polished and the drums are much fuller and harder. Personally, this is my least favorite EP to listen to, but people gave me good feedback. It’s interesting to compare what I like to listen to in my own songs to what other people do.
For “Last Drinks” I thought would be nice to try something different. Taking the old Korg in to a rehearsal studio, we wrote and record 8 tracks in 4 hours (excluding lyrics) This time we used real drums. James, who recorded all my previous stuff, is a great drummer, but more of the punk p/v style (not a double kicker) so that really mixed it up. The guitar and drums were recorded live with one track of vocals overdubbed.
With the exception of “Noted,” all of the EPs were written at the time of recording over a period of 2 days or less.
IH: How did you hook up with Grindcore Karaoke, and what made you decide to put your music out on the internet essentially for free?
NB: This is super simple. Grindcore Karaoke was relatively new at this point and I just tweeted at Jay. Something like “Hey I’m a shameless self promoter, retweet my new EP.” He did me one better and offered it up for release on the site. I did some more detailed booklet art (I love old photos) and sent it through. Now he’s does me a solid and is happy to release anything I throw at him. Stand up guy.
As a Linux nut, I’m fully behind open culture, which is why all of my EPs are available for download, distribution, bastardization anything. I don’t want to get preachy, but this Woody Guthrie quote has always resonated with me. It’s his view on copyright.
“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin’ it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”
I couldn’t put it better in a million years.
IH: So we are a website that covers both craft beer and metal. Aside from Fosters, I know nothing about Australian beer. Recommend a good Australian beer to drink while listening to In Her Rotten Cheek.
NB: Fosters in America is different from Fosters here, but they both taste like shit.
If I’m drinking a domestic beer I drink a Melbourne Bitter, which I wrote a track about on “Town Hall Classics.” But the best bench mark beer is a Coopers Pale Ale. It isn’t disimilar to your Nevada Pale. Much like n the USA, there is a great micro brewery trend about at the moment. So I like a Brunswick Bitter at times, or a Little Creatures. Some of your liquor stores in the USA stock Coopers Pale and Sparkling, so thats a good start. But if you’re looking for high ABV beer that’s not too common in Australia.
IH: Last question: so what’s on the agenda for 2013? More EPs, or is there a proper full-length in the works? And are there any plans to release anything on vinyl?
NB: Well I move from a flat in two weeks to a share house, so my bio will have to change. I want to do another one or two eps, but more like “Noted.” I dig that dirty sound. I would love to release on vinyl, as I am an avid vinyl collector. Cost can be an issue and i’m not sure if i have a market who’ll pay, but I’m looking in to it. If any of your readers wanna contact me for a split I’m up for a chat! Other things in 2013, I’m flying back to the states for my second MDF, so be sure to say “Hey” if you see me there. I’ll be the Aussie with a beard, like all the other Aussies there.