Vicious Presents: James Kane

James Kane talks Unwound Records, the Melbourne DIY Scene and his own success in hardcore music scene.

james-kaneJames Kane is a Melbourne hardcore punk musician. He may only be in his early twenties, but Kane’s involvement in several bands – Idle Minds, Meter Men and more recently, Prag –  evidences his deep entrenchment in the Melbourne music and DIY scene.

Our conversation pre-interview was a discussion of early 70s Australian punk music. He runs me through a few of his favourites, like The Victims and Radio Bird Man. He links and weaves the musical bridge between Australian bands and their respective American and English influences and counterparts. The conversations we had were littered with references to songs, groups he loved and the musicians he worked with and the work they put out.

I’ve known James for a few years and I’ve been fortunate enough to be privy to his musical involvement and evolution. He’s also the owner of Unwound Records , an independent record label in Melbourne that and releasing primarily hardcore punk music.  So how did it all start? We grab seats at Kent St (No Jerks, PEACE ON KENT) and he tells me more.

I was working for a nightclub company, doing admin work when I was fourteen,” begins Kane, “or rather, the shit no one else wanted to do. There was a girl who I worked with and she was playing Black Flag at her desk. I didn’t even know much about hardcore. It never sunk in until I was at that job. She’d always link a song here or there.  I started getting into that aggressive sound. But I didn’t actually like Black Flag that much at that time. It was so different from what i was used to.”

Gimme Gimme Gimme” by Black Flag was the first “hardcore” song I’d heard, it had this sorta slow paced drum beat and then slammed into a faster beat which I thought was weird, then on the third listen, I thought it was incredibleAfter that I read American Hardcore by Steven Blush which has the picture of Dave Smalley from DYS bleeding from his mouth on the cover.”

Kane recalls the first few years he started publicly organising music events. Thursday night, Kane would run a show called “No Future”, in essence a punk show that eventually branched out into other genres about four years ago. He explained his involvement in the record label being due to his friend James Tyrell, his partner, who also plays in Idle Minds and Meter Men: “I thought it was a cool idea but I don’t know why he asked me,” Kane states, “and I assumed it would be just me helping him out here or there with ideas. But we kept hanging out and talking about it and then became equal partners in the thing and now we just want to put out as many good records as we can.”

“All of our friends played music and nobody was putting out their records…so we might as well do it.”

Meter Men (L-R: Daniel Orsini, James Kane) by Jess De (Bad Teeth Zine)

Meter Men (L-R: Daniel Orsini, James Kane) by Jess De (Bad Teeth Zine)

The best part, Kane exclaims, is getting the record back. He tells me about the first 7″ they released, the Idle Minds/Aids split and revelling in the physicality of the object. It’s also a pretty significant part to the DIY scene itself, the involvement with music and the ability to look at their creation in their own hands. “[People involved in the DIY scene] just want something to hold and look back on or to form a collection of stuff they’re into for themselves but more importantly, to support the bands,” he says and I know what he means. There’s an underlying joy from reading the inserts and the booklet of a packaged record, or getting a stash of gig or band posters or reading about the history of the band; the tangible nature of the scene is another way to engage with the music.

Kane’s earliest influence was his father: “When I was younger, he’d always play guitar around the house. I remember being 8 yrs old, sitting in the car listening to Black Sabbath. He’d mention bits of the songs he liked and why he liked them. What I did to you, pretty much,” he says to me, in reference to our conversation in the car.



Eventually, after going to gigs, Kane got more involved in the hardcore scene:  “I remember seeing Reece Prain playing in Last Measure (who now plays in Idle Minds) and was so impressed. He was so tight and this guy was my age.”

I went to another show next weekend. I went to most shows each weekend. I talked to more people. That was it.

His first experience was a gig at the Black Goat in Coburg, seeing Last Measure and Isterismo (Japan). Last Measure were playing with huge force. “I thought it was great. Isterismo were insane. I’d never seen Japanese punk show before, let alone this being my first intro to hardcore.” Idle Minds, Kane’s first band, dates back before to Unwound Records. It was a way for him to do something more productive than just “drink Goon in the alleyway” – though we’re not dismissive of that itself. Rather, playing and making “some shitty obnoxious music with friends in a room – that sounds more appealing.”

maggot fest

Maggot Fest V: The festival of “the best Australian punk, hardcore and weirdo bands” is spread over four days: from Thursday, October 30 through Sunday, November 2.

Kane is a huge DIY enthusiast and supporter: “It’s not even strictly hardcore that makes this thing great. It’s DIY itself. There’s a whole bunch of bands that are in the hardcore punk scene which aren’t strictly speaking, punk bands. There’s Hydromedusa from Adelaide who are a 70s influenced powerhouse. But there are punks slamming to it at gigs, and it’s because they have this mentality. You don’t have to be a punk band to be in this scene. That’s what Maggot Fest  shows – bands like Royal Headache playing next to bands like Bloodrule. There’s this range of bands sounding completely different to each other but they’re all about the same thing.”

People play in punk bands because they love it and everyones got this mindset and huge work ethic of doing it for themselves and pressing records themselves.

I asked him why he wanted to do it and he shrugged. “When I started Idle Minds, I was listening to heaps of hardcore and wanted to start a band. it doesn’t matter if you take yourself seriously as long as you’re stoked on it.  There’s so many new bands forming all the time, it’s never boring.” Kane is unabashed and pretty blunt with his assessment of the corporate music scene. After all, the defining feature of the DIY and hardcore scene is the self-made mentality and aversion to commercialism. “It seems more ego-oriented for them. But I wouldn’t know the first thing about what they want.”

What’s it like in Melbourne versus everywhere else? Everywhere’s different. Melbourne’s the biggest scene, which is good and bad. There’s a show every weekend and there’s awhole bunch of bands you can see all the time.  In Adelaide, there’ a lot of great bands but there’s not something on every weekend. Everywhere else seems more pure…here it seems contradictory in a way, Melbourne seems “cool” and that’s going against its own rules. Melbourne’s great, but there’s so much going on that you’re spoilt for choice half the time.” Kane lists Adelaide among one of his favouite places and tells me about one of the recent shows they played: “We played in an alleyway, where people lit shit on fire. Idle Minds, Meter Men and Simfuckers played. They’re great. I remember, Elliot from Simfuckers brought a laptop and had the audience ruin it. People rolling wheelie bins through the pit, it was chaotic.”

Kane details an onslaught of events set for the next six months. There’s a new Meter Men cassette out on Helta Skelta Records, and Meter Men will also be featured on the Bad Teeth compilation cassette.

He’ll be playing Maggot Fest V with both Prag and Meter Men. Oh, and then there’s the European tour with Prag, Jan/Feb 2015.



Maggot Fest V: Thursday, October 30 through Sunday, November 2, purchase tickets here. Melbourne setlist includes Royal Headache (NSW), Miss Destiny, Ruined Fortune (NSW), Sick People and more. Prag (UK) and Meter Men (Aus) on Friday 31st at the Tote Hotel.

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