Track by Track: TOM LYNGCOLN – RAGING HEAD (SOLAR/SONAR, 2020)

Words: James Frostick / Tom Lyngcoln
Image: Moodwar

Last week, Melbourne/Naarm-based musician Tom Lyngcoln (Harmony / The Nation Blue) released his second solo record Raging Head. A collection of immediate and arresting pandemonium, Raging Head shows Tom at his most furious, twisting himself into knots and lacerating everything in reach. Tom has kindly consented to breaking down the record track by track, from its peculiar composition to its conceptual drive.

Tom’s breakdown of Raging Head is comprehensive, leaving little use for much contribution from me. All I can say is this record is a sublime example of barely contained savagery, a tumultuous maelstrom that buffets and knocks me around with fury. This record is Tom climbing up the walls, pulling at the bars of his cage, screaming into the void – releasing pent-up emotions that probably scorch when felt up close. Some of the inspirations come from mundane experience, others from life-changing ones (for him and others). It’s all laced with the same venom. Incredibly compelling from top to tail. – JF

So, Raging Head started when I invited ex-Mid Youth Crisis, The Kill and Sanctioned drummer Jay Allen to Bakehouse Rehearsal Studios during an overdub session for The Nation Blue’s Black and Blue albums. Bonnie Mercer was laying down a solo on the song ‘CCTV’ and I asked Jay to bring his kit in. I had always wanted to play in a band with Jay, as he is one of the best drummers I have ever seen. We worked together at Shock and have played many shows together over the years. Basically, I set up the mics and Jay just played short passages of beats and fills and whatever he wanted. He tapped away for half an hour and then we went and ate Thai food for the remainder of the six-hour session.

From there I started stitching together songs from what are effectively sampled beats and then wrote guitar parts for them. Jay’s drumming is fast, to the point that I couldn’t play along at all. I tried for the first week and it became almost immediately apparent that I didn’t have the skills to play this type of music. So I instead sought to reverse the idea of hardcore guitar and play slow and just let things ring out and get wild and then rip stupid solos to re-introduce the urgency. I think this worked well, but you be the judge.

‘Ceremonial Back Burning’

This song was the first complete drum track I comped together and sequently the first riff I wrote for the project. As such it’s a bit riffy as I hadn’t yet quit trying to play fast. As you can hear the beat is one of the slower on the record and playing this guitar part stretched me to my absolute limits. Look, I’m not a good conventional guitarist. I have my own style that I can vomit in my sleep but as soon as anyone asks me to do anything conventional (like play in time or accurately), I can’t. I had an online guitar lesson with Duane Denison from The Jesus Lizard ten years ago and he was appalled that I had dedicated 20 years at that stage to an instrument that I essentially could not play. I couldn’t do anything he asked me to. Not even warm up correctly.  So now I’m standing in my shed and into take 12 of this riff and rapidly realising this whole project is fundamentally flawed because I can’t keep up. The modus operandi changed drastically after this song. On a side note, I love the “touching pitch” intro, though, where the notes fluctuate and irritate as they drop in and out of tune with one another.

‘Trust Fun’

I went to see Extortion at the Birmingham years ago and scored a park right out the front. I walked outside at one stage and sitting on the boot of my car was a pristine crust punk. Immaculate jeans, spotless boots and patches, a carefully shredded T-shirt and – unfortunately for me – full studs. I gave him a look and he got down but the studs having been only worn on weekends were sharp as nails and his ass left a long 12-pronged scratch across the top of my boot. I couldn’t afford the legal ramifications of flipping his studs inside out so I walked away. I think about him more than I care to admit, as clearly documented by this song.

‘Tony’

This song is about a dude named Tony who, unbelievably, ran the country for two terms. Two. It features an interview with a fellow Tasmanian who showed his appreciation by head-butting Abbott. His explanation at the end of the song is a lot more succinct, so I’ll let that do the talking. Contained within this song is a prime example of the genius of Cal Foley who played bass on the album. He slinks around the other instruments and has an innate understanding of when to reinforce and when to offset the guitars. I first noticed him at a soundcheck for his old band The Stevens (who were one of the best proponents of Kiwi jangle ala The 3d’s or Guided By Voices) playing along to a large portion of ‘Stoner Witch’ by the Melvins that was on between bands on the PA. Our daughters were born at the same time and we are bonded by sleep dep. In fact, Jay’s son is fractionally older than our girls, so this is a true dad band. Raging Dad.

Raging Head’

The title track works like this; In Hobart in the 1990s it was all about heads. Everyone has one and some of them are spectacular. I’ve been focused on them for a long time.  And when you see a good one, it is important to acknowledge it because that person goes through life with that thing at the top of their necks. “Look at that fucking head. It’s raging.” And when confronted with multiple heads, be them good or bad you are welcome to use the phase, “It’s a raging head fest”. Sometimes that just means that everyone’s there and it’s time to carry on a bit. Quite frequently I heard that I had a raging head and given my propensity to heat up as an angry young man, that rang true on multiple levels. Which I guess takes us to the cover art which has been wrangled and crushed into existence by another Tasmanian Duncan Blachford at Tempo Haus. This photo is my fifth-grade of primary school photo. Huge teeth, Hey Dad hair and still a glimmer of light in the eyes not yet extinguished by heartbreaks, divorce and severe concussions. A perfect companion piece to the weathered husk that graces the cover of Doming Home – a head so dry that it barely holds form. The ravages of punishing age.

‘Y2K’

I was never a drug taker. I was barely a drinker. It frustrated me that I couldn’t get into gigs because of my age when I had no interest in drinking. All I wanted to do was to see some music. I ended up getting in through the backdoor by playing shows at 15 and booking venues at 16. My first two drug experiences were both dosings or spikings. The first one was somewhat contained, but still unsettling. The second one was off-leash, life-changing mayhem that I was fortunate to survive. I was at a small party on New Years Eve 1999/2000 making drinks for people and, according to the toxicology report, was dosed with four times a tolerable amount of MDMA. I started freaking out and foolishly left the party. I had no idea what was happening to me and started walking toward the Hobart CBD. I was not full of love. I was erupting and violent and unfortunately also carrying a knife. A few of us carried weapons in Hobart because we were young, small, stupid and scared of the fucking menaces who would drive around in their Commodores in the no-man’s land between North Hobart and the city, looking to smear the sidewalk with anyone that didn’t live down to their definition of normal looking.

From this point I have slithers of memory. A couple of altercations and then being allowed into the venue I was working at at the time called Round Midnight above Knopwoods at Salamanca. They recognised that I was not in a good way and locked me in the store room on the top floor of the venue. Being New Years Eve, that room was getting used a bit and at some stage I was able to escape. After oozing down the stairs to the first floor, I swan dove down the last set of ten onto my head on the slate ground floor, had a seizure, vomited and started bleeding. This first thing I remember is waking up in a CT scan tube and thinking I had been abducted by aliens and ripping the charcoal line out of my arm while nurses tried to restrain me. The knife that had been in my pocket was gone. Where? I do not know. I either dropped it in a scuffle or it was thrown in the harbour, (where I could well have ended up) or it was trashed by the doctors. Any of those options are better than it hanging out of either me or someone else. Mum picked me up in the morning and took me home. My body shut down trying to process the drugs and it took a couple of days to be able to sit up and then stand up and then walk. I shit myself and called friends to ask if they’d seen me and what happened. Other people at the party had voluntarily taken the drugs I was spiked with and had horrific nights. I have had a lot of concussions but that head injury changed me forever. Earlier this year I found out who spiked me and with what – MDMA and liquid acid. I dunno what to do with that information.

‘The Long Lunch’

I’m a carpenter and use my lunch breaks to make music at the workshop. All of these songs were recorded pretty quickly during lunch breaks and this song is a nod to that habit. Gone are the days of making noise in the house, so I use my time at work wisely. This was the last set of lyrics I wrote and sang. This is probably the most brutal vocal performance I have ever produced and it was uncomfortable to say the least. I got two passes at it before I lost my voice completely which never happens. Even on a ten-acre property I could hear the neighbours dialling the police.

‘Joey ‘

Another song about my daughter and and how she has changed my life. I now understand the desperate conservatism of action that creeps into your life when you have kids and how the risk dries up in the wheel well of adventure. There’s no off-roading anymore. Just a desire to survive to see your progeny thrive.

‘Blood Type’

I’m really proud of this guitar sound that features heavily through out the record and particularly in this intro. It’s deep fried and brittle and shits itself in response to physical pressure. It’s like a squid inking a predator. There are harmonics coming off the impacts on the strings like fireworks. It’s complex and ugly.

‘A Living Thing In The Virtual World’

At a time when virtual contact is all we have, I’ve come to the absolute end of my tolerance for it. I’ve been the worst type of friend the past five-or-so years. I’ll call your number and talk to you. I wish all the conversation threads were just words floating around in the air and disappearing forever outside the body but crisp in the mind. I want my neck to be straight. I want to see the sky, not my feet.

‘Rated R’

I used to stare at the R-rated movie covers in the video shop and astral travel into intense imagination sessions of what was going on on those tapes. Hellraiser, Dead Alive, Jaws. The movies themselves never lived up to the horrors I created in my head. One time that really fried me was when Dad took me to see Crocodile Dundee in Melbourne and the cinema was preparing for the release of The Blob. The cinema had put fishing nets all over the roof packed fulI of bloody blankets with body limbs hanging out of the nets as people tried to escape the Blob.

‘2020 Vision’

This was the last songs completed. I started to hit a stride at this point. Closer to the TNB end of the spectrum with perhaps the most predictable but effective guitar solo on the record. ‘2020 Vision’ is a catalogue of discontent. Someone’s on your stairs, creeping on your unconscious mind. Someone’s in your room, just standing there. Standing over you. I reckon that sums up this fuck head of a year quite well. See you in the future.

Raging Head is available digitally and on vinyl via Solar/Sonar. Grab yourself a copy here.