Mess+Noise story: ‘Regurgitator’s ‘Unit’: ‘It’s A Really Weird Dot On The Landscape’’, September 2012

I took some time out of a recent trip to Melbourne to catch up with Regurgitator‘s Quan Yeomans before the band’s upcoming Retrotech 2012 tour. We sat in the window of a North Melbourne cafe on a quiet Saturday afternoon drinking coffee and talking about their 1997 multiple ARIA award-winning LP, Unit. A Q&A for Mess+Noise was the result. Check out the excerpt below or follow the link at the bottom of the post to read the whole story.

In early August of 1997, Regurgitator arrived back in their hometown of Brisbane to start work on a new album. Fresh from touring their hard-edged debut Tu-Plang in the United States alongside Helmet and Melvins, the three-piece of Quan Yeomans, Ben Ely and Martin Lee – along with producer Magoo and manager Paul Curtis – settled into a grimy, condemned warehouse in Fortitude Valley to nut out something radically different.

November will mark 15 years since Regurgitator released Unit, their schizophrenic, imaginative and electronically-driven sophomore record. Unit would alienate much of Regurgitator’s original fan base, but those lost were more than offset by a brand new audience, attracted by the improved songwriting and dancefloor leanings of singles such as ‘Black Bugs’, ‘Polyester Girl’ and ‘! (The Song Formerly Known As)’.

Regurgitator are now revisiting the album, along with its predecessor, on the Retrotech 2012 national tour. With this in mind, I took some time during a recent visit to Melbourne to catch up with the now southern-based Yeomans and chat about the making of Unit. We perched in the window of a quiet North Melbourne café on a Saturday afternoon, staring down William Street towards Queen Victoria Market.

In the flesh the ageless Yeomans is perhaps a touch shorter than you might imagine, but no less intense. During the course of our half-hour conversation we were twice interrupted by autograph hunters, the second of whom – the youthful, thickly accented café manager – cleverly dodged Yeoman’s question, “Do you even know who I am?” Once settled, though, the co-songwriter and frontman was vivid with his descriptions and honest to a fault in describing the stories behind an album that would eventually go three times platinum.

There’s that creative line about the sophomore blues, but I’m not sure if Tu-Plang felt like a debut nor Unit a second LP, simply due to the success of the Hamburger and NewEPs before them. Did you feel much pressure going in to record Unit?
Yeah, but I think the best thing about the way we did it was that the environment was so relaxed and so lo-fi. We’ve kinda always done that. Even when we used to go into studios, they were always lo-fi, crappy places and we never got that intense feeling of pressure. So we certainly knocked that back a bit.

You were with Warner at the time. Were they sticking their noses into the process much?
Not so much. With record companies, if you’re selling records they tend to leave you alone. As soon as you start dropping off sales-wise, then they come in and start telling you how to write songs. [Laughs] That’s the way it is, unfortunately.

You recorded Tu-Plang in a famous studio in Thailand. And then you recorded Unit in a crappy old warehouse in your hometown.
Well the record studio [Center Stage Studios] in Thailand was famous because the people who owned it were famous. But it was held together with toothpicks – the mixing desk and stuff – so it was pretty lo-fi still. The place we were staying at, the hotel had just been finished being built and there were no sheets or towels or pillowcases or anything. We were just lying on bare mattresses, getting up and walking to the studio every day. So it was pretty lo-fi as well.

After Thailand were you always going to record in Brisbane?
I’m not sure. I think the whole impetus for doing it in a more controlled space came from Martin. He was really into getting gear and getting a studio together, which he eventually did. So yeah, that’s why, but I don’t really know why Brisbane. I guess it was just easier at that point.

You recorded in a condemned warehouse in Fortitude Valley. Where was that exactly? What’s there now, do you know?
Yeah, I think it was a Mercedes warehouse for a while. Like a sales room. [Magoo has since clarified that the BMW service centre on Constance Street – one block up from the Mercedes showroom – is what now sits on the old site.] There are a few car houses around there. Literally two weeks after the record had finished we came back and all that was left was a Coke vending machine in the middle of a concrete slab. That was kind of strange.

For the full story, visit Mess+Noise.

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