|Genres||Rock, Noise music, Synthpunk|
|Years active||1978–1980, 2009 to present|
|Associated acts||Numerous Little Bands, Dee Rays, The Egg, Use No Hooks, The Bum Steers, Mr. Bum and Ruby.|
The Primitive Calculators are an Australian post punk band formed in the late 1970s, known for their use of a screeching Mosrite Ventures model guitar, primitive synthesizers (a Wasp and Roland SH2) along with an electronic organ played through effects pedals, and an extra fast drum machine keeping time (Roland CR-78). Their frantic, low-fidelity sound pumped out of Marshall Combo amplifiers. Loudly. Their music was influenced by proto-punk New York acts like The Godz, The Velvet Underground, Texas '60s psychedelic punk, James Brown, and The Silver Apples and Australian bands such as Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. They are often compared to The Screamers from Los Angeles, Suicide and bands from the No Wave music scene from New York.
They met as teenagers in Springvale, a rough working-class outer suburb of Melbourne, moving in 1977 to St Kilda, then the centre of the punk rock scene. Despite socialising with the likes of Nick Cave from The Boys Next Door they remained outsiders to this scene (most of which consisted of people from middle-class backgrounds with private-school educations), and in 1978 moved to Fitzroy. Here they settled on the 4 piece lineup that recorded and found like-minded friends,such as Ollie Olsen and John Murphy of Whirlywirld, and were instrumental in organising a series of gigs named "Little Band nights", where hastily-formed bands would play for 15 minutes each; this led to a compilation EP being recorded. The Primitive Calculators played their last gig in March 1980, though their self-titled live album came out in the early 1980s. The band reformed briefly in 1986 to perform a live version of their song "Pumping Ugly Muscle" in the film Dogs In Space.
In 2001, a 1979 live recording of "Pumping Ugly Muscle" was included in "Can't Stop It", a compilation of Australian post-punk bands from '78 to '82, released by Chapter Music. The title of the CD was taken from the Calculator's only studio recording, in December 1979, which was a 7" single with the tracks "I Can't Stop It" and "Do That Dance".
The Primitive Calculators' album was reissued on CD by Chapter Music in 2004, with extra tracks from related projects (The Moths!, other live recordings from 1979 and an unnamed Primitive Calculators/Whirlywirld hybrid recorded in London, 1981).
In March 2007, Chapter Music released "Primitive Calculators and Friends, 1979 to 1982", a CD which contained the only studio recordings of the band (the 7" single from 1979), the "Little Band" single, also from 1979, and live tracks from Little Band nights. It also contained other recordings from bands the members formed after 1980 such as a single called Zye Ye Ye (recorded in London, 1981 with Ollie Olsen and John Murphy), and bands formed after the return of some of the band members to Australia, from Europe, in 1982.
In January 2009, the band reformed for the inaugural Australian All Tomorrow's Parties music festival at Mount Buller, in Victoria, curated by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The band occasionally play small venues and back yards around Melbourne, and feature in Richard Lowenstein's 2009 documentary "We're Livin' on Dog Food".
McFarlane, Ian (1999). The encyclopedia of Australian rock and pop. St Leonards, N.S.W: Allen & Unwin.
Spencer, Chris (1989). Who’s who of Australian rock. Fitzroy, Vic.: Five Mile Press.
Walker, Clinton (1996). Stranded: The Secret History of Australian Independent Music 1977–1991. Sydney: Pan Macmillan.