TISM

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TISM
Also known asThis Is Serious Mum; The Frank Vitkovic Jazz Quartet; Machiavelli and the Four Seasons; Late for Breakfast; Jesus Education Salvation Uniform Squad; Open Mic Tryouts; Banjo Paterson-Lakes; Rex Oedipus; Jack 'Elephant' Titus and Herb Alpert And The Tijuana Brass
OriginMelbourne, Victoria, Australia
GenresAlternative rock, alternative dance, dance-rock, electronic rock, synthpop, synth-rock
Years active
  • 1982–1983
  • 1984–2004
  • 2022–present
LabelsElvis, Musicland, Phonogram, Shock, FMR, Madman, Sony BMG, genre b.goode
Members
Past members
  • Genre B. Goode
  • Leek Van Vlalen
  • Jon St. Peenis (I)
  • Les Miserables (I)
  • Tokin' Blackman
Websitetism.store

TISM (an acronym of This Is Serious Mum) are a seven-piece anonymous alternative rock band, formed in Melbourne, Australia on 30 December 1982 by vocalist/drummer Humphrey B. Flaubert, bassist/vocalist Jock Cheese and keyboardist/vocalist Eugene de la Hot Croix Bun,[1] with vocalist Ron Hitler-Barassi joining the group the following year. These four members have formed the core of the band since their inception, with the line-up being rounded out by guitarists Leak Van Vlalen (1982-1991), Tokin' Blackman (1991-2004; died 2008) and Vladimir Lenin-McCartney (2022-present), as well as backing vocalists/dancers Les Miserables and Jon St. Peenis.

Noted for their dark humour, sarcastic delivery and melodic songwriting, the seven members of TISM appear in public as a pseudonymous, semi-paramilitary collective masked in a variety of balaclavas (usually as part of a more elaborate costume),[2] and are known for their "chaotic" appearances in Australian media, often frustrating interviewers with absurd non sequiturs and tongue-in-cheek nihilism.[3][4][5] Their catalogue is replete with references to popular culture, particularly literature, music and Australian rules football; their (usually derogatory) references to celebrities have sometimes incurred controversy and even censorship.[3]

They developed and enjoyed a large underground/independent following throughout the 1980s and 1990s, issuing a number of singles, albums, videos, a short-lived line of comics, and a book (The TISM Guide to Little Aesthetics). Backed by the successful singles "(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River" and "Greg! The Stop Sign!!", their third album, Machiavelli and the Four Seasons, reached the Australian national top 10 in 1995, won Best Independent Release at that year's ARIA Music Awards, and was certified Gold in January 1996.[6]

TISM split following their first live performance in December 1983;[7] every live show since has been considered a "reunion" concert. The band split again in late 2004 following the release of their sixth album, The White Albun (a three disc set which also contained two DVDs). Their last single, "Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me", became a minor hit in Germany the following year (due in no small part to the viral popularity of the song's animated music video).

Following an almost 18 year hiatus, TISM reformed in June 2022,[5][8] returning to the stage for a series of three "secret" shows in Melbourne throughout November,[9] prior to their appearances on the line-up of Good Things festival in December.[5]

History[edit]

1982–1984: Early years, first break up and reunion[edit]

In December 1982, Humphrey B. Flaubert (Damian Cowell – drums and lead vocals) and Eugene de la Hot-Croix Bun (Eugene Cester – keyboards and backing vocals), previously members of a group called I Can Run, recorded a nine song demo tape titled Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance with guitarist Jock Cheese (Jack Holt – guitar, bass and backing vocals) under the name This Is Serious Mum. The line-up would soon expand to include Ron Hitler-Barassi (Peter Minack – vocals) and Leak Van Vlalen (Sean Kelly – guitar) by the following year.

This Is Serious Mum continued to record private home-made demos (with titles including Hooked on Crap and It's Novel! It's Unique! It's Shithouse!) throughout 1983, producing over one hundred songs within twelve months.[1] This period of activity culminated in the band's first public appearance, at the Duncan McKinnon Athletics Reserve in the small suburb of Murrumbeena on 6 December 1983. The so-called "Get Fucked Concert" was considered an "artistic and commercial failure", causing the band to split up; thus giving the show the dubious honour of simultaneously being the band's debut and farewell, and making every subsequent performance a "reunion" show.[7][10]

TISM returned to home-made recordings in February 1984. During this period they briefly experimented with dark ambient and industrial music, before returning to their former style. On 25 November 1984, the band performed their first "reunion" show at the University of Melbourne. At the show they released a self-titled demo tape which they recorded earlier that year at the home studio of Serious Young Insects drummer Mark White. Only eleven copies of the demo (which featured examples of their brief flirtation with industrial music) were made available at the show; all had sold by the time the band finished their short set.

1985–1990: First releases, Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance and Hot Dogma[edit]

By 1985 TISM were playing regularly around Melbourne. They released their debut single, "Defecate on My Face", in 1986; a 7" vinyl record packaged in a 12" sleeve with all four sides glued shut. The song is also found (in an unlisted "country" version) on the mini-album Form and Meaning Reach Ultimate Communion. Their next single, "40 Years – Then Death", was released in 1987 on transparent vinyl in a clear plastic sleeve with no cover art or labels. TISM's first radio-friendly single, despite the obscure packaging, was received well.[11]

TISM's debut album Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance was released in 1988, as a double vinyl release in an embossed gatefold sleeve. The first record contained twelve of TISM's most popular tracks, and the second was a collage of interviews, bedroom recordings and live "diatribes" from Ron Hitler-Barassi. Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance entered the lower reaches of Australia's mainstream Top 50, as did the single "Saturday Night Palsy", the following year.[12] The group appeared on the long-running variety TV program Hey Hey It's Saturday performing the single; during this appearance three additional seven-person line-ups joined the initial seven members of the band onstage, leading to a total of twenty-eight "members" of TISM miming the song by the end of the performance.[13][12]

In 1989, TISM self-published a book compiling lyrics, interviews and press releases titled The TISM Guide To Little Aesthetics,[14] however the book could not be released until early 1990 as TISM, having been threatened with legal action for libel, were required to censor the book, which they did by hand with a mixture of white-out and permanent marker (also placing stickers reading "CENSORED DUE TO LEGAL ADVICE" on the cover of each copy).[8] Despite this, some uncensored copies exist, and a document with the censored content is available.

In 1990, TISM entered negotiations with CBS Records and Phonogram Records and were signed by the latter. In April that year, the band began work on what would become their next album with producer Laurence Maddy. When Phonogram released Hot Dogma in 1990, it failed to reach the commercial charts, and TISM were fired six months later due to management issues, despite owing the label tens of thousands of dollars.[11] Hot Dogma is the first release to use the acronymic form of the band's name exclusively.

Over two nights in May 1991, the band were filmed live and released the video Incontinent in Ten Continents. These performances were the last for guitarist Leak Van Vlalen.[15]

1991–1998: Rise to fame, Machiavelli and the Four Seasons and www.tism.wanker.com[edit]

In mid-1991, TISM signed with independent record label Shock Records and re-issued Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance, as well as the EP Gentlemen, Start Your Egos 1991; a compilation of tracks previously unavailable on CD.[16] TISM, with producer Tony Cohen, released the EP Beasts of Suburban in 1992. A new guitarist, Tony Coitus (later Tokin' Blackman) joined the group onstage for the first time on 23 January 1992.[15] Two new backing dancers also joined, inheriting their stage names from their predecessors.

The 1993 EP, Australia The Lucky Cunt was the group's most controversial release to date. Courts issued an injunction order of the CD when the Ken Done Society threatened legal action over the artwork,[11] which parodied Done's signature style and depicted a koala sucking a syringe. The matter was settled for an undisclosed amount of money "fairly close to the amount that Radiohead spends on buying friends",[17] and the EP was re-released with a new cover graphic and title: Censored Due To Legal Advice.[17] During 1994, TISM sometimes played under the names "The Frank Vitkovic Jazz Quartet", "Machiavelli and the Four Seasons" (which would later be used as an album title) and "Late for Breakfast".

TISM's third album, 1995's Machiavelli and the Four Seasons, was their biggest success; a shift from alternative rock to synth-driven techno and dance, which retained the band's usual vocal melodies and loud guitars. Three of its singles reached Triple J's Hottest 100, two of them in the top 10 in 1995.[18] The album was certified gold and won the ARIA Award for Best Independent Release.[11][6] Success exposed TISM to mainstream Australian radio and television, most of which was perplexed by the band's guerrilla approach to interviews and lack of interest in the music industry.

On 27 April 1995 the band appeared on the RMITV show Under Melbourne Tonight and performed "Protest Song" and "(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River".[19][20][21] In June, Humphrey B. Flaubert and Ron Hitler-Barassi appeared as guest programmers on the long-running late night music program Rage, where they aired clips by artists such as The Wiggles, the Bay City Rollers and Leif Garrett.[22] A four CD box set, Collected Recordings 1986-1993, was released in December, and steady record sales allowed extensive tours of Australia and New Zealand.

In 1996 TISM toured on the Big Day Out, during which Hitler-Barassi was either absent or requiring a wheelchair due to a detached retina and broken arm caused by a stage dive he performed at the Pacific Hotel, Lorne, Victoria prior to the tour.[23] Later the same year, TISM toured England, the group's sole Northern Hemisphere excursion.[15]

Taking a year off from touring, TISM spent 1997 working on their next album with producer Lachlan Magoo. The album, www.tism.wanker.com was released in 1998. The first official music video for the album, "I Might Be a Cunt, but I'm Not a Fucking Cunt" was rarely broadcast.[11] Returned and Services League of Australia head Bruce Ruxton wrote a letter of complaint to Shock Records describing it as "... Dropping [Australia's standards] through the floor into the proverbial sewer."[24] The letter was published on TISM's official website at the time, alongside the single's press release.[25]

www.tism.wanker.com sold well, thanks in part to an extensive Australian tour with Regurgitator, then at the height of their popularity, and The Fauves; however, sales were low compared to Machiavelli and the Four Seasons's success and TISM's contract with Shock ended by mutual agreement.

1999–2002: Festival Records and De RigueurMortis[edit]

Following the 1998 tour, TISM signed with Festival Mushroom Records, which re-released their entire back catalogue (except for Hot Dogma, their previous singles and the bonus discs for Machiavelli and wanker.com) on CD.

Their first and only official album with Festival Mushroom Records was De RigueurMortis, released in 2001. It débuted at No. 24 on the ARIA chart[26] and No. 3 on the Alternative ARIA Chart.[27] Flaubert predicted on Triple J radio that the album would "plummet out of the top 40 like a stone";[27] – the following week, it was not on the list. Touring became less thorough than in previous years, though no less active – at the closing of the Punters Club, the band ended up naked and tore the ceiling down during the gig.[28]

In early 2002, the track "Honk If You Love Fred Durst" was released as a single. In 2002, Festival Mushroom Records released tism.bestoff., a best of compilation which included their greatest hits, two new tracks and a disc of remastered Bedroom Recordings. The compilation was their third, and last, release with Festival Mushroom Records, as TISM's contract had ended. Finding themselves with no record label again, TISM returned to touring.

2003–2006: The White Albun and last appearances[edit]

On 6 January 2003, bassist Jock Cheese released a solo album, Platter, on Shock Records. The album was co-written by Cheese with Ron Hitler-Barassi and Humphrey B. Flaubert, and contained the full version of "Unfair", a track previously excerpted as the introduction to De RigeurMortis. Guitarist Tokin' Blackman contributes classical guitar to one track; otherwise most of the album's instruments were recorded by Cheese.

On September 26, TISM held a special one-off concert at the Hi-Fi Bar in Melbourne, presented as the "Save Our TISM" telethon, in which they solicited donations from the public to keep them from breaking up; despite apparently receiving the desired amount, the band "split" at the end of the show. The performance was filmed and released as part of the three-disc CD/DVD package The White Albun in 2004 by Madman Entertainment. Despite the "split", TISM continued to perform in order to promote the release of The White Albun, which also included the group's sixth (and to date, final) studio album, and an additional DVD containing a short documentary, the band's music videos, and a collection of home videos. The three disc set received good reviews;[29] however, was not eligible for ARIA chart tracking.

Snapshot of the "Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me" music video by animator Bernard Derriman

At the band's penultimate concert on 13 November 2004, Hitler-Barassi delivered a diatribe saying that the band had "lost the election" and made references to Guy Sebastian winning that year's season of Australian Idol.[30] This show was followed by the band's last live performance for almost two decades, at the Earthcore festival later in the month. Following this show, TISM - quietly and without fanfare - disbanded.[31]

In 2005, TISM released the single "Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me" in the German market. Sony/BMG Germany expressed interest in the song when its animated clip by Bernard Derriman became a viral hit, thanks to bloggers and sites such as YouTube. The single reached the German commercial charts.[32]

In October 2006, TISM were inducted into the EG Hall of Fame, at which they made an appearance and "a hilariously irreverent speech".[33] When asked about the current status of TISM at the time, Humphrey B. Flaubert remarked "we are slowly moving towards our deaths".[34]

2006–2019: Post-TISM activity[edit]

In early 2005, Damian Cowell (the former Humphrey B. Flaubert) formed a country and western band called Root!, producing a series of demos under the name "DC Root". The project continued until 2010, producing two albums and an EP.[35] Cowell followed Root! with The DC3, featuring Root! guitarist Henri Grawe. The project, which released its first single "I Was the Guy in TISM" in 2010, continued until 2013, producing two albums. Following The DC3, Cowell formed Damian Cowell's Disco Machine,[31] which to date has produced three albums.

On 9 April 2008, James "Jock" Paull (best known as TISM's long-time guitarist Tokin' Blackman) died of cancer.[36] In October 2009, the majority of TISM's back catalogue was re-released on iTunes with bonus material. In March 2010, a "21st century mix" of their single "Shut Up – The Footy's on the Radio" was released on iTunes. The 21st century mix features Humphrey B. Flaubert on vocals and Jock Cheese on guitars, and had wholly new lyrics. In April 2012, former guitarist Sean Kelly (aka Leak Van Vlalen) performed a series of songs live with satirist/musician Kieran Butler as "RealiTISM".[37] Kelly has continued to play TISM material live in years since.

In 2015, appetite for a TISM reunion began to build after Australia was formally invited to join that year's Eurovision Song Contest.[38] According to two competing Change.org petitions, TISM was 37 times more popular a choice for Australia's Eurovision representative than Kylie Minogue,[39] with the petition for TISM receiving over 14,000 signatures in support.[40] Flaubert refused to comment at the time, however suggested that "if a giant multinational with [a] horrendous human rights record was to give me a huge cheque I'll dob in my grandmother".[41] Australia's representative for the 2015 Eurovision song contest was ultimately Guy Sebastian with the song "Tonight Again", which came in fifth place.[42]

Australia has continued to participate in Eurovision in the years since, with TISM occasionally being suggested as Australia's representative - including in 2018 by the future 31st Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese.[43] Albanese, a known TISM fan, also featured "(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River" in a DJ set at the Corner Hotel in Richmond in June 2016.[44][45] In September 2017, Albanese described TISM as having "a bit of dark humour, I think it's fair to say... but they were just great fun."[45]

In response to the growing demand for a TISM reunion, in April 2015 Damian Cowell said "if TISM came back, it would be shithouse. That's the answer... to that question. I think that's sort of the point that eludes most bands that make a comeback. They don't ask that question, 'will it be shithouse or not?' And because they don't ask that question, they go out and it's shithouse."[46]

2020–2021: Reissue campaign[edit]

On 22 January 2020, TISM released their back catalogue on Spotify.[47] In February, a proposal from Melbourne politician David Limbrick to rename the Mordialloc Freeway to the "TISM Mordialloc Freeway" was rejected by the Victorian government.[48] On 10 April, Live at the Corner Hotel 30 May 1988, a recording of a concert at that venue which had previously circulated as a bootleg, was released digitally by the Australian Road Crew Initiative as a benefit for music employees put out of work by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 14 October 2020, a press release credited (for the first time in 12 years)[36] to Ron Hitler-Barassi was published at www.tism.net.au. It concluded by saying that TISM would begin a CD and vinyl reissue campaign[49] with former head of Shock Records, David Williams. The reissue campaign began 21 December with the release of a recording of TISM's last live performance at the 2004 Earthcore festival, titled On Behalf of TISM I Would Like To Concede We Have Lost the Election, and a transparent vinyl disc containing almost two hours of silence (pressed at Abbey Road Studios), titled The TISM Omni-Album.[50] These were TISM's first vinyl releases in 30 years, and first physical releases since their final studio album, The White Albun, in 2004.

On 17 November 2020, a vinyl single featuring a cover of AC/DC's "For Those About to Rock" was released in a variety of editions, featuring cover art designed by four of the band's members.[51] The song had been recorded in the 1990s for an AC/DC tribute album but was never released, although excerpts had circulated in the TISM fan community for many years. The single's B-side was "Let's Hang Around the Shopping Centre", another unreleased song dating to the post-www.tism.wanker.com era. The release of the single was also accompanied by the first release of official TISM T-shirts (featuring two of the aforementioned cover designs) in 16 years.[52]

TISM's reissue campaign continued in 2021 with the June release of the Record Store Day exclusive limited edition 7" single "Mistah Eliot – He Wanker", featuring an unreleased version of "Kill Yourself Now and Avoid the Rush" on the B-side, [53] and in July, the first wide release of their 1984 self-titled demo This Is Serious Mum on vinyl and CD, and Punt Road, a 1987 rehearsal session, also on vinyl and CD.[53] In September a compilation of the group's remixes, Collected Remixes, was issued on vinyl only. In November, the mini-album Form and Meaning Reach Ultimate Communion was reissued on vinyl and, for the first time, on CD.

2022–present: Reunion[edit]

TISM appearing onstage for the first time in 18 years at a secret show at the Croxton Bandroom in Thornbury, 12 November 2022

On 15 June 2022, TISM were announced as one of the headlining acts on the 2022 edition of Good Things festival, and were said to be playing their first performances since 2004 exclusively as part of the festival.[54] Shortly following this announcement, TISM founders Humphrey B. Flaubert and Ron Hitler-Barassi made their first media appearances in sixteen years, providing interviews to the Music Feeds and The Guardian, as well as Double J and ABC Radio in Sydney and Melbourne,[8][5][55] and almost immediately prompting a (tongue-in-cheek) feud with Regurgitator, who were also appearing at Good Things.[56][57]

A lavish box set edition of their first single "Defecate on My Face" (containing the 7" single along with an additional 12" record and CD) was released in August 2022,[58] alongside a compilation of the band's A-sides, Collected Versus: The Complete TISM Singles, on CD and vinyl.[59] The CD edition of Collected Versus contains the remix compilation Collected Remixes on the second disc, and features liner notes from former Rolling Stone Australia Editor Tyler Jenke. An alternate edition of Collected Versus was released for the American market in early November, with a different second disc, titled Kill Americans - A TISM Primer, featuring a selection of album tracks.[60]

On 17 October, former guitarist Sean Kelly (Leak Van Vlalen) confirmed he was not rejoining TISM, as the band required a guitarist who could comfortably cover both Kelly's parts and those of the late James "Jock" Paull (or Tokin' Blackman).[61] Shortly afterwards it was announced (via the launch of an official Instagram page) that TISM's new guitarist was named Vladimir Lenin-McCartney.[62][63]

Three weeks ahead of Good Things, on 12 November 2022, the reunited TISM held their first concert in 18 years, an hour long secret show (billed as "Open Mic Tryouts") at the Croxton Bandroom in Thornbury.[9][64][65] A second secret show (billed as "Banjo Paterson-Lakes") followed the weekend after, at the Prince Bandroom in St. Kilda, on 19 November.[66] Later that night, Flaubert and Hitler-Barassi made their second appearance on the music program Rage, again providing an eclectic and eccentric series of programming choices, such as a 1970s Four Corners report on the middle class, and tracks by the Crazy Frog, Mark "Jacko" Jackson and Jim Steinman.[67]

On 25 November, www.tism.wanker.com was reissued on CD and limited edition blue coloured vinyl, preceding an expanded seven disc vinyl box set edition expected in 2023.[68][69] A two-disc limited coloured vinyl edition of the live album Machines Against the Rage was also released on the same date.[70] The following day, TISM performed their third secret warm-up show at 170 Russell in Melbourne, billed as "Rex Oedipus and Jack 'Elephant' Titus".

TISM played all three dates of the Good Things festival over the 2nd to 4th December, in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. During these three shows, the band were outfitted in silver costumes with large helium balloons attached; a group of tradesmen also appeared onstage during the set and erected a set of foam letters reading "TISN".[71][72][73]

On 14 December DRW Entertainment put t-shirts sold at the Good Things shows up for sale on their website, and sent an email announcing the sale to subscribers, which closed with: "The Reunion Tour concluded with 3 dates at the Good Things Music Festival in December 2022. …or did it? Yes it did. …or did it?"

Members[edit]

TISM members are pseudonymous and anonymous, and wear balaclavas during all their public appearances. However, most of their names have been revealed (see below).[74]

Current
Stage name Real name Role Period
Ron Hitler-Barassi Peter Minack Vocals 1983–2004, 2022–
Humphrey B. Flaubert Damian Cowell Drums, vocals 1982–2004, 2022–
Jock Cheese John "Jack" Holt Bass, vocals, guitar 1982–2004, 2022–
Vladimir Lenin-McCartney Guitar, vocals 2022–
Eugene de la Hot-Croix Bun Eugene Cester Keyboards, vocals 1982–2004, 2022–
Jon St. Peenis (II) Saxophone, vocals 1991–2004, 2022–
Les Miserables (II) Dancing, vocals 1991–2004, 2022–
Former
Stage name Real name Role Period
Tokin' Blackman (first billed as Tony Coitus) James Paull Guitar 1991–2004 (died 2008)[75]
Leak Van Vlalen Sean Kelly Guitar 1982–1991
Genre B. Goode Vocals 1982–1985
Les Miserables (I) Andrew Miglietti Dancing 1982–1991
Jon St. Peenis (I) Mark Fessey Saxophone, vocals 1982–1991

St. Peenis also played saxophone on earlier recordings.[76] Cheese plays guitar on various recordings and live shows,[77] and Blackman arranged orchestral sections on The White Albun (2004).[78] Flaubert programs rhythms and samples, and has occasionally played acoustic drumkits live.[79]

There has been more than one person performing under the Les Miserables name, as confirmed by Sean Kelly (Leak Van Vlalen) during the "RealiTISM" video.

Identities[edit]

TISM have never officially revealed their names, instead choosing to use pseudonyms on their records and in interviews, all the while concealing their faces. Usually this involves the wearing of a balaclava, but outrageous costumes have been created for the purpose, including Ku Klux Klan uniforms made of newspaper,[80] silver suits with puffy arms and legs to mimic an inflated cask wine bladder,[80] giant foam paintings worn on the head,[80] large foam signs bearing the name of a Beatle,[81] fat 'businessman' suits,[80] and eight-foot-high inflatable headpieces[23] among others.

Who TISM are beneath the masks has been the cause of much speculation by fans, with one theory contending that TISM is composed of members of other bands who do not want their fans to find out: popular targets of this theory include Painters and Dockers, Machine Gun Fellatio and even The Wiggles.[82][83][84] A theory based on the band's tour schedule's roughly coinciding with school holidays, and the fact that the Ringwood Secondary College Choir and Orchestra feature in the filmclip to Thunderbirds Are Coming Out, proposes that TISM are school teachers.[85][86] Another common theory, based on the high incidence of Australian rules football references in their lyrics, is that they are or were players in the AFL,[86] however Humphrey B. Flaubert has stated that "We're actually not AFL, we're more violent and crappy... so you're looking at the VFL there."[87]

When asked why they wear masks, Flaubert replied:

The answer that makes me sound good is that we desired to circumvent the cult of personality that is inherent in rock music by choosing to remain anonymous. Unlike every other band in rock we chose to be anonymous. The answer that makes me sound good would probably also incorporate some lengthy discussion about Brechtian alienation techniques, about our post modernist grasp of ever cooling universe, and a dehumanising society encapsulated in the somewhat paramilitary aspect of our clothing. All of those things would make me sound good, but actually we’re really boring guys."

— Humphrey B. Flaubert, Return of the Pop Vigilantes[88] (21 February 2002)

However, when TISM performed on John Safran's Music Jamboree in 2002 playing "(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River" on instruments from Greece, the song writers' names were revealed during the credit roll which read "'(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River' by Damian Cowell / Peter Minack / Jack Holt / James Paull / Eugene Cester ... Performed by TISM."[89] Up until then, the songwriters' names were publicly available on the APRA/AMCOS database, but now the songwriting credits on the site just say "TISM" instead of the members' real names; Damian Cowell's real name is listed as one of the songwriters of ROOT!'s songs, however.

The song writers' names were also published later, alongside information on "Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me" when it hit success in Sweden and Germany in 2004.[90][91]

However, vigilant fans would have noticed the names some years earlier: Hitler-Barassi was photographed in 1993 at the opening night of Madame Butterfly, which was published on 4 April 1993;[92] the book revealed the member to be Peter Minack, who later released a book of his own (Campaigning With Grant) in 2000 about the American Civil War.[93] The book contains thin references to TISM.[94] In interviews about his book, Minack revealed he was a teacher, his father fought in World War II for the Germans, and that he is fanatical about the Richmond Football Club, explaining his stage moniker.[95]

Guitarist Tokin Blackman's real name was James "Jock" Paull. Paull died of cancer on 9 April 2008 at the age of 50.[36]

Eugene Cester was revealed in an Age column as being the uncle of Nic and Chris Cester of Melbourne's Jet,[96] however, it did not state which member he is. It is believed that he is Eugene De La Hot Croix Bun.

On 28 March 2007, a Myspace page opened for a Melbourne band called Root! which the lead singer claimed to be "the friend of the uncle of the guys in Jet".[97] The page also lists James Paull as a "friend". Humphrey B. Flaubert's real name is Damian Cowell, who performs in the band as D.C. Root.[98]

Timeline[edit]

Style[edit]

TISM are distinguished from other "joke" or "gimmick" bands by, among other things, their musical style. The band rarely, in any seriousness, state actual influences on the type of music they played, except that The Residents were a band which TISM "did" notice and "possibly" took some influence from.[88] A clear link can be drawn from The Residents' 1977 promotional video The Third Reich 'n' Roll, in which that group wore Ku Klux Klan uniforms made of newspapers[99] (TISM did exactly this at their first gig). Other bands which may have influenced TISM are difficult to pinpoint, although a Sydney Morning Herald article on the band described them as "a cross between Skyhooks, Dave Warner, Talking Heads and The Residents".[100]

In 2021, co-founder Humphrey B. Flaubert noted that part of the band's style was "never breaking out of character. Whether that character was 99% the real us, it was still a character. Listen to any interview and you'll get the sense that those guys are constantly 'on'. The persona never wanes. The metaphorical mask never drops. And while that may have annoyed some journalists, it's what set that band apart from every other band. It's what made that band's interviews more interesting for the listener than fucking Joe Blow going on about the creative inspiration behind his new album."[4]

Recurring lyrical themes are present throughout TISM's catalog, the most common being death, violence,[101] fame and prominent figures,[102][103] drugs, including alcohol,[104] and the Australian Football League.[103] Many of TISM's lyrics are tinged in fatalism, mocking both the superficial and the sublime side of the human condition[103] and the desire for people to be loved and respected[103] (even just in the titles of such songs as "If You're Not Famous at Fourteen, You're Finished", "If You're Ugly, Forget It" and "Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me").

TISM's early keyboard sound was provided by an Optigan which keyboardist Eugene de la Hot-Croix Bun ran through a flanger.[citation needed] They mainly use standard tuning; however, Eb tuning and drop D were employed in some songs. Jock Cheese's bass is prominent in the songs to a degree that head of Festival Mushroom Records, Michael Parisi, described the sound as "aggressive".[105]

The band were sometimes criticised as unoriginal for continually opting for standard pop song structures. One reason for this is clarified in their book, The TISM Guide To Little Aesthetics, in the following paragraphs, when asked why their ideas are post-modern but their music is not:

"Give me a pop-song, mate. Give me a fucking pop-song. Not only is it more fun, it's pretty fuckin' hard to write as well. You can bung in as many out-of-tune oboes as you want, but putting chords together so they sound pleasant isn't as simple as it might appear. It mightn't be the Sistine Chapel, but what is? Ollie fucking Olsen with his stupid feedback and cough mixture? The Jesus and Mary Chain, with their stupid feedback, and their stupid stage show with 800 powerful stupid lights and enough stupid dry ice to enhance their stupid stupidity up its own bullshit crappy teenage pretentious one dimensional dick witted puissant artistic enigma?

So ... what have you listened to for a good time that isn't, after all, a 'traditional' song? Still playing the Mike Oldfield records, huh? Still whipping Yessongs on for a good time? Wanna count on one hand how many people have fun at a Sonic Youth gig? I'm not supporting The Choirboys, old man, I'm just saying that the day some jumped-up over-paid self-important post-modernist cocksucker puts his foot upon his Fairlight computer in the middle of his 47-minute opus "The Silent Forgiveness of the Pig-God" and belts out the chords to "Johnny B. Goode" is the day I'll join you at the footlights of post-modernism.

Besides which, pop songs sell more."[106]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions Certifications
AUS
[107]

[108]

Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance
  • Released: 26 September 1988
  • Label: Elvis Records (ER 1206)
  • Format: 2xLP, 2xCassette, CD
48
Hot Dogma
  • Released: 1 October 1990
  • Label: Phonogram (846901-1)
  • Format: LP, Cassette, CD
86
Machiavelli and the Four Seasons
  • Released: 4 May 1995
  • Label: genre b.goode (G002)
  • Format: Cassette, CD
8
www.tism.wanker.com
  • Released: 2 June 1998
  • Label: genre b.goode (G0012)
  • Format: CD
26
De RigueurMortis
  • Released: 29 October 2001
  • Label: genre b.goode (TISM007)
  • Format: CD, Download
24
The White Albun
  • Released: 24 June 2004
  • Label: genre b.goode
  • Format: CD, 2xLP, Download
[A]

Extended plays[edit]

Title Details
Form and Meaning Reach Ultimate Communion
  • Released: 1986
  • Label: Elvis Records
  • Format: 12" mini-LP
Beasts of Suburban
  • Released: 20 July 1992
  • Label: Shock
  • Format: CD, Cassette
Australia The Lucky Cunt
(Re-issue title: Censored Due to Legal Advice)
  • Released: 3 September 1993
  • Label: Shock
  • Format: CD, Cassette

Singles[edit]

Title Details
Defecate on My Face
  • Released: 1986
  • Label: Elvis Records
  • Format: 7" single in 12" sleeve, glued shut on all sides
40 Years (Then Death)
  • Released: 1987
  • Label: Elvis Records
  • Format: 7" single
I'm Interested in Apathy
  • Released: 1988
  • Label: Elvis Records
  • Format: 7" single, 12" single
The Ballad of John Bonham's Coke Roadie
  • Released: 1988
  • Label: Elvis Records
  • Format: 12" single
I Don't Want TISM I Want A Girlfriend
  • Released: 1989
  • Label: Elvis Records
  • Format: 7" single
Martin Scorsese Is Really Quite A Jovial Fellow
  • Released: 1989
  • Label: Elvis Records
  • Format: 7" single
Saturday Night Palsy
  • Released: 1989
  • Label: Elvis Records
  • Format: 7" single
The History of Western Civilization
  • Released: 1990
  • Label: Phonogram
  • Format: 7" single, cassette single
Let's Form a Company
  • Released: 1991
  • Label: Phonogram
  • Format: 7" single, cassette single
Greg! The Stop Sign!!
  • Released: 1995
  • Label: genre b.goode
  • Format: CD single, cassette single
(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River
  • Released: 1995
  • Label: genre b.goode
  • Format: CD single, cassette single
Jung Talent Time (The Remixes)
  • Released: 1995
  • Label: genre b.goode
  • Format: CD single
Garbage
  • Released: 1996
  • Label: genre b.goode, Shock
  • Format: CD single
All Homeboys Are Dickheads
  • Released: 1996
  • Label: genre b.goode, Shock
  • Format: CD single
Shut Up - The Footy's on the Radio
  • Released: 1997
  • Label: genre b.goode
  • Format: CD single, cassette single
Yob
  • Released: 1997
  • Label: genre b.goode, Shock
  • Format: CD single
Thunderbirds Are Coming Out
  • Released: 1998
  • Label: genre b.goode, Shock
  • Format: CD single
Whatareya?
  • Released: 1998
  • Label: genre b.goode, Shock
  • Format: CD single
I Might Be A Cunt, But I'm Not A Fucking Cunt
  • Released: 1998
  • Label: genre b.goode, Shock
  • Format: CD single
Honk If You Love Fred Durst
Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me
  • Released: 2004
  • Label: Epic, Sony BMG
  • Format: Enhanced CD single
Shut Up - The Footy's on the Radio (21st Century Remix)
  • Released: 2010
  • Label: genre b.goode
  • Format: Digital release
For Those About To Rock
  • Released: 2020
  • Label: genre b.goode
  • Format: 7" single, digital release
  • AC/DC cover, recorded in the mid-1990s, previously unreleased
Mistah Eliot - He Wanker
  • Released: 2021
  • Label: genre b.goode
  • Format: 7" single
  • Recorded August 1986; Record Store Day 2021 limited edition of 750 copies

Live albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
AUS
[108]
Machines Against the Rage (aka Machiavelli – Live)
  • Released: December 1996
  • Label: genre b.goode (G007)
  • Format: CD, cassette, digital download, 2xLP
  • Recorded live in Melbourne in 1995
  • Originally released as the bonus disc with a special edition of Machiavelli and the Four Seasons
  • Later issued as a standalone digital release in 2009 and a double LP edition in November 2022
87
Live at the Corner Hotel 30 May 1988
  • Released: 10 April 2020[109][110]
  • Label: genre b.goode, Black Box Records/ MGM Distribution
  • Format: CD (limited), DD, streaming
  • Recorded 30 May 1988
On Behalf of TISM, I Would Like to Concede We Have Lost the Election
  • Released: December 2020
  • Label: genre b.goode
  • Format: CD, LP, Digital download
  • Recorded at the Earthcore Festival, 27 November 2004
Jesus Education Salvation Uniform Squad
  • Released: 5 November 2021
  • Label: N/A
  • Format: Digital download
  • Recorded at the Hi-Fi Bar in Melbourne, 13 November 2004

Compilation albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
AUS
[107][108]
Gentlemen, Start Your Egos
  • Released: 1991
  • Label: Shock (SHOCK CD0017)
  • Format: Cassette, CD
Best Off
  • Released: 29 July 2002
  • Label: genre b.goode (TISM010)
  • Format: CD, 2×CD, digital download
44
Collected Remixes
  • Released: 17 September 2021
  • Label: genre b.goode (GBG0017)
  • Format: 2xLP
-
Collected Versus: The Complete TISM Singles
  • Released: 19 August 2022
  • Label: genre b.goode (GBG0024); Seeland (538; US only)
  • Format: 2xLP, 2xCD
  • Singles compilation; Australian edition contains Collected Remixes on the second disc
  • Also released in the US with an alternative second disc titled Kill Americans - A TISM Primer
-

Demo albums[edit]

Title Details
This Is Serious Mum
  • Released: 25 November 1984[111]
  • Label: self-released
  • Format: Cassette, CD, LP
  • Released in limited numbers at This Is Serious Mum's second live show at University of Melbourne on 25 November 1984
  • Reissued on vinyl, CD and cassette on 9 July 2021
Punt Road
  • Recorded: 1987
  • Released: 9 July 2021[111]
  • Label: Genre B.Goode
  • Format: CD, LP
  • Recorded during rehearsals for the "40 Years – Then Death" single launch

Home demo tapes[edit]

Title Details
Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance
Form and Meaning Reach Ultimate Communion
  • Recorded: July 1983
  • Twelve song demo tape
  • Unreleased; not to be confused with the later mini-album of the same name
  • Four songs released on bonus CD included with limited edition copies of Best Off
Hooked on Crap
It's Novel! It's Unique! It's Shithouse!
TISM V - Harshness, Reality, That's What It's All About / We Live in Oil
  • Recorded: February 1984
  • Twelve song demo tape
  • Unreleased
  • "Johnny To B. Or Not To B. Goode" excerpted on Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance
  • Edited version of "Unknown, Unacknowledged, Unforgettable, Underpants" released on bonus CD included with limited edition copies of Best Off
  • Full version of "Unknown, Unacknowledged, Unforgettable, Underpants" released as a hidden track on the 2021 CD reissue of This Is Serious Mum demo
If You Want the Toilet, You're in It
  • Recorded: April-November 1984
  • Twenty-six song demo tape
  • Unreleased
  • "If You Want the Toilet, You're in It" released on Collected Recordings 1986-1993
  • "Life is Fairly Silly, Really" released on bonus CD included with limited edition copies of Best Off
Muggy Climates in My Jockettes
  • Recorded: August-September 1985
  • Thirteen song demo tape
  • Unreleased
  • Two songs released on bonus CD included with limited edition copies of Best Off
  • Eight songs released on the 2022 Defecate on My Face box set
There's More Men in Children Than Wisdom Knows
It's a Screaming World and You're Just Another Screamer
  • Recorded: June-August 1986
  • Eleven song demo tape
  • Unreleased
  • Three songs released on bonus CD included with limited edition copies of Best Off
The Vic Hugo Experience - Are You Miserable?
  • Recorded: October 1986
  • Twelve song demo tape
  • Unreleased
Tissongs
  • Recorded: February-September 1987
  • Thirty-nine song demo tape
  • Unreleased
  • "I'm Gonna Treat Ya To A Neitschze Double Feature" released on bonus CD included with limited edition copies of Best Off
Free Nelson Mandella - With Every Record!
  • Recorded: November 1988
  • Twenty-one song demo tape
  • Unreleased
Three Blake and a Dollar's Worth of Chips
  • Recorded: December 1988
  • Twenty-two song demo tape
  • Unreleased

Box sets[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions
AUS
[107][108]
Collected Recordings 1986–1993
  • Released: December 1995
  • Label: Genre B.Goode (G006)
  • Format: 4×CD
Defecate on My Face
  • Released: August 2022
  • Label: Genre B.Goode (GBG0020)
  • Format: 7" + 12" + CD
-

Miscellaneous[edit]

Title Details
The TISM Omni-Album
  • Released: 21 December 2020
  • Label: Genre B.Goode
  • Format: Vinyl
  • Around 1 hour and 45 minutes of silence pressed on a transparent vinyl disc
  • An optional second disc was also available separately, the two-disc version is known as The TISM Deluxe Omni-Album

Bibliography[edit]

Books[edit]

  • The TISM Guide to Little Aesthetics (Stock, Aristotle and Waterman; 1990)[14]

Comics[edit]

  • TISM #1 (Aaargh! Comics; May 1995)
  • TISM #2 (Aaargh! Comics; January 1996)

Chart positions[edit]

Singles[edit]

List of singles which had a chart position within a national top 100
Title Year Chart peak positions Album
AUS
[107][108]
GER
[112]
"(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River" 1995 23 Machiavelli and the Four Seasons
"Greg! The Stop Sign" 59
"Shut Up – The Footy's on the Radio" 1997 90 Non-album single
"I Might Be a Cunt, but I'm Not a Fucking Cunt" 1998 90 www.tism.wanker.com
"Whatareya?" 66
"Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me" 2004 [B] 63 The White Albun

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The White Albun did not enter the ARIA top 100 album chart, but peaked at number 14 on the DVD Chart.[108]
  2. ^ "Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me" was released as a radio promotional single, and was ineligible to chart in Australia in 2004[113][114]

Awards and nominations[edit]

ARIA Music Awards[edit]

The ARIA Music Awards are a set of annual ceremonies presented by Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA), which recognise excellence, innovation, and achievement across all genres of the music of Australia. They commenced in 1987.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
1989 "I'm Interested in Apathy" ARIA Award for Best Independent Release Won [115]
1993 Beasts of Suburban Best Independent Release Nominated [115]
Tony Cohen for TISM – "Get Thee to a Nunnery" ARIA Award for Producer of the Year Nominated [116]
1995 Machiavelli and the Four Seasons Best Independent Release Won [115]
1996 "Greg! The Stop Sign!!" Best Independent Release Nominated [115]
1998 www.tism.wanker.com Best Independent Release Nominated [115]

The Age EG Awards[edit]

The Age EG Awards are an annual awards night celebrating Victorian music. They commenced in 2005.

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
2006 TISM Hall of Fame inductee [117]

References[edit]

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