INTERVIEW: This is Hell (USA), October 2011


I honestly have no recollection of this interview, so it’s nice to know that I threw in a whole slab of context in case I ever forgot about it. I’m not crazy about my formatting or approach here – the whole “rock & roll” angle is a bit cringeworthy. Still, I think you can see me experimenting a lot through my early Hysteria writing. There’s something there, I just don’t know exactly what it is yet.

This is Hell are cool. Apparently they’re big wrestling fans. Tight. I don’t really listen to them much anymore, but I got love for them all the same.

– DJY, May 2016


Hardcore New York punks This is Hell have been kicking arse and taking names across seven years and countless live shows. Barely a year since their last album, 2010’s Weight of the World, the band have kicked back into action with a new drummer and a cracking new album in Black Mass. Guitarist and founding member RICK JIMINEZ took a break from the road to speak with AUSTRALIAN HYSTERIA MAGAZINE about touring, guitar heroes and getting to tour with your best friends.

There’s a distinct difference between being in a rock band and being rock & roll. Being in a rock band can often mean you’re taking your interview calls from the comfort of a hotel room or even your own house. Being rock & roll, however, is taking an interview call in the middle of nowhere, somewhere between signs on a Californian freeway on the side of the road as your tour van awaits repairs. “We were on our way to a show,” explains Jiminez, “and the van just started smoking, so we had to pull it off to the side. We’ve been having troubles with this van for awhile now – same as the last one we hired, and the same one before that.” He’s clearly more than a little agitated about the whole ordeal, and Australian Hysteria offers to call back another time. Jiminez declines, however – after all, “this’ll give me some time to take my mind off things.”

There’s plenty of better things to talk about than shitty vans, too. For one, the band have just wrapped up production on their fourth album, Black Mass. Storming out of the gates at breakneck pace with thundering riffs, blasts of drums and the kind of no-bullshit attitude that has gotten them a worldwide following, Black Mass stands proudly amongst the finest work the band have done thus far. It also doubles as the most versatile that the band have ever sounded, ranging from their throwbacks to proto-hardcore to a balanced diet of Bay Area thrash metal. This was not quite intentional, according to Jiminez, but more of a happy accident on the band’s behalf.

“The way we all write individually is actually quite different to the way we write as This is Hell,” says Rick, who has been a part of the band since its inception alongside vocalist Travis Reilly. “I think, with writing this album, it was a matter of going back and finding what it is that made us want to play music to begin with. For me, with the stuff that I learned guitar on and the stuff I grew up on, it was the early Metallica, Slayer, Testament and what have you. It’s interesting, because although bands like that have always been loved by me and inspired me to write songs to begin with, they’ve never really been a prominent influence on This is Hell.”

“It was never me listening to a thrash metal band and turning into a hardcore song,” he continues. “It was more to do with taking that influence of their work and just playing with it, seeing how it came out. I think that’s definitely what separates this album from our last few – it really bridges together everything we’ve learned as a band.”

Fans will also be quick to note the shift into considerably more melodic territory than what had previously been attempted in the band’s body of work. Again, Jiminez emphasises that this was simply a matter of where the band ended up musically, rather than just deciding it would sound that way. “We never kind of sat down as a band and said ‘y’know, I think this would sound better if we were singing’ or ‘maybe we should rewrite that part’ or whatever. We’re never too self-conscious about that kind of thing, it’s never something that we’ve ever really made an executive decision on. The most important thing when we’re writing and recording is that we all agree on it. In this instance, we found that the direction we took on this record was the best thing to do.”

The band have been playing a few shows to warm up to Black Mass‘ release, but the big test of its quality will come when the band take on a massive U.S. tour near the end of the year. “Yeah, we’re going out on the road with Underoath, Comeback Kid and the Chariot,” mentions Rick casually, as if this kind of mammoth bill is part and parcel of the job. “We’re really excited about heading out with those guys. We’ve toured with them all a bunch of times – we were with Comeback Kid last time we were in Australia, actually – and they’re all such great guys, super-supportive of us and what we do. It’s going to be a lot of fun.” When Australian Hysteria asks if such a bill could ever come true here in Australia, Jiminez simply laughs and says “We’ll see.” He likes the chances of the band being back in the country in 2012, however. “We had such a blast last time,” he offers. “You lot sure know how to take care of us!”

With that, it’s back to the broken tour van and the rock & roll life.

INTERVIEW: Rolo Tomassi (UK), December 2010

I discovered this band by pure chance at a Soundwave some years ago and I’ve dug them ever since. A consistently weird and generally wonderful band that exist on the outside of every genre they blend into their music – and that’s just fine by them. I’ve met the Spence siblings from the band several times, including at their Australian tour last year. They’re incredibly polite and charming folk. That’s all I have to say on the matter, really. 

– DJY, October 2014


There was plenty to see and do at this year’s Soundwave festival, but for those who managed to sneak in early, one new band was the talk of the early hours of the festivities. That band was arty British post-hardcore kids Rolo Tomassi, with a deceptively attractive frontwoman in Eva Spence who went on to screech and howl like some kind of rabid dog; as well as having at least half of the members leaping off the stage to crowdsurf at one point or another. Love them or hate them, they certainly generated a reputation, turning many perfect strangers into huge fans.

“For us, it’s the most important thing in the world to do good live shows,” says Eva’s brother James Spence, the band’s keyboardist and co-lead vocalist. “We started the band to play shows more than anything, and we strive to be as good as we can be – tight, as energetic and as aggressive and imposing as we can be without wanting to alienate anyone. We just want to be fun to watch and fun to be a part of.”

Working up from D.I.Y. shows and home-made cassette demos, the band evolved from a project between the Spence siblings to expand into the quintet that it is today. The band have two albums under their belt – the latest of which, Cosmology, was released in May of this year, produced by former M.I.A. and Santigold collaborator Diplo. In spite of Cosmology arguably being the band’s most technical and intrinsic work to date, the band were fully confident in their abilities to translate this to the live environment.

“It’s easier for it to be difficult to play than to worry it won’t sound good live,” Spence says. “Essentially, if something’s difficult, we can always practice it for ourselves. I think that’s the main difference between the first and the second record – there were some songs on the first record that we had to modify to play live, and none of us were really happy with that. We wanted to take what we’d done on the record and play that live and make a bigger energy, rather than change the songs. I think the difficult songs on the new album, we’ve mastered and can be realised in their full potential when we play them now.”

Ahead of its release, fans in Australia were amongst the first to hear cuts from Cosmology road tested properly. Despite only being here for just over a week, Spence still has incredibly fond memories of what was the band’s first ever Australian tour – even going so far as to describe it as a “headfuck.” His voice picks up and the tone of excitement is too outstanding to ignore.

“Flying that far from home across the world to play gigs with our band is just a very, very strange feeling,” he says. “I don’t think any of us ever expected or assumed that we would ever get the opportunity to do something like that, so a lot of the time we were just walking around wide-eyed – we weren’t really sure how to behave or what to do. After getting over the jetlag, we really made the most of the trip, and really explored the place. We could have really been taken aback, but we decided to make the most of it while we were there.”

The tour also saw the band paired up in some Sidewave action with what FasterLouder deemed one of the strangest support acts of all time – Rolo were the opening act for Jane’s Addiction’s headlining shows. “You’re kidding!” says Spence with a laugh when informed of the band making the list. “That’s amazing. I’ll be honest – I couldn’t identify a Jane’s Addiction song if you played it to me. But the name is just one that sticks out – I mean, I knew what Dave Navarro looked like, and I knew who Perry Farrell was – but I wasn’t really familiar with their music; though I knew it was an odd pairing. I consider them the last of the real rock-stars, and we’re a very humble band with really strong D.I.Y. roots – so to see the complete opposite end of the spectrum was something else. They were great shows, though – the crowds were really responsive and cool.”

After working through a tonne of festival dates, as well as coming off tour with a much more fitting support slot – opening for the band’s heroes, The Dillinger Escape Plan – the time is nigh for Rolo Tomassi to make their return to Australian shores as a part of a quadruple bill with other acts from this year’s Soundwave – This Is Hell, Comeback Kid and headliners Architects. The enthusiasm kicks up a notch once more as Spence gears up for his band’s imminent return to our “fair country,” as he puts it.

“Us, Architects and Comeback Kid were all on the same stage,” he recalls. “The drummer from This Is Hell is from England, too, so we got to meet those guys. I’m a fan of that band, so I ended up watching them anyway. It’s gonna be great to catch up with everyone – we all hung out a fair bit on that tour, and we all played some of the same festival dates in Europe, as well. It’s gonna be really nice – there’s gonna be that sense of friendship amongst all the bands, so it won’t be awkward the first few days.”