Interview: Toe To Toe
Over nearly two decades the tale of Toe To Toe has been submerged in survival, struggle and conviction. Forming at a time when many felt real hardcore punk rock had had it’s day, the band rallied against every trend and reared up in the face of expectations to become Australia’s proudest exponents of a form of music and expression that remains well and truly on the outside. Now, in 2017, Toe To Toe are back with a new album as well as a bunch of shows and we spoke to front-man Scotty Mac about Rise Up, hardcore music, influences, touring and much more.
How’s everything going for you after the release of Rise Up? Is everyone happy with the response so far?
Well, it’s only been three days but the response so far has been great. It’s been awesome, and for us it has been a long journey so it’s just good to finally say ‘Look, it’s fucking out’.
What’s kept Toe To Toe around for a quarter of a century and do you have any secrets to staying together for so long in the hardcore scene?
I think the idea has kept it going for so long. The original idea was stand up for yourself and stand your ground and say that you want to say, and that idea has carried on all the way through to now, so maybe we’ve got that idea to thank.
For sure. What are some of the main differences and changes that you’ve noticed from hardcore, from back in the 90s to the 2000s compared to now?
One big one: the internet. It’s connected people to the point that everyone is really disconnected to each other. I think that’s a big one, I mean, when I first got into it everything was very much organic. The internet didn’t actually come about for a couple of years after I was really deep into punk and hardcore and I had to buy Maximum Rock N Roll magazine and read reviews and I had to write away to that band in Italy or that band in Japan and buy their record. It seems like kids couldn’t really understand that, but trust me, it was a much better experience.
Yeah, it would have been. What was it like to play Housefox Fest for your album launch? How’d that go?
It was great. We road tested a lot of new stuff off of the album so for us that was great and I remembered all of the words and the guys remembered all of the chords so it went very well.
Did the crowd get into the new stuff and everything went well?
We had a very very positive response about the new songs. Sometimes you’ll play a new song and everyone is just looking at you and you get this vibe, ‘Is this working?’ but we could feel that the new stuff was giving out really good vibes.
You guys and Mindsnare are two of the most respected bands in Australia for both your genres, you guys both released new albums this year. How much time and effort went into this new album and how long were you working on it for?
For our one it was well over two years of writing and various other things. We actually got signed and we got this opportunity to put money into the record and we wrote all year and finally got it done after probably a longer process than what we’re used to. But in a way it was good because the sound of this record is far superior to anything that we’ve ever done.
You’re heading out on the road this month, are you guys excited to hit the stage, especially getting to see some of these smaller hardcore bands play with you?
Oh definitely, I mean, we love it. That’s our bread and butter. That’s how we get our frustrations out there. We love playing, we love each others company, we love getting down and interacting with everyone and just trying to stay out of trouble that night, so we’re really looking forward to it.
When you were writing Rise Up, was there a theme going into the album or did you just sort of write a whole bunch of stuff and it came together naturally?
Theme wise, I’m still just pretty angry, and I think that shines through. I think it’s a reflection of what’s going on but musically with this record we wanted to showcase a few more of our influences and not make it so straight up, foot to the floor punk rock hardcore. So we put a little more rock n roll here and there, a little more street music influence, so that was a big thing for us to showcase more of our influences.
What do you think of the current state of hardcore in Australia? Is it still a strong scene?
It’s a bit like Game of Thrones, really. You don’t know who’s on top. A lot of the music that’s around today, I think it’s cool that kids are out there and doing their thing and playing it, I don’t relate to a lot of it. But I’ll still watch it and I follow things and see who’s doing what and I think it’s cool that they’re making music and putting their own spin on it even if it isn’t what I’m into and I think a lot of the bands nowadays are doing it for reasons that are a lot further away from why I got into music...
I don’t really see how all that crowd killing and stuff is helping anyone out either, ya know? And I also think that too much of what’s going on today sounds very much the same. I love checking out new shit, but a lot of the time I’ll sort of say to myself ‘Wait a minute, that sounds like the band that I checked out last night’ but that’s just me, maybe I’m old and jaded.
Who are some of the hardcore bands that have influenced Toe To Toe over the years, or the punk bands that have inspired you and the ones that you still love to listen to?
I still love all the classics, but you know I sort of came into music at the golden age of American hardcore. In saying that, we had other stuff like Italian hardcore to listen to such as Raw Power. So much Japanese hardcore as well, but of course there are the classics that I still love like Agnostic Front who are probably one of my favourite bands of all time. Sick Of It All is another one, their last release was just an absolute killer album. I still like to check out heaps and heaps of music, but these days I’m probably more influenced by the lyrics than anything else. So, I’m into a lot of hip-hip as well, but I kind of listen to everything whether it’s reggae or hip-hip, punk-rock or hardcore, so I’m pretty open minded. I just love a good tune basically.
Now that the new album is officially out now, do you have a favourite song to play live yet? Or is there a standout track that you’re looking forward to playing most of all?
I really dig “Blacklisted” off the record and “Don’t Tread On Me” because I just think that one in particular is a little bit different with how we put it together compared to most of our other songs. I think they both have really interesting chord progressions, so yeah, but we’re really happy with the new record. We love playing “Sydney” and that seems to be getting a really good response and I can’t wait to really play it deep and thick in our hometown, that’s definitely one of our favourites too.
Let’s say that Toe To Toe were to play one of their final shows ever, and you got to choose two or maybe three big international acts to play with you on tour. Who would they be?
OK. It would definitely be Sick Of It All. I think I would probably want Sheer Terror on that bill and I’m gonna go with an all New York trio here, the last band would be Murphy's Law. Because we’ve played with those guys in Europe and we’ve seen them a few times over in the States and Jimmy Gestapo is probably the best front-man of all time. He’s just a comedian, he’s an entertainer and I’d love to see Murphy's Law and play with them one more time before it’s all said and done.
Excellent! Well thanks for the chat and taking the time to answer these questions. Do you have any final words to say to your fans who might be reading this before you go?
Just get out to the shows because we’re looking forward to seeing everyone and as always, we always have a bit of a good time after the shows and everyone knows that. So, if things are getting to you a bit and you need to let out some steam then head out to a Toe To Toe show because it’s always a good time.
Rise Up is out now via Golden Robot Records as well as iTunes, Spotify and all good music retailers.
Check out the video for "Blacklisted" below:
You can catch Toe To Toe at one of these shows: