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Tom Ellard (Severed Heads) - conducted by Todd E. Jones  

Tom Keeps Severed Head Under Gail Succubus

December 2006

Is Severed Heads "Industrial" music? Severed Heads creates When people think of 'Industrial' music, they think of angry middle-aged men with spikes on their backs in the middle of a mosh pit (doing that stomp-dance where they pound the air). Severed Heads creates somewhat unclassifiable music that can still be categorized to certain genres. The harsh name of the band does have an "Industrial" ring. The Australian group mainly creates electronic based music. Since they were originally signed to Nettwerk Records in the United States (Volition in Australia), Severed Heads were labeled as Industrial. In contrast to the term, Tom Ellard's voice is very melodic and somewhat soft. Their electronic melodies do not have the aggressive or sinister style of typical Industrial music. At the core, Severed Heads are rooted in electronic pop music. When they do not adhere to their pop song structure, they travel to bizarre musical territory. Although Severed Heads may not be Industrial music, the band is Industrially productive! Tom Ellard is the one remaining member of the group. Even though musicians came and went throughout the decades, Tom Ellard has been the band's driving creative force. Rooted in electronic music and innovators of the video synthesizer, Severed Heads has a hugely diverse catalogue. In reality, they create bizarre electronic pop music. One of their most respected songs, "Dead Eyes Opened" does not have sung vocals. Instead, the group uses vocal samples of Edgar Lustgarten, reading from "Death on the Crumbles" on a BBC Radio Show. Their most well-known album, "Rotund For Success" featured the tracks "Big Car", "Greater Reward", and "All Saints Day". Their bountiful discography also includes albums such as "Come Visit The Big Bigot", "Bad Mood Guy", and "Gigapus". With the help of Stephen R. Jones, their use of videos became a staple during their live performances. To fully experience Severed Heads, both eyes and ears were open.

Sevcom Communications used to give fans a taste of the music before their purchase. Ellard was one of the innovators in utilizing the Internet for his independent record label. The albums, "Gigapus" and "Haul Ass" (both by Severed Heads) were self-released without neglecting quality. Ellard also released three albums with a side project collaboration named, Co Kla Coma. After a hiatus of several years, Ellard returned to electronic pop music with the 2002 album, "Op". Originally titled, "Lap Top Pop", the unique "Op" album underwent a plethora of upgrades. Each upgraded version included new songs and brand new instrumental tracks.

Tom Ellard is proud of his new 2006 Severed Heads release titled, "Under Gail Succubus". Originally released in a metal DVD case, the packaging for "Under Gail Succubus" presented multiple problems. Eventually, the plastic cases became the acceptable and accessible format. As an album, "Under Gail Succubus" consists of electronic pop songs mixed with the modern vibe created in the classic Severed Heads style. The opening track, "Snuck" includes a bouncy rhythm and a guitar-sounding melody. Ellard's signature vocal style also remains. Other standout cuts include "Three Doors Down", "Inside The Girl", and "Psychic Squirt". A second disc, "Over Barbara Island" consists of 8 instrumental tracks recorded live on June 21st 2006.

Tom Ellard and Severed Heads is the epitome of independent music. He is the record label. As a label, Sevcom sells the music directly manufactured by the musicians without the typical middle management of record labels. Not only does Ellard have creative control, he has complete control of Severed Heads. Every single song is in the hands of Ellard. If Industrial Music consists of avant-garde music that is electronic in nature, the music of Severed Heads may sometimes be classified using that term. As a group, Severed Heads transcends just one genre. As a word, "Industrial" means something relating to the output of industry. In the music industry, Tom Ellard and Severed Heads have complete control of their musical output. Since Ellard has complete control, Severed Heads can be anything beyond one genre. Industrially, Tom Ellard is essential to the independent music industry.

MVRemix: What goes on?

Tom Ellard: Just finished another year of teaching. I worked at 3 universities, teaching music and video. Also, casual at a science museum, where I conduct a variety of seminar teaching for high schools and further education. Once you get past a certain age, you want to pass on the knowledge. Been a crazy year for releases too. 2 albums and 2 small books, with more coming."

MVRemix: The new Severed Heads album, 'Under Gail Succubus' was just released. Tell us about the LP."

Tom Ellard: The title is very old, from an 80's booklet I created. That and the cover art should tip people off that it hearkens back to an older musical period. I feel that I've used enough different styles now that I'm not trapped in a genre. 'Gail' can re-visit some of the old Severed Heads motifs, without too much cloying nostalgia.

MVRemix: Included in the 'Under Gail Succubus' package, is a 2nd disc titled, 'Over Barbara Island'. Tell us about this.

Tom Ellard: That was a live show which was supposed to take place outside, in a kind of demented tiki lounge atmosphere. It was a benefit for The National Art School. As it turned out, the rain forced the whole show inside a bleak white gallery space, where it sounded quite horrible. It's my idea of cocktail music, which I don't really comprehend. So, it came out kind of mangled. As it uses some sampled sounds, I made it a free disc. Free in, free out.

MVRemix: What is the meaning behind the titles, 'Under Gail Succubus' and 'Over Barbara Island'?

Tom Ellard: As always, the titles are really open to interpretation. A succubus is a female demon that seduces men. I guess this one wears a badge, like they do at McDonalds. 'Hi! I'm Gail. How would you like your soul eaten today? Fries with that?' The other one, 'Over Barbara Island' is the yang to the yin. As well as being, 'Over Barbara Island' is a different girl. The island had to do with the visuals for the live show, which were lurid 3-D island landscapes.

MVRemix: How is 'Under Gail Succubus' album different from your previous album, 'Op'? Why?

Tom Ellard: It's completely different to 'Op'. 'Op' is a cartoon book, funny papers. It's a series of cheaply drawn, brightly coloured cartoon books. The idea with 'Op' was not to make albums, or make an album that somehow never got finished. So, it was informal. 'Gail' is a real album, formal and sensible. I think of 'Gail' as something that gets kept, whereas 'Op' would be used like a magazine or a newspaper.

MVRemix: For the 'Op' album, you released upgrades or different versions. Will you do the same for 'Under Gail Succubus'?

Tom Ellard: 'Gail' is 'Gail', finished. 'Op' could suddenly start up again at any moment, sometimes free and sometimes pay. I would like to make an 'Op' that gets handed out like pamphlets. If a track on 'Op 1' were done again later on 'Op 3', no one would complain.

MVRemix: Favorite song on the 'Under Gail Succubus'?

Tom Ellard: Not favorite, but the first one from which others grew was 'Lo Real'. Unlike 'Op', this album took years. Some things took 4 years. Not every day, but a bit every month. 'Lo Real' was one that just kept on needing a bit more work, a bit more. There are all kinds of things that happen in the background and you might not even notice them.

MVRemix: Which song took you the longest to do from conception to completion on 'Under Gail Succubus'? Why?

Tom Ellard: 'Taking Out The Surfing Bird' took the longest. It was first released in 2004 as a different track on a limited edition CD. Then, 2 more movements grew onto that over the years. Some tracks have holes in them that have interesting shapes. It can take time to find the right piece.

>> continued...

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"The title is very old, from an 80's booklet I created. That and the cover art should tip people off that it hearkens back to an older musical period."