By Stella Gardiner

Kiwi four-piece rock legends Villainy are gearing up to embark on a four-date nationwide New Zealand tour. I caught up with band member Neil Fraser to discuss the demise of iconic venues, touring with giants, what makes for a great live show and U.S. presidential election candidates...

Hi Neil, thanks so much for taking the time to chat this morning.

Yeah no worries at all.

You’re heading out to play four main cities in October.  How did it all come about?

Basically we just want to get out and play some shows. We released Dead Sights, our last record, last September and we did a tour in September and then another tour in March and yeah, I think the next step for us is to focus on getting the next record done so we thought we’d get out and play these songs once more before we go to ground.

Tell us a about the venues you are playing

We’re actually playing a couple venues we’ll never play again which is interesting. So we’re doing The Kings Arms in Auckland, which is going to get sold, which sucks, we’ll see how long that hangs around for.  Bodega we’re doing Wellington that closes at the end of the year.  Churchills in Christchurch we’ve played a couple of times, I think that’s getting around to staying which is cool. And I guess at the other end of the spectrum we’re playing The Cook in Dunedin which has just re-opened, I understand they did a big renovation; it used to be the dirtiest Scarfy pub in Dunedin and they’ve brought it back to life so that will be cool.

That’s quite good to know actually, for a while it was a bit Scarfy hell down there wasn’t it?

(Laughs) I’ve never been to The Cook, normally we play at Re:Fuel but it should be good and I think it was Christened by Shane Carter who’s a respectable local musician

One of the venues you are playing is Wellington’s iconic Bodega, which is set to close at the end of the year. How do you think that will affect the music local scene? 

Yeah well the only other one really is San Fran, which we’ve played a couple of times.  There’s a bar called Meow, which I’ve seen a few people playing at, but we’ve never played there. I think we’ve only done Bodega and San Fran when we’ve been down the last couple of times so it’ll be cool to play there [Bodega] but sad it will the last time for sure.

Well it’s going to be awesome seeing Villainy play there...

Yeah we’re really looking forward to it.  We also haven’t done a headline show in Wellington in I think, two-is years as well so that’ll be really good, I think the last couple times we’ve played down there we’re either supporting someone or doing festivals Like Homegrown.

You’ve got Auckland duo Skinny Hobos supporting all four dates.  How do you choose which band to take on tour?

We just look around and see who’s out there.  They’ve had a couple of songs on the radio, which have done really well, and we did a show with them in January, saw them play and thought they were awesome. I don’t know there’s something appealing about having a two-piece, it’s a bit different, it sets them apart from us and makes it more of an experience for the punters and creates a cool vibe you know.  It’s going to be an interesting night.  They make a lot of noise for two people that’s for sure.

It was a pretty big deal supporting AC/DC in New Zealand. That must have been epic.  How did it happen?

I got a phone call one day saying it was happening.  Kind of like, do you want to do it, you know, if you say ‘no’ you’re an idiot (laughs). Of course we were stoked to get offered it and it was amazing on so many levels.  Awesome to go support a band of that calibre.  Incredibly surreal to be playing in stadiums.  And you know they’re the kind of band that tours with a custom stage and all that kind of stuff as well, so every night you’re standing up on this behemoth structure which has been built especially for that event. It’s just really something else.

Did you think how on earth would we take up this stage?

Well they had their drums up on a riser behind us so we had the front of the stage but often when you support a band and you have to set up in front or whatever, you’re kind of crammed in the front of the stage, but that stage was probably three to four times the size of The Kings Arms stage without any of the other space the were using for themselves so it was pretty crazy.

And you managed to rock out which was really cool

I guess that was one of the best things about it was you know, I felt like we had a really good reaction and you know it helps when people know the tunes, you know there’s nothing worse than going to a show and seeing a support act and not really knowing what they’re about, and why they’re there.  I felt that we had the opposite reaction, which was awesome.

Villainy has also played with Incubus, The Offspring and Shihad.  These are some pretty big stars in the rock universe

It’s always the thing that you hope for right and one of the reasons I started playing, well probably the reason I started playing music was because I saw bands play live you know, it was awesome. I definitely went through a period in my life of being, you know I went to see Tool play in the early 2000s and just being like completely star struck and feeling like I was witnessing the most special thing in the entire world and it was pretty cool.  But I think that once you’ve realised that some people go to shows and have that kind of experience and then meeting those guys, not Tool but bands like that, and seeing how seriously they take it and how committed the are.  The cool thing about being a musician is that while it can be a job I don’t think anyone ever treats it that way.  It’s that next level of commitment and giving yourself over in a live environment – the more you give, the better reaction you get form the crowd as well.

Your shows are always full of an energy and passion that the audience really respond to.  What do you think makes for a great show?

I think it needs to be inclusive. For me that’s the passion, the energy of it.  You want the audience to feel like they’re there with you the entire time, not detached. And that creates a vibe you know? You can feel it that weird kind of totally intangible indescribable thing where you feel like everyone is connected, and that’s the difference between listening to a record and going to a show you know your in a room with a bunch of people being slammed by a big loud PA and I don’t know, experiencing something different as a result.  

There’s and infectious energy that spreads through the crowd

And that can apply to any genre. One of the best concerts I ever went to was a Sigur Ros concert and like you could literally hear a pin drop.  It was so still but it was because everyone was so entranced.  And that was surreal. I’ve never been to a rock show where people were just watching you know with their jaws on the floor.  So our shows are energetic and we want people to jump around and get messy and whatever.

Is there a new Villainy album on the cards?

There maybe some other stuff that crops up but our priorities now are getting stuck into recording.

Will you play anything new on the tour?

We won’t be playing any new new songs, but we have a whole bunch of outtakes from Dead Sight, and we’re actually going to be selling some CDs at the show.  I don’t think we’re going to do it anywhere else. It will be the only way you can get them. And we’ll pay a couple of those live as well.

According to Wikipedia Villainy was once known as Inverse Order

Sort of a true story. Myself and Thomas have been playing music since we were like teenagers and we started that band together, put out an EP and stuff in I don’t know, 2007 or something I can’t remember. And then we just sort of got bored. You know, played the odd show but nothing really happened. Then we got introduced to Tom Larkin, our producer, through a friend of the band and he re-energised us into starting again and we decided the Inverse Order thing wasn’t relevant to what we were doing anymore, and took a different view on it and became Villainy.

Like a fresh start then

Yeah I guess there’s a point I think in everything where you need to let it go and we didn’t really feel like that name or that style of music was relevant to what we were doing.  I think a new name re-invigorates and gives you new meaning, which is always helpful.

What was your first ever album?

Was probably Michael Jackson’s Dangerous.

Trump or Clinton?

Clinton? (laughs) I don’t think there’s really any hesitation there.  I really feel for the American public I think the election is just a complete sham.  But no way I’d be voting in Trump on any grounds!  I’d rather have more of the same you know someone who was potentially under the thumb of the government than a businessman who doesn’t understand.  I mean you’d almost want Sarah Palin over him. (laughs) You probably would right? She’s a politician.  She maybe poorly educated but she’s a politician and she has a reasonable support network around her.  I don’t know what he [Trump] is.

What do you think will happen if he does get elected?

It’ll be an interesting case study on how much power the American president has if he does get elected because you know, rationally you can’t do anything without congress or whatever allowing him to get through and if all the world leaders think he’s an idiot he could stand there and say all that stupid shit that he says every day and they’ll just ignore it.  So maybe it won’t matter. I’ve been watching a lot of House of Cards and the drama in that pales in comparison to what is going on in real life.

Villainy with special guests Skinny Hobos 

Friday October 7th: Churchills, Christchurch
Saturday October 8th: The Cook, Dunedin

Friday October 14th: Kings Arms, Auckland

Saturday October 22nd: Bodega, Wellington
 Tickets via Ticketmaster  
Christchurch tickets also available from the venue.