INTERVIEW: TRANSVAAL DIAMOND SYNDICATE

Transvaal Diamond Syndicate (TDS) are the manufacturers of some of Australia’s catchiest, foot-stompin’ swamp and dirty blues/rock. Known for their energetic live sets, the band have been relentlessly touring across Australia since August last year. At the end of their ‘Pistols At Dawn’ Tour, Meghan Player chatted to frontman Christian Tryhorn about cowboys, touring and Jack Daniels.

By Meghan Player

There are a wonderful array of sounds and styles happening on the EP – blues, rockabilly, rock etc – are these all styles that you grew up listening to/had an early interest in?

I grew up listening to a wide range of music courtesy of my parents and had a real interest in music from around age 5. Primarily my interests were formed in rock and hard rock which then led into grunge and the big overdriven guitar sound. It wasn’t till much later in life that I discovered the blues and slide guitar and was enlightened! Now I create some type of hybrid monster from my interest in the blues and constant diet of rock growing up.
Can you tell us a little about the recording process for the EP – what was it like? Would you have done anything differently? How did you approach writing the album?

We went into the studio with our mate Dan James (Drawn from Bees) who works at a local boys school in Brisbane. The recording was done using sampled guitar sounds, along with my own and electronic drums. Dan has a real knack of the plugin/technical side of recording and we were really happy with the result. Quite often our songs would only enter the studios as shells but by the time they were finished they had many interesting levels. The hard part is to know when enough is enough in terms of adding extra little tracks/parts in the background [laughs].

Next time, if I had a budget, I would look to record all el natural and try a bit harder to capture our live vibe. That way, to be done well, costs a lot of coin though so if there are any rich benefactors out there [HINT HINT]
Do you have any new material in the works? 

We actually recorded a new track when on tour with our mate Dan at The Lockup Recording Studio in Sydney. It’s called ‘Dig Man Dig’ and I dare say it’ll be a single of our new release. It’s still really early days, with the band being so busy with touring I’ve had next to no time to sit and be creative. We’re just wrapping up this tour so looking forward to getting time to write. I have like 500 riffs in my phone that I’ve done on the fly. It will be nice to piece some of these together and develop them further.
It seems like you’re constantly on the road – playing shows wherever and whenever you can – I can imagine that’s equally fun as it is hard work – what keeps you and the band motivated?

We pretty much have been from August of last year to be honest. We did a 40 date tour late last year and have just finished a 60+ date tour in the first half of this year. We’ve covered some 50,000 kms in the faithful tour van (The TDS Express) [laughs].
It is a tonne of fun and really you would want life no other way. The fact is though that yeah it does get tiring, through pure volume of shows, energy output along with a poor diet of pub and servo food, limited exercise and WAY too much alcohol. We can’t help ourselves! It’s often free… I book pretty much all of our gigs as well as trying to book gigs for other acts in my spare time so it’s not so much of a holiday. Best way to live though.
I would like to cover Australia tenfold in terms of gigs. To be honest I really enjoy playing small country towns with smaller but no-less appreciative crowds. Touring’s one big adventure and it pays to experience all types of gigs.
What keeps us motivated..? Jack Daniels of course! [laughs]

It’s just the adventure of heading for a new place/audience. Seeing the crowd foaming over what you’re producing on stage is the best part. Meeting cool people and talking about music and having people actually appreciate and pay for what you do and have created… it’s pretty special and a good feeling.
How has the ‘Pistols At Dawn’ tour been? Were you familiar with Guthrie beforehand?

The Pistols at Dawn tour has been EPIC. So large it’s almost ridiculous. We set out not knowing how we’d hold up. We did an album release tour late last year as I mentioned with 40 gigs. That really hurt by the end but I was sitting around a couple of weeks after that tour going ‘man I just want to be on the road again!’ but at the time I was so over it.
We’ve had mostly positive gigs with some great crowds in areas we’ve never even been to before. Of course some shows and performances are better than others but that’s all part of it. We’ve travelled some 30,000kms with only 5 guys and 2 vehicles with no deaths, major fights, arrests or even speeding fines so we’ve done something pretty right [laughs].
I met Liam (Guthrie vocalist) when TDS was touring down in Melbourne mid last year. He came to a gig we played with Jackson Firebird. Got chatting to him then and roughly stayed in touch. I had heard Guthrie’s stuff through a mutual friend of ours and definitely liked it. I was looking for an act to travel Oz with on this tour and they were the first band to accept! The rest is history. We have had a blast with them, they’re great lads. Even 60 gigs deep we’re still singing along with their songs and dancing and loving it. We work well together.
When I’ve heard people speak about you, it’s the live gigs that people seem to remember the most – paying close attention to how much energy you put into a set – are you conscious of how much of yourselves go into a show?

From my own perspective, 100% goes into a show. I often feel like passing out after a performance. Not helped by the fact that I’m a natural sweater [laughs]. We pride ourselves on giving our all and trying to get the crowd involved either musically or verbally. For me music is about feeling and having a good time. Hopefully our audiences do so!
With touring so much for example, energy levels became a problem sometimes after playing 4 or 5 nights in a row with the intensity that we do. I found anyway that I needed to prop up my energy levels with Jack Daniels etc. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle… The body needs a few months off after such a long tour.
Can you tell us a little bit about the ‘Pistols At Dawn’ clip? How the idea came about etc?

We get into westerns and western themes; girls/guns/snakes/cards etc. I like the visuals they create when tied in with blues/rock music. The theme came from a Western idea where 2 boys after having duked it out with no real victor or in the case of an extreme question of honour would take to the main street of the town at dawn and have a gun duel to the death. Lyrically it landed itself to a story.
The clip came about in conjunction with Alex Kirchner. We chatted about a few different directions for the clip and this one solidified. We drew in a bunch of mates and 2 semi-professional actors and layed it down in a day! Was great fun.
What’s next for the band? More touring? Recording?

Million dollar question! REST. 4 months solid touring means we all need rest. But by rest we mean 1 or 2 gigs per month for the rest of the year. We have some festivals on the cards, a show in Newcastle and a hometown show. But primarily I want to spend the ‘off’ time writing new songs, coming up with new concepts and ideas and solidifying the TDS lineup. It seems to change every tour [laughs]. Would be nice to get a permanent lineup locked down and concentrate on writing kick arse blues rock.

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Many thanks to Christian for taking the time to chat to us.

Mini album – ‘Sins of the Blessed’ is out now: http://itunes.apple.com/au/album/sins-of-the-blessed/id469027102 

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