After suffering a near-fatal seizure, visionary performer Trash McSweeney now sees colour in his music and has set out to share with the world all the ideas about what he has seen and felt. By taking to his guitar, piano and notebook, The Red Paintings were officially born upon the dawn of the new millennium. On the eve of their album release and hectic touring schedule, we spoke with Trash about human canvases, animal rights and connecting with fans.
By Julia Lay
Your last shows here were more of a promotional tour – what can we expect from your next Australian visit?
The biggest and best shows we have put together to date! Plus we have done so much overseas touring since our last visit, so we’re feeling stronger as a band. The new songs and show just had a run across the US and were much better received than I even expected, so hopefully we are on a good thing. Time will tell!
The human canvasses and on-stage painting are a unique thing to your live shows, how did that idea come about?
I was a full-time artist, a painter, before I started playing music. When I started The Red Paintings it just made sense to me to have random people painting to the music and being an integral part of the show. As for human canvases, it was really just an extension to build a more personal show and experience for those in the crowd. It also allowed me to turn the canvas into metaphors from the messages of the songs.
How was your experience touring with Mindless Self Indulgence?
Just amazing. Their fan base is so incredible to play to. The theatres we played in were full of crazy kids and we had the tour of our lives. Lucky for us we are touring with them again across the UK and Europe come November. We all can’t wait.
From an outsiders point of view it seems like it would take a lot of time preparing for your shows. Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yes it is crazy at times. I do make time between warming myself up to talk to the painters and human canvases to make sure they are feeling okay and discuss my ideas behind the stage shows and songs we play. Sometimes it helps plant a seed inside their creative minds so we’re on the same page when we hit the stage to work together song by song.
You seem to enjoy mingling with fans after a performance and also discuss things online with them. Would you say it’s more of a connected fan base compared to most bands?
Maybe, I’m not too sure how other bands do it. The way I see it, it’s just like going to a party and meeting like-minded people, so there is no reason for me to be all hidden and mysterious. I just act around TRP how I would act in any situation. Plus I love to meet new people and discuss all things in life and more with them.
It’s known that you’re strong about your stance on animal rights. Do you find yourself expressing your views about issues on stage very often? How do people usually react?
Yes I do and I feel like I’m also obligated to for many reasons. At first I was way too pushy and demanding on the subject, especially with people’s diets and cutting animals out of them. It was just because I was so passionate about it and really did not want to see another animal brutally murdered for the sake of a $2 burger. But I learned that was not a productive way to approach it, so now it’s more about me sharing my experiences with people I meet on tour and waiting for feedback or questions to be asked.
Usually I get a lot of people asking me about it and most times I find it’s an educated conversation that might turn into someone becoming vegetarian or vegan, following animal rights groups, or changing their views towards a more positive lifestyle. To be honest, it’s why I continue with The Red Paintings, because it puts me in a better position to be able to educate on behalf of animals. They don’t have a voice, but I do, so I use it.
What do you hope people take away from your performances? Especially people who are seeing you for the first time.
Provoking thought, to feel alive, to just feel anything, would be a good start. I would hope our shows help inspire people to do more, to think more, to realize they have choices. If so, it can only be a good thing. I’m sure many people hate our shows, but hey, it’s a subjective world and you can’t please everyone.
I’ve seen people label your music as theatrical, sci-fi, art rock… what would you describe it as? Or do you feel genres are too restrictive?
I think orchestral sci-fi art rock sums it up, but I did read an article where a journo in the US labeled us a new genre called “New Dirt.” That to me was pretty cool to read! So I’ll run with that. At the end of the day, we are just another band, I get that, but if we are giving people a refreshing experience then that’s all that matters.
Your long-awaited album ‘The Revolution Is Never Coming‘ will be available soon, could you tell us a little bit about the ideas you’ve put together in it?
I won’t give too much away, but we are going to launch a large Geisha shaped helium balloon in 13 capital cities across the world during our world tour for the album, which is cut up into a 4 phase tour schedule. As well as this, we have much more going on around the release in Australia and the rest of the world. Keep an eye and an ear out. You have to dig deeper these days to get through to people!
If you had a chance to collaborate with any artist or musician, who would it be and how do you think it would turn out?
I would choose the artist Mark Ryden. I think our minds together could create more than just UFOs.
Many thanks to Trash for taking the time to chat to us. You can check out all the upcoming tour dates for The Red Paintings at: