RAGNARØKKR Drumming through the end of days

We all know the story of Ragnarok. Now meet the band at the burning centre of the end days in Ragnarøkkr, opening at The Blue Room Theatre on Tuesday, January 28 as part of Blue Room’s Summer Nights program for FRINGE WORLD. Expect something along the lines of Nick Cave meets Ziggy Stardust in a Norse inspired musically riotous fall from grace. Ragnarøkkr is armageddon with the armour stripped off and the speakers turned up to 11. MELISSA KRUGER had a chat with Gracie Smith (pictured above), Ragnarøkkr’s “shithot” drummer, ahead of opening night.

You have played in bands of so many different genres… Rock, punk, metal, folk, blues, Celtic, orchestral, theatre productions… what kind of music do you tend to listen to when you’re at home or in the car?

I listen to everything and anything, it really depends on my mood or what instrument or vibe I’m feeling and it’s also affected by what I’m working on musically too. A large portion of my listening is instrumental and styles vary from really heavy metal to jazz, world music and electronica, but if I’m feeling more introspective that’s when I’ll listen to music with singing and lyrics, like Jeff Buckley and Matt Corby. I also like to muck around and record at home so I often listen to my own creations and demos of stuff I’m working on with my band, Tangled Thoughts of Leaving (TToL).

Who are some of your favourite bands and drummers?

Animals as Leaders, Blotted Science, Jon Bap, Machinedrum, Meshuggah, Nerve, Jeff Buckley, Tatran, Nadah El Shazly, Hiatus Kaiyote, Disclosure, The Offspring… (and for drummers) Jojo Mayer, Chris Daddy Dave, Mark Guiliana, Virgil Donati, Zach Hill, Dan Mayo, Cindy Blackman Santana, Nathulal Solanki, Clever Austin and Patti Smith.

I’ve always thought drummers are so badass. Why do you think we see so few female drummers in popular bands?

I think the representation of women in music and female drummers is improving, but I believe it simply comes down to statistics. I teach drums and probably see three female students for every 10 males, which is still much better than when I was in high school, there was like three girls that played in the whole school then. So it may seems like there is no women playing drums but it’s just a visibility thing in comparison to the amount of male drummers.

Who was the last band you went to see live?

I’m pretty fortunate that I get to play gigs and I go out to see smaller gigs and local bands a bit. That’s my main source of listening. I really can’t remember the last band I went specifically to see. Possibly Karnivool or Joe Satriani. I think my last really phenomenal experience watching a band was Russian Circles, who TToL toured with last April. Mind blowingly good despite horrendous technical issues and incredibly humble and friendly human beings.

Talk me through your ultimate live music experience…

Seeing Jojo Mayer and Nerve play live would be awesome, however I think I’d prefer to be playing live myself as I love it. Playing a stadium would be a vibe. I’d be interested in trying that just to see how that feels. I’d also really like to be invited to play drums for something extremely, almost impossibly hard, like Aphex Twin or Venetian Snares.

So, Ragnarøkkr is inspired by Norse mythology… who’s your favourite figure from Norse myth and why?

To be honest, except for this show, my knowledge of Norse mythology is pretty limited. So I’d have to say my character, Fenrir the wolf.

It sounds like an amazing show. What drew you to it and how are you finding being a part of it?

Libby (Klysz, Artistic Director and Producer) contacted me via email, she was after a “Shithot female-identifying drummer” and I guess my name came up (laughs), which is nice. It seemed like it would be an interesting new creative venture and a chance to try something different and meet some new people, as I’m still pretty new to Perth. It’s been great fun. It is very collaborative and I like how different it is to my experiences writing in bands. When you’re writing for a show there are a lot of different things to consider. How does this music communicate the themes and content of the show? It’s also very open and feedback-driven, we’ve had a couple of viewings with select specialists along the way so that we could get constructive criticism and revise the show, which really helped our direction and is also something that doesn’t really happen in bands.

Ragnarøkkr seems like a very unique show. Have you ever worked on something like this before? What’s different about this show?

I have played percussion and drum set in a number of productions, but what is interesting about this show is that we have composed all the music, whereas for most shows the music is already written and you’re just sight-reading and watching the conductor. It’s been a unique theatre experience and quite insightful to see all the challenges involved with composing the music for a show.

What messages are you hoping people will get out of Ragnarøkkr?

I think the story of Ragnarok is timely and relevant given what is happening in the world at the moment. Climate change and the bushfires over East, Trump’s impeachment, Soleimani’s assassination and the situation in Iran, Scomo’s inability to lead a country in a time of crisis… I feel like there is a lot of ill-feeling at the moment and worry about what the future holds for all of us, for the direction of humanity. I’m hoping that the parting message of Ragnarøkkr is one of hope, rebirth, and humanity ultimately prevailing over evil.

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