Tim Foiler: the inspiration, the darkness and the purpose
Updated: Aug 18, 2018
Tim Foiler is a multi-instrumentalist and the lead vocalist/guitarist from the Darwin-based ‘Swamp Rock’ band ‘Gored Matadors’. I first saw them play live a couple of years back and was automatically drawn to the grittiness of the band and the gravel in the vocals. Grimy. It was like being transported to a place far away at a time long ago. Tim doesn't like to talk about his musical accomplishments but I can refer you to Gored Matadors' debut release, which is bad-fricken-ass. So where does all this music come from and how does it maketh the man? Tim Foiler of Gored Matadors speaks to BEAT CONTEXT.
'...I was always Drawn to music...’
I was always drawn to music, I begged my parents for piano lessons as a young child (never got them), would obsessively listen to my parents records (dreadful), make up songs on the piano at the hotel where they worked much to their annoyance. Both my brother and I are heavily involved in musical projects albeit very differing worlds (he's involved in opera).
I got my first guitar when I was 12 years old. I bought it off some kid at school. At that age I was still working out who I was musically and the guitar steered me closer towards guitar based music rather than the pop stuff I was listening to. A friend gave me a tape with a Carter USM and Neds Atomic Dustbin album on each side. That really opened me up to music from beyond the charts. I would have only been 11 or 12 but it sealed my fate.
‘...it’s not about how good you are
its about what it feels like.
I still carry that with me even now...’
(On discovering Nirvana): I liked their anti-rockstar, anti-musicianship punk rock attitude. Prior to that I'd associated punk with the Sex Pistols, it was all about being scary and confrontational. These guys used it in a much more subversive manner, especially through the anti-musicianship thing. That's stayed with me. No solo's, keep things simple, it's not about how good you are its about what it feels like. I still carry that with me even now. It's like an unwritten code of mine.
I also spent a long time in the dance music world in the UK, in particular the free party (Illegal rave) scene. While a lot of people may struggle to see how that influences my music it's very obvious to me. Repetition in particular is a huge part of what we do. I've got a riff and I'm going to bludgeon you around the head with it. That and ensuring you can dance to it.
‘...some of my earliest happy memories are music-related,
listening to my parents records, just putting anything I could on,
watching the records spinning, looking at the art work...’
I can't recall a moment where I decided I was going to be a musician, I just always was going to be. As a kid I sang a lot, then got embarrassed about liking it and stopped. But like most people who make music, there's just a drive in you to create. I get the sads if I'm not doing anything. Some of my earliest happy memories are music-related, listening to my parents records, just putting anything I could on, watching the records spinning, looking at the art work.
The eternal search for music and inspiration
’...like being shot into space then slowly floating back to earth a changed man’.
(Artistically I am inspired by) Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine and Nick McCabe from the Verve. Both true sonic artists. The Verve's first album ‘A Storm in Heaven’ is a psychedelic masterpiece. It was Nick's album, his guitar work on that is just beautiful. It's like being shot into space then slowly floating back to earth a changed man. Kevin Shields plays guitar like no one else, words can't even begin to describe what he does to his instrument. The first time I heard ‘Soon’ by My Bloody Valentine the whole world stood still, I was just "what the fuck is this??" I've heard someone describe their album Loveless as the Sistine Chapel of contemporary rock. I like that analogy. These guys prompted me to explore the guitar in an unusual way. You know, lots of effects, soundscapes, drones, loops etc, very psychedelic.
(Photo by Steve Kelk, Foldback Magazine)
‘...I felt like an explorer,
following music back to its roots...’
At some point after moving to Australia I just threw it all out the window, picked up my acoustic guitar and taught myself finger picking. First finger picking song I learned was From the Morning by Nick Drake. I had to lock myself away and learn the right hand method... I felt like an explorer, following music back to its roots, back through the blues of Skip James to the to the Folk music of America at the beginning of the last century. I loved everything about this stuff, the hiss of the primitive recording equipment, how visual it was (as in when you close you eyes it conjurers up images). I learned to play a lot of old American folk and blues songs on the acoustic guitar. They usually used alternate tunings, and thus the love affair began. For the Matadors the Blues of Jr Kimbrough really hit hard when we heard it. It was so punk rock- so "don't give a fuck". He wasn't a guitar maestro, it sounds like he could barely tune his guitar, but it felt so raw and honest, and that repetitive riffing he does, that's the Matadors all over.
The one thing that doesn't change for me is the eternal search for music that I connect with on a deep level. You know those albums that are like friends- you maybe only have 10 in a life time. I'm always waiting for the next one to come along. The last one was Brightblack Morning Light by Brightblack Morning Light. The album makes me feel high when I listen to it. I'm blown away by how music can do that. I would have heard that first about 10 years ago. It's been a regular on my stereo ever since.
The Gored Matadors
...it's all about the darker side of life...’
For the Matadors we try to create what we call "bangers", just songs that kick as much arse as possible...I have managed to create a style of lyric writing that I feel comfortable with for the Matadors. It's all about the darker side of life, lots of references to the scum on the sole of your feet, of filth, of dark alleys and bad people. It's all out there and seedy and adds to the vibe of the song. The words are just a vehicle for my voice and shouldn't be read into too much. I purposely keep my lyrics ambiguous as I find it makes people think, it also doesn't alienate anyone. It's only after I finish writing though I sit there and work out what the song is about.
‘...inspired by Darwin, albeit an alternative Darwin I've created in my head,
a Darwin in Technicolour...’
The Gored Matadors output is inspired by Darwin, albeit an alternative Darwin I've created in my head, a Darwin in Technicolour if you will. Imagined events based on real ones, people I've worked with, friends of friends, rumors etc. The Matadors feel like it has a bit of a reputation now, a bit dirty, a bit dangerous. That gives me all the fuel i need to write more and certainly influences what can be used for Matadors songs. I now have a very clear sound in my head as to what a Matadors song should be like.
Allan the drummer in the (Gored) Matadors is a big influence on me. He's quite simply the best drummer I've ever played with. He's a big part of our sound, he's what gets people dancing, he's what separates us, his playing is so original. I get really excited about what he's going to do with a new idea I have. I write guitar parts for him a lot of the time. Another influence would be my old friend Tom Watts. He showed me how to attack a guitar in a much more creative way that just playing standard chords. You know, just throw shapes and see what sounds good.
‘...for me the voice is what takes me to "Scum Town”...'
I found my voice when me and Al formed the Matadors, it was one of a catalysts that pushed the project beyond a jam. Prior to that I'd basically been a guitarist only. I had aspirations of singing and certainly did so in the privacy of my own home, but my voice just wasn't very good. When we first got together for a jam we had a few songs pre-learned so we wouldn't stand around looking at each other wondering what to play. They were Sad Days and Lonely Nights by Jr Kimbrough and Hard Row by Black Keys. I was trying to sing Hard Row, like belt it out but it was just too high. I dropped down an octave and then with plenty of volume suddenly discovered I had this enormous, growling belter of a voice.
I quite literally had no idea I was capable of it, or that it even existed. I was dumbstruck. Hearing that gave me confidence to sing, something of which I'd never had before. I had previously suffered with very bad stage fright, to the extent where I have had physical symptoms such as tremors and vomiting. That all just drifted away once I found that voice in me. It feels so powerful. After our first gig most of the feedback I received addressed my voice and how surprised people were about it. I took that as a good thing and just ran with it. It certainly is unusual. It's 20 Marlboro Reds and a bottle of bourbon rather than a cup of boiling water with a slice of lemon in it.
For me the voice is what takes me to "Scum Town", he's sort of a narrator, but he knows the people and places he's talking about, he lives that life rather than being a casual observer. Indeed at times he's giving insight into aspects of his own life, but really he's the story teller. It's weird but I can even picture what he wears, that image has always been very clear in my mind since the beginning of the Matadors.
‘...I want things to feel dangerous and seedy,
like a closed door in a dark alley’.
For the Matadors I want things to feel dangerous and seedy, like a closed door in a dark alley. If I can get that vibe or something near it, as in somewhere in that town I made up then it stays. I've created a sort of alternate universe where the characters of the songs I write live. Even I have an alter ego within that world. It's Darwin of course, just a different version of it, sort of like 'Scum Town' from 'Hobo With A Shotgun'. I have thought about creating a map pointing out where all the places and people are but I don't think anyone beyond the band would truly be interested.
When we perform live I go somewhere else completely. I believe we have somewhat of a reputation as a decent band to go see live. I'm aware that Phil and Rod tend to give me as much physical space as possible as I tend to trash around a lot. I rarely remember much of our performances. I'm usually just left with a feeling of how it went. My eyes tend to just roll back in my head and I just get lost in it all. Playing live is the best feeling I've ever had, better than any drug or coupling.
IDENTITY AND PURPOSE
'...music is part of me...’
Music is a part of me. Most people know me as a musician these days, you know, like people always ask what you do for a living, I would never say musician as it's not how I make my living but it'll come up pretty quickly if someone talks to me. I've made my peace with music now and am happy doing what I do. The Matadors is such a positive thing in my life, its almost like it gives me a purpose. And it's something that's mine, I do it for me. It makes slogging my guts out at work constantly bearable and allows me to focus on something for myself. I feel bad for people who don't have that. I'm sure nothing much will come of it but we have so much fun doing what we do why would we ever stop trying.
Music has always been an important part of my life. If I think about it, I believe it offers us identity. As a young teenager listening to Nirvana, growing my hair long, wearing flannel shirts and so on. It gave me an identity and also let other people know who I was. It also allows me a creative output. During my 20's after finishing art school I quit visual art and moved onto music full time as it were. At that point I was making stark glitchy electronic stuff which mirrored the dance music I was listening to and parties I was attending at the time. Again it was an identity thing. Living and partying in squats around London, that whole scene, the underclass, we didn't officially exist really, real fringe dwellers, outsiders, that's a feeling I've carried with me throughout my life. Then on to Australia where everything felt much more earthy than the UK, my listening tastes changed once again, started listening to acoustic stuff a lot more. My listening tastes begat my creative output and I'm a product of my environment.
‘...it's nice being known as
"the guy from that band”....’
I'd been living in Darwin for 2 years and knew very few people when the Matadors did their first gig. After that first gig my social circle up here increased dramatically and has continued to do so since. Being in this band has given my a new identity and it's a pretty cool one. It's nice being known as "the guy from that band". For me I've reached my nirvana. It's all bonuses from here on in.
There’s also an element of vilification going on in my head about it all. As in I finally got what I wanted and it's really good. A bit of a two-fingered salute to the neigh sayers I've encountered over the years. This can only come from a true belief in what we're doing. I firmly believe we're a great band. Having that feeling enables me to go all out during gigs and to just keep pushing on with it.
Tim Foiler was kind enough to provide BEAT CONTEXT with this unreleased number. Enjoy.
Gored Matadors support the almighty Cosmic Psychos on June 9, 2018 at the Railway Club, Parap, Darwin.
Check Gored Matadors music HERE.
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