interview | Magic Dirt (1996) – Interview with Adalita

(check surnames, ta!)

Anyone who has ever dared to try slipping on a little Magic Dirt before bedtime has made two fatal errors: wartime test have proven that it is difficult to sleep to the screams of landing aircraft and two, ah, the old sit-bolt-upright-in-bed secret track conspiracy.

Magic Dirt’s previous two EPs, Signs Of Satanic Youth and Life Was Better, combined the best elements of these wartime atrocities, the croon, scrowl and hysterical scream of Adalita and a totally feedback-hidden pop sensibility that was best heard through industrial earmuffs. Yep, real desert flower stuff!

So who was I to argue that the advanced copy of Magic Dirt’s debut album, Friends In Danger, came on a tape which sounded like it was recorded from one mono tape deck to another?

“Aaarrgh, that would have been weird!” bellows Adalita, thoroughly excited that someone may have actually engineered this gimmick for their sprawling new noise masterpiece, Friends In Danger. With feedback arias which truly sound like opera soloists, driving rhythms which put other rhythm sections to shame and forever the anguish of Adalita’s violent guitar and voice bursts, Magic Dirt’s graduation to the long player is glorious stripped-back guitar sonics for the garage punk in all of us and totally suited to my dodgy cassette dub.

“We pulled some really bizarre sounds out of our studio,” Adalita confirms, it wasn’t just me. “I think there were some other forces at work while we were recording it. It’s just, ah, pretty unnerving in places. All the songs seem to be linked by this invisible thread, a dark feeling which I am very pleased with.”

It was their almost radio-friendly song Ice, from their 1994 EP Life Was Better, which saw Magic Dirt last come to the attention of anyone interested in Geelong noise and general feedback experimentation. Life Was Better subsequently floated around in the indie charts for most of 1995, their tour here a while back teaming them up with the equally sonic-craftsmenlike Verona.

“God, I’m sick of hearing Ice (laughs). It’s definitely the strangest song I’ve ever written, all those vocal effects, I still find it very weird. It took us all pretty much by surprise – a song that still baffles me and yet somehow got all this airplay and became this hit single thing.

“But we’re not hunting for singles for this album, basically because it would defeat the purpose of making the album this one collective noise flow. There’s a couple of sorta poppy songs on Friends, like Sparrow and Heavy Business,” she somewhat gags, “which are kind of light. But yeah, it’s definitely noisy.”

Magic Dirt thundered out of the Geelong scene in what seems an age ago, a scene which continues to uncover a swell of angry punk bands. “It’s definitely its own cocoon,” Adalita said. “There is a lot of attitude in Geelong, a lot of unemployment, a lot of depression. When you play at the only place in town it toughens you up a bit because you will get paid out on, whatever you do. You know, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

What they have done is tour most of Australia on the backs of two EPs, with Friends In Danger taking them, for the past year, into the studio under the production paws of Paul McKercher, fellow producer of their current tour buddies Tumbleweed. Just coming off an East Coast fling with The Archers Of Loaf, what are we to expect of the 1996 version of Magic Dirt in Perth?

“Just bring your ear plugs and get off your head, then just watch,” Adalita laughs again crazily, her manic chuckle adding another frightening edge to my late night listenings of Friends In Danger.