Bzark grew out of chance meeting of two Victorian College of the Arts students and a drumming reprobate, who somehow managed a sense of camaraderie long enough to stop feuding over their direction, which ultimately was about rock. Actually make that capital ROCK rock. Big pulsing sounds, squalling cello (I mean cello, really?), maniacal guitar, and a thumping beat.
I can’t recall exactly how it happened, but I suspect someone gave me their unreleased ‘Eternity in an Hour’ album, and despite me thinking I shouldn’t really rate it, I couldn’t stop listening. I remember seeing the band for the first time and Fergus Hunt (guitar, vocals) sat down for virtually the entire show, but then moved like the guitar was trying to burst out his chest like Alien. Gareth Skinner (cello, bass, vocals) was an angular mop of hair stalking the stage with purposeful menace. And Tarek Smallman (drummer, vocals) attacked his kit with a teenage fervour to not only drive the sound, but crush it. I suspected a passing acquaintance with heavy 70s progrock, but also a varied pedigree of influences from such a varied bunch of musicians.
As Tarek recalled to me years later, I apparently took them to lunch, told them it wouldn’t sell, but would release the album anyways. I was kinda right, partly because my label was through BMG (a long dead ‘major’) and their take of extended rock jams that ran for over 7 minutes was both horror and disdain. Nonetheless with negligible budgets, we eked out a release for ‘Eternity in an Hour’ (1996), made a video for Superfluous (Gareth sings the main vocal), and the band toured and wrote new material.
The second album ‘The Welcome Storm’ (1998) I remember we recorded maybe at Sing Sing and I basically left the band to their own devices (it’s the wind them up and let them go form of A&R). Not that you could tell them anything anyways. The result was a glorious explosion that expanded on the delirium of Eternity, but adds in new elements. The first single “I Don’t Know How It Is” featured Fergus in mock rap over a shuffling beat and precisely plucked cello. At this stage if BMG thought I was nuts before, electing to release a single that bore little resemblance to the previous rock path, whilst featuring a singer rapping with a noticeable lisp, pretty much tipped it over the edge. Naturally the band remained oblivious though I do remember considerable screaming matches (between myself and BMG) over the paltry marketing funds apportioned the release, which naturally I refused to countenance was anything less than genius.
From there more touring, recording and if memory serves the final release was the ‘Be My Parasite’ EP wherein the band recorded 6 sub-2 minute songs (perhaps in deference to their tendency to have long ones on their albums, and most likely to prove a point, but it came out great).
The swansong wasn’t really one as such. I remember I had agreed to cover the band’s hire van on an East Coast run, and got a call from somewhere in between Melbourne and Brisbane advising me that the band had broken up due to religious differences. This was of course a new one, but apparently these things happen in the confines of band relationships.
In the years since I have released numerous records by both Tarek and Gareth, though Fergus has maintained a different course, but I always maintained a soft spot for the bZark releases, which I would return to continually. Occasionally I’d come across an odd thread of people discussing this somewhat legendary band who like Rodriguez had disappeared into obscurity. So it’s quite the thrill to be able to present the band in their original incarnation, 16 years after their last show, and to give them the send off they should have had all that time ago.
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