BUMBLEBEEZ 81'S CHRIS COLONNA
Interview by Wayne Chinsang
Photograph by Pieter M. Van Hattem

ARTIST AND MUSICIAN CHRIS COLONNA OF BUMBLEBEEZ 81 GREW UP IN AUSTRALIA. BUT AFTER SPENDING EIGHT MONTHS IN NEW YORK, HE WENT BACK TO AUSTRALIA, LOCKED HIMSELF IN HIS BEDROOM FOR TWO WEEKS, AND CREATED ON HIS COMPUTER WHAT IS NOW KNOWN AS HIS DEBUT FULL-LENGTH ALBUM, THE PRINTZ. NOW IF HE COULD JUST FIGURE OUT HOW IN THE FUCK AN ALBUM CREATED ON A COMPUTER IS GOING TO TRANSLATE TO A TOUR. MAYBE SOME BRAINSTORMING WITH WAYNE CHINSANG WILL STIR UP SOME IDEAS.

Wayne Chinsang: Hey, howís it going?

Chris Colonna: Alright. How you doing?

WC: Good. So, congratulations on the new album, The Printz. It came out in stores today, right?

CC: Everybody Iíve talked to today is like, ďYour albumís coming out,Ē but I didnít even know that shit.

WC: (laughs) Well, now that you do know, are you excited about it?

CC: I actually am kind of excited about it now that everyone else is.

WC: (laughs) Yeah, well, you guys must be doing something right. I went to your website today and it was down because it had exceeded the bandwidth.

CC: Yeah. It fucking pissed me off.

WC: (laughs) I understand that. So, I wanted to start off by asking you how the idea came along for Bumblebeez 81. I know that you started creating music in your house on a computer, but how did the concept for the band come about?

CC: Well, I guess it started when I was around five years old, because thatís when I first started making music; banging on the drums or whatever. I was always just making little bits of songs, or recording my sister [Pia, the MC in Bumblebeez 81], myself, or my friends just hanging out. And then it just kept on going through three years of art school. I would hang prints of my work, and Iíd create music to play along with the work at the same time. And then I went to New York for eight months, and it sort of just clicked, I suppose, with what I was going to do with my art and my music together. And then I went back to Australia and locked myself in my bedroom for about two weeks, and I just spat out all these songs. So it was a lot of years of work before, and then it sort of got put into... even though itís quite crazy and fucked-up, it got put into the category of being a band. I put six songs together and just sent them out, just as a way to be able to capture it. And then it just took off from there.

WC: Howíd the name get decided on?

CC: We were originally just called Bumblebees, but there is an Irish band out there with the same name. I had to chuck a number on the end, so I chucked on ď81Ē, which is the year I was born.

WC: So, I really love the sound, and I really love that it doesnít sound like anything else out there. But if someone were to ask you what it sounded like, how would you describe it to them?

CC: (pauses) Well... if I had to describe it, Iíd say itís like Walt Disney on crack.

Both: (laugh)

CC: Ah, fuck. I donít know, really. How would I describe it? (pauses) I honestly donít know. Itís heavily influenced by everything from NWA and shit like that, to Nirvana and Little Egypt. And then it also has a big influence from me being into, not necessarily raves, but from being into things like The Chemical Brothers, Aphex Twin, and shit like that.

WC: So how would you describe the Australian music scene? Obviously, you went to New York for a few months, but then you went back to Australia to actually create the work. Is it hard to break into music in Australia?

CC: Um... yeah, it is harder. People from Australia are a lot more tough, I suppose. But I was kind of detached from it. Iím from a town of a thousand people, and we lived on a big rural farm. So Iíve never really been a part of any other bands before. Iíve always just done my own thing. And the funny thing about Australia is that itís always almost a year behind. Like, the New York sound is sort of over here [in America], but if you go to Australia now there are all these new bands coming up that sound like that; sort of new wave, Eighties, disco stuff, you know what I mean?

WC: Yeah.

CC: Itís just like the fashion industry, as well. Whatever kids were wearing in New York a year ago, people are wearing it now in Australia.

WC: When were you in New York?

CC: It was in January of 2002.

WC: Had you been to New York before then?

CC: No. I went to New York because I thought, ďFuck. I better go to New York so I can get my paintings in a gallery or something like that.Ē

WC: Right. So, I know youíre very influenced by graffiti and the work of artists, like Jean-Michel Basquiat.

CC: Right.

WC: Do you approach making music the same way you approach making art? Is it the same mentality?

CC: Yeah. Itís exactly the same for me. When I pick up a pen, I never know what Iím going to draw. And when I sit down to make music, I never know what Iím going to make. I suppose you have your Bob Dylans and other songwriters who figure out their songs, they write them, and then go to a studio to record. But all of my songs are basically made on the spot. I just start with a sound or a word in my head. I actually donít know any notes on the guitar or keyboard or any shit like that. I never even learned to read music.

WC: I know that you and your sister are both a part of the band, and youíre obviously both creative people. Were you both raised in a creative environment?

CC: Ah... my father is a typical Italian; he is very strong and... fucking crazy. (laughs) And my mother is a typical Australian; very laid-back. And they just always let us do whatever we wanted to do. In some ways it was cool, because we didnít have any discipline; total freedom. But in other ways it was bad because we sort of needed a bit of discipline. But in the art world, having no boundaries is having total freedom. You do whatever you want to do. So thatís why I went to art school, because I was getting in trouble.

WC: I read in your press release that you and your sister never really hung out before, and now this is all happening.

CC: (laughs)

WC: Now that itís all taking off and getting bigger and bigger, has there been a time during any of it where youíve stopped and thought, ďFuck, man. What have I done?Ē

CC: Yeah, totally. I had created these songs, and then Pia just kept making up these funny raps and shit. I like the more basic rock songs, while Pia likes more of the rap songs. And then we joined this competition that came up, and we won. So we kind of got pushed together.

WC: And now youíre stuck with her.

CC: And now Iím stuck with her. In some ways, itís a blessing. In other ways, itís like I have to walk through hell and shit.

WC: (laughs)

CC: We had never hung out, and Iím sure it got annoying, because Iíd shag all her friends when she brought them over.

WC: (laughs)

CC: (laughs) Thatís what she was good for. We came to New York about a month ago because we were doing all this press, and it was quite intense because it was for MTV and all that type of shit. And it was all just really weird then. But now everything is alright. Now we just both shut up and donít say anything to each other, so itís cool.

WC: Well, either it will make you guys stronger and closer, or youíll never talk to each other ever again.

CC: (laughs) Yeah.

WC: So, if you piece all of the music together on your computer, how is that going to translate on tour?

CC: Thatís always been a tough one for us, because we never meant to tour. From day one, I was like, ďFuck. How am I going to do this?Ē There were a few options. But in the end, I just got my friends involved to help recreate the songs with instruments. The good thing about the live show is that itís really fucking crazy and punky, with people jumping everywhere. So itís sort of a different aspect of the Bumblebeez, which is a good thing, you know what I mean?

WC: Yeah.

CC: Touring has been really good. We just did a tour with Radiohead, which was fucking amazing to watch. And then we did a few shows after that, which was really cool, as well.

WC: I know that youíre also really interested in mixing and remixing other peopleís work. I read that you used to take tapes and cut them up to add to or subtract from songs.

CC: Yeah.

WC: Since itís something youíre interested in doing, and since you can now use Bumblebeez as a vehicle to get more work, who would you like to work with on a production level?

CC: Um... a shitload of people. Iíd like to do something with Kelis. I think that would be really cool. And then there are some people that no one has probably even ever heard of. Some world people or blues people or some people from... China. I just want to help in making something cool.