By ANDREW McKAYSMITH
SCOTT Mac is the vocalist and front man of Sydney hard core legends Toe To Toe. He is also the founder of the seminal punk and hardcore label Resist Records. Introduced through a mutual acquaintance, I caught up with Mac one evening after our respective work commitments had finished to discuss the arrival of the new album, Rise Up and recollections of his hometown, Sydney.
Rise Up is an album Mac is certainly proud to release under the Toe To Toe moniker. “This is the record I’ve been trying to make for a long time. I don’t know, I’m just fan. I’m really just a fan of music. I just love to hear good music and I feel pretty blessed and pretty stoked that I get to make this stuff.”
Mac roped another icon of the Sydney rock’n’roll scene, former Noiseworks bassist and Electric Hippie, Steve Balbi, to record and produce Rise Up. Talking about Balbi’s influence over the resulting album, Mac is pleased with the results. “We demoed it and he had a few ideas song wise. He was pretty stoked on what we had written. But he just layered things a bit different and he did a pretty fucking good job. He was a bit worried as he had never really worked with anyone like us. He got us though it and he knew where we were coming from. I think at the end of it he went ‘Wait a minute… that is fucking awesome’. [Laughs]
My own introduction to the band was via the revered Tao (’97), I ask if he thinks Rise Up will meet the lofty standards of that album, especially given its honorary title as the most significant hardcore release from an Australian outfit. “I think with (Tao) we made the right record for the time. Many fans bought Tao growing up and that is their view of us, however we didn’t make that record again… and that is just my whole outlook on it.”
Peppered throughout our discussion are references to Sydney’s musical icons – long gone venues and well-worn rehearsal studios. However it is his loyalty to his home district and the region’s beloved world famous rugby league side wearing cardinal and myrtle that has him sounding impassioned. “When I grew up in Alexandria my best friend was from Redfern. I am Scotch-Irish and he is Iranian-Burmese. I hadn’t seen him in 20 years until we recently caught up with each other and we were just best mates again. We were hanging out and it was like time hadn’t changed us. That is what I loved about my part of Sydney. In my neighbourhood it didn’t matter what race, colour or creed you were because we all had different backgrounds, we were all from and supported South Sydney.”
Touching on the many changes that Sydney has experienced in the past 25 years. Mac offers keen insight on what he feels is the most significant adjustment. “My whole neighbourhood gentrified but it was the best place to grow up. It was a community. You got brought up by the community. Now, no one knows each other and there are no kids playing in the street. Property prices and money have had a big impact on my neighbourhood. My family has been in that area for over a hundred years. The people I grew up with are a different kind of people – working class people. They love the back-street bar, they love a pub on every corner. My dad still lives there and I spent the best years of my life there. People don’t get how good it used to be, Sydney was out of control and I have so many great memories.”
I was lucky enough to listen to the upcoming album in full; one of the album cuts is called “Sydney”. The lyrics proudly boast the now famous Rodgers and Hammerstein ‘YNWA’ standard for mateship and sacrifice that is the fan-chant of association football clubs around the globe. So Mac is certainly keen to express a pride in Sydney!
Rise up will be available via Old School Cartel on 28th April 2017