TISM (an acronym of This Is Serious Mum) is a seven piece anonymous alternative rock band from Melbourne, Australia. The group was formed in 1982 and enjoyed a large underground/independent following. Their third album Machiavelli and the Four Seasons reached the Australian national top 10 in 1995. TISM is known for its hybrid of dance music and rock'n'roll, high-energy live shows and humorous lyrics. TISM's songs frequently satirise modern culture, celebrities and the entertainment industry, classic literature and art, current affairs, politics and sport. The titles of their songs are often wordplays created by juxtaposing pop culture references and/or more intellectually highbrow identities.
By 1985 the band was playing regularly around Melbourne and soon released their début single, Defecate On My Face (1986), a 7" vinyl packaged in a 12" sleeve with all four sides glued shut. Their next single, 40 Years - Then Death (1987), was released on transparent vinyl in a clear plastic sleeve with no cover art or labels. TISM's first radio-friendly single, despite the obscure packaging, is received well.
The début album, Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance (1988), is a double vinyl release in an embossed gatefold sleeve. The first record contained twelve of TISM's most popular tracks; the second was a pastiche of interviews, bedroom recordings and live diatribes. Despite this odd combination, Truckin' Songs entered the lower reaches of Australia's mainstream Top 50, as did the single Saturday Night Palsy.
Phonogram Records signed the band in 1989 and paired with producer Lawrence Maddy, began work on their follow-up album. The band soon lost interest and channelled its remaining funds into The TISM Guide To Little Aesthetics, a book compiling lyrics, interviews and press releases. When Phonogram released Hot Dogma (1990) it failed to reach the commercial charts, and TISM were fired despite owing the label tens of thousands of dollars.
Over two nights in May, 1991, the band were filmed live and released the video Incontinent in Ten Continents (1991). These performances were the last for guitarist Leek Van Vlalen.
In mid-1991, independent record label Shock Records signed TISM and re-issued Great Truckin' Songs of the Renaissance, as well as the EP Gentlemen, Start Your Egos (1991), a compilation of tracks previously unavailable on CD. TISM, with producer Tony Cohen, then released the EP Beasts of Suburban (1992). A new guitarist 'Tony Coitus', later 'Tokin' Blackman', joined the group onstage for the first time on 23 January 1992.
The next EP, Australia The Lucky Cunt (1993) was TISM's most controversial release to date. Courts issued an injunction order of the CD when the Ken Done Society threatened legal action over the artwork, which parodied Done's signature style and depicted a koala sucking a syringe. The matter was settled for an undisclosed amount of money "fairly close to the amount that Radiohead spends on buying friends" and was re-released with new artwork as Censored Due To Legal Advice.
TISM's biggest success was the 1995 album Machiavelli and the Four Seasons. The release was a shift from alternative-rock to synth-driven techno and dance which retained vocal melodies and loud guitars. The album was certified Gold and won an ARIA Award for Best Independent Release. Three of its singles reached Triple J's Hottest 100, two of them in the top 10.
Success exposed TISM to mainstream Australian radio and television, most of which was perplexed by the band's guerrilla approach to interviews and disinterest in the music industry. A box set of early albums was released and steady record sales allowed extensive tours of Australia and New Zealand. In 1996 TISM toured on the Big Day Out, during which Ron Hitler-Barassi was either absent or wheelchair-bound due to a detached retina caused by a stage dive prior to the tour. Later the same year, TISM toured England – the group's sole Northern Hemisphere excursion.
Taking a year off from touring, TISM spent 1997 working on its next album with producer Lachlan Magoo. The album, www.tism.wanker.com (1998) was announced via a series of live Internet chats and webcasts. The first official music video for the album, I Might Be A Cunt, But I'm Not A Fucking Cunt, parodied the Mimi Macpherson sex tape and was rarely broadcast. Australian RSL head Bruce Ruxton wrote a letter of complaint to Shock Records describing it as "...Dropping [Australia's standards] through the floor into the proverbial sewer. The letter was published on TISM's website at the time.
www.tism.wanker.com sold reasonably well, thanks in part to an extensive Australian tour with Regurgitator, then at the height of their popularity, and The Fauves; however, sales were low compared to Machiavelli and the Four Seasons's success and TISM's contract with Shock had ended.
Finding itself with no record label again, TISM returned to touring. In late 2003, a special one-off concert was filmed and released on DVD as The White Albun (2004) by Madman Entertainment. A documentary and full length album were also included, making it a 3-disc set which received good reviews, however, the release was not eligible for ARIA chart tracking. The concert DVD is presented as a telethon at which TISM breaks up. Ironically, TISM performed after that concert in order to promote the set.
TISM's most recent release is the German CD-single Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me (2005). It is TISM's first non-Australian release: Sony/BMG Germany expressed interest when the song's animated clip was an Internet hit thanks to bloggers and sites such as YouTube. The single reached the German commercial charts.
On 4 October 2006 Flaubert spoke to Jay and the Doctor on Triple J radio. Although the downloads section for the Jay and the Doctor radio show said "TISM are NOT playing the 2007 BDO", in the interview itself, Flaubert did not clearly state whether the rumour was true or false, choosing instead to skirt the issue almost entirely except to say, "Who gives a shit about that?" and a lengthy rant about terrorist threats and Osama bin Laden being a Thin Lizzy fan. In mid December, 2006, the final list of acts for the 2007 Big Day Out were announced. TISM was not among them.
Flaubert also remarked in the Triple J interview, when asked about the current status of TISM, "we are slowly moving towards our deaths".
In early December, 2006 Flaubert contributed to the ABC's "My Favourite Album" program, where he stated his favourite album as "Any album – as long as it's by Nickelback! Later the same month, TISM were inducted into the EG Hall of Fame, at which they made an appearance and "a hilariously irreverent speech".
No original TISM material has been released since 2004's The White Albun. In early 2007, a Melbourne country and western band called ROOT! appeared on MySpace, with Humphrey B. Flaubert (now called DC Root) on vocals.
On 29 April 2008, it was confirmed that guitarist James Paull, otherwise known as Tokin' Blackman, had died after a battle with cancer.
St. Peenis played saxophone on earlier recordings. Cheese plays guitar on various recordings and live shows. Blackman arranged orchestral sections on The White Albun (2004). Flaubert programs rhythms and samples, and has occasionally played acoustic drumkits live.
Who TISM are beneath the masks has been the cause of much speculation by fans, with one theory contending that TISM is composed of members of other bands who don't want their fans to find out: popular targets of this theory include Painters and Dockers, Machine Gun Fellatio and even The Wiggles. A theory based on the band's tour schedule's roughly coinciding with school holidays proposes that TISM are school teachers. Another common theory, based on the high instance of football references in their lyrics, is that they are AFL players, however Humphrey B. Flaubert has stated that "We're actually not AFL, we're more violent and crappy... so you're looking at the VFL there.
When asked why they wear masks, Flaubert replied: However, when TISM performed on John Safran's Music Jamboree in 2002 playing (He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River on instruments from Greece, their names were revealed during the credit roll which read ""(He'll Never Be An) Ol' Man River" by Damian Cowell / Peter Minack / Jack Holt / James Paull / Eugene Cester [...] Performed by TISM.
However vigilant fans would have noticed the names years' earlier. Hitler-Barassi was photographed in 1993 at opening night of Madame Butterfly which was published on April 4, 1993 revealed the member to be Peter Minack, who later released a book, Campaigning With Grant, in 2000, which was about the American Civil War. The book contains thin references to TISM. In interviews about his book, Minack revealed he was a teacher, his father fought in WWII for the Germans and that he is fanatical about the Richmond AFL football club, which explains his compound stage moniker.
TISM bassist Jock Cheese's real name, Jack Holt, can be found on a list of copyright owners on Mushroom Records circa the release of his solo album Platter (2002).
On March 28, 2007, a MySpace page opened for a Melbourne band called ROOT! which the lead singer claimed to be "the friend of the uncle of the guys in Jet. The singer, whose voice is strikingly similar to that of Humphrey B. Flaubert, uses a pseudonym, DC Root, the DC possibly an acronym of Damian Cowell, who was Flaubert in TISM. Finally, the page also lists James Paull as a "friend".
The band has been criticised as unoriginal for continually opting for standard pop song structures. One reason for this is clarified in their book, The TISM Guide To Little Aesthetics, in the following paragraphs, when asked why their ideas are post-modern but their music is not:
"Give me a pop-song, mate. Give me a fucking pop-song. Not only is it more fun, it's pretty fuckin' hard to write as well. You can bung in as many out-of-tune oboes as you want, but putting chords together so they sound pleasant isn't as simple as it might appear. It mightn't be the Sistine Chapel, but what is? Ollie fucking Olsen with his stupid feedback and cough mixture? The Jesus and Mary Chain, with their stupid feedback, and their stupid stage show with 800 powerful stupid lights and enough stupid dry ice to enhance their stupid stupidity up its own bullshit crappy teenage pretentious one dimensional dick witted puissant artistic enigma?
So ... what have you listened to for a good time that isn't, after all, a 'traditional' song? Still playing the Mike Oldfield records, huh? Still whipping Yessongs on for a good time? Wanna count on one hand how many people have fun at a Sonic Youth gig? I'm not supporting The Choirboys, old man, I'm just saying that the day some jumped up over-paid self-important post-modernist cocksucker puts his foot upon his Fairlight computer in the middle of his 47 minute opus The Silent Forgiveness Of The Pig-God and belts out the chords to Johnny B. Goode is the day I'll join you at the footlights of post-modernism.
Besides which, pop songs sell more.
As with most bands, recurring themes are present throughout TISM's extensive output, the most common being death, violence, fame and prominent figures, drugs, including alcohol, and the AFL. Many of TISM's lyrics are tinged in fatalism, mocking both the superficial and the sublime side of the human condition and the desire for people to be loved and respected (even just in the titles of such songs as "If You're Not Famous At Fourteen, You're Finished", "If You're Ugly, Forget It" and "Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me").