One of the most notorious Australian pub rock bands, the Cosmic Psychos officially began their journey together in 1985. Living by the rule of thumb that you should drink before you play a show because your friends might drink all of the beer, the Psychos gained a reputation for not caring about money so much as the free alcohol, laughs, and overseas traveling involved with being in a rock band. Over the course of seven full-length albums, one best-of collection, one EP, 11 singles, and more than… Show more five compilation appearances, the group has sang with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, befriended Mudhoney, and supplied beer to Silverchair at Australia's Big Day Out festival. Bassist Ross Knight was playing in a high school punk band in the late '70s, called Rancid Spam, in Victoria, Australia, located two hours north of Melbourne. In the meantime, guitarist Peter Jones and drummer Bill Walsh were performing together in the Melbourne group Spring Plains with a bassist and vocalist. After the bass player left in 1982, Walsh and Jones asked their friend Knight for his assistance. Knight and the singer from Rancid Spam had relocated to Melbourne in the early '80s. When they arrived in the city, Walsh was one of the first people who Rancid Spam's singer met at university. The singer introduced Knight to Walsh, and they became fast friends. Knight agreed to join Spring Plains on bass and by 1985, the threesome handed the original singer his walking papers. After deciding that Knight would take over vocal duties, the group changed its name to the Cosmic Psychos.
With the stripped down lineup, the band played their first gig as the Cosmic Psychos at the Stockade pub in Carlonand, Australia, with the Moodists. That same year, Cosmic Psychos recorded their debut EP, Down on the Farm, on a two-track tape machine in their practice space and released it on Australia's Mr. Spaceman Records and Europe's What Goes On label. A live version of the Down on the Farm track "Custom Credit" appeared on a compilation album distributed by European publication Howl! Magazine the following year. Two years would pass before the Cosmic Psychos would release their first full-length, Cosmic Psychos. Mr. Spaceman released the vinyl version, while Australian label Shagpile had the CD counterpart distributed through Shock Records. A 7" record featuring the song "Lead Me Astray" from the self-titled debut coincided with the full-length release. Lemon Fanzine number 15 featured the band's song "David Lee Roth" on a compilation given away with the zine that same year. By 1989, Cosmic Psychos saw their second full-length album, Go the Hack, released in the United States on Sub-Pop Records. Prior to Go the Hack, Americans could only purchase Cosmic Psychos' albums as imports. The album saw its Australian release on Survival Records. The band followed Go the Hack with their first live album, Slave to the Crave, in 1990, which acted as a showcase of material from their first EP and two full-length records. Slave to the Crave was taken from a June 1989 performance at Melbourne venue the Palace.
As 1990 set in, Jones vacated the guitar spot. Ross and Walsh asked their friend and self-taught guitarist, Robbie Watts, to join the fold. Watts said yes and the Cosmic Psychos ventured to Wisconsin to record their third full-length release, Blokes You Can Trust, at producer Butch Vig's Smart Studios. Originally, the band was going to produce the album themselves, with Vig only coming in at the end to mix the final product. However, the dichotomy between Vig and the group was so strong that Vig wound up producing as well. The end result was what Knight called one of their most enjoyable recordings. Blokes You Can Trust was the first record of the band's Amphetamine Reptile contract. The American-based label was owned by Tom Hazelmeyer, whom the band had met while they were in Europe. Hazelmeyer was a drinking buddy of the band, so they figured his label would be the best to release their material stateside, as well as in Europe. Blokes You Can Trust was finally released in 1991, followed by Amphetamine Reptile's combined re-release of Cosmic Psychos' Down on the Farm EP and Cosmic Psychos LP. The Blokes You Can Trust track "Dead Roo" was released as a single in Australia on the Survival imprint and contained the B-side "Can't Come In" from their debut album. The group conducted a European tour on which they developed an unusual trademark. After a show in Potsdam, Germany, and after seeing many other rock bands take bows after performances, the Cosmic Psychos decided to alter the tradition by pulling down their pants and mooning the unsuspecting audience. The release of the "Dead Roo" single was followed by the Back to School CD on Survival in 1992, which contained a cut from the Cosmic Psychos and Blokes You Can Trust albums, as well as a cover of L7's "Shove." The latter track was a nod to the Seattle girl band, who'd covered a Cosmic Psychos' song on a 7" EP. Amphetamine Reptile also had the band contribute a track to its Dope, Guns 'n' F~~king in the Streets compilation. 1993 witnessed a rough spot in the Cosmic Psychos' recording career as they released their fifth full-length CD, Palomino Pizza. The disc featured three cover songs of old Australian pub classics from the likes of Billy Thorpe & the Aztechs, Buffalo, and Guitar Overdose. The band criticized themselves because they felt that the CD was a half-hearted effort on their part, but they toured in support of the disc nonetheless. They played shows in the United States with indie superstars Superchunk and loud rock band the Onyas. Later that year, Cosmic Psychos recorded a split 7" with the band Vertigo. The record, released on Hippy Knight, was a tribute to noise rock group Halo of Flies and featured the Cosmic Psychos playing their own rendition of "Garbage Rock." Throughout 1994, Knight spent time on his farm in Australia recording various song ideas. By the end of that year, he had amassed 40 riffs on one cassette. The Cosmic Psychos rummaged through the material and came up with what critics considered their strongest album to date. Shock Records paid the band to record the new album, titled Self Totalled, and the group spent one thousand dollars on liquor to get them through the week-long session. Self Totalled finally saw the light of day in 1995. The record was released on Shagpile and distributed through Shock in Australia, while Amphetamine Reptile handled the U.S. and European releases and distribution. A 7" followed the release and featured two tracks from Self Totalled and one unreleased cut. The single was released in the United States on City Slang and in Australia on Shagpile. The band played a number of gigs in America and ended their tour in Australia. During this brief excursion, the band was asked to open for Pearl Jam in Sydney. The Cosmic Psychos came by recommendation of Mudhoney's Matt Lukin, who suggested to Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder that he look the Psychos up when they got there. The audience of 37,000 wound up booing the Psychos' 45-minute set, and the band responded with their bare-bottomed thanks. The Psychos rounded out their Self Totalled tour by playing at Australia's Big Day Out festival, which featured the Screaming Trees, Hole, Silverchair, Primal Scream, Luscious Jackson, the Offspring, and Ministry. Later in the year, the magazine Carbon 14 distributed a compilation featuring an extreme heavy metal song called "B.I.T." from the Cosmic Psychos. The track was previously unavailable on any of the Psychos' albums. At the beginning of 1996, Shagpile released a 7" record featuring the Self Totalled track "Whip Me" along with unplugged renditions of Down on the Farm's "Crazy Woman" and Go the Hack's "Lost Cause." The CD version of the 7" featured the "Whip Me" single, "Crazy Woman," and "Lost Cause," as well as two other unplugged songs.
Prior to the releases, the band had never picked up acoustic instruments to record any of its material. Growing tired of the MTV Unplugged shows at the time, the band figured they'd release their own version poking fun at the program's popularity. Along with producer Lindsay Gravina, the band recorded the tracks with a prerecorded audience at Birdland Studios. To the band's surprise, the acoustic numbers received heavy airplay on a large number of Australia's radio stations. A condensed version of the unplugged session was released in the United States on Man's Ruin Records. Obsessed with Australian meat pies, the Cosmic Psychos finished their seventh full-length album at the start of 1997 and gave into their fascination by titling the record Oh What a Lovely Pie. Before the actual release, Shagpile began sending out a three-song promotional copy. The full-length version came out that summer on Amphetamine Reptile in the United States and Europe. It contained ten songs dealing with everything from dominatrix girlfriends to serial killers. The release was followed by a 24-date tour of Europe with the Melvins. Following the jaunt, the two bands decided to record a split 7" for Gearhead Records. The 1998 release featured the Cosmic Psychos cover of the Sweet's "Some Girls." Gearhead also included the song on their Runnin' on Fumes: The Gearhead Magazine Singles compilation. Throughout 1998, the Cosmic Psychos continued to tour in support of Oh What a Lovely Pie. Their Australian and European shows included supporting act the Onyas. The Cosmic Psychos then darted over to the United States, where they gigged with Gaunt, Mudhoney, and Nashville Pussy. After a three-month break back in Australia, the Cosmic Psychos returned to the United States in July of 1999. The band teamed up with their old friends the Melvins to promote their split 7". By the end of the year, work also began on a Cosmic Psychos' retrospective LP culling tracks from their last 15 years together. As the year 2000 reared its head, the Cosmic Psychos released 15 Years -- A Million Beers with the help of Dropkick Records. The band had been kicking the idea around for five years. The double album included rare outtakes, B-sides, and material from their previous records. A European tour with supporting act the Mobile Homos was scheduled to celebrate the Cosmic Psychos' anniversary. Although he was still a member of the band, Watts decided to sit the tour out. Knight and Walsh hired the Raunch Hands' guitarist Mike Mariconda to play the gigs. ~ Stephen Howell, Rovi
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