The Melniks - Bio
The Melinks' beginnings
Sometime around 1990 a band called Toadstool was born. The band consisted of Jason Cassidy (drums/vox), John Swingle (vox/guitar), Nick Schoeffler and a guy called Porky. However, soon after the band formed Nick left and the remaining three members decided to change their name to The Melniks.
How Did The Melniks Get Their Name?
- Monty Melnik, the long time Ramones tour manager
- Melnik the Smiling Killer, from the Get Smart episode Perils in a Pet Shop
- Melnik, a town in the Czech republic renown for its rock formations
Apparently the real way the Melniks came up with their name is that one night Cass was watching TV and saw the video for the Ramones song "I Wanna Live". In one frame there was a light board at a venue saying "Ramones here tonight.... No Melniks."
Melniks Cassettes & Line Up Changes
In between playing shows around Brisbane, Cass, John and Porky managed to record and release a cassette in 1991 called I Was A Cartoon Pornstar. Shortly after the release of the cassette, Porky left the band and was replaced by a dude named Steve. However, after only a short time Steve left the band as well.
At this point, Cass and John placed an advertisement saying that the Melniks were looking for a female bass player. A young fellow by the name of Trevor Ludlow replied to the ad, auditioned for the band and landed the gig. Around this time a hyperactive young whippersnapper called James Straker also joined the band as second guitarist. James has previously been in a band called Custard Gun (an early incarnation of Custard) but had been given the boot after only a couple of shows. This lineup issued a cassette called Melniks R Uncool around 1992.
John Swingle then quit the Melniks to go overseas. However Cass, Trevor and James kept the band going - until Trevor decided to quit as well. Things weren't going well. Coming to the rescue of Cass and James was Terry Devantier, who became the band's new bassist. Shortly afterwards a young gent named Trent McNamara (vocals/guitar) was also drafted into the Melniks. Trent had previously played in the Rubber Jonnies and Cocksure. At this point the revolving Melniks line up settled down for a good three of four years, and the classic "four piece Melniks" got down to business, recording several albums and touring up and down the east coast of Australia.
In May 1993 the Melniks entered Vibrafeel Studios in Brisbane to record their first album, a low-fi gem called I know you are but what am I? The Melniks' sense of humour is evident throughout the album, not only in the lyrics, but by the fact that they included the same recording of the song Little Old Green Man as both the first and last track on the album! Hidden after the latter version is a cover of the Zit Remedy Song from the TV show Degrassi Jr High, plus some audio snippets from the show.
The Melniks' second album, Have you ever noticed that Gordon from Sesame Street looks exactly like Errol from Hot Chocolate? was recorded at Charles Stuart University in Wagga Wagga. On this album the Melniks once again included an imaginative unlisted track. It consists of 30 minutes worth of audio snippets from classic TV shows and films such as Monty Python, the Simpsons, the Young Ones and Fast Times at Ridgemount High. It's an amusing listen.
The first two Melniks CDs were self released, however the band's third album, Schmelnicks (1996) came out through Shagpile/Shock. There is a big step up in the recording and mastering quality of Schmelnicks. The band's penchant for silly unlisted tracks continued. After the album's eleven songs are complete, there is a silent track, after which the album plays over again, albeit in a slightly different order. Once the second play of the album is complete, it starts over for a third time!
Two singles were lifted from Schmelnicks - Drew Romance and the double A-side Chunky Doh / Anna. Chunky Doh was remixed for the single. The singles include some great b-sides, including a cover of the Beastie Boys' tune Sabotage.
Sometime after the release and touring for Schmelnicks, James left the band. Trent, Cass and Terry continued on as a three piece, issuing one last CD, Fairway to Seven (1997). It is decidedly less fuzzy than Schmelniks, arguably the band's best release.
Sometime after the release of Fairway to Seven the Melniks decided to call it a day. At the band's final show they gave away a tape called Behind the Tandoor to the first fifty punters through the door.
Side Projects / Related Bands
The members of The Melniks have been involved in several other musical projects, both during the "Melnik" years, and after the band broke up.
Cass and Trent were part of Cunningham, along with Greg Brady and Jeremy Marshall from early 90s Brisbane band Hugbubble. Cunningham started as a side project in 1996 and was basically an outlet for the guys to learn different instruments. Cass took up the bass, which allowed Trent to slide onto the drum stool. Greg was a bass player who played guitar for the HAMS. Greg, Cass and Trent all wrote and sang songs in Cunningham (although Greg wrote the most by a long shot). There are obvious similarities between the sounds of the Melniks and Cunningham, but overall Cunningham were more pop-oriented and their recordigns are less fuzzy. Cass recently described Cunningham as "pop revivalists" on his my space page, and elsewhere the band has been described as "Flying Nunn kinda pop." Cunningham released three EPs - Very Cunningham (1998), H*A*M*S (1999) and His n Hers (2000).
Sometime after the release of His n Hers, Trent moved away from Brisbane, and as a result he left the band. The vacant drum stool was filled by Cunningham manager Nick Naughton (Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side, Biro). The band issued one final release - a 19 track live album entitled Cunningham: Live at Rics, in 2002. It's a corker.
Whilst in Cunningham both Cass and Trent kept themselves busy with other bands. Cass joined dirty rockers the Standing 8 Counts. In 2004 the band released a split 7" with the Vegas Kings, and in 2005 they issued an album entitled Greatest Hits. Trent guests on a couple of the tracks, playing Harmonica. Cass has also been in a bunch of other bands including Western Starr, Stag, the B-Sides and People of the Earth. Around 2006 Cass moved to Norway with his wife.
Trent rebelled against the Melniks' fuzz-rock by going all country with Four Horse Town. The band released an album called A Horse By Another Name in 1999. Trent then teamed up with Tim Oxley (The Dearhunters) to form the acoustic duo Grandview. The band's bio says that they are all about "...gentle guitars and gorgeous harmonies that will make you weep and smile at the same time." Grandview released an album through Half a Cow Records in 2002 called Room 15. The CD is housed in a deluxe digipack and features some impressive artwork. Trent is currently recording a banjo album.
James and Terry Melnik went on to be part of Ramones tribute act Roshambo. Roshambo are still going, however Terry isn't in the band anymore. His time is currently consumed by Vanlustbader and Teeming With Wildlife. Vanlustbader released a self-funded CD called Power Makes Sense in Australia in 2004. The band then recorded an album with Englishman Jim Abbiss (Artic Monkeys, Placebo, The Music). UK label Nomadic Music were so impressed by the recording that they signed the band up without even seeing them play live! Nomadic helped the band relocate to the UK in 2005. Vanlustbader toured the UK extensively throughout 2005 and early 2006, and issued three singles - Here We Go Again, Communique and Rock n Roll Part III, before finally unleashing their album The People Vs Vanlustbader in April 2006. In Australia the album was released by the ABC's Fly Music label.
As well as being in Roshambo, James Straker has gone on to have a successful musical and non-musical business career. He ran a second hand collectibles shop in Brisbane called Silver Rocket (named after the Sonic Youth tune) for a few years before getting involved in the Secret Service music management team. James has managed bands such as Magic Dirt, Not From There, Violetine and Something for Kate. James has also been involved in running a record label (Depot music), producing a television pilot (TV Party), operating a Tiki Bar (The Alibi Room), working as a tour manager and running nightclubs. Furtermore, in 2006 Straker attempted to enter himself and his 1968 Holden Kingswood (complete with a BBQ built into the boot) into the Gumball Rally, which is kinda like a real life equivalent of the Cannonball Run.
What happened to the really old Melnik members? Well, after returning from overseas, John Swingle teamed back up Trevor Ludlow and Nick Naughton to form Biro. The band put out a couple of tapes called Ready To Go Steady and Hula before Trevor left to go overseas. When he returned the band reformed, with the addition of Dave McCormack's brother Dylan on guitar. Biro Mk.2 released a CD called Spare Parts for Broken Hearts. It's wonderful pop/rock stuff. Biro then broke up, however they reformed a few months later under the moniker Small Fantasy and issued a self-titled EP. The EP featured the track DSS, which came in at number 5 on ZZZ's Hot 100 of 1996 (ZZZ = Brisbane's public radio station).
John then left Small Fantasy. Trevor, Dylan and Nick soldiered on as a three piece, playing a show under the moniker Mall Fantasy (aka "Small Fantasy" without the S for Swingle). The trio then changed their name to The Lookalikes, which was a joke about how dissimilar all the band members were. The Lookalikes eventually called it quits, however Trevor, Dylan and Nick then got together for an impromptu show at Ric's where they billed themselves as Skippy. The name stuck and the trio decided to keep playing shows. At some stage Ben Corbett from Six Foot Hick started performing with Skippy at some of their gigs. Eventually this combo morphed into Gentle Ben and His Sensitive Side. The band has released two albums, The Beginning of the End (2004) and The Sober Light of Day (2005).
At some stage John and Trevor formed the B-Sides with Cass Melnik. The B-Sides didn't release any CDs, however a recording was made of the band's final show. At the show John played drums and Cass and Trevor swapped between guitar and bass.
John has been part of Treehouse and Special Branch. Special Branch released an album called Time To Go Home in late 2005. The album received a good airplay on ZZZ, where it sat atop of the most played list for a few weeks. Sadly the album launch for Time To Go Home doubled as Special Branch's final ever show (and John had actually left the band a couple of months before this anyhow).
It's also worth noting that Trevor has been in a bunch of other bands over the years including Adults Today, the Metrosexuals and Arbuckle. Arbuckle released a great pop/rock EP in 2003 called No Heroics - although Trevor actually joined the band after they'd recorded the CD. In 2006 Trevor released a solo album called I Was Here.