What is your name and role within Cactus Room?
Hey my name’s David Houston. I started Cactus Room about a year and a half back with the other co-founder, Neil Smith. Now I manage the business and look after the day to day running of the place, with rehearsals and gig bookings etc. I do the artwork for Cactus so usually keep pretty busy with making posters and various designs around the place.
Where are you based and what is the music scene like there?
We’re based in Thornbury, Melbourne. It’s just a little further north from the thriving music scene of Fitzroy and Collingwood. There’s a huge amount of musicians living in the area, but there isn’t the concentration of live venues like in Collingwood or Brunswick. So we’re slightly off the regular beaten track in that sense, but it makes it a cool space for bands to have single or album launches, something a little different from the normal.
What is Cactus room and what takes places there?
Cactus Room is a sort of DIY warehouse music studio that doubles as a rehearsal space and live gig venue. Before we took over the place, it was set up as a recording studio for quite some time, so the main band room is heavily sound treated, which gives it great acoustics. We’ve got 3 rooms throughout the studio that are used for music rehearsals all week round. And on weekends we hold live gigs in the one of the large rehearsal rooms, which opens up out into our beer garden and bar out the back.
How did Cactus room start?
Neil and I had been talking for years about starting our own music related bar. We met overseas and travelled around together for a couple of years and would always talk about doing something like that one day. Then after living in Melbourne for a year or so, I started a new job that I hated, working all the time and never having time to play music anymore. I had to drive out into industrial areas for the job and would drive past all of these empty factories, and after a while started thinking how we should get a warehouse and hold gigs in it from time to time.
What is your background in music and recording?
I’ve always played guitar since I was a kid. When I was a little older I was travelling around and living in different countries for quite a while, and would usually just buy a shitty guitar if I was in one place for longer than a few months. But it was impossible to get a solid band going moving around all the time, so I started recording songs with a tiny interface into my laptop and layering every instrument up piece by piece. I still approach most of my demo making the same way now, but once I settled back into Australia and moved to Melbourne I got a band together to form Black Bats.
Recently Cactus Room had an album launch for Black Bats, which is the first release that you have put out under Cactus Records, so I guess it was also a launch for Cactus Room as a record label as well. How did the launch go and how has the birth of the record label going thus far?
Yeah the launch was great. Black Bats is my own band and a lot of those songs for that album are really old, so it was good to get them out there finally. We’re planning to build the label slowly over time, collecting local bands that we’re into and that suit the vibe of Cactus Records. We’re about to release another band through the label in the next few months which we’re really excited about, so keep an eye out for that, and Black Bats are back in the studio in a couple weeks as well to record album #2. We’re in talks with a couple other local bands but we’re not wanting to rush too fast with the label just yet.
What’s been happening recently?
At the moment we’re putting together a full day line up of psych and garage bands for a little mini-fest for July 27th. Myself and Sasha (from Melbourne band The Black Heart Death Cult) have been organising that together so we’re pretty stoked for that. We’re planning on getting the place pretty decked out with lights and really solid line up, and make it a pretty immersive psychedelic gig for the day.
We’ve got Bob Log III playing here May 25 as his only Melbourne show in the midst of a huge world tour, so that should be awesome!
Please tell us about the rehearsal space and gig space:
We run mainly as a rehearsal studio throughout the week, and hold live gigs Friday and Saturday nights. We have been upgrading the main band room recently. We have some new speakers mounted which are sounding really good, and just recently got in a small riser stage. We usually just have bands playing on the floor as we wanted to keep the DIY party/ warehouse gig vibe going, but with more and more people coming to shows I think it gets a little hard to see the band sometimes, so we’ve popped in a small riser, which hopefully let’s people see a little more without changing the vibe too much.
Apart from rehearsals, we’re looking into getting in some recording equipment down the track, and have the option of recording bands that join the label. The next Black Bats album will have parts of the album recorded here.
What recording equipment do you use and what’s the studio set up like?
We’re still in the process of building up our recording gear. We’re thinking we will approach the recording more as a bonus for bands on Cactus Records and bands we want to record rather than a full time service. The place previously was set up as a full time recording studio so the main room sounds great to record in, and we have a smaller isolation room for vocals. There are 3 connected rooms off the main room, so it’s great to put amps in there and get isolated recordings whilst still playing as a live band.
What do you like to do away from music?
Mostly we just go to mate’s gigs anyway! Have a night off from Cactus and go see gigs at another venue. You can get a bit of cabin fever working and watching gigs non stop at your own place, so it’s good to get out into the world when you can!
Who are you listening to at the moment?
The Black Heart Death Cult just released their debut album recently and that has been on pretty high rotation around here. Been listening to an LA band The Cosmonauts a lot lately. I always listen to heaps of different music when I’m working or drawing or whatever, can’t go wrong with a bit of Nina Simone or Bob Dylan to wind things down sometimes!
Any secrets that you care to share?
Well then they wouldn’t be a secret anymore would they?
Favourite food and place to hangout?
We eat way too much pizza from a cheap pizza place across the road from Cactus. A food that isn’t pizza and a place that isn’t a pizza restaurant would be great. Can’t go wrong with a beer on a rooftop somewhere.