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Italian Punks Q & A: Dan Bonnici from Pagan


Purveyors of dirty martinis and ritualistic rock ‘n roll Pagan have returned from the shadows once again to unveil their new, epically heavy, single Wine and Lace and hit the road with Totally Unicorn. We asked the quartet’s bassist Dan Bonnici some very personal Italian questions and why you NEED to see them live over the next few weeks.

If you were a risotto, what type would you be?

Let me tell you a story about risotto. When I was young my family didn’t have a heap of money, right? So on particularly hard weeks, a common occurrence in our household was that on a Monday my mother would come home from work and just make a huge pot of food that we’d eat for dinner pretty much every night for the week. Now Tamara Bonnici is a saint, and bless her heart an amazing cook, and usually it would be a pot of something pretty tasty like a pasta or minestrone, so usually you didn’t mind eating the same sh*t every night because it was delicious.

But for some reason she was also into making this mushroom risotto. She was adamant it was great, but it was sh*t. To me it was bleak, grey slop and tasted like a Julia Roberts movie…so just very, very bland. I fucking hate Julia Roberts man, and I hated having to eat that grim sludge for four consecutive nights in a row. I don’t want to sound ungrateful, I’m lucky to come from a family that could pull it together enough to afford dinner in some capacity, but those weeks were hell. Now I am an adult and I work and earn enough money to cook my own meals. So to answer your question, I would probably like to be something with sun-dried tomatoes.

For the uninitiated, how do you describe Pagan’s sound and live shows?

It’s just gloomy, heavy Rock ‘n Roll I think. There are riffs and influences that come from punk and hardcore and metal, because that’s where we all come from and we learned how to play to those types of records, but we just look at it as rock ‘n roll music. It’s a far less rigid mindset and doesn’t place any stigma and restriction on what we feel like we can do with our songs, as well as our imagery and artwork.

We don’t have to concern ourselves with what other people think of it because there have never been rules or boundaries to rock ‘n roll and there never will be. I like that you can party and dance to our music, but it’s also very sombre and dark and you can listen to it when you need bummer music too. I think you can perceive it in a different light depending on your mood. Like a good Campari and Soda, y’know? It’s pretty bittersweet.

The shows are hard to describe because I’ve never seen us play! I don’t even know if they’re good or bad or fun or sad or tight or a total mess, but I hope they’re all of those things! Just a very intense, sweaty, and loud feast for the senses. We call them rituals to be arrogant and mysterious on the internet sometimes, but jokes aside it’s kind of what they are to us and hopefully to everyone who’s there with us.

They’re this weird out-of-body experience where we all turn into these wild, rabid animals for 30 minutes and exorcise our our personal devils. When we come out the other side, I personally can’t even really remember most of the performance because I’m so out of my own head. I think the parts I remember are the parts where I f*ck up or where gear breaks, so if I can’t remember much I assume it was a pretty good one because I wasn’t thinking too much…

Which two members would be most likely to accidentally kiss while eating spaghetti, Lady & The Tramp style?

I really like the sentiment behind this question, and know it comes from a good place. But see, here’s the thing, this just wouldn’t happen to any of us. The reason why is because each and every one of us know better than to go anywhere near another band member’s plate of pasta, unless you’re willing to suffer the unholy curse that is placed on your head…

It’s gelato time, do you cup or cone?

Mate, hard one because I think it really does depend on circumstance and what is practical a lot of the time. My girlfriend isn’t into the cone, so if we’re sharing a couple of scoops I will usually get into the cup, and it works better because you get a couple of little spoons and you’re both right as rain. But the cone is way more authentic and a bit more of a personal thing.

I kind of like that it makes you really have to work, y’know? You need to keep working the sides and down that gelato before you have chocolate and lemon sorbet dripping down your hand and wrist, the downside here being that horrible feeling of sticky fingers if you’re a slow-poke, so only the strongest and fastest survive. For the experience alone I am choosing a cone, but waffle only. That crisp wafer stuff can vafanculo!

We’re loving Wine and Lace, what’s the story behind the track?

Glad to hear y’all are into it! The song is based on factual events that went down in December of 1929. A man named Charles Lawson took his family to town and purchased them all brand new outfits, and they had their family portrait taken. A few days later, on Christmas Day, Charles sent his eldest son Arthur in to town to run an errand and once he was gone systematically murdered his wife and six children, before walking into the woods and shooting himself.

His wife and family were found lying in a row, with their arms crossed and their heads on pillows of rocks, dressed in the outfits Charles bought for their photo a few days before. Our singer Nikki and I are both pretty gnarly true-crime geeks and read about a lot of this type of thing, but something about this story of the Lawson Family murders in particular really struck a chord with her and hit me like a ton of bricks when she talked to me about it. Of all the grim sh*t I read I still think about this story so much and I’m not sure why.

In 1959 a folk group called The Stanley Brothers released a murder ballad about these murders, and I think hearing about this kind of inspired Nikki to write a murder ballad of her own. I dunno, it’s just pretty fascinating but so incredibly horrifying that the human mind has the ability darken to the extent that a person can believe that slaughtering their own loved ones is what they need to do.

If you could only eat one Italian meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I couldn’t live without the margherita pizza in my life. No way, no how.

Lastly, what are four things people should know before they catch you on tour with Totally Unicorn?

Numero Uno: These shows are going to be a lot of fun! Totally Unicorn are one of the most mind-bending live bands in the world and we’ll be working extra hard to try and keep up! So if you’re coming I think you have made a sick choice. If you’re still undecided you’re blowing it, but there’s still time to turn it around and grab a ticket.

Numero Due: Suss our Bandcamp page to listen/download all of our music for free so you can learn all the words to our grim hymns and worship!

Numero Tre: We LOVE hanging. Pagan is not only a cult but also a travelling social club! So in between shred, if you’re down for a vino and a good conversation, a game of cards, placing dark spells on your enemies etc. make sure you come over to our merch table and say ciao!

Numero Quattro: Say ciao! Beautiful. Make sure you come over to our merch table and say ciao! Very beautiful.

Pagan Upcoming Shows

Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Yours and Owls Festival, Wollongong
The Foundry, Brisbane
The Great Northern, Byron Bay

*Supporting Totally Unicorn