“We’re cut off from the world, less and less now, but still. A lot of home done work. Crowds are tougher and smaller, so you gotta really commit.” – Ben Portnoy.
While many of my Australian readers are already familiar with the brand of hard charging punk rock C.O.F.F.I.N create, I was pleasantly surprised to have my face significantly melted off when I saw the band open for Amyl and the Sniffers in Los Angeles on their 2022 US tour together. From Murder Mall to Three Six Mafia, I caught up with mullet-laden leather warrior Ben Portnoy to learn more about what influences C.O.F.F.I.N.
Where does the name C.O.F.F.I.N come from and how long have you been a band?
Ben Portnoy: C.O.F.F.I.N stands for Children of Finland Fighting in Norway, we started it in the first year of high school in 2005. When we were about 12 years old.
What other bands have you guys been in?
Aaron played in Chrisfits (a Christmas themed Misfits cover band). They opened for us at the Harbord Bowlo in 2016 I think. It was their one and only show and is a joyous memory I often revisit. Collectively we’ve been in a bunch of random associated bands growing up that aren’t around anymore: Meatswine, Doctor Fungi, Para, Leatherface, Val Halla, Holy Deception, Para.
Currently I play in Research Reactor Corp., Rare Blooms, Satanic Togas, Polute, White Dog.
Favorite music genre that isn’t covered in the music you create?
Aaron: Hip Hop, Three Six
Abijah: Country music
Loz: IDM bass music
We love all of these and heaps more.
Aaron, I’m from Memphis originally so I gotta ask. What is your favorite thing about Three Six Mafia?
Aaron is asleep in the van again, only one in the band that doesn’t drive, must be nice. My favorite stuff is Crunchy Black’s solo stuff or Gangsta Boo.
Do you guys come up with different acronyms for the band or is it always the same one?
Been the same since day one. Few 12-year-olds put on the spot for a band name during a time they were heavily into Scandinavian metal.
What’s your favorite thing to sing about?
Having the shits with something.
Top Australian guitarists (past or present)?
Lobby Loyde, Malcom Young, Kent Steedman, Deniz Tek, Spencer P Jones, Rolland S Howard, Mawson and Gaz Ishka, and Pete Wells.
Other Australian subculture icons you admire?
- Serwah Attafuah
- Molly Meldrum
- Dancing Water
- Otis Carey
- Ruby Kubetz
- Matt Mill
- Dan Stewart
- Susy Sykes
- Arthur Flanders
- Greta Batlog
- Dancing Water
- Mike Foxal
- Dougal Groman
Would you ever write a diss track?
Most of them are really. Kinda wanna write a couple more lovey doves ones.
What would a lovey dovey C.O.F.F.I.N song sound like?
Maybe about falling in love at Murder Mall because you discover you and someone else in there have a matching order at Noodle Star.
Or like having a crush on the 200KG key cutter/cobbler, and you buy as many shoelaces and keys as you can in order to keep visiting them, until they get suss and dob you in and you have to explain to the cops it was just cos you were too timid to ask them to join you at Noodle Star.
Seems like you need to write a song about Murder Mall? Why is it called Murder Mall?
No idea why it’s actually called that, been like that before my introduction to it. Probably got a bit to do with those toilets they had in there.
Speaking of toilets, best food to eat on the road?
Salad bars or tacos where you can find them. Eat a meal while making another for later. One can only handle so many rolling hot dogs and squirt cheese.
Why do you think some of the best guitar driven rock ever created comes from Australia?
We’re cut off from the world, less and less now, but still. A lot of home done work. Crowds are tougher and smaller, so you gotta really commit. Too much sun.
What’s your relationship with Amyl and the Sniffers like?
We owe ‘em a lot. They’ve always big upped us and they’re some of the most genuine folks we’ve had the pleasure of playing with and become close friends with. Each member is an individual in their own right and a treat to chat and share with. We have a huge heart for them.
Now that you’re pretty deep into your US tour, how’s it been so far? Most surprising thing about the US?
This tour has been pretty life affirming and a lot to take in- in the best ways – the struggles and then the refueling feats. The sheer scope and size of everything here has us in constant awe. From the infrastructure to the engines, the coastal mountains to the mammoth redwoods, god damn.
As much as there is a whole heap of heavy problems existing in this country, there is no denying the magnificence of its landscapes, and the real heart that a lot of folks here have. I’m surprised to be loving the drives so much, and to have encountered so many people I’m sad to not be able to shoot the shit with on the reg.
Denim or leather?
Most the band shouted “Denim!”
Although on tour I’ve been rocking this sick tasseled leather jacket my missus Nina got for me from the second-hand spot in Murder Mall which was across from our old joint in Surry Hills. Unfortunately Murder Mall has since been demolished. RIP the fun and freaks.
What’s the song “City Sun” about?
Loosely about the bulldozing of public housing in Sydney and privatization of that land. As well as feeling like an ineffective passenger of the city’s constant hurling towards being soulless.
And how would you save Sydney’s soul?
All the shopfronts and spaces that are now unoccupied from fallen business and unrealistic rents get turned into free venues, artist studios, and soup kitchens with three Michelin Stars.
Who is the Sydney King?
Sydney King is a hard diss track. Kinda applies to a few sociopathic cowards in Sydney.
Mainly a particular Australian painter, an absolute reeking shit stain of a human. Spose flies are attracted to it.
When’s your next release coming out?
One thing our Covid lockdowns were kinda helpful for was writing. We weren’t constantly focused on shows, we’ve got a heap of new stuff that we are planning to record in July. New album by the end of the year!
All Photos from the C.O.F.F.I.N & Amyl and the Sniffers LA show at the Teragram Ballroom, May 4th 2022.