TRUE OPINION: Return of TISM a sign of optimism in Oz

TRUE OPINION: The return of iconoclastic musical satirists TISM is a sure sign Australia is on the road to recovery, writes one-time ‘member’ Kieran Butler.

Melbourne’s favourite masked iconoclasts, This is Serious Mum (TISM), have finally announced they are dusting off their balaclavas to prove that you’re never too old to say no to a bucket of cash.

I am a die hard TISM tragic. The first time I saw them was a revelation. I had no idea you could even say the shit I heard them saying that night in 1988. Since then, I have been unashamedly influenced by TISM’s unique mix of pure nihilism, intellectual posing and catchy tunes that get stuck in your head.

In 1995, I Interviewed the mainstay of TISM’s dominant leitmotif, Ron Hitler Barassi, on independent radio station 3CR. Radio interviews with members of TISM were pretty rare back then. Their real identities were still a closely guarded secret. These days, every c*nt with a pulse knows all of the guys in TISM.

At the end of the interview Barassi revealed that I played bass in TISM. I was pretty stoked with that, because everyone who interviews TISM usually comes off second best, including all the journos who have had a go in the past few days. It is still one of the better interviews with a member of TISM. Have a listen.

I scored that interview after I went to a mid-week fundraiser for the St Kilda Football Club.

TISM hit the stage at 9.00 PM. This was because they had day jobs and can’t be out too late on a school night. I was admonishing the most piss weak mosh pit I had ever seen in my life, when Barassi launched into the second verse of “Greg! The Stop Sign” by throwing his mic stand into the audience.

The errant mic stand hit me flush on the head. I was knocked out cold. By the time I recovered consciousness, I realised that the absence of lead vocals meant Barassi had leapt into the audience. I stood up, pushed everyone who was surrounding him aside, and grabbed him by the collar.

I was about to punch him in the face when a bouncer grabbed my arm, looked me in the eye, and shook his head at me to indicate I best cease and desist. I let go of Barassi as the shot of adrenalin that usually accompanies being heavily concussed began to quickly subside.

I was bleeding profusely from an inch wide gash over my right eye. I stumbled through the crowd and asked my girlfriend to drop me off at the Alfred hospital, where I dosed up on anesthetic so they could stitch me up and send me on my way. I took a taxi straight back to the gig, and got there in time to see Weddings Parties Anything close out the show.

TISM had caused plenty of bodily damage to punters over the years, so their well prepared management admitted no fault whatsoever the following day. I asked for an interview as a form of compensation. I was probably lucky to get that.


Since that time I have fronted a version of TISM that got back together for the original guitarist’s 50th birthday, recorded a podcast with frontman Humphrey B Flaubert, and blagged my way into a TISM tribute show dressed as a member of TISM. If there is anything sadder than TISM, it’s some wanker who thought he could have been a contender.

Hearing TISM were reuniting was like watching Collingwood win a premiership in 1990. I have waited for it for so long, now that it is happening, I don’t know what to feel. My main worry is that a bunch of blokes in their 60’s won’t be able to conjure up the ever present threat of genuine violence that made a live TISM show such an amazing thing to be part of.

Furthermore, original guitarist, Leak Van Vlalen, has confirmed he will not be joining the rest of the band for this reunion. He says he doesn’t want to play in a TISM cover band, which is why he left TISM in the first place.

I have played music with Van Vlalen’s alter ego, Sean Kelly, for over 25 years. As part of The Collaborators, Kelly has recently reunited with TISM’s actual bass player, Jock Cheese, to play a few TISM classics from the 1980’s. They sounded as good as they ever did.

I reckon Leak Van Vlalen should, at the very least, join TISM on stage to play guitar on the songs he wrote and recorded as a founding member of TISM. I think a lot of die hard TISM tragics will agree with me.

The avalanche of publicity announcing this reunion has given those of us known as Victims of TISM a degree of vindication. A whole new audience is about to discover what is arguably one of Australia’s best bands.

The greatest thing TISM did was hide their identities. In theory, anyone can be a guy in TISM. I’ll be making the most of this opportunity to haul out my old TISM balaclava. After all, according to Ron Hitler Barassi, I sorta played bass with TISM.

And I still have a scar over my right eye to prove it.

About Kieran Butler 33 Articles
Kieran Butler is a comedian, musician and satirist. He is best known in Australia for his pop-parody musical "Ben Cousins: a rock opera" and has received critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe for "Che Guevara on the Fringe" (**** The Scotsman) and his sold-out "Australia is Fucked" trilogy. More info at

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