Once among Australia's hardest-touring acts, more than 20 years on from their formation, Wollongong's Segression are still getting a kick out of playing heavy metal. Brendan Crabb finds out more.
Even many years later, there are a couple of poignant moments from Segression’s career that still give front-man Chris Rand goosebumps.
Prior to widespread use of email and social media platforms, the Wollongong metallers would regularly send letter mailouts to fans they’d connected with via their rigorous touring schedule.
“So we used to get fan mail, and one letter came through from a small country town in western NSW, from a lady who lost her son,” Rand said.
“She said he had been involved in an accident and passed away, and he was the biggest Segression fan ever.
“He was actually buried in a Segression shirt. (And there was another fan) in regional Victoria who was too.
“When you're a kid playing music in Wollongong, and I still feel like a kid playing music in Wollongong, you don't realise what people get out of listening to your songs.
“But when you get a letter like that, it hits you, because you just don’t realise... Certain moments just hit you like that.”
One of Australia’s longest-running metal acts, Segression has its roots in early ‘90s sleaze rockers Eezee.
Bassist Rand joined Eezee soon after its formation; guitarist Chris ‘Sven’ Sellin followed several months later.
Seeking a heavier direction, the band re-emerged as Segression in 1996, with Rand also taking on vocal duties. They soon issued debut album L.I.A.
Journalist and Australian heavy music historian Brian Giffin believes Segression were one of the first Australian metal bands to capture widespread attention beyond the regular metal audience.
“They had a sound very contemporaneous with what was really popular in heavy music at the time,” he said.
Sellin has his own perspective.
“We were just in that period of time where metal in Australia was always shut out... The record labels had power at that time, and they didn’t really want metal taking off or anything like that,” he said.
“I think we kept pushing and pushing, and started breaking out of that blanket that they tried to keep metal under. We pushed through that a little bit, and gained more popularity that way.
“And through that, helped other bands push through.”
During their initial run from 1996-2003, Segression supported heavyweight international acts such as Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera, Slipknot, Fear Factory and Soulfly.
“I have some amazing stories and some fond memories,” Rand said. “I was always thankful for the opportunities that we had.”
When they were offered the 1998 Ozzy shows, Rand recalls the metal legend’s wife/manager Sharon calling his mother/Segression manager Sue to discuss the tour.
Rand’s first child was born about a week before the tour started.
“After the Sydney show, I didn’t really have time to celebrate too much because my wife said there was so much that needed doing around the house,” he said.
“So I came home. Literally three hours after playing with Ozzy I was picking up dog shit in the backyard, cleaning and trying to help out.”
By the time Segression reached Melbourne, Ozzy Osbourne band members Zakk Wylde, Mike Inez and Randy Castillo had heard about Rand’s story.
“So they said, ‘we've got to take you out to wet the baby’s head’," Rand said.
“Ozzy wasn't there because he was alcohol-free at that time.
“I went out with them and it was probably one of the messiest nights of my life. Came back to the hotel and the boys wouldn’t let me in the room... The door to our hotel (room) actually ended up in the lobby of the hotel.”
Former guitarist Shane Partridge said his biggest career highlight would be the Slipknot tour, which coincided with the release of Segression’s 2000 album Smile.
“We were drawing the biggest audiences for a local heavy band at that time, and Slipknot were a riot to tour with,” he said.
Former drummer Adrian ‘Red’ Herbert had two stints in the band.
“I was proud to record the album Smile, which is still one of the biggest-selling Australian metal albums of all time,” he said.
“I'll always cherish the great memories and experiences that being a member of Segression brought me… I’ll forever be grateful to the guys in the band and the Rand family for giving me those opportunities.”
High-profile touring aside, the savvy band were among the first Australian heavy acts to film videos for their songs and submit them to TV program Rage.
They wrote theme music for Channel V’s Heavy Shift show, and Rand hosted the inaugural episode of the Australian version of MTV’s Headbangers Ball - alongside future Hollywood star Ruby Rose.
Segression were also based in Michigan for a period in 2001, recording and playing shows.
The band had investors who had backed their development and were preparing to help launch them Stateside.
However, Rand said after returning to Australia to tour with Pantera, the events of 9/11 meant that “all the big tours in the US just stopped”.
Meanwhile, Rand said some members wanted to “explore different avenues musically”, and the band eventually went on a hiatus that officially lasted until 2009.
Since reconvening, they’ve issued the Never Dead and Painted In Blood albums, and Michael Katselos (guitars) and Adam Bunnell (drums) have joined.
In accordance with streaming becoming a primary form of music consumption, Rand said Segression would now be issuing singles or small batches of songs, instead of releasing full-length albums.
“We’ll do maybe one or two new songs, then some old songs re-done, and maybe a cover or something," he said.
“(Doing a full-length album) just doesn't seem right any more. Not for us anyway.
“Because there's so much out there now, there's so many bands and so many different things to entertain (people) - movies, games.
“You can’t keep people’s attention. So if you put out a batch of new songs once every few months, you’ve got a bit more of a chance of people paying attention to it.”
Although real-life responsibilities like families, mortgages and businesses (Rand and Sellin work together at Rand Family Tattoo) ultimately mean the band isn’t as active these days, Rand said Segression is now self-sustainable.
“It’s not so much doing it as a hobby, it’s just doing it smarter,” he said.
“Now we’ve got to the point where the past few years of Segression’s life, we haven't earned great money from it, but the band has actually turned a profit.
“Or at least not lost money, so I guess you could call it a hobby that is sustaining itself.”
Meanwhile, Sellin said he still gets a rush from performing.
“It’s just an outlet to let energy out for me,” he said. “My release is on-stage; it's the best feeling.
“It's a release of everything that's built up between the last gig and the gig I’m playing. I let everything out then.”
Segression will perform at Dicey Riley's, Wollongong on Saturday, October 20.