Traffik Island’s Zak Olsen on Public Nuisance – Gotta Survive


Keeping the wheels turning on Hidden Gems and pulling more and more psychic diggers into the fold. This week the honors fall to Zak Olsen, the Aussie indie utilitarian who crops up in quite a few RSTB faves, to be honest. From the fractured pop ooze of Hierophants to the crushing grooves of ORB, Zak has done time in The Bonniwells, The Frowning Clouds, and keeps time in his own solo work as Traffik Island. The latter’s work caught my ear a few years back with a spot-on deep-dive into loner folk, but of late the band has embraced an aesthetic of psychedelic beat driven on an engine of Library Music funk. Zak gives some background on California garage band Public Nuisance and how their Nuggets-era works came into his life. Check out Zak’s take on the band’s works below and head to Flightless for the latest Traffik Island thumper.

“So this one wasn’t officially released at the time it was recorded (1968) but finally saw the light of day in 2002 on a double disk anthology CD, which I came across as a 17 year old boy in a music shop in my hometown called ‘Bent Wind’ (named after another lost classic, but that’s another story for another time),” recalls Zak. “The cover struck me as soon as I saw it (ed note: likely this cover, not the reissue I have in the pics associated). I was heavily into the 60s at that age, so I was on the lookout for anything new I could find. The photo obviously placed the group somewhere in the latter half of the 60s but the name Public Nuisance didn’t seem to align with the aesthetic of the times. I asked the shop owner to play the CD for me and it still didn’t really align with what I thought was typically 60s. The songs were ‘psychedelic’ but not in a naive and gimmicky way – no effects or sci-fi/fantasy lyrics. The songs were ‘heavy’ but not in a dick-bulging-zeppelin way. Just guitar, bass, drums and keys with imaginative songs and thoughtful lyrics, like a sort of late 60s sunny Californian version of The Who or The Kinks. It’s timeless power pop I suppose. Anyway, I got the CD.”

“I listened to it to death,” he notes, “and was surprised that almost anyone I spoke to about this band had never heard of them. Skip to a few years later and Jack White’s Third Man Records reissues an LP with what would have been their debut album and it absolutely rips, the music on it just doesn’t age. ‘Magical Music Box’ could be released today and it would sound fresh and exciting – packed with amazing lyrics and unconventional arrangement. “

“Which leaves us with why the album was shelved in the first place,” teases Zak. “It was to be released on Equinox, a label run by Terry Melcher, The Byrds’ producer who had also promised Charles Manson a record deal. He lived in the Polanski/Tate house and sub-let it to them just before they moved in. Right around the time Public Nuisance were recording, the Manson murders took place, and he decided he was too ’emotionally distraught’ to continue his career in music. Seems though, he wasn’t too distraught to not move back into the house right after the murders…. (again, another story for another time).”

While the CD comp itself is long out of print and actually rather pricy on the second hand market, thankfully that Third Man reissue still stands and is available to pick up. Definitely recommended that you pick up the LP as its some high octane ‘60s garage that deserves its second shot.

Support the artist. Buy it HERE.

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