top of page

Making Punk Rock Is Fun: A Conversation With Tom Rowley of Geld

The drumming visual artist expands on how the band (and their new album) found commonality with a painting crafted years prior.

geld, australian hardcore

Words by Luis (@heaviestofart):

On June 9, Relapse Records saw the release of Geld's Currency // Castration — a true thrill of a listening experience loosely characterized as hardcore, but treading down the lines of crust punk and more from beginning to end. Currency // Castration sports a rebellious nature and free flowing, boundless kind of madness representative of a band doing what they want to do the way they want to do it. It all starts with the vibrance of its cover painting's color palette, the likes of which came to be at the hands of drummer/visual artist Tom Rowley.

Rowley, who thrives on loose structure and vivid use of color, crafted the abstract painting as a gift for his sister and her boyfriend, later serving the purpose of the Australian band's ripping third full-length.

Scroll through a Q&A with Rowley below as you Currency // Castration rages on in the background:


Bands with an artist among their ranks are few and far in between, and Geld is among them with you being heavy involved in the visual arts and compositional side of things. What were you envisioning when approaching this element of "Currency // Castration"?

Tom: The artwork had actually already been done, though we did go through the usual process of searching through artists. I do a lot of the artwork for Geld, but I hadn't really had anything planned for the release. The other guys in the band were going through my stuff and suggested the piece we used on the cover because it just seemed to really fit, you know? We like to keep things colorful, but we wanted something a little bit different and this fit. Cormac (Sheehan, guitars) had just been going through some of my stuff and he figured that painting would be the one.

Geld, currency castration, australian hardcore
Artwork by Tom Rowley

I finished it maybe a year or two ago, I think during the lockdown. It's one of those things that are quite neat honestly because it wasn't created for the intention of the album.

I agree. Finding commonality between a new album and an existing art piece isn't common, but you did so. Where do you feel that the two elements intersect?

I will say that I really enjoyed the process of selecting a cover for the record. Pete (Mclea), the bass player, did the second record cover ("Beyond The Floor", 2020) and I did the first one ("Perfect Texture", 2018), both of which don't sound like how they look.

geld perfect texture, australian metal
Cover Artwork by Tom Rowley

This is why I like Slayer (who are one of my favorite bands). "Reign Of Blood" (1986), "South Of Heaven" (1988), and "Season in the Abyss" (1990) do not have metal looking album artworks, you know? They're full on fine art, actual paintings. In a way, I see the "Currency // Castration" cover as being of a lot like "Seasons in the Abyss" with the abstract face front and center like that. To me, its color palette is refreshing but also quite ugly and messy at times, which fits the sound of the new record.

As far as the songwriting goes. I think it's a bit more straightforward than what we used to do, but also came together simultaneously. It was a bit more experimental and it's definitely got industrial and noisy elements to it, so the whole thing kind of looks like how it sounds, to me at least. We (Geld) all kind of come together on aesthetics very much, as I alluded to with Cormac suggesting the painting for the cover originally.

Upon looking at the cover painting, the explosiveness of the record is not what immediately comes to mind, but it works as a proper entry point. It's a neat surprise, that's for sure.

Yeah, which is good. When I was younger, one of my favorite things was buying CDs based on what they look like. Before the internet, you'd hear something on MTV and then gather at your friend's house to make them download it and eventually burn it onto a CD. People would work at McDonald's and get fucking paid nothing, save up all week, go to the City's record store and walk through the shelves. If they see an album cover and be like, "Oh, that looks cool. I'm buying that," then that's a success. I've always wanted Geld to achieve an effect like that. There might even people who aren't into heavy music that will look at our records and be like, "Shit, I wonder what that is?" By then, they're already kind of drawn into it.

Though much less common than say the 80s or 90s, I'd argue that it still goes on nowadays for those who still gravitate towards record stores. Continuing on that subject, how significant would you say that developing a visual identity was for you throughout the release cycle? Aside from the album cover, you had an assortment of killer music videos to accompany the singles.

It's very weird because obviously our strongest point is writing music. It's what we enjoy the most and the part that we're best at. The last part we think about during crunch time is the art. We're always like, "What the fuck are we gonna do?" Somehow it always come together because we have similar aesthetic preferences. For example, we don't want our records to look like a Discharge record, who have their own thing going on. This part of the release has always sort of been an afterthought once it gets down to the last minute.

It all starts with the cover and then work on everything else around that. It's obviously very important, but at the same time, we're very unprepared at times. "Currency // Castration" was our strongest effort in this regard.

It worked out quite well at the end of it. Despite the friction that comes with release cycle deadlines and whatnot, it's still very much the band at its truest and honest form.

It's lucky to get to that point because when you do things last minute, such as mixing or mastering a record, we always end up saying, "Fuck, I wish I'd done that." That didn't happen so much with this one. It all makes sense and it fits.

Tom, was there a feeling of detachment that you got upon releasing it? So much goes invested into it, there's so much excitement, and you get to see how people across the world engage with the record and its artwork.

100%, especially because it's great as a full package. Our designer, Tom Sweetman, did a great job at making it a fully fleshed out piece of work. It's mind blowing and even bizarre to me to see it on a shelf because that painting was actually a gift to my sister and her boyfriend couple years ago. We live very close to each other, and when I used to go over there from time to time, I'd see it there but never really made anything of it. Now, I walk in and I'm thrown back because that's the album, you know? That's it, just sitting in that kitchen. I see it in a different way.

I'm sure it's amazing to see it shift purpose. When you were creating it, you were in a certain mindset and at a certain moment in time. That changes as you see it under a different light over time.

I did that painting quite a few years ago, so it was a very different time in my life. It's a bit jarring because I've really moved on from that, but the release gives it life again in a different way. When I go to my sister's house now, I don't see it as a painting I did but a fucking Geld album instead.

Tom Rowley, 2023

Definitely, and it represents just a starting point for the Geld experience contained within, which of course Tom Sweetman and graphic designer Noodle played a large role in. What role did camaraderie amongst the band and your partners play in the album's creative development? "Currency // Castration" is comprehensive.

Well, with those two in particular, they're just very great at what they do. Noodle is a good friend of mine that I've known for many years, and she comes from a graphic design background. Photography is one of her strong elements, so the shots she did for us were just great. We're very new to this whole music business so it's awkward to have to take photos. You don't really know what to do, you know? Noodle has been a big help on that.

geld, australian hardcore
Photograph by Noodle

The best thing that we do as a band is try anything. If someone comes up with an idea, no one ever shuts it down. We'll just try it and she was very much like that, too. A lot of fun stuff happened out of that. She didn't just make it look like a hardcore band, you know?

Tom was able to look at what we had with the cover and turn it into something special. At the time, we had only met him when we had toured to play in Perth, and we played with his band. He had already listened to the band and already liked it, had seen our other album covers, and had an idea of what we would like. He put together what he thought was right for a band that he's listened to for years, going along with the aesthetic that he believed was best suited for us.

geld, australian hardcore, hardcore
Design by Tom Sweetman

It shows! We alluded to it a few times already, but "Currency // Castration" is truly reflective of how well all the elements, audiovisuals, and more came together. As you continue to play the album live and see it become something new, what do you take from the album as an experience for you as a musician?

We all get along incredibly well as people and we're all very much of the same sense of humor. We enjoy being around each other, which we've spent numerous years doing from touring and stuff, so it was truly a pleasant experience overall. Working with cool people who are very relaxed and have the same vibe as us is always fun, but also serious with what we have in mind. We're playing punk rock and making punk rock is fun. From the attitude to the photoshoots, everyone was drinking beers and jerking around. It wasn't awkward despite not knowing how to look in photos. Noodle made it so easy.

If you tell me how to how to work, I will completely shut down. We've been a band for nearly 10 years now and although we take it completely seriously, we also don't take it seriously at all, you know what I mean? We put a lot of work and love into it, but at the end of the day, it's just a bunch of friends not knowing what the fuck we're doing and playing fun, silly, fast music.

The way I see it, if you're not having fun with your friends, I don't really see the point. The moment it's not, it's time to find something else to do.


Currency // Castration is available now via Relapse Records (Order).

For more on Tom Rowley's work, visit his website.

geld, australian hardcore
Cover Artwork by Tom Rowley


bottom of page