After you've pissed all over the seat, puked on the floor and thrown away your shitty deal bags, someone has to clean up. Phil Gionfriddo is that someone. For the last ten years, Phil has spent his weekend mornings cleaning up after you grots and the toilets you've destroyed across Melbourne. As the owner of a cleaning business that deals with pubs and music venues, Phil has seen the worst of humanity and what comes out of humanity.
When he's not handling a mop and a bucket of bleach, Phil can be found with a guitar and over the years has played in Dynamo, Chrome Nips and Bowers. Jacky Winter, his most recent project, was born after he became obsessed with Wu-Tang Clan, bought a MPC machine and started recording songs in Melbourne and New York City. But we are not here to talk to Phil about music, today we are more interested in pub toilets. Filthy and stinking pub toilets.
Noisey: How did you end up cleaning pubs and their toilets?
Phil Gionfriddo: A total prick of a head chef lead me to quit dishwashing after eight years. I was playing in bands and DJing but couldn't get the dole. With nothing to go to my mate and Warped drummer Cris Wilson gave me his days off cleaning the Tote and Cherry Bar. Cris went on to buying his own domestic cleaning business and left me those places and I'm still doing them both while adding a bunch more venues. It's kind of hard to stop once I worked out that doing the clean left me with my mind intact and I could split overseas when it was time for recording or shows. Plus most bar staff are happy to see my face and generally no one fucks with me.
**What is the worst thing you have seen inside a pub toilet? ** The usual gripe is the smashed glass in the toilet bowl, layered in shit that is obscured by a thick wad of toilet paper swimming in a brimful of water and piss: a pub classic. Though once I found a swollen tampon, which in itself was no issue, except when I picked it up scores of ants that had been gorging on it started crawling up my arm. That currently holds the trophy.
**What pub needs the most bleach? ** It stands to reason the biggest venue, which is open the latest cops the heaviest beating, that's Yah Yah's. It takes 18 mop buckets at a minimum to do that job.
What drugs have you found?
Licked out baggies are a constant but I only occasionally find sharps. I tell anyone working for me, never put your hands where you can't see them. I copped a needle stick injury once and spent three months too scared to look in the mirror convinced I was jaundice with Hep C. I have found many various things that I believe to be speed, MDMA caps, dexys, valium, mushroom caps, cocaine, ecstacy and the odd mystery sachet, but it all just gets chucked out. Sometimes you won't find anything for 6 weeks then a bunch in a weekend. Drug use seems so ubiquitous nowadays, I mean you only have to go to a wedding to watch people getting loose.
You are a musician and songwriter. Have you found any musical inspiration inside the Tote toilet at 9am on a Sunday?
I wrote a song for The Bowers a couple of years ago drawing a link between the licked out baggies on the floor and punching on at 3am at the hotdog stand. Because I get to listen to music constantly I'm always soaking up albums or working on my Jacky Winter tracks. There's a sample of the Tote vacuum cleaner in one of my tracks and the incidental noises of the work day inform vocal phrasing and melodic ideas. Not to mention the overwhelming inspiration to not be there when I could be in the studio instead.
The girls can get just as bad?
Absolutely, the girls are ruthless. They are less inclined to kick the toilet roll dispenser off the wall but they will smash as many glasses as the boys, cover the mirrors with lipstick, drop full toilet paper rolls in the bowl, rip the seats, cisterns off the wall, strew stockings and underwear. You only need to see the photo of the sanitary bin contents. The other thing I find once in a while is evidence of eating disorders, like mostly eaten junk food trays or piles of chocolate wrappers hidden in the cubicles, that always makes me a bit flat. Likewise in the Men's at one venue I sometimes find a catheter. These thing are a reminder not to judge. We all have our problems and are private.
**Are there any musical genres that attract a crowd that are better destroying a pub pisser than others? ** The shitheads that come see the crusty punk bands love to work over the bathrooms and they all think they are graffers. Some fucker doused the crowd with a fire extinguisher at a punk show last year, damaging the PA and someone went to hospital from the inhalation. Dance promotors love their decorations and confetti canons. Walking into a sea of paper petals makes me cry. Metal bands are cool cos most of their crowd are super polite, smoke heaps of ciggies but don't smash many glasses. What they do leave behind is heaps of hair in the carpet in front of the stage from all that windmilling. It blocks the vacuum but I know they have just been having a sick time so can't fail it.
**Do you have a fave piece of pub toilet graffiti? ** From a cubicle of women's bathroom at The Tote, 'My fanny smells like canned lamb tongues' and on the mirror in red lipstick at Cherry Bar 'I am a Jock Cunt, love Lucas'.
Images supplied by Phil Gionfriddo.