After recording over 100 songs (the legendary unreleased "Bedroom Tapes"), the band suddenly split up. They reformed eighteen months later, inviting future Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, Philip Roth, and guitarist Eddie Van Halen to join the band as lead tambourine player. All three declined.
Playing their first headlining shows throughout 1985, TISM hid their real identities by always performing onstage in balaclavas and surreal clothing, developing a directly confrontational and self-mocking live style.
Ron 'Hitler' Barassi and Humphrey B. Flaubert, and other members were able to evolve fluidly through line-up changes, while creating memorable public personas, influenced by the Surrealists, Captain Beefheart, David Bowie, and Frank Zappa.
Through a series of seminal early releases, including Defecate on My Face (1986), Form and Meaning Reach Ultimate Communion (1986), and Great Truckin' Songs of The Renaissance (1988), TISM's cult reputation and satirical outlook on the Australian psyche is quickly established. Signing to Phonogram, TISM released Hot Dogma (1990) to poor sales, and were "dropped" from their label, but are captured live in Leo Berkeley's film Holidays On The River Yarra (1990). Rumored to have broken up, the band return with a vengeance by signing to independent label Shock Records, and releasing the Beasts of Suburban EP (1992), and the well-received Gentlemen, Start Your Egos (1992) album.
Controversy flares again in 1993 when artist Ken Done sues the band over their cover to the "Australia The Lucky Cunt" single, whose Koala-with-Syringe parodied Done's visual style. The single was withdrawn after a week; it was later re-released under the title "Censored Due To Legal Advice" with an alternative cover mocking Sinead O'Connor's blistering attack on the Pope. Visceral live performances throughout 1993 and 1994 established high expectations for Machiavelli and the Four Seasons (1995). The album's singles "Jung Talent Time"; "[He'll Never Be An] Ol' Man River" (about River Phoenix) and "Greg! The Stop Sign" were extremely popular.
TISM's song-writing and techno-beats captured the attention of fans. TISM, the ultimate anti-band, found themselves "peaking" on the Australian national charts. After years of being exiled in the wilderness, Ron 'Hitler' Barassi reacted, with disbelief.
Shock Records took advantage of this newfound popularity by re-releasing the album in 1996 with the Machines Against The Rage live sessions. TISM spent most of 1996 touring and performing live on Australian television shows.
TISM had evolved into a 'core' quartet. Session members and live performers rounded out the band as required. The single "Shut up, the Footy's on the Radio" (1997) was dismissed by most fans as commercial opportunism, but the next single "Yob" (1997) suggested a further maturation of the band's techno-pop fusion, which dominated TISM's www.tism.wanker.com (1998). De Rigueurmortis (2001) continues TISM's Rabelaisian tradition.
Debate still rages over TISM and their legacy. Critics claim that TISM's output has become increasingly commercial and remains offensive to some audiences. But fans relish a band that dares to attack Australian and international icons so openly (except for failed entrepreneur-turned-criminal Christopher Skase).