Category Archives: Features

Feature Interview: Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari

Enter Shikari Australia 2019

Sixteen years and five albums into its career, Enter Shikari is a band comfortable with expressing itself in unique and refreshing ways.

Nowhere is this more clear than on latest single, the upbeat ‘Stop the Clocks’ – a song that took the band to a new creative space, says frontman Rou Reynolds.

“’Stop the Clocks’ was one of the longest and strangest writing periods,” Reynolds says. “With a lot of our albums, we’ve released standalone singles. [Fifth album] The Spark, for some reason, seemed to take on a bigger and longer lifespan and we wanted to give it its own space and era. Even the recording process changed its guise and atmosphere a few times. It was a difficult song to make sure we nailed. It felt like it was quite a ‘summer’ track as well, so it was nice to release in summer. With negative emotion, you can get to the core of it easier, but with positive emotion it can seem trite or bubblegum-y. You can fail to encapsulate the positive passion that you’re trying to get across. So, in those moments you have to really think about it so it doesn’t come across too contrived, cheesy or obvious.”

After a long period of heavy touring on the back of The Spark, released in 2017, the UK quartet will arrive on Australian shores to play Good Things Festival in December.

“Australia is always one of the best places to perform,” Reynolds says. “First of all, we go there when it’s winter up in the northern hemisphere, so that’s nice. It’s a kind of nice mixture between the UK and America – it has a lot of the good points of both. The shows are always amazing as well. There’s a passion and energy we always look forward to. We haven’t played there in quite a while, or at least it feels like a while and we’re very much looking forward to getting back. I’m not bad with the heat, but Rory, our guitarist, definitely struggles with things.”

Since that widely-acclaimed release, the band has been honing its already considerable live skills with tours in some not-so-obvious places.

“It’s been an amazing year,” Reynolds says. “We got to go and do eight shows in Russia, which took us out of the normal cities we play – Moscow, St Petersburg, and all the way really far east to Lake Baikal [in Siberia] to bits of nature I never thought I’d see. It was incredible. I think they just appreciate bands that actually go there. Every country has its bad aspects, politically, but there’s an energy there that we probably don’t find anywhere else. The shows can get to such an ecstatic level, ever since we first played there. We just got back from America, where we did a stint across Texas, the east coast and Canada. Then we were back at Reading and Leeds in the UK for the first time in five years, which felt almost like a homecoming.”

Australian fans can be guaranteed an eye- and ear-blistering live experience when the band lands for the December run of shows, and possibly with some unique surprises thrown in.

“We’re so naturally fidgety that we have to keep the show moving forward,” Reynolds says. “We’ll throw in remixes of songs or mash up different songs together or re-imaginations of songs. It’s one of the most important things about the band, because people want to see an honestly passionate show. Nobody wants to see a band that’s been on tour for three months playing the same set, because it’s just boring. I think we’re just relentlessly progressive in everything we do, so the show keeps progressing as well. We hopefully can make people feel all sorts of things.”

The band are working feverishly on album number six, Reynolds says.

“We’ve started the next album,” he says. “We’re still in the early stages but there’s a good wealth of new music now. With every album, the first stage is just sheer panic as you’re coming to terms with the fact there is this beast that has to be reared and that can be disorientating and imposing. But once you get started and get bearings and direction, it becomes and fun and you get over the sheer anxiety of the project. That’s where we are now. The plan is to have it out next year.”

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Feature Interview: Winston McCall of Parkway Drive

Parkway Drive

Sixteen years and six albums into his glittering career, Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall isn’t about to start taking anything for granted.

“From day one, we’ve always had to prove ourselves,” he says. “We’ve always said in interviews that we just go out there and do what we do, but, now having sat back and looked at it, the place we’re at now is literally the last place anyone would have expected for this band, including ourselves.”

Sixth album ‘Reverence’, released in May last year, pushed the band’s creative ambition further than ever before and has brought not only exciting new avenues and achievements, but additional pressure to the Byron Bay metallers.

“The past 12 months has been crazy; like a complete time-warp,” McCall says. “We’ve done a hell of a lot of touring and the band has grown so much in that time that I forget the fact it’s only been a year since [‘Reverence’ came out]. It’s been the biggest release of the band’s career and we’ve reached several milestones in the past 12 months. These are things we never even thought we would see and they just rolled over, one after the other. It’s been busy and hectic; so hectic. We’ve had three major injuries within the band in the past 12 months, we’ve played the biggest headline shows we’ve ever played in every continent we’ve played in, then we’ve played the biggest festival appearances and biggest shows of our lives.”

Written and conceived around a dark period for the band, ‘Reverence’ was informed by personal tragedy and loss, and took the five-piece’s music into sometimes difficult yet often ground-breaking territory.

“All of that writing and stuff happened, we brought the record out during that whole ongoing thing, and I guess it’s just a part of life.” McCall says. “It’s something that never leaves you, that loss. It gets easier the amount of time you put between when it happens and now, I guess. You carry it with you all the time and you see it through different lenses and shades as you go. In that respect, dealing with it is going well, but you always have a relationship with it. That’s probably the best way to describe it.”

After a heavy few months spent touring Europe and the States, where McCall says he was offered crack in a diner before food was even mentioned, the band will play its only Australian shows of 2019 at Good Things Festival; a trio of dates which stand out for several reasons.

“It’s our first time being able to headline a major Australian festival,” he says. “And it’s really cool to see heavy and alternative music making a resurgence in festivals in Australia because it’s such a massive thing and it’s such a massive community. It’s been underplayed in the past as a lot of people think it’s a small amount of people in this country who enjoy this music, which is so far from the truth it’s insane. So it’s really nice. So many people in the past have seen the local Australian scene of lesser or less of a commodity than an overseas name, and for us to be able to make a statement by being in that slot is a massive, massive deal. It’s going to be fucking awesome and we’re pumped.”

Australian fans can be guaranteed an eye- and ear-blistering live show when the band lands for the December run of shows. Inspiration for the visual spectacular that is a Parkway Drive gig can come from almost anywhere, McCall says.

“We’ve retained creative control over every single aspect of this band, which means there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes into it. If you have the drive to create something more, we have a very large canvas, but that means you have to have the imagination to fill it. Ideas come from everything: other bands, theatre, music, film, videos, from literally just walking around spaces, architecture and anything from the past. We’re taking an interest in what our lighting guy is doing and work with him to create something so we know what the physical and emotional impact of the stage show are. It takes a hell of a lot, but being able to couple your music with something you know will heighten the experience is a very powerful experience. At the end of the day, when you rock up to a gig, you know it’s very different to just watching your favourite band play your favourite song. We want it to do things that create moments that are worthy of your time.”

While they’ve come a long way from that Byron Bay backstreet to being a major player in Australian and world metal, McCall and Parkway Drive will likely continue aiming to prove themselves for some time to come.

“Years ago, nobody was saying Parkway was going to be able to get as big as we are, play the songs we play, create the music we do, put on the shows we put on and have the actual imagination to do that,” McCall says. “We’ve had 16 years’ worth of pressure and this has been the year we’ve realised we can do this and we have the space to create something using our imaginations, rather than just be in survival mode. So there’s more pressure, but we’re also aware of what the pressure is, and how to deal with it better. There’s been a hell of a lot of people who say we’re one thing and we’ll never be anything else, or we’ve been left out of many equations, which is fine. But it helps us realise the fact we were aware of that status the entire time, and it’s something we’ve been trying to smash. It’s nice to know we’ve been able to do that. It’s been a very interesting experience.”

For Scenestr

Fowler’s Live Closes: The End of an Era

Fowlers Live Adelaide South Australia music

When a social media post announced the impending closure of Fowler’s Live on October 3rd, the outpouring of love for the beloved music venue left operator Peter Darwin staggered.

“The support we’ve received has been unbelievable,” he said. “We had thousands of comments and messages on there. The overwhelming reaction was that people felt safe here, they enjoyed the community, and they felt that it had a genuine family feel. For a couple of days there I was really quite gobsmacked and found it difficult reading a lot of the heartfelt comments and feeling the love for the place.”

After 15 years spent fighting government red tape and upheaval to keep the 500-capacity venue afloat, Peter finally had to admit defeat when Arts SA announced they would be seeking to expand the use of the space at a significantly increased rent.

“Essentially, for that entire period we’ve only had two-year leases or occasionally a little bit longer,” Peter said. “There have been probably two other occasions when government policy was looking to revert the space into theatre or general art space, and on both those occasions that changed again. They then advised on September 30th that there was another operator coming in and we wouldn’t be able to continue. Clearly I’m unhappy about the situation, but I also am a realist in that I’ve known that, ever since I’ve took the place on with two-year leases, it was clear that it was going to end. To get to 15 years of operation and not be bankrupt is a reasonable achievement.”

The venue is well known as a national touring spot and as a place for local bands to cut their teeth, and leaves behind countless memories for those who have passed through its doors. While Peter could probably tell stories about the venue for days, two in particular stand out.

“We had the Mark of Cain, obviously a great Adelaide heavy-rock band, playing here one night some years ago on a stinking hot Adelaide summer night. It was about 42 degrees outside and must have been 60 inside by the time we had 500 people under the hot lights. It was just one of those nights when 500 people were operating as one person, rocking out to the band. Everyone was dripping in sweat, the place stank, and we were handing out water everywhere – it is still so clear in my mind.”

“Another time, [Californian punk band] Unwritten Law had played a gig here that night and some of Keith Urban’s crew and band came back to the venue, and the Unwritten Law guys were hanging out having a beer. For the next two hours, there was this bunch of punk guys drooling over the experiences, the stories and the knowledge of the crew and musicians of the Keith Urban band. The monitor engineer had been around for about 30 years and was reeling off stories. These guys were just beside themselves with the experiences and stories. You would not think those two groups of people would any recognition of each other at all.”

While the Fowler’s Live community is left with only memories, Arts SA has announced that Five Four Entertainment bid successfully for the lease, and aim to operate it as a live music and arts venue from January.

Peter, who will keep busy with the upcoming Keith Urban tour and looking after live music for the Adelaide 500, among other things, reluctantly admitted he can look back with pride.

“I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity and proud of what we’ve achieved,” he said. “Somehow I managed to make things go from A to B without fucking up. I just hope the new tenants keep a strong, original live music content here.”

For Scenestr

Cher: Here We Go Again

It’s time to dig out your dancing shoes, dust off your shiniest frock, and get ready to believe in life after love once again with the news that the Goddess of Pop, Cher, is coming Down Under.

Cher Here We Go Again 2018 Australian tour Cher Facebook singer actress

The ‘Here We Go Again Tour’ shows will mark the first time in 13 years the 72-year-old will tour Australia, with stops in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle, Adelaide, Wollongong and Perth.

If she could turn back time to 2005, the singer and actress might not have toured under the ‘Farewell Tour’ banner when she played her last headline shows here, but if anyone has earned the right to do just about whatever she wants in show business, it’s the cultural phenomenon born Cherilyn Sarkisian.

Fifty-three years after her debut single – a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘All I Really Want to Do’ – reached number 15 on the Billboard chart and the world was introduced to her via the international smash ‘I Got You Babe’ with first husband Sonny Bono, Cher is ready to delight Australian audiences once more.

And a delight it’s sure to be.

Pop, film, fashion, television, and a whole lot more: there’s not much the native Californian hasn’t packed into her lengthy and hugely varied career. Add to that numerous Vegas residencies, business ventures and even starring roles in a string of infomercials, Cher has never been one to shy away from a challenge.

“All of us invent ourselves: some of us just have more imagination than others,” is a quote often attributed to her, and to say she’s done it all and won it all is an understatement.

She has bagged an Academy Award (for 1988’s Moonstruck), a Grammy, an Emmy, three Golden Globes, and the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival, among many more, making her one of a select few to have swept the board in such a way.

But don’t think that means she’s planning to slow down. Not content to still be selling out arenas and stadiums globally in 2018, she also stars in box office smash Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again now playing on a big screen near you.

And that’s not all she’s been up to this year. She unwittingly caused a stir in March after appearing at the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and posing for a selfie tweeted by Malcolm Turnbull.

A gay icon posing with the Prime Minister responsible for a hugely harmful and unnecessary same-sex marriage survey reeked of hypocrisy, and after many on social media questioned the PM’s PR stunt, Cher had the decency and forthrightness to address her fans directly via Twitter.

“Am so sorry,” she wrote.

“Guess that’s why I have few friends who are politicians. He seemed very open and excited about Mardi Gras and LGBT community.”

With that cleared up, and extra shows recently added in Brisbane and Wollongong, the love affair between Cher and her Australian fans is burning as brightly as ever.

“My visit to Sydney’s Mardi Gras reminded me how unique and beautiful Australia is,” she said in a statement.

“It’s been 13 years since I toured there so I thought ‘let’s do it one more time.’”

Known for much more than performance, Cher has been a fashion icon since the 1970s, when she was first celebrated for wearing elaborate and original stage outfits in her various television shows and appearances after navigating a messy divorce from Sonny Bono and emerging as a solo star.

Between 1972 and 1975 alone she appeared on the cover of Vogue five times, and has been described by Time magazine as a “cultural phenomenon who has forever changed the way we see celebrity fashion”. With such impeccable fashion credentials, it’s no wonder she has been honoured by the Council of Fashion Designers of America for her enduring impact on the fashion world.

While she’s been successful in many roles over several decades, she is perhaps most well known by a younger generation for the single ‘Believe’ from the 1998 album of the same name – the 22nd LP of her career. After a relatively unsuccessful couple of pop-rock albums, musical wilderness was beckoning, but the Queen of Reinvention struck gold with her next move.

The switch to a more dance-oriented sound fitted perfectly with the late-1990s clubbing Zeitgeist, the album went on to sell over ten million copies, and Cher was tasting musical highs perhaps even she had never experienced before. The single topped the Billboard chart 25 years after her last number one, setting a record for the longest time between first-place finishes, and it made her the oldest woman to reach number one – a record she still holds. The song was also one of the earliest examples of auto-tune vocal effects on a successful pop record (a time long before it became risible).

The song and album gave her music career a much-needed shot in the arm, introduced her to a new generation of fans, provided her with the eternal encore, was described as recently as 2016 as “the biggest club record ever” by Vice, and perhaps sealed her spot as the Goddess of Pop for all time. Since then, she hasn’t looked back, performing in front of huge audiences globally. Her 2014 ‘Dressed to Kill Tour’ grossed $54.8 million and sold more than 600,000 tickets, despite ending prematurely due to the singer’s health issues.

“I’ve always taken risks and never worried about what the world might think of me,” she’s been quoted as saying.

“Some people’s feathers are just bigger and brighter than others.”

Cher’s 90-minute Australian shows will feature songs from her entire, six-decade career, and now that she rarely tours outside the US and could probably be offered another Vegas residency at the drop of a hat, Australian fans should jump at the chance to see her while they still can.

Cher plays:

Newcastle Entertainment Centre
Wednesday 26th September

Brisbane Entertainment Centre
Friday 28th September
Saturday 29th September

Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne
Wednesday 3rd October
Friday 5th October

Adelaide Entertainment Centre
Tuesday 9th October

Perth Arena
Friday 12th October

For Scenestr

Andrew WK: Philosophising with the King of Partying

Andrew WK

“A professional partier and an amateur human being.”

How Andrew W.K. would introduce himself to someone who doesn’t know anything about him reveals the depth behind the hard-rocking, party-anthem-wielding force of nature his fans have come to adore since he blew up internationally with single ‘Party Hard’ in 2001.

The reveal is appropriate.

Since 2010, the 38-year-old American has stepped back from recording to explore motivational speaking, writing, authoring an advice column, and collaborating with other artists. His work has recently seen him named person of the year by suicide prevention group the American Association of Suicidology.

Now, he’s back with You’re Not Alone: his first album of new songs in nearly twelve years. It’s a typically triumphant collection of rock tracks featuring his trademark big riffs, infectious hooks and buoyant choruses.

While he acknowledges he is lucky to have made another album at all, the finished product was only ever going to have one goal: make the listener feel better.

“I only want to put good vibes out into the world, and I’m very focussed on that mission,” he says.

“I imagine we have a perpetual need for positivity. The best things in life give us the strength and resilience to face the challenges that are worth solving.”

For the King of Partying, partying can mean a whole lot more than just getting drunk with friends.

“I’ve had a lot of experience with getting drunk, but it’s not limited to that,” he says.

“First and foremost, it’s a decision to break away from the torturous debate over whether life is good or bad, and it’s an acceptance of the possibility that it is intrinsically good. Then it’s finding the wherewithal to celebrate all that goodness. It’s basically looking at life as a celebration of not being dead, and trying to find the value in the difficult parts of that experience.”

Taking a philosophical approach to partying is fairly unique among hard-rocking musicians, but Andrew W.K.’s power of positivity reaches further, into all areas of his life. His remedy for feeling low is a common one.

“Music never fails. There are people out there, and they’re few and far between, who don’t get the power of music. I could be in a completely defeated frame of mind and turn to music, and it will instantly change not just my thoughts and mood, but the way my body changes physically. It changes the way it feels to exist for the better. Like so many people, we can just imagine a song, and it sounds so much better in our heads than it does being played. It permeates the best part of our soul, and if we can hold onto that in the face of difficulty, it will see us through.”

Another uncommon thing for a hard-rock musician to do is to include spoken-word pieces in an album, of which there are three on You’re Not Alone. Again, the themes are positivity and overcoming doubt.

“Including those was suggested to me by someone in my management team, and it never would have occurred to me,” he says.

“It’s a very exposed and vulnerable contrast to very dense and celebratory music. I didn’t allow my own fears or trepidation to sway me from recording them. I recorded them at the very last second – I literally could not have delayed putting them off any further. I recorded them in the mastering phase – you’re supposed to be completely done with all your recording by that point. The engineer was very generous, and I recorded them quickly and spontaneously. I didn’t realise it at the time, but when I transcribed them for the lyric book, those words were what I was telling myself through the recording of the album and what I tell myself in everyday life. I thought maybe someone else could relate to them as well.”

While he is reinvigorated and empowered by his new album and seemingly feeling freer than ever, Andrew W.K. is sticking firmly to his stated mission – albeit with 17 years more experience and maturity since ‘Party Hard’ made his name.

“I’ve not yet done most things, as far as what I would like to do,” he says.

“I would like to get better as a person and serve this calling. That’s really all I should allow myself. There were times in the past I felt pressure to be ambitious, to think bigger and broader, and do all sorts of other things. I’m not cut out for those things – I’m barely cut out for this. I just want to get better and better at delivering on the promise that I have committed myself to, and that’s party power.”

Australia, known internationally for its party power, is firmly in mind for a visit.

“We have been talking about coming over for concerts and I’m extremely excited about that,” he says.

“Australia has never faltered in not only appreciating party power, but conjuring it up. It would be great to be re-energised and refuelled with a Down Under trip. Hopefully it will happen this year.”

You’re Not Alone by Andrew W.K. is out Friday 2nd March 2018 via Sony Music Australia

For The Brag

Fatboy Slim: Stormin’ Norman Heads Down Under

Longevity in the entertainment business is an elusive concept. Slippery as an eel. Statistically pretty bloody unlikely.

fatboy slim 2018-1

Evidence shows that lengthy success requires an artist to either (a) regularly reinvent their showbiz persona and take a punt (see: Bowie, Madonna, Prince), or (b) find something they do particularly well and just keep hammering away (see: AC/DC, The Rolling Stones).

For every rule there are exceptions, however, and it could be argued that Fatboy Slim is pretty unique in that he has done a bit of both.

On one hand, the Englishman has spent over 20 years honing an instantly-recognisable DJ-ing style and hasn’t put out a studio album since 2004. On the other, he’s the guy with an armful of aliases, a continually-evolving method of effecting euphoria, and a back story as interesting and varied as most.

With appearances locked in at the third Electric Gardens festival in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide through January, the bonafide EDM legend is bringing his unique party-starting style (and trademark Hawaiian shirts) back to Australia just two years after his last shows here.

It’s safe to assume he’ll be bringing his A game, as always.

“Australian crowds, they’re not shy,” he told Red Bull last year.

“And that’s always my favourite kind of crowd. It’s also a beautiful country to visit.”

While music-lovers now have a pretty good idea of what to expect from a Fatboy Slim show, it’s been a long journey for the 54 year-old to get to where he is today.

The man also known as Norman Cook has come a long way, baby, since being a skinny, pale Housemartin singing a cover of Isley-Jasper-Isley’s ‘Caravan of Love’ on Britain’s Top of the Pops in 1986 or reinventing The Clash’s basslines for Beats International’s smash ‘Dub Be Good to Me’ at the turn of the ’90s (and the coming of ecstasy).

In 1996, his world changed. The Fatboy Slim moniker was born (a name plucked from “thin air” he told NPR in 2001), he released the triple-platinum-selling You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby album a couple of years later, and a swag of awards and international recognition in the process.

A superstar DJ was born.

The transition required a new persona, meaning he became “like James Brown without the band,” he told The Guardian recently.

“I started cheerleading the crowd and showing off. Whenever I play, I kick off my shoes, put on my Hawaiian shirt and revert to being a 17-year-old who’s had one too many ciders.”

More hit records and a never-ending whirlwind of parties, festivals, gigs, travelling and even more festivals, gigs and parties lead to him not only becoming one of the biggest names in dance music worldwide, but also alcohol-dependent – a situation he didn’t address until 2009.

Sobriety called for further transition so the Fatboy Slim party didn’t suffer. He says a genuine love of the music and his audience keeps him as keen as ever.

“The people I play the music to … keep me inspired and amused,” he told Time Out this year.

“Last year was fun and I fully intend to deliver more of the same. I just try and makes sure there’s a little bit of everything for everyone.

“If you wanna party, age doesn’t matter!”

“It’s strange, especially when you travel around, [but] I always have a look at the crowd before I go on to see roughly how I’m going to approach it,” he told Noisey.

Naturally the transition to a sober life was a more serious affair than simply adjusting his approach to a show.

“I kind of lived the life of Fatboy Slim 24 hours a day for about a decade, and it nearly killed me,” he said in an interview with Digital DJ Tips.

“It’s untenable to try and live like that all the time, you’re not a responsible citizen, and you shouldn’t be left in control of children.

“So I kind of figured that the only way I’d do it was quit drinking, for starters, just to give me a bit more longevity, and also just to separate the onstage person from the offstage persona.”

Fans old and new are benefiting from the change too.

“[Sobriety has] prolonged my DJing life,” he told Noisey.

“And my actual life. It’s nice to be 54 and able to jump around at 5am. A lot of that is through being fit. But seriously, the whole thing is just vanity; self-preservation.”

Now a veteran of EDM and a stalwart of the music business, he’s in a good position to assess the scene – with the help of a clear head.

“A lot of the old school DJs are properly weird characters, whereas the new school are young, good-looking, but not hugely interesting,” he told Noisey.

“A lot of them are interchangeable.”

With fire still clearly in his belly and a desire for playing shows stronger than ever, Fatboy Slim is not in the mood to hang up his headphones just yet.

Retirement is an impossibility when he’s only just successfully learned how to separate his onstage and offstage personae, he recently told The Guardian.

“For me, Pete Tong, Carl Cox, we are the first wave of big DJs so there’s no precedent [to retirement],” he said.

“As I get older, Norman’s increasingly obsessed with fridge management and being a responsible dad and husband. He only lets Fatboy out of the box on stage now – Fatboy’s still a lunatic hedonist.”

For someone who has been there from the start to still be at the top of his game more than 20 years later is more than unlikely; it’s almost impossible, and Fatboy Slim’s long and eclectic contribution to music has arguably earned him the right to dictate his own future.

“I’ll step down when either the crowds or I stop enjoying it,” he told The Guardian.

“Neither of which has happened thus far.”

Fatboy Slim plays Electic Gardens Festival:

Friday 19th January
Red Hill Auditorium, Perth

Thursday 25th January
The Marquee, Brisbane

Friday 26th January
Centennial Parklands, Sydney

For Scenestr

Feature: The Preatures Get Personal on Album Number Two

Three years. That’s how long The Preatures toured around their hit single ‘Is This How You Feel?’ and the subsequent album, Blue Planet Eyes. When the band finally returned home early last year, they were completely exhausted.

The Preatures 2017

“Stepping out of the slipstream of that whole touring life was really welcome,” guitarist, co-songwriter and producer Jack Moffitt says. “In a good sense, we had reached the peak of what we were probably capable of achieving during all the time we spent together.”

But getting back to Sydney was also about The Preatures getting back to their roots. They holed up in their inner-city Sydney Hibernian House recording studio and set about writing material for a new album. The result is Girlhood, released last month. It’s an intensely personal collection of songs.
Moffitt says after the roller-coaster ride of a seemingly never-ending touring cycle, getting back to basics simply felt “right”. But the extent to which the band would incorporate their hometown into their music would eventually break new ground for them, and at the same time help introduce a new audience to an Indigenous language.

“We recorded it [at Hibernian House] because we have roots in that place; roots that have a lot to do with us growing up as a unit,” Moffitt says. “We didn’t see ourselves making this record in any other way. Sometimes you just know these things, so we made that choice.”

Forming in 2011 as a country-rock-soul quintet (the now-departed Gideon Bensen was the fifth member), The Preatures steadily built a large and loyal Australian following before taking a more mainstream pop approach with ‘Is This How You Feel?’ in 2013. Blue Planet Eyes was released the following year.

The single, the album and the subsequent time on the road turned The Preatures into proper internationalists with fans all across the world, but Moffitt reckons there will always be something intrinsically “Sydney” about the band.

“Everything has something innate that you can’t escape, and when you start writing, you’re pulling on threads of things that you don’t know how to explain,” he says. “Having made the last record in another part of the world [Austin, Texas], even though it was really hospitable to us and felt good, it wasn’t our place. We wanted the opportunity to really explore what it would be like to be here and work on a record.”

“It was a real catharsis to put a lot of energy into exploring that. Now that I reflect upon it, I can hear everything I’ve grown up with in this city on this record.”

It was during this writing process that singer and co-songwriter Isabella Manfredi attended a production of The Secret River by Sydney Theatre Company. Based on a novel by Kate Grenville, it tells the story of first contact between European setters and the local Dharug people, who lived scattered around what is now much of modern Sydney. Inspired by the play and armed with a desire to include Indigenous language in a song, Manfredi and the band wrote the single Yanada.

“It really moved her to hear that language,” Moffitt says. “I think it stirred in her a longing to find a connection to this place after so many years spent abroad, speaking or learning Italian and German. Then, coming home and hearing that language … she wanted to use [that] when we started writing for the album.

“When we were writing Yanada, [Manfredi] gradually set out to speak with and learn from the Indigenous community about the language. She came across [Aboriginal elder, musician and educator] Jacinta Tobin, which was such a special thing. To have the song acknowledged by Jacinta and all the people we’ve encountered through that process was such an amazing education. It started our relationship with this great heritage we all share.”

Working out how to include Dharug in a pop song respectfully and appropriately took time, Moffitt says.

“It was a real experience to … be guided by members of the community like Jacinta Tobin and [actor and Indigenous campaigner] Richard Green. Everybody was so generous and supportive of what Izzi was trying to pull out of this song with respect to language. It was an eye-opening experience, and has had a profound impact on my life.”

Intertwining the Dharug and English languages in a modern-day track not only connected the band to their area’s history, but to a branch of Australian music stretching back to Yothu Yindi and Warumpi Band.

“Neil Murray from Warumpi Band worked and spent a lot of time in communities in the Northern Territory, and wrote My Island Home,” Moffit says. “We’ve grown up with that as an echo in our consciousness from what was around in popular music when we were kids. It seemed to disappear for a long time, but maybe it was because our awareness of it was only there because of our exposure to it in popular music.”

The Preatures have an enormous presence in Australian music and Moffitt recognises the potential for the band to start a conversation about shared history and language.

“Even if the discussion turns to the definition of “yanada”, which in Dharug means ‘moon’, you’ve got two terms that could be the start of someone’s path into learning about their communities,” he says. “For me, I’m not even qualified to really pass any comment on it other than what my experience is, which is that I feel like I’m at the start of a lifelong journey.”

A new album of course means another round of touring. There have already been performances at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney and the Forum in Melbourne. Next up is a performance at the Spiegeltent for Brisbane Festival, followed by shows in Adelaide, Perth and a clutch of regional dates. Moffitt reckons they’re ready.

“We’re at that point where we’re looking forward to being back in that vacuum,” he says. “That mode of touring.”

Girlhood is out now on Mercury Records.

For Broadsheet

Q&A: Glitter Veils

The Brisbane duo going international with the help of one of America’s most well-regarded record labels.

Glitter Veils

Glitter Veils wasn’t always Glitter Veils. Most recently plugging away on the Brisbane dream-pop scene under the moniker YOU, it was in July last year that Luke Zahnleiter and Michael Whitney (also of The Rational Academy and Nite Fields, respectively) were presented with a persuasive argument to change their band name.

Terrible Records got in touch. It was co-founded by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor and is home to Solange, Twin Shadow, Blood Orange, Moses Sumney and Australia’s Kirin J. Callinan, among many others. Terrible suggested the switch to the more memorable and SEO-friendly moniker. It then went on to release Glitter Veils’ album, Figures in Sight, on its Flexible imprint, which focuses on unique debut releases.

After listening to the album it’s easy to see why. Raw, abrasive, deep and mesmeric, the layers of sound play out like an experiment that may or may not reach a conclusion but will be a hell of a ride either way.

Zahnleiter and Whitney, champions of the album format, explain their processes and how they ended up on Terrible.

Was putting Figures in Sight together a complex process?

Michael Whitney: It started off as a bedroom project for me, and then I wanted to play it live. Then Luke came along and we became really good friends. I guess from that initial period it was about two years of writing, recording, restructuring and going back and forth to the studio.

Luke Zahnleiter: We were pretty fastidious and got a bit obsessive in parts of it, but, overall, we’re happy with how it came out and happy that the overall sound has been getting a good response. We’re kind of relieved in a way.

Was it important the album had an overall sound or feel?

LZ: Michael and I listen to similar music and we have quite a varied taste. I think it’s about the feeling and mood we can create in the music. We could attempt to make a style of music, but [the album is] essentially what came out at that period in time. Whatever was impacting our life was funnelled through that.

MW: Luke and I come from pretty different spectrums of how we play instruments, and I think that is reflected in certain ways. The guitar has a similar sound over the whole album. I tend to like a lot of older pop music and stuff like [American composer] Angelo Badalamenti [best known for his work scoring David Lynch’s films].

David Lynch is often mentioned in your reviews. How does that sit with you?

LZ: I’m happy with that. When people say “David Lynch”, I think they mean the Twin Peaks [theme] song [Falling]. I think it’s more of a mood thing.

MW: That kind of tragic beauty.

Describe the moment you heard Terrible was interested.

LZ: When we finished the album we had no idea what we were going to do from that stage. It’s not like we had been playing live. We just got so involved in making the record that we didn’t have a plan of attack afterwards. We just sent it to a bunch of labels – mainly international labels – and kind of hoped for the best. I emailed quite a few with some early mixes. Then Ethan [Silverman] from Terrible emailed. It was very vague – I think it was a one-line response, something like: “This is cool, I’ll sit on this …”. Then three months later we heard from them again, and he got back to us with another vague message saying they wanted to put out two songs on the Flexible imprint, then we figured out a way to put everything out. We wanted to bypass plugging away at the local scene and getting on a local label.

Why bypass the local route?

LZ: We wanted as many people as possible to hear the album – that’s my main goal.

MW: We were sending it to labels that were probably above our heads, but we tried anyway. I just want to make really great albums. The live thing has almost been an afterthought with this last record.

LZ: We’ve both played in bands before and done local gigs and touring, and it’s exhausting to do that, and you’re not really getting much exposure. It’s usually the same people who come to shows locally, and we just wanted to get a broader audience.

How does it feel to have Solange, Twin Shadow and Blood Orange as labelmates?

MW: It’s a great roster and I love Blood Orange and Solange’s album. It’s something to aspire to – to make albums in a certain way and to push us even further.

LZ: We’re definitely in good company and it’s a great label. I remember that Twin Shadow album from 2010 or 2011 – their first full-length. I used to love that album. To think we’re now with the same company is a really good feeling. There are some great artists on Flexible, too.

Any international touring plans?

LZ: We’ve got a few Melbourne shows coming up, but internationally, we’ll see how it pans out. It’s definitely something we’d both like to do, especially in America. Having Terrible on our side to help is a good position to be in.

For Broadsheet

FEATURE: Kurt Vile

KURT VILE

KURT Vile is no mug.

The Philadelphian singer, songwriter, producer, and purveyor of delectably laid-back indie-folk tunes has been a guest in our country a smattering of times, but he’s got his audience pretty well sussed.

“I think Australians, in general, really feel music,” he says. “It’s a record nerd, gut-level or emotional thing; maybe an obsessive thing, which is very similar to the way I am. But there’s also a ball-busting, bullshit artist type of thing they can tap into, and [they] can have a good laugh. I feel they are really serious about music but also they can just bullshit and bust balls; they’re both equal. You know how to fuck with somebody to show that you love them. I feel a lot of Australians have those kinds of humour and emotions, you know?”

The 36 year-old will tour Australia solo for the first time in February and March, leaving his band The Violators at home. Successful previous sojourns and a recent surge in popularity here mean the idea of playing venues and shows the size of Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Taronga Zoo and Golden Plains Festival doesn’t faze him.

“I’ve been to Australia enough – this will be the fourth time coming up – to feel like it won’t make a difference,” he says. “I’ll be zoning out; kind of in my comfort zone. I’m sort of comfortable over there because, I don’t know, I’m just used to it over there. With The Violators we try to mix it up with keyboards and stuff like that, but [this time] I’ll just be by myself and my acoustic. I’m sure I’ll bring a banjo. Maybe one day I’ll have more of band with more instruments than a four-piece. I like to just go out, zone out, and not try to recreate the record.”

After leaving The War on Drugs, which he founded with long-term friend Adam Granduciel, and releasing his debut record in 2008, Vile has released six solo records and a collection of EPs of top-drawer folk, rock and psychedelia, with each record marking a musical and thematic progression from the last.

“I’m usually most proud of my newest album,” he says. “But that wears off once I start working on a new record. I look back and am proud of them all, but I would say maybe most of all ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’; all those songs have a similar melancholia in the lyrics – there was a good theme going on there. The next few records obviously had themes going on too, but there is an interesting melancholic tone to ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’; I can go back and listen to that one. There’s something about it. I wouldn’t say I’m most proud of it, but it’s some kind of statement.”

Not keen to rest on his laurels, and despite 2015’s ‘b’lieve I’m goin down’ not having been played in Australia yet, the hard-working Vile has already started on its follow-up.

“I’ve been in and out of the studio throughout this touring cycle because I feel like the last two records, in particular, took so long out of the touring cycle,” he says. “I don’t want to just get lost in this dark, black cocoon world in the studio. So I’ve been going in and out of the studio between touring for that reason. I probably have about half of the songs for the next record in some form. I think [fans] will recognise the sound; it’s not like it’s a drastically different record, but there’s always evolution. I think there’s a steady American roots thing going on in my music, and I don’t mean that it’s going to come out like ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’ or something too country, but it’ll be some kind of roots scenario. I’ve always been into country and have been getting more into it lately. I read Jerry Lee Lewis’s biography – ‘Hellfire’ by Nick Tosches and George Jones’ autobiography. Since then I’ve basically been out of control reading about nerdy music things; especially Nick Tosches. I guess I’ve been a bit obsessed since my record came out.”

With talk of music nerdiness and an obvious knowledge of music history and lineage, Vile could be assumed to be a hardcore musicologist and collector. The truth is more interesting, however.

“I prefer to not have too many obscure records,” he says. “I have old country, blues and soul records. The stuff I get into is usually popular at one time or another. These days, if I go to the record store the records I want only cost two dollars or something anyways; ‘Country’s Greatest Hits’ or something. I usually space out and don’t even know what comes out in a particular year, but my buddy Luke Roberts put out a record which was great. Heron Oblivion’s record was great. I’ve had my head in the clouds listening to a lot of old music.”

Despite constant touring and having critically-acclaimed albums on his resume, the amiable Vile keeps his feet on the ground. As recently as 2009 he was working in a brewery while recording his third album.

“The constants are my two little daughters and my wife,” he says. “We just moved to a bigger house. It’s not a mansion, although it feels like it because I’ve never had any room my whole life. We’re also keeping our little house so I can go back to my roots and record there. So my everyday life lately has been carting things between these two houses and driving around. I’m pretty comfortable driving around in general, listening to music and zoning out. I’ve also done some little side projects. I did some songs with Courtney Barnett when I was in Australia last time; I’m not sure when they’ll come out or anything. I recorded in Nashville with a bunch of legendary old dudes. I’ve been in the studio with the Violators and I’ve been getting my home studio together, so I’ve kind of got my hands on a lot of different things and it’s all coming along.”

With 2017 mere days away, February comes quickly for Kurt Vile fans.

“The Violators are playing New Year’s at the Fillmore in Philadelphia, and a couple more shows in New York and Boston,” he says. “We have one more tour around Florida late January, then that lines me up to go solo and see you guys.”

Kurt Vile plays Taronga Zoo on Friday 3rd March and QPAC on Thursday 9th March

For Scenestr

Richie Ramone: 1, 2, 3, 4…

richie ramone

THE Ramones kickstarted punk, inspired a generation of kids to pick up guitars, and shook the rock establishment to its core.

Now, forty years after the New York band sang about beating on the brat with a baseball bat, drummer Richie Ramone is keeping their spirit alive with his own blistering punk-rock shows. Ramone touches down in Australia in late April for a run of east coast gigs with promises to play rock ‘n’ roll as loud as it should be.

“I’ll play some of the material from my last record and the one coming out.” Richie says. “Also songs I played with the Ramones back in the day, then I’ll play some Ramones classics. It’s a really good set, you know? It’s a complete Ramones set. In 2013 I played ANZ Stadium with Aerosmith. I had a good time and it’s beautiful over there. I’m really looking forward to this trip.”

In 1983, the then-unknown 26 year-old joined the legendary band just after the release of ‘Subterranean Jungle’, the quartet’s seventh studio album.

“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Richie says. “Somebody told me they were auditioning drummers, they gave them my name and that’s how it worked. I didn’t know them beforehand, and they called me and I just did the audition like any other audition. It was an amazing thing that I ended up in one of the greatest bands of all time. Right away we hit it off. Joey took me under his wing.”

His song-writing and vocals provided a much-needed new dimension to the band, and Richie went on to appear in over 500 shows. Singer Joey Ramone is quoted as saying Richie “saved the band” when he joined.

“The last two or three records, the last two especially, before ‘Too Tough to Die’ were probably not great records,” Richie says. “When you get a new person in the band, it changes the blood and energises the band. ‘Too Tough to Die’ came out in 1983 and did that. They accepted [my songs]. A good song is a good song, you know? Johnny didn’t want me to have more than one or two songs if he didn’t make the numbers, but they accepted it.”

Dysfunction was allegedly rife within the Ramones, including constant tension between guitarist Johnny and singer Joey, mental illness, drug abuse, and betrayal.

“All of it was exaggerated,” Richie says. “They were one of the most professional bands. We worked, you know? But it’s also like a family that’s together a lot; there’s weird shit going on. But when it came time to play a show, we were all together; we made sure of that. But they wanted to break up many times, I think, but I don’t know what caused them to stop [in the end].”

Since departing the band in 1987, Richie has had an eclectic career in music, including composing classical suites and releasing his debut solo album, ‘Entitled’, in 2013. A follow-up is in the works and is set for release this year.

“I’m my own artist now,” he says. “I have the last name and the Ramones taught me a lot. They gave me direction and taught me about how to respect the fans, and I carry that with me, but I’m my own artist, not the Ramones. I can’t be the Ramones. [The new album] is a fucking really great record and I’m really excited about it. I’ve got a Depeche Mode song [‘Enjoy the Silence’] on there, which I really like. I’ll be playing one or two songs from it when I get out there. I don’t like playing a lot of new songs when I’m on tour, so it’ll be only one or two.”

The death of drummer Tommy Ramone in 2014 meant that no founding members of the Ramones are still around, but the spirit of the band is as strong as ever, helped by the ubiquitous Ramones T-shirt and logo.

“There are a lot of new fans,” Richie says. “The thing I see is parents bringing their kids. There’s a fourth generation Ramones thing happening now. Parents want to introduce their kids to good rock ‘n’ roll. There’s tons of fans all over; we’ve got people coming to shows from 65 to 16. But it works. And they’re all wearing the T-shirt [laughs].”

Richie Ramone plays:

Thursday 28th April 2016
Great Northern Hotel – Byron Bay NSW

Friday 29th April 2016
Wooly Mammoth – Brisbane QLD

Saturday 30th April 2016
Social Club – Sydney NSW

Sunday 1st May 2016
Cherry Rock, Melbourne VIC

For Scenestr

Cherie Currie: “Every time I get on stage I realise it is something I was born to do”

cherie currie the runaways

IN welcome news for fans of classic rock, legendary Runaways lead singer Cherie Currie has announced a debut five-stop Australian tour in May.

Having waited nearly forty years for the opportunity to see the iconic ‘Cherry Bomb’ singer in the flesh, Australian audiences should go wild for the rocker who, as a 15 year-old in 1975, joined Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Jackie Fox and Sandy West in forming the influential band.

Under the watchful eye of manager and rock svengali Kim Fowley, The Runaways grabbed headlines with their powerful rock shows and punk-rock jailbait image before imploding in 1979. Currie overcame alcohol and drug dependency before The Runaways found a new audience when a biographical film, inspired by her memoir, was released in 2010, with Dakota Fanning playing Currie.

This will be your first Australian tour. Why has it taken so long?

It’s been so long because I haven’t been in the business, really. I went into acting, got married, had a kid, then became a chainsaw artist. I had always written songs and recorded; a couple are on the new Reverie record as well as the live record that will be available when I come and see you guys in May. I was doing other things, and I think being a chainsaw artist really did fill that void, but every time I get on stage I realise it is something I was born to do. It’s the place I feel most comfortable, believe it or not.

Did you deliberately stay away from music, or just naturally fall into other things?

The thing is, it wasn’t that I stayed away, it just didn’t happen. After my Capitol record I did a lot of writing and worked with some great people, but sometimes it’s just not the time and there’s nothing we can do about it. This happens to be the time for me now, and it’s a good time, because when you get to be 56 years old you really don’t care and just want to enjoy life. You want to be the best you can and you’re not fighting for, or insecure about, anything any more; you’ve grown past that. Plus, you’re not full of yourself, like a lot of people who have a lot of success at a young age and believe all the hype. I’ve been around long enough that I don’t believe any of it [laughs]. I just like really good people who are down-to-earth, because that’s the person I am, and that’s how I am on stage. With maturity comes a better performer.

What do you play in your sets these days?

I want to give the fans what they want. I want them to reminisce. I get to reminisce when I go to see bands I love; it’s disappointing when you don’t hear the songs you love. I’ll be doing Runaways stuff, new things, and a couple of tributes.

How does it feel playing songs you first played as a teenager when the band image was fairly sexualised?

The only sexualised part of the Runaways, really, was ‘Cherry Bomb’, which was me putting on a corset for three minutes [laughs]. Otherwise, we wore jumpsuits and it wasn’t that sexualised. We were much more covered than anything you see today, that’s for sure. I came up with the corset because the band had just come out of the gate and I thought it would be something that would bring attention to the song, and it did. But it’s great to be doing songs that I’ve been doing for forty years; it never gets old for me. Never. I have as much fun doing them as the audience does listening to them.

What was the catalyst for making a new album after so much time?

I made a record in 2009 with Matt Sorum from Guns ‘N’ Roses; he produced a record for me. Unfortunately my management company at the time did not want to put it out, so now I’ve finally negotiated a contract where they’re finally going to put it out within the year. It’s a great record. Billy Corgan wrote a duet that he and I do together. I’ve got Slash and Duff [McKagan], and of course Matt, Brody Dalle and Juliette Lewis. It’s a real fun record. Reverie, which I put out on my own, is the one Kim Fowley approached me on when he was very ill. I wanted to take the opportunity to create some memories with this man, instead of living in this place of all my memories of him came from being a child. They’re not good memories and I feel like I needed to face that and make new memories. So that’s what we did, and I’m very grateful we did that before he passed away.

[Last year, former bassist Jackie Fox (real name Jackie Fuchs) told the Huffington Post of having been raped by Fowley in 1975 after having been given quaaludes by a roadie, with differing accounts of exactly what happened being offered by various bandmates.]

What are your feelings about Fowley now?

I was there. What Jackie claims happened is not what I saw. And again, I did stand up and walk out when I couldn’t seem to stop it or they didn’t seem to want to stop. Regardless, it was a different time when young girls really wanted to be with older men, and I think what Kim Fowley did was deplorable and horrible, and that’s why I wrote about it in my book. While he was alive I faced him on it. But again, it’s forty-something years later and the person is now dead, and she had a very good relationship with Kim up until the time he got sick, and I never understood why she didn’t address it before then, because I gave her ample opportunity. But you know what? People do things in their own time, and I wish her well, like I wish everyone well in this band. I hope only the best for her.

Do you have a relationship with Jackie now, or is that gone?

Not now. Simply because she was well aware of what I witnessed, but for some odd reason – and it’s documented in interviews I did back in the ’80s – she tried to stop me even though I changed the name. She did everything she could to stop my book from coming out in 2010, even though my kidnapping; where I was beaten half to death and brutally raped by a madman, she didn’t care about any of that. She just didn’t want me to tell a story about something I witnessed, even without her name attached. To me, that’s really somebody who’s pretty self-serving. I gave her every opportunity to write it with me, you know? Not only was she aware, but the Huffington Post was very aware of what I had witnessed, as well as two other people who have passed away. There was one other girl who collaborated my story, but they chose not to include that. It had to be this narrative, and I guess that’s the only way that Jackie feels uncomfortable, but you can’t include a 16 year-old of sitting there, doing nothing and watching something that I did not see. I did not see what she claims; that did not happen. If she’s going to do that on national television, she’s doing it for another reason. She’s not doing it to benefit victims of rape. She’s doing something else and using me and Joan [Jett] to blame, and I’m never going to let that slide, I’m sorry. I just can’t tell a lie, and I won’t lie for her. That’s the bottom line. Trust me, it would be so much easier if I just went with her narrative, but the bottom line is I have to be true. I’m sorry Jackie can’t be, but it’s not my problem; I wish her the best, I really do. I know what it’s like to be abused by someone.

Did you feel the movie was a fair and accurate representation of the band, overall?

I really, really wished that Jackie and Lita had been involved. Unfortunately Lita never read the contract. I guess her husband read her the first page of the script and they threw it in the trash. Of course Jackie then went to the Linsons [producers John and Art Linson] demanding four times the amount of money Joan and I were making, and demanding to be a producer, so they just wrote her out. She then said they could use her name but they said no; she did not make a good impression, and that was unfortunate as Joan and I really wanted her to be a part of it. So that meant we didn’t have hers or Lita’s input, and of course we didn’t have Sandy with us any more, so that was really sad. But I think that visually, it’s phenomenal. [Director] Floria Sigismondi captured the seventies in a brilliant way, and of course Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart and Michael Shannon did a superb job, just superb. I mean, who gets to make a movie made about them? I’m just going to say “Job well done, thank you very much” [laughs].

What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?

I’m excited about the live record as I just came out of the studio the day before yesterday after fine-tuning some mixes, and it sounds great. I’m looking forward to the Suzi Quatro film that I wrote a song for; actually, the production company is there in Australia. I have a lot of carvings I have to catch up on, but coming to Australia will be a high point in this gal’s life, I’ll tell you that much. I’m just so happy and blessed to have this opportunity, and I’m very grateful for it.

CHERIE CURRIE PLAYS:

Thursday 26 May 2016
The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD

Friday 27 May 2016
Manning Bar, Camperdown, NSW

Saturday 28 May 2016
Corner Hotel, Richmond, VIC

Tuesday 31 May 2016
The Gov, Hindmarsh, SA

Wednesday 01 June 2016
Rosemount Hotel, Perth, WA

For The AU Review

Andrew Innes of Primal Scream: “When you grow up in Scotland you’re a bit more anti-authority”

primal scream

MUCH like a rectangular container filled with assorted sweet confectionery, the best thing about a new Primal Scream album is you never know what you’re going to get.

Since their mid-eighties formation the Scottish band have dipped their collective toes in jangle-pop, acid house, dub, Stones-influenced rock, krautrock and electronica, all while raising enough hell to kill off many a band of weaker constitution.

As the Scream’s eleventh album Chaosmosis is released this month, guitarist Andrew Innes explains that while the band may have left their hell-raising days behind, they are still as experimental and angry as ever.

“We try to keep moving on and trying new things,” he says. “I always buy new bits of equipment, and that’s how the band evolves. We don’t just sit down and write on the guitar we’ve written songs on for ages. Some of the most mental sounds on [the new album] are things [Northern Irish DJ/composer] David Holmes e-mailed me about. He said I should get this fuzzbox because it’s insane and told me to just buy it and don’t even think about it. What people think are distorted synths are a guitar through this crazy fuzzbox. One of the pluggers of the record said ‘What’s that terrible noise at about two minutes thirty? I think it’s a god-damned synthesiser; can we edit it out?’ I e-mailed back telling him it was one of my finest guitar solos in the last ten years. The sound evolved to be quite electronic, and because we’re using electronic synths, the drums are also quite electronic.”

After a dalliance with Byrds-esque pop the band broke big with 1991’s Screamadelica, a masterpiece of acid house and neo-psychedelia. A long period of success and excess followed, and Innes admits writing songs is much easier these days with the benefit of a clear head.

“I think you get better at your craft,” he says. “ Now, the bit that’s inspiration is hard, but the bit that’s perspiration isn’t as hard. Being more together – I mean, obviously we aren’t as crazy as we were in 1993 – means you know right away what’s good or not. We don’t have that thing where you get up in the morning after working all night and don’t know whether it’s good or not; you know right away. Things are a bit less hectic than they used to be, shall we say.”

A constant in Primal Scream albums over time has been the sense the band has its finger on the political pulse. Chaosmosis is no different, says Innes.

“Songs like ‘Golden Rope’ and ‘When the Blackout Meets the Fallout’ [are political],” he says. “’Autumn in Paradise’ is about devastated towns and communities in Britain. Maybe there’s not as much in-your-face shouting about it as there has been in the past, but it’s more subtle. [The British Conservative government] made that promise about making the north a powerhouse and they don’t give a fuck; they really don’t care. As soon as the Tories got a majority they just got on with doing what they want to do, which is making the world safer for their mates, and making the world better for big business. The weird thing is, in the past the Tories would have at least thrown a bone to the middle classes, but they don’t even give a fuck about them any more. That’s how it’s changed; the doctors are on strike for God’s sake, and [the government] doesn’t care. They care about their pals; the big corporations and that’s it. And the sad thing about it is people in the south of England vote for it. People in the old industrial heartlands in the north don’t vote for it, the Scottish definitely don’t vote for it, the Welsh don’t vote for it, and the Irish don’t vote for it. My friend has a good theory that the English had their revolution too early. It was maybe 100 years too early, and then they wanted their king back. They like being subjects, but when you grow up in Scotland you’re a bit more anti-authority.”

Picking top-drawer collaborators is another skill the bad has mastered. This time around, Haim feature on opener ‘Trippin’ On Your Love’, Rachel Zeffira pops up on ‘Private Wars’, and Sky Ferreira duets on lead single ‘Where the Light Gets In’.

“We met Haim on Jools Holland’s show,” Innes explains. “They are lovely girls and we just clicked and liked them. They’ve got this thing that siblings have, because they’ve been singing together all their lives; they’re just good and know what they’re doing. They brought this sunshine to the record, and it was a great honour for us. They were on tour and only had something like four hours off, and they came round to the studio when they could have been having a rest. Then we had this song that we thought would be a good duet, and Sky’s name came up. Luckily we knew someone who knew her, but we thought she might not know who we were because we’re not that big in America, but she was more than happy. She can really sing and as I was recording I got to listen to just how good she is, just like I did with Robert Plant on the last album.”

The band have no immediate plans for an Australian visit, but that could all change with one phone call, Innes says.

“All we need is one of those Australian promoters,” he says. “I’ve been telling people that next January is free, because you can’t beat leaving [the UK] and heading south, preferably for three weeks [laughs]. If there are any promoters out there, we’re just a call away and we’re ready to work.”

Chaosmosis is out now.

For The Brag

Joe Bonamassa: “Oh it sounded shit, never mind”

joe bonamassa 2016

BLUESFEST Byron Bay is almost upon us and American blues-rock maestro Joe Bonamassa is seeking redemption.

His two exclusive Australian shows at the Easter long weekend event, while hardly requiring a crossroads-like pact with the devil, will provide the hugely talented singer-guitarist with a chance for atonement.

“I played Byron Bay one time; I believe it was 2010,” he says. “I had the shittiest backline and came off the stage thinking I had ruined my entire career in the country of Australia. I thought my guitar sound was just dreadful, but sod’s law meant that I had more people, artists included, coming up to me asking me ‘Man, what were you using up there because it sounded great?’. So I go ‘What fucking show were you watching?’. This year I’m actually shipping my own gear over there, so it gives me a fighting chance; at least me personally. But probably nobody will say anything. ‘Oh it sounded shit, never mind’ [laughs].”

The garrulous and amiable New Yorker’s 12th studio album, Blues of Desperation, will be released just in time for his Australian shows, and represents somewhat of a return to his roots.

“After exploring so many avenues – I was in a hard rock band, I did two years of doing traditional blues, we did The Three Kings tour, the album with Mahalia [Barnes], the stuff I do with Beth Hart – I woke up one day and thought that what I am really good at is blues-rock,” he says. “That’s actually probably what I’m best at, and I should get back to doing what I do best. The album represents that; the urgency to get back to swinging the heavier bat and playing heavier stuff.”

Blues of Desperation sees Bonamassa once again teaming up with producer Kevin Shirley; an arrangement that is unlikely to change any time soon.

“Kevin and I came up with the title based on the song,” Bonamassa says. “It has this weathered kind of feel. It was brought to my attention it was maybe too dark of a title, and for a minute it was changed to Drive, before I finally decided that my life should not become a focus group thinking about who will be turned off by a title. Frankly, it’s not going to sell one more or less copy either way, and I’ve always done things in my career that just felt good, natural and organic. If I saw the record in a store, I would stop and look at it. But if I saw an album called Drive; it’s too vanilla for me. [Kevin and I] have been together for 11 years now. I told him that I think the reason we get on so well together is that everyone sticks to their job; I’m the travelling salesman, Kevin does the records, and Roy [Weisman, manager] runs the business. Kevin is great about putting me into situations that challenge me, and with musicians I would never think of. He has such a great vision of what I’m capable of, even when there is some resistance. I come in with the songs and we hash out the arrangements and we’re pretty much always on the same page. I’ve also learned to appreciate the inspiration of a single take, rather than grind the inspiration out of it, if you know what I mean?”

At only 38, Bonamassa has already been a working musician for 26 years, having opened for B.B. King when he was 12. The idea that a true bluesman never really retires might not apply here, however.

“I reckon I have another 24 years left before I can officially retire after 50 years in,” he laughs. “I’m not a run-of-the-mill blues guy. I tell you, I’m not going to be a lifer. The problem is to do this at a high level and to keep the quality up, it takes a lot of preparation. I’m not one of those cats who just walks on stage and it all just comes out of me. I think there’s more to life; I don’t want to look down the line when I’m too old to pursue something else and think I squandered the opportunity [to do something else]. Not that having a career in music is a bad thing; it’s an honour to do this for a living, but there’s more to life than plugging a Gibson guitar into a Fender amp, you know? There’s a big world out there. I get to travel it, but I never see it. I go to all these great places, and I see the hotel and the gig. I could get up super-early and see some museum but I don’t feel like doing that after singing the night before. I’d like to be a tourist once in a while, you know?”

On top of his abundant playing and writing skills, Bonamassa has been a student of the blues since childhood, starting with the ’60s British blues guitarists who brought the form to the masses.

“It was my original gateway into blues,” he says. “As a kid, to hear blues music that was basically early heavy rock was very appealing to me. As a six or seven year-old, it’s very hard to get the subtleties of Robert Johnson, as you can barely hear it on a record player. Only 20 years after the fact did I realise the true genius of those original masters, and even now I’m discovering them and realising how many of their ideas were, let’s say, borrowed by the British blues-rock scene of the ’60s. My first introduction was the Jeff Beck Group, and that was the gateway. After that it was Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, all the Free stuff – I was enamoured with Paul Kossoff, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore. [Gary Moore album] Still Got The Blues was one of the most pivotal albums in my early teenage years because it taught me I could overplay and people would still like it [laughs].”

While Bonamassa is a big fan of Australia and its music, he admits he lives in a bubble when it comes to what music is most popular here, or anywhere. Luckily his Queenslander girlfriend keeps him informed.

“I have a lot of ties to Australia,” he says. “Mahalia [Barnes] and I were literally just a week ago at Carnegie Hall; she was singing with me. I kind of know what is going on. I’m wilfully ignorant about the pop music scene. I mean, sometimes I’ll run into somebody and my girlfriend knows I have that what-the-fuck look on my face. She’ll be like ‘That’s actually a really popular artist’, and I’ll be like ‘Great! Congratulations’. One guy I love is [blues slide guitarist] Dave Hole, who lives in Perth. He’s one of the best.”

JOE BONAMASSA PLAYS BLUESFEST BYRON BAY SATURDAY MARCH 26 AND MONDAY MARCH 28. BLUES OF DESPERATION IS OUT MARCH 25.

For The Brag

Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks: “We never expected 40 years”

buzzcocks pete shelley

WITH a forty-year career and string of bonafide punk-pop classics under his belt, Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley could be forgiven for wanting to slow down and take stock. In true punk fashion, however, that’s exactly what the 60 year-old is not doing.

The frontman and songwriter of ‘Orgasm Addict’ and ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)’ is taking his band on a world tour to celebrate four decades in the business. Just don’t expect the understated and softly-spoken Shelley to do anything but take it all in his stride.

“We’re naming all our shows this year our 40th anniversary shows,” he says. “But it’s something which has snuck up on us really. We never expected 40 years; even 40 minutes would have been stretching it when we started. We started off with small expectations and didn’t know how long we could carry on before someone stopped us. [Punk was] the most un-commercial form of music we could imagine. It was completely the antithesis of what popular or critically-acclaimed music was at the time, and that’s probably why it worked, because it wasn’t the same old, same old. I tend to see how it actually was, to keep myself from slipping into nostalgia. I think nostalgia is for other people, but it does occur to you sometimes; I think ‘Oh, there are quite a lot of good songs we’ve got’.”

The quartet, also including long-serving guitarist Steve Diggle, are bringing their glorious punk-pop anthems to Australia to play Golden Plains Festival and a string of state capital shows. Preparations have begun in earnest.

“We started rehearsals on Wednesday and have a list that is 48 songs long,” Shelley says. “There’s no way we’re going to be able to play all 48 at one gig. We’re trying to get up to speed on enough songs so, during the year, we can chop and change to keep it fresh, instead of having the same 20 songs being played all the time. I think I’ve written about 120-130 songs, or maybe up to 150. Even choosing 48 out of those; there are still lots of ones I’d forgotten I’d written, so I suppose we’ve got an expansive piece of cloth to cut our modest garments on.”

While the vast majority of bands from the original wave of punk are long gone, Buzzcocks have endured line-up changes, break-ups, and the stress of putting together nine studio albums and countless tours. The secret to the band’s longevity is simple, Shelley insists.

“I think the obvious reason is we couldn’t take a hint,” he laughs. “We’re almost like brothers now. I’ve probably spent more time with Steve in the past 40 years than with my own brother. We still disagree on most things, but we agree to disagree. It’s an important step in life to be able to do that [laughs].”

In an interesting twist of fate, the DIY aesthetic of ’70s punk is once again an element of Buzzcocks’ recording, with 2014’s The Way being made with the help of online crowd-funding.

“We went back and made our own album again, so we were right back to the DIY principle,” Shelley says. “It gives you the control and you have a relationship with the people who are buying your records and appreciating it. I’d rather that than getting someone else to sell it to complete strangers. You’re making music for your friends. Making an album can be quite daunting because normally it’s done in complete secrecy and nobody knows you’re doing anything, but with this, it’s a bit more transparent and people’s enthusiasm that you’re doing it is something that gets relayed to you.”

buzzcocks

The chances of Shelley adding to his 150 tracks written isn’t exactly helped by his song-writing style. The suggestion he makes it hard for himself is laughed off in his typically understated manner.

“I’m not actively writing at the moment,” he says. “The way I write songs is, if I have an idea, I give myself the luxury of being able to forget it. When it comes back I’ll think about it some more, then forget it again. I work on the assumption if it’s such a great idea and even I forget it, it’s not all that good an idea [laughs]. I’d rather have things I can remember. When it comes down to record the music is when I crystallise the song.”

As veterans of multiple world tours, Buzzcocks know Australia well, and it’s always a good place for the band to get into tour-mode.

“I remember driving through country roads and avoiding cane toads,” Shelley says. “It’s so much different to the UK; there’s no escaping it. It’s always good to go; the people are friendly and we’ve always had a good time. I remember the first time I was in Adelaide and it was about 40 degrees and was like being in front of a blast furnace. The trip to Australia is the first of the world tour trip. Then it’s the west coast of America, France, Italy and Holland. In the UK we’re doing some festivals; the Isle of Wight Festival is one of them. It’s going to be a full year.”

BUZZCOCKS PLAY:

Thursday, March 10 – The Triffid, Brisbane
Friday, March 11 – The Factory, Sydney
Saturday, March 12 – Golden Plains Festival, Meredith
Sunday, March 13 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Tuedsay, March 22 – The Gov, Adelaide
Wednesday 23 March – Rosemount Hotel, Perth

For The Brag

Steve Earle: “Byron: it might be the best beach town in the world”

steve earle

THERE’S a little corner of northern New South Wales that really floats Steve Earle’s boat, and given his country-rock pedigree, it’s perhaps surprising it’s not Tamworth.

Luckily for music lovers it’s also the location of one of the world’s premier blues and roots festivals: Bluesfest.

“Byron: it might be the best beach town in the world,” Earle says. “It’s my favourite, anyway. I’ve had some really good shows there over the years; the last few years particularly. I had a really good show there with the band on the last tour, and I had a really, really good solo show there on the trip before that. I got to ride back to town with John Paul Jones and Donovan in the same car, you know? I got to interrogate them about all those great records, because Jones played on all those great Donovan records, so that was pretty cool. [Bluesfest is] one of my favourite festivals, period. The other big blues festival I play is in Ottawa, but it doesn’t have that beach.”

The 61 year-old Texan released his sixteenth studio album, the bluesy Terraplane, last year, and is set to appear at the Easter weekend festival with his band The Dukes alongside similarly-billed legends Brian Wilson, Tom Jones and Taj Mahal.

“I don’t know [if I’m a legend]; I’m more of a rumour,” he laughs. “It’s weird. It’s the thirtieth anniversary of Guitar Town this year. We’re going to try to do a few things to commemorate it. The Australian tour is actually the last leg of the cycle we have been on all of 2015; the very last leg of the Terraplane tour. I’ve already recorded the record with Shawn Colvin, and that’s what I’ll be doing next summer. Then I’m going to make another record with The Dukes, which will come out in 2017. I decided I was going to make a blues record [with Terraplane], but it’s a big deal when you’re from Texas; it’s a high bar. So I decided my next record was going to be a country record, whatever that means. Sometimes I think it means what I might have done after Guitar Town if [producer] Jimmy Bowen hadn’t pissed me off, but mainly it’s going to be based on honky-tonk. I’ve been putting aside the country-er things for that.”

Terraplane came into existence just as Earle was going through his seventh divorce, resulting in an album that was not only steeped deeply in the blues, but intensely personal at the same time.

“I don’t know how cathartic [writing] it was,” he says. “At the time, they were the only songs I could write. You know, I’m not writing jingles. I mean, I can write projects; I can write for somebody else, for a television show, or for a movie, and put myself in a certain place. This was a very personal record, because there wasn’t much else I could do. It might be I made a blues record because it was the only type of record I could have made last year.”

Having survived major drug and alcohol problems in the 80s and early 90s, Earle is now able to help others in a similar position, but does admit to being suspicious of why his past addictions are still interesting to people.

“I’m doing this residency at clubs in the States right now,” he says. “I’m doing a song from every record I ever made. There’s only four of those records that I was taking drugs when I made them. So it seems silly to be talking about it now. It’s still a big part of who I am; right now I’m writing a memoir, so I’m right back into that shit again. I have no problem with talking about it if it’s going to help somebody, but I get tired of talking about it with people who I suspect don’t have any other reason for talking about it except the lowest common denominator reasons. That part of it gets on my nerves from time to time.”

When not writing top-notch blues and country songs or warding off questions about his past, Earle is heavily involved in political activism. He is vigorously opposed to the death penalty, has argued in favour of access to abortions for all women, and his most recent work has been both close to home and on a national level.

“I’ve been raising awareness for schools with autism, because I have a son with autism,” he says. “Politics gets personal sometimes. My son gets the best care we can get him, but I have to lawyer up to get it. Luckily, the law says the city has to help me and my neighbours’ tax dollars have to help me. I’m the poorest guy in New York City, I think. Manhattan, anyway. I live here by the skin of my teeth, so I can’t imagine what happens to people who have regular jobs and four or five kids. I’m also very actively supporting Bernie Sanders’ campaign; ‘The Revolution Starts Now’ plays at almost all of Bernie Sanders’ rallies, and I’m very proud of that. I’m a socialist and he is a socialist. Normally if there’s one thing I can do for a political candidate I want to see elected, it is to stay as far the fuck away from them as possible. In the case of Obama I was able to say in the second term that I was a socialist and Obama definitely wasn’t. Hillary [Clinton] is, left to her own devices, almost a Republican. She’s very much a creature of Wall Street. I’m having the luxury of having a viable candidate running right now, and that’s Bernie Sanders.”

Away from the concerns of national politics, time spent in the southern hemisphere will not only allow Earle to rekindle his love for Australian beaches, but also his fondness for our musicians.

“It’s where I met Kasey Chambers,” he says. “I was there with Buddy Miller and my band, and Buddy was also opening our shows. Julie Miller didn’t make the trip, and Kasey, when she was 18 years old, sang with Buddy on that tour. On a bill before that, I saw a great show by The Saints there, although the first time I saw The Saints was at the Cat Club in New York years before, but I saw a great Saints show ten or twelve years ago in Byron. I’ve known Paul Kelly since before I even went to Australia for the first time; I met him in ’86 when he was [in the States]. That’s one of my favourite things about Bluesfest; you get to see a lot of good music, as you get to play twice.”

STEVE EARLE PLAYS BYRON BAY BLUESFEST MARCH 25TH AND 26TH

For Scenestr