Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: Randy Hansen

randy hansen seattle 2016

RANDY HANSEN, guitar virtuoso and one of the few guitarists in the world to be recognised by Jimi Hendrix’s family, is bringing his acclaimed Hendrix Revolution tour to Australia for the first time.

Dedicated to maintaining the memory of the virtuoso guitarist and his ground-breaking music, Hansen has created a show celebrating everything great about the man born James Marshall Hendrix, and openly gushes about his fellow Seattle native who died in his prime aged only 27.

When and how did you decide playing the music of probably the best guitar player who ever lived was for you?

That had a lot to do with it right there, what you just said. That’s what he was to me also. I was already playing the guitar and I really thought I had heard everything: the Stones, Beatles, the Ventures. Then when I heard Hendrix it just changed everything. That’s really when I started learning Hendrix’s [music], but I didn’t get real serious about it until he died. He was my main guy at that point and I panicked. It was really a situation where I thought I was going to follow this guy for years and years, then suddenly I heard he had died; it scared me to think there would be no more music to come from him. I started really getting serious about learning his music right then.

And you saw one of his last shows.

I saw his last show in Seattle, which is where I’m from too. One of the big reasons I was glad I saw it is because I could hear what he sounded like for real, not just on recording, which is what most people know of. They’re great and everything, but it’s way better to be there than just see a recording of it.

This will be your first tour of Australia. Why has it taken so long to get here?

It’s probably mainly because I’ve never really pushed my career at all. I just love playing Hendrix, and the whole time I’ve been doing this I’ve only ever played shows which have been offered to me. I’ve never really pushed myself out there. There are a lot of places I’ve never been and I’ve been doing this since 1975. I play what people come and ask me to play. The whole time I’ve been doing this I’ve been very careful to make sure I’m actually doing a tribute to Jimi Hendrix, because it’s about celebrating his music, style and everything. I’m trying to stay true to it. Not that Jimi needs it, you know? He doesn’t need a cheerleader like me, but it’s so much fun playing his music and I’ve received a lot of encouragement to keep doing it.

Do you play solely Hendrix material?

I have a new album out right now called Funtown. I’ve always been writing but I really haven’t concentrated on that. I try to be a human being and enjoy other things in life, without being too caught up in music. As far as Jimi is concerned though, when I approach it, it’s deadly serious to me. But Jimi was a lot of fun too, you know? So I approach it from every angle. Someone once said to me if I can portray every emotion, then you’ll pretty much get everybody and they will want to listen. That’s pretty easy to do with Jimi’s stuff.

Do you share Hendrix’s love of improvisation?

Oh man, yes. When you hear Robin Trower; he improvises a lot. You can tell his solos are very Hendrix-influenced. For me, it’s kind of like that, although I’m playing a Jimi Hendrix song. I won’t know how long I’ll play the solo and Jimi didn’t either. I pointed this out to someone the other day; they said I had played a part wrong and I said “Hey, wait a minute. I know how to play that part and I’m doing it on purpose”. If you listen to Jimi’s whole discography, and that includes bootlegs and everything else, when he gets to that part he never plays it the same and he never repeated it. So there’s no such thing as ‘wrong’, unless you just hit a really stupid note or something. So, improvisation is everything about his music; it’s all wide open for improvisation. And I don’t shy away from it [laughs].

You’re officially recognised by the Hendrix family. What does that mean exactly?

I guess it means they don’t sue my ass [laughs]. They say they love what I’m doing and they’re close friends of mine. They’re beautiful people and if they told me to stop I would. They’re glad that I do what I do, I guess.

How do you feel about the recently released Hendrix albums? Are they to be celebrated or possibly left alone?

Anything he recorded I want to hear. I try not to look at it with too much of a judgemental ear, because a lot of the things were works-in-progress, and by no means were meant to be released. It’s still interesting to hear where he was coming from or where he might’ve been headed. Would you rather it didn’t exist or that it did exist and you can get a peek at it? I’m glad to be able to have a glimpse at something.

Which of Hendrix’s stage theatrics are a part of your show?

You know, if someone throws a can of lighter fluid on the stage at the right or wrong time… [laughs]. I’ve done my share of smashing guitars and everything, and sometimes it’s pure fun and there’s a lot of frustration you can get out, believe me. A lot of the tricks I try to do are Jimi-influenced. A lot of other tricks I do are things I’ve figured out; it’s all entertainment. I’m probably easier to coax into entertaining you than Jimi was. When I saw him he was really at a point in his career when he just wanted people to listen, so he was toning back the antics. [Whereas] I am kind of a ham and a showoff, and I like to goof off and have fun with it too.

A lot of people know you from Apocalypse Now. Do you still get asked about it a lot?

I get asked about it all the time. It was really fun; I got to work on for about a month. I lived with Francis [Ford Coppola] for about a month. It was really an honour to be a part of it. When I found out I was going to work on this movie called Apocalypse Now, I thought it was going to be some tiny B movie. I had no idea what I was getting involved with in the beginning and it was only later I found out it was huge. I’m still getting paid for it actually. Four times a year I get a cheque and it’s all because of Apocalypse Now.

What can you tell me about your new album?

It’s a bunch of songs I wrote when I came down with this really bad flu. It kept me ill for about three months. In the middle of the flu I noticed I wasn’t getting any better and thought “Damn, this thing might take me out”. After three months I wasn’t getting any better and was convinced it was going to kill me, so the songs got more and more serious as I went along. I thought if I was dying and I wanted to say something, I’d better say it now. So the album is my little messages I have for the planet, the people, how I view life, greed and things like that. There are political statements in there, and human statements, things I love, things that are amazing to me. Everybody is telling me they like the album, but friends aren’t really going to walk up to you and go “That really sucks” [laughs]. It’s one of the first albums I ever recorded that I listen to the fun of it. Funtown to me is the planet Earth and there’s a lot I’m saying that is to do with how we treat the planet. Funtown is supposed to be an amusement park where you get to do whatever you want, and that’s kind of how we treat the planet; we do whatever we want to it. If you list everything that a human being has done on this planet, it would be pretty fucking crazy to listen to. I just kind of wanted to point that out; maybe we should just kick back a little bit and take it easy.

Randy Hansen plays the Hendrix Revolution tour on the following dates:

18th May – Sydney (Enmore Theatre)
21st May – Melbourne (The Palais)
24th May – Perth (Concert Hall)
25th May – Adelaide (Thebarton Theatre)
31st May – Brisbane (Concert Hall)

For The AU Review

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

Glen Matlock: Tough Cookie

matlock phantom slick

What do you get if you cross a Sex Pistol, David Bowie’s guitarist, and a drumming Stray Cat?

The result is Matlock, Phantom & Slick: a trio of legendary musicians set to serve equal portions of anarchy, glam and rockabilly on their upcoming Australia tour.

The band – Glen Matlock on bass and vocals, Earl Slick on guitar, and Slim Jim Phantom on drums – has been a going concern for around two years, and while former Sex Pistol Matlock is keen to talk about a range of subjects, the band’s live playlist is another matter.

“I’m not going to tell you,” he laughs. “It’s a bit like telling the punchline of a joke too soon. Not that it’s a joke, but you’ve got to have some surprises. But, there are certain songs [to be expected]; if I went to see the sadly-deceased David Bowie and he hadn’t done ‘Heroes’, I’d be going home disappointed. So we all know there are certain songs people expect to hear, and I’m sure you can work out which ones they might be. We do songs from all of our careers. That’s fair enough, innit?”

Refreshingly humble for a co-writer of what is often considered one of the most influential rock albums of all time in Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Matlock is keener to talk about the future than his illustrious, if short-lived, punk past.

“We’ve actually got an album in the can of mainly my material,” he says. “We did it about a year ago and have been talking to people about getting it out. We went to a studio in Upstate New York with this guy Mario McNulty who engineered the Bowie album before the one that’s just come out. It’s cracking stuff and I’m proud of it. We do a cover version of ‘Montage Terrace (In Blue)’ by Scott Walker, believe it or not, and Jim plays kettle drums on it. You’ll have to hear it to understand where we’re coming from. It’s hard to describe your own music. The record business is quite different now; everybody is chasing the latest 17 year-old they think are going to be the new Beatles, but invariably aren’t.”

A big fan of Australia, Matlock is looking forward to making his fifth appearance Down Under.

“The first [visit] was in the eighties and the America’s Cup was on in Perth,” he says. “I remember when the sailing started in Fremantle, the boats were so far in the distance you couldn’t see anything, so that was a bit of a washout. That was in ’85, I think. I came back with the Pistols in ’96 for four weeks, then I’ve been over playing with Robert Gordon at the Byron Bay Blues Festival. Then I was there about two or three years ago with a guy called Gary Twinn, who had a band called Supernaut. His mum and dad were Ten Pound Poms. Also I have some relations there; my cousin lives in Melbourne and my ex-wife lives in Sydney. All good reasons for coming, and the weather’s a bit better over there.”

Having individually played parts in many historic moments in rock history, Matlock, Slick and Phantom have direct playing connections to both the recently-departed Bowie and Lemmy Kilminster: a possible hint to that live playlist.

“I knew both of them,” Matlock says. “I was fortunate to meet Bowie quite a few times and I got on really well with him. I met him in ’79 and then in New York in the early eighties and he was fantastic; really magnanimous and interested in people. He sought other people’s opinions and listened to what you had to say and took it on board. But he was a laugh as well, you know? Lemmy – I’ve known him for years. He used to knock around with all the punks not long after he’d left Hawkwind and was trying to get Motörhead together. The last time I played in the States with the Pistols at the Whisky a Go Go he came backstage to say hi and everybody had a lot of time for him. We’re just that generation now where people are shuffling off their mortal coil. I suppose they’re the ones who survived all the immediate excess of being rock stars, but it has ultimately taken its toll.”

While all four founding members of the Sex Pistols are very much alive and kicking, hope remains for another reunion tour.

“[There’s nothing] I know of as yet, but never say never,” Matlock says. “It’s the beginning of 40 years of punk this year, but also 40 years of the Sex Pistols, if you want to hang it on something. It’s down to John [Lydon’s] whims quite a bit, but I know my bank manager would be happy.”

Matlock was famously dumped from the Sex Pistols in 1977 in favour of the chronically-untalented Sid Vicious. Claims by manager Malcolm McLaren the reason was “for liking the Beatles” have been repeatedly refuted over the years.

“That was bollocks for a start,” he says. “It was just something McLaren said. I left because John could be really hard work. When you’re 19 going on 20, you don’t always see the wood for the trees. When we reformed in ’96 I felt vindicated, because of all the people in the world they could have asked, they asked me again, so they possibly came round to my way of thinking a little bit more.”

When it is suggested he might not have been given fair dues for his song-writing contributions to the Sex Pistols, Matlock shrugs it off with characteristic humility and humour.

“I think I’ve managed to claw a bit of that back now,” he says. “I think people have [recognised] my contribution to the band. But I don’t wake up in the morning thinking about how I used to be in the Sex Pistols; there are lots of things to do in life. The phone always rings with interesting projects and invitations to go and do this, that and the other. The only time I think about the past is when [journalists] ask me about it, you know what I mean? So neh neh neh neh neh [laughs].”

Dubbed the ‘Men of No Shame Tour’, the upcoming run of shows will see the band perform seven times along the east coast, with a pre-show Q&A session giving the audience a chance to verbally prod their hosts.

“I would rather have called it the ‘Tough Cookies Tour’ because that’s what we are,” Matlock says. “[The Q&A] is something the promoter dreamed up, but I’m used to it. I’ve done similar things at the Edinburgh Festival; playing acoustic shows, telling stories and inviting questions. That was during the show, but before the show will be a bit different, because you’re usually worried about where you left your eye-liner, you know? I’m a big boy and I can deal with it.”

For The Beat and The Brag

Interview: Edwyn Collins

Edwyn Collins

As a founding member of cult post-punk band Orange Juice and as a solo artist in his own right, Edwyn Collins has made a thirty-year career out of blending the best of indie, Northern Soul and punk. His 1994 smash ‘A Girl Like You’ saw him find fame on a global level, before a near-fatal cerebral haemorrhage in 2005 changed his life forever. After a long period of rehabilitation in which he learned to walk and talk again, the Scot returned to making music with a passion as strong as ever. I took some time to chat with the bona fide legendary musician and producer before his appearance at Sydney Festival in January.

Hi Edwyn, it’s been almost nine years since you fell ill. How are you health-wise right now?

I’m great. I had six months in hospital when I couldn’t say a thing except “yes”, “no”, my wife Grace’s name, and “the possibilities are endless” over and over again. I’m getting there slowly; recovering my speech and so on. My speech is still dodgy, but I’m getting there.

What songs are you planning to play when you come out to Australia? What can fans expect from your shows?

The first song is ‘Falling and Laughing’ which is one of my very first songs from 1980, and I still play it today; I like the verse and chorus. ‘Rip It Up’ of course, ‘A Girl Like You’ of course, and my new album Understated and so on. A selection from my entire career basically; all my indie hits! I’ll be bringing James Walbourne on guitar, Carwyn Ellis on bass, and Sean Reed on keys.

You’ve always had the ability to write simple and brilliant pop songs. What’s your method?

Before my stroke I found it easy to write. Now I still find it easy to write the music, but the words take a long time to do. Thinking about the subject matter is hard for me to do. Before, it was easier to sit down and think about things and visualise them, but now it’s somewhat harder to do, and takes time. The music still flows well, but the verses and choruses especially take more time. I can still use a guitar with my left hand to form the chords – C, D, F minor and so on – and use a Sony tape recorder to record ideas. Sometimes I’ll think “oh, that’s excellent” when the ideas are flowing and when I’m travelling I’ll take the tape recorder with me.

What are the pros and cons of not being on a major label and being managed by your wife?

It’s relatively easy. Grace and Susan do all the donkey work as my managers. I’m concentrating on being in the studio at the moment. It’s really fine. My wife has been an angel to me, helping me to communicate and to get on with my life, as well as helping me to understand the world. Understanding and visualising the world once more was the hard part. During the six months in the hospital I was not normal, and even now some people say something is daft within my brain, but it’s all fine. During the six months in hospital I was so frightened and disturbed. It was such a weird experience. I was asking myself who am I and what’s gone wrong, and nowadays it’s much easier I have to admit.

Do you enjoy producing other bands or making your own music the most, and what new music has caught your eye?

It depends; probably fifty-fifty I’d say. It’s all good stuff and worthwhile I think. I like The Cribs and Franz Ferdinand, but I’m 53 now and I must admit I’m getting old and a bit detached from new music, but I say bring on the young pretenders! I like my indie, Northern Soul, punk and hip-hop, and that’s it.

What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?

I came to Australia around the time of ‘A Girl Like You’ and I really enjoyed it immensely, so I’m really looking forward to it this time. It’s a long journey, but it’s going to be great.

EDWYN COLLINS APPEARS AT SYDNEY FESTIVAL 18-21 JANUARY AND AT MELBOURNE’S KELTON CLUB 17 JANUARY.

Interview: Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers

FORMED in 1977 at a time of deep political and social turmoil in their hometown of Belfast, Stiff Little Fingers are the original punk-rock mainstays. Known for their energetic live shows and angry lyrics tackling subjects from sectarian violence to teenage boredom, the band will make only their second ever trip to Australia to play Soundwave Festival. I spoke to singer-guitarist and chief songwriter Jake Burns.

Tell me about the recording of your new album, No Going Back. How does it sound so far?

At the moment we’re only getting started; the drum tracks are down and Ali is working on the bass tracks at the moment, and that’s kind of how it works, we build these things up in layers, you know? We all go in together, play all the songs through once and they get recorded, so Steve has a basic skeleton track to work with, and then he does the drums for real. Then Ali goes in and replaces his skeleton bass-lines with the real ones, and so it keeps going. Starting tomorrow, we’ll begin on the guitars. We’re actually slightly ahead of the game, which is always a good place to be, as you can never be sure when there’s a nasty little hiccup just around the corner; something which will take a day out of your schedule.

When are you expecting to have it finished?

February 5th is the last day in the studio. Then I get to fly home to Chicago on the 6th. I’ll have about six days to unpack, do my laundry, re-pack, then fly to Auckland. Then, we’re on tour until May. It’s a long time away from home, but it’s what we’ve signed up for.

In terms of lyrical content, could it be called a classic Stiff Little Fingers album?

I’m not going to say it’s a classic; that’s for the audience to decide. There aren’t any “I love her and she loves me” songs on there, because it’s not what I write, you know? I’ve never been able to do that; every time I’ve tried it sounds like bad schoolboy poetry or something. They’re all songs about things that have made me angry. Steve and Ian have both written a song, and they’re all songs about things that have fired us up in one way or another over the last few weeks and months.

You went down the crowd-funding route for this album. Are you surprised at how well it turned out?

I think everybody was. We allowed two months for it, and we reached the target in under twelve hours; it was incredible. I was sitting at home and I knew it had been launched, when my wife came running down into the studio in the basement and asked me if I was watching the pledge figures, and I said no, as it had only been launched that morning. She told me to stop what I was doing and come look, and we sat and watched it. The best description was made by her; she said it’s like election night, and nobody goes to bed until this thing reaches a hundred. Literally, within an hour of saying that, it reached a hundred percent. It was astonishing; I don’t think any of us realised the regard the audience has for us. We always knew we have an incredibly loyal audience, but that was truly – without wanting to sound fake – humbling. And they’re still pledging!

Do you see that as the future for bands making records now? Would you do it again, for example?

I’m sure we would. When the Internet took off in all it’s glory, it was basically the end for traditional record labels. The writing was on the wall when even the likes of Madonna and U2 were doing deals based on touring and merchandise rather than record sales. At that point you think if U2 can’t sell bloody records, what chance has anybody got? When it came up we were hesitant, but then we realised this would make us a proper, independent band again. This takes us right back to where we started, but with thirty-six, thirty-seven years experience behind us. It can only be a good thing, and it’s turned out to be an astonishing thing. It seems like we’re masters of our own destiny, whereas in the past, when you’d go in to make a record you’d have it in your mind that you’re spending EMI’s money. Not that you’d be slapdash and throw it around – at the end of the day it’s your money anyway – but we’d just give the record to EMI and it’d be up to them to go and sell it. Now, it’s the audience’s money, and they’ve already bought the record; that’s effectively what this is. They’re putting a huge amount of trust in us, and what if they all hate it? They’ve all already bought it, pretty much. We feel a huge amount of responsibility – much more so than any record before – because this is our audience we’re genuinely playing for; they’re our bosses this time around. We don’t want to let them down.

You’ll be playing Soundwave Festival very soon. What can fans expect from the show?

We’ve only played in Australia once before, and even then it was only in Sydney and Melbourne. It’s a festival setting, and I don’t even know how long of a set we’ll be given. So what we’ll basically try to do is keep the chat to a minimum, play as many songs as possible, and try to cram as much of our career into whatever time we’re given. We’re doing two sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne, so we can stretch out a bit, but we’ll work on getting the balance of the set right. Sometimes it’s harder to work out what to leave out, rather than put in, you know?

Do you still feel that songs like ‘Alternative Ulster’ are relevant today?

That song was never specifically written about Northern Ireland. Yes, there are R.U.C. references in there, but it was basically a song about being young and having nothing to do. It was set in Northern Ireland, which of course just meant having even fucking less to do than if you’d been somewhere else. But, it’s just a fairly universal song about being a teenager, which I was when I wrote it. Sadly, that’s still the case with teenagers today. Those who were living in what was basically a war-zone in Belfast at the time; I could see why they were bored. It always used to annoy me when bands from London would say they were bored and had nothing to do. Are you kidding me? Hadn’t they seen the back page of the NME? There were always about ten gigs I’d kill to go and see and they were all on that night!

Can you tell me a little bit about how Ali (McMordie, founding bass guitarist) came back into the band?

When Bruce (Foxton, bass guitarist 1991-2006) said he wanted to go, we had a long talk about it. Those were a big pair of boots to fill. Bruce was a big name, and he is a fantastic bass player and singer. We tossed a few names around, and realised that auditioning people probably wasn’t going to work. After a while we thought about asking Ali if he was interested in coming back. I’d kept in touch with Ali over the years; if he ever passed through Chicago we’d go for a beer or whatever, and he’d come to see the band and stuff. But I hadn’t really spoken to him for a while, and I wasn’t even sure if he still had a guitar and was still playing, but eventually I gave him a call and left a message saying that he might be able to do me a favour. He returned the call, and as luck would have it he was due to come through Chicago in a few days time, so we met up and discussed it. Initially I asked him to only do the one tour to see how it went. He’d been doing tour managing very successfully, but he came back, seemed to have a ball and I don’t think we ever asked him to stay, but he’s still here (laughs).

And finally, I told my brother I was interviewing you and he wanted to ask you a question, so here it is. Why did Jim Reilly (drummer, 1979-81) leave the band? Was it because he’s a complete tit?

(Laughs). Umm… no! Jim just didn’t like the new songs I was writing and I think by that stage we had toured America a couple of times, and Jim had one eye on wanting to try his luck there, and that’s exactly what he did. He jumped ship and moved to San Francisco, and ended up in a band called Red Rockers, who got themselves signed to C.B.S.. They had a little bit of success with a top-forty hit and toured with the likes of Neil Young and Bob Dylan, so he had a half decent run. Last I heard, he was back in Belfast.

STIFF LITTLE FINGERS PLAY SOUNDWAVE FESTIVAL BEGINNING SATURDAY 22nd FEBRUARY IN BRISBANE. TICKETS FROM http://soundwavefestival.com/tickets

Interview: Tommy O’Dell of DMA’s

dmas

MATT Mason, Tommy O’Dell and Johnny Took are Sydney’s DMA’s; a trio tipped to do big things in 2014 and beyond following the March release of their well-received self-titled debut EP. Their music is a style of nostalgic garage-rock with an authentic Australian slant; we challenge anyone who listens to DMA’s ear-worm of a song ‘Delete’ to get it off your radar. With that, Tommy, at lightning speed, scribbles down some brief answers to some brief questions.

What can fans expect from your show at Splendour in the Grass?

Guitars heavy, big choruses, rock and roll.

Given that you’re a relatively new band and have just five songs on record thus far, what will fill a full set?

The EP in full, three other tracks and instrumentals.

How did it feel to be mentioned in the NME and have a full page in Rolling Stone? What did you do to celebrate?

I was surprised that our music had filtered to NME and Rolling Stone that quickly. We were recording at the time so I can’t remember any specific celebration. I guess it gave us a spring in our step.

What other Splendour acts have you most been wanting to catch? Have you any backstories with these bands?

I am really looking forward to catching Jungle. And Sticky Fingers are our mates; they will put on a good show for sure.

Do you feel it is a fair comparison when your music is compared to that of Oasis etc.?

Yeah, it’s fair. Our music sits best beside ‘90s guitar bands.

In your opinion, which of the Britpop bands didn’t get enough acclaim?

Ride, Cast and Ocean Colour Scene.

What’s next for DMA’s? When can we expect an album?

We’re doing a 7” later this year, followed by an album in the first half of next year.

If you could invest in bands much like listed companies on a stock market, who would you throw a lazy $5k towards?

Any local band who can record themselves. $5k can get you what you need to make a record.

For Splendour in the Grass 2014

Interview: Sam Lockwood of the Jezabels

jezabels

SOME bands have got sass by the spadeful and The Jezabels are at the top of the pile of such bands: quite simply, they are Australian music royalty. Their 2011 debut Prisoner hit number two on the ARIA album chart; a feat matched by this year’s majestic follow-up The Brink. We chat with lead guitarist Sam Lockwood prior to their much-anticipated appearance at Splendour in the Grass.

Your first show was in 2007 was at a Battle of the Bands competition at a Sydney university. Just recently you played at the Sydney Opera House. Has the Jezabels conquered Sydney, so to speak?

No-one can conquer Sydney. It’s too wild a beast. But I can say we felt like we’d conquered something from when we sold out the Hopetoun Hotel a few years ago. Ever since then Sydney has been really good to us. So I guess instead of conquering, we feel like we owe Sydney a great performance whenever we return.

In an early interview one of you said you had to rework tracks from Prisoner to make them less complicated to play live. How much of an influence did that have when writing The Brink?

Prisoner was the first album where we went a bit experimental with the recording process. But what we didn’t think about was recreating the experimentation live. It’s hard to play five guitar layers at once. So, for The Brink we stripped everything back and tried to recreate our live sounds. It was a very liberating process.

What was it about London that made it a good place to record the album? And were you constantly bumping into other Aussie bands?

I saw Matt Corby at our rehearsal studio and subsequently went to his show and he blew my mind, so that was amazing. We became friends with Michael Tomlinson from Yves Klein Blue as well. There are a fair few Australians over there.

Lachlan Mitchell produced your EPs and your first album. Dan Grech-Marguerat worked on The Brink. How different are their styles of production? When looking for a producer, is it the catalogue of artists they have produced that initially attracts you to them?

They are actually surprisingly similar. I mean I didn’t really notice anything different. The most important thing that a producer needs to be is nice, and both Lachlan and Dan are the most beautiful people you could ever meet. For Dan, we saw that he’d worked with artists like Radiohead, Lana del Rey and the Scissor Sisters. He’d had great experience with pop and alternative stuff, and I think we have elements of both in our music. We felt he could be perfect.

How has The Brink been going down live overseas? Which country’s audience reaction has surprised you the most?

It’s been great. We’ve got awesome fans all over the world now. I’d say Germany is a special place for us. I don’t know why the Germans take to us so well – but honestly, I’ve noticed that Germans are very similar to Australians. Maybe that’s it.

A number of Australian musicians have covered your songs. Is there one that appeals to you most, and why?

Two would stick out for me. Firstly, Josh Pyke’s cover of ‘Endless Summer’ was such a great thing because he was the first big artist to take us out on the road. He’s a good friend and an awesome human. But also Big Scary’s cover of ‘Hurt Me’ was beautiful too. They are also great people and musicians, so that was quite amazing.

You’ve been on the road almost constantly for the past two years. What do you enjoy most about touring and what is the secret to staying sane or at least emotionally and spiritually coherent?

First of all, you don’t really stay that sane. I feel, because we spend our time with the same people constantly, you tend to lose some essential social skills. But it’s seriously amazing. It does get hard, however the hard times are the ones you remember the most.

Who on this year’s Splendour line-up would the entire band most like to share an evening with at a good Byron Bay restaurant?

Geez, I’ll take that one and say Future Islands. We saw them play in London a few years ago and we’re all big fans of theirs. That would be a fun evening, I think.

For Splendour in the Grass 2014

Interview: Andrew Dice Clay

andrew dice clay

Andrew Dice Clay is one of America’s most controversial and outrageous stand-up comedians. Banned from MTV and many other television and radio stations, and opposed by women’s rights and LGBTI groups internationally, he has been a polarising force in comedy for more than 30 years. He’s also one of only a handful of comedians to have sold out Madison Square Garden two nights in a row, and has a considerable acting career under his belt. For the first time ever, Clay will appear on Australian stages, as he brings his ‘The Diceman Cometh Down Under’ tour throughout October.

First of all, why has it taken so long for you to come to Australia?

The truth is I really don’t go anywhere. I don’t leave the States. Australians have always been coming to see me here so I just figured, why not. They’re cool people. They’re always at my shows in Vegas and they are some of the coolest people I’ve met, so I decided you know what take the trip, enjoy your life and have a good time. Let me tell you something, Australian people know how to have to good time.

Australians are no strangers to blue humour, but what can we expect from your show? Is it safe for us to bring our grandparents?

Uh, no! Not unless your grandparents are real and love the real deal, you know what I mean? I’ll tell you the truth, when older people come to see me they go crazy, maybe because they’re older, maybe they don’t give a fuck but they just love it. They go crazy.

Why should the Australian public spend their hard-earned cash to hear what Andrew Dice Clay has to say in 2014?

You know what, I’m current and I am the funniest guy in the world, that’s the bottom line. It doesn’t even matter what I’m talking about, they’re just going to leave the theatre going ‘I am so glad I got to see that’. I’m a concept performer, I know what I do to crowds.

When you were first starting out and throughout the ’80s and early ’90s, there seemed to more comedians willing to take a chance and be ‘controversial’. Do you think fewer comedians are willing to take a risk now?

Yeah, you got a lot of dirty comics out there. But you know dirty and funny are two different things, so a lot of them just curse for the shock value of cursing, but it’s not shocking anybody anymore. You got to paint pictures. I know how to paint those comedic pictures — those filthy, dirty, comedic pictures. That’s the key because anybody can talk dirty, anybody walking the street can talk dirty, it’s another thing to make it really funny and that’s where I pride myself.

You’ve been known for making some pretty controversial statements about certain groups of people in the past. Have you ever regretted anything you’ve said in your shows, as time has passed?

You know what, not really. No. The stuff I talk about; it’s base. It’s relationships, it’s what goes on between people, you know, sexual but it’s sexual cartoons. It’s funny! It’s like, I could meet the nicest girl, polite, nice, you know and then I kiss her and turn her into a dirty little whore. I don’t want somebody to be nice in the bedroom, I don’t want anything with being nice in the bedroom. And then you take it on stage and it just makes it really fucking funny.

Do you think you could have ever been as successful as you have if you hadn’t been seen as being controversial?

You know what, I honestly didn’t set out in my career to be controversial. It just came with the territory. I never even thought that way. I’m an actor and a comic, so it’s all about acting for me, it’s all about performance and theatre, [it] wasn’t about being controversial. The media did that. I never even used to think of that stuff.

How was your experience working with Woody Allen and Cate Blanchett in ‘Blue Jasmine’?

Working with them was unbelievable because from doing nothing, all of a sudden I’m working with what I call Hollywood royalty from the Baldwins to Cate Blanchett, who was just, to me she was just a throwback to what movie stars used to be. She’s unreal and she’s deserved every award she [has] won. I love her that’s it. And I’ve loved her for a long time before I did the movie with her, but doing the movie, I got to see how cool a person she was: down to earth, grounded, family-orientated. Just a great girl.

Does your return to stand-up and touring mean your acting career is on hold?

No, no. I just did a new thing that Martin Scorsese is doing for HBO. So that’s the newest one.

What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?

You know what, to me it’s just going to be a whole experience. It’s just going to be fun. The shows are going to be great. I’m going to have some of my people with me and we’re just coming there to have a blast.

For Scenestr

Interview: Rick Astley

rick astley

HAVING sold more than 40 million records worldwide, English singer Rick Astley is back performing after retiring from music in 1993, making a comeback in 2007 and seeing his most famous song become the subject of the Internet ‘Rickrolling’ phenomenon. Most widely known for his 1987 smash ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, which went to number one in 25 countries, the 48 year-old is heading to Australia to play a run of shows throughout November and December.

With the amount of success you had at the start of your career, you must have went through some pretty crazy things.

I definitely had a good go at it for a little while, yeah. Compared to today’s stuff, my thing was pretty tame really. I think it’s the bands and the boy bands that get that kind of thing. Obviously there’s Justin Bieber today and various people like that. Mine was relatively quiet, to be honest. There was a bit of a fuss here and there, in certain countries more than others. I always remember that the Latin countries went a bit bonkers and Japan was pretty crazy fan-wise, but I had it pretty tame really. I was relatively recognisable back in the day, because I had a red quiff and all the rest of it, but I think certain people just stand out, you know what I mean? They get out of the car and it’s just like ‘bang’ – that person is a pop star. I kind of shuffled around behind people quite a bit [laughs]. I wasn’t in love with the whole fame and pop star thing really. I know I’ve said that in interviews before, but I was a bit bemused by it and it didn’t suit the way I am. I love being on a stage, I’m a bit of a bighead and I like performing and singing, but being famous didn’t add up to me because that world seems more about fame for fame’s sake, do you know what I mean? Obviously I did have mad moments – of course I did. Even back in the ’80s, there were people who were good at pushing that publicity button, but I did the total opposite to a certain degree. Some people craved it, but to me it seemed ridiculous.

After a long spell away from music, what made you decide to come back?

There were a number of things. We have a daughter, who is now 22, and when she was 14 or 15 I had had lots of offers to go here, there and everywhere. I never fancied it until I got an offer to go to Japan. My daughter was 14 or 15 and was really into art – she’s been studying art for quite a few years – and she really wanted to go to Japan, loved everything Japanese and one of her best friends was part-Japanese. We all went as a family and I went to do these three gigs, treating it as a paid holiday basically – I’ll do the gigs and just forget about it. I did the first gig and just walked off stage thinking ‘why haven’t you bloody done that before?’ I just really enjoyed it. I think because I went with that attitude, it really opened the door for me. If someone had said we were doing some thing where we’re getting a load of ’80s pop stars together at Wembley Arena or something, I probably would have gone ‘uh, no thanks’, even though I’ve done those things since. I got paid really well for doing it, which I’ve never been shy of saying to people as people are either fooling themselves or outright lying if they say they’re not partly swayed by money to do things, even within music-land. I think that in the Western way of doing things, that’s my value – someone will pay me to go and sing those songs or just sing in general, so I think I must be doing something right or still have something if someone is willing to pay me to do it. I genuinely didn’t do that one for the money – although it was a nice sweetener – but it just seemed like a mad thing to do for a week at the time, and that’s how I got started again.

Well, you’re going to be paid to come to Australia very soon.

To be honest, I get paid for the flying and the travelling, but the actual gigs are the best part. I do gigs with a couple of friends – we have a little rock band that’s kind of like our own mid-life crisis, and I still love music and play music. I think most [musicians] think we get paid for the hanging around and the travelling, but the gigs are the fun bit – most artists would say that.

Is it solely a nostalgic thing right now, or do you have plans to write new material at all?

I do tinker with new things, and at some point in my life I would like to make a record that actually got played on the radio – I would love to do that [laughs]. I still haven’t given up that dream, but it’s just about finding something I believe in and am comfortable doing. There’s lots of things I could have a go at, but half the time my heart’s not in it so it’s pointless. The other half the record companies get excited by the fact that I had a big record called ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and a few others, so they think ‘oh, we must be able to sell something else’. But it doesn’t work like that; you still got to make a decent record, do you know what I mean? When I do gigs now on my own, I still play my hits and have no issue with that, and maybe when I come to Australia I could throw in a couple of new songs that nobody has ever heard before, but I’ve got to be careful with that. People aren’t coming to hear me sing new songs, you know? I went to see Kate Bush last night, and it was absolutely amazing. There’s a part of me that would have loved her to sing some of the old songs, and she did a few, but I didn’t miss the others because what she did was absolutely amazing. That, for me, is on a totally different level because you’re entering her world in that concert. She could have got up there and not played any of her old songs and still managed to make it fantastic, but whether you’re U2 or myself, there are songs that people want to hear you sing, and I know that. I can totally understand that and I’m happy to do it.

Rickrolling: is it just a bit of fun, a pain in the arse, or somewhere in the middle?

It’s not a pain in the arse in any way, because it doesn’t have anything to do with me. It could just as easily be Daverolling or Bobrolling or whatever. I’ve just treated it as something that’s fun, weird and bizarre; all the fantastic things that have been done on the Internet in connection with that song. I can really see the funny side of it and the genius of what people have done, to be honest. Some of the things that have been edited together have been great. The original Rickrolling thing is a little bit weird because after one or two times it’s bound to be a bit too much, but some of the other things are amazing. Someone edited Obama’s speeches so he was kind of talking through ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ – that was brilliant. Too much time on his hands, but brilliant. Someone else did the whole cast of Mad Men singing it – it must have taken forever and is hilarious. Another one of my favourites is from a friend in Boston, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where someone had climbed up on a great big gas tank and put the first seven notes of the song up there – not the lyrics – so you had to be able to read music to understand it. I just thought that was kind of funky and bizarre, but whatever. I’m glad; it breathes more life into that song and it’s kind of nice in that way.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

We go to Japan for a couple of gigs first – Tokyo and Osaka for a few days and we’re having a few days before that to get acclimatised to the time zone. The one thing people don’t look forward to about Australia is the jet lag; there’s nothing worse. Hopefully we’ll arrive in Australia having got over that. The last gig is on the second of December, then we’re going to stroll home with a few days in Singapore and then it’s Christmas. It’s a nice way to finish the year as you’re just coming into your good weather while we’re just coming into our crappy weather. We’ll be ready for it in a few weeks time.

Rick Astley Australian Tour Dates

Wednesday, November 19 – Whitlam Theatre, Revesby Workers Club, Sydney
Friday, November 21 – Tivoli, Brisbane
Saturday, November 22 – Twin Towns Ex Services Club, Tweed Heads
Monday, November 24 – Rooty Hill Rsl Club, Sydney
Tuesday, November 25 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday, November 26 – Canberra Theatre, Canberra
Friday, November 28 – Chelsea Heights Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday, November 29 – Palais Theatre, Melbourne
Sunday, November 30- Costa Hall, GPAC, Geelong
Tuesday, December 2 – Festival Theatre, Adelaide

For The AU Review

Interview: J. Mascis

j mascis

AS SINGER, guitarist and songwriter for Dinosaur Jr. since their foundation in the mid-eighties, J. Mascis has forged a reputation as being a blisteringly-brilliant grunge and alt-rock guitar hero who consistently appears in those forever-changing “best guitarists of all time” lists. The 48 year-old is also known as being an infamously awkward and reticent interviewee; a reputation he showed no signs of being willing to deconstruct during our chat. On the horn to discuss his second solo album – the acoustic-heavy Tied To A Star – the Massachusetts native is an intriguing subject from the off.

Congratulations on the new album. How does it feel knowing it’s out there being consumed by the public?

It’s hard to tell just sitting around in my house. I hope to get some feedback on it from people soon.

Have you had much feedback so far?

Yeah, people seem to like it.

How long have you had these songs? Has it been a major process to put the album together?

Uh… I can’t remember. Yeah. Most of them I wrote just for the album, I guess, you know? Mostly last year.

Why did you choose ‘Every Morning’ as the first single?

Uh… it’s the most radio-friendly, I guess. It has drums, which most people like.

You don’t seem like someone who worries too much about radio play.

Well, that’s what singles are about, I thought.

The video for the single [with Portlandia’s Fred Armisen] is pretty fantastic. How did that come together?

I guess it was a guy called Jake Fogelnest and some other guy. Funny guys.

You definitely looked the part in your role as cult leader.

Oh, thanks.

You have a few collaborations on Tied To A Star. When you’re writing, do you have particular musical collaborators in mind, or does it work itself out later?

Umm… usually I don’t have anyone in mind when I’m writing. Chan [Marshall, vocals on ‘Wide Awake’] – her voice just fitted the song and that really worked out. Most of the other people either just lived near me or are friends. It wasn’t too difficult.

What are the biggest advantages to making a solo record over a band record?

There are different limitations and there are only so many possibilities these days to narrow it down from the beginning. It helps to focus somehow.

A song like ‘Drifter’ – it probably wouldn’t appear on any of your other band’s albums, for example.

Right. Just because it’s instrumental, but it’s interesting just to leave it. I figured it was good enough on its own, without vocals or anything.

What can you tell me about Dinosaur Jr – is that band on a break at the moment, or are there any plans to do anything together?

We’ve got a couple of gigs in November, but that’s all we’ve got planned right now. Lou [Barlow] is moving back to this area, so that will be interesting for the band. He’s been in L.A. a long time, and after we kicked him out of the band he moved to Boston, so he hasn’t been back here living since we kicked him out. It will be interesting to be like a local band or something.

What are your plans in terms of touring the new record?

I’m touring round the States for most of the fall, then a little bit of Europe, then I’m not sure. Maybe Australia.

So we can quote you on that? You’re coming to Australia?

Hoping to, yeah.

There was a recent interview you did with Sub Pop in which you said Australia was one of your favourite countries. What is it that appeals most?

Yeah, I was just saying that to somebody else. I like the fact the beach is near the city – you can walk from the beach to a coffee shop or a record store – you know, civilisation. It’s a struggle when my wife wants to go on vacation. I hate being isolated on a beach, it’s just a nightmare. That’s what I like about Australia – it’s not like sitting on a beach in the Caribbean wanting to blow your brains out or something. There’s stuff going on.

Do you still enjoy touring as much as you did in your early career?

Yeah, I like it more than I used to. It’s more about playing – I don’t like the travelling that much.

You’ll love the 24-hour flight to Australia, in that case.

Umm… yeah… that.

TIED TO A STAR BY J. MASCIS IS OUT NOW.

For The AU Review

Interview: Kevin Baird of Two Door Cinema Club

kevin baird

AUSTRALIA and Two Door Cinema Club are no strangers.

The Northern Irish indie-pop trio have graced our shores a number of times for both headline and festival shows, but their upcoming appearance at Splendour in the Grass will be their biggest test Down Under yet. With a new label and material behind them, expect them to rise to the challenge, says bass player Kevin Baird.

Hi Kevin. What’s the plan to get yourself into a Splendour-headlining frame of mind?

I think we’re going to be super-excited to play. We haven’t really been playing much this year; it’ll only be our second or third show we’ll have played in all of 2014 at that point, so we’ll be really up for it. I think it’ll probably the biggest headline festival slot we’ve ever played, so it’s pretty exciting and we’re just going to go for it. I don’t think we’re going to be too nervous or anything; we’re just going to enjoy it.

How did you feel when you heard you were headlining?

I think if it had been last year or the year before we might have felt a bit of pressure, but the overwhelming feeling now when we get asked to headline things, is like ‘finally’. We sort of feel that we’re ready to do it, and it’s where we want to play on the bill. We’ve played enough and we’ve done enough big slots to know that we can headline a festival, so it’s really nice to know that you’ve got to that point. We always looked at other bands who were in that position when we’d be playing at midday or whatever and hoping we get to that point. So, the overriding feeling is happiness.

Will you do anything differently from a normal TDCC show?

I don’t think we’re too protective of ourselves in that way; even if we’re headlining a festival, we’re not under the illusion that everyone there is a massive Two Door Cinema Club fan. I think a lot of bands make that mistake. We’re obviously aware which songs translate better to someone who’s not a massive fan, and it’s all about pace and speed and not really giving people a chance to relax. We’re not going to be spending 30 seconds between songs talking rubbish, or standing in silence tuning our guitars. It’s all about momentum when you’re in a big outdoor arena; I think at a festival you just got to get on with what you’re trying to do.

Will you be playing any new material at Splendour?

We’re sort of toying with the idea at the moment. We’ve been writing a lot of new stuff while we’ve not been playing shows this year. We haven’t quite decided if we’re ready for an unveiling or not, but if we were to do it, I think Splendour would be a very nice place to do it.

How much have you written?

I think we’ve lost count, but we’re working in double figures in terms of ideas at least. The first album was very different, because there was no pressure. We just arrived with the album, recorded it and it was done. With the second, we sort of wrote 15 or 16 songs and 11 of them ended up on the record. I think this time around we’re trying to be a bit more conscious of having more choice, so we’re just writing as much as we can, hoping to have about twenty or thirty songs to pick from.

Are you looking take your sound in any new directions with the new material?

We were writing the last record in 2011 and a lot has happened and changed about what we are listening to, our perspective of things and our lives in general. It’s more natural to sort of write what we feel like writing, and that just naturally comes out differently. We actually find it much more unnatural to just rip ourselves off, if you know what I mean. Any time we’ve tried to do that it’s come out as a terrible song, so we end up doing whatever feels right at the time. Luckily for us people have liked it so far, and hopefully they’ll like it when we release another record.

After your second album, you left the Kitsuné label and signed with Parlophone. Was there any particular strategy behind that?

We left Kitsuné at the end of our record contract, and we felt like we wanted a change. Parlophone were one of the labels interested in signing us. Kitsuné have always been incredibly amazing and have been a really positive force in our music, image and everything. But at the end of the day we sort of became a bit frustrated – and it’s a horrible thing to say – about money, and although Kitsuné put everything in and we couldn’t ever have asked for more, we’re quite ambitious. We have quite large fanbases in places like Singapore and Malaysia, and we feel like we need to be releasing albums there, so that was one of the things that made us want to go with a big company; to make sure the records come out in these places. The previous two albums; they had to import them from Japan or Australia. Parlophone are amazing; they’re the small family relationship of an indie label, but with a major machine behind it.

If you could have a cameo role in any TV show, past or present, what would it be?

The Sopranos. It’s just the best TV show ever. I’d like to be one of the animals that Tony Soprano loves, but I don’t think that would be possible. So I’ll be some sort of animal keeper, so Tony Soprano will like me.

Which celebrity or musician would you be happy to sit next to on a long-haul flight?

Not the other guys in the band! Someone who’s not very talkative, because I don’t like to talk. Someone who is really boring.

Finish this sentence: fuck the expense, send me a case of…

Umm… Cooper’s Pale Ale. Love it.

TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB PLAY SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS JULY 26.

For Splendour in the Grass