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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

Interview: Tommy Stinson

As a founding member of legendary alt-rock pioneers the Replacements, Tommy Stinson cemented his place in music history and had a hand in influencing artists as diverse as Green Day, Wilco, the Hold Steady and Lorde.

tommy stinson the replacements

Described as both the “best band of the ’80s” (Musician magazine) and “the greatest band that never was” (Rolling Stone), the Replacements were critical darlings during their lifetime, yet achieved little commercial and mainstream acclaim.

After their 1991 implosion, Minneapolis native Stinson added an 18-year stint as bassist of Guns N’ Roses to his rock and roll résumé, becoming a bonafide rock stalwart in the process, while appreciation of the Replacements’ discography grew steadily.

Following a much-lauded and somewhat tumultuous Replacements reunion in 2013-15, a new line-up of Bash & Pop, a band vehicle for Stinson’s solo work, was formed last year. The group’s first album in 24 years, Anything Could Happen, was released in January, and marked a return to the spontaneous recording methods that were a feature of early Replacements records.

Now 51, the amiable and down-to-earth Stinson is enjoying making music as much as ever.

What’s life been like since the new album came out?

We’ve been touring a lot. We’ve just done a five-week tour with the Psychedelic Furs here in the States and we had a rip of a time. However you would categorise the Psychedelic Furs, their audience was really sweet to us – a rock and roll band – and we had a really good run. I look forward to hopefully doing that again some day.

Is Bash & Pop back for good?

We’re going to keep fuelling it and moving forward. The reason it became Bash & Pop was that we made a band record. On the first Bash & Pop record, I played more instruments than I wanted to play and it ended up being me, the drummer and sometimes the guitar player making that record. This was more of a group effort. We would hash out the songs and do them in five takes, tops. We kind of took the template from how we used to do things in the ’80s.

When we started the Replacements, we would record in a particular way. Paul would show us the basis of a song, either in our basement or in the studio. He would say “Hey, Bob [Stinson, lead guitar], play the melody like this,” and we would record it, getting the best recording we could in as few takes as possible. Back then, tape was expensive for us, so we had to do it quickly. I took that template and applied it to my new record and I think people understand why and I think they can feel that in the record.

Do you prefer being in charge of making your own record, as opposed to being at the whim of a Westerberg or an Axl?

I like all different kinds of things. I like producing and I like playing a role in a band – all of those things I’ve done over the years. With Bash & Pop, the songs we write together end up guiding us instead of us trying to guide the song into being something it’s not. That’s why I like playing with these guys – we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.

With the advent of all these computerised recording devices, people can get so bogged down. And I’m not saying I’ve never done that, because I did two solo records on digital devices that I maybe spent too much time thinking about. You can overthink a whole lot of things with them. But when you’ve got a whole band in the room, and they’re there for a weekend only, they’re sleeping in your house with you, and you’re getting all stinky together, you can maybe capture something in one great moment.

Were you generally happy with how the Replacements reunion went, and would you have liked it to be longer?

To be honest with you, I think we could’ve stretched it out a little bit longer. I don’t know if Paul wasn’t having fun with it, you know about that whole T-shirt thing? [Westerberg wore T-shirts with a single letter spray-painted on them over a number of shows, which, in order, spelt “I have always loved you. Now I must whore my past”.] Dude, if you’re so not into it, then why the fuck did we do it? I’ll be super frank with you about that.

When we did the Mats reunion, I thought it would make people happy, it would be super fun, and we’d maybe make some money. We did it, and I thought it was fun, but if it wasn’t fun in [Westerberg’s] head, then why the fuck did we do it? I don’t know if that was directed at me, or who it was directed at, but he kind of made a statement with his shirts that meant the tour finished up with a negative purpose and we should have stopped when we were ahead.

I say this candidly because I think that, at this point in our lives, whatever message you are trying to get across, this is not the best way to do it. The best way to do it would be to play until you don’t want to play, then move on and do something else. That’s what I do – call me kooky for calling it what it is. We only live here once, and when you get in your 50s, why would you do that you feel that you have to do, instead of what you want? Neither one of us had to do any of it, and it was fun for a while, but the T-shirt thing bummed me the fuck out.

Will you play together again?

Not if he pulls out another T-shirt message – fuck that [laughs]. I’m kidding a bit. I never say never, but it would have to happen only if the stars align in the perfect way, where we thought we could have fun with it and not get caught up in the bullshit.

Are you happy with the amount of respect the Replacements got in the band’s lifetime?

I never look back like that. We’re from Minneapolis – the music community in Minneapolis when we were kids in the ’80s rivalled, in my opinion, any music community in that era, or in any other era I’ve even seen. We had Hüsker Dü, the Suburbs, there was us, and lots of art-y bands. We all hung out together, played shows together, travelled together, and it was a real community.

Back in the day, Minneapolis was like the World Series for bands. Whatever bands we played with, we wondered who was going to win the game tonight – it was very competitive, but in a healthy way. I haven’t seen it yet. I lived in L.A. for over 20 years and only saw it in some ways, but completely different. It was a very special scene and I would love to converse with anyone who thinks they lived in a similar kind of music community.

What’s your favourite Replacements album?

I can’t listen to any of them, but if I were going to be straight-up honest with you, the one I can listen to the most is All Shook Down. It didn’t sell as much as Don’t Tell a Soul, but I think that’s when the Replacements were appreciated in a greater realm because of the songwriting. Paul wrote some great songs on that record.

If you listen to that record, and it was hard enough for me to listen to it to even remember the parts I played, that’s a great record. He did what Paul is best at – he basically produced that. Some of is is perhaps a little over-thought, but that whole record stands up completely, from top to bottom. It’s dark as fuck, though. You don’t know want to throw on your headphones on a sunny day and go for a walk in the park with that one on, because you’ll want to fucking slit your throat. But whatever.

Will you play with Guns ‘N’ Roses again?

I never say never about that either. I’d say it’s about as likely as doing the Replacements again. I think they don’t need me – they’ve got Duff and Slash and they’re doing their thing. They’re all my friends and I’m glad they’re all out there, working their butts off and having a good time. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about them. Unless Duff quits, and he was the last man standing the last time, there’s a pretty good chance they’re not going to need my fucking bass-playing skills any time soon [laughs]. Just sayin’.

You’ve been in bands since you were 12, 13. How do you stay grounded and stop yourself going crazy?

I’m still working that out [laughs]. It isn’t easy. A lot of people think that because you’re on stage, everything is great, but a lot of hard work goes into that at every level, whether you’re playing a club, theatre or stadium. It is a hard thing, and I’m not going to boo-hoo about my woes or anything like that, but it’s hard to balance that life and have some semblance of normality for yourself.

Any chance of a trip Down Under?

I’ve been talking to [You Am I guitarist] Davey Lane about it a lot, and trying to get You Am I to be my backing band [laughs]. We’ve been talking for years about it. Maybe I can go over go myself, although I hate doing the solo acoustic thing by myself – I like to have someone I can spitball with, and make shit up or whatever. I’ve always had a good time in Australia, so never say never. I can do a whole bunch of things that’ll either be fun or completely fucking disastrous [laughs].

Anything Could Happen by Bash & Pop is out now.

Check out all things Tommy Stinson here.

For 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: 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: 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

James Reyne: “Try to stay vaguely cool, if you can”

james reyne

FOR someone who is an ARIA Hall of Fame member, a holder of a Medal of the Order of Australia, and is often called an icon of Australian music, former Australian Crawl vocalist and songwriter James Reyne is a refreshingly laid-back character.

Perhaps it’s because he’s happy with what he’s achieved in music, or maybe he’s simply enjoying life and the freedom that being his own boss gives him. Either way, get ready to enjoy his charm and song-writing once again as he takes his acoustic show on a national tour, including a stop in Geelong on September 20th.

“The shows have been going really well so far,” he says. “It’s a cross-section of all the stuff I’ve been known for. There’s me playing acoustic guitar and singing, a guy called Brett Kingman playing acoustic guitar and singing, and his sister Tracy Kingman singing; so it’s three voices with two guitars. We usually do all the hits people would want to hear, but we can slot in the odd new one. We can bookend them; put two or three either side of the new ones [laughs]. I’m lucky that I have a good core of fans who keep up with the current stuff. I’m often surprised by the number of people that yell out for newer stuff and I think ‘oh wow, I didn’t think they’d know that one’. But we definitely do all the hit stuff, because we’d get lynched if we didn’t [laughs].”

With a near forty-year career in music behind him, Reyne is rarely taken by surprise. Then came a letter earlier this year letting him know he’d been chosen to receive an Order of Australia; something the 57 year-old doesn’t take lightly.

“I was chuffed that they thought I was worthy,” he says. “I’m very grateful and it was very kind. I don’t know how it works, how you get nominated or chosen, but I’ll take it, thanks [laughs]. First, they sent a letter saying I was being given it and to please not tell anyone before they announce it. I think I told my mum and made her swear to not tell a soul. She was more surprised than I was, but she might have been lying to me; she might have told some friends.”

With a number of classic Australian Crawl records and a slew of solo albums in his back catalogue, Reyne can afford to go at his own pace when thinking about new material.

“[Songwriting is] always a creative outlet for me, and as I get older the more I seem to enjoy doing it,” he says. “I’m self-funded and not under any pressure to put anything out, but every couple of years I get to a point where I think I might just record some stuff. I’m lucky that I have some great friends who are technicians, because I’m an idiot with technology. I’m hardly ever these days sitting around planning my next album; it’s more like ‘okay, I’ve got a bunch of songs, I might as well stick them down’”.

He may come across as a laid-back guy of the highest order, but Reyne and his band show no signs of slowing down in terms of putting in the hard yards on the road.

“We’re touring and doing shows with the band and then this acoustic run” he says. “Then we’ll be doing some festivals and outdoor things over summer – we’ve got gigs up until May or June, so we’re usually working about nine months to a year ahead. There are all sorts of other things I’m interested in and I keep my fingers in other little pies, but this is my job and it’s how I earn a living. I’m lucky that I do a job I enjoy. If I didn’t do this as a job I’d probably do it as a hobby, and I’m lucky that I have people who are interested enough in what I do. I can still play at places all over the country and people want to come and see what I do. But I hope I’m getting better, because I do practise my craft and we do it consistently. An [element of] so-called show business is learning when to say no, so you can stay vaguely fresh; not say yes to everything. ‘As much as I love you, it doesn’t suit me right now’; that’s a big lesson in show business, I reckon. Try to stay vaguely cool, if you can [laughs].”

When & Where:

Saturday 20 September Geelong | GPAC Drama Centre

For Forte

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

Felix Burton of Basement Jaxx: “I saw something sitting right in the middle of the sky that looked a flying saucer”

basement jaxx

IT’S been five long years since the last official Basement Jaxx album, but the English EDM duo are coming back strongly with new effort Junto.

While being free of his record contract and releasing new material means DJ and song-writer Felix Burton should be feeling on top of the world, it’s something altogether more other-worldly he most wants to talk about.

“We’d just moved into a new studio; its windows look over London,” he says. “I saw something sitting right in the middle of the sky that looked a flying saucer. Well, it looked like a Ford Fiesta; the way a car shimmers in the sunshine – it was definitely metallic. [A friend was] with me, having a cup of tea, and we were watching this thing in the sky. We realised it wasn’t a helicopter or a hot air balloon or anything like that; whether it was a military device or arable farming technology we’ve never heard about, who knows? Some other people saw it on that day, but what was most interesting was how small-minded some people were when I told them. An unidentified flying object means I don’t know what it is, but people would get angry and say it doesn’t exist or there isn’t such a thing, and I thought it was amazing how closed-minded people are to new possibilities and ideas. I did a lot of research into all this as I was doing a talk at Oxford University, and I was trying to make sense of it, so I was trawling through conspiracy theories and all the stuff out there. I was seeing a girl at the time, and we were out at some exhibition. She had actually seen something when she was eight years old in Scotland; something had hovered over the car, and she had always talked about it. I was with her in this public exhibition and was talking about the UFO, and said ‘my girlfriend here also saw something’. It was a Judas moment because she said she hadn’t seen anything, and when I asked her about it afterwards she said it was because people think you’re crazy if you say you’ve seen a UFO. I just thought it was awful that people walk off on you and get angry if you say you’ve seen a UFO, but she was blatantly disproving it just because she was embarrassed. People can’t say what they think or be honest. So many people are living a charade and getting whipped up in all this bullshit of celebrity culture that has no effect on their lives and makes them feel dissatisfied and envious. I believe in angels, UFOs, ghosts and all those kinds of things, and I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve looked a lot into religions and what my spiritual path is; maybe because my dad was a vicar. But people are scared of even thinking about all these things, which is such a shame. People just jump on something and use these things to feel superior. They don’t like the idea of something they don’t understand, but the fact is nearly all of life and reality we don’t understand; it’s arrogant to think we do.”

Interplanetary interruptions aside, Basement Jaxx are back with an album brimming over with their signature electronic-pop anthems and plenty of vocal collaborators. After over ten years with XL, Burton is happy to be embracing independence on the new record.

“We’ve always felt free in how we write,” he says. “It’s just you might not hear a lot of the stuff that was very free [laughs]. There were people who thought it might be a bit too tangential or might not fit into the idea of what was appropriate. With this album, we were very clear that we wanted to have stuff we could DJ, so we wanted to make sure it could be useful in our live show and connect to Jaxx fans, as well as fitting in with the current resurgence in house and deep house; now that’s kind of like pop music here. A lot of those people are inspired by us, so actually we might as well do our version of ourselves anyway.”

One of the guest vocalists was transgender rapper Mykki Blanco, who didn’t exactly finish the job, Burton says.

“That was the one vocal where we weren’t actually with the singer. It was done in a very modern way, where we e-mailed stuff. I sent him a couple of things and said it’d be great to work on ‘Buffalo’ and get some Native American spirit. We were back-and-forthing, and Mykki was really into it, then we started getting random e-mails and things weren’t quite connecting. Then [someone said] ‘Mykki’s gone’. We thought it was all sounding great, and told them we need the second verse to finish it, but they told us he’d gone to the desert. I thought it sounded all quite biblical, but that was it. We were mastering the album the next day, so ran out of time, but it’s amazing what you can do when you’ve got to reshape something and make it work.”

Having been a major player in the EDM scene since the ’90s, Burton is unconcerned about how the music industry is evolving of late.

“It’s been changing so much in the past ten years,” he says. “I think people who work in the music industry now have no idea what’s happening with it or where it’s going, which I really like. Rather than resting on their laurels, people need to understand life is about change and embracing change. Everything is temporary, and if a tune is good, you’ll be whistling it in a few years and everything else will get left behind. At a time when there’s so much corporate entertainment dross, it’s good that things keep moving forward and we don’t know where they’re heading. Everyone says it’s all about streaming and nobody will own any music any more, but who knows? There are always going to be enthusiasts who pile up vinyl, but I don’t really worry about these things I guess.”

A heaving touring schedule is already locked in for the end of the year, with Burton hoping to add Australian dates.

“I’m really hoping we can come in February or maybe January; around that time,” he says. “We just did the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan and a festival here in the UK. They went amazingly and I feel very happy with our live show at the moment. We have a lot of people, so it’s quite expensive, but I’d love to bring everyone. Also, the album is called Junto, which is about togetherness. It’s not about me or Simon, it’s about the audience and ideally all the people on stage as well. But yeah, fingers crossed. If Australia shows some interest in the record, then hopefully we can come. At the moment, we’re slightly in that limbo time where we’re waiting on responses to the album, but in my mind I’ve got it to go to Australia and Japan in February next year.”

JUNTO BY BASEMENT JAXX IS OUT AUG 22.

For Scenestr and The Brag

Russell Morris: “I was sick of trying to write songs that I thought people might like”

Russell Morris

AFTER almost 50 years in the music business, Russell Morris is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance, with his last two albums reaching numbers six and four on the ARIA charts respectively. It’s all thanks to throwing a bit of caution to the wind and getting back to his roots, says the 65 year-old Victorian.

“I remember an ex-manager asking me what I was doing next,” he says. “I said I was doing a blues album. He said ‘why would you do something stupid like that?’ and I said because I really like the blues, to which he replied ‘but nobody will ever buy it’. I’m not doing it for that reason, I’m doing it because I really love it, but I think what happened is that people really do love blues music, but they hear American blues mostly. They can hear it and love it, but it’s not in Australians’ hearts. I think people can relate to the music lyrically and like the sound. A lot of traditional Australian music is real corny country stuff that a lot of people can’t relate to, with lines like [adopts country accent] ‘he came down from Nanadoon with a swagger on his back’. I wanted something with a bit more meat to it.”

2013’s Sharkmouth and the recently-released Van Diemen’s Land tell stories about a range of colourful Australian characters from as far back as convict times.

“History is something that really intrigues me,” Morris says. “I’d done probably six albums that had sunk without a trace, and I was sick of trying to write songs that I thought people might like. So, I decided to go back and make an album of stuff that I would really like. I thought about what got me into music, and the first album that really got me into rhythm and blues was the very first Rolling Stones album. I thought ‘wow, this unbelievable, I’ve never heard anything like it’. Then I realised they weren’t writing all the songs; they were written by a whole lot of other blues artists, and we started collecting their albums. I started off performing with a blues band, and I think that was the happiest I think I was. So, [with Sharkmouth] I decided to write a blues album. At the time I think I had written about four songs and I thought it didn’t seem right. One of the songs was called ‘Chilli Pepper Woman’ or something, and I thought it seemed a bit fake. I sort of put it on the back-burner, but then I was in Sydney and I saw a photo from 1916 of a guy called Thomas Archer being arrested. The photo really transfixed me and I took it home. One afternoon I was sitting looking at the photo and it almost spoke to me, telling me I’m not American and asking me why I’m trying to write songs about America, and almost telling me to write a song about it. I wrote a song called ‘Sharkmouth’ and as soon as I wrote it, I sort of saw the light and thought ‘that’s what I’ve got to do’. I’m Australian, with an English/Irish background, so that’s what I’ve got to write about and talk about my history and my blues. I can’t write about the Mississippi or New Orleans; I need to write about something I feel in my guts. That’s when I started writing about where my ancestors came from, the gangsters and stories I heard about when I was a kid.”

Morris will bring his new lease of life on a national tour beginning the first week of August.

“What I’m trying to do with this tour is to combine the [last] two albums,” he says. “Hopefully it’ll be an entertaining show. I’ve picked all the songs from the albums that I think are the best to do, and hopefully we can entertain the crowd. I think we should do, because we’ve been doing a lot of blues festivals, and it’s been really, really good; a lot of fun.”

Fans of Morris’s material from the sixties and seventies needn’t worry; he still plays classics ‘The Real Thing’, ‘Rachel’ and ‘Sweet, Sweet Love’ live.

“I almost become a sort of Doctor Who as we take a trip through time and end up in 1969,” he says. “That’s a way I can introduce it. I still enjoy doing the old songs, but the newer songs are much more fun, because as an artist you always hope you can engage audiences with new material. But people spend their hard-earned money to come and see me, and I don’t want them going away disappointed. If they’ve spent money to come and see me, I really have to give them the best I’ve got.”

When & Where:

The Capital Theatre, Bendigo Aug 3
The Palms at Crown, Melbourne Aug 8
The Wool Exchange, Geelong Aug 9

For Forte

Kram of Spiderbait: “We always feel that our shows are special gigs”

kram

SPIDERBAIT are hitting the road for their first national tour in ten years and an appearance at Splendour, and drummer/singer Kram is taking it all in his stride.

“We just turn up,” he says. “That’s our way to get pumped up. We don’t really prepare that much; we do some rehearsing and stuff, but my whole philosophy is that our music is very spontaneous. We don’t think about it too much; we save ourselves for the show and we don’t get there too early. We’ve been playing together for over 20 years, so whenever we walk onto the stage we feel each other’s dynamic through the songs we play, including the new ones in the set. Then we just let it happen; we let it all come out and let the audience’s energy, our energy and the music’s energy create a melting pot that you can stir for yourself and have a great time. That’s kind of the way I like to do it and how we operate. That’s why I think our shows are very exciting, because you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen.”

While their self-titled comeback album was released in November last year, it’s been a bit of a wait for the accompanying tour.

“It was basically difficult for us because of some family stuff,” Kram says. “We did a couple of festivals in Victoria and we were originally going to do Big Day Out, but that unfortunately folded as we couldn’t reach an agreement with them. It’s a shame that the show has reached its demise; we have a lot of great memories of that festival. So, we decided we would put it off and start it at Splendour In The Grass, which we’re playing this month, then we’ll do the national tour after that.”

Having just returned from Brazil and with film score work in the pipeline, Kram is as busy as ever, but the chance to get Spiderbait back on the road was an enticing offer.

“Everyone was up for it, absolutely,” he says. “The guys at Secret Sounds, who do Splendour In The Grass, were really keen on doing it. It was probably more their idea, in a way. We were like ‘yeah, that sounds good’ because we hadn’t toured for a long time; it’s just not something that we do very much any more. Once they put forward the idea and the dates were set up, we thought it was really cool. We’re looking forward to it; it should be good. We love playing live. We always feel that our shows are special gigs and we love that. We love the energy the crowd gives us and we’re very grateful to our fans for wanting to see us.”

SPIDERBAIT PLAY SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS JULY 25 AND THE HI-FI AUG 9.

For Scenestr

King Buzzo: “I’ll take the blame, no problem”

king buzzo

BECOMING involved in music as a high school friend and band-mate of Kurt Cobain, before forming grunge/metal legends the Melvins, Buzz ‘King Buzzo’ Osbourne has accomplished most things in music.

However, after a 31-year career involving over 30 albums of studio and live material, the singer-guitarist is still breaking new ground by going acoustic for the first time on new album This Machine Kills Artists.

“It just seemed like the right thing to do, you know?” he says. “I’ve done a lot of albums in the past and a lot of other types of work in the past, but there’s no real reason other than that. I worked on it for a few months and I realised pretty quickly that I can do things fast, because I didn’t have anybody else working on the songs. So once I had them written, I was able to go in and record them, and I had a great time doing it. It was just another challenge and I was up for a challenge. I’ll take the blame, no problem [laughs].”

The 50 year-old is equally self-effacing, engaging and blunt, and was just as driven by what he wanted the new album to sound like as how he wanted to avoid it sounding like. A quote on his website reads “I have no interest in sounding like a crappy version of James Taylor or a half-assed version of Woody Guthrie”.

“I just listened to most of what that stuff sounds like and just made sure I didn’t do it,” he says. “I think it’s mission accomplished in that department. I didn’t want to do some National Skyline type of thing at all. Lots of rock and rollers try to do that; they think it’s more legitimate or something, I don’t know. It’s weird. I could certainly do all acoustic covers of Hank Williams songs if I wanted to, but that just doesn’t sound very interesting to me, you know? As much as I love Hank Williams, it’s not for me to do it. If I could figure out some other angle on it, maybe, but I’m not going to worry about that. I’m trying to be kind of a heavy metal version of Captain Beefheart. I’ve been calling it ‘molk’, which is metal-folk. How does that sound? M-O-L-K; I don’t know anyone else who is doing that. It’s an original concept. For all intents and purposes that’s the kind of area I’m working in. So nothing’s too direct, but I think if you listen to it, it can mean a lot to a lot of different people. I’m never that direct, never I’m not going to lead you by the hand down the garden path. It’s a walk people have to take on their own, you know?”

With more than 2000 shows under his belt, it would be safe to assume Osbourne should take performing in his stride, even if the new format throws up some original challenges.

“I don’t have a band to hide behind on this,” he says. “I just have to go out there and make it work. I’m all on my own; there’s no drums or anything except me and my acoustic. It’s very stripped-down, very minimalistic and that’s kind of how I want it. I’m eight shows into this tour and I did about 17 or 18 shows before this. I’ve done the better part of 30 shows, but I’m still learning, you know? I’m figuring it all out as it’s brand new to me. By the time I get to Australia I’ll have more than 50 shows under my belt, so I’ll be feeling pretty secure that I’ve seen it all by that point, but there really is nothing like playing live to get that experience and feeling that anything and everything could go right or wrong. There’s no substitute for that; none. Things can still go wrong; even songs that I’ve played for years. You just never know. That’s all part of playing live.”

Osbourne will bring his solo show to Australia for a ten-date tour in August, and while he’s not generally known for being a chatty performer, expect at least a bit of banter between songs.

“For now, I have been telling stupid stories and stuff like that,” he says. “It’s not normal singer-songwriter type stuff, it’s more irregular. I want to present this as serious, but still vulnerable to some degree. I got to have some kind of communication with [the audience], but maybe as time goes on I won’t say a word. With most of the Melvins shows I don’t say a word; I just let the music do the talking and don’t worry about it too much. Sometimes at Melvins shows I’ll talk about whatever the fancy takes me, but not a tremendous amount. I’m doing 70 minutes with not a lot of talking; maybe five minutes talking out of 70 minutes. Sixty-five minutes of music is a enough for people to have to deal with [laughs]. Out of those 70 minutes, I’ll be doing about 50 percent old Melvins material and 50 percent new material, which is what I do normally anyway. It’s not a wild stretch, you know?”

The permanently-busy Osbourne confirms that despite his acoustic gigs taking centre stage for now, a return to blasting loud rock music isn’t far away.

“[The Melvins] have a new album coming out in early October and we’re going to do some new shows in the US in mid-October, roughly. Nothing’s on the back burner at all; it’s very much in the foreground. I leave nothing to chance, you know? I’m very much about plans; all kinds of plans. I’ve worked my ass off to get to this point.”

Despite swapping his electric guitar for acoustic, Osbourne laughs off the suggestion he might be mellowing with age.

“Listen to the album and you tell me,” he laughs. “It’s something else I can do, and that’s all it is. I’m a songwriter and that’s what I do; I make music. I do it for a living, I work on it as a craft. It’s all just part of the same thing, thank God.”

When & Where:

Thursday 14 August Geelong | Barwon Club (18+)
Friday 15 August Melbourne | Ding Dong Lounge (18+)

THIS MACHINE KILLS ARTISTS BY KING BUZZO IS OUT NOW.

For Forte

Ella Hooper: “It’s been going nuts live”

Ella Hooper

WITH her stint as team captain on Spicks and Specks at an end, former Killing Heidi lead singer Ella Hooper is getting back in touch with her first love; making music.

The 31 year-old’s new single from upcoming album In Tongues is ‘The Red Shoes’; a take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen fairytale.

“I think it’s so evocative,” she says. “It’s well-covered territory; everyone’s had a go at reinterpreting this tale. I think the biggest influence on me was actually the [1948] film; the beautiful adaptation that was done around the ballet, where the ballerina dances herself to death. It’s about obsession, but remains very delicate and classy with the way it handles it. I think with this whole album, I’m looking at lots of different ways that things can take you over and push you off your natural path, and sometimes that’s a bad thing and sometimes it’s a good thing. ‘The Red Shoes’ is a little bit of both, I think.”

Fans of Killing Heidi will find much to like about the new single, but Hooper says to expect a few new ingredients throughout the record.

“[‘The Red Shoes’] is actually the rockier side of the album,” she says. “It’s not all like this. My first single ‘Low High’ is probably a better indication of the meat of the record, but I really wanted to get ‘The Red Shoes’ out there too because it is my rockier, more anthemic song, and it’s been going nuts live. There’s probably two or three other tracks in this vein, and the rest is more ethereal and a bit more kooky.”

While these are the first tentative steps into a solo career for Hooper, she was able to count on an old friend for support and musical direction.

“There’s definitely a big influence from my producer Jan Skubiszewski,” she says. “He’s Way Of The Eagle; he’s been around for years and has done lots of great stuff. He comes from a more urban background, so that was another reason I wanted to put down the guitar for a bit. I write almost all my stuff on guitar, so I wanted to put that down and get into a studio with Jan to work with some beats and do a couple of things I haven’t done before. He’s my main collaborator on this album and probably the reason why it sounds so different to everything else I’ve ever done.”

With much changing in the day to day life of the radio and TV personality, it was inevitable that her song-writing would be affected, she says.

“It’s a bit of a break-up record; it’s a tough one. It’s about Saturn returning, which is that astrological phase when you reach your late twenties in which everything you’re not meant to take into adulthood is ripped away from you or falls away, and you have to redefine yourself. I ended a long-term relationship and changed my working situation. You know, I’ve always been in bands with my brother and this is the very first time I haven’t worked with him. There has been so much change, and a lot of it has been scary and a little bit painful, even though I know it’s right. So the album is about going through those things to come out better on the other side.”

Hooper will play release shows in Sydney and Melbourne to air the new solo material, but don’t be surprised if she pops up in other projects any time soon.

“I’m focussing on the future,” she says. “There will be the two singles we’ve put out already, ‘Low High’ and ‘Häxan’, and ‘The Red Shoes’. We also like to chuck in a couple of interesting covers, because I do know it’s hard for a crowd to sit through a whole set of brand new music. We like to throw in anything from Fleetwood Mac to strange country songs. I already do miss [being in a band]. I miss hiding in the band and being part of a whole thing. I have an amazing backing band now, who I feel very close to. They’re fantastic musicians, and will be touring with me for the Sydney and Melbourne shows. I sort of feel like I have created a bit of a band around me, but I definitely look forward to other side projects where it’s not under my name; where I can just be a character amongst other characters again.”

Her stint on the rebooted Spicks and Specks came to an abrupt finish with the recent announcement that ABC wouldn’t be recommissioning the show, but Hooper remains upbeat.

“I would definitely love to do more [TV work],” she says. “It was just the most amazing opportunity, and it was really sad that it didn’t last longer, but I’m hoping to keep looking at things in that arena. At the end of the day, it was just not up to us and we’ve all had to practice letting go, and I’ve had so many nice comments about the show. I’m a big one for trying to get more music on television; I just think it’s crazy there’s so little. We have the fantastic RocKwiz, which I’ve been really involved with, and Spicks was a another really great way to get more music on TV. I’m passionate about that, and hopefully in the future I’ll be able to be involved in something that gets more music on TV.”

Although the show is a big loss to Hooper and lovers of music on television, don’t expect to catch her putting her feet up and taking things easy.

“Music isn’t how I pay the rent any more,” she says. “I do a lot of other things as well. I’ve got my radio show on Sunday nights all over the country on Austereo. I also host a program called The Telstra Road To Discovery, which is a song-writing search for the next great generation of song-writers; that kicks off in a month’s time and goes through the second half of the year. I’m also doing a few other things that I can’t talk about yet; some more mentorship and song-writing projects. I’ll also be writing some music for an event in the countryside where I come from, so I’ll be quite busy. Oh yeah, and releasing my album [laughs].”

Ella Hooper plays:
Newtown Social, Sydney – July 17
Shebeen, Melbourne – July 18

For Beat and The Brag

Interview: Chris Jericho of Fozzy

fozzy band

AS a former professional wrestler, Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho is used to talking big, but this time he really means it when he says new album Do You Wanna Start A War is the best of his band’s 15-year career. The metallers’ sixth album is due for release on July 25th, and Jericho has high hopes.

Your album’s about to come out. How are you feeling?

It’s always a cool time for you guys or for fans, but when you’re in the band and recording it, you hear the songs over and over and over again. From the writing stage to demo stage to tracking stage to editing stage to re-tracking to listening to putting the track list together and everything, we’ve heard the record hundreds of times. We think it’s the best record we’ve ever done. Now, a lot of bands say that and this is the way you should feel, but it’s always, shall we say, intimidating to wait and see what does everybody else thinks, and that’s kind of where we’re at right now. It’s a cool time to be at, because you make records for yourself and we did the best record that we think feels best for us. Hopefully people agree.

Why was ‘Lights Go Out’ chosen as the first single?

It’s one of the best songs on the record, has a great hook and is a little bit different. It has a little bit of a dance vibe to it. If Fall Out Boy and Black Sabbath had a bastard child, it would sound like ‘Lights Go Out’. You could hear it at a strip club and you could hear it at a Slayer concert and anywhere in between. The reason why it fits perfectly for us is that it’s still dark, but it’s got a groove that’s sexy and sleek. It’s a really cool song that we thought was one of the stand-outs. We wanted to start this record – even though it’s an old-school record like [Def Leppard’s]Hysteria or Appetite For Destruction, where there’s five or six singles on it, we wanted to start off with something a bit different, so when people hear it they go ‘wow, I never expected that from Fozzy’ or ‘we never knew Fozzy sounded like that’. It’s a song that opens doors, because it’s going to appeal to long-term fans and it’s going to make a whole lot of new fans, and that’s kind of what it’s all about.

How has the new material been going down live?

We’ve been playing ‘Do You Wanna Start A War’ and ‘Lights Go Out’. ‘Lights’ is making tracks on radio and we’ve been opening our sets with ‘Do You Wanna Start A War’; a song that people have never heard before. That’s always an interesting concept, but we can see people slowly getting into it because it’s such a hooky, catchy song and by the second or third chorus they’re singing it and they know it. I’m really excited to hear what people think when they hear the song for real; not just on a grainy, scratchy YouTube clip or just from experiencing it in the moment live. People might like it even better than ‘Lights Go Out’.

In a recent interview you said Fozzy have been playing both big arenas and small club shows. Do you have a preference?

It’s always been the way for us. Our motto is “10 or 10,000”; we play the exact same show whether there’s ten people there or whether there’s 10,000 people there. Any band will tell you this; it doesn’t matter if it’s Avenged Sevenfold or the local pub band playing across the street from you right now. Sometimes crowds are loud and crazy and sometimes they’re not, and it doesn’t matter. You have to be able to go with the flow, work that crowd and get them into it as much as you possibly can. Some nights you play in front of bigger crowds and some nights it’s smaller crowds; it doesn’t matter. You should never punish the people who’ve showed up. They’ve paid their money no matter if there were thousands or dozens of others with them. You can’t phone in a show, because every show matters, and we’re in the big leagues now.

Are you keen to throw your hat into the ring for Soundwave next year?

We’d love to play Soundwave. We played Soundwave in 2013 and it was one of the best tours of our career. We had great crowds; we were one of destination go-to bands every day. It was funny, because I always pay attention to what the crowd is like before you played and what the crowd is like after you played. It was very interesting, because although we were on early, you could tell people were coming to check us out because the band before had not a lot of people, then we played and there was six, seven, eight thousand people. In Sydney, eight thousand people came to see us and then I’d go out 20 or 30 minutes later, and the next band was playing in front of dozens of people. That’s when I started to realise we’re a destination band; people would come to see Fozzy and then go on to the next band. When you get that sort of reputation and response, you know you’re making headway. We’d love to do Soundwave again; hopefully it works out. If it doesn’t, we’ll come back in another capacity, because Australia has always been a great country for us. We’ve been touring there since 2005, and you can just see how the band has been growing and evolving every single tour, to the point where we toured Australia twice last year. I’d say that’s a pretty rare thing, to be able to do that. I love Australia; it’s a great rock and roll country, it has great fans, beautiful girls, awesome food. What more could you want? Book me now man; I’ll come play at your house.

You’ve had a few line-up changes over the years, but what makes the relationship between you and Rich Ward work so well?

It’s just chemistry and understanding. We’re lifers, man. We understand what it takes to make it. In all fairness, there were three of us who started; me, Rich and Frank Fontsere. Being in a partnership with two other guys for fifteen years is a pretty cool thing. Obviously everybody wishes they could be U2 or ZZ Top or Rush and have the same line-up their entire career, but everybody’s line-up changes. There was a time in the early ’90s where Iron Maiden had only two original members as well; Steve Harris and Dave Murray. And to this day they only have two. For us, the core unit is Ward, Jericho and Fontsere and it’s just one of those things. It’s like being in a marriage. If you’re going to make it in a long-term relationship you have to compromise and weather the good and the bad, and it’s the same as being in a band. It’s just that instead of being with one guy, you’re with two or three or four, and you don’t get to have sex with them, so there’s not even any fun in that respect either.

Will you be pretty much be touring for the rest of the year?

Yeah, just getting ready to release the record, getting ready to release the video and playing a bunch of radio festivals here in the States. Then we’ll start hitting the road in earnest, starting with the States and then heading overseas early next year. We did 17 countries last time, and I expect to beat that easily with this record.

DO YOU WANNA START A WAR BY FOZZY IS OUT JULY 25.

For The AU Review

Interview: Robert Cray

robert cray

WHERE do you start with a musician as accomplished as Robert Cray? He’s been playing the blues since the seventies, has over twenty albums in his catalogue, has bagged five Grammy Awards and played with the biggest names in the business, from John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins and B.B. King. Oh, and he also appeared in Animal House with John Belushi AND is still releasing top-notch blues records. On top of all this, he’s only one of the nicest guys around. Have I missed anything? Probably.

Hi Robert, let’s talk about your new album, In My Soul, first of all. How do you feel when you have a new record being released?

Happiness. It’s great because it’s a new record that gives us an opportunity to add to our repertoire and more to play to the fans. It’s a lot of fun.

You made some changes to the line-up just before recording. Why did you feel that was necessary?

Change is good; it’s necessary sometimes. We had two changes for this record. The first of which was having Les Falconer join as drummer. I’ve watched Les from afar, but not too far away; he’s been in the Keb’ Mo’ band for years. It just so happened that three or four years ago Les asked me if I ever wanted to make a change to consider him, and I did so about 16 or 18 months ago, so that was the reason for that change. We changed keyboard players, and we have Dover Weinberg on board, who also used to be in the band in the late ’70s. We made the change because I remember Dover having a great sound and a great feel, and I thought it would be great to have him work on the new record before we went into the studio.

Will this version of the band be set in stone for the foreseeable future?

For the foreseeable future, yes. We have a good time and we have a new album to present with this band. But we also play a lot of the older songs and we have a really good time with those, thank you.

Was the soulful feel to the album a deliberate step or more of a natural progression?

It was just by osmosis, actually. We had Steve Jordan come in to do the production. Steve’s a great musician as well. He made a couple of suggestions before we came into the studio; one was the Otis Redding cover, ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’, and the other was a Mable John song, ‘Your Good Thing (Is About To End)’. He suggested those two songs, but I thought it was going to be that maybe we’d record them in case the band and myself didn’t have enough original material. Well, the band had original material which were rhythm and blues, and I had songs which were rhythm and blues as well, so we just wound up with soulful songs.

How did you react when he suggested covering ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’?

I dug it, because it’s a song by Otis that I’ve admired for years. I’ve never had the opportunity to play it, but lots of friends of mine have covered the tune and I always thought it was cool.

What else does Steve Jordan bring to the table?

Steve’s a great communicator and organiser. He gets everybody into the studio, makes them participate and feel like they’re part of the project. That’s really important and how he conducts all operations in the studio. For example, we have this one song that’s a bonus track called ‘Pillow’; it’s got this really ’70s funky feel to it. Before we tackled the song we went into the control room where Steve had a copy of Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly record. We played a couple of tracks and started reminiscing about all the ’70s music, then we took a lunch break and let the music digest itself, you know? We came back into the studio, the electric sitar came out, different drums came out, and he had set the mood for the song. He’s in there conducting us, he’s in there dancing or he’s playing along, you know?

One of my favourites is ‘What Would You Say’, which contains a bit of social commentary. Would you call it a political song?

It’s not political in the way other songs we’ve done before covered deeper subjects like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is commentary and trying to be a bit more positive about what’s going on today with homelessness, the cancer that’s everywhere today and the war in Syria. But not in a big way, if you know what I mean. I wouldn’t call myself a political singer, but we do touch on it.

How was your experience of Bluesfest last year?

It was fantastic. We should come every year as far as I’m concerned [laughs]. It’s always a blast to be a part of it, but also to witness it. It’s a great event.

So you’re putting your name firmly in the hat for any future Bluesfests?

My name is in there every year. It’s just a matter of getting the opportunity to do it. There are so many acts who want to do it, and we have to wait our turn.

You’ve played with most of the blues greats in your time; which one made you the most starstruck?

That’s hard to say. I think all of them did, you know? I’m starstruck by all of them. But the thing is, all the people I’ve had the opportunity to meet have always been really nice and comforting, in the sense that they see how nervous you are and see that you’re awestruck and all that. But they reassure you and make you feel cool.

Could you pick one blues player who has had the biggest influence on you?

Probably Eric Clapton. I play that style of electric guitar, you know? John Lee Hooker is huge, Muddy Waters the same, but my style is more akin to Eric Clapton and the electric players he admires.

When you were in Animal House in 1977, was there any indication that it would be a cult classic movie?

As far as I knew, nobody knew what would happen with the film. We had just bit parts in it; we weren’t even credited as the musicians in the band. We just lip-synched to the music. We never saw a script, so we didn’t even know what the working title was. It was just a bunch of local guys doing a movie, then all of a sudden it’s what it is today. Now it’s history.

How much contact did you have with John Belushi?

He befriended a good friend of mine, Curtis Salgado. We lived in Eugene, Oregon at the time. Curtis was fronting a band called the Nighthawks from Eugene; it was where the movie was filmed and also where I lived at the time. On Monday nights we had a splinter group called the Crayhawks; a combination of the two bands. Belushi would come in and people would ask us if we knew Belushi was in the audience, and we’d go ‘who’s John Belushi?’ because we were always working on Saturday nights and never had seen the programme. But eventually we let him on the stage to do his Joe Cocker impersonation, and all the while the movie was being filmed in Eugene, Curtis was taking John Belushi back to his house and schooling him on blues. To cut a long story short, he got educated through Curtis and that whole thing begat The Blues Brothers. The prescription sunglasses Curtis wore became part of The Blues Brothers model and they dedicated the first record to Curtis Salgado.

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

Well, we just came back from a six-week tour of the UK and Europe. This coming week we’re about to start another six-week leg in the States, followed by another European leg in the fall. If things go right, maybe we’ll see you at Bluesfest next year. Like I said, my name is in the hat [laughs].

IN MY SOUL BY THE ROBERT CRAY BAND IS OUT NOW.

For the AU Review