He also served: Gang War drummer John Morgan and life in the trenches with Johnny Thunders and Wayne Kramer

gang war on stageGang War at Second Chance in Ann Arbor in 1979.  Sue Rynski photo  

It’s said the drummer in a rock and roll band has the best seat in the house. It’s given John Morgan his unique perspective on some of rock and roll’s most talented, fascinating and sometimes flawed characters. 

Now living in Ventura, California, John Morgan’s spent half his life as a professional musician, playing with a long list of blues and jazz bands. But it’s his insights into two in particular: Gang War and Sonic's Rendezvous Band - the former as a partcipant, thw latter as an observer - that will hold the most interest for I-94 Bar patrons. 

Forty years of X-treme doings

earlyx

Before there was punk rock there was Ian Rilen. Then there was X.

X weren't punks in the sense of the term that the skinheads understood but they were primal, punk rock and roll in one combustible package.

Sydney had never seen a band like X whose wrecking ball power centred on Rilen's bass-played-as-a-lead-instrument, the massive backbeat of fellow veteran Steve Cafeiro, the slashing guitar of Ian Krahe and the shredding vocals of Steve Lucas, the latter two rookies.

Living a quiet life wasn't part of the X creed. Krahe's submission to a heroin overdose left the already outlawed X even more out on a limb, but they grimly continued as a trio and proceeded to record their debut album with legendary guitarist Lobby Loyde producing.

"X-Aspirations" became an instant classic, setting a benchmark for a whole legion of new, uncompromising and minimalist bands.

These words (and those that follow) were written for the liner notes for the 2009 re-issue of X’s debut album “X-Aspirations” but were inadvertently shelved. We’re reviving them to coincide with the 40th anniversary tour by the X line-up that lives on after the passing of all original members except guitarist-vocalist Steve Lucas. Lucas has crowd-sourced a Best of and Rarities collection ("X-Citations") on vinyl, copies of which will be available at the gigs. Read on.

Last drummer standing brings his own Animals to play

John Steel Piotr BienieckiOriginal Animals drummer John Steel.  Piotr Bieniecki photo

This May, The Animals are touring Australia and New Zealand.

No, Eric Burdon won’t be with them. He lost the rights to the name in 2008, partly because it was evident to a judge that the name was one of convenience to him. However…

John Steel is one of the co-founders of The Animals. Apart from singer Eric Burdon - now performing under his own name with his own cast of Animals - Steel is the member who has been with most of the incarnations. It's his version of The Animals making the trip down under in May.

Fifteen years and going strong: Off The Hip still burns bright

mickster at off the hipMickster Baty at home in his Off The Hip shop.

The music industry is a shallow trench full of sharks and transient imprints, to paraphrase Hunter S Thompson. Independent record labels come and go with the regularity of manufactured reality TV stars and only a few manage to find their niche and prosper. In Australia, only Citadel is still standing from the halycon days of the 1980s. A few rose in the '90s to fill the gaps left by the demise of Phantom and Waterfront. Since the 2000s, the most enduring has been Melbourne-based Off The Hip.

oth logoOff The Hip grew out co-founder Mick ("Mickster") Baty's love of all things garage rock, powerpop and psychedelia. A drummer and veteran of one of Sydney's finest garage-trash outfits, The Crusaders, he went on to killer powerpop bands The Pyramidiacs and The Finkers. Baty saw Off The Hip as an outlet for his own music. He had re-located to Melbourne by then and formed The Stoneage Hearts, a shifting cast of players who produced top-shelf garage rock with a pop bent.

A retail operaiton operating out of his house morphed into a bricks-and-mortar shop in Melbourne's CBD and a floodgate of releases via the fledgling label ensued. It's been an enduring success - on its own terms - since then. Off The Hip - the label and the shop - have inspired and contrinuted to the existence and growth of hundreds of bands. 

Last month, the Off The Hip label celebrated its 15th birthday. We decided it was high-time for Mickster to occupy the interview seat.

Datura4 bring their heavy jams east

Datura4 RobbieHarroldRobbie Harrold photo

One of the album highlights of 2016 was "Demon Blues", the debut release by Perth-based rock-psych-boogie band Datura4.

A quartet led by Stems/DM3 songwriter Dom Mariani and ex-New Christs, You Am I, Bamboos and Monarchs guitarist Greg Hitchcock, With Stu Loasby (bass) and Warren Hall (drums) completing the line-up, Datura4 conjure a heady mix of guitar-raunch 'n' roll and heavy melodic jams - in the tradition of the Colored Balls and Masters Apprentices, yet unlike any other Australian band currently treading the boards.

Their second album "Hairy Mountain" has recently been unleashed by US label Alive Natural Sounds and we chased down Dom Mariani for a brief grilling, ahead of a quick-fire tour of Australia's East Coast.  

Vale L.A. author and Imperial Dogs frontman Don Waller

imperial dogs don wallerAnother one has passed. Hot on the heels of Norton Records co-founder Billy Miller comes news of the loss of Los Angeles writer, scenster and proto-punk singer Don Waller.

A founding member of the semi-legendary "Back Door Man" fanzine and indie record label, Waller had written extensively for Mojo, USA Today, Billboard, Variety, Radio & Records, L.A. Weekly, L.A. CityBeat and the Los Angeles Times.

The second-generation LA native was the author of best-selling "The Motown Story" (Scribner's, 1985). Waller also wrote more than 40 sets of liner notesand was a consultant to TV co ntent providers.

Long before that, Waller was a member of proto-punk outfit the Imperial Dogs -- who wrote and recorded the original version of "This Ain't The Summer Of Love", later re-recorded by Blue Oyster Cult. The band recently unearthed an hour-long video performance, "The Imperial Dogs: Live! In Long Beach (October 30, 1974)", released in 2009 and available from theimperialdogs.com

Don is survivied by his partner Natalie Nichols. To honour Don Waller's passing, we've unearthed this September 2009, interview by leading Australian documenter of the pre-and-punk scenes, former Dog Meat Records owner David Laing.

How Dave Weyer helped Jimi and Neil shape the sounds of the '60s

Dave69.2Dave Weyer circa 1969: Sought after Hollywood sound architect.

DATELINE 1999 - If you're a regular here at the I-94 Bar, chances are good that you have a more than passing interest in the music of Deniz Tek. Granted, the Radio Birdman mastermind's music has taken a markedly experimental turn over his last couple of albums -- one which hasn't found universal favor among fans of Birdman and his earlier solo work. But give the Iceman his due for hewing true to his uncompromising vision and never failing to make challenging, stimulating music.

Since the "Italian Tour" and "Bad Road" EPs and the "Le Bonne Route" album, a key element in the Deniz Tek sound has been one David Weyer, owner/operator of the studio in Laurel, Montana, which bears his name. As engineer and co-producer, Dave is the man who's helped realize Dr. Rock's prescriptions on tape and disc, and he has a fascinating story of his own to tell...

He's been a musician, inventor, a resident of L.A.'s Laurel Canyon during the frenetic '60s, amp technician to a host of guitar greats including Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix. Over a virtual beer or two, we talked about Dave's facinating past and his work with Deniz on projects past, present, and future.

Dave Weyer bellied up at the bar with me from his home in Laurel, Montana, on Sunday afternoon, October 3, 1999.

It's Just That They've Missed You: Julie Mostyn on the return of the Flaming Hands

jeff and julie
Jeff Sullivan and Julie Mostyn.    Steve Teece photo

The dictionary defines serendipity as “a pleasant surprise” and it's a term that scientists working in medical research are fond of using.  It’s also at the heart of how the looming reformation of beloved Sydney band the Flaming Hands came about.

Singer Julie Mostyn is on the phone from the Coffs Harbour home she shares with husband Warwick Gilbert, onetime bassist and graphic artist for Radio Birdman. She clearly remembers serendipity’s intervention on that very same landline, late in 2016.

“It was one of those life-changing phone calls…one that shocks you out of something you’ve been trying to get out of for a while,” she recalls.

“It was a call from Peter Oxley of the Sunnyboys, and he said: ‘Would you consider reforming the Flaming Hands?’ And I thought for half a second and said: ‘Yeah, that’d be good’.”

Talk about timing. It was as good as any excuse for Julie to ditch her day job in a local bank and embark on what's not so much a career revival as a chance to revisit great times, renew old partnerships and - maybe - push the musical boat out just a little further.

More on that last point later. More immediately, it means Flaming Hands supporting the Sunnyboys at the Sydney show of their February Australian tour, with similarly reformed friends, Shy Impostors, opening the gig.

Flaming Hands were Sydney’s best soul and psych pop band, a potent and popular outfit based around Julie Mostyn’s passionate voice and guitarist Jeff Sullivan’s emotion-baring songs. 

The Man He Used To Be: Stewart Cunningham tells the Leadfinger story

Leadfinger Heritage 2016
Leadfinger in full flight at Bulli's Heritage Hotel with Carrie Phillis assiting on backing vocals. 

They've been around for a decade but I've gotten into Leadfinger a bit late in the piece. I had heard word that they were one of the best bands in Sydney, and I knew their leader, Stewart Cunningham, from previous outfits like Proton Energy Pills and Asteroid B612, with whom I’d shared stages. So we went all the way back to 1989. 

The penny finally dropped at the Tim Hemensley Memorial at the Tote in Melbourne about three years ago. Bombarded by the hard Geelong-Melbourne garage rock sound, it was Leadfinger (along with HITS) who were the highlights for me.

Leadfinger played upstairs. I watched a band that was thoughtful, with a great collection of songs and a broad variety of influences. The guitars chimed and lashed out, there were great vocal hooks, and the tunes were memorable. I decided that I liked them a lot.