Flashback: Buffalo one of Australia's best
From 1970-76, Buffalo were undoubtedly one of Australia’s greatest high-energy, rock and roll bands. They were a great example of four musicians whose combined musical chemistry created devastating results.
Their five original albums (on the great Vertigo label) sell for massive amounts of money on eBay. Decent condition copies are practically hard to come by, as most of Buffalo’s original 1970’s fanbase were drugged/drunken freaks who trashed those albums at their hippy parties.
After the band broke up Pete Wells put together Rose Tattoo, Dave Tice based himself in England where he joined great R & B/pub rock combo The Count Bishops.
First published in November 2005
John Baxter joined Southern Cross before forming the power trio Boy Racer, whose un-released studio recordings are brilliant and (if any justice is in the world) should have a release soon. Drummer Jimmy Economou moved to Adelaide and still plays occasionally.
Aztec Music (run by ex Aztecs drummer Gil Matthews) made it their mission to make available some of the great lost Australian albums. One of the first being Buffalo’s 1973 hard rock classic “Volcanic Rock”. This, as well as all of the other Buffalo albums, have been available for years as unauthorised, illegal and expensive bootlegs (dubbed from vinyl). For the first time ever a proper remaster and re-release, with full co-operation from the band and its record company, is available.
STEVE DANNO-LORKIN spoke with vocalist DAVE TICE and guitarist JOHN BAXTER.
Congratulations on the first ever legitimate re-release of the Buffalo album. What do you think of the sound on "Volcanic Rock"? It has such a huge sound especially compared to other Australian records of the time.
Dave Tice: I credit a lot of that with (producer) Spencer Lee and Wynn Wynyard (engineer). Spencer was a complete eccentric, he had some very strange ways about him but he really did understand music and how to get it down on tape. Both of those guys were really into what we were doing, they understood what we were trying to achieve.
John Baxter: They used a few studio tricks, like placing mics away from the amplifier so you would get a delay effect. They would have one mike on the amp and one 10 metres away, I really liked the sound. It sounded full and big.
John Baxter and Dave Tice get together to mark the re-issues in 2005.
That album sounds like it was just recorded in a big room with everybody's amps on full blast.
DT: That exactly is how we did it.
It’s odd sometimes when you read recent articles written on Buffalo that they get referred to as a “progressive rock band” a label I would use for bands like Yes or King Crimson. I always considered Buffalo as a loud powerful rock n roll band.
DT: Well we thought we were a blues band (laughs) that’s what we started out trying to be but because we ended up writing our own stuff and were very conscious of not trying to regurgitate the blues, that’s why it ended up the way it did. At the time we were progressive because we were doing something that not too many other people were attempting to do.
We were outside the mainstream and anything that was outside the mainstream got that label. We had enormous arrogance because we thought we were making a serious contribution to the direction of music and attitude. I think a lot of the bands from that period of time had that same thought, the idea of bands was to be revolutionary, be something that everybody goes “fuck ...wow! this is new and different and not here’s another band playing some blues songs”.
JB: We didn’t sell out to commercialism. We followed what we liked doing. In those days there was a lot of glam rock around and we didn’t wanna be glam rockers..No way! I was dead set against wearing make up and looking feminine.
I couldn’t imagine Pete Wells in make-up to tell you the truth.
JB: That’s right (laughs) we kept right away from that. It was something Sherbet, Skyhooks and Hush were into. To me it was a bit sickly. We were kind of punk rockers before punk.
Dave Tice at the mic and ex-AC-DC member Mark Evans (right) jam with drummer Rob Grosser and a mystery guitarist, who may be related to Steven Danno-Lorkin.
Did Buffalo ever get onto Countdown? (ED: Australia’s equivalent to Top of the Pops).
JB: No. I blew that for the band. We went to Melbourne to play with Slade. There were probably 30,000 people there. We had a press conference and Molly Meldrum (host of Countdown) shows up. We were tanked by the time we got there and when Molly arrives I staggered over to him and said: “How ya goin' Molly, you’re a bit of a poofter ain’t ya??” and that was the end of that.
We never went on Countdown. It wasn’t a good career move doing that. We weren’t really a Countdown band but to make it in Australia back then you had to go on Countdown. It was pretty stupid of me I got to admit. I wouldn’t do it today.
And if I saw Molly today face to face I’d apologise. But that’s the stupid things you do when you’re young. I don’t drink alcohol anymore.
Even though the band was very original were there any artists that Buffalo may have been inspired by?? Some people consider Black Sabbath to be similar to what Buffalo were doing.
JB: If someone said we sounded like Black Sabbath it makes me wonder if they know much about music really. Our songs were structured differently, different feel. We were a lot rockier. But I must admit at the same time I was a big fan of Black Sabbath
Who DIDN’T like Black Sabbath? But I also liked The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks and all that '60s stuff that came out of England after the Beatles. The Animals, Manfred Mann. The Who. All of them!
DT: In many ways in Australia we were the closest thing to Black Sabbath. I don’t think we were very much like them at all. We were both bands that played heavy riffs and we played loud and thundered away. I think Black Sabbath were much more of a pop band than Buffalo ever were.
Well they had the tricky little chord changes and then they’d go in a 7/10 time.
DT: We weren’t good enough to do that shit (laughs) We were playing the sort of stuff we were playing before we were aware of Black Sabbath and that’s the fact of it. It wasn’t that we set out to sound a particular way it’s because when got into a room and turned the amps up and started thundering away .that’s what happened. Most of the songs on the first two albums were literally written on stage. Because we had no songs initially. When we first started playing gigs we use to jam like nobodies business, John use to make a horrible noise for a while and then he’d do a count with his foot and Pete Wells (bass) would somehow work out what key it was in and away we’d go.
What was the live scene like back then? Now we have hotels and pubs but back then it wasn’t the case.
JB: We would play halls and dances
DT: There were no pub rock gigs. They didn’t have bands because they had people in their singlets drinking pints on the weekend. Bands in pubs were not part of the culture. One of the first tours Buffalo did we put on ourselves. We made the posters, booked the halls, we visited all the shops and stuck posters up in the towns three weeks before we went through and the reason we did that because the only way we could get gigs was to make them ourselves. What we were doing wasn’t considered mature enough to be in a amongst a bunch of blokes having a beer on a Saturday night.
JB: Sometimes we would do three or four gigs a night… That was pretty interesting.
We did a gig once with Jeff St John and Copperwire. They were playing and the whole place erupted in a brawl. They had those wooden folds up tables and guys running on them and jumping off. It was like something out of a movie. It was bedlam! Jeff St John was freaking out. The entire band was petrified. I wasn’t feeling all that secure myself
Dave… Please bring us up to date with the goings on with your current music career
DT: I Just got back from London, (did) two shows with my old 70s English band The Count Bishops (as part of Chiswick Records' 30- year anniversary) which were both very successful I might add, and they are about to reissue the two Count Bishops studio albums. And of course every Tuesday night at the Bridge Hotel in Rozelle which is myself and Mark Evans (classic era AC/DC bass player) (ED: Dave & Mark have been playing a weekly acoustic/bbues gig at The Bridge for the past seven years).
And rumours of more Count Bishops shows??
DT: Yes…There’s a likelihood of that as the gigs we did in London at the 100 Club and Dingwalls were extremely successful and now we are starting to field offers from other parts of Europe.