Things are heating up as The Fools re-emerge

fools dylan
Guitarist Dylan Webster from Newcastle band The Fools

In the early ‘90s, raw and tough rock and roll was supposedly being re-birthed. Grunge had ushered in The Year That Punk Broke and the mainstream was finally embracing music that wasn’t safe and bland. Yeah. Right.

In reality, Real Rock and Roll was still fighting. The tidal wave that was the MP3 was about to arrive in earnest but the only game in town, as far as The Industry was concerned, was Grunge, a sludgy offspring of heavy metal and punk that promised little and (mostly) delivered less.  

Too harsh?  A lot of fine and worthy bands were trampled under the rush by major labels to sign any act with tuned-down guitars wearing flannelette shirts. It didn’t matter if their songs mostly remained the same; the big label A & R men couldn’t see past their own shaggy fringes.

Like Newton used to say, every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. In Australia, a fresh wave of high-energy acts like Powder Monkeys, Asteroid B612, Brother Brick, the YesMen and Bored! were kicking against the pricks and doing things their own way. A lesser light from the industrial port city of Newcastle, two hours north of Sydney, created their own ripples.

Get your dancing shoes on with The Pop Group's Mark Stewart

pop group white

The late ‘70s in the UK saw a deluge of explosive music and art colliding, and while not all was good by any means (much was utterly dreadful), some was brilliantly wayward. The Pop Group are one such, and they are doing only THREE shows in Australia in March.

The first is at the Adelaide Festival on Thursday 5th March, the next day they’re in Sydney at the Factory Theatre, and the last gig is at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne (where they will be supported by the rather swish Harry Howard and the NDE). Then, they’re slugging through the USA and back to Blighty to cause more sore feet and body odour. Toting a brand new album "Citizen Zombie" that's relevant and brilliant. 

Smelling like roses: Pretty Thing Dick Taylor on "Bouquets From A Cloudy Sky"

dick and philThey’re entering the 53rd year of this career thing but guitarist Dick Taylor and his band, the Pretty Things, aren’t showing any signs of calling it a day.

With a vinyl only live record (“The Pretty Things Live at The 100 Club”) recently released and a new studio album ("The Sweet Pretty Things Are In Bed Now Of Course" ) in the wings, the Pretties have gone a step further by unleashing what’s probably the last word in box sets.

“Bouquets From A Cloudy Sky” (on Madfish through Snapper) does the band’s considerable legacy justice, bringing all of the 11 studio albums together, along with two documentaries and a brace of CDs of rare or previously unreleased material, beautifully presented in one compelling package.

Love takes Steve Lucas back to his single beginnings

steve lucas brisbaneMainstream media’s full of stories about the re-birth of vinyl, but anyone with half a clue knows the format never died. What’s glossed over in all the breathless reportage about black platters is the Art of the Seven-Inch Single. Consider the facts…

Back in rock and roll’s heady days of the ‘60s - long before FM radio and the LP format took hold - singles were the deatyh or glory, one-shot-at-the-prize for many bands. The A side of a 45 was a distillation of a band’s essence. The B side was for experimenting.

Melbourne musician Steve Lucas is a big fan of the 45 and acutely aware of the place in music that the format holds.

Lax Charisma of The Nice Folk on life as a musical underground outlaw

nice-folk-backA few weeks ago at the Factory Floor in Sydney, I caught The Nice Folk supporting Harry Howard and The NDE and The Holy Soul. 

The Nice Folk (for me) were a cross beyween early Captain Beefheart Magic Band and Pere Ubu. I wrote that they could "pull out a slow, sleazy blues song and switch to early Beasts of Bourbon-like sloppy and swampy excursions". What really struck me that night, however, was that they captured a spirit of an Australian music scene from a long time ago.

In the ’80s, pre-Nirvana, pre-Ratcat. pre-corporate festivals - and the boozed up smashed bogans with Southern Cross tatts thinking they are cool one day of the year going to the Big Day Out - there were bands like The Nice Folk. These bands knew they were never going to capture a place in the commercial charts. They were truly underground.

This let to music that was free from attempting to be accessible. It was about the band and music first and not getting them “Suck-cess”. Bands like the Laughing Clowns, Lubricated Goat, Box The Jesuit and the early Wet Taxis. Which is why I really liked The Nice Folk. They had a similar attitude and devotion to their music.

Real Kids Don't Get Old: John Felice returns with a new Real Kids album

real-kids-2014

John Felice is one of rock’n’roll’s unsung heroes. A founding member of the Modern Lovers at the age of 15, he quit the band before the sessions that resulted in their classic album, and was subsequently written out of the history of one of the most influential bands of the ‘70s.

The band he left to form, the Kids, made some local waves but ultimately went nowhere, pretty much coming to an end when he went off to New York to audition for the Heartbreakers - a job he turned down.

Back in Boston, he formed the Real Kids, and finally wrote his own chapter in rock’n’roll history with an album for Marty Thau’s Red Star label that goes down as one of the greatest ever – a perfect blend of Eddie Cochran, the early Stones and the Velvet Underground, with killer tunes, energy and feel, and some of the most honest and affecting lyrics ever put to music.

Stranded with Ed and Judi Kuepper...with strings attached

ed-atp-himself

For more than 40 years, Ed Kuepper has been creating music. Over that time, he's claimed a place as one of the most progressive and critically acclaimed singer-songwriters and guitar players to emerge from Australia.

Ed has been (mostly) in the shadows of the mainstream and has always forged his own path.

No-one sounds like Ed Kuepper.

I was about 12 when “I’m Stranded” blared from my television set. With a mouthfull of Milo and with my school bag thrown on the sofa, I raced over and turned the volume up of the old National 18-inch colour “telly”. I was blown away by the sound and the image.  It was the afternoon show ABC ‘s Flashez that I recall and an interview followed with people who seemed like street urchins. It was explosive.   These blokes – The Saints - were the real deal.

Taking your licks with James Williamson

JamesWilliamson5 HeatherHarrisThese bloody phone interviews. If you’ve never done one, this is how it goes: 

First, you notice unfamiliar terms in the email from the publicist like AEDT and CST that refer to time zones. And that excremental daylight saving kicked in two days ago. Cue frantic fiddling on the computer to make sure you’ve got the right time. 

You’ve been given a choice of times - if you’re lucky. Bit awkward if you get stuck with a time when you’re at work and you have to excuse yourself to go to the bog and do an interview. Trust me, you get looks. 

“Who were you cackling away to in the toilet, Robert? New … chum?”

Cue: furious blushing.

This interview was with James Williamson, the guitarist for Iggy and The Stooges, who has a new solo album, "Re-Licked" in the racks. And I got lucky on another front this time, and the nearly-threenager grandchild didn’t arrive until after I’d finished, so assorted boing noises, yowls and her squeaky voice didn’t float up into the recording. 

With most "phoners"you do have a strict 20 minutes to adhere to, a weird time (in this case it’s from 8.55am to 9.15 am). But you do worry that it’s 4.30 am where the interviewee is, and he’ll be off his head on Tequila and mushies. As rock stars do.

Just 20 minutes to gain rapport and probe the poor bugger’s most intimate self?  Poor bugger? He’s on the receiving end of a long line of assorted gits like me for several hours.

One minute before the appointed time, you dial a local number - with the area code prefix. A recorded message asks you to select your language. I am always very tempted to fuck with this but have so far refrained. One day I’ll select Croat or Bulgarian or Tig or something.

Looking back: Dick Wagner in conversation with Geoff Ginsberg

dick-wagner-wide

The recent passing of legendary American guitarist Dick Wagner is as good an excuse as any to look back on his long and incredible career. Philadelphia-based record label head, manager, writer and all-round music maven Geoff Ginsberg conducted a landmark I-94 Bar interview with Dick in 1999. It's reprised below. - The Barman