A 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.
These 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.
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.