Munster Times #29
Letter from the Editor issue 29
The Real World Heavy Weight ChampionVale Harley Race
"I can't make them believe pro wrestling is real, but I can make them believe I'm real." - Terry Funk
FriendshipAt Meredith we stayed up all night
listening to doof doof cyberpunk music
and I saw you cry for the first time,
at four in the morning
bottle of ice tea and vodka in hand
I saw your real face and something changed.
Back in Melbourne some strange anxiety
compelled me to walk to your house
returning your books Equus, and
Diary of a Schizophrenic Girl,
and a men's jacket I once borrowed
to walk home in. You said:
"You can stay here tonight."
Offered me Lipton and McCain's fish fingers
and lying on separate beds,
we shared sleep noises in the night.
In the morning, you said:
"Ï have a lion mask for you,"
fetching it out of the cupboard
placing it on the back of my head:
"Mine is the pig mask, yours is the lion mask."
As if now some animal pact is made.
CJ: Yeah. Johnny had told me if I wanted to submit songs feel free. But it’s a very intimidating situation. Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee where still writing songs its really hard for someone who just got out of the military and is now in the Ramones, writing songs and comparing mine to their's. It’s a difficult situation. I wrote a few songs along the way, and I got two on the last LP. And I wrote songs before that but I wasn’t comfortable submitting them comparing mine to their’s. It was intimidating.
Munster: In the End of the Century Documentary, Ritchie said he left the band over an argument over royalties from T Shirt sales, and he was quoted saying, "At times I felt like I was a Ramone and other times I felt like I was just a hired guy." What was your experience like? Did you feel like an equal or just a guy filling in for Dee Dee?
CJ: I guess for the most part but no one had to make me feel the new kid in town because I was. There’s no way around that. I never felt like a full member. It felt more like my own perceptions in how I was treated or whether or not I fitted in the band. It’s tough to go from being in a band to being a band member. I did my best to maintain good relations with Joey and Johnny. I tried to be as trouble free as I possibly could. I never caused them much grief. I had good relationships with both guys after the band was over and when I read interviews and the things were said about me and the credit given blew me away because while the band was going there wasn’t much talking between us. It was a very odd situation. Sometime it was hard to address stuff but for the most part I was happy being in the band and they were happy with me and that’s all that mattered.
Munster: Now you toured Australia 1989 when you just joined the Ramones. What was that like playing overseas after just joining the band? Because I think you where only in the band for 3 months at that point. My mate Marty has a shirt from that tour and Dee Dee is still on the shirt. You joining the band, was that quick a turn around?
CJ: (laughs) It was a really big thing to me. I really felt like I fit in with the fans in Australia. I hung out with the fans after the show. I’d walk out and say you wanna hang out. I missed a lot of tour stuff. I enjoyed every moment. I partied and got to hang out with girls
Munster: Now here something I really want to discuss, the Simpsons. How did that come about and what where your memories of recording the show?
Munster: Ya there?
As I asked the all important Simpsons question the phone died. The publicity company very kindly offered me another 20 minutes at a later date. So about three weeks later I spoke again with CJ, this time he’s is back in New York in-between tours having finished up a European tour and also playing with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.
CJ: So the Simpsons. Matt Groening was a huge fan and they reached out and I was such a huge fan of the show. In my room in the Ramones van I had a Bart Simpsons air freshener so I was so completely out of my mind happy when I found out we’d be going into the studio doing our own voiceover. So we went to the studio and of course my line in the show was, "Go to hell you old bastard!" (laughs) It was one of the highlights of my career getting to curse on prime time TV. So the 9 years old little Christopher Ward was laughing up and down hysterically, you know it's every kids dream to do something like that. But what an unbelievable experience and one of the everlasting memories as that episode still gets played on TV and one of the most watched Ramones videos on YouTube is that. And the other cool thing was I got to do the arrangement for Happy Birthday which made it even cooler.
Munster: I saw you at the Bendigo a few years back and I loved the set and loved the banter. One of my favourite moments was when you did I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend and you said your one regret was you never got to do the slower songs in the Ramones as most of them where written by Joey, who wrote them about Johnny’s wife. Was the banter a short glimpse into life in the Ramones?
CJ: (laughs) Yeah totally. I’m not a natural frontman. I’m not a good public speaker a lot of that stuff has evolved over time. That little comment on Joey writing it about Johnny’s wife, it's based in truth. There’s that long rumour that the KKK Took my Baby Away is about Johnny taking Linda from Joey. But you know it really is just that to get the crowd to loosen up and get a giggle out of it.
It’s a strange thing to go from these fast songs to something of a love song, but I always felt it lacked from a Ramones show was any deviation from what they did every single night. I always thought we played too fast, or we lost the melody. I couldn’t sing the harmonies we were just playing them fast for the sake of playing them fast. That’s why when I started playing on my own I pulled all the guys in my band and said we’re playing everything around It’s Alive speed, because I wanted to bring the melody back and the nice little grace notes on the guitar that were done as overdubbed. I wanted the harmonies and I wanted people to remember how good the Ramones music was, not the live show. The live show was great 'cause it was wild and you could slam dance. And I wanted to remind people of that as it seems like it became lost, because we became characters where we played the songs so fast, if the sound was bad the crowd didn’t know what song we were doing till we hit the chorus.
Munster: That same gig you were wearing t-shit, Yankees hat, and cargo pants, a world away from the leather jacket. Was that Ramones image something you wanted to escape?
CJ: I don’t pretend I’m CJ Ramones 24/7. I didn’t live up to the image. I never tried to do that. Like I said, I don’t want to be a character. It’s nice to be associated with the Ramones and taking care of the legacy but not sacrifice all of who I am. I don’t need to do that. I go on stage as I dress in my everyday life and it works just as good.
People say you need to grow your hair and wear a leather jacket. And I say this isn’t the Ramones. The Ramones are gone. I’m just trying to keep the music going and reminding people how great they were. The image was great but it’s the music and the spirit I want to keep alive.
Munster: As you mentioned in our first chat Joey and Johnny said a lot of positive things about you and Tommy said you kept the band young. Do you feel proud of your legacy in the Ramones?
CJ: Yeah. Everybody was keeping the band going for sure what happened anyone that came in would have been an improvement over Dee Dee as Dee Dee went off the rails. So anyone would have brought a little spark.
I was a big fan and not a professional musician. I was a machine gunner in the marine core, so when I came into the band I exploded on stage and that really gave Joey and Johnny a little shock. A little kick up the butt to get it going on stage. My enthusiasm and asking them everything. Telling stories from the glory days made it a much more positive interaction in the band. I made a difference I made a contribution in the band, and I helped them have seven years of the most success they ever had and I was there for it. But it wasn’t all because of me. But I know what my contribution was because Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, Tommy, Danny Fields and Arturo Vega, those guys told me what my contribution was. So I know I made a contribution and when I went on stage I gave it my all.
Some people say I ripped off Dee Dee, and I was a huge fan, so he did influence me, but on stage was all me. Going back and forth with Johnny, that was part of it, but my behaviour and playing style was all me.
Munster: Was there anything you learned in the army that helped you in your civilian life?
CJ: Well as a machine gunner, just in having discipline and understanding what to do and say, is important. That’s really the best thing was discipline and I had none before, and Johnny certainly wouldn’t have gotten along with me if I had none. When I was younger I partied a lot but the army gave me structure. When I joined the band Johnny told me we have strict rules and I told him tell me what they are and I’ll follow them and that helped me all my life, whatever I do I go at it like the military, give everything 100%. Be prepared and show up to win. That’s how I’ve lived my life ever since.
Munster: Now many books have been written about the Ramones. Some by members of the band. Some by people associated with the band. And some that had nothing to do with the band. Do you have any plans on writing your own story?
CJ: I’ve been working on a book for years and part of the motivation getting off the road is to finish it. But mine will be different, those books are by people who were there for a long time before I arrived and where not Ramones fans before they were in the band or associated with the band. I’m a regular blue colour guy that got into a band. I grew up loving, and worshiping the Ramones. So my story is gonna be completely different than everyone else. I’m not gonna be dishing dirt or anything like that. It’s about my life from my childhood up until the Ramones retired, and it's from my perspective and it’s a very unique one and I think the fans will appreciate it.
Munster: What are you up to for rest of the year?
CJ: After Australia I’m doing a cross country motorcycle trip, that’s it, I’ll be spending time with my family learning how to tattoo better and all the other things I don’t get to do when I’m on the road.
A mixture of John Spencer and Sun Records, Plastic Section are quickly becoming one of our favourite bands here at Munster. Combining classic 50's Rock with their own tough sound, they are familiar but also fresh. Ben Edwards started the group in Sydney took it to Bangkok and now Melbourne where he has now landed.
I first met Ben at the GEM and kindly gave me a copy of their CD Frenzy in the City of Hell. 12 tracks in under 30 minutes, short sharp and to the point not a wasted moment. There follow up Trouble is our Business is more of the same and one of the best releases of 2019. One of the hardest working men in rock Pip has joined the group on bass joining Ben and drummer Matthew. Ben and Pip met me at the Last Chance Rock n Roll Bar on a Thursday night to talk rock, the art of recording on cassette and the various locations they’ve called home.
Munster: So how did Plastic Section start, did the band start in Australia or Bangkok?
Ben: When I was living in Sydney I had a band called the Section sort of garage rock band but I occasionally did gigs on my own or with various people so I called that Plastic Section. When I moved to Bangkok I kept that going as I did gigs on my own. So people came in and it became a proper band but it was always pretty loose with people coming and going. When I moved to Melbourne I wanted to keep it going.
I met our drummer Matthew first through a mate who put me in touch with him because I didn’t know may people in Melbourne. Pip saw a few of our gigs and asked if we needed a bass player. It’s worked out well.
Munster: I first saw Plastic Section with the Beat Taboo at the Gem and I think that was as a two piece. And not long after that Pip came into the band. So Pip how did you join the fold?
Pip: I was at one of their gigs and I was very drunk and thought they were great. And because I’m very annoying when I’m drunk I told them what I thought and asked if they needed a bass player. A few weeks later Ben called me and that was that.
Ben: I think we played a gig with Wrong Turn at Cherry Bar one night.
Pip: That’s right.
Munster: Pip you play in Plastic Section, Wrong Turn, Blowers and the Exotics how do you find the time to play in all these bands?
Pip: I’ve multiplied myself. (laughs) It's weird. It’s worked out. One day I played three gigs with three bands and it was too much. It’s pretty fortunate there hasn’t been much conflict. Basically it's first come first served. If someone says we got a gig on the 21st I say yup and go from there.
Munster: Trouble is our Business is your new LP out on Off the Hip. Tell us the process of recording it?
Ben: It was basically the set we’ve been playing lately. Mickster was keen to release something and we wanted something out in Melbourne. We hooked up with Raul from Midnight Wolf and we did it in an arvo at the rehearsal space Raul works.
Pip: Can I just add, at that point I had been in the band for three weeks. I’d only had one gig with them at that point.
Ben: It was rough on him. It was rough 'n' ready. We just wanted to bang something out that sounds like a live set. Raul recorded it on cassette. He had an 8 track cassette tape. He did the mixing as well and Lluis Fuzzhound did the artwork.
Munster: How did the association with Mickster and Off the Hip Come about?
Ben: When I moved to Melbourne I didn’t know many people but I knew Mick and I knew the shop as I was a fan of a lot of the stuff he released. And when in town I’d always go in and have a chat with Mick. I gave him a demo at one point and when I moved down we played a gig at the shop so it when from there.
Munster: You mentioned you recorded the LP on Cassette. What benefits are there recording on tape?
Pip: It’s warmer. And also makes you more on your game. You can’t be too fancy as you only have eight tracks. So you need to be fussy with how you play. I’ve recorded with Raul before with the Interceptors and we were really happy with that he does a good job.
Ben: We prefer recording live anyway basically, or do the tracks live at least and do the vocals afterwards. The process is pretty similar but gives it a warmer sound.
Pip: We recorded it all top to bottom in six hours. Then it was a mixing thing. So it takes that pain out of going back. There’s no over-dubs so that was it.
Ben: Ideally the thing would be to record from reel-to-reel tape so you get that in-between sound. Raul is good because he can take that and mix it digitally but has that analogue sound.
Munster: Pip how did you go recording considering you were in the band for a few weeks?
Pip: I’ve become used to it, flying on the seat of my pants. Tex Napalm taught me that. The skill of to this learn this, kind of a do or die scenario. I do find it quite stressful but it's one of those things, and if you fuck it up it's only Rock 'n' Roll. We’re not gonna lose our houses or anything.
Ben: Rock 'n' Roll shouldn’t be perfect there’s always little mistakes.
Munster: When I listen to that record, it feels like a Sun City sound, with elements of John Spencer. How did you get that 50's guitar sound?
Pip: I would say it's Ben's natural guitar sound. It's brilliant.
Ben: The only technicality in terms of recording is basically doing it live which is how they did it in the 50s and 60s. And most bands do it that way now. The idea of overdubbing everything is a 80s and 90s thing.
Pip: And you lose the three piece sound. Overdubs loses the vibe.
Ben: Yeah it never quite connects. And the songwriting is influenced by 50's and 60's Rock 'n' Roll which I love the most.
Munster: Ben, when I met you at the Gem, you gave me the record you did before this and it came in under 30 minutes. Trouble is Our Business is 10 songs also under 30 minutes which I love the keep it short nature of the songs.
Ben: Yeah. I’m not into guitar solos
Pip: People have short attention spans these days anyway.
Ben: And again all the songs from the 50's and 60's were short songs and just perfect little capsule. And if there was a solo, it was a little burst of energy. It’s a part, not a random improvised part of the song, not just banging on for five minutes.
Munster: Pip obviously you were a fan of the band to want to join but was there something you thought was lacking that you thought you could add to the group?
Pip: The bass player on the other CDs, I’m a different kind of player. She’s a natural musician whereas I’m not. I’m by no stretch of the imagination a natural musician. So it’s more the way I play gives it more of a fill. There’s things we’ve put together since I’ve put some ideas in with arrangements so I think we’re working well together.
Ben: And since Pip joined we’ve been going all new stuff and we’ve got another LP of songs ready to go.
Munster: Ben you lived in Bangkok for a period while having the band going what was the scene like over there?
Ben: It was great. Like everywhere else, it’s a real underground scene. They have a massive Pop scene but they have a great Underground scene with venues like this and some amazing bands. And it's quite international. A lot of bands are a mixture of Thai Japanese American Australian all playing together so it makes an interesting mix. We play a few times a month but it's small, most gigs would have 50 to 100 people. There’s not a lot of Rock 'n' Roll bands. There’s heaps of Hardcore Punk and Shoe-gazing and Power Pop. So we were one of the few just doing straight Rock. And it's really diverse. You’d get four bands playing different kinds of music and everyone’s supportive. So it works well.
Munster: And Plastic Section also played shows in Berlin too?
Ben: We just went there for a holiday but planned to play a few gigs while we were there. We had a drummer friend who played with us in Bangkok, who was living in Berlin. We lined up a gig at record shop and he said you can play here as our neighbours have complained about the sound so that didn’t happen. But he got us some gigs. One was supporting Paul Collins Beat and the other in this small basement venue. Loved to go back.
Munster: And you’ve been on a few TV shows overseas as well.
Ben: Did a few in Bangkok in Thailand. They make their own contact on radio and TV. So there are more opportunities. Where here we get a lot from America.
Did that a few times but never got to see any of it as I didn’t have a telly.
Munster: Pip your one of the busiest people I know. What is it you're looking for in a band that makes you wanna sign up?
Pip: I have to like the music but I’m more about the people. And that’s generally most of the bands I’ve been in people I know who are friends and I’ve volunteered or they asked me. For me personality in bands, that’s a big thing. If they can gel, you need to have some kind of connection. You read an ad online; band needs guitarist. And for me, that’s not really how I’d work. I’d rather see the band, meet them, and say, "Ah yeah I’ll do that."
Ben: I agree. Every time I start something new I’d rather play on my own and go from there and meet people that way.
Pip: And it’s organic. Not this forced thing. It’s a fun world for us. We’re not gonna make a living of this. This is why we have a day job.
Ben: And that’s one good side of not making a living from music. It means it has to be fun and people have to do exactly what they want to do otherwise why would you do it? Otherwise there’s no reason to do it.
Pip: And I’m no spring chicken. To me it’s an energy thing. It gives me something to do. It beats sitting at home watching…..whatever’s on TV.
Ben: I find Melbourne to be really friendly. I knew hardly anyone when I moved down here. Now I have a bunch of friends via music and it's my whole life really.
Pip: And really, people are quite inclusive. We all give each other a hand or a suggestion or help each other out. You hear stories but you rarely hear of people getting fucked over.
Ben: When I arrived in Melbourne I was walking down Sydney Rd one day and I heard this amazing psychedelic band. I went in and it was Trauma Boys who I didn’t know. I was blown away. I was talking to Jimmy the singer and I told him I play in a band and do similar stuff and I suggested maybe we can set up a gig. They did and that was my first gig in Melbourne. So that’s an example of how friendly it is.
Munster: Ben you’re from Sydney and spent time in Bangkok Pip your from Belfast and you’ve both traveled the world. Do you think Melbourne has earned the live music capital of the world title?
Pip: Pretty much. Coming from Belfast, which in the 60s bands like Them played there, and they had a bigger audience than they did in their home city. There was the reassurance with Good Vibrations in the late 70s. Since then it’s been hit and miss. And here, usually, when a venue closes another one pops up and that’s a great thing. A lot of what it comes down to RRR and PBS. They give bands such a hand up. For me, PBS has been amazing, every time I do something they're all over it. You don’t get that everywhere and because of the population size people will hear it. And with Trouble is Our Business LP, we got reviewed in Viva La Rock. It's like, "Fuck! How did that happen?" Whether it’s a 'zine or public radio, it’s a really good healthy thing to have.
Ben: And the DJs from those stations; they’ll DJ at gigs so everyone’s involved. Melbourne has an amazing amount of amazing bands. Every time I go to a gig I discover a new band. And international bands want to come here
Pip: I lived in Perth for three years before I came here and it was all, "Let’s get to Melbourne!" And here I meet people from New Zealand who also said that, "Let’s get to Melbourne!" It seems every week someone is getting off a bus or plane saying, "Let’s get to Melbourne!"
There’s two ways to look at it. One way it makes it very competitive, but the other side is it keeps healthy. It's always moving, things happening, as long as there enough slices of the cake we’re all happy people.
Ben: And it's all healthy competition makes some bands lift their game like every time you see another great band appears it makes the other bands try harder and makes everyone better
Pip: I’ve learned you can’t rest on your laurels. There’s so many new bands coming up. If you have 9 months off it's hard to get back into where you were before. Unless you're something quite special. People just forget and you can be instantly replaced. But in a positive way, that’s a good thing as makes you wanna keep playing.
Ben: Compared to Bangkok, for example; if you played a gig here, people would tell you if you're shit or they wouldn’t come.
Pip: If you’re having fun, people get that. We’re not reinventing the wheel and I don’t want to. It’s the Billy Childish mentality; authenticity over originality. I’d rather do something authentic. This is what’s inside my head coming out as long as you’re doing it for the fun factor you can’t lose.
Ben: As long as you put your heart and soul and having fun there’s no such thing as a shit band.
Munster: Pip you mentioned you grew up in Belfast before. I can imagine it would have been totally DYI over there. How did you find counter culture in a place as controlled as Belfast?
Pip: Belfast when I grew up was a fairly shut down city. Security barriers round the city closed at 11. When you went in you were searched and when you left it was one way you couldn’t get back in. that strangled all the city venues. So for me, I lived round the corner from these guys. It was the first time I touched a guitar. So I went round and hung out with these guys who turned into the Defects.
My mum worked for a country label. We used to drink bottles of cider and we all loved the Clash records. I mentioned my mum worked for a label and they asked me if they could release our album. My mum asked her boss, and he rang me and said get those guys to get in touch. He said here’s the deal. I’ll make your record but you can’t say who I am or mention the label. And that’s how they made their first single.
Back in those days you didn’t get many choices. It was you did or you didn’t. You took the avenues that opened to you. My friend Brian Young from Good Vibrations. I was four years younger than them and I looked up to them as I had their record. I always bought records but it was unheard of to make your own record. So when these guys up the road were making their own record it was a massive inspiration. I couldn’t imagine what someone who played guitar looked like. I was terrified because I didn’t know what to say.
When I was 18, we met over a Johnny Thunders LP. It was the whole, "If you like this you’ll like that." Belfast was nothing like here. Underground gigs where in Scout Halls and Warehouses. There was no pubs. It really was underground. I wasn’t playing in those days and am lucky to have missed that. The whole Good Vibrations things these days, I’m lucky to say I know those people.
Ben: So it was total DIY?
Pip: Absolutely. I had a mate and he said until he went to England he had never seen a Gibson or a Fender because you couldn’t afford it. No one had money. It was all Japanese guitars which today are probably worth a bit of money, but at they time they had zero value.
Munster: What’s up Next?
Pip: Hopefully some more recording
Ben: We have an LP's worth of material. We want to do vinyl next time, whether a LP, EP or single. Hopefully a LP, and just play as much as possible.
Munster: Favourte Fall LP please.
Pip: Frenz Experiment.
Ben: Gonna cheat and say 50,000 Fall Fans. I read Mark E Smiths book and it’s a cracker.
Pip: That’s another thing about musical culture changing from the point of view we’re running out of characters. The Mark E Smiths; up front, fuck you, I don’t care what you think.
Ben: Well they're still there but they're not gonna be on the cover of the NME. It’s a shame you don’t get that in mass culture. That was a standard of the 80s. I remember in that book he goes on for five pages how much he hates Australia but his favourite show was Neighbours.
Pip: Well that guy I mentioned who never seen a Fender and Gibson; he supported the Fall in Belfast and a fist fight happened on stage. He sacked the band and said, "Fuck off! The gigs not happening."
Tony Biggs described Dalicados as a St Kilda supergroup, and I couldn’t agree more. Featuring members of UnAustralians, Hunters and Collectors, the Chosen Few and I Spit On Your Gravy, Dalicados play music that is not genre driven, instead making a genre and style their own. Combining elements of their past bands and their own personal taste, it's music you have to listen to get the vibe and also a must see gig as you get a great show both music and presentation wise. On top of that there all wonderful people who were kind enough to play at my 30th recently. Fiona a James very kindly invited me and the rest of the band Cal, Tracey, Mark and Jack, as well as Di and Fi for dinner, followed by a sit down chat.
Munster: Now a few years ago there was a great band Thousands Left Standard which featured James Tracey Jack and Cal. Is Dalicados a follow on from that band?
James: That was a bit hard to wrangle, that band, but the idea was really good and the idea lead to Dalicados. The roots of both bands where me and Cal, just jamming and writing stuff. We did Thousands Left Stranded and it wasn’t just right. Then Mark, who I’ve known for a long time and always loved his playing, we got talking, and I thought he’d be perfect. And everyone else is important, and who I think are great people and wonderful friends we got in the band. Playing music these days, if you don’t have to do it you wouldn’t do it, and that’s the only reason I do it. There’s no goals with this band - just to have fun.
Fiona: You're completed to do it, that’s why we do it.
Jack: Now he tells me there no goals. (laughs)
Tracy: Where are the KPIs? (laughs)
James: But it’s the moment, that’s the reason for doing it. Not for money and we're too old for fame. (It's) just for that moment you hit a chord, and moments that make it amazing. Maybe not for Jack, maybe he wants to be the next Justin Bieber.
Jack: I was the first.
Cal: It’s important to say it's original music. We could all be playing in cover bands but the beauty is playing new songs, working them out. And having known Jack, and we invited him down, and he was keen and encouraging. And when Mark joined it took on another persona.
James: I love everyone in this band. I would hang out with them outside the band and if they brought instruments I would happily play music with these people the same I would in a bar as I would if it was in the lounge room.
Mark: Even rehearsals are fun.
Munster: Does the name come from a cigarette?
James: Yes. A Mexican cigarette. I moved to LA with Fi in 1994 and we lived in a place called Silver Lake and a little store sold Delicados cigarettes, $2 a pack. They were shorter than normal cigarettes. We changed the spelling of the band name not to confuse the two.
Munster: Much like Thousands Left Stranded and also Jack's band the Long Lost Brothers and a Sister, it's music you can’t put in one specific genre. So what was the pitch when the band started, for the kind of music you would play?
James: I never discussed it with anyone. I’ve been playing music with Cal for 26 years, and we’ve never had that discussion; what style are we gonna play.
Cal: Yeah. When James and I would jam he’d say I’ve got an idea for a song but it was never genre driven. There was never, "We wanna sounds like this."
Fiona: In '97 when we were in Las Angeles, Libby Malone, in LA WEEKLY, said Australia was the last place of un-characterised Rock style music. And I think that still rings true. Australia has this beautiful fusion that ends up something overarching Australian. James is interested in Soul music so you can’t go past the rock and the Blues roots. But when we get together there’s Punk and all the Pop culture references we’ve been subjected to. So there’s all that stuff that goes into it without even having to discuss it being of the same time period. We’ve absorbed those same cultural influences and that goes into it. It’s in the lyrics. It’s the way we approach the songs
Cal: Everyone in this band has 20-30 years’ experience playing in original bands from the start, with varying degrees of success.
James: Every cover band you meet has the original project they're working on and you never see it. You know it’s the whole. I’m just doing top 40 now and you never see the original project. It’s so boring playing other people’s music. If you pick a song and do a cover and nail it, that’s brilliant, but just plan on doing other people’s songs for a gig is like "Ah man." And then you end up writing songs like Nickelback.
Fiona: And that’s the thing with the overarching Australian thing. Carrying that voice and the culture it’s still vibrating and decent. A lot of the stuff overseas has been homogenised a lot.
Jack: We are fortunate enough, there’s enough of a scene here in Melbourne, even if it’s a not a big scene, in terms of outlets.
Mark: We’re blessed with the venues we have in Melbourne. And being round in the 80's, there’s been people that used to go out, they’ve gone off and done other things, then they come back and want to see stuff. The kids have grown up and they don’t want the top 40 cover bands. They want to pick up where they left off. Good original Melbourne music. And I think that’s what we play.
Munster: You mentioned Mark joining the band took the band in a different direction. So what did Mark bring to the table?
James: Height. (all laugh) Mark, I’ve played with lots of great musicians. Fi is one of the best bass players in Australia, I promise you. Mark brings real heart. Everyone talk’s about heart like it's commodity. Mark is what he plays. It is him. It’s not two different things.
Cal: James said to me, and it's not denigrating to other bass players in the line-up, James said to me you’ll love playing with Mark. I hardly knew him as I didn’t pay attention to the Gravy’s and bands like that. But straightaway we locked it in.
Mark: We had so much space. We could do whatever we wanted and all this power come in.
James: And the whole band is like that. Everyone walks in and does it. It happens and there’s something amazing about that. It’s almost like we’re on a ride and we all get on at the same time. And that’s the best part of it.
Jack: It’s an unusual band. It is a band grinning with emotion it feels like that. And that’s not the usual thing. And that’s part of what draws me into it. And you guys are like the Fleetwood Mac the two married couples in the band.
James: I’d say we're more ABBA. We’re too old for it to end badly.
Fiona: We're too old for Rumours.
Mark: And a lot of it relates to Jenny. Years ago before we moved to the country Fi, James, Jenny and I had a band called the Last Call. That’s where Nevermore came from. When Jenny got sick we put this band together for a benefit as a surprise. So that’s where a lot of the emotion comes from.
Jack: Nevermore was a highlight of the launch.
Tracey: Turning around, seeing my son sing along, I was like, "Oh my god!"
James: Real music played by real people is meant to do that. Whatever the emotion is. I listen to early Descendents and I’m still moved by that.
Fiona: What’s great about this band is the collaboration and I think that’s an overriding spirit with this band. Even gigs we have to all agree on it.
Cal: There (have) been two photos taken of the band after a gig and we all look happy, it not like, "Oh it's time to go home."
Jack: I think that would be a great exercise. To go back through the bands that we love and there’s that period, say two LPs people really love, and whether there in that same spirit of collaboration, before the singer locked himself in a room and wrote all the songs.
Mark: I think most bands start like that until a certain degree because it has to bring people together.
James: You gotta remember, and Jack, you’re in a fortunate position, in my mind, Hunters where cool indie and where very successful, and always original and became popular. So you had the trifecta. Which is rare. In all due respect, Mark was in I Spit on your Gravy, and never had that kind of success. The songs stand the test of time. Savage Garden were the biggest band in the world and you don’t hear them anymore, yet Hunters is still played everywhere. I’m really lucky as I play in this band with these guys, and Fiona and Cal play in the Long Lost Brothers and I get to see that and just relax. I’m not in any dysfunctional band so it feels super normal what we do. And Jack with Epic Brass he has to wrangle so many people and they all enjoy themselves.
Jack: Well that’s the thing with musicians. You try and surround yourselves with people you like, and can play, and are professional, and discard the others. Who wants that?
Mark: I got too long a drive to hang around with fuckwits. (all laughs)
Fiona: That should be a bumper sticker.
Tracey: We should put all these saying on t-shirts.
James: And, as I get older, I discover more people, interesting artists. Penny Ikinger is a good example. I knew of her when I was playing with Fi years ago, and recently I got to know her. Really nice. Really talented. And Epic Brass a few weeks ago, and Ash Naylor I’ve known for years, socially for 20 years, and he’s another lovely guy and player. He was great in the band. It’s that excitement that keeps happening. There are no closed doors. Yeah you get idiots but that will happen. I feel I’m seeing more great players then I’m seeing idiots.
Cal: Playing with people you like and admire helps your musicianship. As jack was saying if you’re playing with great players you don’t want to mess up the song.
Marks: That’s what I love about this band everyone gets a voice there no ego.
Munster: So James I remember you once saying the rest of the band organizes the gigs and everything else and you’ll write the songs, still true?
James: it’s giving me too much credit to say I wrote them. I write the lyrics and then it evolves from there. I couldn’t be, I say this to Fi all the time, I love Steve Earle and James Taylor these singer songwriter guys, but I couldn’t do that, you know write the song and say to the band do this do that. I feel comfortable with a skeleton and everyone puts the meat on it. I got to give most of the credit to what I do to Fi 50% . I’ve been with her most of my adult life and a great inspiration. Most of what I know from songwriting I pretty much stole from Fi. Fi’s way more disciplined then me and I wish I could, Charles Jenkins for example is a great songwriter and he can break it down but I can’t I find it was too random and difficult to do. Event good songs you try and make it a song and it's 80% there but it can take two years to get the rest. I wish there was a way you could make it better because I don’t consider myself a songwriter because it always feels disjointed. These really prolific guys that can pump it out a feel envious of and blow my mind it feel difficult to make a family of songs to me….
Fiona: James used the word disjoined he always works a full time demanded job so no matter it feels disjointed so when he has time and time to think of it it does feel disjoined because it’s like climbing rocks to get the write words out.
James: But I couldn’t not work and stay at home and write that wouldn’t work.
Mark: I know what you mean as when your work and have other things going on you tend to get more done. If I have a lot of work on I get more done as opposed to doing nothing.
Jack: The tricky thing with the songwriter is it exists in a slightly different realm and all your life and experiences help with that. Even great songwriters who have written a lot of songs, for example John Hiatt he’s written so great songs but also a lot of bad songs. You know standard whining lyrics and standard chord changes. It kind of dismisses his songwriting as he does a lot of co-writes and sells songs to people and I love his best stuff but he’s written a lot of stuff, because of all that that’s not that great.
Fiona: James noticed that in the Van Gogh museum not every picture was a masterpiece. You try things and you take what works and what doesn’t and take that for the next thing.
Munster: how did the idea come from to have the lead vocals and Fiona and Tracey on backing vocals?
Cal: Diana Ross and the Supremes.
Mark: Looks good. Sounds good. It’s a show it presents.
Tracey: I feel extremely lucky to be in the Dalicados family as I haven’t been in a band before.
Munster: This is your first band?
Tracey: Yeah, so the support and the encouragement has been fantastic. It’s scary but a lot of fun.
Cal: We honestly didn’t think about Fleetwood Mac. ABBA maybe.
Fiona: Tracey has done a great job learning all the vocals and her voice on the record really enhances it.
Munster: Fi and Trace you guys have a great stage presence, with the percussion and dance moves, do you practice that?
Fiona: Yes, in rehearsal.
Tracey: A lot of it's spontaneous too. Even Jack does the side step with us.
Munster: You’ve just released your first single. Where is the LP at?
Fiona: Nearly half way through. Five more tracks to go, just to mix then mastering. And it’s not a process we did a year ago and worked everyday. It’s just when we’re free so that can make it longer. It’s almost a year since we started it. We started tracking in September last year.
Munster: Mark you play double bass. What made you play double bass as opposed to standard four string?
Mark: The sound. A mate pushed me into it 20 years ago. He plays double bass and thankfully enough it landed at my place.
Cal: How long you had it for?
Mark: 19 years. John Danny gave it to me.
Munster: Tracey you mentioned this is your first band. Did you sing at school in choirs or anything like that?
Tracy: A Rock Eisteddfod at school. That was it.
Jack: What did you sing?
Cal: You sing around the house.
Tracey: When Thousands Left Stranded started, and I told her I was singing, she said you can't fucking sing.
Cal: Part of my courting of Tracey was burning CDs when I was in the country saying you gotta listen to this
James: Tracey’s parents are amazing, Louise was a amazing women and her dad is a legend, so supportive and goes to every gig.
Munster: Jack, you have a few gigs on the go and very busy, so what was the pitch for you to join?
Jack: The number of friends and to be honest it’s come at a time when there’s not many other big gigs. There mates and I liked the music so I wanted in.
Munster: Cal we were talking before how a seven inch you made as part of The Chosen Few that went for mega bucks recently. How did it feel making a seven inch that is possibly the most expensive Punk seven inch out there?
Cal: It’s great. We paid for it and never made a cent off it. It’s been bootlegged from all these companies and we never saw any money off it. It’s nice to know something you did 40 years ago is appreciated. Whereas, at the time, it was shit-canned. The review in Juke was difficult to classify as a collector’s item. Now it’s the most expensive single in the world.
Mark: When they reviewed St Kilda's Alright, they said this is a pile of shit. The only saving grace is a walking bass line, and said it feels like it was recorded on an ocean.
Cal: We got grief because we put six tracks on a 45 size and run it at 33RPM, but now it’s worth all that money. And a hell of a lot of bands are covering us, Eddy Current is one. And an American Band called X Cult. So we got the fame, fuck the fortune.
Munster: Fiona, for me the highlight of the launch gig was your speech about James where you said you were going through a rough period and it was James and his music that got you through it and that particular song really helped.
Fiona: Cakes and Ginger Ale. Music has the power to make you stay so that’s part of why a married a musicians. (laughs) And James rehearses everyday.
Cal: But that is such a powerful song. When I saw you two do it acoustically it really hit us. And when me and Trace got home we were still in awe.
Fiona: As Jack said about the emotional thing, it exists from the well it came from. And we did that song with Jenny in the Last Call. That was the first band to do that song. I was working stupid hours and had to help 17 people through a redundancy with a company feeding us lies, so that was a sad time. And James would be working on that song, and I would work with him on it. And it’s true we had cakes and ginger ales every day at work, and it was full of wonderful women who would bake every day. And it was so sad through that period, but the music helped me. There was a woman at the place that got let go and James gave her a job.
James: See I’m not a total scumbag. (laughs)
Fiona: And she worked there for six years.
Jack: With that song, everyone’s talks about the emotion, but James is an incredibly catchy guitarist. I feel blessed, as I do with working with Nicky Del Rey, when we write songs, here’s a chord change and lyrics, and some of his riffs are a real x factor and you’re the same James, the instant access to the song.
Mark: One of our first gigs at the Lyrebird, Viv Gaye came up to me and said you’ve got more hooks then a fishing tackle box.
James: With any song, I don’t write songs for people not to sing along. So that’s how my mind works. I’m not writing jingles but I feel I’m a commercial songwriter.
Fiona: You’re writing for people.
James: Absolutely. In my mind I’m writing Sweet Child of Mine.
Cal: That’s a bad example. Possibly the worst hit song ever.
James: What I mean is, I’m not trying to write anything cool. I’m writing songs people will like. People that say I hate that commercial crap. I’ve never understood that. In my mind I’m writing a big song and that’s how I work. I don’t know if everyone thinks like that but I’m not cool so I don’t think like that. I love big commercial radio songs like Spandau Ballet.
Fiona: We had that experience when we’re younger and now when we look back at the radio, we’re still human and not perfect and it's great having music by people in our age group that we get to hear. It’s new and exciting and give us hope and we belong. That’s really important in how we make music.