I first saw Blackie when I was 16. It was the Hard Ons 21st birthday tour, and I was stuck in Coolangatta, a long way from home. I knew nothing of the band but the name intrigued me so I went along. To this day one of my top five gigs. Hit after hit of Pop Punk brilliance, that for me the Hard Ons are the gold standard in the genre. And here was Blackie, who combined Metal style shredding with fast three chord punk rock playing. My tiny mind was blown.
Since then Peter Black has also launched a solo career. 2020 sees the release of his sixth and seventh solo offering. One electric, one acoustic. Aside from being one of the country’s best guitarists, Blackie solo work proves what a beautiful songwriter he is. The man can do no wrong.
Munster: Now you’re playing a gig this Saturday with the Hard Ons, and I saw a while back you did a gig in Sydney with Nunchukka Superfly, which was 20 people only. You obviously love playing live, but I take it with the lockdown period playing live now must be that extra bit more special?
Blackie: Man, I tell you how fucking weird this is. We did a couple of gigs recently, where I played solo and with the two bands, and I did a solo gig with JFK Comeback Special. But three weeks ago Nunchukka played a gig with a band from Canberra, and it didn’t really occur to me, as I had been driving for three and a half hours. It was all so trippy, like fucking hell!
Now I got to sing. It hit me as it’s the first time I had been out of Sydney for 10-11 months. It was weird, but awesome. I’m like, "Now I got to find the venue, find a park, and lug the gear!" I loved every second of it.
Munster: And you’ve just dropped two new solo LPs, so you clearly have been busy.
Blackie: Yeah, the songwriting I do all the time regardless. Makes my world spin around, move around, stay afloat...however you wanna describe it.
Munster: When you write a song how do you determine if it will be a song you’ll play solo or with a band?
Blackie: It depends. It’s in my nature in the first five seconds to let me know where the idea is going to go. When the idea comes I do what’s best for that idea. Whether that means this will be Sick, with Murray drumming, or whether I’d like to bash it out acoustically. I don’t sit around and say, "I wanna write a new Hard Ons song." That wouldn’t work. I’m excited I’m lucky enough to create like that.
Munster: When you decided you wanted to play solo, what was your intention? You obviously wanted to do something different and not create another project that sounded like the Hard Ons or Nunchukka.
Blackie: It was a couple of things. One thing that opened the idea to me, was at a party I was invited to, and a guy passed me an acoustic guitar. And this guy goes, “You’re a guitar player. Do something”. Part of the fun was I didn’t know how to use this kind of guitar, so I thought, "This is a challenge." And I wanted to do songs that sound really beautiful and all that shit. And I wanted to play quieter and really to see if I could make it work.
When that guy gave me the guitar I was like, "Fucking hell!" There are guys in bands that do their own songs acoustically. The thing, is most people that do that, when they play an acoustic songs that they do with a band, it doesn’t really work. It can, and it wouldn’t work with me doing Hard Ons songs. It was a challenge and you should always challenge yourself. Whatever art you do you gotta do something different. I’ve always thought you’ll stagnate with that ideology.
Munster: I saw Buzzo from the Melvins solo a few years back, and I knew he was a great guitarist but seeing him live, just him and a guitar, made me realise how good he is.
Blackie: Yeah, well, he also is lucky he has a loud voice, and I struggle with that, but you work around that.
Munster: When Keish left the Hard Ons, were you comfortable becoming the singer?
Blackie: Not really.
Munster: Did you do that to keep the band going?
Munster: Like did you consider getting a new singer?
Blackie: No. It wouldn’t have been the same. It would have sounded too different. A lot of people thought me and Keish has a similar voice. And in a way we do as we all grew up and started the Hard Ons from scratch so I could see that. But we didn’t want to break up. I thought we still had a bunch of songs in the tank that where hard on songs.
So it was like how do we make it work. And Ray said, "Well you’re going to have to learn. " I didn’t think I had it in me. And he said, "Well just fucking learn." Looking back there wasn’t much thought. You wanna keep playing? Yes. Well it’s the way it is.
Munster: I’m glad you did, as I love the LPs with you on vocals.
Blackie: Thank you. Like I said, I thought there was still songs there. And if Keish left again, would we still go on? Probably I don’t know. Who knows?
Munster: Do you write any Hard Ons or Nunckukka songs on the acoustic?
Blackie: When I first started Nunckukka, the first two LPs were written on bass, as I had a bass at home and because I wanted to do something different, and the band is bass driven.
Even though I said I don’t play Hard Ons songs acoustic I have written some of songs on acoustic guitar. Occasionally I’m like this will be an acoustic track, but then after a while I’m like. "The Hard Ons would do this really well." It's all a mix.
Sometimes it's what’s at hand. If I have an idea and an acoustic is next to me I can still bash out what will be a bass line...just seeing what works and what doesn’t.
Munster: How did the idea come about to do two LPs at once, one acoustic and one electric?
Blackie: When I had the money to record, I looked at the songs I wanted to record and there was too many for one (laughs) that’s why. And when I get the money I’m gonna record again and same thing I got too many more one album.
Munster: Song a day?
Blackie: I love playing guitar and watching guitarists. And when when I hear Angus Young play guitar and I go, "Fuck me. That’s incredible!" But the thing that gets me the most is the song.
When I’m listening to Motown and I think, "Man this song is mental." I love the craft of songwriting to death, and that’s what I want to master and grow with more than anything else.
That’s why I’m not a better guitarist. I can’t sit there and do long scale work. I'll pick up a guitar and play what melody came to me that morning. I loved the song a day thing. If I had a dream job I would be one of those writers from the Brill Building, turning out hits. I’d love it. I’d be the first person in, making coffee for everyone. So that song a day was me making my dream come true.
Munster: Could you write a song anytime of the day, like you’re just waiting for a bus or got a few minutes to kill, does the guitar or the notepad come out?
Blackie: Not so much with the lyrics, but melodies and riffs there’s always something in my head 24/7.
Munster: You’re first solo LP you went under the name Blackie, now you’re putting out LPs as Peter Black, was it hard to choose between your nickname and real name?
Blackie: Just wanted to use my real name. Blackie sounds like, I don’t know what it sounds like. I’ve been called Blackie since I was four. I suppose to separate it from the bands. Wasn’t a hard call, I mean it is my name. (laughs)
Munster: I’ve asked this question a lot lately, but the Hard Ons are one of the first bands that made inroads in the underground rock scene in Europe that pathed the way for a lot of Oz bands to tour over there, what is it about Australian rock n roll that translates so well in Europe?
Blackie: Ah man, I think Australia has this weird, not the fans, but Australian in general are apathetic at what’s happening here. But we really punch above our weight. This still shits me, but when I got into Punk, two of the last bands I discovered where Birdman and the Saints. I knew the Ramones, the Cramps and the Pistols and all that, but there was nothing out there on the Australian stuff.
I made friends with the guys from the record shops, and I said, "How come Australia doesn’t have any Punk bands?" (laughs)
Me and Ray were such music nerds, and still are. We would go on a train every weekend and talk shit with the owners and just take it all in. You can’t tell me the Clash are better than the Saints. Why does it do so well? Because Australian music is fucking awesome.
When we went to London for the first time, it was exciting, and we’re like, "This is where the Damned, the Beatles and the Who are from!" And we watched the first two bands, and I swear to God, some of the worst music I’ve ever heard. I thought if they played back home they’d be bottled off stage. So that’s why Australian music does so well in Europe, as it’s brilliant.
Munster: What are your memories of the Ramones tour with the Hard Ons supporting?
Blackie: How much it hurt when it was over. One of the best times of my life. First gig was at Festival Hall, we’re loading the gear in, and Joey Ramone walks up and says, “I’m so glad to be playing with you guys. I’m a big fan I play you guys on my radio show.” And that’s a memory I’m never gonna be able to shake.
Munster: What’s coming up for the next few months?
Blackie: Tons. I’ve written most of the songs for the next Hard Ons album, we’ve already demoed them. Nunchukka have a double LP that’s at the printer right now. Try and take the solo stuff on the road as much as I can. Yummy turns 30, so tons of shit. The music thing never stops, any excuse to write the next song or go to the next practice or get to the next gig, I’m there
Munster: What’s happening with the Hard Ons documentary?
Blackie: I just got filmed, not for the trailer but I think he (director Jonathan Sequeria) is trying to get funding. He’s through one door, and he needs a little presentation. So he filmed me for that. It's happening. All this stuff takes time.