Monday, August 19, 2002

Me & Tex Perkins

It was one of the more daunting tasks. Meet Tex Perkins at the Espy to do an interview, late on a Friday afternoon. Shit. The last interview I did with the biggest, coolest bastard of Oz rock went a treat. He phoned my house, called himself Gregory and told some pretty sordid stories about his days in The Beasts Of Bourbon. But for this interview I had little to go by: only an imminent new album; and a recent collaboration with You Am I on the Dirty Deeds soundtrack. I had to wing it and I was nervous. What do I ask him? What do I do? What do I wear? Too many questions.

Get to the Espy, see Tex in a full booth with band mates, Joel Silbersher and Charlie Owen, not yet finished an interview with The Age’s head music writer, Patrick Donovan. Nightmare. I wasn’t prepared for any of this.
Introduce myself to everyone and join the group. It seems that Donovan’s interview had only started. I had only one choice. Tag along. Wing it. Turn the tape recorder on and away we go.
To settle in, I let Patrick Donovan continue with his questions. I was cool with that. I know his stuff. He knows his stuff. Shouldn’t be a problem. Let The Age guy ask all the essential questions and then swoop in with the money shot question. The perfect plan. Easy.
Already Tex, Joel and Charlie were well into talking about the almost finished new album and had finished telling Donovan about a ‘country folk’ version of Bob Marley’s Concrete Jungle they had recently recorded with local dance diva, Amiel (you remember, the girl who sung on Josh Abrahams’ Addicted to Bass).
Then Donovan asks Tex what goes on, lyrically on the new record and gets the reply, “Everything and nothing.” The Age journo digs in with the hard nosed, newsy bloke question, “Break-ups from years ago?” He’s good, this Donovan. I would never have had the testiculi to ask that one…
“No, definitely not,” says Perkins. “I was thinking about their break-ups. Intentionally, I avoided all that. I’m quite happy with all my situations. This time I was very much conscious not to do it and keep the concept very broad. Elemental. The songs are a little more obscure.”
Silbersher chips in, “Sexy, romantic and late night fun.”
It’s time for me to ask one. Have we found out yet, musically what the new record sounds like?
Tex: “Yes, we said it’s like the Dark Horses album, the last one but with a little more rock in approach. It doesn’t rock so much but it has a rock approach. More crashy bashy with a new drummer.”
Donovan, “So tell us, what’s the drummer situation?” It’s almost like we’re working as a team. Tex answers, “I love Jim Elliot but I’m in another band with him and we wanted a drummer who was prepared to crash and bash a bit more. “
Charlie Owen elaborates: “The first one had a lot of folk elements, the second more constructed and practically electronic in approach, and this one we decided to approach it more like a band would.”
And then Silbersher, “Also the way playing with a drummer you change the way you play to the way he plays and it sounds different because of that. It’s not more aggression or more rock or anything like that it’s…”
“In a different suburb.” I’ve just finished Joel Silbersher’s sentence. Yes, the cheeky, funny bastard behind one of my fave ever, local albums Hoss’s Do You Leave Here Often, is saying some important stuff and I finish his sentence. Excellent.
Charlie and Joel elaborate and I’m getting some of it when, in the background, Tex’s voice booms, “You’ve got to show your shit.” Don’t know what he was talking about when he said this to Donovan, but it was a good quote. Way too good to leave out of this story. Then Tex joins our conversation, further describing the Dark Horses’ new drummer, Skritch, “He’s a Dave Grohl sort of drummer with a dub sensibility.
Joel loves Skritch. “He mixes a lot of bands and is a real rocking sort of drummer. He can play any instrument, is very musical and doesn’t drink which is fantastic.”
Joel’s drink rider quip helps to degenerate the conversation into 10 minutes of drink and drugs related rabble. All very funny at the time but on tape or on the page, it’s just shithouse, incoherent rabble. Amongst the mess, Tex came up with this little treat, “You have to share drugs as a band. You boys have heard the stories where half the band is taking heroin, the other half is drinking beer and two weeks later they split up. The band must all take the same drugs.” Sure, it was enjoyable but I was losing control of the interview. The journo pro, Patrick Donovan makes a save. He asks about Tex’s acting career and we find out about his role doing voices in the animated Canadian/Australian television show, Quads. “I played an alcoholic, has been, rock star.”
Silbersher, the smart arse, “You must have spent a lot of time researching that…”
Perkins, “I just spent and afternoon with Ian Rilen and I was there. It was great fun.” How do you you get that sort of work? “You just be an alcoholic rock star. They put out the call for people and I had to audition. The main character was sponsoring my character in AA.”
Another of Perkins’ roles was that of a dog with Noah Taylor in the short film, Down Rusty Down. “You never saw that? That’s my finest work. It’s kind of got the aesthetic of a cartoon and we are all guys dressed in dog costumes. I was talking to Noah recently and he was saying it was his most known piece of work because it was sold to a cable station and whenever there is a ten minute break in programming, they slot in Down Rusty Down. There are some people in the United States who’ve seen it over 100 times.”
The Age journalist leaves to get a jug and tell Perkins that Tim Rogers claimed him and Tim Hemmensley are the two best singers in the country. Tex is chuffed, “Well, that’s very generous of him. He’s very generous with his praise, Tim. Since I did the Dirty Deeds thing with Tim, I’ve been spending a bit of time with him. We’ve actually been going out for a kick on a regular basis.”
What, a Thursday night kick to kick?
Tex: “Bring a ball, find a paddock, go for a kick…”
No torps?
Tex: “It’s all there. I got him to show me how to do a banana kick the other day. It’s still a mystery to me. He’s a very skilled footballer. He probably could have easily considered a career.”
Does Tim Rogers kick with both feet?
Tex: “His left is better than my left. We’re both right footers.”
I take a deep breath and say, that I saw him Roy and HG and thought he looked a bit daunted. “I looked daunted? I was in my element,” Perkins protests. “It was my greatest moment on television. I was very comfortable. I was not daunted at all. Did I look daunted?”
Alright, what I’m getting at is that while you won’t get any interesting questions asked of you today, you sure won’t get any asked from you on TV.
Tex: “Of course not. It’s just a matter of banter. Doing the TV talk/chat thing is an art in itself. You’ve got to be a little bit pissed. It’s a matter of finding a bit of quick wit.”
He won’t let it lie. “Personally I thought I did quite well on Roy & HG.”
The best bit was when you read the news…
Tex: “Well, I’ve got a good newsreader tone. I think when I get into my 50’s I will get into news reading, voice-overs and that sort of thing with my authoritive voice (Speaking so low, my pot glass smashes), don’t you think?”
From that moment, the afternoon degenerated. We talked a bit about how the new album has mostly been recorded in the Perkins household and that they need to write a couple more songs to complete it. All fascinating stuff but the most interesting Tex Perkins tidbit learnt was that like myself, he has a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (shithouse knee). Alright the way we fucked up our knees is slightly different. Two events stuffed Tex’s knee. The ligament first ripped when he was restrained during the infamous post ARIAs brawl a few years ago. Weeks later, flying business class to Paris, Perkins waltzed down the aisle with a couple of champagnes in hand. Doesn’t see a step, falls over and then spends the next few days in a Paris hospital getting water pumped out of his knee. I did my knee at the Bayswater Indoor Soccer Centre. Brilliant.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Fauves Interview

The Fauves have a new album out called Footage Missing and true to form, it’s brilliant. I spoke to the band's singer bloke, Andrew Cox....

A Fauves album is usually a journey to far off places. And in Footage Missing you’ve left our shores to Frankfurt, The West Bank, Nairobi, Los Angeles…
“Yeah, this is probably our ex-patriot album even though we are certainly rooted here in Australia. I guess our last few albums have been full of Australian references. I don’t think there was a great plan or anything but it is true that there’s a lot of references to a lot of overseas references on this one.”

There’s a song by Big Star about going to India, drinking “gin and tonic and playing grand piano.” I liked how obviously the band didn’t seem to know where India was. I was reminded of the song with your line, “Jodhpurs clinging to the skin so tight. Quinine, gin and a head so light…”
“There is a bit of that. My existence wouldn’t be the most exciting life going around. It’s a way to take you somewhere more glamorous, mysterious or exotic. I’ve used song writing to do that all my life. It’s the most interesting part of my life. As soon as I put down the guitar, there’s a pile of dishes to do or I have to go out and walk the dog. So yes, I guess it’s a way of living out fantasies.”

On The Fauves website ( you refer to Collerige’s Byzantium, a poem which speaks of the grand, far off world.
“Yeah, it does indeed. You’ve made a nice little link there. The article’s writing itself.”

You were asked to write a press release, which never made it past the censors for Our First Day on the Run. I was lucky enough to read your obscene piece before it was shredded. Are you going to write anything to herald the new album?
“I have to tone it down. It’s a bit of a vexed issue, the band bio thing. On one level it’s not great to have to talk about yourself but on another level you really want to find somebody you can totally trust to present you the way you want to be presented. I end up writing a lot of that shit but its not a good idea. I couldn’t sit down and write that we are the most important band in the western world, which is what people expect from band bios but I can’t do it, even jokingly. I wish we could only record the album and put it out.”

Doing this interview is daunting because I know you could write this article better than myself or any other of the hacks you are going to speak to in the next few weeks. I remember there was a review in one of the streetpapers that you didn’t agree with so you wrote a review of the reviewer. I got to read that too and it was brilliant.
“Yeah, I remember that. But what was the question?”

What does the album title, Footage Missing come from?
“It’s probably more relevant to us because as you get older someone may be relating a story from the past and suddenly there’s a blank. That happens a lot with us when we are crapping on. Footage Missing refers to that blank spot in your memory. I don’t know where it went.”

And it’s not like they are going to release a DVD of your life and put in all that missing footage.
“(laughs) No. They certainly won’t. You would probably want Andy Warhol making one of those movies like Sleep, putting a camera on someone sleeping in bed for 12 hours. That would be as exciting as a movie of my life could get.”

You’re so self-effacing…
“No, I think I’m great but I’ve just had a boring life.”

I like how Yo Yo Craze talks about the trampolines, Hula Hoops, Rubiks Cubes, and footy cards of growing up in Melbourne in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
“It’s a recurring theme in my lyrics. You have to write about something that feels real to you. There are songs in this record that get away from that like we spoke about before but Yo Yo Craze is about something I can relate to.”

The Fauves have been topical in the past but the Doctor has pulled off a move of genius in Right Wing Fag by putting the Liberal Party and One Nation into a love song.
“He is one of the country’s great undiscovered genius’s. What can I say?”

Right Wing Fag is such a fantastic song.
“I love it. We put it last in the album. You know these days how people put their best songs up front. You have no faith that people will get to the end of a record and we’ve always tried to put a song that closed the record out well, not the worse song, at the end. You get hurt a bit by that. I think we have some great last songs on our records. Whenever people call out for them at gigs you know that 90% of the people didn’t get that far into the record. It’s kind of like a bittersweet thing.”

We grew up with vinyl and its two sides….
“That’s right. You get that break. I don’t think its any way passing aspersions on the listener but it is tough to get through 45-50 minutes of music especially on the first listen. With a record you play one side and it might be half an hour before you get around to flipping it over. You come back to it fresh again. I think it really has dictated the way albums are structured now. Now albums are structured in a lot more boring fashion. If the Beatles put out Seargent Peppers now they would have to open it with A Day In The Life because you couldn’t have it last because nobody would have got that far. It’s a shame.”

Yo Yo Craze also contains one of the greatest lines you’ve ever written, “Oh, the rusty springs are laughing.”
“(cacks himself) I’ve never pulled that line out of context but on its own, you’re right it sounds Shakespearean or something. You can see some bearded guy on a balcony bellowing it out to the stalls. (gets himself together) It’s a very un-rock’n’roll line, that one.”

I’ve heard some touching duets in my time but tell me about your duet in One Of The Girls.
“Ah, the one with me and Terry. That call and answer thing is out of Beverley Hills Cop. Eddie is in the strip club with the two straight policemen and they see two guys casing the joint. Eddie makes a pre-emptive strike and pretends to be a pissed dude, trying to put the guys off guard. That’s what it’s from. I thought it would be good to sample it from the movie but I thought there would be some legal problems. So I convinced Terry to play Axel Foley and I decided to play the uneasy criminal. Terry took a lot of coaxing to get into character but when he did, he really embraced it.”

I thought the album’s title, Footage Missing came from you guys annoying your record company with unfeasible ‘I’m on a mountain’ video clip ideas.
“That’s a more interesting interpretation of the title than I gave so I might use for interviews from now on. A lot of our ideas have bitten the dust. We usually have to scale our ambitions down. When we were on Polydor we found after awhile the bigger the concept, the more chance you have of getting them up. In Sunbury 97 we chartered a helicopter to Sunbury. We just threw the concept at them as a joke and the next thing we know we’re at Essendon Airport getting into this chopper. The next clip for Surf City Limits we joked about it being shot on Rene Rifkin’s yacht on the harbour and the next thing you know, we are! It’s so much about bluff.”

The line, “Royal Lanciers, pidgeon fanciers, pants men, croupiers, walking cancers,” scares me.
“I feel good that that line has never been used in the history of popular song. To me that’s an achievement. You have to take the victories when you get them. I wanted it to be a bit abrasive. There’s enough sensitive songs in the Fauves’ catalogue to set everyone right. It was time for something to ruffle a few feathers. I wanted to be a bit obnoxious. Once again, I was just wanting to be something that I’m not. That’s what music’s about for me.’