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…”
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.