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Interview – ROSS “Woody” WOODHAMS, Dirty Paris, February 2012

| 26 September 2012 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar
Hey Ross, how’re you doing?

Hey, no problem.. its awesome.. I’ve been checking out a lot of the stuff you guys do.. I totally loved the Steel Panther interview… Those guys are so awesome. Happy Australia Day by the way!

You guys recently spent a few weeks in London laying down the first batch of tracks for your debut album – but I want to go back further and start from the start… Firstly, how did you and Mick (Marshall, bass) hook up and form what was then known as Underfire?

Well, thats a long story. But the short version was I used to live in Melbourne and I had a band there called “Your Roses”. Anyway my lead singer at the time had told me about this dude who was really into Def Leppard and she had told Mick about this dude who was really into Def Leppard. He contacted me on myspace (back when people used to use it) and we started talking about music. I sent him some tracks that I had written and he was like.. Dude we really gotta do something. I had another band in Perth called Vector at the time and it wasn’t really going anywhere. Mick came over for my engagement party and it was Mick, an old school mate called Steve Calwell and my now wife Cyn who agreed we were going to start a band. I was kinda told you’re gonna sing. We didn’t really have a name. Mick and I texted a few names back and forth till eventually we figured.. Underfire will do.. which we got from the song “Comin’ under fire”.. I think its on Pyromania.

Was it hard to build up a brand new band whilst living on opposite sides of the country? What hurdles did that throw in your path?

Yeah. The hardest thing was actually having finished songs to play. We were asked to play our first show in Perth by Rod (The Urban Cowboy).. I originally said no because NONE of the songs were finished.. let alone rehearsed. But Rod was pretty insistent and I originally agreed to an acoustic show. Well Mick, Enzo and Bongo said no way you’re doing it alone.. We’re coming over for the gig. Technology has made having geographically dispersed band pretty easy. I do all of the song writing, so I send songs to the guys. It’s kind of like a democracy; we collectively decide which songs or noodles really work for us all, and which ones don’t. From that point.. Mick, Enzo and Bongo rehearse in Melbourne. And I rehearse here to a backing track. When the show is coming up, I hit Melbourne about 3 days before the show and we do a few rehearsals as a group. It’s worked ok for now. But not having all the songs finished was the hardest. We had a song called “So Mysterious” and I had never gotten around to finishing the lyrics for the middle eight.. So I made them up on the spot as we played it in Perth. Sadly that happened more than once.

You’ve done a few gigs with Enzo Almanzi on loan from White Widdow – what are your long term plans for the guitarist slot?

Well, both Casey [Newbold-Kerr – rhythm guitar] and Enzo are amazing players. Enzo’s onboard thats for sure and we don’t expect that to change – so he’s not really on loan. White Widdow are a great sounding band and they have catchy as hell songs, but style wise they are totally different to us. Enzo brings the “technician” and “shred-o-matic 5000” element to the band. For Enzo, it’s a bit of a change to the Shredfest that he is used to. Being honest, White Widdow is his baby, so we do try to be considerate of that. He’s brought some great songs to the table too. Casey has just joined. He’s got a great feel and comes from a blues rock background so he’s going to take over the rhythm guitar parts. Whilst I still play guitar, a lot of tracks have synth in them, and we have never wanted to be a band who relied on backing tracks. So I will take over a lot of those parts – technology again can make this happen on my guitar.

DIRTY PARIS – Mick Marshall, Ross Woodhams, Bongo Keating, Enzo Almanzi
When you were demoing tracks early last year you were saying you saw Underfire as Icehouse meets Def Leppard. How has your sound evolved since then?

Absolutely. We still spruke the 80’s sound. But it’s seen the influences like Nickelback and Daughtry in the rhythm section thats made the biggest changes. I am a big country music fan, so it’s all four part harmony music. It’s not complex… We’re not a jazz band. The Iva Davies thing is still there. Despite Iva not returning my calls, one of our new songs “Sad State” tips its hat to Primitive Man-era Icehouse. “Do You Believe” is more Huey Lewis meets Bryan Adams and “Sex Fiend” is influenced by White Zombie.

You obviously love AOR and Melodic Rock – what are some of your latest favourites other than White Widdow?

Oh man, Have you heard Treat’s “We own the night” from Coupe De Grace? I’ve been thrashing the shit out of that – that’s goose bump music!. But on my playlist on my phone.. The Poodles, Evergrey, BlackRain an LA band called Beautiful Creatures and <cough> Lady Gaga. That’s not really rock eh?

Stevie Lange – former wife of producer Mutt Lange – took the band under her wing in a kind of mentor role during 2011. Can you tell us how that eventuated?

Originally we contacted Stevie’s management about vocal coaching and thought nothing of it.. after all we’re an Australian rock band.. It’s not really what Australians are known for and we probably wouldn’t hear anything. The next day they asked for some of our stuff and they came back with Stevie loves it and wants to produce you. Stevie and I talked at length about the music. Stevie was initially concerned about the sound being too dated.. After all, our key influences had their biggest hits in the 80’s. So Stevie and I worked on songs over Skype. One of the things Stevie said to me was “Ross, there’s as much art in taking directions as there is in giving it”. Stevie had some ideas which I initially REALLY hated – I’m used to working in my own little isolated environment and wasn’t used to other people telling me what to do. But as a Producer she knew what she wanted to hear and part of that is getting you out of your comfort zone.

Recording with Stevie in London must have been exciting, though you blew your voice out before all the tracks were finished – were you scared at all that that was it?

Well, I came down sick with the flu about three weeks before I left. So I was already worried my voice might shit itself. We did eight days straight of vocals and then the voice went. We had three days before we all split for Christmas and I headed to Holland for a week and half. Stevie had sort of said from the beginning that my voice wouldn’t hold out because it wasn’t fit. So when the voice did pack it in, I wasn’t really that surprised. Stevie had given me vocal exercises to strengthen my voice. So when I came back from Holland, I was mostly good.

How far into the album are you now, and what is the plan to finish it off?

Well, we’ve done 7 of the 10 tracks. We dropped one song as it just wasn’t strong enough. Stevie and I are working on finishing three tracks. So I’ll probably head back to Europe soon. We just ran out of time. Right now we’re getting tracks ready for submission to Musexpo. We’re unsigned, so we really want to see what the industry says about us. So hopefully in April we’ll get to a chance to spruke our stuff to the big guys. Musexpo is a really big thing for us at the moment. Artists like Coldplay and Katy Perry got their start there. Obviously working on the album is an ongoing process and getting it right is where we’re focused. One of the track’s we’re working on called “Right On Running Man” which Stevie did with Mutt when they had a band called Stephen in the 70’s. It’s a pretty dated now, but the progressions are awesome. Stevie said how about we do this. She spoke to Mutt about it and he said we could change it to get it sounding more modern and also fit the sound. So I’ve been working on that and a ballad of Mutts called “Without Your Love” which is an unbelievable song. So those are going to take time to get right.

Around the time of those recording sessions, you decided to rename the band from Underfire to Dirty Paris – what prompted that decision?

Yeah. I had a call from a mate who said.. “hey can I get some tickets to your show in Katanning” I was like.. ah..dude.. we aint playing there. He said really.. I just heard it on the radio. Turns out there is another band in WA called Underfire. So that was pretty much the catalyst. Stevie and our management never really liked the name Underfire anyway. Mick and I were going through race horse fixtures to find a name. There was a horse racing in Albury I think called “Dirty Paris”. We both thought it sounded cool… particularly the whole Paris Hilton thing a few years ago.

What are the band’s plans for the rest of 2012 – will we see the album released this year?

The plan is to do some more shows on the east coast here. Hopefully Musexpo in May. We’d love to get the album finished this year. But I think there are more trips to London yet.

Is there anything else you’d like to put out there, mate?

LOL.. Always be wary of nuns doing pushups in a field of cucumbers!?

Thanks again for your time and good luck with it all – we can’t wait to hear it!!

Thanks mate, appreciate it. Cant wait to get it to you!


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