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Interview: Brad Shepherd, Hoodoo Gurus- April 2013

| 24 April 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

I catch Hoodoo Gurus guitarist early in the morning only to find his morning coffee hasn’t kicked out the jams yet. We have loads to discuss though – The Second annual Hoodoo Gurus Dig It Up Invitational mini festival is about to do its lap around the country, featuring an incredible array of artists from the Gurus to The Buzzcocks, Blue Oyster Cult, Tumbleweed, Lime Spiders and many more. Shepherd starts with an apology, then it’s straight down to business…

Brad Shepherd 01

Shepherd: I was just explaining to someone in Melbourne that my brain is not engaged today, coffee just ain’t working for me this morning.

100% ROCK MAG: Oh no, should I dumb my questions down a bit?

Shepherd: Yeah, please do! [Both Laugh]

100% ROCK MAG: Nice weather we’re having, there ya go.

Shepherd: Give me something to work with! [Laughs]

100% ROCK MAG: Well I’ll throw a curve ball to you to start with then. Dig It Up 2013: fantastic line up. Blue Oyster Cult, The Buzzcocks, The Flamin’ Groovies, Lime Spiders, New Christs, heaps more. Do you guys just not like music they play on the radio?

Shepherd: [Long pause] You know… I don’t know, because I don’t really listen to the radio.

100% ROCK MAG: Good answer.

Shepherd: I’m a musician, and I’m a fan, so I’m kind of a… like a sonic archaeologist. I keep digging. It’s something that I started doing as a kid and it’s just fascinating to me to hear stuff that is not just drip fed to you in the conventional fashions. It’s just what we like essentially, the Dig It Up shows. It’s just stuff that we like. It’s not necessarily about being old, because there are plenty of younger, up and coming acts that are exciting to us as well, but bands like The Flamin’ Groovies and The Blue Oyster Cult don’t get the opportunity to come out here as much as I would like, so yeah, we’re just kind of thrilled that we can chip in and make it happen.

100% ROCK MAG: Well that’s the thing, for those of us that are into all these cult bands, it’s a fantastic experience to see artists that we’ve never had the chance to see. I mean, most of these guys have never been to Perth before that I know of. Lime Spiders have once or twice, but that’s about it.

Shepherd: Yeah. It’s unfortunate for you folks, you know better than me that Perth is the most isolated capital city on the face of the planet, and sometimes logistically… look we struggle from that ourselves. Logistically we [have to] rent our gear whenever we come to Perth because the freight costs are just extortionate. I’m sure I speak for all promoters when I say it can be tough to get acts to Perth. Of course it’s their job to be in business and secure shows and to have people come to them, but sometimes when push comes to shove it can be tough to get acts to Perth without losing money.

Hoodoo Gurus Dig It Up Invitational 2013

100% ROCK MAG: The full line up is so good this year that my wife and I are actually going to go over to Sydney for it.

Shepherd: That’s what I would do. If I lived in Perth and The Blue Oyster Cult were playing in Sydney or Melbourne, I would just make a weekend of it. That’s what I would do.

100% ROCK MAG: It doesn’t hurt that Van Halen and Aerosmith are playing the night before either in Sydney, so… we’re going to make a double weekend of it.

Shepherd: Okay, so I’m in Perth, The Blue Oyster Cult are in New York City, but for one weekend they’re going to be in Sydney. I might just meet them there.

100% ROCK MAG: You talked about the lineup being bands that you guys love. Is there a conscious element of trying to bring these more obscure bands to a wider audience, in this country at least?

Shepherd: We didn’t even think it through that far. It’s just about putting together a… we just go to [promoters] Feel Presents with our wish lists and then Tim [Pittman, head honcho at Feel Presents] does his best to secure the artists at the top of that list. [Laughs]. Some of them, like Television, won’t come to Australia come hell or high water, then we work our way down… and when I say that, I’m half kidding. Television are on our list and they won’t come to Australia, but The Blue Oyster Cult were at the top of our list last year and we decided that we couldn’t afford them once a couple of other acts had fallen into place very quickly. The Fuzztones, they’re mates of ours and said yes immediately, before we knew they’d been entered into official negotiations. So frankly we just couldn’t afford The Blue Oyster Cult last year, we didn’t go there. The Buzzcocks were also at the top of our list last year and we did start negotiations with them but they actually had Coachella [Festival] last year [at the same time] and they couldn’t do it. They’re available this year and here they come. You know Peter Case from The Nerves, just… remarkable, you know, power pop royalty with dozens of great tunes under his belt.

The Flamin’ Groovies, likewise, they are actually dear friends of ours. Cyril Jordan has played on stage with The Hoodoo Gurus every time we’ve performed in San Francisco since 1984. He always brings his bass up, strong plexi glass bass, and we will do Shake Some Action and Slow Death and, you know, Teenage Head and Heading For The Texas Border. So I dare say there will be a bit of that going on.

100% ROCK MAG: Awesome. I spoke to Cyril about a month ago. He’s got some stories.

Shepherd: He’s had time to accrue these stories. [Laughs] He was there. He was at Ground Zero, San Francisco in 1967. So he’s seen it all. He’s seen all that stuff. Big Brother & The Holding Company…

100% ROCK MAG: Smoking dope with Teddy Kennedy…

Shepherd: The Flamin’ Groovies played on bills with all those bands. Big Silver Messenger Service, and he was out rocking all of them.

Hoodoo Gurus 01

100% ROCK MAG: So expanding out into your own little mini festival, was that necessary from a business perspective in order to keep the band afloat?

Shepherd: We’re not really financial partners [in the Festival]. Feel Presents just put up all the money, it wasn’t even remotely a consideration like that. We just wanted to have a bit of a birthday party last year and we were looking for opportunity to honour that somehow. We’d been looking for a couple of years to do something to honour the 30th anniversary of the band, which was really… well the band formed on the 21st December 1980, that’s when Kimble and Rod and Dave were at a party in Surry Hills here somewhere and decided that they kind of hated a lot of the new romantic stuff, and new wave stuff that was going on, and they should form a band that was more like The Flamin’ Groovies and Gary Glitter. So I guess that’s officially the 30th Anniversary of the band. I joined once things started to get kind of serious in September 1982. So we were just looking to have a birthday party really, and Jim approached us with his idea for a kind of rock and roll festival, that married very well with our desire to do something along those lines anyway. And it was so much fun last year, we just want to do it again.

100% ROCK MAG: Awesome.

Shepherd: The only financial consideration is that we hope they at least break even!

100% ROCK MAG: I think they should do. The underground garage rock and psych scene seems really strong too. I’ve had albums through from The Fuzztimes and The Psychedelic Turnbuckles recently, to name just two. Do you think there’s enough bands out there to sustain the Dig It Up concept for a few years to come?

Shepherd: Interesting… [pauses] honestly I don’t know. I mean I… I don’t know.

Brad Shepherd & Dave Faulkner

Brad Shepherd & Dave Faulkner

100% ROCK MAG: We’ll just have to see then won’t we?

Shepherd: I’m trying to think that through. That’s not my concern at this stage. I’ve prioritised that to the back of the filing cabinet. What’s concerning me is I have to go on stage after Buck Dharma and The Blue Oyster Cult!

That’s top of my list at the moment. Whether or not we’re going to do it next year, I’d be surprised frankly, if we did it next year. After last year it was so great, it was so much fun, it was a dream come true. My tiny brain couldn’t comprehend what we were doing last year, and I just figured there was no way that we would trump that at all. I think it was succesful enough that Tim was interested in doing it again this year, and we started without actually committing, we started just talking about if we did do it, who could we get and he was able to secure enough of our primary acts that it started to look like yeah, good Lord, it may actually even outdo the first Dig It Up. I don’t know. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t think that we could top last year’s one. And frankly I don’t know how we would do that in successive years.

100% ROCK MAG: Fair enough. You’re playing the whole of the Mars Needs Guitars album this time around.

Shepherd: Yeah.

Hoodoo Gurus - Mars Needs Guitars CD

100% ROCK MAG: Does that album evoke happy memories for you?

Shepherd: Well the recording of it was just kind of workman like, and we just went up there at 301, here in Castle High Street in Sydney… and got through it fairly briefly. My recollections are that we started playing that album, we started playing the songs a whole lot better actually when we were on tour for that album. That’s my strongest recollection, that we were very busy in the wake of Stoneage Romeos. The record did quite well for us. We were busy out promoting it and we were touring a lot, and we really just set aside a short amount of time to cobble songs together and record it, and we didn’t really do demos as such, or even work too hard on our parts. We got the basics, but we were still sort of unfamiliar with the material, and just went in and recorded it. It worked out okay but I remember thinking ‘I’m playing this a whole lot better now’ a couple of months into the tour, and I wished I was this familiar with the material when we recorded it. That’s what I remember thinking. So a little bit of regret that we weren’t afforded the luxury of more time to concentrate on our parts and the arrangements.

100% ROCK MAG: That’s interesting, because listening through to the album this morning, along with Blow Your Cool, it’s probably the poppiest of the Hoodoo Gurus’ albums.

Shepherd: Yeah, but now that Dave, certainly from a lyrical viewpoint, was more interested in addressing real emotions, and actually trying to speak to people on that sort of a personal level, rather than just digging up dead girlfriends, girls saving their native villages by jumping into volcanos, that kind of stuff. [Brad is, of course, referencing the songs Dig It Up and Leilani from Hoodoo Gurus debut album Stoneage Romeos] We still love doing those songs, but that was just his journey [as a songwriter], he just wanted to speak on a real emotional level, instead of kind of conceptual things come to him from watching too much late night television. I’ve forgotten the question now…

Hoodoo Gurus circa Mars Needs Guitars

Hoodoo Gurus circa Mars Needs Guitars

100% ROCK MAG: I was just saying that you mentioned that you went in a bit unprepared perhaps, and was a bit rawer in the…

Shepherd: Yeah, so it is kind of a pop album, I suppose so. And maybe that had partly to do with the production as well, I think. Certainly we had Charles Fisher do that for us and despite the fact that Charles arguably is… I won’t say arguably, but for me the record that I think of with Charles Fisher that he did, he produced Radios Appear for Radio Birdman. The thing he also did… was the debut for Moving Pictures. So he gets around, and I guess he probably found his feet as a producer more than anywhere else in the realm of pop records, stuff that can easily get played on the radio. So maybe that’s part of what you’re hearing. But we love that record. We’re going to do some rehearsal because of Blue Oyster Cult, but we have actually kept all the songs off that album alive. Every song on that record I could play for you right now, I don’t have to go and dig out my old records and relearn it, which happens with some Gurus songs, because bloody hell, we do have an extensive back catalogue, and all the stuff on Mars Needs Guitars we have played routinely throughout the band’s lifespan. So I’m looking forward… there’s a couple of B-sides [from the era] as well.

100% ROCK MAG: I was going to ask if you were going to play Turkey Dinner, or Bring the Hoodoo Down, perhaps?

Shepherd: We’re doing both of those.

100% ROCK MAG: Awesome.

Shepherd: They’re the songs probably… they’re pretty easy songs. I remember how they go, but we’ll just run them in rehearsal next week to make sure we know.

100% ROCK MAG: That will keep the diehard fans happy. Okay, last question Brad. How much do you think Mars Needs Guitars went towards defining The Gurus’ sound from that moment on? Because it’s radically different in sound from Stoneage Romeos.

Brad Shepherd 02

Shepherd: Yeah, look, I suppose that in many regards Stoneage Romeos, the songs were already in place and you know, Rod and Kimble had been playing those songs and so some of the parts – a lot of the parts – were already written for those songs and you know, I was essentially executing them to the best of my ability. With Mars Needs Guitars it was me and Clyde [Bramley, bass], and of course Kingsy [drummer Mark Kingsmill joined the band around the same time as Shepherd] in there as well, so it was… it’s significantly different from the first album because Clyde and I both had direct musical arrangement input into those songs. We came up with our own chords, whereas those parts kind of existed in the songs that appear on Stoneage Romeos. But then Kingsy and James Baker are significantly different players, so you know, all of that stuff plays into what, you know, what became our signature sound I suppose.

100% ROCK MAG: Sure. Thanks so much for your time. Sorry to run you over time a little bit there.

Shepherd: Not at all, my pleasure Shane, as always.

100% ROCK MAG: And we’ll look forward to seeing you in Sydney. And by the way, great gig at Rottnest recently, we really enjoyed that.

Shepherd: Thank you, we really did have a great night. It’s always good at Rotto, but you know, we did have a particularly good show that day.

100% ROCK MAG: My daughter had fun dancing along to the band. She was very excited.

Shepherd: Fantastic. I would be happy to go back to Rottnest every year until I just can’t do it anymore. It’s always a highlight of the year to be there.

100% ROCK MAG: Wicked, alright mate. See you in Sydney.

Shepherd: Thanks Shane, cheers mate, thank you.

The Hoodoo Gurus Dig It Up Invitational plays April 25th at The Palace & surrounds in Melbourne, and April 28th at The Astor Theatre in Perth


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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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