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Interview – Angry Anderson, Rose Tattoo – May 2013

| 30 May 2013 | 1 Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Story originally published in Xpress Magazine 22 May – read it HERE

Angry Anderson is a legend.

Angry Anderson 02

Learning his chops alongside a pre-AC/DC Phil Rudd in Buster Brown, he went on to form Australia’s greatest working class outlaw band, Rose Tattoo, before gravitating towards daytime TV and social issues in the nineties. His gig on Ray Martin’s Midday show gave Anderson – literally – a soapbox to rant against injustice and unfairness, about negligence and the turning to look the other way rather than help others, but it wasn’t that huge a leap, merely an extension of what he’d been doing with his band for years.

Rose Tattoo may look like they come from the seedier side of the tracks, but they’re salt of the earth people – people who care for their brothers and sisters more than for ‘Governmental criminals, protectors of their own’.

The worm has seemingly turned full circle – after years spent focussing on a European market which want them on a pedestal, and a huge stage in front of tens of thousands, The Tatts took a step backwards after the death of all the original members bar Angry, and have only played sporadically in recent times.

They’re back though, opening for Guns n’ Roses and ZZ Top around the country’s stadiums earlier in the year, and now doing a run of beer barns in old school Tatts style. It’s somehow fitting that the band are in people’s faces now more than they have been for a while – Angry Anderson is running for Parliament for the National Party in the upcoming Federal Election, and where another bald, Aussie rock singer dropped his band like a hot potato for the chance to enter politics (more on him later!), Anderson tackles the world full steam ahead on his own terms, even whilst insisting that “compromise is not a dirty word’.

Anderson is an intelligent bloke with a lot on his mind and a lot to say – for over half an hour he bounces from subject to subject, expecting – daring – his interviewer to keep up and follow his train of thought which, I think, we do pretty well. Sometimes he seems to have so much to say that he never finishes one train of thought before it’s superceded by then next, and then the next, and so on. It’s all interesting stuff and no punches are pulled – this isn’t the sort of guy with a PR person hovering over his shoulder coaching him on what to say and what not to.

Starting with an informal chat about how his phone hasn’t stopped ringing since he announced his plans to enter politics, the Order Of Australia medal holder laughs the runaround off as part of the game he has to play in order to follow his dreams. After all, he states, “you’ve got to do what you want to do in life.”

Angry Anderson 04
100% ROCK: Absolutely, well that’s one of the things I wanted to talk to you about, but we’ll start with Rose Tattoo’s upcoming show in Perth, 31st May.

Angry: Yeah, yeah. The show in Perth is going to be so… I mean, who doesn’t want to go to Perth? It was like Mecca, in the old days, with bands… because it was so hard to get there, so including Perth in tours was always logistically a nightmare, but it was just one of the things, it was kind of like Darwin, difficult to get to. So we couldn’t wait to get to Perth, and it’s kind of the same thing now. We’re coming to town and we’re going to do a pub show, because that’s what we do… well I wouldn’t say best, I mean, Europe considers us to be a great live act in front of thirty or forty thousand people, having said that, we enjoy ourselves as much, but in a completely different way, doing a pub gig. Then of course we’re going up to some obscure town to start a foot race or something! [Editor’s note – not sure what this was about, and I had too much to talk about to chase it up with Angry!]

100% ROCK: [Laughs] Okay. So what can fans expect, are you going to be playing tracks from right through Rose Tattoo’s albums, or are you focusing on the early stuff?

Angry: Yeah absolutely, we play sort of like an hour and a half, sometimes we play two hours, depends on the publicans. Sometimes they think it’s a bit much, keeping people away from the bar, go figure [laughs sarcastically]. But you know, we try and cram as many of the songs, the great songs, as far as the hits and the better known songs particularly the anthems, etc. etc. You know the songs the Tats are known for. We try to cram as many of those into an hour and a half as we can. Depending on the vibe of the night, which is really cool, because the guys in the band know most of the material. So, sometimes we pull obscure things out, you know like unknown tracks. Well, not unknown tracks, but tracks that we don’t play every time we do a set. So sometimes it’s a really, really good vibe in the room then we might say, ‘let’s play this song, let’s play that song’, and they might not necessarily be on the list. It’s got really back to like the way it was in the early days, spontaneous and the band jams a lot. It’s just, we’re there to have fun.

Rose Tattoo 2013 2

100% ROCK: That’s good that you throw in a couple of things for the die hards like us. That’s awesome.

Angry: Well, yeah we do, it’s because we… that’s what I’m saying. As a band you’re able to and you’re allowed to, I think it’s expected, you take a bit of licence. It’s not just the hits – because it would all be over, with The Tatts, in about ten minutes when you talk about mainstream radio hits! But the hits that we’re famous for are the songs that build up around our live performances, because first and foremost The Tatts are a live act. That’s the thing, we’re very visual, the band is very intense, still to this day, and you can’t play that kind of material without being really intense, like in the moment. We have a lot of fun with it, we play songs… there’s maybe half a dozen songs that are the album favourites, never got on the radio because they were too heavy or too sort of [pauses, searching for the right word] controversial. There’s a song that we play about Ireland and the controversy of Ireland, and it’s not a song that ever got any radio play but it’s a favourite with the punters because it’s such a beautiful, big, bombastic song with a great chorus, and so it became a favourite, like Death or Glory and those kind of songs. They’re sort of favourites with the crowd but they were never commercially viable.

100% ROCK: We caught you supporting Guns n’ Roses and ZZ Top not long ago and the band were cooking man, it was really, really good… how do you rate the current line-up of the band in the context of the rich history of Rose Tattoo?

Angry: I think one of the things that’s great, I mean, one of the things that’s really cool about this line-up is that… I’m the only original left, obviously, because all the others have died, and [Paul] DeMarco, he’s been there since the early nineties, the drummer, and I mean with Dai [Pritchard, guitarist], he’s been in since Pete died, so that’s six years now, nearly seven years now. Randall Waller [guitar] he’s just one of the greatest guitar players Australia has ever produced. How do you spend eight and a half years playing in Shania Twain’s band if you’re not a great player? And he’s a great singer, so musically, this is the line-up you saw with Guns n’ Roses, and musically it’s the best line-up we’ve ever had, technically. But the great thing about it is… and like most Australian players, I mean, they may have elevated themselves technically to a really, really high level of respect, but the guys in the Guns n’ Roses band, who my guys think are gods, they were reciprocal. They were coming to me and saying ‘Man, those two guitar players are just two of the best that we’ve ever seen’. And Dai and Randall were saying the same thing about the guys in Gunners, so it was a mutual respect and admiration thing going on, and that’s a great thing. The musicality of the band is amazing. We still play like The Tatts. You can’t play this kind of material and get it wrong, if you know what I’m saying.

100% ROCK: Being feted by acts like Guns n’ Roses, and playing with Slash and Motörhead in Europe and all that, it must be good for the ego and in terms of getting respect [Angry laughs], but does it translate into sales and heads at Rose Tattoo gigs?

Angry: Well the thing about it is that it’s terrific to have that kind of accolade, and Rose Tatts was always considered to be an outlaw band and it’s still an outlaw band – even though you’re not supposed to be considered an outlaw once you hit sixty! But our reputation… like with Guns n’ Roses, with Mötley Crue, you know, with Skid Row, with all those sort of bad boy bands that basically Rose Tattoo helped get started or were a big influence on, we did extensive tours through Europe with Mötorhead and others, some of the biggest heavy rock acts around. So when they speak highly of us… what the guys in ZZ Top, you know, the first time we did a show with them was in Europe in the early eighties and then we toured in the mid-eighties through America with them, and Aerosmith. You know like, some of our crew worked on the Aerosmith tour just recently and they had our t-shirts on, and the guys from the band came up and said ‘Well hey, where have you got those shirts from?’ They said ‘Well, we’re Rose Tattoo crew’. And they [Aerosmith] were like ‘How come they’re not playing on our tour?’ because we go back, you know? So it’s that kind of accolade and we go ‘Yeah okay, we might not have been financially the most successful band across the world, we didn’t sell those kinds of numbers when it comes to selling albums, but the band and its music is recognised right around the world as one of the greatest rock bands ever. So, that’s accolade enough.

Angry Anderson 01

100% ROCK: But as you said, you play to thirty or forty thousand people on festival stages in Europe, people like Guns n’ Roses in America laud the band as primarily influential to them, but here in Australia you just do a round of pubs every now and then. You did that fantastic song with Saxon and Lemmy and Andi Deris, I’ve Got to Rock (to Stay Alive) a few years ago…

Angry: [Laughs] Ahhh, you’ve done your homework!

100% ROCK: Oh mate, I’m a big fan, don’t worry ‘bout that! But that was a great song and that did well in Europe, but Australian radio wouldn’t even look at it.

Angry: Yeah, well, I mean, you know the song obviously [so] you can work out why [Australian radio didn’t play it]. Some of the heavy metal stations played it, the sort of free-to-air stuff… there’s a metal show out in Melbourne [Editor’s note – probably Metal Genesis on PBSFM 106.7] that played it for a while. I found actually that Alice Cooper, because he’s got a – well you’d know – he’s got a radio show out of America, he’s always been a big fan of The Tatts. He’s always supported us. He plays stuff off the first album now on his show. He was one of the few American DJs that we bothered to send a copy of Blood Brothers to and he played Man About Town and a few of the tracks that we play in the set off that album [like] Once in a Lifetime, and there’s some beautiful music on that, great, great rock music on that album. But yeah, Alice sent me an email and said, you know, he was playing the track [Editor’s note – He’s back talking about You’ve Got To Rock To Stay Alive – keep up!] and wondered why we didn’t spend more money on a film clip. [bursts out laughing] I mean, obviously the film clip is pretty patchy and it’s put together, it’s just basically the three of us singing in the studio at different times, anyway, we had a great time with that, it was great. I really, really enjoyed that experience and of course Lemmy and I have been… we were talking to one another on the tour and he goes, ‘Hey man, let’s do an album together, let’s just do, like, duets and sing crazy songs like Neil Diamond and stuff’. And I thought, you know, what a great idea, I’d be up for that.

100% ROCK: I’d love that, that would be very cool.

Angry: Yeah, really? [Sounds almost surprised, like he’s considering the idea again for the first time in a long time] I don’t know if it’s ever going to come about, but it would be cool.

100% ROCK: Well he’s got his little rockabilly side project The Headcat where he does all the fifties stuff, so you never know, maybe it will work. Maybe you should push that one.

Angry: Yeah, yeah, well you never know what’s going to happen. If I don’t get to Canberra [with his political ambitions] I certainly will be looking for somehow to generate an income!

Angry Anderson 03

100% ROCK: So that’s a nice segue to politics, what’s making you want to become a politician when political parties pretty much manipulate the people in them… I mean, you’re very outspoken is what I’m trying to get at. Are you going to be able to stand up there and say I’m doing this for the party’s good, as opposed to what you believe in?

Angry: Well one of the things that you do realise, you know, when you contemplate a political life, is that you’ve got to compromise. There’s a lot of compromise in marriage and I’ve done that too, there’s a lot of compromise in a band, and I’ve done that most of my life, so compromise is not a dirty word. [Sings] ‘Compromise is not a dirty word’ – nah, that doesn’t work! It’s the meeting of minds. The reason I picked the Nationals Party, I looked at all the political parties – well, not Labour, but I certainly grew up in a Labour household, unionism was all around me as a kid, within the family and out… [but] I just stood away from Labour when I realised they were turning their backs on… or Labour had turned it’s back on the Australian people.

Well anyway, we won’t go into the ideology of it, but the way that we operate within the Nationals, it’s very, very democratic, it’s very grass roots – have a look at Barnaby Joyce – is there a more radical politician in Australia than Barnaby Joyce? No there isn’t. So the Nationals have one foot firmly planted in conservatism which is great, I don’t mind being a conservative as far as that goes. I’ve got very old morals, I’ve got very old values. I love my country dearly, I don’t want to see it going to rack and ruin, and so I think that at my age where do I go from here?

My musical career is fading away behind me. I’m still relevant music wise, I still will always do music because it feeds my soul, but where do I go with the next sixteen to twenty years of my life? I’m a fit, agile, mentally alert person, so where do I put all of that experience, where do I put all that energy? And since the mid-eighties, since being on TV with Ray Martin, I’ve given over at least a third of my life and energy to public service, so politics is just an extension of what I want to do. I always wanted to serve my country. It’s always something that I, as a kid you know, when I was called up [for military service in the draft] and I got deferred, it was always a disappointment. I always wanted to serve my country in the military, I think it’s every citizen’s obligation to serve their country in any way they possibly can.

Angry Anderson 05

100% ROCK: So you mentioned your time on TV with Ray Martin Show, is the desire to enter politics a natural extension of what you were doing there in terms of making people aware of social issues?

Angry: Yes, making people aware of social issues and social ills, also providing them with some sort of hope by coming up with some solutions or ‘hey listen, you know, that’s the way the opposition are doing it, whoever they may be, let’s try [such & such] if that’s not working’. There are so many problems in government, there’s social disorder, there’s a myriad of things that can be done better; the health system, the way we look after or don’t look after our mentally and physically impaired, and our elderly, and our very, very, very young. I’m worried about the indoctrination our kids are receiving under the hands of Labour in schools. I think schools aren’t a place for indoctrination – schools are a place for education, so I want to [strengthen] education…

It’s not just mistaking windmills for dragons: the thing about it is, I want to get into politics because the more people that get in that have a varied background and a diverse background of experience, the more balanced the parliament can be, and that way the people… people need to have a voice – as many voices as possible, because largely the feeling in Australia is that we, the rank & file, the ordinary people, the people who live in towns, we’ve been largely overlooked, ignored and forgotten.

100% ROCK: We have a female Prime Minister, America’s got a black President, is Australia ready for a heavily tattooed, hard rocking Senator?

Angry: [Laughs heartily!] I am going to do my darnedest! You know, the only, well there’s TWO strikingly physical differences between myself and Peter Garrett [ex-Midnight Oils frontman who was elected to parliament for the Labour party in 2004], one is that he’s about three times my height [laughs], and the other is that he’s not tattooed! But, you know, just because he had a background as being a barrister, does that make him any more qualified to be in parliament [than me]? What qualifies me for being in parliament is the fact that, well first and foremost I’m Australian for a start. I love my country. I worry about the future of our children, I worry about the future of the country economically – I AM concerned. I want to see this country be what it’s always been, which is, if not the brightest example of democracy in the world, certainly one of the top two or three, and we are forgiven for taking that for granted because we’ve always had that, but there are times now that are swirling around us like the winds of change, that are suggesting that that democracy can no longer be taken for granted. We’re going to have to fight like our fathers, our uncles and our grandfathers did to keep it.

100% ROCK: Karen Dewey’s 1994 book, Scarred for Life, was a really interesting exploration of you as a person and it really focused on what you were doing at the time with the TV work and so on. Have you thought about writing an exposé of the more rock n’ roll side of your life, because that book didn’t really touch on the music or the backstage life of being in a band at all.

Angry: No, and I didn’t… to tell you the truth, when we wrote that book the publishing company sort of said look, we’d really like some more sex and drugs and rock n’ roll, and I said ‘Well, I’m not really interested in writing about sex and drugs and rock and roll’, and the lady who wrote the book for me, or who I dictated the book to and she wrote it down, Karen Dewey, she was one of my [TV] producers on Channel 9 at that stage, because we were still doing Midday with Ray [Martin].

She didn’t wanna just write a sordid collection of stories of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. She thought that I was a far more interesting character to write about, and I was very flattered by that. I was really flattered by the fact that when the book came out people were fascinated by the story. I have been for many, many years, working on a book. Oh, a really good book that was done too, not so long ago, was Blood, Sweat and Beers by Murray Engleheart and its not just about Rose Tattoo obviously, it’s about the Australian rock industry, particularly in the punk rock era, and that’s a really good book. I’d even go so far as to say it falls into the category of being a document, in so much as it’s a documentary, it’s a very accurate portrayal [of a different time].

I remember talking years ago to Chrissy Amphlett, ‘cos she mentions me a couple of times in her book, and she says [laughs] ‘how come you didn’t mention me in your book?’ and I said well, you know, it wasn’t about the type of rock and roll lifestyle in that way! But with the new book, well not the new book but the book [that might] eventuate at some stage in the future, there will be more of that because, we used to say in the old days, that none of us could write the real story of rock and roll or of Rose Tattoo in rock and roll because there were too many people that were still alive, too many people whose marriages would have been broken up! We just kind of laughed about it because it was true: there were secrets and things like Diggers’ heroin addiction, other dysfunctions within the band that were very, very personal, and there were parents that would be hurt by what they read; like I said, there would have been marriages that would have been questioned. There were a lot of people that could have been damaged in a very personal way. So that’s why we didn’t. ‘Cos Rose Tattoo was… when I look back on it, it was just like a twenty four hour a day, every day of the year, when I say like a soap opera drama, there was nothing ordinary about Rose Tattoo in those days, it was always just really high drama, and high adventure, and that’s why eventually the band just pulled itself apart. We lived everything right on the edge, all the time, twenty four hours a day. Crash and burn stuff.

The original Rose Tattoo

The original Rose Tattoo

100% ROCK: I think it would be a good read, if it did come out.

Angry: Like I said, when I say the ‘good thing’, it’s not a good thing that all the originals have died apart from myself, but it could be written now because so few people would be directly affected by it, as opposed to even ten years ago, there were too many people whose lives it would have touched and/or possibly damaged in some way.

100% ROCK: Well look, I could keep going for another half an hour but I’m mindful that you’re on a schedule [Angry laughs again] so I’ve just got a couple of quick ones. Will there be another Rose Tattoo album any time soon?

Angry: [Laughs again] Ahhhhhhh y’see, you never say never! I don’t know. I would not ever… because Rose Tattoo has been such an amazing adventure, and such an amazing ride and an amazing experience to be involved in, for thirty six years. Over half my life I’ve been in this band and I’ve been doing what we do, and to say that it’s all over might be a very, very foolish pre-empt… it might be you turn around… it’s like doing a farewell tour and then five years later you think ‘aww… let’s do another farewell tour, let’s play again.’ You know, Pete [Wells] always says, [Angry pauses slightly as he realises what he’s just said] well, always said, ‘we’ll never finish the band, we’ll never do a farewell tour, we’ll never say that it’s over, and one day it just won’t be.’ It will cease to play and it will cease to be and it will be like The Phantom – the legend will go on.

100% ROCK: That’s not quite a yes, not quite a no, but it gives us some hope that there will be some new music at some stage.

Angry: [laughs heartily again] Well I tell you what, there are some interesting people that… that’s another thing too, which I’m going to do in the future, is I’m going to bring into the line-up, not because anyone who’s in the line-up now doesn’t work – it does, it works a treat, but there’s people in the rock and roll fraternity that have always expressed a great interest in playing in the band, and always sort of said ‘Oh, if you ever need a guitar player, or a bass player, or a drummer – we want to play in the band’. There are so many Australian musos who want to come and play in Rose Tattoo, just to say ‘I’ve played with Rose Tatts’. I know that sounds a bit egotistical but that’s the kind of esteem that the band is held in. So, there’s a wealth of people out there. There are some really, really good players, great rock and roll players that have never played in the band, and I would like to, just for the experience before it’s all over, I’d like to invite some of those guys to come and play in the band for a while. So I’m going to do that over the next couple of years.

100% ROCK: Nice, well that opens up all sorts of possibilities – [how about] an all-star show somewhere, film it for a DVD…

Angry: Yeah well, you know, the thing about it is, we did Doc Neeson’s benefit just recently here in Sydney, and Paul [Woseen] from The Screaming Jets got up and played bass. And he’s one guy that’s always wanted to play in the band, and we said okay, ‘we’re only doing three songs, he’s going to be there on the night anyway, would you like to get up and play the songs?’ And he did, and it worked a treat, it was just fantastic. The feedback we got from hardcore fans, saying ‘Oh no, Paul was amazing in the band’. But then again The Screaming Jets and Rose Tatts aren’t that far apart as bands anyway, so he kind of slotted in very easily. Well that’s the sort of thing we’re going to be looking at. I think we’re going to get Paul to come and play with the band more in the future. Yeah, and there are a few other guitar players. A couple of guys from The Screaming Jets, but there’s guitar players from other bands too that we’d let come and play, even if they only do two or three gigs, you know, it might work out that way. It might work out that I change the line-up just for three or four gigs and then change the line-up again. It will keep it fresh and interesting, and going back to the album thing, I’m not saying one way or another, but sooner or later there’s going to be a couple of guys who come and play in the band and go like ‘well, I’ve got two songs, how about we record them for an album?’ I think those sorts of things happen.

Rose Tattoo 2013

100% ROCK: Awesome, well that’s good to see that there’s a bit of promise there. Okay, so I’ll leave you with one more question. On a personal note, my first ever visit to a pub – aged sixteen -was I think in ’82 or ’83 at the Old Melbourne Pub [in Perth] to see you guys on the second night, the night after you allegedly incited a riot and cars were burning in Murray Street and all that dramatic stuff was happening. Obviously the world has changed a lot from the days when the authorities treated you as outlaws and saying the ‘F word’ on stage was a massive criminal offence and all that sort of stuff – but do you think everything’s changed for the better?

Angry: [Laughs wistfully and pauses] There’s a lot of things obviously, one of the things about the changing of time and the times that change, I mean… let’s face it, George Harrison phrased it beautifully: ‘nothing stays the same forever, all things must pass’ – yes they do, and some things change for the better and some things don’t. The great era that we all grew up in musically, I mean I started playing and performing in the sixties, and then by the seventies we were getting really good at it. I was in a band in those days, Buster Brown as you know, with Geordie [Leach], our bass player from The Tatts, and Phil Rudd of AC/DC, and a couple of others. You know, I’ve had some amazing musos come through the band, but everything changes in time.

I’ve got three sons, they’re twenty one, twenty three and twenty five, and they’re all rappers. Well actually the youngest, Liam, says ‘I’m not a rapper, Dad, I’m an MC’. I stand corrected son! [laughs loudly] You know, I think music, the era that we’re talking about, the golden era that went from the seventies right through to the mid-eighties and then for some reason the winds of change blew and it all changed and it’s never been the same since. I don’t think there is… when I think back on the music that we created, particularly the Australian bands, I mean, some of the most beautiful music in the world.

But people like Crowded House and other people like that have carried on that wonderful tradition of creating world class music, pop music – [even] Savage Garden, a bunch of other people, in a different sense… like I said, going back to what you were saying before about Guns n’ Roses, that band, whenever they come to Australia, they’re so respectful. They make such a fuss, they say it’s such a good vibe. It’s an era that they grew up in and the songs have such passion, you don’t actually get that anymore. If I thought Rose Tattoo as a band was not relevant I wouldn’t walk on the stage, but we’re as good as we ever were and you know, that’s why. I mean, we only gave up touring Europe because Mick [Cocks] was dying, that was three years ago that we lost him and he was the last of the originals. I suppose in a sense it broke my heart because it was difficult dealing with the passing of an age because when Mick died that was the original band, apart from me… it was difficult to deal with. So I think I just needed to step back and reflect a bit, but now it’s cool. The band lives, the band breathes fire. It’s a great rock n’ roll band. In fact it’s one of THE great rock n’ roll bands in the world.

100% ROCK: Absolutely. Well look, from me, thank you very much for the music over the years, it’s been a hell of a journey. That gig I’m talking about at the Old Melbourne, that was quite the eye opener for a VERY young 16 year old, I was pretty naïve at that point and that was like ‘fuck, this is cool!’

Angry: Apart from that, that was a pretty unfortunate night, it was a bit of an overreaction [by the police], but anyway, having said that, that’s all in the past, water under the bridge, at least for a sixteen year old… who probably shouldn’t have been there! You were getting your first taste of rock and roll, you got your first dose and it was the real deal!

100% ROCK: Absolutely yeah, never looked back. Awesome mate, well look, we’re looking forward to the gig at the Charles, thank you for your time today. Good luck with the political stuff and we’ll talk to you soon.

Angry: No worries brother – come backstage and have a beer.


Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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  1. greg says:

    Great to read. Thx.

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