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Interview – Todd Hunter, Dragon – May 2013

| 30 May 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar


Todd Hunter Dragon 01
Story originally published in Xpress Magazine 29 May 2013 – read it HERE

Aussies and Kiwis who grew up watching Countdown on Sunday nights will need no introduction to Todd Hunter of Dragon, who originally formed the band in their native Auckland with little brother Marc and keyboardist/songwriter Paul Hewson amongst others in 1972.

They relocated to Sydney in ’75 and had a string of hits – April Sun In Cuba, Are You Old Enough, Rain et al – through the 70’s and early 80’s, but troubles beset the band – a disastrous US tour in 1978 left the band limping, hedonism claimed Hewson’s life in 1985, and Marc Hunter died tragically in ’98.

Ups walked hand in hand with the downs though – Dragon were inducted into the ARIA Hall Of Fame in 2008, and the band continue to this day with Todd Hunter steering the ship as not only bassist but also manager. Now with fellow Kiwi Mark Williams on the mike, Dragon are celebrating their 40th anniversary and doing it in style with a jaunt right around Australia & New Zealand.
100% ROCK: Thanks for your time today, much appreciated.

Todd: That’s alright.

100% ROCK: So, forty years of Dragon, that’s pretty exciting.

Todd: It’s pretty wild, isn’t it? On one hand it’s been a very long time, and on the other it’s just happened.

100% ROCK: I bet.

Todd: That’s the best thing about being in a rock band, you don’t have to worry about what happened before, you just look ahead to the next six months.

Dragon 2013 01

100% ROCK: Awesome. So how have the 40th Anniversary Tour gigs been going so far?

Todd: Great. We started at the Opera House and sort of working our way around – Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth.

100% ROCK: Yeah, so end of the month for Perth, I think it’s the 31st May. What can long term fans expect from the show?

Todd: I think they can expect every single cracking song that you know and sing, a couple of new ones, some obscure old stuff, Age Of Reason [The John Farnham song that Hunter co wrote], Show No Mercy [singer Mark Williams’ solo 1980 hit], and whatever else we can throw in there. We don’t have a song list or anything, we just throw whatever in there depending on how the crowd is going, just play whatever they want, you know.

100% ROCK: Fantastic, yeah, when I was doing a little bit of research for the chat and I didn’t actually realise that you co-wrote Age of Reason.

Todd: Yeah, Johanna Piggott and I wrote that and sent it off to John Farnham’s people, and they put it into their pile of tapes, and we didn’t hear anything for a year. Apparently they didn’t have a single [for the album] so they went back to the box of three thousand CDs and songs and went through them all and found it. It was very random indeed!

100% ROCK: A very nice feather in your cap, too.

Todd: Yeah, helped us to get out of the city and buy a place in the country and all sorts of stuff.

100% ROCK: So you’ve also got the new album out, The Dragon Years, which features one CD of the classic material, and one CD of new material with the new band, so how’s that been going down so far?

Todd: Good. It’s great to have stuff all in one place. So with the new band we just do little EPs and stuff all the time, basically to give them away, because we think it doesn’t matter about selling the music, if anyone can spare the time to listen to it then we’re happy about that.

100% ROCK: And as you said, putting all the different eras of the band in one place, so it’s kind of tying a little bow around it all in a way.

Todd: Yeah, that’s right. It’s cool to put it all in context.

100% ROCK: It’s not been a smooth ride for the band, especially in the early days, I mean you lost your brother Marc, Neil Story and Paul Hewson passed away, there seems to have been as many dramas to the history of Dragon as there were successes.

Dragon in the 70s - Marc Hunter centre, Todd Hunter second from the right

Dragon in the 70s – Marc Hunter centre, Todd Hunter second from the right

Todd: Well in the early years there was, [it] was so wild, and the worse you behaved the more you were rewarded for it. But that was in the seventies – in the eighties it was much more about the music. Now, there’s no misbehaving whatsoever in the band. This band has been together the longest of all the line-ups. We’re just coming up on our five hundredth show.


100% ROCK: Wow. So through all of that, has your personal journey lived up to your expectations?

Todd: Yeah, when I was a kid I just thought I’m going to spend my life playing in a band, I just liked the idea of it so much – my Uncle was in a great band in Auckland in the sixties. So the biggest reward is being able to be a working musician for such a long period of time.

100% ROCK: As the last original member of the band, do you see yourself as the keeper of the band’s legacy?

Todd: I guess so. I’m the only one who’s been there since day one and after Marc died I was really happy to have nothing to do with it. The personal cost had been too great for me in the band. After ten years of doing soundtrack work like Heartbreak High and a bunch of other films and things, I just felt… I ended up feeling like I put everything in and it pulled together and those songs needed to be played again. And actually after that I was playing at my kid’s school at a parent & teachers night, where we came together to play music and one of the other parents was Johnny Diesel, anyway, halfway through the night playing all sorts of different stuff, I realised – it’s what you do! I’d forgotten I was a bass player, you know? Just because of everything else. Then the problem arose of what to play, blues or something else, and I ended up thinking, nah, I’ll play these Dragon songs and I just rang these guys up and said right, I need a band, and it started from then and it hasn’t stopped.

Dragon 2013 02

100% ROCK: Wow. So I would imagine that composing for TV and movies is a pretty different discipline to writing a pop or rock song.

Todd: It is. Everything that you do is to the script and it has to have that unspoken thing, an emotional connection. But it’s a great thing to do. But I found I was doing a lot of stuff like BBC2 and the Sesame Street Workshop, so I was working overseas hours, ‘cos most of this was on the net, I’d be down here in the country, in the studio, starting at 3 in the morning, and there’d be no-one around for a week – it just got too isolated. I missed the immediacy of getting out there and playing, music in that time that only happens once, in that one spot – never again.

100% ROCK: And I guess just having the chance to live your dream and be a musician for forty years is pretty much a bit of a thrill in itself?

Todd: It defies reality! Sometimes I think I’m just insane thinking that I can make a living out of it. But you know, on the other hand, I’m a lucky boy – to be in a country with this few people, and never having stopped working.

100% ROCK: Just having a quick scroll through the list of people who’ve been in the band over forty years, it’s a crazy amount of band members been in n’ out – it made me think, has the band and the songs risen above the actual personalities playing the music?

Todd: Absolutely – it doesn’t matter who’s in the band or who’s playing it. And you find that you play with people who weren’t even born when the songs were written! And you play to people who don’t know or even care who’s IN the band. Are you on the computer right now? Just go to and click on RAIN – RHYTHM & VINES…

[I do it, and see a video of 20,000 kids going mad for this song, NYE 2010, singing every word. It’s an ecstatic reaction, to say the least]

100% ROCK: Wow – that’s a pretty good response right there, isn’t it!

Todd: Yeah – and at the age of sixty-something, going and doing that… it’s a scream, I tell ya!

100% ROCK: I bet!!!

Todd: It’s such fun!

100% ROCK: Just looking at the screen now, it must be such an emotional rush for you guys to see and feel that…

Todd: When you get a crowd of tens of thousands of people singing at you, you can hear them screaming as you walk towards the stage – and so many of them are just teenagers. It’s so different from the early days…

Todd Hunter Dragon 02

100% ROCK: So, assuming that the decadence of the seventies is in the past for you guys, do you still get the same rush from being on stage?

Todd: Oh absolutely. The seventies for me was a horrible time, I hated it, it was much too dangerous. Imagine being surrounded by a bunch of people you really cared about and they were just dropping off – it was horrible. So I didn’t have a great time. The eighties was better, it was more about the music. Now it feels like it always should have been: we just take our guitar, get to the gig and plug in and play. No crew, no nothing, just the four of us. We turn up to these big festivals, just the four of us, and everyone’s there with their roadies and tour managers, and we just plug in and play – and everyone’s just shaking their heads going ‘what a bunch of…’

100% ROCK: There’s a very complex back story to the band, what with the people coming in and out of band, the hedonism, and the fatalities along the way – is there a book out there somewhere about Dragon which brings it all together, or have you thought about writing something yourself?

Todd: Yeah Geoff Apter wrote a book about Marc [Chasing The Dragon: The Life & Death Of Marc Hunter] which was good, but it didn’t catch how funny he was. I have thought about a book – and I’ve got all the chapter headings, but I’d only do it under the condition that it was complete bare bones truth, because it was such a shocking story in the early days, things you would not believe. And of course it’s [lack of] time – now that I’m managing the band. But I will write a book someday – exactly the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

100% ROCK: And I guess that would be quite an emotional thing to relive all that as well…

Todd: Yeah, pretty cathartic. And when you’re travelling and playing all the time you can’t really switch that on and off like a light. But one day…

100% ROCK: When you play these songs on stage, do you still get the feeling that Marc – and the other guys who used to be in the band – are still a part of that music?

Todd: Yeah, when you have thousands of people singing those songs, you just know that Marc and Paul are there. I don’t want to get too metaphysical on your arse, but it gives you goosebumps sometimes. And it’s an honour to be part of that.

100% ROCK: Cool. So if you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording of any one record throughout history, which would you choose?

Todd: Wow… ummmm… good question. Hard to say, actually. [pauses] You know, I love the music of the sixties – the early Stones stuff, The Beatles and The Doors, hmmm… maybe Astral Weeks by Van Morrison?

100% ROCK: Ooh, nice choice!

Todd: Yeah. And that I believe, grumpy old bastard that he was even at the age of 25, he just sat down with his acoustic guitar and wailed through those songs. Then they got a bunch of jazz guys in to lay tracks down over it which he hated! But it’s one of the great albums!

100% ROCK: Fantastic – thanks for your time!


Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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