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INTERVIEW – Dre Wise, Tracer – August 2013

| 30 August 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Tracer may hail from Adelaide, but they packed up shop and took the party to use England as a base for the past five years in order to get their name out there and hone their skills into a razor sharp and unique outfit. It worked – second album El Pistolero is a stunner, full of hints of stoner and grunge and classic rock elements that make them sound exactly like no-one else. I caught up with drummer Dre Wise while he was having a little time off at home in South Australia before embarking on an Aussie tour which went everywhere except West Oz, then almost two months trekking around the U.K. and Europe.

Tracer Dre Wise 01
100% ROCK: Hey Dre, how’re you doing?

Dre: Good, good, man!

100% ROCK: Must be feeling good to be back home in Adelaide?

Dre: Oh yeah, definitely mate – although it’s nice n’ cold, that’s for sure!

100% ROCK: Yeah it’s bloody chilly here in Perth too. Congratulations on the album – it’s fuckin’ awesome man, really cool

Dre: Thanks, thanks a lot, man. We’re just stoked it’s coming out in Australia!

100% ROCK: No doubt. When you were writing and recording, was there a moment when you guys looked at each other and went ‘Yeah! This is it, its happening!’?

Dre: It was pretty intense and pretty quick – I reckon it was pretty close to when we were actually heading over to actually record it. Mike & I did all the demoing, and we sat back and were listening to everything that we’d demoed and he said to me, ‘dude, we’ve actually got some good stuff going on here!’ You know, you’re never really sure ‘cos you’re too involved – you’re so close to it you can’t just step back and listen to it objectively. But right there we thought, ‘Yeah, this is gonna work out alright’!

100% ROCK: Having had a bit of success with your debut record, and building your profile up – especially in the UK and Europe – was the pressure on a bit more for this one?

Dre: Oh definitely, there was a little bit there. Like, before, you could do whatever you want and people didn’t know who you are or what you do, so there was no expectation. but this time there was automatically that expectation. But having said that we always set out to write what we wanna write – that’s what’s worked for us in the past and it seems to still be working for us now, which is good! And also, the pressure of getting [producer] Kevin Shirley involved – here’s someone who’s exposed to a lot of good music and good musos and songwriting and so on, so that was interesting… that was gonna make us as nervous as anything else, I think!

100% ROCK: I guess that sort of made it a little more real – a little more professional even, working with a big gun like that…

Dre: Absolutely! You got this dude, he works with all these really big bands and that, and he’s getting these demos from a couple of blokes in Adelaide, and think ‘what the hell is going on down there’, y’know [laughs] It turns out, he says to us, he gets songs sent to him from some of the biggest artists – like a text message with an attachment or an MP3… but hey, he turned out alright!

Tracer - El Pistolero CD

100% ROCK: Is it true that the album was at least partially inspired by the Robert Rodrigues movie Desperado?

Dre: Yeah definitely! We really love that film – it sort of exemplifies everything that we like, y’know – it’s loud and brash and that’s kinda what the band is like as well…

100% ROCK: And do you kinda have that parallel where – he’s a guitar player and a gunslinger and a mariachi and you guys are wandering musos at large…?

Dre: Absolutely! Completely! The guy’s church, like he goes to church and it’s the patron saint of music, we relate to that for sure.

100% ROCK: You’ve really focussed especially in England and Europe over the past few years and its starting to pay off, what with Classic Rock Magazine championing the band and you getting some awards – are you really starting to feel that sort of groundswell that people are wanting you back over there now?

Dre: Definitely Europe and more especially the UK, we were lucky enough that a couple of radio stations really loved what we were doing and got behind it, and Classic Rock really got into it and then there’s definitely a swell of [interest]. We were able to just do a headlining tour over there and started, just in the first week, the London show got bumped to a bigger venue just on the presales… coming from Australia where it’s always been a struggle, to finally have that validation that there are these people out there that do dig our stuff. Awesome… over there, it’s a totally different animal…

Tracer 01

100% ROCK: I wanted to talk about the attitude with Australia – we all know that the industry is a bit harsh, its really hard for a rock band to make any kind of headway because there’s no radio play, there’s no fuckin’ big promoters wanting to invest the money. But Michael was recently quoted in CRM as saying ‘We’ve given up on Australia for the past five years’.

Dre: Yeah…

100% ROCK: Has there been a backlash – was there any consideration that maybe that was a bit unfair on the actual rock fans in Australia?

Dre: Well, I wouldn’t say a backlash within the fans. It’s been nice to have people say ‘how do we get this stuff – we want it here’ and that kind of thing. It’s just the costs involved… like to tour overseas, the start-up costs – like the last tour we did was 18 shows in 24 days, and you just can’t do that here due to the population spread. And I think here at home there’s that perception, that anything good needs to be validated by someone else. Like now, people will say ‘Wow you guys are really doing well, we can’t wait to hear it’ whereas before people wouldn’t take a punt on you even just playing. So I think there’s a little bit of that – we’re used to being spoon fed what we should like and not like…

100% ROCK: Absolutely – everyone’s just gotta learn to not listen to ‘em!

Dre: Yeah, that’s right! You know what I mean… like, on a Tuesday night in the UK 600 people turn up to see a band from Adelaide who they’ve never seen live and heard one song on the radio. That kind of stuff just doesn’t happen here and Australian people just need to take a chance, I guess. The fans over there are used to just taking a chance and hoping to hear something good.

Tracer 03

100% ROCK: It helps to have that concentration of population though, doesn’t it?

Dre: Oh definitely. Everythings done bigger. You’ve got twice as many rock fans in the one spot, so it makes a difference.

100% ROCK: So, you’re FINALLY doing a tour of Australia —— and bloody Perth isn’t included!!

Dre: Oh mate, we’re definitely trying. We’re shooting for September, we’re trying to get over there. You never know – we are trying to get there

100% ROCK: Make it happen, man!

Dre: I have to say, it’s been interesting ‘cos our management are based in Germany, and putting these dates together the staff are like, ‘you can do this show the next day in Brisbane can’t you?’ And we’re trying to explain ‘you do understand, don’t you, that that’ll take us two days solid, just driving?’ And they’re like, ‘what do you mean’ [laughs] ‘and don’t even get me started on Perth!! That’s three and a half days in the other direction!’ – they just don’t get it!

100% ROCK: Yeah they just don’t understand do they – bless!

Dre: Until you tell ’em that, like, ‘your office is in Berlin, imagine driving to Portugal for your next gig!’ THEN it’s ‘Ohhhhh…Wow’ So it’s been interesting, that side of things, but we’re just pumped that we get to play at home, y’know. I’m interested to hear how people take to it, that’s for sure

100% ROCK: It’s refreshing to hear an Aussie band that doesn’t just sound like an AC/DC derivative. What sort of influences have gone into shaping the Tracer sound?

Dre: I just… when I hear stuff that we’re influenced by… Queen, there’s a bit of them, Soundgarden – definitely a bit of that going on. Mike’s vocals definitely lend themselves towards the Chris Cornell school of thought more than anything. Then it goes backwards, the old Stones stuff, Kyuss, Black Sabbath… me personally I was right into Deep Purple when I was younger. So there’s plenty of that sort of thing. Michael has been in blues bands since he was 11 years old, so there’s plenty of that influence there as well, so it’s pretty varied I guess

100% ROCK: Yeah you can really hear the blues influence in there as well I think, and that classic rock influence. But having researched a little bit, theres a lot of people saying you’re a stoner rock band, but I certainly wouldn’t pigeon hole you into that exclusively, you know what I mean?

Dre: Yeah, its been an interesting thing, like how different people relate to it. Like something like ‘oh yeah they’re a stoner band’, then other people think we’re grungey or classic rock – it’s definitely a hybrid, I wouldn’t say we’re a stoner band, like we have those elements in there as well. The blues stuff definitely brings it back to the classic rock side, I guess. That’s just the nature of how our music is…

100% ROCK: Having spent so much time in Europe, plus you’ve done a run through America too – how do you deal with both the homesickness, and also being forced to sleep on couches or in the back of a van night after night?

Dre: Honestly, this is all we’ve ever wanted to do. So first it’s still fun. Like, for the most part it’s just fun we get to go and do that. We’ve all got day jobs as well… we did the first two tours, we slept in the back of a van, all three of us, and it was only just wide enough to fit all three of us in. We slept with the gear under us, and every morning we’d wake up with the condensation from our breath dripping on our faces – and we did that for five months! And even after five months when it was time to come back home, after a couple more months we were back over there doing it again, because that’s what we wanted to do. We’re lucky now we go out in a little bit more comfort these days, but back in Australia we’re back to phoning up mates and sleeping on floors… but I actually like that kinda grass roots feel about it. It feels like you deserve it, when you go out to play you really feel like you’ve worked to be there.

100% ROCK: So you must all get along pretty well to be able to put up with that and not get short tempered and have fisticuffs and what not?

Dre: Definitely – and from what I’ve seen from talking to other bands who haven’t quite gone as hard as we have in terms of putting up with that stuff, is that we all get along that well [because of the hardships shared]. In the outset it was myself, Michael and his brother Lee in the band – and having brothers usually it’s a problem, but they’re best mates those two so it usually worked out fine. You still have your moments when you can’t be bothered seeing someone, but it’s pretty short in between, plus when we’re home we rehearse all the time so we see each other anyway, but we still catch up socially so we’d be seeing each other even if we weren’t in the band together, so it really makes a big difference.

Tracer 02

100% ROCK: Having spent that time overseas, how do the fans differ from back home?

Dre: Oh I dunno… I guess since we’re back home at the moment and just cruising around, you don’t have that perception that its any different from your mates rocking up to you playing down the road at a pub. Whereas in Europe, just with the distance thing, people are like ‘this is that band from Australia’ – you’re instantly the band that people see differently – you see it when you speak to people as well, they’ve got a different perception of you, they’re not so one-on-one. We’re from a different country, man – in Australia we’re honest and good, and people aren’t used to it, you know? That’s the main thing. Like, you go to France and they play the House music, then you walk out there and blast the hell out of them, and the people for the first five minutes stand there with their mouths wide open ‘cos it’s just so in their face! [laughs] Whereas in Australia we’re used to things being a bit more upfront and in your face, and they get into it faster as well

100% ROCK: There’s that novelty factor as well isn’t there – I worked in France and England for three years and you’d get people going out of their way to have a drink with you because you were the ‘token Australian’ in town

Dre: Definitely! It’s something different – people with funny accents! You would’ve noticed, did you notice suddenly that you had an Australian accent?

100% ROCK: Much, much bigger and broader than ever before! Yeah definitely – I never even realised the first time I went over that ‘G’day’ was in my vocabulary, until I got there

Dre: Yeah – then you realise ‘oh shit’! I remember that Lara Bingle advert – the ‘where the bloody hell are ya’ one. I remembered these ads and watching them thinking, ‘ahh no-one speaks like that over here!’ And then after about three weeks I was talking to someone and I realised ‘ah geez, I do talk like that – I actually do have that accent!’ It’s definitely that novelty factor.

100% ROCK: Oh yeah, so bizarre, you start off talking normally but then within a month you’re all [adopts really ocker country accent] ‘G’day sport, hoe ya garn?’

[both laugh]

Dre: We always make a habit that all of our road crew in the first week always get Australian nicknames – you know, like Blue and all this sort of stuff, just for a giggle… out on the road you’ve got to find stupid ways of entertaining yourself… we got our tour manager a spray tan when we were in the UK so we told him he looked like an Oompaloompa- and that’s how you avoid that homesickness and stuff

100% ROCK: [Laughs] Awesome. Finally mate, if you could magically be transported back in time and be a part of the recording of any one record in history, which would you choose?

Dre: Oh, that’s a mighty fine question. You know what, I really would like to be involved in – just the preproduction of Nirvana’s Nevermind. Like, the recording of it was something they went into… the preproduction, I’d really have liked to see if they ever saw that point and went ‘Dude, we’ve got some absolutely killer songs here – a whole bunch of them!’ Because I know they holed themselves up in a barn and just rehearsed for like, five months. I would have liked to have been there at that point where they went ‘this is gonna be okay’. That would’ve been epic!

100% ROCK: Cool choice. Well you never know man, maybe one day you’ll be touring with Foo Fighters so you can ask Dave Grohl…

Dre: You never know! That’s always on the cards – I’d go for that.

100% ROCK: Thanks!

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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