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INTERVIEW – Pete Cooper, The Porkers – January 2014

| 19 February 2014 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Pete Cooper, The Porkers – January 2014

After six long years ‘resting on their laurels’, ska punk party rockers The Porkers are back for a lap of Australia on the Soundwave tour, playing Claremont Showgrounds Monday 3rd March. SHANE PINNEGAR finds out what they have in store.

The Porkers 01

Forming in Newcastle in 1987, the band released a clutch of albums and EPs and toured as far afield as Japan and Germany before laying down their guns after the 2009 Persistence Is Futile DVD. Founding member and singer Pete Cooper says their reformation for Soundwave came after “running in to A.J. [Maddah, Soundwave promoter] backstage at a show in
Sydney and, by the end of the conversation, The Porkers were playing Soundwave.”

He goes on to say that he didn’t believe it was true at first.

“Until we were on the poster,” he laughs, “it was like, ‘is this really happening… or is someone fucking with us?’”

Cooper says Eastern States audiences can expect at least one special guest to join the band.

“There might be a few, here and there. Probably not any special guests for Perth, but our roving masked mascot, Porkman, who was never a permanent member of the band – he just showed up when he showed up – we have it on good authority that he may be appearing at a couple of the east coast shows.

“But we can’t guarantee that and we can’t guarantee anything for Perth.”

The Porkers - Grunt cover

Cooper says the band will deliver a set of “Hits and memories,” spanning the whole of the band’s career.

“2014 is 20 years since the release of our debut album Grunt,” Cooper says, “so there’s definitely a couple of tracks from Grunt in the set and, then, bits and pieces from all the way through. But, nothing new!”

The Porkers 05

Could this be the springboard for a big resurgence of The Porkers?

“I dunno about ‘the big resurgence’,” chuckles the singer, “but at the moment our sights are just set on doing Soundwave and we’ll see where it takes us after that. We’ll see what toll Soundwave takes on us.”

Going back to the start, Cooper says the band was an excuse for a party more than an alternative career than a dead end Newcastle job.

“Yeah, we never really saw it as a full-time employment and it never, ever was,” he says realistically, “so it never, ever got us out of our rut jobs. It made us use all of our holidays and days off, so it got us away from our rut jobs as much as possible, but we were playing ska music; it was fun; it was something fun to do. So, it has led to us being able to see more of the world… so, in a way, it got us out but, in a way, we’re still stuck here.”

‘Here’ is still Newcastle, where Cooper runs Hardcore Logo screen printing business (“named after my favorite Canadian punk rock mockumentary movie”).

“[It’s] definitely handy for merch,” he laughs. “Actually, if anyone’s bought a Porkers’ T-shirt over the years, it was hand-printed by me – every single one of the fuckin’ things! That’s what I do, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years, I specialise mainly in band merch and I do a lot of stuff for roller derby as well, and I’ve also got our own range of stuff that we’re launching that’s sort of rockabilly, custom-culture, and roller derby-related so, that’s sort of what I do.

“It’s not all bad but, being a small-business owner it takes up 23.5 hours of my day.”

The words ‘fun’ and ‘party’ come up the most while researching the band. Is it hard work to present such a fun show?

“I don’t think so,” says Cooper, “because, basically, that’s what The Porkers are, and it hasn’t mattered who’s been playing in the band. Everybody’s put their own thing in, but the essence of The Porkers, once we’re on stage, is just an explosive party and I don’t know whether I’m the key to all of that or not, but I always believed I wasn’t a good enough vocalist to be able to stand still on stage and blow people away with my vocal stylings, so it had to be more than that… so, that’s what it’s become.”

The Porkers logo

Are The Porkers the most underrated band in Australia?

“I’d hate to say that myself,” Cooper says, shuffling embarrassedly. “I’m sure there’s heaps of other bands just like us but, yeah, it’s been a bit of a struggle and, again, being a party band and being a ska band and being a band with a silly name, I don’t think we’ve ever quite been taken as seriously as we possibly could have been. That’s always been a struggle and a frustration. So [it’s] hard to say whether we’re the most underrated, but I’d definitely say that maybe, in a way, we’re a serious joke that not everybody gets.”

He’s not too shy to give us a message to the Australian music industry, after his band has been largely ignored by most radio and the industry for so many years.

“Get your head out of your arses before it’s too late,” he says, quite seriously.

The Porkers 04

Many members have come and gone through The Porkers, with only Pete Cooper and sax player Phil Barnard remaining constant. Cooper says playing with a revolving line-up has had its ups and downs.

“We’ve had some good and some bad,” he says warily. “The reason we haven’t played for five years was because we had a few bad ones, but let’s not get in to that shit. Every time we’ve replaced somebody, or got new people in the band, it’s always refreshed or tweaked the sound in some way and made it new again, or taken it in a slightly different direction whilst still being The Porkers.

“I suppose,” he continues, “that’s one thing I’ve always been happy and proud of; it’s never really got too stale or, when it has, somebody’s got sick of it and we’ve been able to replace them and sort of refresh again. That’s one funny thing about The Porkers – a lot of bands, if they’re playing after this many years, the fans want to see the original line-up but, because [The Porkers] have been a constantly changing line-up, and you never know what Porkers you are going to get, I think it’s sort of worked in our favour that, as long as me and Big Phil were there, it didn’t really matter who else was playing, to a certain degree, as long as they were good enough.

The Porkers 03

“And I suppose this time, too, we’ve got probably the best line-up ever, which is pretty mind-blowing from my point of view and, hopefully, is going to be mind-blowing show-wise.”

The likes of Paul Woseen and Chris Masuak having spent time with the band lends a certain Aussie rock cred to the ska punk rabble rousers.

“I’d like to think so,” he agrees, “Paul from The Screaming Jets filled in on our tour when we supported No Doubt on their first Australian tour in ’95, and he helped co-write one of our songs, X Factor, which was one of our early singles. Chris Masuak played on our debut album and came and played with us so, again, we’ve been really, really lucky.

“Angelo [Moore, singer & sax player] from Fishbone, in the States, played on our last recording, so that’s pretty incredible as well. I suppose the mutual respect that we get out of them just wanting to be involved has been great for me and the band.

“The new line-up features the original drummer from Machine Gun Fellatio [this could be Glenn Abbott, also of Super Massive?] and I went to high school with our new bass-player, Dave Morris, and he was in a ska band at high school, which got me in to ska, but he went on to play in bands like Cranky and Pre-shrunk, so it’s just an incredible line-up this time, and it’s going to kick ass.”

The Porkers 02

Having only made it to WA once before, with the 1999 Vans Warped Tour, Cooper is ready for another visit.

“We played Vans Warped and a local Perth show,” he recalls, “and then one down at Margaret River and that’s all we’ve done so, we’ve been itching to get back since 1999.”

As you might expect over 25 years, Cooper has an abundance of road stories that he’s not sure what to do with.

“Lots of stories, for sure.” He agrees, “I have been told, numerous times, that I should write a book, or, at least, I should write it down. No real plans, but I suppose The Porkers have always been [about] ‘well, we’ll see what happens and we’ll see where this takes us’, [so] if you’d asked me a few years ago whether we’d be playing Soundwave in 2014, I wouldn’t have believed it. So, who knows, in a couple of years I might be writing a book!”

The Porkers 01

Before the Alzheimer’s kicks in?

“Something like that, yeah,” he laughs, “before I forget the good bits.

“Then I will tell all and there’ll be scandals,” he adds, jokingly.

Cooper maintains that he would never have imagined The Porkers would still be going strong in this day and age.

“It’s just crazy thinking about it now,” he says. “I suppose I was the driving force, but it was always ‘hey, let’s get a band together and play a gig at a party’. We did that and it was, like, ‘let’s go and play at a bowling club’, and we did that. ‘Let’s go and play a gig at a real pub’ and then, ‘let’s go and play in Sydney’ and, it’s been just, kind of, me, going one goal after another and once that box is ticked, I find another one.

“{It was} NOT the money,” he laughs sombrely. “It’s not the girls either because, after 27 years, I’m still single! I don’t know [what keeps me doing it]… probably the love of performing, and the response that we do get from crowds. That’s probably been the biggest buzz I’ve had in life. It’s like that addictive thing; you just want one more hit of it, so we keep going back.”



Category: Interviews

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