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INTERVIEW: MICHAEL SPIBY, The Badloves – May 2015

| 4 May 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW: MICHAEL SPIBY, The Badloves – May 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

Michael Spiby heads West this weekend for shows at Friends Restaurant on Thursday 7 May, The Centurion Hotel Friday 8 May, The Charles Saturday 9 May, and The Ravenswood Sunday 10 May, accompanied by Hammond organ player and former Badloves bandmate Tony Featherstone. Rounding out the combo, who will be playing the whole of The Badloves cult favourite debut album Get On Board, will be ex-Baby Animals rhythm section Frank Celenza and Dave Parise.

Michael Spiby 01

I touched base with Michael on a lazy Sunday afternoon and discovered that this isn’t a Badloves tour per se, but it’s close.
100% ROCK: Hi Michael – thanks for your time

Michael Spiby: Pleasure!

100% ROCK: You’ve reformed The Badloves again – what makes the band so enduring that you keep returning to it?

Michael Spiby: Actually this tour is me with some old Badloves friends – but it is a precursor to a reformation. It felt like the right time for a retrospective after a recent reunion with Hammond player Tony Featherstone and bassist Stephen ‘Irish’ O’Preym, with whom I’d not played for 20-odd years. There does seem to be a fairly constant undercurrent from supporters that plays into the equation also. Old bonds are made of strong rope!

100% ROCK: The band have always had more musically in common with American soul and R&B than the more prevalent Australian pub rock. What are your own musical touchstones?

Michael Spiby: For me, soul, folk, old gospel and jazz. I’ve always loved bands like Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil, etc, and to me that is rock, but I never thought of The Badloves as a rock band. I’ve always thought we were lyrically from a very Australian place, and the grounding of our long pub apprenticeship was integral to our sound and attitude. I certainly never thought we were doing anything remotely American!! Even Memphis is a tale of a remote Australian perspective of the Elvis thing.

Michael Spiby 02

100% ROCK: You’ve reformed the Badloves ‘classic’ first album line-up – being older and wiser, are you all on friendly terms nowadays?

Michael Spiby: Yeah, we’ve all got a few bruises and battle scars, but plenty of time and adventures together and apart help make for a strong fabric… it’s not all melodrama! And having families humbles the restless soul. There’s less ‘me’ in the equation these days.

100% ROCK: What’s the likelihood of there being new material from The Badloves?

Michael Spiby: You know, I’m not even touching that one! I’m not keen on strategies or masterplans, so it would need to… come about [naturally]…

100% ROCK: Wikipedia says you started recording a third album in 2009, but nothing ever saw the light of day. What went wrong?

Michael Spiby: We were trying too hard… the approach was measured, contrived and political. There was some nice music but didn’t feel right. A gang needs a cause – that didn’t happen.

100% ROCK: Heading over to Perth are just yourself and Tony Featherstone on keys, and you’re using the ex-Baby Animals rhythm section of Frank Celenza & Eddie Parise as your pick-up band. Have you played with those guys before?

Michael Spiby: Tony has played with those gents and I’ve met them backstage touring together years ago. They’re monster players and I was a huge Baby Animals fan so I jumped at the chance to play with them.

100% ROCK: Was it a purely financial decision not to bring the full band over?

Michael Spiby: No, not so much – though that is an issue with such mileage involved. It’s more that it’s early days for the reformation.

100% ROCK: I believe you’ve been focussing on the first album in your Eastern States gigs early this year, celebrating I guess twenty years since its release: will that be the case this weekend as well?

Michael Spiby: Yeah, that’s the idea. It’s so weird to have had to learn my own songs… I had to listen to our record and I’d happily avoided that for 20-odd years!

The Badloves - Get On Board cover

100% ROCK: I’m guessing that in the past you never played EVERY song off the album live in one hit, so when you revisited Get On Board to ready yourself for this, did it work for you as a whole piece of work immediately, or did you need to rearrange things to make it fit together better?

Michael Spiby: We started playing it verbatim but it felt nonsensical in the live forum, so it’s close to the original sequence and detail now, with a few variations to the running order.

100% ROCK: The Badloves were always an album band as opposed to a ‘hit singles’ kind of band. Do you regret not having a couple more records under your belt as a band, or do you feel you said what you needed to say in the time you were originally together?

Michael Spiby: I definitely enjoyed the long play artform more, and yeah, I thought we had a few more [albums] in us – but it was not to be. Looking back, we were poised for a longer run but our overseas infrastructure was very compromised.

100% ROCK: I’m surprised the band weren’t more popular in The States. Are you aware of a fanbase over there at all?

Michael Spiby: Not one fan that I’m aware of! Again, no serious business in-roads meant we were never in the starting gate in the USA… or anywhere else for that matter.

100% ROCK: What do you feel the brand ‘The Badloves’ stand for in 2015?

Michael Spiby: I have no concept apart from the idea that it has a looseness and a connectedness to a tradition of ‘music for music’s sake’. Some described us as retro and I suppose that’s still valid today if it means our ‘old’ music values are at the expense of theatre… actually I’m not sure what it means… we always had old cars and clothes ‘cos we were always broke. That hasn’t changed!

Michael Spiby 03

100% ROCK: If money was no object, what would you have the band doing for the next couple of years?

Michael Spiby: Precisely what we’re doing – or not doing – now… maybe without the dumbarse side jobs to pay the bills. But just enjoying it in our own sweet time!

100% ROCK: Finally Michael, a quick hypothetical: If you could magically transport yourself to the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you want to go and be a part of, and what does that album mean to you?

Michael Spiby: Oh Man, soooo many of them… that’s cruel. Okay, ‘cause it’s Sunday I’ll cite my Sunday favourite, which has been the case since I was a kid: Cat Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman. I’m not sure I’d want to be a part of it, just a fly on the wall. This LP, like a dozen or so others, reside in some inexplicable part of me for some unknown purpose… I still don’t know why, nor do I care to analyse it. I try not to think about why I float off into the ether whenever I hear them. I’ve never needed chemical misadventure – there’s so much escapist magic in music!

100% ROCK: Thanks again for your time – see you out West!

Michael Spiby: Thanks Shane

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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