banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

INTERVIEW: RICK BREWSTER, The Angels – April 2015

| 12 May 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW: RICK BREWSTER, The Angels – April 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

The Angels Rick Brewster 01

Embarking on a national tour playing their hits ‘A to Z’, Australian rock legends The Angels have released a new single which is available digitally and on CD and 7” vinyl at the shows – a re-recording of their 1976 breakthrough classic Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again, with a cover of ZZ Top’s La Grange on the B-side.

A to Z Tour:
Fri – 1st May 2015 – The Hamilton Hotel, Hamilton QLD
Sat – 2nd May 2015 – Twin Towns, Tweed Heads NSW
Fri – 8th May 2015 – The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Hindmarsh SA
Sat – 9th May 2015 – The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Hindmarsh SA
Fri – 15th May 2015 – Charles Hotel, North Perth WA
Sat – 16th May 2015 – Charles Hotel, North Perth WA
Fri – 22nd May 2015 – Belmont 16s, Belmont NSW
Sat – 23rd May 2015 – The Factory, Marrickville NSW
Sat – 30th May 2015 – The Palms At Crown, Southbank VIC

European Tour:
Wed – 3rd Jun 2015 – The Garage, London
Thu – 4th Jun 2015 – Le Forum, Vauréal Paris
Sat – 6th Jun 2015 – Sweden Rock Festival, Sölvesborg

Founding guitarist Rick Brewster – the only constant member of the band throughout their long history and many line-up changes – explains their motivation for revisiting the forty-year-old single.

“When the idea came up to do the A to Z tour,” he says, “it wasn’t our idea, it was Bernie Birch, our agent. He just said one day, ‘what about we put together a tour, call it the A to Z tour? You guy have got a big repertoire, I’ll bet you’ve got a song for every letter in the alphabet’, almost jokingly.

“Like the good sports we are, we said, ‘yeah, great idea, let’s do it.’ John [Brewster, Rick’s brother and co-guitarist] then thought it would be a good idea to do the A song and the Z song, to record them and have it available at the gigs to sell. Then the idea went further. We invited people to come to the studio when we recorded it and filmed it. We recorded on analog tape like the old days, and we’re putting it out on 7″ vinyl, as well as CD. Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again obviously had to be the A song. The Z song – well, we didn’t have have a Z, [but] we all like ZZ Top and decided to record La Grange with a blistering harmonica solo from John.

“We thought we would do Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again pretty much exactly as we did it when we first recorded it with George [Young] and Harry [Vanda – producers of The Angels’ early albums] in 1976. Then it was sort of a struggle to try and recapture those guitar sounds, but we came very close. If I put it on now, I could swear it’s the original single.”

The Angels Rick & John Brewster

The harmonica solo on their new version of La Grange is scorching indeed, but Rick said he had to talk his brother into letting loose.

“Yeah, I had to push John to do it. He’s very modest about his harmonica playing. He doesn’t hold his hand up usually to do it. I said from the start, ‘look if we’re going to do La Grange, I don’t want to play a guitar solo. If I want to hear La Grange with a guitar solo, I’ll listen to Billy Gibbons! But it’s a perfect song to play harmonica on.’ And John said, ‘no, I couldn’t do that,’ [but] he did it in one take. We’ve played it live and it goes down really well. It’s one of those songs that I’ve always wanted to play.”


The other letter the band couldn’t fill was Q – and they thought up an innovative answer to that omission – making it stand for Question.

“We’ll just throw that to the audience,” chuckles Rick, “that should be fun. You can request whatever you’d like – hopefully we’ll know how to play it.

“We’ll probably play We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place, which is [another] cover. I can’t remember what other options we’ll add to that later. Some of them, we have two or three songs that we could do for a particular letter, so we might throw that at the audience as well – ‘here are the choices, what do you want to hear?’”

It sounds like a good way to keep it fun and mix things up for the band as well as the audience.

“Oh definitely,” agrees Rock, “mix it up and then play some songs we wouldn’t normally play, because we’ve got the time in a 2 ½ to 3 hour show.”

What prompted The Angels to go old school and press a vinyl single?

“The sound.” He says without hesitation. “Everyone knows vinyl sounds better. It’s weird these days to get an opportunity to hear it on vinyl. It seems to be creeping back in. I was given one for Christmas, a turntable – I’ve cleaned up a few of the old vinyl records. They just sound brilliant. And there’s something about vinyl. Not just the sound either. It’s the fact that you have to turn it over to play side B.

“The thought process that used to go into choosing the first and the last song on side A, and the first and the last song of side B. It could be a huge process to work that out. These days, you hardly even think about the order at all. It tends to be [nowadays], you look at an album and you say, ‘well, I want to hear tracks 3, 7 and 9.’

“I’ve still got an old 78 player as well. I pull that out every now and again and show the kids. They look at it with wonder, like ‘what is this thing?’”

The Angels Rick Brewster and Dave Gleeson

The Brewster brothers have come up with a succession of ideas to keep the band and their music alive and on the road over the last few years. Is it getting harder to get people out to a pub for some good old fashioned rock ‘n roll? Do you need to have a gimmick to make people come out?

“You need to have something to hang a tour off,” says Brewster. “That’s always been the case for any band. You just need a title, really. It’s like coming up with a title for a book I suppose, and an idea. Last year, we had the 40th Anniversary tour. Before that, we’ve done tours based around an album. When we released Talk The Talk, it was called the ‘Talk the Talk’ tour. That’s always been the case with the band, whenever we release a new album, but in between albums, it gets tricky to come up with ideas. There’s always something, right? Like this one, Bernie Birch came up with it, and we thought it was a great idea.”

Last year the brothers did an Eastern States tour of their ‘Brothers, Angels, Demons’ show, in which they delve into their musical upbringing and the good and bad times between them and the band over the decades. Whilst the show hasn’t made it’s debut on the West Coast yet, Brewster is still hopeful they will be able to bring it over sooner rather than later. Working with a sibling for forty odd years, the Brewsters must have had some memorable spills?

“Yeah, definitely. Mostly in the early days,” he admits. “Are we wiser now? Yeah, a bit. You know which buttons not to push. When you’re related closely like that it’s harder than just normal working relationships with a person you’re not related to. People used to leave the room when John and I got going in the early days, as only brother’s can do. It was always about getting the music better, so it was musical differences usually, that would start the argument. It never got physical. He’d hear it one way, and I’d hear it another. We’d either meet down the middle, or one of us would win. Usually the end result was better than either his idea or mine.”

The Angels have been no strangers to controversy and conflict over the years, but it looks like you – as a unit – seem a lot more settled nowadays.

“Definitely,” Brewster agrees. “We’re having fun. It’s like the good old days when we started the band. It’s all come back, the reasons why we started the band – to get out there and have fun and play music and enjoy it. Having people come because they want to hear it, that’s a bonus.”

Things don’t always go smoothly, even for rock legends. Their recent slot in Perth’s Kings Park supporting Billy Idol & Cheap Trick was cut short – though Brewster says it was no internal band problem, but a “comedy of errors” that caused the cut down set.

“It was a couple of things. We had conflicting paper work, the running order that we’d been sent, the worksheet said an hour set. When we got to the venue written on the tent running order, it said 45 minutes, so we decided to go on early to play for an hour. I [wrote a] set that I thought was an hour show – [when we played] it was actually only 45 minutes, maybe because we were rushing in case we played overtime.

“None of us look at the clock when we’re on stage, so we came off, and the crew said straight away, ‘hey guys, you have another 15 minutes.’ So we turned around to go back on stage but in the meantime, the crew had pulled down all the backline and the drums – there was nothing we could do.”

With a successfully 40th Anniversary last year under their belts, and the A to Z tour coming up fast, The Angels are also heading overseas this year.

“Yeah – can’t wait,” enthuses Brewster. “We’re doing one show in London, one in Paris, and then the Sweden Rock Festival.”

It’s been a few years since the band toured Europe, so Brewster isn’t sure whether to expect local fans or Australian ex-pats at the gigs.

“I’m told we do [have a local fan base in these places], but it’s been so many years since we’ve been there that I can’t really answer that question. I’m just told there are a lot of ex-pats living in London. I know that we’ve got a fairly solid fan base in France. The Sweden Rock Festival, that’s another story – it’s not our own show. People come to those shows to see a multitude of acts and we’re one of them. Hopefully we’ll get in front of a big crowd there and blow their socks off.”

That’s what The Angels do, and have done for many years.

“That’s the idea,” Brewster laughs. “We’ve always had the attitude that if we can get up there and put on a show that we enjoy, there’s a very good chance that they are going to like it.”

The Angels

Brewster is under no illusions though, that it’ll be five-star hotels and an entourage: touring a band in the current financial climate is a more frugal operation.

“We’re not taking any crew, otherwise it would be really unviable, [though] it’s not a money making exercise. It’s really to get our foot back in the door in Europe. It’s been a long time. [But] it’s not cheap to get over there and accommodate ourselves, and all that. Still, it’s going to be a really good thing to do.”

Brewster says he is thankful and relieved that nowadays the band are known as The Angels worldwide – a far cry from the awkward ‘80s when, due to a legal conflict with American band Angel, they were variously known overseas as Angel City or The Angels From Angel City.

“I never liked Angel City,” he says with distaste. “It’s a horrible name. But unfortunately because of legal issues we had to come up with something back in 1980.”

The image of Rick Brewster, statue-like on stage even whilst playing fiery guitar solos and hard rocking tunes that virtually defined the Australian pub rock sound, seems a road less ordinary for the young lad who originally trained as a classical pianist and then formed a hillbilly jug band in his teens.

“Yeah, I guess that’s why John and I thought it would make a good show, the Brothers, Angels, Demons show,” laughs Brewster. “It’s the story of The Angels, but really it goes back further. It’s the story of me and John and where we came from, the music running through our family, through the generations. And the chance to get on stage with John’s 3 sons. They’re all fine musicians. Yeah, it is a bit weird to go from playing Beethoven to playing the washboard, then going from that to playing lead guitar…

“[Especially] when I didn’t have a clue how to play lead guitar! It was a very, very steep learning curve, because we already had gigs booked. When John and Doc [Neeson] and I started the electric band, we went straight out on the road, and I just had to give myself a crash course in trying to learn how to play a Chuck Berry solo.

“It took a long time,” he reflects. “Writing my own solos, when we started writing our own songs that was a case of very often liking it in my head, then trying to work out how to play it on the guitar.”

The Angels 02

Even now, Brewster says it’s not all rock n’ roll in his house.

“Do I still sit down at the piano and play? Yeah, I do. I’ve got young kids. They’re both learning piano. I sit down with them occasionally and play a bit of Beethoven. In the Brewster Brothers, I sit behind a keyboard and get an opportunity to play a bit there.”

Rick mentioned playing with John’s three sons in the Brothers, Angels, Demons show, and Sam Brewster is now a permanent member of The Angels. I put it to the guitarist that The Angels could hypothetically live on after he and John retire, with a new generation of Brewsters running the show.

“Yeah, it could easily happen,” he agrees. “I am not about to say that it won’t happen. There has to come a day eventually, when John and I hang up the guitars – not any time in the near future, but I love the thought that it might continue with John’s sons, possibly my children. Who knows?

“Yeah, we’ll see what happens. For many, many years, John and I have taken the strong view that the songs are bigger than the band or the people in the band. It’s really the repertoire. As long as people continue to want to hear those songs, we will find a way to present them that’s going to work.

“We did it with Dave Gleeson,” he continues, “we think we got the best possible replacement for Doc, and that was huge, huge shoes to fill for Dave. I wouldn’t have liked to be in his shoes, stepping in after Doc, but he did it and he did it with grace and he did it brilliantly. It’s well accepted now, after the 4 years with Dave, that he’s the singer with The Angels. We’ve written new songs with him, 3 new albums, and they all just work together with the old ones.”

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad