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INTERVIEW – LINK MEANIE, The Meanies – November 2015

| 5 December 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW – LINK MEANIE, The Meanies – November 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

It’s been 21 years between the last full album from The Meanies and this year’s It’s Not Me It’s You, which the seminal Aussie punk four-piece are bringing to Perth for Amplifier Bar’s Not So Sweet 16th birthday party on Friday, 4th December, supported by Sugar Army, Chainsaw Hookers and more. SHANE PINNEGAR spoke with chief rabble-rouser Link Meanie.

Link Meanie 01

The Meanies were Big Day Out regulars through the early ‘90s, spearheading the indie rock scene in this country and touring with – and influencing – such acts as the Nirvana, The Lemonheads, Beastie Boys and Pearl Jam. It’s a fine pedigree, but apart from an EP or two and a few sporadic shows here and there, The Meanies camp has been far too quiet for far too long. But why now for a new album?

“Why not?” Link Meanie audibly shrugs. “I’m not going to leave it at that, don’t worry… we’ve been talking about doing a new album for the last 15 years and just being the hopeless cunts we are, we never really got around to it. We were just taking it pretty casually since 2000, really. Just playing a handful of shows every year and we all had other bands that were taking up most of our time.

“We just got to that point where it just felt right. The 25th anniversary probably played a big part in that, getting all our records re-released and just raising the excitement level a little bit. [Bassist] Wally [Meanie]’s been pushing me to record a bunch of old demos – a lot of them I did in the early ‘90s – for a long time and I resisted it thinking that, oh look, I can just write new stuff if we’re going to do it; but I never really got around to it. He finally twisted my arm. I’m glad he did because it would’ve been a shame to waste a lot of those songs, they’re really quite good. I just had to tweak some of the lyrics a little bit. I’m very happy with how the album’s gone.”

The new album does indeed sound like classic Meanies, but not all of the tracks have been resurrected from old demo tapes.

“No, not all of them, probably about 70%,” Meanie clarifies. “There are two or three that were written in the last five years, I guess. There’s songs like You Know The Drill, Kill, and the other one escapes me, but they’re a little less classic Meanies, melodic kind of stuff.”

The Meanies 2015 01

Despite it being about twenty years since their most popular album, 10% Weird, Meanie hasn’t stockpiled a lot of songs, preferring to use them for other bands in the ensuing years.

“I hadn’t really been writing for [The Meanies]. I tend to… I’m always putting ideas down, I’ve got thousands of ideas, but tend to usually be writing in the style of what I’m doing at the time. The Meanies was always one of those bands, apart from the late ’80s, early ’90s, where I would write with a date in mind to record, you know what I mean. Whereas most of the time I’m writing stuff [other bands]… I was doing The Bakelite Age, and there was Tomorrow People before that, and now mostly of the ideas I put down are centered around Sun God Replica, which is… that’s my baby. The Meanies is more like a family band, it’s just a really good time, good fun doing it with the guys. We’ll see how I feel about it now that we’re amping up the touring,” he says with a wry chuckle, at least half joking.

“No, it’s never been in a better place with The Meanies. Love the guys and we play better than we ever did and have a little more self-control with not getting too drunk before we play. Just paralytic as opposed to a ‘getting dragged off the stage three songs in’ sort of level.”

Despite the band members all focussing more on their other bands over the past decade or two, Meanie says he has definitely noticed a groundswell of interest in hearing more from The Meanies.

“We were off the radar a bit for a long time because we didn’t really make any great effort to push the band, we just played shows here and there. There’s been a lot more interest since the Poison City Records & Tim Records reissued some of our stuff and we’re starting to get back on the map, as it were. More & more people are asking about us – that’s really nice.”

Meanie & his bandmates were proud that the vinyl reissues came about, but don’t ask them about sales figures or chart performances…

“I actually have no fucking idea. I really don’t,” he deadpans. “That’s something I used to do, when we started out in the early ’90s I’d always be on the phone, ‘how many have we sold?’ and judged our success on that. Now it’s kind of like, I think about it differently. I’m just happy and feel quite privileged that’s someone’s taken enough interest to re-release these records. It’s just a really nice vibe where I’m not stressed about anything like success. It’s just really fun to do.”

That sounds like the perfect segue into why The Meanies broke up in the first place. There was talk of a lot of pressure and stress and health issues and all that sort of thing. Does Link have any regrets taking that step back in the late ‘90s?

“The only reason I regret it is purely on a monetary level,” he confesses. “We were at a point when we broke up, where we were just starting to go up to that next level and we quit and then a lot of these other bands that were supporting us and playing with us went on and took advantage of that. Not cynically, but they just kept going. It would be nice to have a little more security in my life, but on an artistic level I don’t regret it at all. I was pretty off my head, going a bit crazy at the time and I just couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t an option to keep going at that stage.

“Nowadays I just… because I didn’t really enjoy touring that much back then, particularly long overseas tours. Nowadays I just want to be doing it non-stop, you know.”

Link Meanie 02

There comes a time in many bands’ lives where they could look back and go, ‘well we could’ve gone up to the next level and crossed over into the mainstream a bit more – but would we have killed ourselves fucking doing it?’

“Well I think there’s a good chance of that,” admits Link, confirming come of the crazy stories of hedonistic abandon that circulate around the band’s history like flies on a corpse. “Not that we… we didn’t think of it in terms of going to a mainstream level, we just thought of it in terms of reaching a wider audience on the same label that we were on, if you know what I mean. We would’ve stayed with Au Go Go and just kept doing it.

Doing it on their own terms nowadays certainly seems a better, more comfortable fit for The Meanies.

“Yeah, totally,” agrees the singer/guitarist. “As I said, it’s just a completely different feel to the environment back then. Nowadays it feels like fun, it feels like there’s no pressure to succeed. Having said that, we want to reach as many people as we can and it’d be nice to do well at it. I don’t feel any of the old attachment to my ego. If it doesn’t do well, you know what I mean. I probably feel that more with Sun God Replica because that’s more where I’m at currently with creating music.

“Having said that, I was very pleased with how the album came out. I went in there not really knowing what to expect because we hadn’t done Meanies in such a long time recording. I’ve really got infected by it and was so chuffed with how the production of it and the songs, how they came out. It’s very nice.”

Having recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, surely that makes partying more difficult?

“No, I just drink gin instead of beer,” he says plainly. “I don’t know that I drink any less, I just drink in a wiser fashion. And don’t drink too much before a show. I’ll drink a fair bit before a show, but not so much that I can’t operate, which is what was happening particularly towards the end of The Meanies. As I said, there’d be shows where fucking… I was just gone and I was being dragged off the stage and we’d only done three or four songs. It was a really horrible atmosphere towards the end for me.”

The 2006 The Meanies: A Seminal Australian Punk Tale DVD included a documentary titled Sorry ‘Bout The Violence, and a meanies gig twenty years ago was no place for the faint-hearted. Much of the violence though, occurred onstage, with Meanie often subscribing to the Iggy Pop School Of Self Harm, not to mention collateral injuries sustained from falling or being wrestled off the stage. Are Meanies gigs a little tamer now?

“A little tamer onstage?” Meanie repeats incredulously. “No, no, not at all. No. I’ve got the pain to vouch for it. No, I just think it’s just the delivery and just being a little more professional about it. As I said, not getting too wasted before a show is the main difference. I still love knocking them back and I still love partying. I love getting out on the road more than I ever did. The intensity is 100%.”

What’s going on inside Link Meanie that makes him so desperate to purge himself with music and with violence?

“It’s kind of hard to answer that without sounding like an emo,” he says honestly, taking a pause before continuing. “But… I’ve always been, ever since I was a kid, a very fucking unhappy person and a very anxious person. To me it’s just music in general, playing live is the best way I know of softening that, taking the edges off that sort of stuff. A lot of it, I guess if you want to get into the psychology of it, a lot of your identity is tied up with what you do and without that I’d probably feel like a big loser. Yeah, that’s my answer.”

Meanie admits childhood wasn’t the best time for him and a lot of his adult angst probably stems from that unhappiness.

“A difficult childhood… hmmm… I didn’t really like being a child. People have a lot worse than my childhood, but as I said, a lot of it was internal, I was just a miserable little shit.

“Did I never feel like I was sat where I was supposed to be? Oh totally, yeah. I was also horribly OCD when I was young, too, so I’d be making noises and couldn’t concentrate and found it socially fucking terrible and found it pretty hard to stay in relationships with people. I’ve never felt really comfortable. Now I’m at a much better place than I’ve ever been, even ten years ago I was very unhappy, or less than that. I’m feeling pretty good these days.”

With the new album has come interest not only from fans around the world, but also offers to tour overseas.

“We’re looking at hopefully heading over early next year to Europe and doing an extensive tour for the album,” he says, perking up instantly. “We’ve got some good publicity being generated over in Spain at the moment. We’ll have to look at the rest of Europe, but that’s kind of like it’s starting to generate some nice interest, which is good.”

The Meanies 2015 02

Link Meanie sounds like a man who has come into his own a lot in recent years, having worked out the hard way what works for him and what doesn’t. He’s learnt to enjoy the good times, and has no doubt he’ll hold himself together for whatever touring schedule The Meanies embark upon.

“Yeah, oh definitely,” he says happily. “I just did one with Sun God Replica for six weeks and I didn’t really have a problem with that. Yeah, it’s going to be great!”

An edited version of this interview first appeared in X-Press Magazine’s 25 November, 2015 issue

Category: Interviews

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