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INTERVIEW – RICK BREWSTER, The Angels – July 2016

| 27 July 2016 | Reply

INTERVIEW – RICK BREWSTER, The Angels – July 2016
By Shane Pinnegar

The Angels - Rick Brewster 01

Australian legends The Angels bring their Hardwired tour way out West this weekend for another blast of full force rock n’ roll taking in Broome, Perth and Ravenswood, and they’re bringing Kiwi electro rock pioneers Mi-Sex along for the ride. SHANE PINNEGAR got founding guitarist Rock Brewster on the blower for a chinwag.

Fri – 29th Jul 2016 – Roebuck Bay Hotel, Broome WA
Sat – 30th Jul 2016 – Charles Hotel, North Perth WA
Sun – 31st Jul 2016 – Ravenswood Hotel, Ravenswood WA
Fri – 5th Aug 2016 – Waves Nightclub Wollongong, Towradgi NSW
Sat – 6th Aug 2016 – Belmont 16s, Belmont NSW
Fri – 12th Aug 2016 – The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Hindmarsh SA
Sat – 13th Aug 2016 – The Governor Hindmarsh Hotel, Hindmarsh SA
Fri – 19th Aug 2016 – Chelsea Heights Hotel, Chelsea Heights VIC
Sat – 20th Aug 2016 – Doncaster Shoppingtown Hotel, Doncaster VIC
Fri – 26th Aug 2016 – Dee Why RSL, Dee Why NSW
Sat – 27th Aug 2016 – Wenty Leagues, Wentworthville NSW

Now more than forty years into an astonishingly successful career, The Angels need no reason to tour, and walk the boards over here regularly. Surprisingly though, this will be the first time Mi-Sex have been here for many, many years – definitely the first since Steve Balbi stepped in as vocalist.

“Yeah, we’ve known them since the eighties,” says Brewster. “It might have even been 1979, I don’t know. But, we used to see a lot of them round the traps, doing the same sort of gigs. You know, the Bondi Lifesaver, the Stage Door Tavern, whatever. They were always a great band and always put on a really interesting show. I caught up with them again recently in New Zealand. We toured with Mi-Sex and Dragon. They were fantastic with Steve Balbi out front. He’s as good a match for that band as Dave Gleeson is for us.”

The Angels Hardwired

Brewster confirms that value-adding a show is important nowadays to give people the incentive to go out, and stresses that the band – although stylistically a little different from The Angels’ straight ahead rock n’ roll – is a great fit.

“Yeah, they’re quite theatrical. They’ve got good songs. It’s a rock show but it’s a little bit different. It always goes through our head, ‘what’re we going to do next?’ It gets harder and harder, I suppose. This was just serendipity – they happened to be with us on [some shows] and we just went, ‘yep, we can see a tour out of this.’”

Last year The Angels took their A – Z tour around the country, performing a song from their repertoire for every letter of the alphabet. Brewster reminisces fondly about those shows.

“Oh yeah, that was a long show. I reckon I had the hardest job because I stand still – all I wanted to do was move my feet. It was a great opportunity to play some songs we don’t normally play.”

The band followed that with The Red Hot Summer Tour over Easter on the East Coast. It’s clear that they’re not thinking of retirement any time soon/

“Nah. Can’t afford to retire, mate,” he quips. “We love it, we really do. We just love getting on stage and singing our songs. We’ve been doing it for over forty years. We don’t get sick of it.”

Speaking of The A – Z tour and the band dusting off some gems from their back catalogue, Brewster goes on to ponder the set list for the Hardwired tour.

“I’m sure we will [mix it up a bit]. I mean, there are certain songs we always play and that’s as much for ourselves as for the audience: songs like Marseille, Take a Long Line and No Secrets. We do some of those but we always pick our brains to come up with a few different ones, new songs or something slightly left of centre.”

The Angels - Rick and John Brewster

With such a huge back catalogue to choose from (thirteen studio albums, in total), it must be an almost impossible task to write a set list that balances deep cuts for the die-hard fans, with the songs that they’d get lynched without playing.

“It gets hard, I must admit,” says the master of understatement succinctly, before admitting that he did actually have to relearn one song more obscure song recently. “Yeah, we resurrected a song that I don’t even remember ever playing live, off the Skin And Bone album. We’ve been playing that recently and… I can’t even remember the name of the song now… I did have to do a fair bit of relearning for that one. Call That Living, that’s the song I’m thinking of.”

The word on the streets (well, on their last tour press release, at least) is that The Angels will be recording a new album later this year. It seems Brewster didn’t get that memo…

“Well, I don’t know. Who told you that?” he says querulously. “It’ll have to happen… I’m not going to put a date on when we’ll record, but we will. We’ve got some songs written but not worked up with the band. It’ll happen in due course when we get a breather.”

Brewster continues, giving us a glimpse into the songwriting process for The Angels, saying he has plenty of ideas stockpiled.

“Ideas, yeah – I certainly do. I’ve got [old] cassettes with ideas that I still haven’t dragged out. Thing is, you just keep coming up with them. I’ve got an iPhone full of them as well… [the riffs], they’re the ideas, and that’s the easy part. The rest – writing actual songs – that gets to be hard work sometimes. I prefer doing it by myself and then taking a virtually finished song to the group. There’s always more ideas that get thrown in.”

The Angels 02

Attention spans and audience tastes have changed dramatically over the past forty years, and road testing material isn’t something they get to do as often any more.

“Not really – not likely,” he confirms. “In the distance past, we’ve recorded albums and gone out and played that whole album, or nine songs. It’s a hard one to put across when an audience are there wanting to hear Take A Long Line, and you’re just playing songs they haven’t heard before. You get varied reactions.

“It’s just a juggling act – it depends on the show too,” Brewster continues. “I think pub crowds, the audience expects to hear a few different songs. When you’re doing something like The Red Hot Summer Tour or A Day On The Green, and you’ve only got a short time – you know, fifty minutes or something – you’re really playing to people who only want to hear the ones they know.”

Having played pretty much every venue in Australia, from the big stages going back to the days of Bindoon and Narara, to every shitty suburban beer barn – and just about everything in between. Does the band have a favourite venue amongst them all?

“Well…” he ponders thoughtfully, “I’m not saying this cause I’m talking to you and you’re in Western Australia, but the Charles Hotel actually is one of a handful of surviving pub gigs that’s great. The Bridge Hotel in Sydney is another one, but most of those have gone. I used to have a number of favourite venues – The Bondi Lifesaver. The Cloudlands Ballroom in Brisbane was an AMAZING venue, but both of them got knocked down decades ago.”

The Angels 01

The Angels also returned to Europe for the first time in many years at the end of 2015 for a few shows, taking in London, Paris, and the enormous Sweden Rock Festival. Brewster confirms that the gigs went very well.

“Oh, [Sweden Rock] was massive. The festival – I’ve never seen anything that big. Every day through the gates, they were pulling a hundred and thirty thousand people. Yeah, that was amazing. I think, six or seven stages, all with simultaneous performances. We must have played to about ten thousand people I guess – went down great.

“In Paris, we did a sold out show to, actually mostly people who had seen us with Cheap Trick in 1980. I gathered that from talking to a few of the patrons before and after the show. They were all asking how come it took thirty-five years for us to come back. That audience was stand out. I’ve never seen anything like it. They sang not just the lyrics but the guitar solos – they were as loud as the band!”

Brewster confirms they’re hoping to get back there – and to The States – sooner rather than later.

“Oh, we’d like to, yeah. It certainly makes sense. We’ve had a couple of offers to go back to America, but so far I haven’t taken anything up.”

With time running out, we touch quickly on up and coming Aussie bands, with Brewster name checking one in particular.

“I haven’t seen many, to be honest – one stand-out band is Tracer. They’re an Adelaide band. They’re fabulous. [But] it’s a horrible situation for young bands [now], I would think.”

As much as it would be nice to pursue the subject, I have only time for one quick question – and I want to know why Rick and brother, fellow Angels founding member John, haven’t brought their Brothers, Angels & Demons show to Western Australia.

The Angels - Brothers Angels Demons

“Yeah, we’re just about to start that [again],” Brewster explains. “Unfortunately we’re not going to Western Australia, not this tour anyways, but hopefully we will. It’s a different kind of show – five Brewsters on the stage, John’s three sons and John and myself. We just basically take it through from our beginnings playing in the Moonshine Jug Band in Adelaide, meeting Doc [Neeson] and starting The Angels, and more recently starting The Brewster Brothers.

“Hopefully we will [get over to Western Australia]. We’ve had a lot of requests to take it there, so we’ll see.”

Category: Interviews

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