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| 3 August 2022 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Legendary Australian band Hard-Ons finally make their way back to Western Australia this week for the final leg of their national tour in support of latest album, the mighty I’m Sorry Sir, That Riff’s Been Taken. They’re bringing not only one of their best albums, plus their unique, world-renowned signature blend of exuberant pop-tinged thrash punk, but also new singer Tim Rogers, a man with his own unique legendary status through his own band You Am I.

Rogers joined the band in the aftermath of a difficult time for the Aussie punk legends, after former singer Keish de Silva was sidelined due to allegations of sexual misconduct, which also saw the cancellation of a much-anticipated crowd-funded documentary about the band.

Today they release a new single from the album, Needles and Pins, which we premiere here:

Showcasing the ever-present (to more or less of a degree) poppier side of the band, Blackie comments wryly, “People usely scoff when I say we’re a pop band – SEE!” Ray Ahn says, “The Hard-Ons are in love with the music and beauty of pop. We wanted Mike Foxall [artist, cartoonist, and guitarist with The Neptune Power Federation], the director, to capture the sentiment and tenderness of the melody – all the while showing some tenderness and light-heartedness.”

One year on from joining the band, Rogers is positively glowing (at least, as much as one can glow down a telephone line) and obviously loving his time with the band.


I’m driving to the airport with the missus, doing a film up in New South Wales and got the mercy call this morning: ‘get up here!’ I guess film shoots as well as any shows, you’ve got to be on your toes and get ready for itineraries to change as people get sick. So, yeah, a little bit of chaos. We’re driving from the country where we live to the big smoke of Melbourne Airport. [he says with an infectious chuckle]

You’ve got a lot going on at the moment – and just when everyone thinks, ‘geez, Tim Rogers has done it all,’ you go and join Australia’s most loved modern underground punk band. That’s exciting!

Well, it was it was on the list of things to do. [both laugh] But, we’ve been friends – Blackie and Ray [founding Hard-Ons mainstays Peter ‘Blackie’ Black and Ray Ahn, guitar and bass respectively] and I – for about 32 years, and always were in touch and loved running into each other, whether it be at their shows or socially. And when I got the call from Ray, I was out on a rare bender and woke up a couple of days later and thought, ‘oh, was that a dream?’ Because Ray would call for just social chats. But my first instinct was, well, a lot could go wrong. But I love these people, and I want to do well. And it became pretty obvious early on that we could work together as well as be friends. They’re just really enthusiastic, they’re music nerds and love getting in and pulling songs apart. And then the shows are a completely different thing altogether – it’s the most physically demanding thing I’ve ever been involved in, INCLUDING playing for the Applecross under 11’s!

Hard-Ons 2021 – Murray Ruse, Peter ‘Blackie’ Black, Ray Ahn, Tim Rogers

I want to talk about those potential risks in a minute, but first of all, did you enjoy the fact that not many people saw you joining the band coming ahead of time?

I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, as such. I was aware that people love the ‘Dons. And I can understand people getting upset or not seeing the value in me joining the band. I completely understood that, and there’s just nothing I can do about it. We’ve got such a wonderful thing going and so we’re happy if that’s going to happen. And it happens at the start of shows [the negativity] – but no-one AFTER a show has tried to stab me yet!

It’s funny, that negative reaction. It seems that no matter what happens in this world nowadays, there’s always going to be a contingent of people whinging and bitching and moaning about it.

Oh, yeah, there’s a great forum for that. But also, I understand that. I love the band – and if they had suggested getting a singer in that I didn’t approve off, I wouldn’t have done anything on social media forums, but internally, I would have grumbled a bit, and then waited to hear the record. Yeah, that’s gonna happen. The forums are out there, but most of all I can completely understand it. And I’m a massive fan, not only of the band for 35 years, but with other bands. When Jimmy Crespo joined Aerosmith I was sceptical. When Joe Perry went solo I was sceptical. And then when you hear the record, you can either hear the value in it or not. But I think with people as astute as Murray [Ruse, Hard-Ons drummer] and Peter and Ray – they’re not silly people, they’re very smart people. And so, when they asked me to join, I didn’t think twice about that. If they think it’s a good idea, then I think it’s a good idea.

I have to say, when I heard the news, I didn’t believe it – simply because it just seemed TOO good to be true.

Oh, that’s very nice of you to say so, thankyou! [humbly]

Hey, you’ve got you and them and 30 odd years of mutual brilliance. I mean, how could it not work, you know?

Yeah, well, I did speak to Peter and Murray and Ray about this a bit, and really, it took until maybe three songs in the rehearsal room before we dared to look at each other and think, ‘okay, this is happening.’ Because when they asked, I just said, ‘look, I’ll drive up, and let’s just bash around in the studio, if that doesn’t work, you know, we’re still friends.’ And I think they had other people in mind as well. I mean, they were still reeling: it was a very, very difficult situation for a lot of people, and I think that I just wanted to bring some joy and some enthusiasm in, at least for that night in the studio, and then if it worked out, we’d push ahead. And now we’re making the new record and that’s all really wonderful. We’re touring and enjoying each other’s company and enjoying each other’s friendship. So yeah, just from a from a very difficult period for them – and a lot of other people – hopefully we can make this music, which if nothing else is joyful.

I’m not the only one who’s been raving about the album – everyone who’s seen a show over East that I’ve read about have raved about the gigs. It’s interesting that something that’s such great union has come about from some particularly bad shit, you know?

Yeah, yeah. Yeah [deep, sad sigh], it is. Yeah, in bad situations, you can’t… it’s definitely not a cure all this, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t understand or know about. And yet, what I can do is bring some joy for periods of time. But no, we can’t cure everything, but we can do what we can do. Really, I think that’s our way of dealing with negative situations. We do what we can. I think the three guys and myself are the same. We can’t fix everything, but we can do what we can do and if it makes us happy, hopefully that radiates to, to our families, to our friends and to strangers and it feels very purposeful, for sure.

Your joining the band seems to have come about very organically. From reading a few different interviews, it sounds like – have a chat, have a jam, feels good, wham – let’s do it.


Was it really that simple, or was there a lot of business stuff to unpack because you’re both established artists with long histories? For instance, did you need to consider the risks of alienating your You Am I bandmates, or…?

Oh no – Rusty was in Hard-Ons thirty years ago – he’s always been very close to those guys. Davey [Lane] has been close to Peter and Ray. When I met Murray, he was the only one guy I didn’t know personally and we just fell into each other’s arms and had a giggle. No, there was no business stuff to handle at all. I told Andy [Kent, You Am I bassist and manager] and Russ [Russell Hopkinson, drums] and Davey [Lane, guitar] and they said ‘fuck yeah!’ and Andy had a quick chat to Ray. It’s really just about dates and making sure that I can be in the same town as everybody at the same time. That’s the only thing. I mean, the other day in Melbourne, You Am I were playing a show that Hard-Ons were playing as well. And we just shared a big dressing room, and everyone knows each other and loves each other and it’s like a bit of a family thing, you know? Maybe, you know, if Murray is needed in the kitchen in his restaurant, Rusty can join in on drums. If Ray hurt his wrist, or similarly you know, if Davey has made a mistake with his hair dryer, Blackie can come and join us. [chuckles] It’s a bit of a family thing going on.

What about lifestyle wise – you’re renowned for having a bit of a rock and roll lifestyle on and off over the years. And I know that Blackie is vegan and I think teetotal, and I don’t think Ray’s much of a drinker. Was there a risk that might clash?

Welllllllllllllll, I want to be respectful of that. [pauses] Ummmm… when the rider came in, Dave, our agent, sent the rider and it was pretty spartan. And I said, ‘no wuckers, I’m here for the band, I’m not here for the booze,’ so I sent [it] back, no worries. And then Murray Ruse, my roommate, sent it back and said, ‘fuck off Rogers – come on!’ [both laugh] So, no, there’s no frowning down about which way to live, but I probably pay more attention to being cognitive and sentient on stage these days so no, there’s no clash. We can go out and eat together, and be coffee snobs together, and little things like, I don’t smoke in a band room, for example. I wouldn’t. I never do. I think the only clash has been on records! There’s a couple of mates of mine, rock’n’roll bands that, you know, Blackie isn’t a fan of – and that’s the only time there’s ever any clash. Really, the whole “rock n’ roll” thing is misunderstood as being irresponsible, but we’ve got to make sure that we get on stage and play the best show possible or if the night is horrible. I mean, when you mentioned before about there being anything that needs to be sorted out, as Ray has mentioned far more eloquently than I have, I understand the DNA of the band, and we get on, so there was never any need to talk about any lifestyle stuff.

How did you find the experience of recording an album where you weren’t the primary songwriter?

Oh, it was great. It was fantastic. Like, Blackie is the least pretentious songwriter in the world, and I’m the most pretentious – so we talked a little about the scansion of lyrics, but there’s not a lot changed. I only did lyrics to two songs, and there’s not a lot changed from the demos. Blackie and I are quite similar singers in that we don’t find singing easy – we have to physically really work at it so that we understand that. It was just a joy because his rhythm sense when writing lyrics is very different to mine. And so that’s a joy. I was sick of myself twenty years ago! And these new songs are out of control to sing on. We’ve written some together, and others are just 100% him, some are 50-50 Ray and me, and Murray gets in there. It’s wonderful!

On a similar note, was it unusual to get on stage and just be the singer rather than have a guitar to occupy your hands?

No, it’s been great!

On the ARIA performance of Know Your Product, I couldn’t help but think there was a bit of Iggy Pop dancing going on.

Well, if you can dance like Iggy…

Why wouldn’t you? Absolutely.

He’s a great dancer. Really, I act on stage pretty much the way I used to dance at shows when I was 17. It’s really good dance music – I don’t have to think about it at all. I don’t warm up body wise at all. I really don’t even think about it, when the music starts, I just want to dance. So I do the easy thing – I don’t think about dancing like Iggy, but I’m a massive fan – we all are, so if you can move like him, why wouldn’t you? I mean, why would you suppress that? Maybe with a little bit of David Johansson [from The New York Dolls]. Oh yeah, and a little bit of Patty [Smith], a little bit of Ari Up [The Slits]. It’s all in there somewhere.

And it’s all good. You, Blackie and Ray have all said in different interviews that you weren’t as interested in revisiting the most lauded, very early era of the band so much, which many think of as their favourite era. Instead, you wanted to have a go at some tracks from their more recent albums. Did you see this as an opportunity to get some of those songs into ears which may not have heard them before?

Yeah, exactly. I think the past seven Hard-Ons records are my favourites. I mean, I started seeing the band in ‘86 and I love those early records but then they’re not as good as the rest – So I Could Have You Destroyed, Peel Me Like An Egg, Alfalfa Males – I just think those records are vast in their reach. So I can only approach that as a fan and it’s not a difficult thing. I was actually gonna suggest when we get to WA that we play some really older songs and some early singles, just for the hell of it – but I think those guys have played those songs a couple of thousand times, and we want to play the newer songs, I want people to hear those songs on those records. But it’s been on my mind that maybe when we get to Perth we’ll play some stuff from Love Is A Battlefield…, or even some of their earliest singles just for the hell of it. It’s been a while since the band’s been to Perth, so we’ll throw the setlist around a little bit.

Are you finding that it’s still just diehard Hard-On fans in the crowd, or are you getting some more You Am I fans who may never have listened to Hard-Ons coming in to see what all the fuss is about?

I don’t know – I don’t hang around after shows, I get out of there pretty quick smart. There are some diehard fans wishing me harm at the start of the show, but they tend to dissipate into a dancing crowd by about four songs in, and we’re not there to appease anybody or win anyone over, we’re there to have good time ourselves. I want to be there with my friends and have a great night. If you try and win over an audience, I don’t know… it seems to me a bit of a wasted energy with this music. Because once we’re in the pocket, and we’re in the zone, everyone’s invited. There’s been no trouble before the shows, just some fellas and girls give me a bit of jip. But I know I’m going to be singing with my favourite band. So that’s the way you get, not revenge, but you just show ‘em – there’s a potential here for you to have the best fun you’ve ever had, so if you’re not going to join in just clear out of the way, because we’re going to proceed to have a very, very deeply good time!

It sounds like it’s a really comfortable place for you all, which is awesome to hear. I’m so glad it’s all come together and worked the way I’d hoped it would.

Oh, it’s not comfortable. I mean, I’m completely intimidated by those guys. I love them but they’re very intimidating musically. So it’s joyous, but I’m nervous every day when I’m driving to the show or riding my horse to a show. It’s really intimidating – and that’s great. I mean, I get anxious and nervous, but then, like, Blackie smiles at you and it’s beautiful and so you just try and bludgeon the crowd over the head! [laughs]

I read an interview with Ray where he said that when you first joined the band they asked you what can you do that’s fantastic. And your response was, ‘well, quite a lot actually’ which just seemed absolutely perfect to me.

Ha! Well, that’s a little bit of humour there. My scope is pretty limited talent-wise, but as Ray has said as well, I get the most out of a pretty narrow set of skills. But I’m enthusiastic, I don’t complain about much with them. It’s pretty much all gravy really! So, I guess at a point I was saying, ‘I’ll do what I can, you know, I’ll try and do a good job’ and then at a point you go, ‘well, look, they’ve entrusted me so fucking, I’m going to go full tilt, and if it means occasionally putting on a little pair of gold shorts or getting the gear off or dancing like a dervish, then I will!’ You can apologise for your chutzpah only so much. And there’s certain things where you’ve got to go there, just put the trust in me and I’m going to fucking take that [challenge] up, take the banner and run with it.

In the last couple of years, You Am I’s latest album has been fantastic – really one of your best albums. You’ve played New York’s Central Park with the band. You’ve joined one of your favourite bands, AND released another fantastic album with them. I noticed in your recent interview with Liam Gallagher, you quoted F Scott Fitzgerald, who suggested there’s no second acts in American life. Do you feel like you’ve proven that statement wrong with your last couple of years, given that it feels like a big resurgence for you?

Ahhhhhh… it doesn’t feel like a second act to me because I’ve just been plugging away and working the whole time. And when I started to lose the love for it, I just went and got another job – I bartended for as long as I could before the pandemic hit and I had to stop working there. And even that felt like just part of the job. I’m aware that from a distance it can look like a bit of a second act, but I never really stopped, I only stopped performing. I didn’t stop writing songs. And I stopped performing because I fell out of love with it. And I thought that physically I was not able to do it without harming myself. And even F Scott Fitzgerald himself had an incredible second act – I tried talking about it with Liam but we had precious little time, so Liam and I talked more about other fun stuff, and about mutual friends, so I didn’t want to intellectualise it too much. Because again, F Scott Fitzgerald even stepped back from that quote, and felt that it had been misquoted. So, I don’t feel like I ever really stopped.


Thursday 04 AUG: Prince of Wales, Bunbury + LEECHES + OCEAN DRIVE
Friday 05 AUG: Amplifier, Perth + SEAWITCH + LEECHES
Saturday 06 AUG: Indian Ocean Hotel, Scarborough + SEAWITCH + THE SECRET BUTTONS
Sunday 07 AUG: Mojos, Fremantle + RINEHEARTS + THE SHAKEYS

Category: Interviews

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