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INTERVIEW – Dave Gleeson, Screaming Jets, November 2013

| 4 January 2014

INTERVIEW – Dave Gleeson, Screaming Jets, November 2013
By Shane Pinnegar

An edited version of this story originally appeared in X-Press Magazine’s 27 November 2013 issue

Screaming Jets - Dave Gleeson 01

It’s been a few years between drinks for The Screaming Jets, something singer Dave Gleeson puts down to his commitments as frontman of another iconic Australian rock band, The Angels.

“Well, [Screaming Jets] knew we were gonna take an indefinite break a couple of years ago,” he says, “but it wasn’t gonna be this long – but it was my fault. I started doing some radio, then I hooked up with The Angels and you know, that bred an EP and an album and a couple of tours – I think I’ve done 100 gigs with those guys while I’ve been off the road with The Jets! We went to Japan, and Bali, and did a couple of laps of the country – so I’m back with me wife now, that was like the affair that I had!”

A more laid back bloke you’d be hard pushed to find – Gleeson chats openly as his 9 and 5 year olds terrorize a drumkit on a day home from school.

“I told ’em they’ve gotta play the drums or take ’em back to the drum shop!” he laughs, though it’s perhaps most surprising that he has time to relax, what with The Jets’ return and impending recording plans, The Angels gearing up to release new album Talk The Talk, and his day job hosting a couple of shows on Triple M radio. It’s a far cry from a few years ago when Gleeson could barely get arrested.

“Yeah! 2010 The Jets went off the road – but up til then we’d been struggling for the three years prior to that,” he admits. “People didn’t really know we were out there anyway.

“So I actually had a thought after watching [Micky Rourke movie] The Wrestler – that’s me, I’m that guy, right. I’ve gone from the penthouse to the shithouse, just picking up gigs here and there, so I wanted someone to document it, that here I was just going from gig to gig, so I’d use that time to just get my mojo working [and document that on film].

“But within two months of [starting] that, I landed a job at Triple M in Adelaide, then a month after that The Angels asked me to sing on their EP, and we ended up doing a national tour. Then the radio job went national,” he laughs heartily at the way his fortunes turned around. “That blew me plans out of the window for the movie – ‘cos it was gonna be a tale of being down on me luck and [on my] busted arse, but instead it turned out to be a tale of great joy – no-one wants to see that!”

The Screaming Jets, Gleeson and Woseen on the right

The Screaming Jets, Gleeson and Woseen on the right

The singer isn’t complaining though, in fact he’s loving being out front of not one but two iconic rock bands, and couldn’t be happier with the response The Screaming Jets have had with their tour so far.

“It’s very exciting!” he laughs. “We’ve probably been on the road now for about a month. It’s going nuts, selling out all over the shop, which is fantastic – it’s been a while since we’ve done that”

The time was obviously right to reassume their mantle as one of the Great Aussie Rock Bands, but they won’t just be recycling the oldies – there’ll be a new Screaming Jets studio album mid next year as well.

“Yeah, definitely. Paul Woseen – my long time friend and the other founding member of the band,” he explains, “while I was off doing The Angels, we talked about him writing a whole album, and he’s right down with that and has 25, 26 songs that we’re gonna start demoing in the next little while. So it’s all looking very exciting for our quarter century milestone next year.”

That milestone is looming large in the band’s plans, even though they’re yet to formally decide what they’ll be doing to mark the occasion.

“We love the band, and we love the fact that our fans keep coming out to see us,” he says, “and yeah, obviously there’s been some changes due to all kinds of things, whether it’s musical differences or just people hating each other or whatever – but to still be here after all this time and still have fans coming out of the woodwork… and a lot of young fans now, whose parents or older brothers or sisters were probably in [the crowd in] the heyday, they’re coming to see us now as well, so it’s a great cross section in the crowd.”

Screaming Jets - Dave Gleeson 02

Back in their heyday, as Gleeson calls it, the band were all over radio and the charts with singles Better, Helping Hand, Sad Song and their cover of The Birthday Party’s Shivers, all top 30 hits. Right through the 90’s they played at your local beer barn with disturbing regularity, building as solid a reputation for offstage antics as for their incendiary live shows.

“We kinda always prided ourselves that even at our loosest in our physical beings,” he chuckles euphemistically, “the band have always been really, really tight – we always prided ourselves on that, and had a great stage [presence], I mean I guess that’s something that the fans have come to expect and why they come to see us live. The stage show’s not about the lights or things blown up, or big blown up things onstage, it’s all about the Jets rockin’ out and goin’ nuts, sending sweat flying everywhere!”

Back in the day a gig rarely went past without Gleeson having an on-stage rant, often at the expense of some minority or public figure.

“Yeah, yeah,” he admits with an embarrassed chuckle. “Well the guys, as we’ve grown as a band, my ranting gets stopped by Paul – ‘look, just start [playing]’, he’ll say to the rest of the band and there’ll I’ll be… and they’ll just start playing [laughs]. I’ll still have a rant, but I don’t ramble unless I’ve had a few beers – so I try to make sure I keep my alcohol consumption down before the show so people don’t have to hear the ramblings of a madman!”

Don’t expect them to have completely mellowed with age, though – they’re still planning to play one of their most notorious tracks, F.R.C. – or Fat Rich C***s – they just considered who it might offend first, is all.

“When we were going through the set list and seeing what songs we were gonna put in,” Gleeson explains with a laugh, “we kinda raised the question, ‘are we gonna put FRC in?’ Obviously everyone, or a lot of people, want to hear it, but there’s a lot of people out there in the community who get offended by the big C bomb! But then, you know, you wonder about the relevance… then along comes Clive Palmer and we go, ‘mate – we can’t NOT have it in the set!’ If for no other reason than Clive Palmer, then that’s good enough for me!”

Getting back to talking about the band’s 25th anniversary, Gleeson says a box set might not be possible for logistical reasons.

“We were looking at doing a boxset, but we’ll see how easy that is.” He admits. “We signed to RooArt records, back in 1990 – 1st of May 1990, etched into my brain forever – and all the albums we subsequently brought out were through RooArt, but RooArt went through Warners, and Polygram and BMG and all that stuff, so getting all those albums together seems like it might be a bit of a nightmare, because of all the labels that they’re out on … but we’re definitely gonna have a new album, and some type of retrospective – we can’t let 25 years go without giving it a damn good crack!”

They’re also not about to let the anniversary go by without another national tour – which means Gleeson will be a very busy lad in 2014.

“Yep, I’ve got two [in 2014].” He declares enthusiastically. ”I’ve got The Angels 40th Anniversary tour which kicks off on the 10th January, and then [their] album comes out on the 17th January, So that’ll take me through til March or something like that, so we’ll probably be touring in the second half of next year for the Jets anniversary tour.”

The Angels featuring Dave Gleeson

The Angels featuring Dave Gleeson

Gleeson once described touring with The Jets as “pretty feral”, but it appears they’re a lot tamer nowadays.

“We’re a much more ordered bunch of blokes now,” he laughs. “Because we’re just [touring as the] band now really. We used to be on the road with 5 band, and 6 crew, and a truck and all the ensuing things that go on with 11, 12, 13 people, you know. But when it’s just 5 people and I’ve gotta come home and look after the kids and get straight back on deck after the weekend or a week away. It’s run like a well oiled machine – but people do still sleep in!”

The past few years have seen a few bands from the golden days of Aussie Rock getting back out there and finding audiences have missed them. Gleeson says there’s no surprises it’s come around full circle when you consider the experience these players have.

“The Day On The Green shows have gone through the roof ‘cos there’s no wank about them. You can have The Uncanny X-Men and Boom Crash Opera and Sunnyboys, all these great bands with great repertoires – everyone’s up there for an hour, you get 5 bands, that’s 5 hours of songs you know every bloody word to, and you can rely on the bands to be great players.

“It’s what I was saying earlier about the Jets being tight, no matter how messy you were personally, when you got up on stage, delivering a tight show was a measure of a band. All those bands – the Dragons, The Angels, The Hoodoo Gurus – all those bands, they’re just killing it, they’re gun players, they’ve all got stage presence ‘cos it’s what they’ve been doing all their lives, and it’s taken a while but I think people are beginning to appreciate what we’ve got in our back yard.

“[And] you get all these more than confident musicians up there who play like it’s the last show of their life every night, because you’ve come through the wankery of ‘oh I’m not playing there, man’ or ‘I’m not gonna be on the bill with those guys’! You know, all that stuff – so you just go ‘yeah, unreal!’ and play a killer set in front of 7,000 people – you bet!”

Screaming Jets 02

A big part of The Screaming Jets success was their crossover appeal, being able to confidently deliver a pub rock show, support bigger touring bands in stadiums, as well as appeal to the 90’s indie rock scene. Gleeson reflects on being in favour with – and falling out of favour with – Triple J.

“See, what happened was, we won a Triple J Battle Of The Bands in late ’89, and that got us in touch with Steve James, who produced our first two and our fourth album. And he’s gonna produce the next one as well – he’s just a huge asset to the band. But yeah, we became the darlings of Triple J at that stage, and our first three albums were all albums of the week on Triple J. We made it onto possibly two of the Hottest 100’s, it was right at the beginning of that. Our third album – the self titled one – it was released as a simulcast on the ‘world wide web’ as it was then known, ’95 it was, and on Triple J live. They were all over us. Then a [bad] management decision cost us that relationship, and they never played us again from that day to this.”

Hard to believe that back in those days Australia’s “youth radio network” actually championed the cause of a rock n’ roll band, but by the same token, no other hard rock band was covering artists like The Birthday Party!

“That’s right – that was on our second album,” the singer agrees. “They were playing Better on Triple J in 1991. Which is bizarre [in hindsight]! You can’t have a despot running those type of things as they generally have – they have one top dog running the [station] and making the decisions and there’s no court of appeal after that.”

We’re here to talk about The Screaming Jets tour, but it would be tardy of us to not get the skinny on that new Angels album while we have Gleeson on the phone.

“Yeah, I’ve written 4 or 5 songs on it.” He says proudly, “It’s been unreal – it’s been my favourite, I think, songwriting process so far in my life. Because John and Rick and Nick and Sam, the band, they put down all these tracks that they had vocals to, then they had 7 or 8 that they didn’t have, so John just gave them to me and I came to them in the studio a couple of weeks later, nervous as all get out, and said ‘alright, let me in there’ – and they were like, ‘Wow, unreal – I didn’t even think that WAS a chorus’, you know?

“So it was unreal. I envy Mike Patton because on [Faith No More’s] The Real Thing album, that’s what happened with him – they didn’t have a singer they just had all these tracks, they sent them to him and he just came in and sang on ’em. And I think that’s a great way to write for someone who doesn’t have a great knowledge about chord progressions and stuff like that, so it was awesome.”

An assured and witty interviewee, I muse aloud whether Gleeson’s experience interviewing other artists on his Triple M radio shows has changed his own approach to being interviewed.

Dave Gleeson with Slash & Myles Kennedy

Dave Gleeson with Slash & Myles Kennedy

“Uh, no. I think I interview because of the way I am in interviews. I think I bring that side of me out in interviews, I guess. I don’t ask about families and stuff per se, unless the conversation goes there, and just try to keep the conversation about the music… and with current music that’s the hardest thing, being in radio. Jon Stevens will come in with his new single, or James Reyne, or Todd Hunter from Dragon has got a new single or album and [we play an old hit]. It happens all the time with radio. Even when I go in and say ‘We’ve got a new album and worked with this guy or that guy, we’ve got this great new single off it’ and they’ll go ‘Thanks for coming in Dave, and here they are right now with Better’. It’s just… I mean, radio’s radio, that’s all … you can’t change the world with something like that, but geez it frustrates the crap outta me not being able to whack new songs on rotation, you know?

“The great part for our generation is that there was quite a camaraderie between all those guys in the 80’s, they’re still playing together now, [they] might have had ten years out of the game or out of the spotlight and now they’re getting back into these bigger gigs and there’s a circuit for them all, and it’s very gratifying to know I’ve got another 20 years under the belt before I have to hang the hat up.”

The conversation turns briefly to Gleeson’s two series as a vocal coach on the It Takes Two reality show, something he says he’d do again, but he’s completely against some of the other reality TV shows out there.

“It Takes Two I wouldn’t mind doing,” he says frankly, “that’s just good fun and there’s no big prize or promise at the end of it that you’re gonna be a superstar and all that stuff. It was just kind of everyone having a bit of a crack. A few people got a bit ahead of themselves, I mean, Russell Robertson, one of the footy players, he put out an album then canned the music industry for not supporting him!”

Gleeson laughs loudly before continuing, “that was a little bit silly! But, that was great fun, we just had a real laugh and made some lifelong friends out of that show – but all that other stuff, mate, I’m not into making children feel like idiots! They can do it themselves. They get these 12 year old kids and say ‘what a future!’ and you just go, ‘yeah, it’s gonna be great’ [sarcastically]

“It’s ridiculous – we don’t have the population for it anyway. And exploiting children… they’ve got The Voice Children’s Edition now. They’re turning these kids OFF singing – they might be the most talented singers in the world but if you embarrass them, then years down the track they’re still not gonna be able to shake it. Poor Nathan Cavaleri – the guy’s been in a serious band for years, but they run around remembering him as that little kid with cancer that Mark Knopfler played with, you know? The country’s quite small and you can’t hide from anything that’s gone on in your past.”

Screaming Jets

Our time’s almost up, so hypothetically speaking, if he could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording of any one record in history, Gleeson opts for a stone cold classic.

“I reckon, L.A. Woman by The Doors is where I’d like to be.

“I thought I WAS Jim Morisson,” he says with a self-deprecating laugh. “Like many before me and many after me I was VERY influenced by him. I was reading somewhere the other day, be careful who you choose to idolise, because I idolised that guy until I was 28, so I outlived that guy – and after all the stuff I’ve done, he should idolise me!”

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Shane

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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