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IN CONVERSATION WITH – Tex Perkins, THE APE

| 6 August 2014 | Reply

IN CONVERSATION WITH – Tex Perkins, THE APE
By Shane Pinnegar

I wasn’t having a good day. Everything that could’ve gone wrong had gone wrong – including mistakenly thinking that ‘Sexy Texy’ – reknowned for his work with Beasts Of Bourbon, The Cruel Sea, Tim Rogers, Rockwiz TV show and more recently in theatre with The Man In Black Johnny Cash tribute show – was calling in when I should have been calling him.

Tex Perkins 01

Tex & his latest outfit, the very primal The Ape will be out West for two special shows at The Astor Lounge on Friday 22 August, and Mojos Bar in Fremantle on Saturday 23 August. Both shows will be supported by the ‘Greatest rock n’ roll band in the suburb’ KISSTake, and The Painkillers. Tex then starts another season of The Man In Black at The Regal Theatre in Subiaco from 26 August.

The Ape features Perkins singing & playing guitar alongside guitarist Raul Sanchez (of Magic Dirt fame), drummer Gus Agars of Tex’s band The Dark Horses and bassist/pianist Pat Bourke, and when I finally got Tex on the line to talk about THE APE he was in a fine and dandy mood, never too far from a one liner or self-deprecatingly playful put-down, and we got to grips with this simian story.

The Ape 01
100% ROCK: Hey Tex, how’re you doing today.

Tex: Alright. Alright. How’re you?

100% ROCK: I’m having a perfect shit storm of a day, but we can rise above that as of now, I reckon.

Tex: I will be the eye of the shit storm for you.

100% ROCK: There’s a quote right there. Very nice! So let’s start at the start. How did the Ape come to be? I know you’ve played with Pat and Gus before.

Tex: Yes. The choice of the personnel was kind of obvious, really – I met Raul twelve years ago, and we’d been sort of hanging out together, mucking around on four-tracks, and I used to get up with Magic Dirt when we were at the same festival and things like that. So we’ve been friends for a long time. I knew somewhere down the track that me and Raul were destined to work together.

And Gus is my go-to drummer for everything, pretty much. If somebody else hasn’t got him already, he’s the one I turn to for the beats. And Pat’s great as well. Pat’s been in a lot of the things I’ve done over the years, too.

These songs, some of these songs have been sitting around for a while. They didn’t quite fit anywhere else, so I would sort of write these songs and I would demo them without really having any plan of where they were going to end up, so they would just go on what I would call the ‘Ape pile.’ The Ape pile started to get larger and larger – it became a steaming pile of Ape material.

100% ROCK: I was going to ask, what came first, the music or the band name?

Tex: The Ape is a nickname I’ve had for a long time. I’m sure, mostly, my friends call me that behind my back… I’m sure it’s a term of endearment.

PICEDITOR-SHD

100% ROCK: Some affection in there somewhere, definitely.

Tex: But it just seemed with this other bunch of material that it didn’t really belong anywhere. It didn’t even belong in my solo career. But it was very much my kind of material. But it has a certain – I’ve just always referred to it as ‘The Ape.’ It’s kind of another me. Another more simplistic, rock ‘n roll-edged solo stuff. The nickname came first and then the songs. Then it just seemed obvious that the band should be called The Ape.

I AM The Ape. It’s like Bon Jovi. It’s the name of the singer, but it’s also the name of the band.

100% ROCK: There’s a comparison I haven’t heard before, definitely. How important was it to get bandmates on board that you knew and trusted and were friends with?

Tex: As I say, I always thought Raul would be good. On the demo versions of these songs, Pat Burke plays on them and Raul plays on some of it. There was a precedent set with those guys. They were already kind of involved.

I had a criteria. There was going to be no short guys in this band. There was going to be no bald guys. And no fat guys, of course.

The Ape - The Ape CD cover

100% ROCK: Right on. When you decided to go ahead with this as a proper project and you said, ‘alright, we’re The Ape,’ what was the vibe like when you all got together in the room and started jamming on the songs?

Tex: The thing was, I had this material very much prepared. As I said, Pat and Gus had a bit to do with the demo, so basically, how it came about is I had a couple of Tex gigs [last] January. The people I would usually do a gig like that with, say Charlie Owen or James Cruikshank, weren’t around. So I looked over at the steaming pile of Ape songs, and I thought, maybe it’s time.

So there wasn’t a lot of jamming going on. Basically I just burned a disc of all these songs in their demo forms, and I sent it to all the guys. They were very respectful of those demos and understood what was good about them. So what was good about them was retained, and they brought us their own magic with it. But they really understood what was important about those demos. We really had a game plan already established. There wasn’t a lot of, ‘I wonder what this is going to be like.’

100% ROCK: There’s a real raw, garage-y, early Stones-y feel to a lot of the material. What were your musical touchstones for the songs?

Tex: Well, the early concept when I was doing the demos was I would get a hip hop loop, a drum loop, and I would just riff on top of it. A lot of the riffs had this feel to them, sort of like You Really Got Me – that sort of simple, ’60s almost, almost hard rock but not quite. There was just a juxtaposition of riffy ’60s kind of riffs with this very funky hip hop bit.

For a long time, I thought that was it – I think that’s why the project sort of sat in the corner for a long time. Because I couldn’t figure out how to take the next step with this material. I thought that it was important that I kept the hip hop drum loop feel to it. It wasn’t until I decided that, no, no, this is going to be played by a band that it really came to life properly.

100% ROCK: You’ve gone on record saying ‘this is the album [you] were born to make.’ And ‘It’s easily the best thing I’ve done or ever will do.’ How much of that is publicity rhetoric and how much of that is heartfelt?

Tex: Fifty-fifty, I’d say.

100% ROCK: That’s fair. I’ll give you that.

Tex: Right. I was asked for a quote. And rather than saying, ‘here’s another Tex project’… but it is, in some ways – there is a truthful line in the middle of that quote which was significant to me.

We did our first gig in Melbourne at the Cherry Bar. This fellow called Ritchie who has been a fan of mine for a long time, and he’s run the Tex unofficial website. I call him the president of my fan club. He said, ‘this is the band I’ve been waiting for you to do all these years.’ I think he came in on The Cruel Sea, and he really loved that. He’s kind of liked a lot of stuff that I’ve done. But really his heart was – The Ape sort of brought it all together. The Ape, to him, he said it was a bit scarier than The Cruel Sea and not quite as intense as the Beasts. So somewhere in the middle of those two. It’s a rock ‘n roll band, but it’s got a lot of swing and funk in it.

The Ape with KISSTake Perth August 2014

100% ROCK: You’re right. It’s got that raw groove to it. You seem pretty restless musically – you’re often bouncing between your older bands. You mentioned The Cruel Sea and the Beasts Of Bourbon there, you’ve got your solo stuff, you’ve got the Dark Horses, Ladyboyz, you did the TNT thing with Tim Rogers. You sort of jump around a lot. How long term a project are you treating the Ape?

Tex: The Ape is my central band. All those bands that you just mentioned and their activities, these days are based on invitation and opportunity. Like for instance the Beasts Of Bourbon will be offered a gig somewhere. And we’ll go, ‘oh, okay, yeah, let’s do that.’ The Cruel Sea got offered to do some A Day On The Green gigs [but] we don’t really have an intention to do a new album. I’m happy to sort of draw on those bands’ histories.

But with the Ape, it’s an actual sort of ongoing, original group. It’s really the centre of my creativity at the moment. The dynamic and the personalities in The Ape feel so comfortable. It’s almost a dangerous sort of comfortable. When The Ape gets together, we enjoy each other’s company so much and it’s so easy that the hours pass very quickly. With a lot of other bands that I’m sort of just in and out, we do our jobs and we walk away.

That’s another thing, why the personnel of The Ape was chosen because I just get along with all these guys so easily. There’s no stress, no tension. There’s no problems, no drama. We have a lot of fun. I know some people say that conflict is good for creativity, but I’ve had a gutfull of conflict as a source of creativity. I’m happy to just have fun, just get on with it.

100% ROCK: Talking of conflict, you did a bunch of shows [in 2013] with Beasts Of Bourbon. In the past, you’ve described that band as “a toxic environment. Lots of people should have a good hard look at themselves.” Yet you keep going back and doing shows with them. Why do you put yourself through it if it’s that much of a trial?

Tex: What I’m probably more referring to is touring with that band. There’s a big difference between doing a couple of gigs out of the blue and being in a bus with somebody for six weeks, and dealing with the smell of urine and vomit and just constantly belligerent drunken behaviour. I love all those guys as their true selves, but we all have that different self once you get deep into a tour. Everyone becomes kind of a worse version of themselves, and that’s kind of what I will avoid at all costs.

At the moment, yeah, I’m happy to revisit these bands, but also walk away, quickly. It’s only in that context that it’s a problem. As I say, all these guys I really respect and love. But just don’t put me in a bus with them for six weeks!

Rolling Stone Awards 2013

100% ROCK: That’s fair enough. You mentioned the drunken buffoonery and all that sort of stuff that happens on tour. For quite a while, you had one hell of a reputation as one of Australia’s premier rabble-rousers in that department. Is life a bit more sedate for you now that you’re sort of edging slowly towards fifty? [Perkins will be 50 on 28 December 2014]

Tex: If you’re going to talk about age, I felt older probably about seven or eight years ago. I can’t afford to grow old [now]. I’ve got little kids! I’ve got big kids and little kids! I’ve got five kids ranging from [24 to 1]. And all different kind of ages in between. I realise I actually have got to keep fit and vital to keep up with the little pricks.

I did plenty of rock ‘n roll behaviour. I don’t think I’ve every really been a Keith Moon or some hotel-wrecker, television-out-the-window sort of guy. I do pride myself on my sense of mischief. I do love going in these rock bands, but I really do understand the sense of balance that I’ve got to maintain. There’s many times these days where I’ll be doing a gig, and I’ve basically got to get up at 7:30 in the morning to get the kids to school the next day.

I wouldn’t call my life sedate because, as I said, you’ve got to have both. There’s got to be a balance. I think that’s the key to a successful life and career. Balance.

100% ROCK: Absolutely. Congratulations on your young one, by the way. I didn’t realize you had a bub so young.

Tex: Yes, yes, yes. I’m still making the peoples.

100% ROCK: I’ve got a seven-year-old, and I can relate completely to what you’re saying about having to keep on the ball a little bit and then get up after the late nights and do the school run and all that sort of thing. It’s heaps of fun.

Tex: As I say, I get plenty of chances to have a big one here and there, but generally, you’ve just got to keep a bit of a lid on it. I’m happy to do that because seriously, there’s nothing that makes me happier than being woken up by my four-year-old son. He’s just an absolute joy. That’s always in the front of my mind, really. That yes, I could stay here and drink tequila, but then I’m going to miss out – I’m not going to look forward to seeing Louie in the morning. Really, there’s nothing better.

The Ape 02

100% ROCK: At this stage of your career, do you have any projects that you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet managed to make happen? Any great burning desires in there?

Tex: Well, you know what? For a long time, I wanted to do a soundtrack. And now that’s happened and now I’m working on another one. I’m a huge film buff and really love film and working with film. That was one of my unfulfilled desires for a long time, but now I think I’m finding a place in that world.

A lot of the things that I do, I never thought of. Like singing with the WASO [WA Symphony Orchestra]. I would never have thought of that. These things pop up, and you just go, ‘yeah, okay, I’ll do that.’

It’s far more interesting what gets offered to me, rather than the things that I imagined that I’d want to do. It’s always a surprise. All sorts of things come from different angles with me in my career. It’s gotten really more interesting, not to be totally sort of the author of your destiny [chuckles]. You’re just kind of seeing whatever comes your way.

I’m very fortunate to be at that point where I’ve done quite a lot, I have quite a lot of history and a fair bit of standing, so people consider me for all these different projects on many, many different levels.

100% ROCK: I guess that’s the freedom that comes with being respected enough as, for want of a better word, a bit of an elder statesman.

Tex: Exactly. Exactly. I’m pretty bloody happy.

100% ROCK: Yes. Why wouldn’t you be? Well, really hoping that everyone goes ape shit for The Ape, of course. It’s a really cool album. Thanks for your time, it’s very much appreciated. Have a great day.

Tex: Always. See you, mate.

 

 THE APE’s self titled debut album is a raw and pulsatingly primal platter to help you unleash your inner beast – and it’s out now.

Shane

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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