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INTERVIEW – Dave Gleeson, The Screaming Jets – September 2014

| 3 November 2014 | Reply

INTERVIEW – Dave Gleeson, The Screaming Jets – September 2014
By Shane Pinnegar

Screaming Jet - Dave Gleeson 01

Celebrating their 25th anniversary is no small thing for any band, and Aussie rockers The Screaming Jets are determined to throw one hell of a party for their fans around the country, singer Dave Gleeson tells SHANE PINNEGAR.

25 Years of The Screaming Jets – would you have ever thought it, Dave?

“No!” laughs the frontman, “When we started off, we always wanted to be a band like The Stones or like those enduring bands, The Angels and so on. You set your sights on that, then to reach it 25 years later is pretty amazing. It’s just nice to know that not only can we still play, but people are still willing to come and see us play.”

To say it has been a long and storied career for the band is something of a mighty understatement, and there have been bumps along the road, including a few band members leaving in various circumstances. Today, only Gleeson and bassist Paul Woseen remain from the original line-up. Gleeson said they did consider reforming the founding members of the group but it became a mission for the ‘too hard basket’.

“We talked about that. We started initial negotiations. Look, it just wasn’t going to work. Theres some hurt people out there, and… it’s hard when you’re trying and make that ground up, I guess. It’s that water under the bridge thing and [sometimes it’s] best not to stir up old wounds.”

Screaming Jets 01

In addition to Gleeson and Woseen, the line-up touring the country this year will feature guitarists Jimi Hocking and Scott Klingman, and drummer Mickl Sayers, and not content with just doing a thorough lap around the country, they’re excited to announce there’s a new Screaming Jets record on the way.

“We’re working feverishly on it at the moment,” Gleeson laughs, “I’m in trouble because I was having that affair with The Angels! [Gleeson is also frontman for these Oz Rock legends, who recently completed their 40th anniversary tour] I just came off a 40-day tour with those guys about 2 weeks ago, so we’ve just found some time, and I’ve locked all the boys in. Three of the guys live in Melbourne, so that’s where we’re going to base ourselves to do it and get something out and ready to go by the time we hit the road on the 17th of October!”

Gleeson doesn’t seem pressured by the idea of recording, mastering and pressing an album in under six weeks in the slightest, attesting that “we’re really lucky in that Scotty Kingman, our guitarist, is an absolute recording and mixing and mastering wiz. He’s recorded probably the last four or five James Reyne albums and Mark Seymour’s album and [other] stuff in his own studio. We’re just going to camp in there and beat it out of ourselves!

“We’ve called it Atomic 47 because ‘Silver Jubilee’ sounded a bit like Queen Elizabeth II or something like that. We thought ‘where are we going to come up with something that doesn’t cry ‘wedding anniversary’?’ and the atomic element or number for silver is 47.”

To that end, this tour is also labelled the Atomic 47 tour.

Screaming Jets Atomic 47

When we last spoke with Dave he suggested Woseen was writing most of the initial tracks for the album, but that has changed a little, as he explains.

“Yeah, [Paul]’s written a whole bunch of songs. Then myself and Jimi Hocking had a few offerings as well. We’ve put down the mainly Paul songs and got three or four that I’ve written and Jimi has written, Paul is happy with that. He wasn’t going, ‘no, you can’t have any songs on my album!’”

Excitingly, Gleeson says to expect a classic Jets sound to the new material.

“The thing is that it’s rock music and it’s not reinventing the wheel, but you want to say something when you’re doing it,” the singer elaborates. “I think I’ve been guilty of… like, a couple of them – Let Me Show You How To Do It and then Better and all those songs – that were really well lyrically thought out. The songs that I know and love from other bands and other artists, every word means something. We’re really trying to make sure that we get up front and don’t pussyfoot around. There’s one of the songs called Smack In The Mouth. It’s just… don’t mince words, get out there: it’s rock!”

Listen back to The Screaming Jets catalogue and you’ll be struck by the diversity on show: one dimensional, three-chord pub rock is such a minor part of what the band was all about.

“Yeah, we’re really lucky that our first producer, Steve James, was really encouraging that if a song is a great song, then you’d be mad to leave it off the record.” Gleeson enthuses. “Even with Helping Hand being a bit reggae-ish or jazzy, it’s still played by a rock band, there is still rock elements to it.

“It’s always important to – if you’re doing a country-flavoured song, don’t put pedal steel guitar on it – because it’ll sound like a country song!”

Gleeson is thrilled to hear that when listening to The Screaming Jets’ best of album Hits & Misses the day before our interview, my seven-year-old daughter Tia stopped playing with her toys, looked up and said, ‘this is a really good record, Daddy.’ Perhaps it’s that immediacy that was the key to the band’s enduring success, when a young child can just instantly GET IT.

“Awesome,” he smiles, before striking off tangentially about his own kids. “I actually walked in the other day – my son is six – and he was actually listening to the latest Angels record. I said, ‘have you been listening to this, Max?’, ‘yeah, I listen to it all the time, Dad,’ just in his room. They’re playing too – in fact, my daughter and my son play drums now. This week was the first time I’ve had a real jam with them.

“That’s right. They’re going really good. The guy who gives them lessons is a bit of a fan. He’s often in there, and suddenly he’ll come up playing Paranoid or Highway To Hell on the drums or something. It’s like, ‘yeah, rock on.’”

With a new record under their belts, Gleeson says the band are chomping at the bit to play some of the new tracks in front of a live audience.

“Yeah definitely,” before reassuring us that the favourites will be the focus of the tour. “With any record you can’t really, unless you make it a special event, [play it all from] top to bottom. You can hardly even put three or four songs in that people don’t know because then they start going to the bar, obviously when they don’t know a song! We’ll slip three or four of them in there. Hopefully, they’ll fit nicely with the rest of the repertoire.”

Screaming Jets 02

Gleeson promises the rest of the set will be full of classics, with perhaps a couple of surprises from deeper down in their catalogue.

“Yeah, definitely, that’s the fun of it. Obviously, you do the songs everyone knows and loves. I guess over the years we’ve recorded, including our own and cover songs, over 100 songs. It’s nice to go back. Actually, my wife set up a turntable the other day – the kids were so amazed! They went, ‘what is this strange technology?’ So I was going through my old vinyl and I found a copy of the single of Better, one of the first pressings of it, and on the b-side is Rocket Man.

“I get asked all the time, ‘mate, play Rocket Man!’ I’ll go, ‘what? Rocket Man? That Elton John song?’ ‘No, no – your song,’ [they’ll say!] Alright, here it is. I put it on. I’m like, ‘I haven’t heard that song for 20 years.’ There is a whole bunch of songs like that you can pull out and go, ‘yeah, we can maybe work it up in a different way, modernise it a little or whatever.’ That’s a bit of fun for the band to get into involved in.

“[And] you see the look of surprise on people’s faces. Last year, Paul was doing Friend Of Mine on his own, just going out on the acoustic guitar, and it was an absolute showstopper. We’d all sit on the side of the stage and watch him do it and see the crowd reaction and stuff. Doing things like that also helps the show have a different life as well.

“It must be sad for him to watch me bastardise his songs when he brings them into the studio!” jokes Gleeson, affectionately. “He says, ‘this is how it goes,’ and I say, ‘well, I can’t actually sing like that, Pauly – it’s not in my range, so I’m going to have to do this!’ No, he’s always been very supportive of the way I’ve treated his songs.”

Being the 25th anniversary tour – Atomic 47, after all – should we be expecting a bit of a rambunctious party at these gigs?

“Yeah, well especially because it’s only a one-off!” affirms Gleeson. “Over [in Perth], mate, there will be a party because we don’t get over there very much. We’ll have to celebrate with a bottle of champagne every night – but just some Spumanti or something like that,” he jokes.

Screaming Jets Dave Gleeson 02

25 years on and off singing with one of Australia’s most iconic bands – not to mention fronting The Angels for the past few as well… it’s certainly better than cleaning out people’s clogged drains and blocked toilets, or fixing leaky roofs!

“Yeah, I’ve done a bit of plumbing,” he laughs. “I was doing some yesterday [at home]. It still makes me really [want to] throw up all the time when I have to do it. That’s what I’m like with MY family’s waste – I still want to throw up, see. Imagine when I’m knee deep in someone else’s poop.

“Oh, it does. That was 2001. When I left school, I was working with a guy. Then, in 2001, the band went off the road. I would spend a bit of time at pub that my mate used to drink at. Some blokes were talking [about how] they couldn’t get a labourer. I said, ‘what do you need him for?’ They said, ‘roofing.’ I said, ‘I can do that!’ Laughter ensued around the table.

“[The guy] said, ‘yeah, sure you can, you rock star.’ Anyway, I went back and I started [doing some plumbing after that] and that was the first time that I really got to hang out with other people’s excrement. It was a nice three years. I remember digging a trench with him. I said, ‘mate, there has got to be an easier way to make money than this!’ He said, ‘there is, you idiot – go back and join your band.’ I was like, ‘…oh yeah, that’s right!’”

Getting down to brass tacks, despite the obvious similarities between The Angels and The Screaming Jets, Gleeson says there are some big differences between fronting the two beasts as well.

“Because I wasn’t involved in the song writing of the heritage songs that [The Angels] have… We just did a 40-date tour, 2 hours [a night]. So that’s about 26 songs – and I reckon we could, with the exception of 3 or 4 songs, change 23 songs a night and people would still know every word of every song, more so than me, actually! So I’m just kind of the custodian of those songs, just delivering those songs, not giving any preamble, not talking about stuff, not putting interjections in the middle.

“Whereas with the Jets,” he continues, “because it’s my baby and I’ve been shooting my mouth off from the start, I’ll always do that with the Jets. I consider myself to be a subcontractor with the Angels and a contractor with the Jets.”

While we’re talking about The Angels, I ask if the sad passing of former frontman Doc Neeson just before the 40th Anniversary tour started, affected the band members or the tone of the audiences at all.

“You know what,” Gleeson says at the unexpected question. “I think coupled with the fact that it was the 40th anniversary, I think a lot of people – and because we’d spent the previous 2 ½ years or so getting people used to the fact that I was singing with The Angels as they now are – that, coupled with Doc’s death, I think people came out to pay tribute. Every night, John Brewster would say some really heartfelt words about not only Doc, but also Chris Bailey who had passed away a year before as well.

“It was really, like just to see everyone in the whole crowd with a drink in their hand, raising their hands, just showed the fact that people were there to celebrate the music of The Angels, and obviously all the things that that entails.”

Despite the unfortunate and, to many, unnecessary animosity which had blown up between the Brewster brothers and Neeson over the past few years, a little known fact is that Doc had actually given his blessing to Gleeson for taking over in the role of Angels singer.

“Yeah, I met him at a memorial for a friend of mine,” Gleeson confirms. “We were all there having a bit of a rage after the service, [and a friend] said, ‘Doc wants to see you.’ I was like, ‘oh, no – I’m in trouble now!’ I went back and saw him, he embraced me, and we sat down to talk. He told me about the stuff he was doing, and he said, ‘look, I just want you to know, I have no animosity towards you. I think it’s a good thing that you’re doing. Good luck with it all.’

“That was probably the only thing I needed apart from John and Rick [Brewster]’s blessing, was to know that Doc didn’t think I was an arse for moving in on his territory – which I didn’t do. He had left the band in 2010 and went off to do his own stuff. So that was just the one thing that I was really pleased about and stoked that he even took the time to talk to me like that. Yeah, it was great.”

THE SCREAMING JETS ATOMIC 47 TOUR
OCTOBER
Friday 17th October 2014 – Laurieton United Services Club, LAURIETON NSW
Saturday 18th October 2014 – Armidale Ex-Services Memorial Club, ARMIDALE NSW
Friday 24th October 2014 – The Gov, ADELAIDE SA
Saturday 25th October 2014 – The Gov, ADELAIDE SA
Thursday 30th October 2014 – The Corner, MELBOURNE VIC
Friday 31st October 2014 – The Corner, MELBOURNE VIC
NOVEMBER
Saturday 1st November 2014 – Waves, WOLLONGONG NSW
Thursday 6th November 2014 – Capitol, PERTH WA
Saturday 8th November 2014 – Airlie Beach Music Festival, AIRLIE BEACH QLD
Friday 14th November 2014 – Norths Leagues Club, KALLANGUR QLD
Saturday 15th November 2014 – Twin Towns, TWEED HEADS NSW
Friday 21st November 2014 – Penrith Panthers, Evan Theatre, PENRITH NSW
Saturday 22nd November 2014 – The Factory Theatre, MARRICKVILLE NSW
Friday 28th November 2014 – Hallam Hotel, HALLAM VIC
Saturday 29th November 2014 – Commercial Hotel, SOUTH MORANG VIC
DECEMBER
Friday 5th December 2014 – Revesby Workers Club, Whitlam Theatre, REVESBY NSW
Friday 12th December 2014 – Wyong Leagues Club, WYONG NSW
Saturday 13th December 2014 – Burwood Colliery Bowling Club, NEWCASTLE NSW
Friday 19th December 2014 – Ettamogah Hotel, ROUSE HILL NSW
Saturday 20th December 2014 – Mounties, MT PRITCHARD NSW

This story was originally published in edited form in X-Press Magazine’s 24 September 2014 issue

Shane

Category: Interviews

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