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INTERVIEW: Suze De Marchi, Baby Animals – February 2015

| 14 April 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW: Suze De Marchi, Baby Animals – February 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

Suze Demarchi 01

Baby Animals and The Superjesus embark on a full Australian tour this May under the banner SHE WHO ROCKS, celebrating female rock n’ rollers right across this great land of ours.

DeMarchi says the She Who Rocks banner came from the band after both acts were given their marching orders from the originally proposed Cheap Trick/Angels tour which was then rejigged with Billy Idol brought in as headliner.

“It was actually a band page that began on Facebook, and it sort of took off [and] just started gathering a lot of likes and we decided that we would go out under that banner and see what we could do with it, you know.

“[The Cheap Trick tour falling through] was the beginning of it, I guess,” she continues, “We were talking – well a lot of people actually on that site and on our page as well were saying, ‘you guys should tour together [instead]’ and we had played before together so it just kind of gathered weight, so we made it happen which is really fun, it was really great.”

Suze Demarchi & Baby Animals 01

Baby Animals and Superjesus together certainly makes a great double.

“Yeah it is, I think it is, yeah!” agrees DeMarchi. “I think it’s two very similar kind of bands and under that She Who Rocks banner it’s a nice… I mean it’s something that we could do every year if we wanted to with different bands who just have a female presence in the band.

“I see it as being a potentially ongoing thing, we’ll just see how it goes. It’s nice bringing other people into it, you know.”

There’s no shortage of Australian rock acts with female members – be it all-girl bands or one or two members, so making up the numbers would pose no problems at all, and in fact the She Who Rocks crew have called for acts with female members from each city they’re playing to open the gigs on this tour.

“There’s a lot of girls out there playing in rock bands – well it doesn’t mean it has to be rock, but just women who go out there and put themselves out there a bit and so we’ll see how this one goes and maybe it’s something that we can do every year.”

Suze Demarchi 05

When the Day On The Green tour was canned in its original form, Superjesus’ Sarah McLeod made some comments online about the new line-up being a “sausage fest”, and implied that gender might have been involved in the cancellation. With the benefit of hindsight, DeMarchi doesn’t agree.

“I don’t really think that was the case,” she denies, “but I just think that the Day On The Green people, the way that they were, tried to make it work. It suits them better to have someone like Billy Idol come in and keep it a male line-up – it just suited them better. I don’t necessarily think it was because we were chicks, I think it was because we were two similar bands – that didn’t really work for them in that line-up at that point.

“You know, we’ve done a lot of the Day On The Green shows and they’re very loyal, they’re really great to work with so… obviously people want it to work for them, so I understood. I’m unhappy about it – but I understood. I just thought it was funny when Sarah put that out, I thought I had to post what she put out but I wasn’t as bothered about it as she was, I don’t think… but yeah I thought it was funny.”

There’s no denying that it stirred up a lot of online hullabaloo, with many ticket holders upset that the bands had been dropped from the line-up. DeMarchi insists she holds no grudge.

“I was annoyed at the time,” she says fairly, “but I’m not now. It might work out better for us anyway, you know.”

The former Perth girl says she wasn’t too familiar with The Superjesus in their heyday, but she liked what she heard.

“I never really saw them when they [first came out],” she explains, “cause I was away most of that time. I did hear them when that Sumo record came out, I really liked that record and I listened to that a lot but I was overseas at that point. So I never really knew them but I knew of them, and then since I came back to Australia four years ago I’ve seen Sarah around the traps quite a bit. We did a concert and we did a Divinyls tribute together when Chrissy [Amphlett] passed away, and we became friendly and I’ve always admired her and I really, really like that record.”

As a woman in Rock DeMarchi says sexism and prejudice in the music industry has always existed but she never involved herself with those attitudes or let them bother her.

“A lot of people ask me this, and I MAY have, but to be honest with you, it was never really on my radar,” she says. “I didn’t view myself as being any different from any of the other guys in my band. I lugged the gear, I did all the stuff that everyone else was doing and I never really let that sort of stuff in. I’m sure there was a little bit of that but I don’t remember it ever being an issue for me. I just sort of got on with it so whether was it ever a hindrance, it was never something that bothered me or that I was terribly aware of at the time. I just kept myself away from that and it just flew under my radar, really.”

Suze Demarchi 04

There’s plenty of stories, of course, of bands with female members being taken advantage of in ways males wouldn’t have been.

“You do hear stories,” she agrees, “that’s why a lot of people ask me that question but I just don’t think we ever really were perceived as being [like that] – it wasn’t always about me, the girl in the band. As far as I can say as an insider it was always a democracy and it was always, ‘this is what’s best for the band’ and I always felt like a bonafide member of that rock band. I never really put myself there going, ‘ah I’m a girl & you’re guys’ – although I did insist on my own hotel room, the other guys had to share!

“But that’s fair – I don’t want to share a room with stinky boys!” she jokes, “but I did share a bus with them for a very long time, though.”

Never-the-less, the Baby Animals embarked on huge tours in support of the likes of Bryan Adams, Robert Plant and Van Halen at their commercial and decadent peak. Being exposed to such huge audiences is the upside, but they must have also been exposed to the more hedonistic side of rock n’ roll backstage.

“Oh yeah, yeah,” DeMarchi confirms. “And the guys in my band were always fairly… I don’t want to say they should be guilt-free, but they were pretty staid compared to a lot of the things that we saw. That whole American Rock n’ Roll world is very hedonistic and it was a bit of an eye-opener. We got up to stuff – it was just stupid stuff, but these guys [the headliners] were like a whole other level of madness. You know, groupies and strippers backstage, lots of craziness. Yeah, that was pretty full-on!”

It doesn’t take a Master of Google to dig up online stories about that Van Halen tour – tales of Michael Anthony’s backstage bar and the shenanigans that it hosted during Eddie Van Halen’s solo are rife. I ask DeMarchi if that makes for an interesting work environment, or, after months on the road, it serves merely to detract from the focus on the musical performance.

“I don’t think it distracts,” she replies thoughtfully, “it becomes a part of it, you know – probably the drugs and alcohol do. I mean at some point that’s gonna – if you’re heavily into that stuff, that starts to affect the way you play and perform, for sure. The whole hedonistic stuff, all the girls and all that stuff, it just becomes part of that lifestyle.

“I don’t know if you can… I don’t want to say ‘keep it up’,” she jokes, “that’s a bad pun, but I don’t know how long you can maintain that kind of [lifestyle] without it just doing your head in – and it does do a lot of peoples heads in after a while. You just have no grasp on reality. The part of it that I didn’t like was, there’s almost an abusive element there, with young girls doing anything to get backstage – that was awful, the things that these girls were doing to get close to someone on stage.”

Suze Demarchi 03

DeMarchi has said she felt she was treated like ‘one of the guys’ in the band. Did the headline acts indulging in these backstage antics show any deference or respect to the fact that she, as a woman, was in the room and could see what was going on?

“No, not really… actually no, they didn’t.” she realises. “But there were certain areas where I was probably not necessarily wanted or I might have been dissuaded from going because there might have been certain activities going on that they would have probably felt a little uncomfortable about me being there. My band weren’t that bad but I’m sure they got up to stuff plenty of times when I wasn’t around that I don’t know about – which is nice: I don’t even want to know!”

After their second album, Shaved & Dangerous was released in August 1993 and a tour supporting ex-Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, vocal problems forced DeMarchi to take a break through 1994, during which she married Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, relocating to his home town of Boston. Baby Animals first headlining tour of America was scheduled for 1995 when their US record label Imago folded after losing the support of BMG, their distributor, leaving the band with legal problems up the wazoo, and the band folded in early 1996.

“Do I think the original line-up of Baby Animals would have stayed together if it weren’t for all the record company hassles? I don’t know… you know, that’s an interesting question,” DeMarchi ponders. “I remember when I was living in Boston and I would go to New York all the time to have meetings to try and get the band released from the label that we were signed to – and we were really tied – and I was doing all that stuff without the other guys cause they were still in Australia and because we were signed to a US label, somebody sort of had to do it, and be there to do all that stuff – otherwise we couldn’t record.

“Even if I had stayed in Australia, we still were tied and were not able to record [except for] this label that didn’t have any distribution at that point. You know, there were a lot of reasons why that line-up didn’t… wasn’t gonna work. We had a big court case with our first manager, which I didn’t necessarily agree with… that fractured us a little bit, I think. And personalities… it’s just that in the end it comes down to who you want to spend your days with – not just me, I mean who THEY wanted to [spend their days with] as well, it wasn’t just me, one-sided, you know. It’s never just one reason, it’s never one thing.

“People also… we got older and then people aren’t prepared to do as much as they would have done when they had no kids or when they weren’t married,” she continues. “Other things come into play when you have families and you have mortgages and all that shit, so it’s not as free and easy as it use to be.”

Suze Demarchi 02

Life does have a habit of getting in the way of all of us at times, but as glittering a prize being young and carefree again might seem, we’d have to trade off a lot of the better stuff in our lives in order to have that.

What’s more important is that Baby Animals are back, DeMarchi and guitarist Dave Leslie – the only other original Baby Animal still with the band – seem very happy doing what they’re doing with the band right now, and their 2013 album This Is Not The End stands confidently next to their earlier work,

“Thank you, I really enjoyed [making] it – it was easy to make this record. It was hard to write it,” she says of the album which included the song Email, about the dissolution of her marriage by email. “It was easy to record it, it was fun. I love playing with Mick [Skelton], Micks a fantastic drummer and a great guy and it’s pretty easy [working together], it works very well. There’s not too many dramas, people get on with it.

“But then, we don’t have the history that the original line-up had – which has probably got a lot to do with recurring themes that keep coming up when you play together with someone for a very long time, these guys we don’t have that with. They’re also decent players and they’ve been around a long time so I kind of know what to expect. And they know what’s expected of them, as well – so that helps. Professionals, man, professionals.”
Will there be another album from Baby Animals anytime soon?

“That is the plan, we’ve started writing for it,” DeMarchi reveals excitedly, “and I’m doing a little project on my own, and then we’ve got the tour in May – and then we’ll be writing pretty much the whole of the year to get ready to record and go to the studio towards the third part of the year. We want to do another record for sure.”

With the cathartic nature of some of the tracks on This Is Not The End – not least Email – how purgative is the writing so far for the new songs?

“Yeah, I don’t want to write about that stuff anymore,” DeMarchi says, “but invariably when things are… my stuff is always unresolved, so there’s always personal stuff that somehow manages to get into my songs that I… At this point I just write stuff. I just write lyrics and write as much as I can and sometimes I have a melody that comes in and often times I’ll be inspired by something that Dave sends me. So, yeah, it’s really at early stages. I don’t even know what’s gonna come out at this point, we’ll just see what happens.”

Is this a second chance for the Baby Animals as a band?

“I did feel like we’ve been very lucky,” she says, “in that we had such a long break and when we did come back we found that we had such loyal fans. We’re very, very grateful for that – that’s been cool. That we could come back and we could still do shows and people still loved the music, you know. So, yeah, in some ways, you never take it for granted, all that stuff, and we are very lucky in that sense. I think we’ve still got stuff to say and stuff to do and shows to do and there’s a lot to be done still, I feel.”

Having just turned 51, it’s been one heck of a long and winding road since leaving home at 17 and singing in every Perth pub that would have her, undoubtedly scaring her parents a bit at the time.

“I think my parents were probably worried – I probably gave them a few sleepless nights,” she reflects. “You’re so driven at that age and I was so excited about all the possibilities. Even in Perth I had this real drive at that age and I had this real sort of wanderlust about getting out into the world. I think when I moved to London and I had a record deal, I was very good [with] my parents in that I didn’t want them to worry too much so I would always tell them, ‘don’t worry, I’m being looked after, I’ve got this deal,’ and this and that. I was pretty self sufficient you know, they didn’t get too many calls asking for money or clean underwear!

“Then I think they were really stoked when things took off, they were happy. But my mum was always really wary, like, ‘are you sure you’re gonna be all right?’, typical mum. But now they love it – my dad is constantly telling his friends on the golf course, ‘yeah that’s my daughter’.”

SHE WHO ROCKS: May 2015

Fri 22 May | Perth, WA | Charles Hotel
Sat 23 May | Perth, WA | Charles Hotel
Fri 29 May | Melbourne, VIC | The Hi-Fi
Sat 30 May | Melbourne, VIC | The Hi-Fi
Fri 5 June | Wollongong, NSW | Waves
Sat 6 June | Sydney, NSW | Metro Theatre
Sat 13 June | Brisbane, QLD | The Tivoli
Fri 19 June | Adelaide, SA | The Gov
Sat 20 June | Adelaide, SA | The Gov
Fri 26 June | Hobart, TAS | Wrest Point Ent Cent

This interview first appeared in edited form in X-Press Magazine’s 8 April, 2015 issue

Shane

Category: Interviews

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