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INTERVIEW: DAVE TICE – October 2015

| 2 February 2016 | Reply

INTERVIEW: DAVE TICE – October 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

Dave Tice 01

As singer of the seminal Australian heavy boogie band Buffalo, and of English garage and pre-punk rockers The Count Bishops, Dave Tice influenced countless young wannabe rockers with his earthy vocals and take-no-shit attitude. Now, he tells SHANE PINNEGAR, he’s back with a new outfit – The Dave Tice Band – and a new album – Enabler, and planning to revisit his Buffalo days with, erm, Buffalo Revisited!

“It’s not really a complete album Shane, to be honest with you. It’s a mini-album, you might call it. There’s six tracks on there. I do tend to write the odd song now and again, and I like to get them down somewhere along the line. It’s as simple as that really.

“The fact of the matter is that, I don’t know if you know the name Jim Fingal. He’s a good friend of mine, he’s actually in Ireland at the moment, he’s a drummer. He lives in Sydney here, plays drums, got his own band. He also had, until recently, a home studio, which he’s been recording his own stuff in for some time. We’ve done the odd show together, played around a bit together. What he’s done when we’ve recorded in the past, he’s been recording his own band. Of course that means that he has to divide his time between playing drums, singing the songs, and twiddling the knobs as well. He wanted to spend a bit of time doing some recording where all he had to do was worry about the recording and let the band take care of itself, you know? He said to me ‘come on down, we’ll whack down a couple of your new songs,’ which is exactly what we did.”

Having a friend with a studio is certainly the best way to keep your recording costs to a minimum in this day and age, when record sales are far from what they used to be.

“I think the thing about it is,” Tice reflects, “it only needs to be expensive if you’re trying to put yourself into something like Studio 301 or something like that, and spending a lot of time over dubbing and mixing it, and god knows what else. The way that I wanted to record, and the way that Jim wanted to do the recording, was that we set up the band, and we played the songs. Frankly that’s always been my preference, [and] in the band that I have up here, actually, is an old ex-patriot of yours. He comes from Perth, my guitar player is a guy called Peter Walker [of the band Bakery, who gigged around Perth in the first half of the 1970s, releasing two albums before disbanding in 1975.]

“Well, Bakery was a Perth band. He was the lead guitar player, really, he was the main musical writer, producer, and in fact I’ve worked on other projects with Peter. One of the Buffalo albums, Peter was the designer. It all sort of goes back a long way. Besides Peter, I’ve got Chris Tag on the drums up here in Sydney. For quite some time he was the drummer of The Radiators, and a guy called Charlie Vurugu, who plays bass, and does a bit of singing too. He’s been in just about every working blues band that existed in Sydney, you know?

“I’ve been around the business for quite a long time, and the thing to me, Shane, is that if you have a band, then you usually find that something about a band when they play makes them slightly unique. One of those things, and one of the most important things, I think, is the organic way of playing. When a band, four guys or five guys or whatever, get together and start making music as a unit, it can be something different, you understand what I’m saying?”

Absolutely – As long as the music is organic and has a great vibe to it, it doesn’t matter if you make a few bum notes, provided the energy and electricity are there in the air.

“Well that’s the whole thing, isn’t it? For me, going into the studio and immediately starting to tear the band to pieces and putting it down one bit at a time is a completely wasted exercise. My experience of this of course goes back many years of recording. Once true multi track recording started coming in, all of a sudden engineers and producers had more control over what was going down on the tape than the musicians.

“My main listening tends to be very early blues recordings,” he continues, “which are usually done on a tape recorder in somebody’s back room! The humanity comes through as well I think. The real, raw human side of things. To me that’s what music should be about.”

Buffalo - Dave Tice and Pete Wells on the right

Buffalo – Dave Tice and Pete Wells on the right

Buffalo, which also featured future Rose Tattoo guitarist Pete Wells on bass, released five albums throughout the ‘70s, but remained cult heroes rather than crossing over into the mainstream. Tice is sanguine about why that is.

“We never made a hit record. We never made a pop record, particularly. The nearest we got to it, I think, was Little Queenie, which was a Chuck Berry cover. I think that’s really what it’s all about. At the end of the day, you know, you find that in the music business you have your aficionados and the people that follow certain things, and they follow them quite religiously. They are always interested in it. Then you have the bulk of the rest of the population, who only really respond to what’s on their television screen and what’s being pumped at them continually from the radio. We never really trod that path with Buffalo, in fact I don’t think we were really capable of doing that to be honest with you. We just weren’t, we just did what we did, and fuck the rest of the world, basically.”

Certainly listening to their back catalogue today, some 38 years after their last album Average Rock n’ Roller was released, show that Buffalo were more concerned with finding their groove, pushing boundaries, and kicking against the pricks rather than pandering to the mainstream. Looking at their risqué album covers and song titles such as I’m A Skirt Lifter, Not A Shirt Raiser reinforce the point.

“Back in the day when we were working our butts off and making those albums and recording and touring, all the rest of it, we never felt that we fitted in with the scene in general. It was like … In many ways, we almost pushed that, as a reaction to it. It was like ‘well, fuck you.’

Outlaw rock and roll?

“That was it, really, yeah,” the singer agrees. “You’ve only got to look at where Pete went after he left Buffalo, and what he put together, to know basically where most of our heads were really at. Rose Tattoo, to Pete that was a distillation of the philosophy that was always the Buffalo thing. Of course by that time, the band members had started to change somewhat, and not for the better, really. That’s not to say that the people that ended up in the band afterwards, after John [Baxter] was ousted, they weren’t good players. They were good players, in fact. But you can’t replace that esprit de corps, I’ll call it that, okay? That sort of common belief, it’s us, four or five people, against everybody else. Once that’s gone, you start listening to record companies and managers who suggest that you should be trying to be more commercial and all the rest of it, otherwise they just won’t get paid. Believe me, there were a lot of ways you could pay in those days. The whole thing, the originality got dissipated to me. I think that’s why Pete left to start Rose Tattoo, because we both came out of Brisbane, Pete and I.

“We were together up there before we came to Sydney. We’d always up there been in blues bands and bands that were slightly outside the mainstream, always. Really, I suppose it was part of our, I don’t know, part of our thought process maybe, just sort of part of our temperament.”

Buffalo Revisited

Buffalo Revisited

They were different times, the early ‘70s for a band, especially one so determined to play outlaw rock n’ roll and live the wild life. Tice says it wasn’t all sex & drugs & rock n’ roll, though.

“Let me say that Buffalo were nowhere near the sort of indulgent… we weren’t into drugs and all that sort of stuff at all, the band wasn’t particularly interested in that sort of thing, we were more interested in just playing the music. I think there was a period of time when a lot of band members were being pushed all over the place. All of a sudden young people felt that they were empowered to do something, and make their own decisions. Up until that point – we’re talking the period that came after the Second World War, and just leading up to the Vietnam War – a lot of bands were being pushed everywhere. I just think it was a more open time, really. Things these days seem to me to be much more, well, really corporate-controlled. We’re no longer really governed by politicians, we’re being governed by financial interests.

“Look at America, man. You don’t get to be President of America unless you can raise multi-million dollars to put yourself there. I think it’s sad, because there was a period of time in music in this country when everything was on the table. You could do whatever you liked, right, and there would be people who would be prepared to at least have a listen to you. These days, unless you fit pretty well defined boundaries, the main bulk of the business won’t take any notice of you.”

The ‘70s was a period of great social change, and music was seen as positively revolutionary by many. Did buffalo feel like they were flying a flag for the counter-culture?

“I think so to a certain degree,” says Tice thoughtfully. “In many ways I think we look back on these things now, and we can analyse them. When you’re actually living through them, you’re not busy analysing them. You’re kind of just experiencing them as they happen. We were all part of something that was bigger than any of us, really, individually. What really surprises me, or maybe doesn’t surprise me so much, is after having gone through a period of time when all the young people who are now obviously in positions of power, but all those people saying ‘we have to change the way of the world, we have to give them more freedom, we have to open up our horizons,’ what has happened? The same people are the ones now sitting on boards, and they’re politicians, and they’re playing their cards close to their chest and making sure than their nest egg is bigger than anybody else’s.”

Buffalo

Buffalo

Buffalo may have had the reputation of a rough n’ ready bunch of long-haired rockers with a hard-living, hard-brawling crowd, but Tice is the very epitome of a well-groomed and nicely spoken chap. How did they escape that scene unscathed?

“I reckoned that a moving target is the hardest to hit,” he deadpans. “There you go, that’s exactly the go: ducking and diving, dodging and weaving. I always have a reasonably good sense of self-preservation. I think that Mrs Tice didn’t raise no stupid sons. There was a lot of fun to be had, and believe me, we all got parts of that fun and enjoyment as much as we could. Always keep an eye on the fact that, sooner or later, you have to be able to face your Mum!”

An underground phenomenon his former band may remain, but the cult of Buffalo is undeniably growing, with new acts like Fremantle’s Datura4 namedropping them as prime influences. Tice says he has also noticed renewed interest in the band in recent years.

“It would seem to be like that. I do sort of detect some rumblings here and there. I do notice a number of people that hit on a Buffalo Revisited Facebook site that just went up, for instance. I’m sort of rehearsing some guys in Sydney at the moment, with the idea of doing some shows, doing Buffalo material, in the not too distant future. I’ve got some great guys. I did about three shows as Buffalo Revisited in 2013. Unfortunately I can’t use that same line-up again, but I’ve got some fantastic guys to do it. I’ve just been doing, recently, quite a bit of interview work with a couple of print magazines and various things like that. It just doesn’t seem to go away, it’s surprised me, to tell you the truth, over the years. It’s maintained some sort of life. We never thought, when we were doing that stuff, that it was going to have much more of a life until the next album came out, that was about it.”

The band are touted as being quite seminal in terms of Australian hard rock, and definitely influential, even if that influence ebbs and flows over the years. It’s no stretch at all to label Buffalo as being ahead of their time.

“You’re not the first person to say that,” Tice says. “It looks like that in retrospect, but to be honest with you, I think when we were doing it, we thought we were very much of our time. Does that make sense?

“I think the thing about it is,” he continues, “I think that what we did, what we were doing, wasn’t too similar to what everybody else was doing. Even though we didn’t have radio success, the pop charts and all the rest of it, still what we did was reasonably unique even for that time, you know? There were bands like Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, which was really just a very loud rock and roll band, great as they were. Then you’ve got Lobby Lloyd’s Coloured Balls, which was pretty much a punk thing. What we did was, we were trying to be a little bit more progressive, and a little bit more… I wouldn’t say sophisticated, but anyway, we just wanted to make our own noise, and not sound like anybody else.”

It certainly looks like more and more people are realising Buffalo’s worth.

“I always hoped that that recognition might come before I died,” responds Tice, matter-of-factly. “Let me tell you Shane, every time I wake up in the morning, I realize that’s another day I won’t get back. I’m 64 now, you know. To be honest with you, when I look in the mirror, I generally think of myself as about 25. I was old enough to enjoy the things that once upon a time I experimented with, and found kind of frightening, you know what I’m saying?”

Dave Tice in his days as lead singer of The Count Bishops

Dave Tice in his days as lead singer of The Count Bishops

I found a lovely quote from Tice from an interview circa 2003, when the Buffalo re-issues came out on Aztec Music, in response to an interviewer suggesting that the band might have been influenced by Black Sabbath: the singer totally knocked that down straight away, saying, ‘Black Sabbath were much more of a pop band than Buffalo ever were.’ I think that kind of tells us a lot about where the band were at.

“Maybe I was being a little bit of a smartass with that one,” Tice says when reminded of his quote. “I must say, we’ve often had that comparison thrown at us. I can kind of understand where people get that idea, but it kind of irks me. We were doing that music before we were really aware of Black Sabbath at all. It was just a matter of synchronicity more than anything, I think. Both bands kind of arrived at a similar place at a similar time. That’s what happens sometimes. Unfortunately, we weren’t in England at the time. We were in Sydney.”

Truth be told that apart from some hints of heavy blues on the first Sabbath album, Buffalo and the heavy metal pioneers have very little in common.

“Me neither, I don’t see it. They’re much more mannered, I think, than we were. Buffalo weren’t quite as calculated in the playing, a lot more free form, a lot more… for a start, when we did the first album, and prior to even recording that album, we didn’t really have songs. We used to get up and just play. We’d all be making it up as we went along. Usually it would start with John banging away, he might have had a couple of riffs that he’d been fiddling around with. It was just like a jam, the way we’d go. We’d make up some noise, you know? That’s the way we did the first and second album, but we went in the studio, and made it up as we went along.

“We never sat down and sort of said ‘this song must be able to have this arrangement, and it’s going to go here, there, there, here,’ you know? We just used to let it go. The thing about it is that John was always pretty definite on where he was going with things, and Pete was smart enough to be able to immediately put something in that made sense. Didn’t matter what John threw out. And Jimmy [Economou, drummer] [would go] bangity bangity bang, and away we go.”

After Buffalo folded in 1977 Tice went back to England for a time, joining The Count Bishops to record their debut album alongside early Buffalo drummer Paul Balbi. The Count Bishops are widely remembered as one of the links between UK pub rock and early punk, and their album release tour was slated to be co-headlining with Motorhead.

“To be honest with you, that tour which I think you’re referring to, we weren’t supporting Motorhead at all, that was a double-headed bill,” clarifies Tice. “That was sponsored and put together by Chiswick Records, which we were signed to. Motorhead’s first album came out on that label as well. We were, both bands were doing quite well with those releases. The record company said ‘right, we’ll put together a 30 day tour. Double header,’ and away we went. That tour lasted three days…

“I don’t know if I should talk out of school, although it’s probably known anyway… But we all left London on a tour bus, both bands, a couple of management types, you know, record company people, and a young lady – well, I call her lady – who went by the name of Motorcycle Irene.

“Motorcycle Irene was a large thighed woman who apparently had been hanging out with Motorhead’s roadie, so she came on the tour bus and away we went. By the time we got to the third gig, we’d done our show, retired to our hotel, waited until after the gig, and suddenly at about two o’clock in the morning, Motorhead’s roadie came banging on our door, crying, and berating the world and himself, and finally explained to us that he’d come back from loading the gear out of the gig for Motorhead, and found the drummer in bed with Motorcycle Irene, who he considered to be his girlfriend. There ensued a barrage of fisticuffs. They fell down the stairs, and the drummer broke his wrist, and the tour had to be called off.

“I can laugh at it now, but believe me, when it happened, it was like the world fell on us, the whole world fell on us. We still had something like 20 odd dates to do, and all of a sudden half of the bill wasn’t able to perform. I got a million of those [stories]!”

Tice says he would love to tour Enabler, but it depends – as always – on finances, especially where Western Australia is concerned.

“I’d love to come over and do something in Perth, Shane, but you just spoke earlier on in our conversation about how hard it is to finance everything in music these days. That’s what it comes down to, at the end of the day. Somehow, I’ve got to keep money coming in, otherwise all the finer things fall to pieces. Unless I’m going somewhere where the money makes sense, I know it’s a bit hard to justify travelling at the moment. I’m going to Melbourne late September to do some shows down there. I can make sense of out that, four gigs, bang, bang, bang, come up to Sydney afterwards. I’d love to do something. In fact, I think the most appropriate thing to do something that way would be the Buffalo Revisited is a good thing. I think that there are probably enough people in various parts of the country who would be interested in seeing that. It happens I have a couple of good friends over in Perth, who I’d like to catch up with every now and again. It’s always good to see them, wild men over there, that’s what I like.”

The Dave Tice Band

The Dave Tice Band

All this talk of rock n’ roll road stories leads us to one last question: will we see Dave Tice’s story in print, similar to his old touring pal Mark Evans, former AC/DC bassist?

“Well, I’m still waiting for a few more people to die,” Tice says, again deadpan but obviously in jest. “To be honest with you, I have made a few attempts of putting down little bits and pieces, I’ve got a few things saved up on my computer, anecdotes of different things from different periods of time. Usually I’m sort of too busy doing other things at the moment to worry about rehashing the past.

“I’ll keep trying, anyway!”
An edited version of this story first appeared in X-Press Magazine’s 5 November, 2015 issue

Shane

Category: Interviews

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