Rockabilly Revival

Stories from young Western Australian musicians keeping Rockabilly music alive

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  Musician Title Author/s Comments Date Up-loaded
1   Introduction - History and Rationale Dr Cecilia Netolicky    
2 Caleb Entrails Caleb Entrails: Without the Music it's Just a Haircut Caleb Merrey & Dr Cecilia Netolicky   7 May 2010
3 Johnny Law Johnny Law: Hooked on the Music Johnny Law & Dr Cecilia Netolicky   5 May 2010
4   Deleted at artist's request      
5 Eddy Blondel Eddy Blondel: Born into It Eddy Blondel & Dr Cecilia Netolicky   15 May 2010
6 Rocket to Memphis

Rocket To Memphis Tour Part I - Japan

Andy Jarvis Interesting article. 22 May 2010
7 Andy Jarvis Andy Jarvis: both kinds of music ...Swamp AND Rockabilly Andy Jarvis & Dr Cecilia Netolicky   1 May 2010
8 Rocket to Memphis The Rocket Lands in the UK Andy Jarvis   17 June 2010
9 Harry Deluxe Harry Deluxe: Rockin' music in a man's world Harry Deluxe & Dr Cecilia Netolicky Including vintage video clips of some of the female legends of Rockabilly music 7 July 2010
10 Matthew James Hanson Matthew James Hanson: musician, teacher, promoter Matthew James Hanson & Dr Cecilia Netolicky   19 July 2010

Introduction - History and Rationale

A brief background:

Rockabilly, as a style, has its roots in Big Band Swing, Rhythm and Blues, and Hillbilly music. In the early, to mid, 1950s a blend of these genre generated a style of music labelled Rock'n'Roll (the label sometimes attributed to Alan Freed, a disk jockey from Cleveland). "Rockabilly" was the derogatory term used to refer to the style of music that was seen to be a blend of the music from liberated black slaves, "white-trash" and hillbillies.

In the 1950s, there was a rising concern amongst middle-class parents that their clean-cut, "white" children were falling for a style of music with roots in their society's lowest classes. This, coupled with the concern that an interest in the music of these social groupings, would bring with it a degeneration in the morals and values of their children, who then may start to emulate other behaviours of these social groupings, forged a strong national parental-generational reaction. 

Parents fought vigorously to suppress the music style, and what they believed to be the associated degeneration of moral values they feared were associated with following the music. Unfortunately for those parents, their disapproval only succeeded in further fuelling interest, and drove young people, searching for their own generation's cultural and social identity, to fight vigorously for their music, musicians and the associated lifestyle.

This mass middle-class parental reaction significantly contributed to the popularity of the music and its success, seducing the generation - who became known as "teenagers".

Rockabilly has proved to be a pervasive genre, not the "flash in the pan" many believed it would be. The music, and the legends, have experienced longevity, with the genre experiencing a number of powerful revivals, which generated new material, and at times modified the genre to meet the needs and interests of successive generations - hence we now have Trad-Rockabilly (original 50s and early 60s style Rockabilly); Neo-Rockabilly (the form Rockabilly took when bands like Stray Cats brought new technology to the genre, coming up with a fresh sound); and other later variations such as Psychobilly and Horrorbilly (melding Punk with Rockabilly).

 Rationale behind this series of interviews:

This series of interviews is targeted at Western Australia's younger Rockabilly musicians (those musicians not teenagers during the 50s and early 60s Rockabilly era). It seeks to reveal the motivation behind their participation in the genre; what inspired them to work in the genre; what they see as the future of Rockabilly music; what they believe are the defining characteristics of the genre; and what they identify as the attraction of the genre for young people today.

Interview with Rockabilly John @ Bright Rockabilly Festival taken by John Dowsett.

 

 

Caleb Entrails: Without the Music it's Just a Haircut

Caleb Entrails and Dr Cecilia Netolicky  Up-loaded 7 May 2010

Introduction 

Caleb Entrails (born Caleb Merrey) has played double-bass and lead guitar in a number of Perth's top Rockabilly bands. He has performed with Felix Potier in Soda Rockets, in Whose Behind the Green Door's Buddy Holly Lives tribute show, with Marco Agostino's Marco & The Rhythm Boys; and with The Continentals when their bass player was off. Caleb also fronts his own band Blazin' Entrails, a Rockabilly-Psychobilly-Punk band, with bookings to tour over East, where he generally plays original material. Caleb will also be seen playing double-bass with neo-rockabilly band Detroit Caskets featuring Eddie from The Howling Moondoggies on guitar.

Caleb was raised in country WA, in a musical family. "There was always music in the house". Caleb's father played bass and guitar in prominent Perth bands is the 60s and 70s, his mother played a bit of guitar. At home music was a form of self-expression, so, even as a toddler Caleb took to banging out sounds on any musical instrument within reach. 

His parents played and appreciated a wide variety of music, so, at an early age, Caleb learned to appreciate Rockabilly guitar and vocal masters like Johnny Burnett, Eddie Cochran, Scotty Moore, (Elvis' guitarist), Chuck Berry and Roy Orbison.

Caleb started playing guitar at 10 years old, initially taught by his father. "If I wanted to learn something my Father didn't know, he'd work it out by ear, and then show me how to play the song". Caleb also learned to play by ear. He never learned to read music. It seemed unnecessary to him, as he picked things up easily by listening. In school, he frustrated his music teacher as they'd be playing a piece to written music and Caleb would get ahead - even though he couldn't read the music, as he learned by listening. For Caleb, there just wasn't the motivation to learn to read music, it was always more enjoyable to listen and then play. "I'm a lazy student and reading music was too much like maths for me".

 

The Interview - 29 April 2010

Do you mind telling me your age? I just want to place you in a generational space to help understand your musical choices. I'm 35.

What do you consider the popular music of your generation? I'm part of Generation X and Grunge was huge when I was a teenager. Bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Smashing Pumpkins were what the kids were into. I liked Soundgarden, didn't think much of Nirvana when Kurt was alive, but I think now he was the most talented out all the Seattle musicians, his songs are brilliant. I grew up in an exciting time for music when you would go to Dada's or House of Wax in the city and buy vinyl, then go to a  friend's house and listen to those records. We were into bands like the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, The Cramps, Misfits, Ministry, Suicidal Tendencies, so many great bands came out the 80s and early 90s. Heaps of crap came out too, and maybe that's what was popular with the mainstream, but within my group, we liked the more aggressive and darker style of rock which I guess was what Rockabilly was when it was new: "The Devil's Music".

What got you interested in Rockabilly music? I'd always known of its existence. I was a country kid and on Sundays there was a radio station that played old 50's Rock'n'Roll and I loved all the reverb and the twangy guitar on those songs. Also I was inspired by music I'd heard at the movies - like Back to the Future where Michael J. Fox did Chuck Berry - I knew that's what I wanted to do. The real beginning was in the late 80s when I discovered bands like The Cramps, Stray Cats, Reverend Horton Heat and The Sex Pistols who were all heavily influenced by Rockabilly. When I found that Stray Cats covered Eddie Cochran, I'd find his music, the same when I learned that The Cramps covered Charlie Feathers, I found the original song and loved it's creepy hillbilly vibe.

What other genre do/did you play? Everything I do these days is based on Rockabilly, there's still so much that you can bring to the genre. At 16, I lied about my age to play guitar for a popular Perth band: Kingpig that were kind of like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. They were a good band, had a few records out. I played in A Month Of Sundays who are a guitar based pop/rock band that are still making good records. Then played in grungey/metal bands as you did at the time, even played in an instrumental funk group called Lounge that was popular back in the day. But for the last seven years it's all been Rockabilly type bands.

Rockabilly music has had a number of "revivals". Do you see the potential for another Rockabilly revival, or do you think it will now remain an alternate, non-mainstream, genre? It's due for another revival, interest is building. I get really cool feedback from people who are not part of the Rockabilly scene at The Mustang, people who just enjoy music and want to have a good night out. With Blazin' Entrails,  I look out into the audience and see people that are into Punk and Hardcore are dancing to us, and this is not the sort of music they would necessarily listen to at home, but in a live setting when the music's loud, they get it.

I see this positive response in different venues in Perth, that a lot of people like Rockabilly 'cos it has a great feel to the music, it's fun and I'm sure there is a global interest. There just needs to be a few bands to come out at the same time and have some great songs to make an impact. I think it's time for another wave of good bands.

Why do you choose to play with a Rockabilly band, rather than a band playing current popular music? I always struggled to write songs in other genres, but I found my voice in Rockabilly bands. The song ideas just occur in a more natural way and it's just an amazing buzz to play music you enjoy, and especially music you have written, and want to keep playing those songs after six months. Also the guys I play with are awesome, some of the best musicians and best people I've ever met. The current popular music option for me is to play Top 40 and I don't even know what those songs are! Or to write Queens of the Stone Age type riffs and Josh Homme does it way better than I could.

Why do you think there is an enthusiastic following of Rockabilly music amongst young musicians today? I think young people can see the energy of musicians like Johnny Burnett, Charlie Feathers and Eddie Cochran. The music is still rebellious and primal. There's some magic that they had, and it's a real challenge to try and recreate that sound - and the bottom line is that it's so much fun to play.

Do you think it's just the music, or the lifestyle, cars, fashion, and tatts that make the genre attractive to certain young people? I think all of the above, but it all started from fantastic songs, and that Rockabilly sound - still great even after nearly 60 years. Every style of music has its own fashion, or type of tattoos, but without the music it's just a haircut.

What do you see as the defining characteristics of Rockabilly music - what defines it as a genre - what makes it different to other similar types of music?  Rockabilly music projects a particular attitude, even the love songs have a sneer to them. Most of the songs are about dancing, cars, girls and having a good time, but they also convey a sense that a fight might erupt on the dance-floor at any moment. It combines Jazz, Country and Blues and turns those genres into a type of outlaw music.

What do you think makes a great Rockabilly song - what characteristics do the best songs have? A rockin' beat, heaps of click from the double-bass, awesome guitar parts, and a good vocal hook.

What are your favourite Rockabilly songs? Johnny Burnett "Sweet Love on my Mind"; "Good Rockin' Tonight" Elvis; "Twenty Flight Rock" Eddie Cochran; "All I Can do is Cry" Wayne Walker.

Which musicians inspire you? Scotty Moore; Brian Setzer; Glen Danzig (The Misfits - Punk Rock - rooted in 60s Rock'n'Roll); Reverend Horton Heat (Rockabilly); Eddie Cochran; Johnny Burnett; Lemmy (Motorhead - Rock).

Are you writing any new material in the genre? If so, what inspires your lyrics? Going off my medication! Ha Ha!! I write short stories based on things that have happened to me, or just weird ideas that pop into my head. I turn those stories into a song format, last night we were working on a new song called "Frankenstrip" which is about a gentleman's club that is staffed by dismembered female corpses that are re-assembled and re-animated and dance. Pretty standard stuff really.

Do you still see yourself playing Rockabilly music 15 years from now? Yeah I do, I just really love it. It gives me a creative outlet a source of income and it's just awesome fun. Plus when I'm 51 I can get away with playing Rockabilly, much more than I could playing in a Pantera tribute band.

Any other thoughts you'd like to include? Perth is lucky. It has a very supportive Rockabilly scene, and a good pool of musos who get along and look forward to playing together. Because I love what I do, gigs never feel like work to me. It's always a pleasure to get up onstage and play.

Caleb playing lead guitar with Marco & The Rhythm Kings @ Mustang Bar

Caleb on lead guitar and vocals with Blazin' Entrails @ The Mustang Bar 19 June 2010

Johnny Burnett singing Lonesome Train

 

Johnny Law: Hooked on the Music

 Johnny Law and Dr Cecilia Netolicky (email interview)

Up-loaded 4 May 2010

Background

Local Rockabilly muso, Johnny Law, has played The Mustang Bar, Northbridge, Western Australia; Greazefest, Brisbane, Queensland; Viva Las Vegas Festival, Las Vegas, Nevada; The Pike, Long Beach, California; Cologne, Germany; Graceland, Essen, Germany; Rockabilly Fruschoppen, Hildershiem, Germany; Blue Note, Dresden, Germany; The Continental Room, Fullerton, California; Roadrunners Paradise, Berlin, Germany; The Rattlesnake Saloon, Munich, Germany; 20 Flight Rock, Hamburg, Germany; 1516 Bierkulture, France; Rockabilly Day, Belgium; High Rockabilly, Callafel, Spain; Rockabilly Rave, Las Vegas, Nevada and Amsterdam, Holland.
More details at http://www.myspace.com/johnnylawthepistolpackind

The Interview

Do you mind telling us your age, to place you in a generational space? 41

What do you consider the popular music of your generation? I guess it would of course have to be Pop music, ie Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Midnight Oil, Hoodoo Gurus, Wham, etc.  That's not to say that I personally listened to that crap.  Ha ha.

How did you first get involved in playing music? I started playing guitar at the age of 10 after seeing bands playing at the local tavern my parents would take me to for a meal.  It wasn't until 1995 when I happened to stumble upon the scene (predominately at The Aberdeen back bar during that time) where I was instantly hooked on the music, the cars, the dancing and all things 1950s.

What got you interested in Rockabilly music?  I remember I was always a fan of the Stray Cats while growing up.  I loved Elvis and Buddy Holly as well as Bill Haley.  And during my teenage years, although I would never admit this to my mother at the time, I loved Patsy Cline.  So I guess I always had an interest in Rockabilly, I just didn't know there was a Rockabilly scene I could be involved in, not until 1995 when I found it.

What instruments do you play?  I play acoustic guitar mainly but have been known to play a little electric and at the moment I'm teaching myself how to play the lap steel.

What other genres do/did you play?  I used to be into more alternative music until I realised my number one passion was roots music, so that's all I play these days.

Rockabilly music has had a number of "revivals". Do you see the potential for another Rockabilly revival, or do you think it will now remain an alternate, non-mainstream, genre?  Lately we're seeing Rockabilly surface in more mainstream artists such as Emilianna Torrini with her "Jungle Drum" song last year and Imelda May's "Johnny Got A Boom Boom".  Although neither are very traditional Rockabilly songs, they do have hints of it.  These are the kind of songs that Rockabilly lovers could hear on popular radio stations and actually listen to for a change.  I even saw a young Rockabilly band on Australia's Got Talent a few weeks ago. And there's a contestant on Masterchef who's tattooed, quiffed and fitted out in the typical Rockabilly clothes.  This sort of exposure helps the average "Joe Blow" to understand and accept Rockabilly in today's society rather than seeing us walking down the street and calling us "Elvis" as they walk past.  So I definitely think there's potential for a Rockabilly revival.  Any Rockabilly publicity within the mainstream is fantastic in my view.  Whatever it takes to get the "message" out there is good for our scene.

Why do you choose to play with a Rockabilly band, rather than a band playing current popular music?  I could go play a different genre of music tomorrow but the bottom line is, I wouldn't enjoy it.  Music is about passion and soul, and as musicians, we put our hearts into it. Especially as a songwriter, I would never achieve the same amount of satisfaction playing popular music as I do playing Rockabilly.  Although, I'm not saying that if my Rockabilly music became "popular" I wouldn't find satisfaction in it anymore. Ha ha.

Why do you think there is an enthusiastic following of Rockabilly music amongst young musicians today? I'm really not too sure.  For me, it stirs up feelings of enjoyment, simpleness, and fun.  It brings like-minded people together and offers not just a listening experience for the audience, but as a musician you get to watch others dance and have fun because of something you're doing.  That's very satisfying, so I can only assume it's the same for other musicians.

Do you think it's just the music or the lifestyle, cars, fashion, tatts, etc, that makes the genre attractive to certain young people?  I believe it's a blend of all those things.  There's so much within this genre that there's something for everyone. The music's just one aspect of it.

What do you see as the defining characteristics of Rockabilly music - what defines it as a genre - what makes it different to other similar types of music?  It has to be the slapping Double Bass.  No other music uses this sound as its main focus.  Without it, Rockabilly is not Rockabilly.  Without it, it's just Rock'n'Roll.  And most Rockabilly enthusiasts think Rock'n'Roll is just watered down Rockabilly to a degree.  That's not to say that Rock'n'Roll isn't fantastic, it's just slightly different to Rockabilly, it's not powered along by the bass sound.  But it's still great!  J

What do you think makes a great Rockabilly song - what characteristics do the best songs have?  Great vocals and of course a big sounding double bass.

What are you favourite Rockabilly songs?  Anything by Carlos & the Bandidos as far as new bands go.  And Carl Perkins' "Put Your Cat Clothes On" for the real deal Rockabilly sound.

Which musicians inspire you?  Carlos & the Bandidos, Marty Robbins, Pat Cupp, Johnny Burnette.

Are you writing any new material in the genre? If so, what inspires your lyrics?  Yeah I'm writing new material, actually I'm in the middle of writing a new song with my drummer, Matt Hanson.  I'm not sure what inspires me.  Usually heartache.  Although, I don't need a heartache to inspire me at the time.  I don't know why, but I always seem to write sad songs.  It's strange.

Do you still see yourself playing Rockabilly music 15 years from now?  Probably not.  Who wants to see a 56 year old playing Rockabilly??  I think by then I'll know how to play my lap steel and I can sit down at the back of the stage.  Ha ha!

Johnny Law & The Pistol Packin' Daddies @ The Mustang Bar May 2010

Johnny Law & The Pistol Packin' Daddies "Mean Mean Mama"

 

Eddy Blondel: Born into It

Eddy Blondel and Dr Cecilia Netolicky

Uploaded 15 May 2010

1. Do you mind if I ask your age, to put you in a generational space? 45 (going on 21 : )

2. What kind of music did your folks listen to, and has that influenced you musically? Buddy Holly, Elvis, Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Johnny Cash, The Stones. My Dad was a collector of vinyls. In the middle of the night, when I was two years old, I stood on a chair and put a 45 single on the record player. It was Eddie Cochran. My father named me after all the Eddies: Eddie Cochran, Dwayne Eddy, Eddy Mitchell (He was a French Elvis. I was born in France). My middle name is Teddy, my sister's Peggy Sue. My parents loved Rock'n'Roll. I was born into it. My parents put on Sun Session stuff, and Rockabilly stuff. I got my first guitar when I turned 7. As a kid I wasn't into sports, I was into Music and Art. I used to drag a guitar around all the time.

My parents tried to teach me to read music. But I had heaps of records, and preferred to learn by ear. I'd wack a record on, and play it over and over, trying to get it as close as I could. Sheet music doesn't do that. That's why I use vintage instruments and amps. Growing up I listened to artists like Carl Perkins and Eddie Cochran, Johnny Burnett Trio, Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, and my Dad was a huge Rolling Stones fan.

3. What music did you choose to listen to as a teenager, in other words, what do you consider the music of your generation? I was 15 when the 80s started. I didn't fit in. Then came Neo-Rockabilly: Stray Cats, Pole Cats, and Major Matchbox, and there was Rocky Burnett and Dave Edmonds keeping the Rock'n'Roll sound alive.

When I bought "Runaway Boys", by Stray Cats, it had a lot of Eddie Cochran. I really connected with it. It was stuff I was into: up-right bass, Gretsch guitar, and drums. Once I'd listened to the tracks that weren't on TV, I realized they were duplicating what was in the 50s, with a new sound.

 

Howlin' MoonDoggies "Pistol Fast Cadillac"

4. Can you tell me a bit about your musical history? I'm left-handed. At 17 I bought a right-handed Gretsch and turned it upside-down. I started a band The Runaway Boys, a five piece band. I lived in Rockingham in '83 we toured up North and down South playing 50s Rock'n'Roll music, a bit of 60s as well. Jive dancers used to follow us.

The band disbanded and I joined a Top 20 band called The Effex. Then returned to Rockabilly and Rock'n'Roll. I was always in a string of bands. I got married, had children, and hung up the guitar up for seven or eight years.

In '93 or '94 I formed a band called Back Beat playing hits from the 50s and 60s. We played around Mandurah and Rockingham. The band disbanded, and I went back to playing Gretsch, up-right bass and stand-up drums with The Jetaways.

We played for about two years, and that's where I met the up-right bass player from The Howlin' MoonDoggies, Wayne Francis. I'd heard recordings of them. I really liked Marco's voice. I said I wouldn't mind meeting him. I met Marco at Ted's Coffee Shop where he worked, on the corner of James and Aberdeen streets, and discussed reforming the band. They had disbanded, and Shakir Pichler was living in Sydney. So, we made plans to go to Sydney. We stayed as a three piece, just like Elvis had way back in the Sun Session days. We moved in together, rehearsed and also played in Perth as a three piece. We played The Aberdeen, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and P & O in Fremantle. We raised enough money to quit our jobs and move to Sydney. There we hooked up with our drummer, Shakir, and started rehearsing. We did a lot of original stuff, and Psychobilly covers. We rehearsed in our lounge room in our small house in Bondi Junction, much to the neighbour's disapproval.

We hit the Sydney scene for 2 years. There we recorded two albums and two film clips. Doggie Style, our first album, was recorded in that very lounge room. The film clips were screened on Channel V and Rage.

The Howlin' MoonDoggies called it a day after 2 years, and I moved back to Perth. Recently I got in contact with Marco, and he said come on down. So I'm going to try to come down every couple of months to play some shows. The name of our new band is from a Brian Setzer song "Drive like Lightening, Crash like Thunder"; it's a line in the song. "Detroit Caskets" referred to the old Yank tanks that had no seat belts, so when you crashed you went through the windscreen.

5. As The Howlin' MoonDoggies were you playing covers or original material? I wrote "Pistol Fast Cadillac" in the toilet block at work on a note pad, ha. It's loosely based on the storyline of the movie "Natural Born Killers". I also wrote "Pieces" and "Ordinary World" about the break up of my marriage. We did a lot of Psychobilly covers, The Quakes, Meteors, Guana Batz, etc.

6. The Howlin' MoonDoggies and Detroit Casket are both described as Neo-Rockabilly bands, how do you see Neo-Rockabilly as different to Trad-Rockabilly? It all depends, there are some Neo recordings that came out that tried to duplicate the 50's sound, like The Blue Cats who were just carrying the torch for the Gene Vincent sound, same as Dave Philips and the Hot Rod Gang, all great stuff. But I liked the punkier side of Neo. Stray Cats were a huge influence. If it wasn't for Trad-Rockabilly, Neo would not have been born. I love it all, and truly respect the originators.

7. Who do you see as the front international bands in this genre? In the 90s it would have to be Brian Setzer, Reverend Horton Heat, and Paul Roman of The Quakes, not to forget my friend Chris Cheney, of The Living End, I loved their early stuff.

8. Why have you chosen to play Rockabilly music? Punk had gone past in the 70s with The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Jam. I grew up with all that music. With The Howling MoonDoggies it was a bit of Punk, Goth, Ska, and a bit of Swing and Jazz. That's why I like Setzer. He was into Jazz, Country Picking, Punk and Chuck Berry, the same as my influences. I also love the blues: Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf; also I like the female Jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald. That's why I love working as a three piece, you can get away with doing Punk, Rock, Jazz, Country, Swing, even Reggae, Ska. It always fascinated me trying to get the best out of the instruments as a three piece.

Eddy (left)   with The Howlin' MoonDoggies, Fremantle

9. How would you describe the music of Detroit Caskets? Has it got its own sound? Originality, plus covers with a different sound, and shaped by Marco's voice, and my guitar playing. We've only done one show, but they're such great guys - Matty [Matthew Hanson] and Caleb [Caleb Entrails]. When we got up on stage it all seemed to gel, not bad for only four hours in a rehearsal room, then straight on stage to perform 40 odd songs together.

I'm hoping that I'll be back in Perth to retire, and be a musician full time, 'cause I miss playing.  

http://www.myspace.com/thehowlinmoondoggies

http://sexbeatrecords.com/moon/       

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Howlin-MoonDoggies/6516949307

 

Rocket To Memphis Tour Part I - Japan

Andy Jarvis, uploaded 22 May 2010

April 2010 saw the Rocket taking off for our first international flight - spreading the gospel of hip shakin' voodoo, like a murder of manic missionaries (I think that's the collective noun for missionaries innit?). Voodoo Viv has documented the whole sordid adventure in her "soon to be best-seller" tour diary - but since it's still being edited for public consumption, here is a brief run-down to accompany the pics you can find in our Japan & UK tour photo album.

PART 1 - JAPAN

We left Perth airport late on Tues 30th April, sharing a flight with Jack White's band Dead Weather. Guess they must have booked earlier than us cos they sure had better seats! It's a pretty easy trip Japan - same time zone and just over 10 hours - few beers and you're there. In our case though, we were heading to Osaka first... by the time you've found your luggage and got through immigration, caught the train into Tokyo and another down to Osaka... we finally checked into our accommodation 23 hours after leaving Perth. Time for another beer, methinks!

We stayed in the "American Village" district in Osaka, and it was great - I'm sure it goes sprawling off into the distance, but considering it's the 2nd biggest city in Japan, the part we saw felt friendly and - somehow like home! If you're into music and the rock n roll culture, this is where you wanna stay. We were lucky enough to have a couple of days off before our first gig, and we found loads of great places to eat, shop and drink. Lovely, friendly people too.

Jon (aka drummer, Shotgun Pete) had left Perth a few days before the rest of us, to see a bit more of Japan with his wife Kelly - we all arrived in Osaka at the same time and set about exploring the area that night, after we'd checked in. Oh, I should explain the photo of me in the bathroom - the hotel room was actually not as small as I expected - however, the bathroom was a kinda pod, like on a boat or something... god help anyone over 6ft!
 

Rocket To Memphis  in Devilles Pad before the tour

Incidentally, not everyone speaks English, by ANY means - but usually, a combination of ridiculous sign language, a few mispronounced words and lots of laughing seems to do the trick! A few Osaka shopping highlights were: great record stores - Nightbeat, Drum & Bass and Time Bomb; Tommy Gun (Rock n Roll Clothing) and vintage stuff in the wonderful Nutty's and Samantha's. We were recognised in Tommy Gun by Akira, who clued us up to a cool little Rockin' bar called Cohiba. Like so many bars and restaurants in Japan, it's almost hidden away - on the 3rd floor of an apartment block. You really need to be in the know. Oh, I gotta quickly mention the cat cafe... occupied by 20 cats, which you pay to pat, by the hour! Anyway, onto the gigs... both of which were in the American Village.

Friday 2nd - Hokage, Osaka
A small, grungy but very cool basement gig, just up from Time Bomb. The bands played on one floor, then everyone went down to the floor below, to get totally mashed up on beer and tequila! Unfortunately we missed most of the support acts, arriving in time to see Sunset Drive - a great rock trio. We fired up after them, and bust it out to a small, but appreciative crowd. The guvnor of the bar was a great guy called Sano - who delighted in pouring beer in your mouth as you played! Go-san (who had booked our Osaka/Kyoto gigs) came down - as well as Akira, from Tommy Gun.

Sat 3rd - Socio, Osaka
What a rockin' night - the place was packed and we played a blinder! During our encore "Zombie Rumble" we had the whole place staggering around zombie-style (this was to become a feature of the show, from then on). There was a good rockabilly band on before us (sorry guys, I forget the name just now) and the singer of one of the other support acts performed starkers! It was great to meet Momo from the Go Devils, and Akira was also there again with two gorgeous friends! We finished the night (for the second time running) at Cohiba

Sun 4th - Socrates, Kyoto
The next day, we caught the train to Kyoto - the old "traditional" capital of Japan - where we played at a little club called Socrates. A strange line-up: opening act was an Aussie guy, also over on tour, Tom Hall. He plays experimental music and his set was one long tune - it started with him on his own, before he was joined by 6 Japanese musicians (including Go) and all hell broke loose - wild! Next act was 3 belly dancers - and then us... believe it or not, it worked! Viv announced "Wolfman" in Japanese, and the place was stompin! Great fun.

Felt a little fuzzy the next morning but we only had a few hours before we had to catch the train to Tokyo, so we whizzed out for a bit of sight-seeing. Kyoto was in full cherry blossom glory that week - quite spectacular!

Arrived in Tokyo early evening - it was pissing with rain, and we had a ton and a half of gear to drag around. We were pretty shagged by the time we'd had a bite to eat, so we found a bottle shop and went back to the room. I should mention at this point that there is little or no tax on booze and tobacco in Japan - we were astonished to find bottles of single malt whiskey for $16 and Bombay Gin $13! This place is dangerous... heh heh!

Again, we had a couple of days off to get our bearings. Tokyo is huge! We were staying in Shinjuku, a cool area which, along with Harajuku and Shibuya, has a lot of great shops and bars. It's also a "people watching" paradise - everywhere you look, gorgeous girls and guys dressed in their own unique style. Our first stop was Jack's Vintage Clothing, run by Elovis Sato (aka Jack) - singer in Tokyo Cramps (our label mates on Raucous Records). Kylie (Jacknives) has met him, and described him as "the Japanese version of Andy" - pretty accurate! His shop is great - rammed to the gills with vintage and repro clothing - it was hard not to go a little crazy!

That night, Jack took us to the Monster Cafe - a great little 50s style burger bar, owned by his bass player Keybo. We met You-san (Keybo's super cute wife, and guitarist in the Tokyo Cramps. She is the 3rd "Poison Ivy" since the band started - and is known as Poison You!). Sim was also there - a great guy, and our Tokyo stage manager.

Thu 8th - Lush, Shibuya
The first show in Tokyo was at Lush, in Shibuya - kindly booked for us by Go's friend Kouhei. Every band we played with in Japan had their own style and tonight was no exception. The Harpy's were kinda punky, with catchy tunes - and Sister Paul were a crazy and unique bass and drum duo! As always the sound was great (in Japan, all the backline is provided, and generally good gear) - and we bust out a good set.

Fri 9th - Heavy Sick, Hatagaya (Shinjuku)
My god, this was one wild night, at the aptly-named club Heavy Sick! Run by a delightful lady called Kaori, this small place fired up like you wouldn't believe. I ought to point out, smoking is still allowed in bars in Japan (pretty much a requirement!) - you kinda forget what it was like. Full of smoke, REALLY loud... but GREAT! The band's we played with were both terrific.

First up Stompin' Riffraffs - a four piece "frat rock" style band that were great fun, all gorgeous and really jumpin'! Catchy rock n roll - with Rie on bass (who help us get the show - thanks Rie!), Saori on drums, Nao on guitar and lead vocals and his super-cute sister Miku on Keys. Next were the Minnesota Voodoomen - a killer 60s-style beat trio. Pete on drums, Ringo on bass and Fabian on guitar (who spent half the time playing in the adjacent room, with a long guitar lead!). At one point they played "Tequila" and Mirarock (a Marilyn Monroe-esque bombshell) starting dishing out free shots! By the time we hit the stage it was getting close to 3am - and we were somewhat... smashed! The voodoo kicked in luckily and we pulled out all the stops. Mental!

Sat 10th - Club Doctor, Shinjuku
The final Japanese show was at Club Doctor with Jack's band Tokyo Cramps - an incredible night! Fortunately, this was an earlier show - kicking off around 7pm - and by the time we got there, the place was packed. Jack had really gone to town to make it a special night (see the pics of waitresses etc.). It was a good line-up too - although we missed the earlier bands, we saw the excellent Clash-like Mad Specials... and then Tokyo Cramps came on! I must post a couple of videos up cos words really don't do them justice - they were so much fun, and one of the most entertaining bands I've ever seen! They are a Cramps cover band, but almost better than the real thing because they don't take themselves so seriously. It was tough following them, I can tell you! We had a burlesque act on before us (the lovely Mirarock), then we just threw ourselves at it. It was a great show and we totally pulled it out the bag! A fitting end to the Japanese part of the tour.

 Sunday - woke up, still smiling. The weather was perfect, so we went up to the famous Yoyogi Park in Harajuku, to check out the Rockers and the Rock n Rock dancers. When we arrived, there was one cat, crouched behind his van - can of hairspray in hand, doing up this mad quiff! He had a generator just to run his hairdryer off - brilliant! We went up to Jack's after and said our goodbyes and Sim took us for a bit of last-minute shopping. Picked up a few Japanese 45s, and met the cats who run the shop Attractions.

Monday morning, we loaded up and did the big trek to the airport, heading to the UK - and the second half of the tour. Japan was fantastic though - and I've no doubt we'll be back in the very near future.

PART 2 - The Rocket lands in the UK... coming soon!

For more details, pics and videos see
MySpace - http://www.myspace.com/rockettomemphis
Facebook  - http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=115229685303

 

PART 2 - The Rocket lands in the UK   Up-loaded 17 June 2010

By Andy Jarvis

You know how sometimes you stub your toe, and you get a stabbing pain in your elbow (or is that just me?!)... well, little did we know that while Rocket to Memphis was busy workin' the voodoo in Japan, terrible ramifications were occurring the other side of the planet... 

We arrived in London on Monday 12th, around 3pm - as the plane flew in, I couldn't help feeling excited to be back. It's been nearly 7 years since I left, but the place still has a powerful magnetic quality to it. We lugged our stuff onto the tube and after a good hour and a half's trek across town, we were met by our old friends Paul, Mark Lou and Hi Dave - and 15 minutes later, we were banging down a  Guinness 'round Dave's new gaff. Home sweet home, heh heh!

We'd been in London less than 48 hours, when the voodoo I mentioned before... exploded - we'd only gone and set off a bleedin' volcano, innit!  With all flights in the UK grounded for over a week, it was kinda sobering to think that we would have had to cancel the rest of the tour, if we'd been flying in just 2 days later. [incidentally, we later heard that Wayne Hancock was supposed to be playing the following week, but couldn't get into the country]. 

As with Japan, we had a couple of days to get over the jet-lag, before we hit the stage - and that turned out to be quite timely, as Miss Bombshell got clobbered with a real bad cold, that threatened to bust out her vocal cords. [Luckily she was able to rest up (although she missed out on a bit of partying) and she pulled it out the bag at the first show - queen of the voodoo!]

On Wednesday night, we met up with some friends in North London for a curry, followed by a truly "old skool" record spin up. Once a month, DJs Greg & Tony (of the Shellac Collective) have a session, playing rhythm & blues, danceband jazz, rock'n'roll and novelty tunes on 78rpm records. That's my kinda hop! Greg's own collection is vast - and he has 120,000 to SELL too! Paul and I accepted his kind invitation to flick through some of them the following day, at his house.

SATURDAY 17th APRIL - The Gypsy Hotel, London

First gig in the UK, and one we were really happy to be doing. For several years now, Paul Ronny-Angel (from the band Urban Voodoo Machine) has been running regular monthly nights at a basement bar called Barden's Boudoir in North London.

It's always a great mix of crazy vaudeville, sizzling burlesque and the wildest bands - and the audience gets dressed up for the occasion too. Perfect for us - and the headline act this month was... ROCKET TO MEMPHIS! It was also a great thrill to be joined on stage by our favourite burlesque gals... Mel, Annie & Lia from Sugar Blue Burlesque were in town, as stars of the London Burlesque Festival. So we had more than our fair share of hot gals, shakin' it up, on stage! The gig was a knockout, and a great way to kick off the UK tour. Many thanks to the Mojo Kings for the loan of their backline.

SUNDAY 18th APRIL - Engine Room, Brighton

A lovely day for the drive down to the South coast -  and it was an easy 90 min trip to Brighton... until we arrived smack bang in the middle of the annual Brighton marathon. An hour navigating closed roads, and several illegal manoeuvres later, we finally checked into our accommodation... and still managed to squeeze a pint in before sound check! The line-up for the night featured rockin' skiffle trio Bad Bad Whiskey, hot rockabilly outfit Jailbait, the Brighton Rumble DJs and of course the ROCKET. It was a great crowd for a Sunday night, and quite a lot of our friends made the trip down to support us too - thanks guys! All the bands put on great performances and the place was jumpin. Big thanks especially to Laurie & Mark for promoting the show, and to Jailbait for the loan of their backline. It was great to see our old buddy Russ at the gig - but sadly another great friend, Baz couldn't make it... he had been planning to fly in from France for the show, and was thwarted by that damn volcano!

We had a nice fry-up next morning, smashed out a bit of vintage clothes and record shopping, then beat a path back up to Paul & Mary-Lou's for a drunken curry cook-up. Yeaah!

THURSDAY 22nd APRIL - Mad Ferret, Preston

Two days later and we were off again - this time up North, to Preston - where we were playing with a great local psychobilly trio called Hyperjax.  Not only were they nice fellas, but they sure rocked up a storm, with some real cool tunes. It was great to meet Stu and Fraser too, who had made the trip down from Manchester for the show. Although it wasn't the biggest crowd we had on the tour, it was certainly one of the most vocal - and I think people had as much fun as we did, bustin' it out!

SATURDAY 24th APRIL - Mama Liz's Voodoo Lounge, Stamford

Stamford is a picturesque village in the Midlands, about halfway between Leicester and Peterborough. It's also the home to one of the coolest venues in the country - Mama Liz's Voodoo Lounge - we'd been looking forward to this one ever since Gene and Dom first approached us last year. It was a pretty terrific double bill too, as we were playing with a band with a similar swampy/voodoo style - Empress of Fur.

Got to Mama Liz's early afternoon, in time to sample some of their great New Orleans/Creole food and a couple of pints for lunch in the beer garden. Btw, their smoked chilli sauce is incredible - if that ain't voodoo, I don't know what is!

The live part of the venue is in a vaulted basement bar downstairs - great vibe, and real friendly people. Oh, talking of friendly people, a big thank you to Phil and Glen, who put us up in their lovely b&b, just out of town.  

The gig itself was a blast - and it was a brilliant surprise when 5 of our friends unexpectedly turned up for the show too - big thanks to Paul, Mary-Lou, Hi-Dave, Bob and Sara for making the 4 hour round trip. Empress of Fur put on a great show, with singer Venus Ray Gun prowling around to the voodoo sounds. It was our last gig of the tour and we made sure we went out with a bang. Betty Bombshell was shakin' it like a gal possessed and the rest of the Rockets really fired up! 

Anyone who's in a band will know it kinda sucks when a tour finishes... but you gotta come in to land eventually. At least we still had a few days before the long flight back to Perth - and for me and Betts, that was in Paris - so it ain't all misery! 

BIG thanks to everyone who helped make the tour possible - from the people that got us gigs, the venues, the great bands we shared stages with, everyone who came to see us, and last but not least, the DCA for financial assistance.  

We had an absolute ball and I hope a lot more people have now discovered the sexiest swampabilly band on the planet!!

 

Andy Jarvis:  both kinds of music ... Swamp AND Rockabilly

Andy Jarvis and Dr Cecilia Netolicky    Based on an interview conducted 27 May 2010

"Doesn't matter if it's Rockin' Blues, Rockabilly, or R&B - if it's hot, it's got to have a jump to it ... it's got to swing - and if it does, you can't keep still to it. Now, that's the good stuff!" Andy Jarvis.

 

Andy currently plays with Marco & the Rhythm Kings and Rocket to Memphis. Rocket to Memphis have just returned from a tour of Japan and the UK. They record a new album in New York this October. Andy (aka Razor Jack) has played around the country in rockin' bands such as Salt Flat Trio, Tornado Alleycats and The High Rollin' Rhythm Kings.

Andy's Story

I grew up in England in the late 70s, when the Punk thing was kicking off. It was an exciting time to be discovering music as there were so many different things going on. There was actually a lot of Rock'n'Roll on the radio, with bands like Matchbox, Shakin' Stevens and Darts in the mainstream charts. I remember buying that "Midnight Dynamos" single. It was great being able to turn on commercial radio and hear everything from that to the huge number of fantastic young "Punk" bands - like Blondie - turning out brilliant, energetic, catchy Pop tunes. Now commercial radio's so bland, it's hard to imagine how varied it was back then - as a young teenager, I lapped it all up. I would say the music of my generation was late 70s Punk, and early 80s Post-Punk.

Stray Cats arrived in London in 1980 and fit right in with what was going on - they were young, exciting, had their own sound and like all the best "Punk" acts they seemed to be playing music that was unique.  I've still got the two Stray Cats 45s I bought at the time - "Runaway Boys" (with Dorsey Burnette's "My One Desire" on the flip) and the fantastic "Little Miss Prissy". That was a wild rocking track that easily stood up to any of the punky stuff from that time. That's probably the first time I was aware of "Rockabilly" as a style.

The earliest rockin' stuff I can remember hearing was probably a Little Richard LP that my Dad had - the music was wild and exciting - and my God, the guy looked pretty wild too! That was when I was much younger. My Dad was a big fan of black New Orleans Jazz - the Punks of the 20s! ha ha! He had some early Elvis ("All Shook Up" was one I liked), Buddy Holly ... and of course The Beatles and The Stones. But his real passion was hot Jazz, rather than Rock'n'Roll.

Tornado Alley Cats

Finding my own thing ...  When I first started to discover my OWN music, I found I really identified with things that were a little out-of-step and different. My first revelation was something I saw on the TV show Top of the Pops - the band was called Siouxsie & the Banshees and their music was kind of weird, spooky and off-kilter. It grabbed me immediately, and what I liked was it was totally different from the other bands I was hearing on radio - they really had their own sound entirely. To my ears, the guitarist was befriending the notes other players didn't use at all ... and that's something which has had an indelible effect on my own playing. I don't see the point in sounding like everyone else - you can take inspiration from things, but if you don't put your own stamp on it, you're just being generic, and that's really not very fulfilling.
Since then, I've discovered great music in all sorts of different styles, but to really hit the spot, it's gotta have its own thing going on.

Bitten by the rockin' bug ...  As far as "Roots music" goes, I'm a big fan of all kinds of 50s rocking stuff - R&B, Rockin' Blues, Rockabilly, Hillbilly, Western Swing and of course wild Black Rock'n'Roll! What really got me into it, was stumbling upon a tiny record shop called Sounds that Swing in Camden (North London, where I was living at the time). This would have been in the mid-90s. I heard these rocking sounds drifting out of a doorway and I was drawn inside. They specialised in cool 50s stuff, and a bit of 60s too ... it was like walking into an Aladdin's cave and discovering gems that I never knew existed! I arrived home with an armful of records and Coo [Andy's wife and lead singer in Rocket to Memphis] was like "What are you doing, we haven't even got a record player!"

I later found out that Barney, who runs the shop, started the Rockabilly festival Viva Las Vegas, with Tom Ingram. Anyway, after that, I was in there almost every weekend listening to records, learning about rocking music ... and no doubt making Barney a very rich man, in the process!

Even though I'd really got the "rockin' itch", it was still a few years before I actually started playing Rockabilly. Partly, that was because I really wanted to be making sounds that were my own.

First steps to heaven ... I was a bit of a late starter on the guitar. I didn't start till I was around 18, then in typical Punk fashion I joined a band instantly. I found I had a pretty good ear for working out what I wanted to play, but was utterly unschooled musically - as is the case with a lot of young guys and girls who pick up guitars. At the time, we were making up our own stuff, so that was a positive advantage, as there were no restrictions.

I had moved to Sydney (from England) with my folks in 1980. I met Coo when she also moved there from Perth in 1985. Coo was a fellow Banshees fan and we started an original band called Toys Went Berserk. The style was "Post-Punk" for want of a better description. We were around for six years and recorded three albums, the last in Boston, USA. The band split at the end of '91, and Coo and I moved to London, where we were based for 12 years. During that period we had two bands, Feast and Houdini (which again were more in an Indie/alternative kind of style).

Jumping aboard the rockin' Mystery Train ... Coo and I started playing 50s-style music just before we moved back to Australia, working on some R&B and Rockabilly tunes with a French drummer who was into that stuff too. But in London, I was working 16 hours a day and we didn't have time to make as much music as we wanted - hence the move to Perth [where Coo is from originally]. I had no job when I got here, and by chance, I stumbled upon the Salt Flat Trio. They were a trad-sounding, Rockabilly band - no drums, just double bass (Jay McIvor), lead guitar (Felix Potier) and vocals (Tyson Feifar singing and playing rhythm). They were great, and were playing three or four gigs a week at the time. When I arrived, Felix was becoming involved with a bunch of other bands and was often too busy to do gigs - so they were looking for someone to fill in, and that turned out to be me.

About the same time, Tyson, Jay and I also got another band together called the Bop Kings - this had drums and later, pedal steel too. So, from that point I was kinda immersed in Rockabilly - and being thrown in the deep end isn't a bad way of learning to sink or swim!

We did a few originals, but mostly covers, so although the music was great fun to play, from a creative point of view, I needed to be doing something else too - which is why I started Rocket to Memphis with Coo.

Salt Flat Trio was really kicking off though - and I was enjoying playing Rockabilly a lot. In early 2006, we went over to Tamworth and made a nuisance of ourselves at the Country Music Festival, and we'd just got back to Perth and recorded an album, when tragedy struck. Tyson was killed in a head-on collision, on the way to a gig. Jay and I lost a great friend - and were also left without a job. Pretty much everyone in the scene was devastated. That's when I first met Marco [Agostino] - he knew he was needed, and he stepped up ... we called the new trio Tornado Alley Cats. For me, it really clicked with Marco. We had great chemistry, and did a lot of shows in a short period of time (including 3 trips over East) ... the Alleycats were a hot band.

All that Jazz ... Sometime in 2007, we started The High Rollin' Rhythm Kings, with Andy Burnaway on vocals (Andy's first band was the Qld-based Convertibles, in the 80s. I'd met him when we played in the Westonaires in 2005, and for a while, he also played in Rocket to Memphis). Rather than Rockabilly, the High Rollers were predominantly influenced by Western Swing - otherwise known as Hillbilly Jazz. For me, it was a big learning curve. If you're playing Rockabilly in a trio (where you don't have drums or another melody instrument to bounce off), the lead guitarist needs to fill up quite a bit of space. However, if you listen to Western Swing bands, which may have as many as ten people in them, you need to be much more disciplined in your playing (Brian Setzer's Swing band versus Stray Cats is the same sort of situation). On top of that, it's a lot jazzier - so I had to learn to incorporate those Bebop elements into my playing, as well as working closely with the fabulous John Short on steel guitar [I'm sure  most people know John from his guitar work in Peter Busher's Lone Rangers]. I'd like to think I improved a great deal as a guitar player during this time, and I've carried a lot of those elements into the new band I now play in with Marco [Marco and The Rhythm Kings].

Workin' the voodoo ... Rocket to Memphis, is definitely influenced by Rockabilly, but it's difficult to label, in terms of sound. I have to say, in general, I'm not fond of pigeon-holing things and creating a straight-jacket for myself. We call it "hip shakin' voodoo" to try and convey that it's not traditional-sounding Rockabilly, but something a little edgier, sexier and more twisted. I kinda like "Swampabilly" actually, but who cares what it's called - the main thing is to keep it fun, play good tunes, and put on an exciting show.

I'm very lucky to be playing with fantastic musicians (both Coo and Marco are also exceptional singers) - and it's great to have the opportunity to play both kinds of music - Swamp and Rockabilly! I like music with light and shade, I'm a big fan of light and shade in everything I do.

Where's Rockabilly headed? I was chatting to Josef in The Mustang, the other week and he was asking if I thought there could be a Rockabilly revival. I actually think the scene's probably bigger and healthier now than it ever was. Even here in Perth we have some great bands - and around the world, Rockabilly is thriving. There are literally hundreds of  traditional-style outfits - bands that are trying to faithfully reproduce an authentic 50s sound. There's also a very healthy Psychobilly scene, and many bands doing more modern takes on Rockabilly, often called Neo-Rockabilly.

The only downside, is that there are an awful lot of bands out there that sound the same (many of them pale imitations of Stray Cats), often playing all the same well-trodden 50s covers too. I guess it can be hard to stand out from the crowd in a big scene ... but what I like about someone like Darryl Higham, is that he has his own distinctive sound and even his cover versions have tended to be a bit more obscure.

There are a few artists who are helping to bring a little of the Rockabilly style to a wider audience - for example Imelda May and Heavy Trash - but I don't know that Rockabilly is ever likely to be mainstream chart fodder. And to be quite honest - I don't think that's such a bad thing!
http://www.myspace.com/rockettomemphis ,
http://www.myspace.com/tornadoalleycats ,
http://www.myspace.com/saltflattrio
http://www.myspace.com/marcotherhythmkings ,
http://www.myspace.com/highrollinrhythmkings
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/ROCKET-TO-MEMPHIS/49199696435?ref=ts
http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=115229685303


Marco & The Rhythm Kings

 

Harry Deluxe: Rockin' music in a man's world

Harry Deluxe and Dr Cecilia Netolicky   Up-loaded 7 July 2010

 

Introduction

Harry grew up in a musical family in Mt Isa. She was classically trained in violin and played fiddle, tin whistle and sang backing vocals from seven years of age in her parent's Irish Folk band. They played at Folk festivals around Australia. 

Her parents had eclectic taste in music, so Harry was exposed to a broad variety of sounds across a range of eras, including Rock'n'Roll, from a very early age.  

Through her teens Harry played in a number of classical ensembles and orchestras, and started playing and singing in original, alternative bands in the early 90s. She first moved to Perth in 1997 and started her own band in 1998. 

Harry's first influences, fronting her own band, were in Jazz and Swing, but she soon developed a love for Rockabilly and Rock'n'Roll, and expanded to a second five piece outfit in this genre.

 

 

The Conversation

Celia: What drove you to play Swing and Rockabilly music, as neither are the music of your youth? 

Harry: Irish Folk music is story telling music, and story telling is a love of mine. So I guess it's not that big a step into other 'story telling' forms, like Swing and Rockabilly. 

Swing for me is a way of telling stories using clever instrumentals, or vocals, while the lyrical images are important, there's also a real 'musical' element that tends to mirror the words.  Rockabilly tells its stories through its attitude. It gives you a real sense of the 'angst' of the era and the underlying conflict between subcultures. Swing music makes you feel good, whether you're singing or dancing. It does something inside you, the same as Rockabilly, but in a different way.  

I have a seven piece Swing band, that's my sophisticated side; and a five piece Rockabilly band, and that's my rebellious side.

I always wanted to have a "Big Band". I see my Swing band as playing Rockabilly with horns, a Brian Setzer orchestra-style band. But these days we have all kinds of influences, and I tend to tailor my music to the audience and the venue.ggg

With my Rockabilly band I'm writing some new original tunes, and loving the challenge. It's difficult though, because I don't really have a regular band, and new music really does require rehearsal.

I like to play what makes me feel good. In my Rockabilly band I play a wide variety of music, although always in my own style - I love Patsy Cline and other 'Country' stuff; Reverend Horton Heat [80s Psychobilly/Country-fed Punkabilly]; Wanda Jackson, [Roots Rock'n'Roll/Rockabilly/Country]; and Marti Brom [90s, 2000 Alternative Roots scene]. I really like to incorporate Western Swing in there too - anything that feels great to dance to, and gets your heart going. 

Harry Deluxe & The Rechords @ Wintersun 2010 "Fujiyama Mama"

Celia: How do you see Rockabilly as rebellious today?

Harry: It's the attitude of the music. It's feel good music, but it's a little dirty. It lets the audience 'break out' a little. Even though it's 'retro' it's still relevant - it still speaks to a new crowd and echoes their mood. 

Celia: Who inspires you musically? 

Harry: I have so many favourites, and such eclectic taste - I love the rockin' chics of the 50s, doing rockin' music in a man's world. I guess in a way they were feminists. I think sometimes I feel that way myself. Perth can still, even in 2010, be a hard town for a ratbag Rockabilly chick! 

I guess I just value the influence these women had on Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly - then and now. There were amazing women like Janis Martin, she was called the female Elvis, Patsy [Cline], what a life she had, Wanda Jackson and Barbara Pitman[1], they all made their mark in some way.

I was lucky enough to share the stage with Wanda Jackson at Wintersun in 2006. I performed first obviously, she was the headliner after all. When I came off I met Wanda in the 'green room' and was completely star struck. I was so honoured to have one of my idols in the same room as me. I gushed all over her and even said 'I play some of your music'. It was a little pathetic honestly. And then she said, You should do my stuff, you have the voice for it". That was a real honour. I was so flattered.

I want to still be touring at her age.

Vintage Youtube clip: Wanda Jackson "Hard-headed Woman"

Celia: What do you identify as the strengths and weaknesses in the Roots Rock'n'Roll, Swing and Rockabilly scene in Perth? 

Harry: Honestly, it's hard to criticise a scene you're in. I guess if I had to say it, there's a little unhealthy competition in all the 'scenes'. There are some musicians who just don't like to share the space, and some who feel that there's no room for new or emerging artists. It's a small town, but we're all working for the same audience, the same venues, and pay, and we need to support each other. There's some great talent in the local scene. We're starting to see more variety, and more young musicians are being introduced to the music. I work with some great young guys myself, and couldn't have more praise for some of the new 'up and comers'. But there needs to be a culture of respect and mutual support between musicians.  

The dancers too could make it easier for musicians by learning to share the space. The difference between Rock'n'Roll, Rockabilly, Swing, Jive, etc, isn't so great that purism and exclusivity should be allowed to keep people from feeling comfortable just to come along and bop around. There needs to be space for everyone - music is the universal language. It doesn't belong to any one group or scene. I've been really lucky to have the great support of many different styles of dancers. It's great to see people out and having fun. I guess I'd just say - be kind and open - to everyone, musicians and dancers alike. There's room for all of us here.

Celia: That dichotomy between Swing and Rock'n'Roll dancing is only apparent here, and perhaps in the UK. In the USA there's no division between Swing and Rock'n'Roll dancing. The dances we call Rock'n'Roll, Jive, and Pub Jive are called East Coast Swing, or Bop. They are all viewed as a variety of Swing. 

Even here, the basic steps of Boogie Woogie and Pub Jive are close to identical, and not too different to kick step Rock'n'Roll. I've heard some overseas dance schools talk of six step dances as simple variations of eight step Swing.  

You can dance Rock'n'Roll to 30s and 40s Swing music, and you can Swing dance to much 50s and 60s Rock'n'Roll and Rockabilly music. The division of the scene into Rock'n'Rollers and Swing dancers and musicians doesn't make much sense from the big picture point-of-view. It also doesn't make much sense if we're interested in the longevity of these genres, from a music, fashion or dancing perspective.

Harry: I see myself as musician - it's about my experience of being in it, singing it, and also being in the audience. You don't have to dress in a style, or be a purist, to enjoy it.  

Celia: What do see yourself doing in future, musically speaking? 

Harry: I'm attempting to write a music show. It incorporates Swing, Jazz, Rockabilly and Rock'n'Roll from a lesbian-of-the-time's point of view. I want to see how that goes. 

Historically a lot of women were doing wonderful things in music, and there were far more lesbian, and even female drag artists, than many people realise. It was their lifestyle - and they incorporated humour into it. I love doing that with my own music. I love walking that fine line between the legal and illegal, the proper and improper. My new music and the show are quite irreverent, even bawdy, but in the style of eras gone past. I incorporate my love for comedy, a la Bette, and Vaudeville/Burlesque, and my love of gorgeous women, into my music and fold that all into a rowdy, Rockabilly style.  

I'm looking forward to the next six months of great music, there's awesome stuff going on. Glad to be a part of it.

 

1] One of the few female artists signed to Sun Studios - Barbara Pitman clips : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmwqYE2rjRI&feature=related; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi8yj7ytA_U&feature=related

Vintage Youtube clip: Barbara Pittman "Sentimental Fool"

Vintage Youtube clip: Janis Martin "Drugstore Rock'n'Roll"

 

 

Matthew James Hanson: musician, teacher, promoter

 Matthew James Hanson and Dr Cecilia Netolicky   Up-loaded 19 July 2010

 

Introduction

Matt plays drums with The Rusty Pinto Combo (Early R&B), Rusty & The Dragstrip Trio (Rockabilly), Detroit Caskets (Neo-Rockabilly), and The Isolites (Ska, Reggae, Calypso and Rocksteady). You can catch him down at the Mustang Bar alternate months playing with The Rusty Pinto Combo, or occasional gigs at DeVille's Pad. Matt also runs Varietease[1] (a company staging a broad spectrum of events, often including Rockabilly and Burlesque) with his partner Iskra Valentine.

The Conversation

You told me that you're interested in a broad range of music, what has you playing Rockabilly music for a living?

To be honest, it's what's keeping me afloat financially. The first real band that offered me a regular gig was Rockabilly and I kept working in that circuit. I'm not really in it for the money, but getting paid to play music means I don't have to have a 9 to 5, and I can focus on playing and teaching.

I've been doing Rockabilly for a few years now. If I'm playing the same venue, music and with the same band in 40 years, I'll regret not trying more, so I've tried to do something different. I've started The Isolites. It's a nine piece group playing a mix of Ska, Reggae, Calypso and Rocksteady. And now Coo Bennett, from Rocket to Memphis, is joining us to do duets.

I'm also teaching from home in Woodvale. I'm trying to build that up as a business.

I see my self as a full-time musician - partly teaching, partly gigging, partly studying, and trying to avoid taking on small part time jobs to fill the gaps. 

As you said you 'fell into' Rockabilly music as it was the first regular gig you were offered, I'm going to ask - do you like Rockabilly music?

I love it. I love all kinds of music. I grew up in a musical household. My Dad's whole family were into music. I was constantly listening to Ray Charles, Blues, Gospel, and a bit of Country. So, from a very young age, I wanted to play music.

I got a keyboard at five and I'd sit in my room making up my own compositions. At twelve I was sitting in the kitchen, bored, looking at the Yellow Pages[2]. I saw a drum kit ad and said, "I'm going to learn to play the drums". Mum said, "No". So, with my own money I bought a drum kit. It cost $500. I practiced for six months, then I got a teacher, Kim Baker. He was a brilliant teacher. He got me playing Jazz.

At 14 I started my first Metal band with mates from high school. We were doing gigs in Northbridge in exchange for jugs of beer, that's how they paid the band. I couldn't  drink them, but that wasn't really on my mind anyway, because I was there to play the songs.

After that I wanted to play Third Wave Ska. I started a band called 8 Items or Less. We were together for 2 years.

After that I was briefly in a Funk group, but left that to play with Harry Deluxe[3]. There I was introduced to Johnny Law[4]. He took me on to do a tour in Germany in late 2006-2007. We went to Hamburg, Munich, Leipzig, and so on. There I really I got to see the Rockabilly scene. It was eye-opening to see that so many young people were into it, as opposed to what I'd seen in Perth. It was great to see young people dressed up cool, getting pissed and listening to rockin' music til 5am. When I feel like the odd one out in Perth, I just remember those experiences and remember that other people do get it. It's a living culture full of young people around the world checking out great rockin' older music.

 

On that tour I recorded an album with Johnny Law [and The Pistol Packin' Daddies] called "I'll Get It Right". Then it was about a year before anything else really happened for me. 

I was approached to join the Combo [Rusty Pinto Combo]. We did regular gigs at The Mustang. Then I was officially asked to drum for The Dragstrip Trio when they reformed for the Ink 'n' Iron Festival in LA (12 June 2010 - Tattoo & Kustom Kulture Festival). 

What did you observe about the Rockabilly scene in LA that's different to WA?

I didn't see the LA Rockabilly scene much, rather I saw Kustom Kulture, which is different from the Rockabilly scene. They are related. A lot of people consider themselves in both (or don't even make the distinction).

Both scenes have their own different looks. Some people are into Rockabilly, and they dress and listen to the music. The Kustom Kulture scene listen to Punk, Rock, Rockabilly, and more. But the cars are a big part of the scene. There are also more young people in the scene. On the other hand, the Trad-Rockabilly scene I saw in Germany is more true to the old 50s style - and some 40s too.

My generation grew up with this music. It was the music of my generation, and the music of rebellion for us. The guys in their 40s generally got into it originally through their parents, and then through the '80s revival, what do you see as the attraction of the scene to your generation (people in their 20s)?

I don't see a lot of people my age getting into it. There are a few of my friends who're into the lifestyle, and a few who aren't. We're a minority.

Matt playing with Rusty & The Dragstrip Trio @ The Mustang Bar 4th July Celebration

What's the attraction for you?

For me it's just about good music. I'm all about the music. I get chills down my spine from good music. It doesn't matter to me if the guy's got a quiff[5].

Music makes me feel good. Humans perceive notes and tones in emotional ways. That's the human interpretation of an event. Certain chord progressions make you want to dance, for example. I've found the people who are playing music for a living have a stronger reaction to music than other people. People like Rusty [and The Dragstrip Trio] are like that. I think my love of music must have been in part genetically determined from my father.

Different music is good for different emotions - like Ray Charles' "Hard Times" is heart wrenching - good for certain moods, but Black Metal is good for other moods. Punk Rock for other times.

How did you guys line-up the gig in LA [USA]?

We got an email 'out of the blue' asking if we were interested. We told them The Dragstrip Trio were not together anymore, but they were booking us because they like The Dragstrip Trio, so we decided to do it as The Dragstrip Trio and take that over there rather than trying to talk them into taking the Combo.

When in the USA we found musicians were paid only $20 a night for playing in the major honky-tonks in Nashville. The rest of their income was from CD sales and tips. Did you get any idea what USA local musos are paid?

In New Orleans many are working straight for tips, and these are often better musos than you see here.

What was the highlight of the trip for you?

There were a few - Sun Studios and Graceland, and I managed to chase down Cosimo Matassa's recording studio in New Orleans, which was great to see (you can see a photo on my myspace page[6]). Also playing on the Queen Mary was the biggest experiences of my music career to-date, and supporting one of my favourite bands Ray Collins' Hot-Club[7] (Swing, Rock'n'Roll).

 

What issues interests you as a young musician?

I love the history of music. It's fascinating. From early Blues to early Rhythm and Blues, to Rock'n'Roll, all the way through to Black Metal, for example. I keep referring to Black Metal, I mean bands like Emperor, and Immortal.

For example, I find it interesting exactly how 'white' people began to embrace 'black' music, and how 'white' people got famous from it. Like Little Richard's song "Tutti Frutti"[8]. Pat Boone made it famous, then people looked back at the original, and they went back to Little Richard, then that made him a star.

In 1947 Jerry Wexler[9] was working at Billboard Magazine. His boss asked "What will we call these 'race records'[10]?" Wexler suggested Rhythm & Blues.

What are you working on now?

I'm working with Iskra Valentine[11] on another Varietease[12] Productions event. The next one is called "Forbidden Fruits - seven sexy sins". It will be on the 3rd September [2010] at The Swan Hotel, in North Fremantle. It'll be Burlesque and Rockabilly bands. Our goal is to bring more life to Perth and to put Rockabilly in new venues. We also are giving emerging Burlesque artists a place to perform. There'll be vintage stalls as well, and a cheap entry price - $12.

The gig will feature The Dragstrip Trio, Blazin' Entrials, Lucy Peach (singer songwriter Rootsy Blues) and Noir Boudoir Burlesque.

Our past shows have been successful. This shows things like this can be successful if they're done right, and people support them, and then they'll want more of it. It's sad that places like The Castle are closing down. You've got to support these things if you want any scene to continue.

The Cat's Meow - A Variatease Production Rockabilly & Burlesque Extravaganza @ The Swan Hotel Fremantle

[1]              http://www.myspace.com/varieteaseproductions

[2]              The name for the local phone book.

[5]              When the hair is swept up at the front into a pompadour style and secured with pomade.

[6]              http://www.myspace.com/rockinmattyh

[10]             The term applied to rockin' music by 'black' musicians in the late 40s. Also often called 'race music'.

[11]             From Variatease Productions and Noir Boudoir Burlesque

 

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